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Portraits of Bulgarians
Bulgarian women in the market in Bitola (1864)

The Bulgarians ( Bulgarian Българи [ bˈɤɫgari ]) are a South Slavic ethnic group . It forms the majority of the Bulgarian population . Of its 7.36 million inhabitants, 76.9% are Bulgarians. A quarter to a third of today's population are descendants of Macedonian Bulgarians and Thracian Bulgarians .


At the latest after 612 settled Slavs as part of the conquest of the Slavs in the Balkans in the Eastern Roman provinces Moesia and Thrace in. However, the name "Bulgar" and "Bolgar" originally referred to the in the 7th century from the Black Sea steppe displaced, so-called proto-Bulgarians (bulg. Прабългари) under Kuwer and Asparuch the Balkans migrated. Here, after armed conflicts, with the consent of Byzantium, they each established independent empires: Kuwer 680 in what is now North Macedonia and Asparuch 681 the so-called First Bulgarian Empire in Dobruja . Today it is assumed that linguistically the thin upper class of the Proto- Bulgarians was soon assimilated by the Slavic-speaking majority, while the ethnonym Bulgarian was transferred to all subjects of the Bulgarian. In science, mostly after the Christianization of the Bulgarians in 864, a distinction is no longer made between Bulgarians and Proto-Bulgarians . The Proto-Bulgarians ruled the First Bulgarian Empire until it fell under Byzantine rule in 1018. At the same time existed on the upper runs Volga the realm of Volga Bulgaria , whose Turkic population continued to be referred to as "Bolgaren".

Bulgarian national historiography sees the Thracians as the third element that arose in the new Bulgarian ethnos , who began in the 2nd millennium BC. In the south and since the 8th century BC BC in the north of the peninsula had a uniform settlement area, and to which the cities and trading centers on the Black Sea essentially go back. To what extent a largely Romanized Thracian population actually lived in the territory of the Bulgarian rulers next to the Slavs who immigrated after them in the 7th century is a matter of dispute. Critics see this portrayal primarily out of an interest in establishing ethnic continuity with the ancient population of the region. On the other hand, the suppression of Byzantine rule is widely documented, while most cities and settlements long kept their Slavic and Thracian names and conflicts with the local population are unknown. Most scholars are of the opinion that by the time the Slavic arrival the Thracians had long been Romanized or Hellenized .


Rose pickers in Bulgaria (1870)

Although there were Christian communities of the Romanized Thracians , or among the proto- Bulgarians ( Kubrat ), even before the establishment of the Bulgarian Empire in 681 , they did not represent the majority of the population, the majority of which consisted of Slavs and proto- Bulgarians . Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians had their own pagan gods and deities. The Slavic mythology was largely natural religion marked with several major gods like Perun , Svarog or Svarožić . It is not known whether the Slavs had already adopted the Christian faith at that time.

The differences between the population groups have disappeared since Christianization in the second half of the 9th century. In 864 under Knjas Boris I the Christianization of the Bulgarian people was carried out by Photios I , the patriarch of Constantinople . Christianity was declared the state religion . The majority of the Bulgarians still belong to Orthodox Christianity . The Bulgarian Orthodox Church was recognized in 927 by the Byzantine Emperor Romanos I Lakapenos and the Byzantine Senate as an autocephalous canonized Orthodox Patriarchal Church and is therefore one of the oldest in the world. The Christianization under Cyril and Method , which was early in relation to the rest of the Slavs, is one of the key elements of the Bulgarian national identity.


The Bulgarians speak the Bulgarian language , which is one of the South Slavic languages . This language has no relationship with the fragmented traditional, extinct languages of the Volga Bulgaria and Proto-Bulgarians on which to oghurischen or bolgarischen branch of Turkic languages included.

Because of the spread of the old Bulgarian language and culture (including the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet at the court of the Bulgarian tsars) to the other Slavic peoples , one speaks of the " South Slavic influence " and of the Old Church Slavonic language. Since its beginnings lie in today's Bulgaria , and since most of the surviving Old Church Slavonic monuments have Bulgarian features, some scholars and many Bulgarians see Old Church Slavonic as a historical form of the Bulgarian language, which is also called "Old Bulgarian" (старобългарски / starobəlgarski /).

Ethnic groups

Tronker costumes

In Bulgaria, a distinction is made between the following ethnic groups , depending on the geographical region :

Other smaller groups make z. B. the Tronken in the Strandscha Mountains, the Poljaner, or the Kapanzer in the Ludogorie .

The Bulgarian-speaking Muslim Pomaks form their own ethnic group .

Bulgarians in other countries in the world

Bulgarians in the Banat region and Hungarians

Bulgarian settlements in the Banat

Banat Bulgarians are a Roman Catholic ethnic group in the Banat . They are the descendants of the Paulikians who fled north after the uprising from Tschiprowzi (Bulgaria) and settled in the Banat (today in Serbia and Romania ). Today, according to the census results from 2002, 6,468 Bulgarians live in the Romanian part of Banat and 1,658 Bulgarians in Vojvodina .

The largest wave of Bulgarians immigrating to Hungary came at the end of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century. 95% of the total of 7,000 immigrants came from the Veliko Tarnowo region in the north of today's Bulgaria. Most came from the villages of Draganovo and Polikraishte . The Bulgarian minority built their own schools and chapels in several cities in the country and a Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Budapest . The Bulgarian cultural center in Budapest was built with public donations. Today 30,000 to 35,000 people of Bulgarian descent live in Hungary. The majority of them are fully assimilated and see themselves as Hungarians . Only 7,000 to 8,000 still see themselves as Bulgarians, most of them refer to themselves as Bulgarians and Hungarians at the same time. The majority of Bulgarians in Hungary speak Hungarian better than Bulgarian .

The Bulgarian flag , the Hungarian flag with coat of arms and the flag of the Union of Bulgarians in Hungary, a cultural organization, are used at meetings . The ancestors of the Bulgarians who live in Hungary today came to the country as gardeners and market people. Therefore the coat of arms of the Union shows a stylized tree as a symbol of the gardeners. The number 1914 indicates the year the Union was founded.

Bulgarians in the former Soviet Union

As a result of the Turkish wars , Bulgarians immigrated to the Russian Empire in the second half of the 18th century , especially to the Budschak region . Today about 373,000 Bulgarians live on the territory of the former Soviet Union . In Ukraine , they live mainly in the Odessa and Zaporozhye regions and, to a lesser extent, in those of Kirovograd and Nikolaev . Most of the Bulgarians in Ukraine, around 150,000, traditionally live in the south of the Odessa region , where there are numerous settlements with a majority of Bulgarians. Ukraine has recognized Bulgarian as the regional official language there since 2012 .

Another settlement area of ​​the Bulgarians is Moldova , where almost 80,000 people identified themselves as Bulgarians in the 2004 census. The Moldovan Bulgarians are particularly concentrated in the Taraclia district , where they represent a clear majority of the population with 65.6%. Bulgarian organizations maintain a network of Bulgarian schools in this area, and Bulgarian is one of the teaching languages at the Taraclia State University . However, the Bulgarians in Moldova do not have official special cultural rights, even if Bulgarian organizations have been demanding autonomy for the Taraclia region for years. There are other Bulgarian minorities throughout southern Moldova, in Gagauzia and in Transnistria , where around 11,000 Bulgarians live. There are also settlements outside of Taraclias that are mostly inhabited by Bulgarians. For example, the proportion of Bulgarians in the Transnistrian town of Parcani is around 80%. In both Moldova and Ukraine, many Bulgarians have lost their original mother tongue. For example, around 35% of Bulgarians living in Moldova stated Russian and not Bulgarian as their mother tongue, but this is not yet an indicator of Bulgarian language skills.

Around 24,000 Bulgarians lived in Russia in 2010. Smaller Bulgarian groups live in Kazakhstan and the northern Caucasus . 68.1% speak Bulgarian. They are not to be confused with the Volga Bulgarians .

Bulgarians in Serbia

Appeal (May 27, 1878) by the Bulgarians from Pirot to Dondukow-Korsakow for the annexation of the city to Bulgaria

The traditional rivalry between the two countries in the contest for hegemony on the Balkan Peninsula was partly carried out on the backs of the Bulgarians in eastern Serbia.

As a result of the peace treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine after the First World War , Bulgarian territories came to Yugoslavia . The regulations for the protection of minorities introduced with the peace treaties of 1919 were never applied to them, they were most strongly suppressed alongside the Albanians . As Serbia's official policy excluded a Bulgarian minority, they did not have any native-speaking institutions or schools. They were registered as Serbs in censuses. The strong assimilation pressure and great emigration reduced the number of Bulgarians living in Serbia considerably.

A changed minority policy only took place under Tito -Yugoslavia. The Bulgarians were recognized as a national minority and received a native language school system. In the following time more than 100 schools and 2 high schools, one in Dimitrovgrad and Pirot, were established . From the beginning of the 1980s, another change in Serbian minority policy led to the closure of Bulgarian institutions. The number of Bulgarians living in Serbia was 33,455 in 1981 (over 36,000 in all of Yugoslavia), 25,214 in 1991 and only 20,497 in 2002. In 2008, thousands of cars with Bulgarian license plates were confiscated by the police.

The Bulgarian minority now lives in one of the least developed areas of Serbia. The Serbian Helsinki Committee described their status in 2002 as very vulnerable . Industry can only be found in the surroundings of Dimitrovgrad, the other Bulgarian-inhabited areas live exclusively from agriculture. Bulgarians make up a three-quarters majority in the municipality of Bosilegrad , while they make up around half in the area around Dimitrovgrad. Politically, they are organized in the Democratic Union of Bulgarians (Bosilegrad) and the Democratic Party of Bulgarians (Dimitrovgrad). The latter also publishes the magazine Most and the weekly Bratstvo . Other institutions include the cultural and information association "Caribrod" in Dimitrovgrad, the cultural association of the Banat Bulgarians "Ivanovo 1868" in Ivanovo , the association "Caribrod" in Niš and the Bulgarian society "Nasinec" in Bosilegrad.

The Bulgarians of Serbia speak their own dialect. Their language is called archaic Old Bulgarian . The majority of them belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church , but there is also a large minority who belong to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church .

In 2011, in the run-up to the celebrations for the Remembrance Day of Wassil Levski , Serbia closed the Bulgarian-Serbian border at the Oltomanzi border crossing. Special forces were stationed at the Oltomanzi border crossing itself. As in previous years, the Bulgarian minority there was also prohibited from holding a commemoration in Bosilegrad. The reason given was "disturbance of public peace and morality through the threat of criminal offenses".

Bulgarians in North Macedonia

The Bulgarian-speaking area as perceived at the time and the neighboring areas in 1912

The exact number of Bulgarians living in North Macedonia is uncertain today, as they do not have the opportunity to identify themselves as such in censuses. Several waves of refugees (1903, 1913 and after 1920) decimated their numbers. Estimates for the year 1913 for the area of Vardar Macedonia assume a number of 90,000, at that time around 10% of the total population. In the period after the First World War, over 100,000 were refugees in Bulgaria. Other refugees emigrated to the USA and Australia .

Since 1945, when the communist party in Yugoslavia pushed for the nation-building of the Macedonians , the number of Bulgarians has continuously decreased. Many of them were persecuted, arrested and murdered in prisons in the Socialist Republic of Macedonia .

Although Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the Republic of Macedonia, leading Macedonian politicians and media repeatedly express themselves in a populist or nationalist way towards the Bulgarians living in the republic and the state of Bulgaria. In June 2000 founded Ohrid living in Macedonia Bulgarians union RADKO. This was banned in April 2001 by the Macedonian Constitutional Court. This was followed by a lawsuit against the Macedonian state before the European Court of Human Rights . This decided in March 2009 for the association, which was founded in May in Ohrid. In August 2009 this was again banned by the Macedonian state. Between January 22nd, 2002 and January 15th, 2011, 44,211 Macedonians were granted Bulgarian citizenship because they could prove Bulgarian ancestry. Among them are the politicians Ljubčo Georgievski and Dosta Dimovska and the athlete Goran Popov .

See also

Literature and Sources

Web links

Wiktionary: Bulgarians  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Bulgarians  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Census in Bulgaria 2011 (PDF; 1.5 MB), accessed on January 3, 2013
  2. Ulrich Büchsenschütz: Nationalism and Democracy in Bulgaria since 1989 , in Egbert Jahn (ed.): Nationalism in late and post-communist Europe , Volume 2: Nationalism in the nation states . Verlag Nomos, 2009, ISBN 978-3-8329-3921-2 , p. 573
  3. ^ Flags of the world: Hungary - Minorities, Bulgarians
  4. 2004 census
  5. http://bessnews.ru/politika/moldova/10269-taraklia-status
  6. ^ Rudolf A. Mark : The peoples of the former Soviet Union, 1992
  7. Wolfgang Ismayr (Ed.): The political system of Serbia in The political systems of Eastern Europe , VS Verlag, 2010, p. 902
  8. dariknews.bg , mediapool.bg , dariknews.bg
  9. ^ Report on the minorities in Serbia 2000 : Status of Bulgarian minority is very precarious. They face a host of problems. Bulgarians in Serbia don't have their schools, and pupils have only two weekly classes of their mother tongue
  10. ^ Bulgarian institutions in Serbia
  11. ^ The Bulgarian Diaspora Abroad
  12. See Bulgarians heading for Vassil Levski commemoration denied entry to Serbia , www.sofiaecho.com, February 18, 2011; Increased Police Presence at Bulgarian-Serbian Border , www.novinite.com, February 18, 2011; Serbia closed the border because of the Levski Remembrance Day celebrations , www.mediapool.bg, February 18, 2011; The mayor of Kyustendil was detained at the Serbian border , www.dariknews.bg, February 18, 2011; The police in Bosilegrad are banning the commemoration www.dariknews.bg, February 17, 2011
  13. Wolf Dietrich Behschnitt: nationalism in Serbia and Croatia from 1830 to 1914. Analysis and typology of the national ideology. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-486-49831-2 , p. 39.
  14. Edgar Hösch , Karl Nehring, Holm Sundhaussen (ed.): Lexicon for the history of Southeast Europe. Böhlau, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2004, ISBN 3-205-77193-1 , p. 297.
  15. ^ Association RADKO: History of the Association RADKO. (PDF; 44 kB) Archived from the original on December 12, 2013 ; Retrieved March 10, 2011 (Macedonian).
  16. See: Portal legislationline.org: CASE OF ASSOCIATION OF CITIZENS RADKO & PAUNKOVSKI v. THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA (Application No. 74651/01). Retrieved March 10, 2011 . ; TV station A1: Македонија го загуби спорот со бугарофилите од "РАДКО". January 15, 2009, archived from the original on July 25, 2011 ; Retrieved March 10, 2011 (Macedonian). and Македонија го загуби спорот со "Радко" во Стразбур. Утрински весник, January 16, 2009, archived from the original on January 18, 2012 ; Retrieved March 10, 2011 (Macedonian).
  17. Online edition of the newspaper Време: Нема регистрација за здружението на Бугарите. "Радко" падна кај Централен регистар. August 5, 2009; archived from the original on December 7, 2010 ; Retrieved March 10, 2011 .
  18. Recognition of Bulgarian citizenship , website of the Bulgarian President, accessed on May 22, 2012
  19. Goran Popov and his Bulgarian passport (Macedonian) ( Memento from February 21, 2013 in the web archive archive.today ), Utrinski Vestnik, accessed on September 4, 2012