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Bulgarians in Turkey

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Bulgarians in Turkey

Bulgarians (Turkish: Bulgarlar) form a minority of Turkey. People identifying as Bulgarian include a large number from the Pomak and other Slavophonic Muslim communities (whose ancestors were Bulgarian), and a very small number of Orthodox of ethnic Bulgarian origin. Pomaks are also Muslim and speak a Bulgarian dialect.[1][2][3][4][5] According to Ethnologue at present 300,000 Pomaks in European Turkey speak Bulgarian as mother tongue.[6] It is very hard to estimate the number of Pomaks along with the Turkified Pomaks who live in Turkey, as they have blended into the Turkish society and have been often linguistically and culturally dissimilated.[7] According to Milliyet and Turkish Daily News reports, the number of the Pomaks along with the Turkified Pomaks in the country is about 600,000.[7][8] According to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bulgarian Orthodox Christian community in Turkey stands at 500 members.[9]


Part of a series on
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Bulgarian citizens
Lyubomir Miletich's detailed ethnographic map of Edirne Province pre-1912

The medieval Bulgarian Empire had active relations with Eastern Thrace before the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the 14th–15th century: the area was often part of the Bulgarian state under its stronger rulers from Krum's reign on, such as Simeon I and Ivan Asen II; the city of Edirne (Adrianople, Odrin) was under Bulgarian control a number of times. Bulgarians were sometimes taken captive during Byzantine raids and resettled in Asia Minor (modern Asian Turkey), but their traces are lost in the Middle Ages. As the Balkans were subjugated by the Ottomans, the entirety of the Bulgarian lands fell under Ottoman domination.

It was during the Ottoman rule that a more substantial Bulgarian colony was formed in the imperial capital Istanbul (also known as Constantinople or, in Bulgarian, as Tsarigrad). The so-called "Tsarigrad Bulgarians" (цариградски българи, tsarigradski balgari) were mostly craftsmen (e.g. leatherworkers) and merchants. During the Bulgarian National Revival, Istanbul was a major centre of Bulgarian journalism and enlightenment. Istanbul's St Stephen Church, also known as the Bulgarian Iron Church, was the seat of the Bulgarian Exarchate after 1870. According to some estimates, the Tsarigrad Bulgarians numbered 30–100,000 in the mid-19th century; today, there remains a small colony of 300–400,[11] a small part of the city's Bulgarian community.

A specific part of the Bulgarian population of modern Turkey were the Anatolian Bulgarians, Eastern Orthodox Bulgarians who settled in Ottoman-ruled northwestern Anatolia, possibly in the 18th century, and remained there until 1914.[12]

Much more intense was the fate of the Bulgarian population of Eastern Thrace in the Ottoman Province (vilâyet) of Edirne. According to Lyubomir Miletich's detailed study of the province published in 1918, the Bulgarian population of the province (today mostly in Turkey, with smaller parts in Greece and Bulgaria) in 1912 numbered 298,726, of whom 176,554 Exarchists, 24,970 Patriarchists, 1,700 Eastern Catholics and 95,502 Muslims (Pomaks). In the Çorlu and Constantinople regions, Miletich estimates the Bulgarian population at a further 10,000.[13]

After the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, most of the Bulgarian population was killed or expelled by the Ottomans to Bulgarian-controlled territories. The legal property rights of the expelled Thracian Bulgarians) were recognized fully by the Republic of Turkey through the Treaty of Ankara, signed on October 18, 1925, but have been never denied or enforced yet.[14] Almost one century after 1913, the heirs of the Bulgarian refugees have still not been compensated yet.[14] After the Balkan Wars some Turks left Bulgaria and a number of Bulgarians moved from Ottoman Turkey to Bulgaria. Between the Balkan Wars and the First World War there were a series of agreements on exchanges of population between Bulgaria and Turkey.[15]


There remain two Bulgarian Orthodox churches in the city of Edirne: Saint George (dating to 1880) and Saints Constantine and Helena (built in 1869). The Bulgarian churches were reconstructed in the 2000s with the cooperation of Turkey, using mostly Bulgarian state funds. They are both in a good condition today; Saint George also has a Bulgarian library and an ethnographic collection.

In September 2007 Evgeni Kirilov, Bulgarian deputy in the European Parliament, proposed an amendment to the resolution concerning the EU-Turkish relations, which refers to the property of the Thracian Bulgarians and the obligations of Turkish authorities according to the Treaty of Ankara.[14][16][17] In January 2010, Turkish daily Milliyet reported that Bulgarian minister Bozhidar Dimitrov (himself a son of Thracian refugees) talked on a prospect to demand compensation from Turkey in return for the property of expelled Bulgarians.[18] In a response the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has underlined that Bulgaria has not filed any official claim and that any such demand needs to be viewed as a whole to also envisage the rights of the two million Turkish refugees from Bulgaria based on the Treaty of Ankara.[19] Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov stated that Bulgarian government had no prospects for demanding compensation from Turkey and Dimitrov was forced to publicly apologise for his statement.[20]

Notable people

This list includes people of Bulgarian origin born in what is today Turkey or Bulgarians mainly active in the Republic of Turkey.

See also


  1. ^ The Balkans, Minorities and States in Conflict (1993), Minority Rights Publication, by Hugh Poulton, p. 111.
  2. ^ Richard V. Weekes; Muslim peoples: a world ethnographic survey, Volume 1; 1984; p.612
  3. ^ Raju G. C. Thomas; Yugoslavia unraveled: sovereignty, self-determination, intervention; 2003, p.105
  4. ^ R. J. Crampton, Bulgaria, 2007, p.8
  5. ^ Janusz Bugajski, Ethnic politics in Eastern Europe: a guide to nationality policies, organizations, and parties; 1995, p.237
  6. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr., ed. (2005). "Languages of Turkey (Europe)". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (Fifteenth edition ed.).  
  7. ^ a b "Trial sheds light on shades of Turkey". Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review. 2008-06-10. Archived from the original on 2011-03-23. Retrieved 2011-03-23. 
  8. ^ "Milliyet - Turkified Pomaks in Turkey" (in Turkish). Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  9. ^ "Българската общност в Република Турция "
  10. ^ Includes both Christian and Muslim Bulgarians.
  11. ^ Николов, Тони (May 2002). "Българският Цариград чака своя Великден" (in Bulgarian). Двуседмичен вестник на Държавната агенция за българите в чужбина към Министерския съвет. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  12. ^ Шишманов, Димитър (2000). Необикновената история на малоазийските българи (in Bulgarian). София: Пони.  
  13. ^ Милетичъ, Любомир (1918). "Статистиченъ прѣгледъ на българското население въ Одринския виляетъ". Разорението на тракийскитѣ българи презъ 1913 година (in Bulgarian). София: Българска академия на науките. pp. 287–291. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  14. ^ a b c Terziev, Svetoslav. "The Thracian Bulgarians press Turkey in EU", Sega Newspaper, September 19, 2007. Accessed September 20, 2007. (Bulgarian)
  15. ^ R. J. Crampton: "Bulgaria" 2007 pp.431
  16. ^ "Evgeni Kirilov proposed an amendment about the Thracian Bulgarians in an official report in European Parliament about Turkey", Information Agency Focus, September 18, 2007. Accessed September 20, 2007. (Bulgarian)
  17. ^ "The Bulgarian Euro-deputy Evgeni Kirilov proposed an amendment about the Thracian Bulgarians in an official report of the European Parliament about Turkey", Bulgarian National Radio, September 18, 2007. Accessed September 20, 2007. (Bulgarian)
  18. ^ Bulgaristan 10 milyar dolar istiyor, Milliyet, January 4, 2010. Accessed January 4, 2010. (Turkish)
  19. ^ "Dışişleri Bakanı Davutoğlu, "Yaşananlar tek taraflı göç şeklinde cereyan etmedi" dedi" "", January 5, 2010. Accessed January 5, 2010 (Turkish)
  20. ^ 'Tazminatçı Bakan' özür diledi, Milliyet, January 8, 2010. Accessed January 8, 2010 (Turkish)


See also


External links

  • Bulgarian embassy in Turkey (Bulgarian) (English) (Turkish)
  • Website of the Tsarigrad Bulgarians and the St Stephen Church in Istanbul (Bulgarian) (Russian) (Turkish)
  • Website of the Pomaks in Turkey (Turkish) (Bulgarian)
  • Bulgarian-Muslims in Turkey
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