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Bulgarian people

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Bulgarian people

This article is about the ethnic Bulgarians. For the entire population of Bulgaria regardless ethnicity, see Demographics of Bulgaria. For the early medieval people, see Bulgars. For other uses, see Bulgarians (disambiguation).

Total population
>9 million[2][3]
Regions with significant populations
 Bulgaria 5,664,624 (incomplete 2011 census data)
6,000,000 (2011 estimate)[4][5]
 Greece 300,000[6]
 Ukraine 204,574[7]
 Spain 150,878[8][9]
 United States

95,568 – 300,000[10]

 Germany 93,889[13][14]
 Moldova (incl. Transnitria) 79,520[c]- 90,000[15][16]
 Argentina 70,000[17]
 Brazil 65,000[18][19]
 Italy 51,134[20][21]
 Canada 50,000[22]
 United Kingdom 47,000[23]
 Austria 35,000[24]
 France 34,000[d][25]
 Russia 31,965[26]
 Serbia 18,543[27]
 Cyprus 19,197[28]
 South Africa 15,000 – 20,000[29]

10,000 – 15,000[24]

 Poland 10,000 – 12,000[30]
 Romania 8,092[31]
 Czech Republic 7,387[32]
 Portugal 7,202 – 12,000[24][33]
 Kazakhstan 6,915[34]
 United Arab Emirates 5,000[35]

4,898 – 20,000[24][36]

 Sweden 4,000[37]
 Hungary 3,556[38]



3,500 – 4,500[24]

 New Zealand

3,000 – 5,000[24]

 Slovakia 1,842


Predominantly Orthodox Christianity
(Bulgarian Orthodox Church)
with Sunni Islam (Pomaks) Catholic and Protestant minorities
Related ethnic groups
South Slavic peoples, especially Macedonians[39]
a[›] In Turkey 300,000 speak Bulgarian language as mother tongue,[40] while nowadays several million can claim ancestral descent as a result of Devsirme and other turkification and assimilation practices during Ottoman rule.

The Bulgarians (Bulgarian: българи, IPA: [bɤ̞ɫɡɐri]) are a South Slavic[39][41][42][43] ethnic group native to Bulgaria and neighbouring regions. Emigration has resulted in immigrant communities in a number of other countries.


Main article: History of Bulgaria


The Bulgarians have descended mainly from three tribal groups, with different origins and numbers, which mixed themselves and formed a Slavic-speaking ethnicity in the First Bulgarian Empire:

The ancient languages of the local people had gone nearly extinct before the arrival of the Slavs, mostly due to Hellenization since antiquity and to a lesser degree to Romanization during Roman rule, accompanied by Christianisation. Their cultural influence was also highly reduced due to the repeated barbaric invasions on the Balkans during the early Middle Ages by Goths, Celts, Huns and Sarmatians and later slavicisation. However, some of their linguistic and cultural traces are present in modern Bulgarians (and Macedonians).

The Early Slavs emerged from their original homeland in the early 6th century, and spread to most of the eastern Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, thus forming three main branches — the West Slavs, the East Slavs and the South Slavs. The Byzantines grouped the numerous Slavic tribes into two groups: the Sklavenoi and Antes.[46] Some Bulgarian scholars suggest that the Antes became one of the ancestors of the modern Bulgarians.[46]

The Bulgars are first mentioned in the 4th century in the vicinity of the North Caucasian steppe, although scholars speculate that their history may go back to the Central Asian nomadic confederations.[47][48][49][50] Many scholars posit the origins of the Bulgars as a Turkic tribe of Central Asia (perhaps with Iranian elements).[51][52] In the late 7th century, some Bulgar tribes, led by Asparukh and others, led by Kouber, permanently settled in the Balkans. It is assumed that because Balkan Bulgars were not numerous,[53] low genetic influence was brought into the region, since the background of the local populations was not detectably modified.[54]

During the time of the early Byzantine Empire, the lands of present-day Bulgaria had population of Romanised Getae and Hellenised Thracians. When reaching the Danube in the early 5th century, the Early Slavs commenced raiding the Byzantinum. In the middle of the 6th century, some Thraco-Romans and Thraco-Byzantines, south of the Danube River, achieved a prolonged contact with the invading Slavs and were later eventually slavicised.[55] Subsequently, after the Bulgars' arrival, between the 8th and the 10th centuries, the remainder of the native population and the Bulgars, who were outnumbered by the Slavs[56][57][58] gradually became absorbed by them, adopting a South Slav language.[59]

Genetic origins

The study of Y-DNA haplogroups has received the most attention. Bulgarians, like their immediate neighbours (Macedonians, Romanians) show the highest diversity of haplogroups in Europe, marked by significant (> 10%) frequencies of 5 major haplogroups (compared to Atlantic Europe, dominated by > 90% R1b, and eastern Europe, dominated by R1a1). The major haplogroups are: [60]

  • R1a: several subclades have now been identified at levels ~ 18% (Karachanak 2013). The M-458 branch, which is very common in Poland and other West Slavic countries is present in Bulgaria at 7.5% (Karachanak 2013), whilst its frequency of 40% in Hungary (Carpathian basin) (Pamjav 2012). The remaining branches (10%) might belong to the older Z – 280 (“Central Eurasian”), as well as perhaps the even more ancient “Old European” branch (Klyosov 2012), although Bulgarians have not yet been formally tested for these subhaplogroup SNPs.
  • R1b: Present in Bulgarians ~ 11% (Karachanak 2013). R1b is represented by several subclades. Some show western European affinities, whilst the R-L23* branch shows a clear relationship with Anatolia and the Near East (Cruciani 2010)(Klyosov 2012). At present, the overall evidence suggests that the macro-haplogroup R arose somewhere in southern or central Asia, perhaps northern India. Their subsequent path into Europe, and exact timing of spread requires further fine resolution studies; however a Balkan entry into Europe seems highly probable. Their overall ages depend on which 'mutation rate' is used – the 'evolutionary effective' rate advocated by Zhivotovsky et al. (and used by 'population geneticists'), versus the 'germline mutation' rate used by most genetic genealogists. The difference translates into different putative epochs of entry – Last Glacial Maximum (Underhill 2009) versus the Holocene (Klyosov 2009).
  • Haplogroup I is presented at levels ~ 27% (Karachanak 2013). Evidence points to a Levantine origin for haplogroup I, or perhaps its immediate ancestor- IJ. The age of Hg I (22 kya), its exclusive and now patchy distribution within Europe suggests a very early entry in to Europe; perhaps with Palaeolithic colonization. However, subsequent events have shaped its current distribution – such as the expansion of R1b in Western Europe, R1a in Eastern Europe, as well as additional haplogroups in south-eastern Europe, almost eradicating it. Balkan Hg I belongs specifically to the P37.2, M423 branch ("Hg I2a1b3"). Its most closely related to a branch (Hg I2a1b2) is only found in the British Isles. A more distant relative, which split several thousand years ago, is the "Sardinian" haplogroup I2a1 (P37.2, M423 also). Initially Rootsi supposed a Holocene expansion of I2 in SEE (Rootsi 2004); however the homogeneity of Balkan Hg I2 and its star-like clustering suggests a far more recent expansion time. It was confirmed later that I2 started to resettle Eastern Europe only around 2,300 YBP.(Klyosov 2013)
  • Haplogroup E-V68 is presented at levels ~ 22% (Karachanak 2013). The ultimate origin of E-V68 points to northeastern Africa, specifically near the Nile and Lake Alexandria (Cruciani 2004). Thus this haplogroup represents a more recent “out of Africa” movement into the Balkans. How and when it entered the Balkans is less clear, however Cruciani et al propose a Holocene movement into the Near East, then several thousand years ago, a movement into the Balkans (Cruciani 2004). Recent findings of V13 in a Neolithic context in Iberia (dated to ~ 7 kya) give a terminus ante quem (Lacan 2011). Like M423 above, however, it might have really begun to expand in the Balkans somewhat later, perhaps during the population growth of the Bronze Age, according to Cruciani.
  • Haplogroup J2 is also presented at levels ~ 11% (Karachanak 2013). Whilst its origin is north Levantine, its current pattern reflects more recent events connecting the Aegean and western Anatolia during the Copper and Bronze Ages, as well as possibly historic Greek colonization. There are several subclades within J2 : J2a M410, J2b M12, M67 and M92 (Semino 2004, Di Giacomo 2003).
  • Finally, there are also some other Y-DNA Haplogroups presented at a lower levels among Bulgarians ~ 10% all together, as G, J1 and T (Karachanak 2013).

Complimentary evidence exists from mtDNA data. From this perspective, Bulgaria shows a very similar profile to other European countries – dominated by mitochondrial haplogroups Hg H (~42%), Hg U (~22%), Hg T (~11%), Hg J (~8%) and Hg K (~6%) (Karachanak 2012). Recent studies show greater diversity within mt Haplogroups than once thought, as sub-haplogroups are being discovered. For example, within the apparently homogeneous European presence of Hg H, subcluster H1 is more prevalent in western Europe (especially Iberia), whilst subclusters H1b and H2a are more common in Eastern Europeans (Loogvali 2004).


Further evidence from ancient DNA, reconsiderations of mutation rates, and collateral evidence from autosomal DNA growth rates suggest that the major period of European population expansion occurred after the Holocene. Thus the current geographic spread and frequency of haplogroups has been continually shaped from the time of Palaeolithic colonization to beyond the Neolithic (Pinhasi 2012)(Ricaut 2012). This process of genetic shaping continued into recorded history, such as the Slavic migrations.(Rower 2005)(Ralph 2012)

It is important to note that, whilst haploid markers such as mtDNA and Y-DNA can provide clues about past population history, they only represent a single genetic locus, compared to hundreds of thousands present in nuclear, autosomal chromosomes. Analyses of autosomal DNA markers gives the best approximation of overall 'relatedness' between populations, presenting a less skewed genetic picture compared to Y DNA haplogroups. This atDNA data shows that there are no sharp discontinuities or clusters within the European population. Rather there exists a genetic gradient, running mostly in a southeast to northwest direction. Overall, Bulgarians are closest to Macedonians, Romanians and Serbians; followed by other Balkan populations such as Croats, Albanians and Greeks. Bulgarians are more distantly related to other fellow Slavic-speaking countries such as Russians and Poles. Moreover, they were only modestly close to their immediate eastern neighbours – the Turks- suggesting the presence of certain geographic and cultural barriers (Novembre 2008)(Yanusbaev 2012).

National identity

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Bulgarian citizens
  • Banat Bulgarian

The First Bulgarian Empire was founded in 681. After the adoption of Orthodox Christianity in 864 it became one of the cultural centers of Slavic Europe. Its leading cultural position was consolidated with the invention of the Cyrillic script in its capital Preslav at the eve of the 10th century.[61] The development of Old Church Slavonic literacy in the country had the effect of preventing the assimilation of the South Slavs into neighboring cultures and it also stimulated the development of a distinct ethnic identity.[62] A symbiosis was carried out between the numerically weak Bulgars and the numerous Slavic tribes in that broad area from the Danube to the north, to the Aegean Sea to the south, and from the Adriatic Sea to the west, to the Black Sea to the east, who accepted the common ethnonym "Bulgarians".[63] During the 10th century the Bulgarians established a form of national identity that was far from modern nationalism but helped them to survive as a distinct entity through the centuries.[64][65]

In 1018 Bulgaria lost its independence and remained a Byzantine subject until 1185, when the Second Bulgarian Empire was created.[66] Nevertheless, at the end of the 14th century, the Ottomans conquered the whole of Bulgaria.[67] Under the Ottomans, Bulgarians were considered a lower class of people and Bulgarian Christian culture was suppressed. The nobility and the clergy were eliminated and the peasantry was enserfed. A process of partial Islamization took place in the course of the centuries, determined by the specific conditions of each locality.[68] The Bulgarians, like the rest of the Orthodox Christians, were included in a specific ethno-religious community under Greco-Byzantine domination called Rum Millet. To the common people, belonging to this Orthodox commonwealth became more important than their ethnic origins.[69] This community became both, basic form of social organization and source of identity for all the ethnic groups inside it.[70] In this way, ethnonyms were rarely used and between the 15th and 19th centuries, most of the local people gradually began to identify themselves simply as Christians.[71][72] However, the public-spirited clergy in some isolated monasteries still kept the distinct Bulgarian identity alive,[73] and this helped it to survive predominantly in rural, remote areas.[74] Despite the process of ethno-religious fusion among the Orthodox Christians, strong nationalist sentiments persisted into the Catholic community in the northwestern part of the country.[75] At that time, a process of partial hellenisation occurred among the intelligentsia and the urban population, as a result of the higher status of the Greek culture and the Greek Orthodox Church among the Balkan Christians. During the second half of the 18th century, the Enlightenment in Western Europe provided influence for the initiation of the National awakening of Bulgaria in 1762.[76]

Some Bulgarians supported the Russian Army when they crossed the Danube in the middle of the 18th century. Russia worked to convince them to settle in areas recently conquered by it, especially in Bessarabia. As a consequence, many Bulgarian colonists settled there, and later they formed two military regiments, as part of the Russian military colonization of the area in 1759–1763.[77]

Bulgarian national movement

During the Russo-Turkish Wars from (1806–1812) and (1828–1829) Bulgarian emigrants formed the Bulgarian Countrymen's Army and joined the Russian army, hoping Russia would bring Bulgarian liberation, but its imperial interests were focused then on Greece and Valachia.[78] The rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire led to a struggle for cultural and religious autonomy of the Bulgarian people. The Bulgarians wanted to have their own schools and liturgy in Bulgarian, and they needed an independent ecclesiastical organisation. Discontent with the supremacy of the Greek Orthodox clergy, the struggle started to flare up in several Bulgarian dioceses in the 1820s.

It was not until the 1850 when the Bulgarians initiated a purposeful struggle against the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The struggle between the Bulgarians and the pro-Greek Phanariotes intensified throughout the 1860s. In 1861 the Vatican and the Ottoman government recognized a separate Bulgarian Uniat Church. As the Greek clerics were ousted from most Bulgarian bishoprics at the end of the decade, significant areas had been seceded from the Patriarchate's control. This movement restored the distinct Bulgarian national consciousness among the common people and led to the recognition of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1870 by the Ottomans. As result, two armed struggle movements started to develop as late as the beginning of the 1870s: the Internal Revolutionary Organisation and the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee. Their armed struggle reached its peak with the April Uprising which broke out in 1876. It resulted into the Russo-Turkish War from 1877–1878, and led to the foundation of the third Bulgarian state after the Treaty of San Stefano. The issue of Bulgarian nationalism gained greater significance, following the Congress of Berlin which took back the regions of Macedonia and Adrianople area, returning them under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Also an autonomous Ottoman province, called Eastern Rumelia was created in northern Thrace. Аs a consequence, the Bulgarian national movement proclaimed as its aim the inclusion of most of Macedonia, Thrace and Moesia under Greater Bulgaria.

Eastern Rumelia was annexed to Bulgaria in 1885 through bloodless revolution. During the early 1890s, two pro-Bulgarian revolutionary organizations were founded: the Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization and the Supreme Macedonian-Adrianople Committee. In 1903 they participated in the unsuccessful Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising against the Ottomans in Macedonia and the Adrianople vilayet. Macedonian Slavs were identified then predominantly as Bulgarians, and significant Bulgarophile sentiments endured up among them until the end of the Second World War.[79][80][81][82][83]

In the early 20th century the control over Macedonia became a key point of contention between Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia, who fought the First Balkan War of 1912 and the Second Balkan War of 1913. The area was further fought over during the World War I (1915–1918) and the World War II (1941–1944).


Most Bulgarians live in Bulgaria, where they number around 6 million,[5][84] constituting 85% of the population. There are significant Bulgarian minorities in Serbia, Turkey, Albania, Romania (Banat Bulgarians), as well as in Ukraine and Moldova (see Bessarabian Bulgarians). Many Bulgarians also live in the diaspora, which is formed by representatives and descendants of the old (before 1989) and new (after 1989) emigration. The old emigration was made up of some 2,470,000 economic and several tens of thousands of political emigrants, and was directed for the most part to the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Germany. The new emigration is estimated at some 970,000 people and can be divided into two major subcategories: permanent emigration at the beginning of the 1990s, directed mostly to the U.S., Canada, Austria, and Germany and labour emigration at the end of the 1990s, directed for the most part to Greece, Italy, the UK and Spain. Migrations to the West have been quite steady even in the late 1990s and early 21st century, as people continue moving to countries like the US, Canada and Australia. Most Bulgarians living in the US can be found in Chicago, Illinois. However, according to the 2000 US census most Bulgarians live in the cities of New York and Los Angeles, and the state with most Bulgarians in the US is California. Most Bulgarians living in Canada can be found in Toronto, Ontario, and the provinces with most Bulgarians in Canada are Ontario and Quebec. According to the 2001 census there were 1,124,240 Bulgarian citizens in the city of Sofia,[84] 302,858 in Plovdiv, 300,000 in Varna and about 200,000 in Burgas. The total number of Bulgarians stood at over 9 million.[2][85]

Related ethnic groups

 Until the early 20th century, ethnic Macedonians, Torlaks and Slavic-speakers of Greek Macedonia usually self-identified as Bulgarians.

Bulgarians are considered most closely related to the neighboring Macedonians; indeed it is sometimes said there is no discernible ethnic difference between them.[39] The ethnic Macedonians were considered Macedonian Bulgarians by most ethnographers until the early 20th century and beyond with a big portion of them evidently self-identifying as such.[86][87] The Slavic-speakers of Greek Macedonia and most among the Torlaks in Serbia have also had a history of identifying as Bulgarians and many were members of the Bulgarian Exarchate, which included most of the territory regarded as Torlak. The greater part of these people were also considered Bulgarians by most ethnographers until the early 20th century and beyond.[88][89][90][91]



Main article: Bulgarian language

Bulgarians speak a Southern Slavic language which is mutually intelligible with Macedonian and with the Torlak dialect. The Bulgarian language is also, to some degree, mutually intelligible with Russian on account of the influence which Russia has had on the development of Modern Bulgaria since 1878, as well as the earlier effect of Old Bulgarian on the development of Old Russian. Although related, Bulgarian and the Western and Eastern Slavic languages are not mutually intelligible.

Bulgarian demonstrates some linguistic developments that set it apart from other Slavic languages. These are shared with Romanian, Albanian and Greek (see Balkan language area) with which it is not at all mutually intelligible. Until 1878 Bulgarian was influenced lexically by medieval and modern Greek, and to a much lesser extent, by Turkish. More recently, the language has borrowed many words from Russian, German, French and English.

The Bulgarian language is spoken by the majority of the Bulgarian diaspora, but less so by the descendants of earlier emigrants to the U.S., Canada, Argentina and Brazil).

Bulgarian linguists consider the officialized Macedonian language (since 1944) a local variation of Bulgarian, just as most ethnographers and linguists until the early 20th century considered the local Slavic speech in the Macedonian region. The president of Bulgaria Zhelyu Zhelev, declined to recognize Macedonian as a separate language when the Republic of Macedonia became a new independent state. The Bulgarian language is written in the Cyrillic script.

Cyrillic alphabet

Main article: Cyrillic alphabet

In the first half of the 10th century, the Cyrillic script was devised in the Preslav Literary School, Bulgaria, based on the Glagolitic, the Greek and Latin alphabets. Modern versions of the alphabet are now used to write five more Slavic languages such as Belarusian, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian as well as Mongolian and some other 60 languages spoken in the former Soviet Union. Medieval Bulgaria was the most important cultural centre of the Slavic peoples at the end of the 9th and throughout the 10th century. The two literary schools of Preslav and Ohrid developed a rich literary and cultural activity with authors of the rank of Constantine of Preslav, John Exarch, Chernorizets Hrabar, Clement and Naum of Ohrid. Bulgaria exerted similar influence on her neighbouring countries in the mid- to late 14th century, at the time of the Tarnovo Literary School, with the work of Patriarch Evtimiy, Gregory Tsamblak, Constantine of Kostenets (Konstantin Kostenechki). Bulgarian cultural influence was especially strong in Wallachia and Moldova where the Cyrillic script was used until 1860, while Church Slavonic was the official language of the princely chancellery and of the church until the end of 17th century.

Name system

Main article: Bulgarian name

There are several different layers of Bulgarian names. The vast majority of them have either Christian (names like Lazar, Ivan, Anna, Maria, Ekaterina) or Slavic origin (Vladimir, Svetoslav, Velislava). After the Liberation in 1878, the names of historical Bulgar rulers like Asparuh, Krum, Kubrat and Tervel were resurrected. The old Bulgar name Boris has spread from Bulgaria to a number of countries in the world with Russian Tsar Boris Godunov, British politician Boris Johnson, and German tennis player Boris Becker being three of the examples of its use.

Most Bulgarian male surnames have an -ov surname suffix (Cyrillic: -ов). This is sometimes transcribed as -off or "-of" (John Atanasov—John Atanasoff), but more often as -ov (e.g. Boyko Borisov). The -ov suffix is the Slavic gender-agreeing suffix, thus Ivanov (Bulgarian: Иванов) literally means "Ivan's". Bulgarian middle names are patronymic and use the gender-agreeing suffix as well, thus the middle name of Nikola's son becomes Nikolov, and the middle name of Ivan's son becomes Ivanov. Since names in Bulgarian are gender-based, Bulgarian women have the -ova surname suffix (Cyrillic: -овa), for example, Maria Ivanova. The plural form of Bulgarian names ends in -ovi (Cyrillic: -ови), for example the Ivanovi family (Иванови).

Other common Bulgarian male surnames have the -ev surname suffix (Cyrillic: -ев), for example Stoev, Ganchev, Peev, and so on. The female surname in this case would have the -eva surname suffix (Cyrillic: -ева), for example: Galina Stoeva. The last name of the entire family then would have the plural form of -evi (Cyrillic: -еви), for example: the Stoevi family (Стоеви).

Another typical Bulgarian surname suffix, though less common, is -ski. This surname ending also gets an –a when the bearer of the name is female (Smirnenski becomes Smirnenska). The plural form of the surname suffix -ski is still -ski, e.g. the Smirnenski family (Bulgarian: Смирненски).

The ending –in (female -ina) also appears rarely. It used to be given to the child of an unmarried woman (for example the son of Kuna will get the surname Kunin and the son of GanaGanin). The surname suffix -ich can be found only occasionally, primarily among the Roman Catholic Bulgarians. The surname ending –ich does not get an additional –a if the bearer of the name is female.


Most Bulgarians are at least nominally members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church founded in 870 AD (autocephalous since 927 AD). The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is the independent national church of Bulgaria like the other national branches of the Orthodox communion and is considered an inseparable element of Bulgarian national consciousness. The church was abolished once, during the period of Ottoman rule (1396—1878), in 1873 it was revived as Bulgarian Exarchate and soon after raised again to Bulgarian Patriarchate. In 2001, the Orthodox Church at least nominally had a total of 6,552,000 members in Bulgaria (82.6% of the population), 6,300,000 of which were Bulgarians, and between one and two million members in the diaspora. The Orthodox Bulgarian minorities in the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Greece, Albania, Ukraine and Moldova nowadays hold allegiance to the respective national Orthodox churches.

Despite the position of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as a unifying symbol for all Bulgarians, small groups of Bulgarians have converted to other faiths through the course of time. In the 16th and the 17th centuries Roman Catholic missionaries converted a small number of Bulgarian Paulicians in the districts of Plovdiv and Svishtov to Roman Catholicism. Nowadays there are some 40,000 Roman Catholic Bulgarians in Bulgaria, additional 10,000 in the Banat in Romania and up to 100,000 people of Bulgarian ancenstry in South America. The Roman Catholic Bulgarians of the Banat are also descendants of Paulicians who fled there at the end of the 17th century after an unsuccessful uprising against the Ottomans. Protestantism was introduced in Bulgaria by missionaries from the United States in 1857. Missionary work continued throughout the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. Nowadays there are some 25,000 Protestant Bulgarians in Bulgaria. Also, a minority group of Muslim Bulgarians live in the country.[92]

Art and science

Boris Christoff, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Raina Kabaivanska and Ghena Dimitrova made a precious contribution to opera singing with Ghiaurov and Christoff being two of the greatest bassos in the post-war period. The name of the harpist-Anna-Maria Ravnopolska-Dean is one of the best-known harpists today. Bulgarians have made valuable contributions to world culture in modern times as well. Julia Kristeva and Tzvetan Todorov were among the most influential European philosophers in the second half of the 20th century. The artist Christo is among the most famous representatives of environmental art with projects such as the Wrapped Reichstag.

Bulgarians in the diaspora have also been active. American scientists and inventors of Bulgarian descent include John Atanasoff, Peter Petroff, and Assen Jordanoff. Bulgarian-American Stephane Groueff wrote the celebrated book "Manhattan Project", about the making of the first atomic bomb and also penned "Crown of Thorns", a biography of Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria. According to MENSA International, Bulgaria ranks 2nd in the world in Mensa IQ test-scores and its students rate second in the world in SAT scores.[93][94] Also, international MENSA IQ testing completed in 2004 identified as the world's smartest woman (and one of the smartest people in the world) Daniela Simidchieva of Bulgaria, who has an IQ of 200.[95][96]As of 2007 CERN employed more than 90 Bulgarian scientists, and about 30 of them will actively participate in the Large Hadron Collider experiments.[97]


Main article: Bulgarian cuisine

Famous for its rich salads required at every meal, Bulgarian cuisine is also noted for the diversity and quality of dairy products and the variety of local wines and alcoholic beverages such as rakia, mastika and menta. Bulgarian cuisine features also a variety of hot and cold soups, an example of a cold soup being tarator. There are many different Bulgarian pastries as well such as banitsa.

Most Bulgarian dishes are oven baked, steamed, or in the form of stew. Deep-frying is not very typical, but grilling – especially different kinds of meats – is very common. Pork meat is the most common meat in the Bulgarian cuisine. Oriental dishes do exist in Bulgarian cuisine with most common being moussaka, gyuvetch, and baklava. A very popular ingredient in Bulgarian cuisine is the Bulgarian white brine cheese called "sirene" (сирене). It is the main ingredient in many salads, as well as in a variety of pastries. Fish and chicken are widely eaten and while beef is less common as most cattle are bred for milk production rather than meat, veal is a natural byproduct of this process and it is found in many popular recipes. Bulgaria is a net exporter of lamb and its own consumption of the meat is prevalent during its production time in spring.[98]


Main article: Bulgarian customs

Bulgarians may wear the martenitsa (мартеница) – an adornment made of white and red yarn and worn on the wrist or pinned on the clothes – from 1 March until the end of the month. Alternatively, one can take off the martenitsa earlier if one sees a stork (considered a harbinger of spring). One can then tie the martenitsa to the blossoming branch of a tree. Family-members and friends in Bulgaria customarily exchange martenitsas, which they regard as symbols of health and longevity. The white thread represents peace and tranquility, while the red one stands for the cycles of life. Bulgarians may also refer to the holiday of 1 March as Baba Marta (Баба Марта), meaning Grandmother March. It preserves an ancient pagan tradition. Many legends exist regarding the birth of this custom, some of them dating back to the 7th-century times of Khan Kubrat, the ruler of Old Great Bulgaria. Other tales relate the martenitsa to Thracian and Zoroastrian beliefs.

The ancient ritual of kukeri (кукери), performed by costumed men, seeks to scare away evil spirits and bring good harvest and health to the community. The costumes, made of animal furs and fleeces, cover the whole of the body. A mask, adorned with horns and decoration, covers the head of each kuker, who also must have bells attached to his waist. The ritual consists of dancing, jumping and shouting in an attempt to banish all evil from the village. Some of the performers impersonate royalty, field-workers and craftsmen. The adornments on the costumes vary from one region to another.

Another characteristic custom called nestinarstvo (нестинарство), or firedancing, distinguishes the Strandzha region. This ancient custom involves dancing into fire or over live embers. Women dance into the fire with their bare feet without suffering any injury or pain.


Left: Stoichkov, regarded as one of the best footballers of all time.[99]
Right: Topalov, the 21st World Chess Champion

As for most European peoples, the football became by far the most popular sport for the Bulgarians. Hristo Stoichkov was one of the best football (soccer) players in the second half of the 20th century, having played with the national team and FC Barcelona. He received a number of awards and was the joint top scorer at the 1994 World Cup. Dimitar Berbatov, currently in Fulham F.C. and formerly in Manchester United, the national team and two domestic clubs, is still the most popular Bulgarian football player of the 21st century.

In the beginning of the 20th century Bulgaria was famous for two of the best wrestlers in the world – Dan Kolov and Nikola Petroff. Stefka Kostadinova is the best female high jumper, still holding the world record from 1987, one of the oldest unbroken world records for all kind of athletics. Ivet Lalova along with Irina Privalova is currently the fastest white woman at 100 metres. Kaloyan Mahlyanov has been the first European sumo wrestler to win the Emperor's Cup in Japan. Veselin Topalov won the 2005 World Chess Championship. He was ranked No. 1 in the world from April 2006 to January 2007, and had the second highest Elo rating of all time (2813). He regained the world No. 1 ranking again in October 2008.


The national symbols of the Bulgarians are the Flag, the Coat of Arms, the National anthem and the National Guard, as well other unofficial symbols such as the Samara flag.

The national flag of Bulgaria is a rectangle with three colors: white, green, and red, positioned horizontally top to bottom. The color fields are of same form and equal size. It is generally known that the white represents – the sky, the green – the forest and nature and the red – the blood of the people, referencing the strong bond of the nation through all the wars and revolutions that have shaken the country in the past. The Coat of Arms of Bulgaria is a state symbol of the sovereignty and independence of the Bulgarian people and state. It represents a crowned rampant golden lion on a dark red background with the shape of a shield. Above the shield there is a crown modeled after the crowns of the emperors of the Second Bulgarian Empire, with five crosses and an additional cross on top. Two crowned rampant golden lions hold the shield from both sides, facing it. They stand upon two crossed oak branches with acorns, which symbolize the power and the longevity of the Bulgarian state. Under the shield, there is a white band lined with the three national colors. The band is placed across the ends of the branches and the phrase "Unity Makes Strength" is inscribed on it.

Both the Bulgarian flag and the Coat of Arms are also used as symbols of various Bulgarian organisations, political parties and institutions.

Bulgarian women in 1586
Aerial photographers from the Bozhurishte Airfield, 1926
Girls at a college prom, 2008

See also

Notes and references


a. ^ MFA of Bulgaria – 250,000 immigrants and additional 30,000 students with employment activity.
b. ^ 86,685 is a combined number of 74,869 legal immigrants as of 2010 and additional 11,816 students as of 2007.
c. ^ 79,520 is a combined number of 65,662 people counted as Bulgarians in the census in Moldova and 13,858 in the census in Transnitria.
d. ^ MFA of Bulgaria – 30,000 immigrants and additional 4,000 students with employment activity.
e. ^ Citizens of the Republic of Macedonia and Albania, which obtained Bulgarian citizenship by declaring ethnic Bulgarian origin. It is unknown how many of them currently reside in Macedonia and Albania as part of them immigrated in Bulgaria and other members of the European Union.


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