Ethnic Bulgarians account for almost 85% of the people of Bulgaria. They trace their history to the late 7th century, when the Bulgars, a central Asian Turkic people, and the Slavs, a central European people, merged to form the First Bulgarian Kingdom.
Bulgaria was further unified in 865, when Tsar Boris I declared Christianity the official religion of Bulgaria, with allegiance to the Patriarchate of Constantinople rather than to the Pope in Rome. This was a defining moment in Bulgaria’s history, and most ethnic Bulgarians continue to identify themselves as Orthodox Christians even today.
In 1396, the Second Bulgarian Kingdom fell to the Muslim Ottoman Empire. This introduced Islam to Bulgaria, where it spread primarily through the resettling of Turkish Muslims throughout the country. As a result, ethnic Turks now represent nearly 9% of the people of Bulgaria and are the largest Muslim population in the country.
Other followers of Islam in Bulgaria include some ethnic Bulgarian Muslims (known as Pomaks) and the Millet, who are Turkish-speaking Roma Muslims. (Ethnic Roma make up about 5% of the people of Bulgaria; Roma are split fairly evenly between Islam and Christianity.)
Today, more than 72% of the people of Bulgaria live in urban areas – with 1 in 4 living in the capital city of Sofia. However, 3 of every 5 ethnic Turks and almost half of all Roma live in rural areas.
For further reading (external links)
Muslims in Bulgaria
- Religious practice versus religious identity via AFP
Ethnic Bulgarian Muslims
For more demographic detail, see the results of Bulgaria’s 2011 census. For information about the least reached people of Bulgaria, see this Joshua Project summary.
- Wedding Ceremony in Ribnivo via Reuters