Chitalishte is unique to Bulgarian public institution that has been created with a cultural educational purpose. There is more that 3,500 chitalishta in Bulgaria, where each of them is an independent non-government organisation function under the Law for the chitalishta.
In “cheta” means to read, this is the origin of the word chitalishte. The first chitalishte was created in 1856 long before the liberation of Bulgaria from Turkish Yoke (1878).
The purpose of the chitalishta is to preserve the Bulgarian culture, history, traditions, folklore and crafts.
“Chitalishte Svetlina 1861” is one of the oldest chitalishte in Bulgaria with a reach history and activities. In the year of 1861 its foundation was initiated by the 24-old local teacher, named Hristo Karadjov and this created the basis of spiritual life in Shipka .
Ten years later there was made a very successful performance of the popular play “The long suffering Genoveva” and it is how the concentrated/efficient cultural movement of Chitalishte started. There were constant problems between the theatrical and general community with the reach people who knew, the mass education was not in their interest. The conflicts were present till the liberation war from Ottoman Empire in 1878 when Chitalishte completely dissappeared in the fire and was reborn in the building of the post-war school.
Chitalishte Svetlina is a very important spiritual center, not only for the community of Shipka, but also has a long tradition in gathering several generations of the theatrical ansambles on the stage, the songwriters of the quartet choir and the vocal or dancing groups.
It also disposes of Art gallery with numerous works of talented artists from Shipka and Cherpanlievata kashta (family house from the end of the XIX century), which was turned into the Etnogrpahic museum by Chitalishte, in order to preserve it from the demolition. It is located in the center of Shipka. For the 100th aniversary Chitalishte Svetlina recieved the Cyril and Methodius Order. Its library counts with more than 31.000 books.
The last years of economic difficulties and insecurity have affected the activities of the Chitalishte in the whole country. The Shipka chitalishte building with its unique architecture, built with the money and labor of the Schipchens in 1959, was left to ruin due to lack of funds for maintenance and repairs.
They moved it to the former primary school which remained the home of a cultural movement in Shipka till today. Its purpose is to involve the local people of all age groups, therefore there are different clubs and collectives organised, such as: Folk dance club, Vocal group “Vazrazhdane”, Children theater group, Friends of the library club, Cinema-photo club (participation in film festivals, they won the first price two years ago), Club “Young Archeologist” (Treasure hunting games).
Bulgaria in general is a country of a lot of national and religious holidays, and for many of them there are traditional events organised by Chitalishte: January holidays – in connection with the liberation of Shipka from Turkish slavery, Celebrating 3 of March which is an Independence day of Bulgaria, Week of the Forest (in April), Easter hollydays, Celebration of the Day of Slavic Literature and Culture (May 24), Children’s Day – cultural and sporting events (1 of June), Birthdays Celebration of the Shipka’s Epopee – National Book Competition with Epic Poetry-Awarding, Holidays in the valley of the Thracian kings (begenning of September), Day of Educational leaders , Christmas celebrations.