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People, Language & Religion
 
 
 

People

In 1998, Bulgarians accounted for an estimated 84% of the total population. The Turks, who constituted about 10% of the total, are settled mainly in the southern Dobrudja and in the eastern Rhodope Mountains. Between December 1984 and March 1985, the government compelled ethnic Turks and Pomaks (Bulgarian Muslims) to abandon their Turkish and Muslim names and to adopt Bulgarian and Christian ones. This action was reversed in 1990. Other groups make up the remaining 6% of the populace. The number of Gypsies is estimated at 450,000-700,000 and the number of Pomaks, 150,000-300,000. Macedonians live mainly in the Pirin region of southwestern Bulgaria. Romanian-speaking Vlachs live in the towns and countryside of northwestern Bulgaria. Greek-speaking Karakatchans are nomadic mountain shepherds of Romanian origin. The Gagauzi of northeastern Bulgaria are a Turkish-speaking group of Christian Orthodox religion. Bulgaria's cities have small minorities of Russians, Jews, Armenians, Tatars and Greeks.

Language

Bulgarian is classified as a Slavic language of the southern group, which also includes Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, and Slovenian. Old Bulgarian, also known as Old Church Slavonic, was the first Slavic language fixed in writing (9th century). For this purpose, two Bulgarian monks, Cyril and Methodius, created a new alphabet, based partly on the Greek, that became known as the Cyrillic alphabet. Both the grammar and the vocabulary of modern Bulgarian show Turkish, Greek, Romanian, and Albanian influences.

In November 1991, the government made Turkish an optional subject four times weekly in schools in predominantly Turkish regions.

Religion

Most citizens of Bulgaria have associations – at least nominally – with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Founded in 870 AD under the Patriarchate of Constantinople (from which it obtained its first primate, its clergy and theological texts), the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has had autocephalous status since 927. The Orthodox Church re-established the Bulgarian Patriarchate in Sofia in the 1950s after the promulgation of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1870. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, as the independent national church of Bulgaria (like the other national branches of Eastern Orthodoxy in their respective countries) plays a role as an inseparable element of Bulgarian national consciousness. The Church became subordinate within the Patriarchate of Constantinople, twice during the periods of Byzantine (1018-1185) and Ottoman (1396-1878) domination but has been revived every time as a symbol of Bulgarian statehood without breaking away from the Orthodox dogma. In 2001, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had 6,552,000 members in Bulgaria (82.6% of the population). However, many people raised during the 45 years of communist rule are not religious, even though they may formally be members of the Church.

Despite the dominant position of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Bulgarian cultural life, a number of Bulgarian citizens belong to other religious denominations, most notably Islam, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Islam came to Bulgaria at the end of the fourteenth century after the conquest of the country by the Ottomans. It gradually gained ground throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries through the introduction of Turkish colonists and the conversion of native Bulgarians. In the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, missionaries from Rome converted Bulgarian Paulicians in the districts of Plovdiv and Svishtov to Roman Catholicism. Today their descendants form the bulk of Bulgarian Catholics, whose number stood at 44,000 in 2001.

Missionaries from the United States of America introduced Protestantism into Bulgarian territory in 1857. Missionary work continued throughout the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. In 2001 Bulgaria had some 42,000 Protestants.

According to the most recent Eurostat "Eurobarometer" poll, in 2005, 40% of Bulgarian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 40% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force", 13% that "they do not believe there is a God, spirit, nor life force", and 6% did not answer.

 
 


 



 


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