Visitors to the Mutual School can see a complete reconstruction of a school room, a teacher’s room and a historical exhibition “Balchik during the Renaissance”. The exposition presents the history of the town in the period of the 15th-19th centuries and contains facsimiles of the life of Koyu Raichev, the Sultan’s ferman from 1866, original old printed books, the original edition of G. Rakovsky’s – Gorski patnik /Forest Traveller/. There are icons, church utensils, weapons, ammunition, as well as personal belongings, orders and medals of volunteers who came to live in Balchik after the Liberation.
In a central place in the amphitheatrically located Balchik district “Horizon”, in the courtyard of the church “St. Nicholas the Wonderworker”, there is a small museum known among the local population as the Mutual School. Here visitors can learn about the cultural, educational and socio-political life of the Balchik Bulgarians during the Renaissance.
The Russian-Turkish War of 1828-1829 gave rise to one of the most massive migrations of the Bulgarian population during the Ottoman rule. Dozens of families from Thrace, Yambol, Razgrad, Shumen and Tarnovo settled here. Many shepherds from Kotel, Zheravna, Medven, etc. settled in this sparsely populated region of the Ottoman Empire. As a result of these processes, the Bulgarian population also increased in Balchik. The new settlers formed a Bulgarian mahalla called “Gemeji mahlesi”.
The introduction of free trade, the abolition of monopolies by the Turkish authorities, and especially the lifting of the ban on the export of grain products from Bulgarian lands gave a strong stimulus to their economic development. As a consequence of all this, the Balchik Bulgarians gradually began to become more prosperous, gaining a certain independence and self-reliance, which in turn gave them the necessary self-confidence.
At the beginning of the 1840s the wealthy leaders of the Gemedji neighborhood decided to build a Bulgarian church and a school in their neighborhood in Balchik. In 1845 permission was obtained from the High Gate and the church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was built. The first Bulgarian school in the town was opened next to the church on the initiative of the local patriot Koyu Raichev, where Stoyko Ivanov was appointed teacher. However, this aroused the anger of the Greek clergy. After a complaint by the Panhellenists, the new Metropolitan of Varna, Porphyrios, subjected the priests and teachers in the Bulgarian institutions to persecution. In 1848, the Bulgarian church was taken over by the Greeks, the clergy were expelled, worship in Church Slavonic was forbidden, and the school was closed.
The Bulgarians in Balchik do not stop their attempts to restore their church. Thus, in 1866, with the help of prominent Bulgarian representatives in Constantinople, a special ferman of Sultan Abdul Hamid was obtained, legalizing the restoration of the church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. In the same year, on the initiative of Koyu Raichev, the school at the church was reopened. More famous teachers who taught there were Stoyko Ivanov, Daskaл Konstantin, Dimitar Gavrailov, Petar Stoyanov, Atanas Rachev, and others. After the establishment of the Bulgarian exarchate Balchik together with Hadzhioglu Pazardzhik /present Dobrich/ and Mangalia passed under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Varna-Preslav diocese. This was a successful end to the aspirations of the local Bulgarians for national and ecclesiastical self-determination and ranked the Balchiks among the first on the Black Sea coast to take up the struggle for an independent Bulgarian church.
Today the Mutual School and the St. Nicholas the Wonderworker Church are the most important cultural monuments of the Renaissance in Balchik, preserving for generations the indomitable Bulgarian spirit.