The Chitalishta Union represents the "Chitalishta" that are small cultural centers in a town or city district in Bulgaria.
The "chitalishta" (reading room) is one of the most important and special Bulgarian traditions. The first Chitalishta were organized in 1856.
Emerging as community-based organisations during the Bulgarian Renaissance, Chitalishta have legitimately been established as part of the Bulgarian history and identity.
Scattered throughout the country and rooted in the history of more than 3,000 communities, Chitalishta still plays an important role in community development. They provide small libraries and rooms for cultural events such as theater, workshops, painting or musical instruments classes. The Chitalishta organisations are NGOs for culture and education, a form of voluntary association of society.
Well organised and supported for over a century, in recent years the Chitalishta network in the country faced some challenges due to the new political and socio-cultural structures.
In the mid-twentieth century, all the neighborhoods and districts in Bulgaria had their own chitalishta. Today there are about 3,100 registered chitalishta. This means that more than 1,000 chitalishta have not survived after 1989. And for decades, some of them existed only in registers. The demographic factor, especially in isolated areas, also ruined some of the oldest chitalishta. In 1990 the Chitalishta Union was restored, but expectations were not met by concrete proposals.
The Chitalishta Union wants to create sustainable resources for the development of networks on Chitalishta models.
The second disappointment came from the Law for the People's Chitalishta urgently adopted in 1996. The most painful issues relating to property and the grant of the chitalishta were not resolved with determination. In many cases it led to situations of disagreement between municipal authorities and Chitalishta boards and, as a result, led to declining revenues and budget support.
The role of the Chitalishta Union is to represent the "Chitalishta" and help them facing these challenges.