Slavy Bilchev, in 2008 at ICME-11, Monterrey, Mexico.

Svetoslav (Slavy) Jordanov Bilchev

Born Rouse 30 September 1946

Died Rouse 24 March 2010

When the first International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) was organized in Romania in 1959 there was a student from Rouse region (Todor Penev Todorov) in the Bulgarian team. In the years to come, among authorities and citizens in Rouse, this fact sparked a considerable interest toward mathematics and mathematics education. A short announcement inviting school students to a “math circle” and “problem solving” , posted at a few places in the town, gathered over 800 (instead of the expected tens) in the backyard of the Evening Gymnasium.

This was the beginning of the famous Rouse Students’ Mathematical Circle (RSMC) guided by Docho Todorov Dochev. Slavy Bilchev was one of its most active participants. The creative atmosphere and the desire to learn how to solve difficult mathematical problems produced very interesting and stimulating results. Soon the Bulgarian Mathematical Olympiad was heavily dominated by winners from Rouse. Year after year school students from Rouse made their (not easy!) way to the Bulgarian Team for IMO. In 1964, 1968, 1969 and 1988 there were actually three Rouse students in each of the teams. Slavy Bilchev was a part of this success and contributed to it not only by helping others. He participated in IMO in Wroczlaw, Poland, 1963, and in Moscow, USSR, 1964. Both times he returned home with a bronze medal. His rapid advancement encouraged other students from Rouse and motivated them to work hard.

On the basis of his successful participation in IMO Slavy Bilchev was given a state stipend to study at the famous Mechanics-Mathematics Department (better known as “Mech-Math”) of the Moscow State University. He graduated from that institution in 1969 and immediately entered the staff of Rouse University where he worked till his death on March 24th, 2010. Slavy Bilchev earned his PhD in 1975 . In 1979 he became Associate Professor. Less than a week after his death he was elected a Full Professor in a finalization of a procedure that had started a year earlier. Over the years he occupied different positions related to the administration of research and education in his university: Chairman of Department, Vice Director and Director of the Center of Mathematics, Dean of the Pedagogical Faculty (1994 - 2003) and Chairman of the Department of Algebra and Geometry ( 2004 – 2010).

Slavy Bilchev’s major research topics included (but were not limited to) Geometry, Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations, Differential Games, Mathematical Modeling in Economics, Mathematics Education, Mathematical Competitions and Olympiads. His results were published in more than 130 articles and 10 books. Unlike many others who profited enormously from the Bulgarian system for identification and support of mathematical talent and never returned “to pay back the debt” afterwards, Slavy Bilchev was a passionate supporter and promoter of the work with students of higher mathematical abilities during all his life. At least 25 of the school students from Rouse and Rouse region who took part in IMO participated in the regular class and beyond-class activities provided by him. Many of his former school students are now PhD holders, Associate Professors and Full Professors of Mathematics and/or Informatics in Bulgaria, USA, Canada, England, France.

As a lecturer at the university he also enjoyed highest appreciation on the side of students. Here is what an anonymous former student of him wrote in an Internet Forum immediately after learning about his death:

I know it's weird. I do not know where to start from. He is, perhaps, one of the most prominent citizens of Rouse. At least in my opinion. I did not have too many touching points with him. During my first year at the university he was lecturing math. He was a great guy and a lecturer. Unique as a person. He irradiated sincere bonhomie and cordiality. Something that I had rarely seen before…. I will never forget how we shook hands after the exam. ... It is strange how a man you had only a few contacts with could leave such deep impressions on you. But he did. Can not explain exactly why... The coolest teacher in this university. ... Rest in peace, Prof. Bilchev!

Slavy Bilchev had great communication skills. He easily established fruitful contacts, liked to travel and to participate in conferences, developed numerous friendships all over the world. These abilities made him a desired partner in an impressive number of projects financed by the European Union. Meetings and discussions with colleagues were an essential part of his life. Yet, not too many knew that he was a lyrical poet as well (one of the 10 books mentioned above is a love poetry). He was a loving father, esteemed colleague and an honest and helpful friend. It was a pleasure to be around him. His smile rarely left his face. He was always ready to tell an encouraging story or a joke fitted well to the discussed topic. He kept his good mood and intensive life style even after the severe heart operation he had several years ago and despite the cancer he was fighting with till his last days…

Professor Slavy Bilchev was survived by his wife Ginka Bilcheva, daughter Marina and grand-daughter Anastasia.

Petar S. Kenderov
August 2010, Sofia,

Here is a second obituary, by Emilia Velikova, which appeared in Mathematics Competitions, Vol 23, No 1, 2010.

Vale Professor Svetoslav Bilchev

The members of the Department of Algebra and Geometry with great sorrow announce that their unforgettable colleague, teacher and friend Prof. Svetoslav Bilchev passed away on 24 March 2010.

He was born on 30 September 1946 in the town of Ruse. In 1964 he graduated from the Second Mathematics High School. Then he took part in the V-th and VI-th International Mathematical Olympiads (IMO) and won two third prizes. In 1969 he graduated the Moscow State University M. Lomonosov, took his doctoral degree in 1975 and was elected as Associate Professor in 1979. More than 40 years he devoted to the University of Ruse. He specialized abroad many times in Russia, Greece, Norway, England, Italy, Israel. He was a coordinator and took part in many international scientific and educational projects with either the University of Ruse as a contractor, or the UBM or international mathematical organizations. He took part in the preparing of the Bulgarian team for IMO in 1981, the Greek team in 1987 and the English team in 1995. He took part in five International Congresses on Mathematics Education (ICME), in four congresses of the World Federation of National Mathematics Competitions, in every conference of the UBM since 1971 and in many international forums in Cyprus, Italy and Denmark.

His scientific interests were enormous. They include differential geometry, ordinary and partial differential equations, differential games, mathematical modeling in economics, geometric inequalities, transformations, mathematics education, education of talented pupils and students, mathematical competitions and Olympiads. Many pupils from Ruse and the country will remember Prof. Bilchev as their teacher. He has more than 140 scientific works published in many countries of Europe, America, Asia and Australia.

He won many national and international awards: Golden Sign of the Society Georgi Kirkov, medals Kiril and Metodii third and second degree, awards from the Ministry of Education, honorary plates Ruse in 1991, 2000 and 2003, awards from many international mathematical institutions.

He was associate Invited Professor of the North University of Baia Mare, Romania.

He was a member of the Union of Scientists—Ruse, Union of Bulgarian Mathematicians (UBM), of the AMS, the World Federation of National Mathematics Competitions and many others.

He was a member of the editorial board of many mathematical journals.

He has taken an active part in creating the Centre of Mathematics, as its head; the Pedagogical Faculty, as its dean in the period 1994-2003. Many times he was elected as a member of the Academic Council of the University of Ruse. He initiated and organized many evenings devoted to poetry and evenings devoted to humour and jokes.

As head of the Department of Algebra and Geometry, he gave much to enable his colleagues to realize their professional aspirations.

On the 11 March 2010 Prof. Bilchev chaired for the last time a session at our Department.

We give our last honours, respect and admiration for everything done by our colleague and friend Professor Svetoslav Bilchev.

Emily Velikova
25 March 2010
Department of Algebra and Geometry
University Ruse


Here is Slavy in his home town of Rouse in 2003.


Slavy with friends and colleagues at the WFNMC conference in 1998 at Zhong Shan. On excursion, below the Pearl River Bridge, China, from left Peter Taylor (Australia), Petar Kenderov (Bulgaria), Slavy, Alexander Soifer (USA) and Nikolay Konstantinov (Russia).