Ethnic Minorities in Bulgaria

The country of Bulgaria was established in 681 A.D. on the Balkan Peninsula. Through the centuries of its existence, ethnic and religious groups have crossed its territory, reforming its borders and creating a multicultural context where more than 100 languages and dialects are spoken. Today the Bulgarian people live along with several ethnic minorities in the clash between Christianity, Muslim and Judaism.

Bulgaria could be referred to as a country of emigration, since there were several major migration waves mostly toward Turkey during the 20th century. Nevertheless, the population’s ethnic composition remains relatively homogeneous, 85.7% being Bulgarians, yet characterized by ethnic and religious diversity among the rest of its population. The two major ethnic groups are Turks and Gypsies, which represent 9.4% and 3.7% of the Bulgarian nation. The number of Jews has decreased tangibly both in absolute and relative figures due to a massive emigration of about 45,000 people to Israel in 1848. It is worth mentioning that Bulgaria is one of the few European countries which preserved its Jewish community during the World War II. Not a single Jew from Bulgaria was deported to Nazi concentration camps.

As regards religion and language, Orthodox Christianity and Bulgarian are the most widespread ones. The huge majority of Bulgarians (and around 60% of Gypsies plus 1% of ethnic Turks), declares adherence to the Christian cultural tradition. The second significant religion is Islam, professed by most Turks, all Bulgarian Muslims, and 39% of the Gipsy/Roma population. All Bulgarians speak their mother tongue. Almost the same is true for the Turks who speak Bulgarian as a second language beside Turkish (one third of their families even speak Bulgarian at home).