Learn more about Bulgarians
|Total population|| 7.5 million1 (2002)|
|Regions with significant populations|| Bulgaria: 6,655,2102 (2001)
Ukraine: 204,0002 (2002)
|Religion|| Predominantly Bulgarian Orthodox including Atheist, Muslim, Roman Catholic and Protestant minorities. <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th> <td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">• Slavs
• South Slavs
The Bulgarians (Bulgarian: българи) are a South Slavic people generally associated with Bulgaria and the Bulgarian language. The majority of the Bulgarians nowadays live in the Republic of Bulgaria, although there are Bulgarian minorities or immigrant communities in a number of other countries.
The modern Bulgarians are descendants of the Bulgars, a seminomadic people who during the 2nd century migrated from Central Asia into the North Caucasian steppe and in the late 7th century permanently settled in the Balkans<ref>On the origin of the Proto-Bulgarians, by Rasho Rashev</ref>, and of a number of southern Slavic tribes who had moved into the area a century earlier. The two groups together formed the First Bulgarian Empire in 681. The Bulgars were later assimilated by the numerous Slavs, who adopted their ethnonym.
The indigenous Thracian and Daco-Getic population, who had lived on the territory of modern Bulgaria before the Slavic invasion, also participated in the formation of the Bulgarian ethnos. <ref>Paleo-MtDNA Analysis and population genetic aspects of old Thracian population fromSouth-Eastern Romania</ref>
Their ancient languages had already gone extinguished before the arrival of the Slavs, and their cultural influence was highly reduced due to the repeated barabaric invasions on the Balkans during the early Middle Ages accompanied by persistent hellenization, romanisation and later slavicisation.
The DNA methods confirm that genetically Bulgarians are more closely related to the ethnic Macedonians, Greeks, and Romanians than to other European populations and Middle Eastern people living near the Mediterranean<ref>HLA polymorphism in Bulgarians defined by high-resolution typing methods in comparison with other populations.</ref><ref>Y-chromosomal diversity in Europe is clinal and influenced primarily by geography, rather than by language</ref>. The anthropologists claim that the Bulgarian population is characterized by features of southern European anthropological type with some influence of additional ethnic groups.<ref> The Society for Nordish Physical Anthropology (SNPA)/Bulgaria</ref> The peoples who also contributed to the Bulgarian ethnos include a small number of Kumans, Pechenegs, Vlachs and Avars. All of them, except a part of the Vlachs have been fully assimilated and disappeared as separate ethnoses. The Kumans are considered to have been the nucleus around which the ethnos of modern Gagauz people formed. The other minorities in Bulgaria include Turks, Armenians, Roma and Greeks. Even though they have preserved their cultural heritage to a certain exent they are being gradually assimilated through intermarriages, more easily the Greeks and the Armenians than the rest.
Bulgarians are linguistically closely related to modern Macedonians, with both their languages being mutually intelligible. Present day ethnic Macedonians were, in fact, widely known around the world as Bulgarians before the 20th century, and identified themselves as such.
Most Bulgarians live in the Republic of Bulgaria. There are significant traditional Bulgarian minorities in Moldova and Ukraine (Bessarabian Bulgarians), as well as smaller ones in Romania (Banat Bulgarians), Serbia (the Western Outlands), Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Albania, and Hungary.
Many Bulgarians also live in the diaspora, which is formed by representatives and descendants of the old (until 1989) and new (after 1989) emigration. The old emigration was made up of some 160,000 economic and several tens of thousands political emigrants and was directed for the most part to the USA, Canada, Argentina and Germany. The new emigration is estimated at some 700,000 people and can be divided into two major subcategories: permanent emigration at the beginning of the 1990s, directed mostly to the USA, 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 '90s, early 21st century, as people continued to move to countries like the US, Canada and Australia.
The largest urban populations of Bulgarians are to be found in Sofia (1,241,000), Plovdiv (378,000), and Varna (352,000)<ref>Главна Дирекция Гражданска Регистрация и Административно Обслужване</ref>. The total number of Bulgarians thus ranges anywhere from 7 to 8 million, depending solely on the estimation used for the diaspora.
 Contribution to humanityMedieval Bulgaria was the most important cultural centre of the Slavic people 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. In the first half of the 10th century, the Cyrillic alphabet was devised in the Preslav Literary School on the basis of the Glagolitic and the Greek alphabets. Modern versions of that 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.
Bulgaria exerted similar influence on her neighbouring countries in the middle and at the end of the 14th century, at the time of the Turnovo Literary School, with the work of Patriarch Evtimiy, Grigoriy Tsamblak, Constantine of Kostenets (Konstantin Kostenechki). Bulgarian cultural influence was especially strong in Wallachia and Moldova where the Cyrillic alphabet was used until 1860, while Slavonic was the official language of the princely chancellery and of the church until the end of 17th century, much as Latin in Western Europe.
Bulgarians made valuable contributions to the 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. Nicolai Ghiaurov, Boris Christoff, 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 artist Christo is among the most famous representatives of the so-called environmental art with projects such as the Wrapped Reichstag.
In sports, Hristo Stoichkov was one of the best soccer players in the second half of the 20th century with his play on the national team and FC Barcelona. He received a number of awards and was the joint top scorer at the 1994 World Cup alongside Russia's Oleg Salenko. High-jumper Stefka Kostadinova was one of the top ten female athletes of the last century and still holds one of the oldest world records in athletics.
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 history of Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria.
Bulgarians speak a Southern Slavic language which is closely related to Serbo-Croatian and is often mutually intelligible with it. The Bulgarian language is also sometimes mutually intelligible with Russian on account of the influence which Russian has had on the development of Modern Bulgarian since 1878, as well as the earlier effect of Old Bulgarian on the development of Old Russian. Although related, intelligibility is quite scarce between Bulgarian on one hand, and the Western and the other Eastern Slavic languages on the other.
Bulgarian demonstrates several linguistic developments that set it apart from other Slavic languages. These are, however, shared with Romanian, Albanian and Greek (see Balkan linguistic union). Until 1878 Bulgarian was influenced lexically by medieval and modern Greek, and to a lesser extent, by Turkish. More recently, the language has borrowed many words from Russian, German and French.
Some members of the diaspora do not speak the Bulgarian language (mostly representatives of the old emigration in the USA, Canada and Argentina) but are still considered Bulgarians by ethnic origin or descent.
The majority of Bulgarian linguists, as well as some international ones, consider the Macedonian language a local variation of Bulgarian. See Macedonian language for more information.
Bulgarian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet.
 Name System
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 and German tennis player Boris Becker being two of the examples of its use.
Most Bulgarian male surnames have an -ov surname suffix (Cyrillic: -ов). This is often transcribed as -off (John Atanasov — John Atanasoff). The -ov suffix is the Slavic gender-agreeing suffix, thus Ivanov (Bulgarian: Иванов) really means "Ivan's". Bulgarian middle names 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 much 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 surname suffix -ich can be found sometimes, primarily among Catholic Bulgarians. The ending –in also appears sometimes, though rather seldom. 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 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). The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is the independent national church of Bulgaria like the other national branches of Eastern Orthodoxy and is considered an inseparable element of Bulgarian national consciousness. The church has been abolished twice during the periods of Byzantine (1018—1185) and Ottoman (1396—1878) domination but was revived every time as a symbol of Bulgarian statehood. In 2001, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had a total of 6,552,000 members in Bulgaria (82.6% of the population) and between one and two million members in the diaspora. The problem with the allegiance of the Orthodox Bulgarian minorities in Serbia, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine has not yet been settled and Bulgarians in those countries still hold allegiance to the respective national orthodox churches.
Despite the position of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as a unifying symbol for all Bulgarians, smaller or larger groups of Bulgarians have converted to other faiths or denominations through the course of time. In the 16th and the 17th century Roman Catholic missionaries converted the Bulgarian Paulicians in the districts of Plovdiv and Svishtov to Roman Catholicism. Nowadays there are some 40,000 Catholic Bulgarians in Bulgaria and additional 10,000 in Banat in Romania. The Catholic Bulgarians of the Banat are also descendants of Paulicians who fled to Banat at the end of the 17th century after an unsuccessful uprising against the Ottomans.
Between the 15th and the 18th century, a large number of Orthodox Bulgarians were converted to Islam by the Ottomans. Their descendants now form the second largest religious congregation among the Bulgarians. In 2001, there were 131,000 Muslim Bulgarians in Bulgaria, some 30,000 in the Xanthi and Rhodope Prefectures in northeastern Greece and around 100,000 in Turkey, mainly in Edirne.
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. In 2001, there were some 25,000 Protestant Bulgarians in Bulgaria.
- Further information: Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Islam in Bulgaria, Roman Catholicism in Bulgaria, Protestantism in Bulgaria.
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. The colors of the flag mean: white — peace, purity; green — nature; red — blood, symbolizing soldiers' blood that had been shed throughout Bulgaria's military history.
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 modelled after the crowns of the kings 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. 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 "The Unity Makes The 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.
 Population data
1This total population estimate includes only ethnic Bulgarians born in Bulgaria and their descendants abroad.
2 Results according to the latest available census held in the country in question and year of the census: Bulgaria (Census 2001), Canada (2001), Kazakhstan 1999, Russia (2002), Serbia and Montenegro (2002), Ukraine (2001), USA (2002).
3 Official number of citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain. The numbers do not include Bulgarian-speaking people without Bulgarian citizenship, except for Spain.
4 Estimates of the Agency for Bulgarians Abroad for the numbers of ethnic Bulgarians living for the country in question based on data from the Bulgarian Border Police, the Bulgarian Ministry of Labour and reports from immigrant associations. The numbers include legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, students and other individuals permanently residing in the country in question as of 2004.
5 Bulgarian embassy, Dublin statistics
 See also
- List of Bulgarians
- Banat Bulgarians
- Bessarabian Bulgarians
- History of Bulgaria
- Bulgarian language
- Music of Bulgaria
- Bulgarian cuisine
- Macedonians (ethnic group)
- Old Great Bulgariabg:Българи