|7 - 9 million
7.3 million Bulgaria nationals
|Regions with significant populations|
|Bulgaria 6,000,000 (2011 est.)|
|Ukraine (2001 area)||204,574-500,000|
|Moldova (incl. Transnistria)||79,520|
|Russia (2010 area)||24,038-330,000|
|Cyprus (excl. TRNC)||19,197|
|Serbia (excl. Kosovo)||18,543|
|South Africa||15,000 – 20,000|
|Poland||10,000 – 12,000|
|Portugal||7,553 – 12,000|
|United Arab Emirates||6,000-7,000|
2011 census in Bulgaria:
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other South Slavs, especially Macedonians|
^ a: The 2011 census figure is 5,664,624 anyway the question on ethnicity was voluntarily and 10% of the population didn't declare any ethnicity, thus the figure is considered insufficient and ethnic Bulgarians are estimated at around 6 million.
^ b: Additional number of ethnic Bulgarians did not declare their ethnic group and religion at the same time at the census so these census statistics excludes a significant number of irreligious people (31% of Bulgaria's population.)
The Bulgarians (Bulgarian: българи, bǎlgari, IPA: [bɤ̞ɫɡɐri]) are a nation and South Slavic ethnic group, who are native to Bulgaria and neighbouring regions.
Bulgarians have lived between the Upper Danube, the Aegean, Adriatic, and Black Seas in southeastern Europe. The Bulgarians descend mainly from three ethnic groups - Thracians, Slavs and Bulgars. The political history became with the establishment of the First Bulgarian Empire in 681.
Most Bulgarians speak Bulgarian language as their mother tongue.
According to the Art.25 (1) of Constitution of Republic of Bulgaria, a Bulgarian citizen shall be anyone born of at least one parent holding a Bulgarian citizenship, or born on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, should he not be entitled to any other citizenship by virtue of origin. Bulgarian citizenship shall further be acquirable through naturalization.
The Bulgarians descend mainly from three tribal groups, with different origins and numbers, which became assimilated and formed a Slavic-speaking ethnicity in the First Bulgarian Empire:
- the indigenous late Roman provincial peoples: Thraco-Romans and Thraco-Byzantines, from whom cultural and ethnic elements were taken;
- the Early Slavs from whom the basis of the language was inherited;
- the Bulgars, from whom the ethnonym and the early statehood were inherited.
The Thracian language probably became extinct in the 6th century, but was still spoken throughout the late and middle 6th century.Scythia Minor and Moesia Inferior appear to have been Romanized, although the region became a focus of barbarian re-settlements (various Goths and Huns) during the 4th and early 5th centuries AD, before a further 'Romanization' episode during the early 6th. However, some pre-Slavic linguistic and cultural traces might have been preserved 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, gradually inflicting total linguistic replacement of Thracian if the Thracians had not already been Romanized or Hellenized. The Byzantines grouped the numerous Slavic tribes into two groups: the Sklavenoi and Antes. Some Bulgarian scholars suggest that the Antes became one of the ancestors of the modern Bulgarians.
The Bulgars are first mentioned in the 4th century in the vicinity of the North Caucasian steppe. Scholars often suggest that their ultimate origins can be traced to the Central Asian nomadic confederations, specifically as part of loosely related Oghuric tribes which spanned from the Pontic steppe to central Asia. However, any direct connection between the Bulgars and postulated Asian counterparts rest on little more than speculative and "contorted etymologies". In the late 7th century, some Bulgar tribes, led by Asparukh and others, led by Kouber, permanently settled in the Balkans. The Bulgars are not thought to have been numerous and became a ruling elite in the areas they controlled. Asparukh's Bulgars made a tribal union with the Severians and the "Seven clans", who were re-settled to protect the flanks of the Bulgar settlements in Scythia Minor.
During the Early Byzantine Era, the Roman provincials in Scythia Minor and Moesia Secunda were already engaged in economic and social exchange with the 'barbarians' north of the Danube. This might have facilitated their eventual Slavonization, although the majority of the population appears to have been tactically withdrawn to the hinterland of Constantinople or Asia Minor prior to any permanent Slavic and Bulgar settlement south of the Danube. The major port towns in Pontic Bulgaria remained Byzantine Greek in their outlook. The large scale population transfers and territorial expansions during the 8th and 9th century, additionally increased the number of the Slavs and Byzantine Christians within the state, making the Bulgars quite obviously a minority. The establishment of a new state molded the various Slav, Bulgar and Late Roman/ Early Byzantine provincial populations into the "Bulgarian people" of the First Bulgarian Empire speaking a South Slav language.
In different periods to the ethnogenesis of the local population contributed also Sarmatians, Celts, Goths, Vlachs, Greeks, Cumans, Pechenegs and other indo-European and Turkic people, who settled or lived on the Balkans.
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:
- 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%) belong to the older Z – 280 ("Central European") branch (Underhill 2014). R descends from Haplogroup IJK.
- R1b: Present in Bulgarians ~ 11% (Karachanak 2013). R1b is the most frequently occurring Y-chromosome haplogroup in Western Europe. It 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 European origin for haplogroup I, and Levantine for 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 16.7%- 19.6% (Karachanak 2013). E-V68, also known as E1b1b1a, is a major Y chromosome haplogroup found in northeastern Africa, Western Asia and throughout Europe (highest frequency Southern Europe and in the Balkans), and is in turn part of the larger haplogroup known as E-M35. 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 Bronze Age "out of Africa" movement into Europe via 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. 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).
Until recently the Bulgars were believed to be a tribe of Turkic origin, but the results of the study had failed to show any Turkic connection, showing that the Bulgarian population is genetically purely Indo-European and suggests that Bulgarians stand closest to the group of the Slavic peoples with closest genetic similarities found with the Croats, Poles and Ukrainians; the scientists reckon that Thracian and Bulgar DNA is also present in case the Bulgars were genetically unlike the Turkic peoples and originated in Eastern Iran.
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. Bulgarians were only modestly close to their immediate eastern neighbours – the Turks- suggesting the presence of certain geographic and cultural barriers (Novembre 2008)(Yanusbaev 2012).
In 2015, genetic studies conducted by both Bulgarian and Italian scientists revealed that Bulgarians have a mixed Slavic-Mediterranean gene structure and share genes with the people of Northern Greece and Northern Italy.
Recent studies of ancient DNA have revealed that European populations are largely descending from three ancestral groups. The first one are Paleolithic Siberians, the second one are hunter-gatherers from Northern European type, and the third one are Early farmers and later arrivals from West Asia. According to this, Bulgarians are predominantly (~70%) descending from early Neolithic farmers spreading the agriculture from Anatolia, and from West Asian Bronze Age invaders and cluster together with other Southern Europeans. Another of the admixture signals in that farmers involves some ancestry related to East Asians, with ~ 2% total Bulgarian ancestry proportion linking to a presence of nomadic groups in Europe, from the time of the Huns to that of the Ottomans. A third signal involves admixture between the North European group from one side and the West Asian - Early farmers' group from another side, at approximately the same time as the East Asian admixture, ca. 850 AD. This event may correspond to the expansion of Slavic language speaking people. The analysis documents this admixture in Bulgarians at a level from ca. 28%.
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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. 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. 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". 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.
In 1018 Bulgaria lost its independence and remained a Byzantine subject until 1185, when the Second Bulgarian Empire was created. Nevertheless, at the end of the 14th century, the Ottomans conquered the whole of Bulgaria. Under the Ottoman system, Christians were considered an inferior class of people. Thus, Bulgarians, like other Christians, were subjected to heavy taxes and a small portion of the Bulgarian populace experienced partial or complete Islamisation. Orthodox Christians were included in a specific ethno-religious community called Rum Millet. To the common people, belonging to this Orthodox commonwealth became more important than their ethnic origins. This community became both, basic form of social organization and source of identity for all the ethnic groups inside it. 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. However, the public-spirited clergy in some isolated monasteries still kept the distinct Bulgarian identity alive, and this helped it to survive predominantly in rural, remote areas. 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. 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.
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.
Bulgarian national movement
During the Russo-Turkish Wars (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. 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 1850s when the Bulgarians initiated a purposeful struggle against the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The struggle between the Bulgarians and the 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 Millet 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(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.
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 (1912–1913) 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, 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 Canada can be found in Toronto, Ontario, and the provinces with the 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, 302,858 in Plovdiv, 300,000 in Varna and about 200,000 in Burgas. The total number of Bulgarians stood at over 9 million.
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. 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. 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.
Bulgarians speak a Southern Slavic language which is mutually intelligible with Macedonian and with the Torlak dialect. 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.
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 the 17th century.
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), a tradition used mostly by Eastern Slavic nations such as Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. 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 Gana – Ganin). 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 a dominating 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 2011, the Orthodox Church at least nominally had a total of 4,374,000 members in Bulgaria (59% of the population), down from 6,552,000 (83%) at the 2001 census. 4,240,000 of these pointed out the Bulgarian ethnic group. 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.
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. 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.As of 2007 CERN employed more than 90 Bulgarian scientists, and about 30 of them will actively participate in the Large Hadron Collider experiments.
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.
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.
As for most European peoples, 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 PAOK F.C. and formerly in Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Bayer Leverkusen and others, 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.
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