Turks in Bulgaria

Infobox Ethnic group
group = Turks in Bulgaria
poptime = 746,664 (in Bulgaria)

326,000 (in Turkey)
popplace = Kardzhali, Razgrad, Targovishte, Silistra, Shumen
langs = Turkish language
Bulgarian language
rels = Islam
related =

tribes. [Dennis P. Hupchick, The Balkans, 2002, ISBN 0-312-21736-6]


Today, the Turks of Bulgaria are concentrated in two rural areas, in the Northeast (Ludogorie/Deliorman) and the Southeast (the Eastern Rhodopes). [Troebst, 1994; Bachvarov, 1997] They form the absolute majority in the province of Kardzhali and relative majority in the province of Razgrad. [ [http://www.nsi.bg/Census/Ethnos.htm НАСЕЛЕНИЕ КЪМ 01.03.2001 Г. ПО ОБЛАСТИ И ЕТНИЧЕСКА ГРУПА] ] It is important to note, that it is difficult to establish accurately the number of the Turks because some Roma, Crimean Tatars, Circassians and Pomaks tend to identify themselves as Turk [http://www.yorku.ca/yciss/activities/documents/PCSPPaper003.pdf (Since The word "Türk" had only one general meaning; Turkic, like; Ottoman Turks or shortly Turks and Tatar Turks). Ethno-Nationalism during Democratic Transition in Bulgaria: Political Pluralism as an Effective Remedy for Ethnic Conflict. Bistra-Beatrix Volgyi. Department of Political Science. York University - YCISS Post-Communist Studies Programme Research Paper Series. Paper Number 003 March 2007, p. 16.]

Because of their status as former rulers, the Turks have had a stormy relationship with Bulgaria since its liberation. The estimates of the number of Turks in Bulgaria prior to the Russo-Turkish war of 1878 vary from between a third to being the majority of the total population. Turks began emigrating during and after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8. The movement continued, with some interruptions, through the late 1980s. Between 1923 and 1949, 219,700 Turks left Bulgaria. Then a wave of 155,000 emigrants either were "expelled" (according to Turkish sources) or were "allowed to leave" (according to Bulgarian sources) between 1949 and 1951. The number would have been far greater had Turkey not closed its borders twice during those years. In 1968 an agreement reopened the BulgarianTurkish border to close relatives of persons who had left from 1944 to 1951. The agreement remained in effect from 1968 to 1978.

The biggest wave of Turkish emigration occurred in 1989, however, when 310,000 Turks left Bulgaria as a result of the communist Zhivkov regime's assimilation campaign. That program, which began in 1984, forced all Turks and other Muslims in Bulgaria to adopt Bulgarian names and renounce all Muslim customs. Bulgaria no longer recognized the Turks as a national minority, explaining that all the Muslims in Bulgaria were descended from Bulgarians who had been forced into the Islamic faith by the Ottoman Turks. The Muslims would therefore "voluntarily" take new names as part of the "rebirth process" by which they would reclaim their Bulgarian identities. During the height of the assimilation campaign, the Turkish government claimed that 1.5 million Turks resided in Bulgaria, while the Bulgarians claimed there were none. (In 1986 Amnesty International estimated that 900,000 ethnic Turks were living in Bulgaria.)

The motivation of the 1984 assimilation campaign was unclear; however, many experts believed that the disproportion between the birth rates of the Turks and the Bulgarians was a major factor.Glenn E. Curtis, ed. Bulgaria: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1992] The birth rate for Turks was about 2 percent at the time of the campaign, while the Bulgarian rate was barely above zero. The upcoming 1985 census would have revealed this disparity, which could have been construed as a failure of Zhivkov government policy. On the other hand, although most Turks worked in low prestige jobs such as agriculture and construction, they provided critical labor to many segments of the Bulgarian economy. The emigration affected the harvest season of 1989, when Bulgarians from all walks of life were recruited as agricultural laborers to replace the missing Turks. The shortage was especially acute in tobacco, one of Bulgaria's most profitable exports, and wheat.

During the name-changing phase of the campaign, Turkish towns and villages were surrounded by army units. Citizens were issued new identity cards with Bulgarian names. Failure to present a new card meant forfeiture of salary, pension payments, and bank withdrawals. Birth or marriage certificates would be issued only in Bulgarian names. Traditional Turkish costumes were banned; homes were searched and all signs of Turkish identity removed. Mosques were closed. According to estimates, 500 to 1,500 people were killed when they resisted assimilation measures, and thousands of others went to labor camps or were forcibly resettled. [Library of Congress, [http://memory.loc.gov/frd/cs/bgtoc.html A Country Study: Bulgaria] , Call Number DR55.B724 1993]

Before Zhivkov's assimilation campaign, official policy toward use of the Turkish language had varied. Before 1958, instruction in Turkish was available at all educational levels, and university students were trained to teach courses in Turkish in the Turkish schools. After 1958, Turkish-language majors were taught in Bulgarian only, and the Turkish schools were merged with Bulgarian ones. By 1972, all Turkish-language courses were prohibited, even at the elementary level. [http://www.ecmi.de/jemie/download/JEMIE01Dimitrov10-07-01.pdf] Assimilation meant that Turks could no longer teach at all, and the Turkish language was forbidden, even at home.Fact|date=September 2008 Fines were levied for speaking Turkish in public. [http://www.ecmi.de/jemie/download/JEMIE01Dimitrov10-07-01.pdf] After the fall of Zhivkov in 1989, the National Assembly of Bulgaria attempted to restore cultural rights to the Turkish population. In 1991 a new law gave anyone affected by the name-changing campaign three years to officially restore original names and the names of children born after the name change. The Slavic endings -ov, -ova, -ev, or -eva could now be removed if they did not go with one's original name, reversing the effect of a 1950s campaign to add Slavic endings to all non-Slavic names. The law was important not only for Turks, but also for the minority Gypsies and Pomaks who had been forced to change their names in 1965 and 1972 respectively. In January 1991, Turkish-language lessons were reintroduced for four hours per week in parts of the country with a substantial Turkish population, such as the former Kurdzhali and Razgrad districts. According to the 2001 census, there are 746,664 ethnic Turks in Bulgaria. The number of Bulgarian citizens from Turkish descent residing in Turkey is put at 326,000. During the 2005 Bulgarian parliamentary elections an estimate of 120,000 of them voted either in Bulgaria or polling stations set up in Turkey. [Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi (T. B. M. M.) TUTANAK DERGİSİ – Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Session 122, June 30th 2005 Thursday, 1st session 11:00. [http:http://www.tbmm.gov.tr/tutanak/donem22/yil3/bas/b122m.htm]


Turks, although today numerically small –a little over 1 million people (about 2 percent of the total Balkan population) - have played a role in shaping the history of the Balkans far beyond their numbers [Dennis P. Hupchick, The Balkans, 2001, pp.10, ISBN 0-312-21736-6] .

ettlement of Turks in Bulgaria


In addition to voluntary migrations, the Ottoman authorities used mass deportations ("sürgün") as a method of control over potentially rebellious elements in the Balkans and in Asia Minor and Anatolia. Far away form their home bases, the potential threat of such elements was considerably reduced. Deportations in both directions occurred throughout the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries.

After the defeat of Bayezid I at the battle of Ankara by the forces of Tamerlane in 1402, the Ottomans abandoned their Anatolian domains for a while and considered the Balkans their real home, making Adrianople (Edirne) their new capital. The Timurid invasions and other upheavals in Anatolia and Asia Minor brought additional Turkish settlers into the Balkans. Numerous Turkish colonists were settled as farmers in new villages. "Vakıf" deeds and regısters of the fifteenth century show that there was a wide movement of colonization, with western Anatolian peasantry settling in Thrace and the eastern Balkans and founding hundreds of new villages. Some other settlers came in search of military and administrative service, and still others to establish Islamic religious institutions. Muslims were settled densely along the two great historical routes of the Peninsula, one going though Thrace and Macedonia to the Adriatic and the other passing through the Maritsa and Tundja valleys to the Danube. The Yürüks were settled mostly in the mountainous parts of the area. By the early sixteenth century the Muslims constituted about a quarter of the Balkan population.

The greatest impact of Ottoman colonization in the Balkans, however, was felt in the urban centers. Many towns became major centers for Turkish control and administration, with most Christians gradually withdrawing to the mountains. Historical evidence shows that the Ottomans embarked on a systematic policy of creating new towns and repopulating older towns that had suffered significant population decline and economic dislocation during the two centuries of incessant wars preceding the Ottoman conquest, as well as the ravages of the Ottoman conquest itself. Often re-colonization of old towns and the establishment of new towns were accompanied by bodily transplanting settlers from other areas of the Empire or with Muslim refugees from other lands. [Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities of Bulgaria, 1997, Routledge, ISBN-10: 0415919762 ] Records show that by the end of the 14th century Muslim Turks formed the absolute majority in large urban towns in Upper Thrace such as Filibe (Plovdiv) and Tatar Pazarcik (Pazardzhik). [GRIGOR BOYKOV, "DEMOGRAPHIC FEATURES OF OTTOMAN UPPER THRACE:A CASE STUDY ON FILIBE, TATAR PAZARCIK AND İSTANİMAKA(1472-1614), Department of HistoryBilkent University Ankara September 2004" [http://www.thesis.bilkent.edu.tr/0002749.pdf] ]

Turks in Bulgaria from Liberation to Communist Rule (1878 to 1945)

The estimates of the number of Turks in Bulgaria prior to the Russo-Turkish war of 1878 vary from between a third to being the majority of the total population. As Russian forces pushed south in January 1878, the troops, the Bulgarian volunteers, and the emboldened local Bulgarian villagers inflicted a welter of atrocities on the local Muslim population. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9A06E3DA173EE73BBC4C52DFB467838C669FDE] [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
] Some 260,000 Muslims perished in the war's carnage, and over 500,000 refugees fled with the retreating Ottoman forces. [J. McCarthy, Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922. Princeton, N.J: Darwin Press, 88–91,(1996) ISBN 0878500944.]

During the War many Turks, including large and small landowners, left their landsR.J. Crampton, Bulgaria 1878-1918, A History, pp.175, ISBN 0-88033-029-5] . Though many returned after the signing of the treaty of Berlin they were soon to find the atmosphere of the lands they had left behind uncongenial and large numbers emigrated once again to the more familiar cultural and political atmosphere of the Ottoman Empire.Fact|date=September 2008 The decline in the Turkish-speaking population of Bulgaria in the period of 1880-1910 does not include these people and therefore give an absolutely accurate picture of the Turkish emigration for many Turks left before the first census was taken.

Bulgarian population increased from two and a half million in 1892 to three and a half million in 1910, and stood at over four and three-quarter million in 1920. This increase took place despite the emigration of a large number of Bulgaria's Turkish speaking inhabitants. In 1881 the Turks represented almost a quarter of the population of Bulgaria and Rumelia, yet by 1892 the proportion was 17.21 percent and in 1910 11.63%; in the same years the Bulgarian speaking elements were 67.84%, 75.67% and 81.63% of the total. [R.J. Crampton, A Short History of Modern Bulgaria, 1987, pp.71 ISBN 0-521-25340-3]

During the Balkan Wars in August 1913 the majority Turkish and Muslim population of Western Thrace (including the regions of the Southern Rhodope Mountains and the Kircaali/Kurdzhali region) established the Turkish Republic of Western Thrace. The short-lived Turkish Republic had a population of over 230 000 of which app. 80% were Turks and Pomaks. [Kemal Şevket Batıbey, Batı Trakya Türk Devleti, 2000, ISBN 9754511926]

Turkish Press in Bulgaria 1879 – 1945 [Bulgaristan Türk basını:1879-1945/Adem Ruhi Karagöz, İstanbul : Üniversite Matbaası, 1945]

The Turkish press in Bulgaria established its self almost simultaneously with the foundation of the Bulgarian Principality in 1878. Under the new/”foreign” Bulgarian administration the Turkish intellectuals felt the need to communicate the new laws and regulations to the Turkish population by first providing translations of the Bulgarian State Gazette. During the years the number of Turkish newspapers and publications published in the Principality of Bulgaria rose to 90.

The Turkish Press in Bulgaria was faced with many difficulties and a significant amount of newspapers operated in the verge of being banned and their journalists being expelled from the country. Turkish journalists and teachers organised by establishing the Islamic Teachers Community in Bulgaria (Bulgaristan Muallimi Islâmiye Cemiyeti) and the Union of Turan Communities in Bulgaria (Turan Cemiyetleri Birliği) which was a youth organisation. The leaders of these organisations met during National Congresses held each year in different locations in Bulgaria. The largest National Congress was held in Sofia in 1929 with over 1000 participants.

Between 1895 – 1945 there were several well known Turkish newspapers in Bulgaria:

GAYRET:The newspaper was founded in Plovdiv in 1895 and printed by Filibeli Rıza Paşa. In 1896 the famous Turkish thinker and intellectual Übeydullah Efendi wrote columns in Gayret and in a later stage became the newspaper’s head columnist.

MUVAZENE:The weekly newspaper was first published in 20.8.1897 in Plovdiv by the graduates of the Mektebi Mülkiye Ulumu Siyasie and printed by Filibeli Rıza Paşa. The newspaper’s operations temporarily moved to Varna before returning to back to Plovdiv. One of the most known writers in Muvazene was Ali Fefhmi Bey who promoted the unionisation of the Turkish teachers in Bulgaria and was the instigator of the first Turkish teacher’s congress in Shumen. During the congress the Islamic Teachers Community in Bulgaria (Bulgaristan Muallimi Islâmiye Cemiyeti) was founded.

RUMELI – BALKAN:Founded in 1904 by Etem Ruhi Balkan. After the first three editions the newspaper’s name was changed to Balkan. Daily editions were published until the eruption of the Balkan Wars in 1912. The newspaper was also printed by Maullimi Mehmet Mahri and Halil Zeki Bey. Since Etem Ruhi was often imprisoned the management of the newspaper shifted to Hüsnü Mahmut in 1912 and 1917 Halil Ibrahim became the head editor. The newspaper ended its publications in 1920.

UHUVVET:Founded by unknown group of journalists in 24.5.1904 the weekly newspaper was printed in Rousse and focused on politics and daily events. In 1905 Mehmet Teftiş became the manager of the newspaper.

TUNA:Founded in 1.9.1905 by Mehmet Teftiş, Tuna was a daily newspaper printed in Rousse. After 415 editions the newspaper ended its operations, however on 13.10.1908 the publications of Tuna resumed after a group of intellectual Turks established a separate company designated to meet the needs for a Turkish daily newspaper in the region. The main contributors in the new Tuna newspaper were Tahir Lütfi Bey, Hafız Abdullah Meçik and Kizanlikli Ali Haydar.

TERBIYE OCAĞI:Established in 1921 by the Islamic Teachers Community in Bulgaria (Bulgaristan Muallimi Islâmiye Cemiyeti) and printed in Varna between 1923 – 1925. Known contributors in Terbiye Ocaği were Osman Nuri Peremeci, Hafız Abdullah Meçik, Hasip Ahmet Aytuna, Mustafa Şerif Alyanak, Mehmet Mahsum, Osmanpazarli Ibrahim Hakki Oğuz, Ali Avni, Ebuşinasi Hasan Sabri, Hüseyin Edip and Tayyarzade Cemil Bey.

YOLDAŞ:Founded in 1921 by Hafız Abdullah Meçik and published every second week in Shumen. Yoldaş was one of the first Turkish children’s publications in Bulgaria.

DELIORMAN:Owned by Mahmut Necmettin Deliorman the newspaper started its publications in 21.10.1922 in Razgrad with Ahmet Ihsan as its head editor. Between 1923 – 1915 Mustafa Şerif Alyanak took on the job of head editor with weekly editions. Deliorman also functioned as a main publication for the Turkish Union of Sport’s Clubs in Bulgaria. Turkish columnists such as Hasip Saffeti, Ahmet Aytuna, Hafiz Ismail Hakki, Yahya Hayati, Hüsmen Celal, Çetin Ebuşinasi and Hasan Sabri were household names in Deliorman.

TURAN:Founded on 6.5.1928 in Vidin, Turan was a channel for the Union of Turkish Youth Communities in Bulgaria. The newspaper was also printed in Kardzhali and Varna until it was closed in 1934.

TEBLIGAT:Founded in 1929 and published by the office of the Grand Mufti and Islamic Foundations in Sofia.

RODOP:Founded in April 1929 in Kardzhali by Lütfi Takanoğlu. Rodop focused on the rights, freedoms and national matters of the Turkish population in Bulgaria. Most known writers in Rodop were Mustafa Şerif Alyanak and Ömer Kaşif Nalbandoğlu. As many other Turkish newspapers in Bulgaria Rodop was forced to stop its operations during 1934 and its writers were either expelled or forced to seek refuge in Turkey.

Transfer of Land

The transfer of land from Turkish to Bulgarian ownership which was the most important effect of Turkish emigration was a complex process. Such transfers had taken place before 1878 and in the Tatar Pazardzhik district, for example, where Bulgarian landowners had been unknown in 1840, some two thousand plots had been bought by them between 1872 and 1875. In 1877 and in the following years the process of transfer took place on an immensely grater scale, both here and elsewhere.Fact|date=September 2008

With the outbreak of war some Turks sold their property, mostly to wealthy local Bulgarians. Other Turks rented their lands, usually to dependable local Bulgarians, on the understanding that it would be handed back if and when the owners returned. Most departing Turks, however, simply abandoned their land and fled, the fall of Pleven had made it clear that the Russians were to win the War. As the Turks fled many Bulgarians left the hills and forests and seized some of the land now made vacant. The incidence of seizure varied regionally. In the north-east the Turks were numerous and, feeling safety in numbers, few of them had left and those remaining were therefore strong enough to discourage seizures by Bulgarians. In the north and south-west on the other hand almost all Turks had fled and their lands were immediately taken over by local Bulgarians who often divided up the large estates found in these areas. In the remainder of northern Bulgaria transfers, often under the cloak of renting, took place in approximately one third of the communities. In the Turnovo province, for example, there were seventy-seven Turkish mixed Turkish-Bulgarian villages of which twenty-four (31.0%) were seized by Bulgarians, twenty two (28.5%) were later repossessed by returning Turkish refugees, and another twenty-two remained unaffected; the fate of the remaining nine is unknown. In the south-west there was much more tension and violence. Here there was no provisions about renting and there were cases of Bulgarian peasants not only seizing land but also destroying buildings.Fact|date=September 2008

In vast majority of the cases it was local Bulgarians who seized the vacant land but Bulgarians from other parts of Bulgaria where there had been little Turkish emigration, and Bulgarian refugees from Ottoman repressions in Macedonia and Western Thrace also took part in the seizures. In later months the publication of the terms of the Treaty of Berlin naturally intensified the flow of refugees from these areas and they were reported by the prefect of Burgas province as helping themselves to émigré land “in a most arbitrary fashion”.

In Burgas and the rest of Eastern Rumelia the Treaty of Berlin intensified the land struggle by making Bulgarians more determined to seize sufficient land before Ottoman sovereignty was restored. It also encouraged the former Turkish owners to return. With these problems the Russian Provisional Administration had to contend.

The Provisional Administration did not have the power, even if it had had the will, to prevent so popular a movement as the seizure of vacant Turkish land, but not could the Administration allow this movement to go completely unchecked for this would give the Turks and the British the excuse to interfere in the internal affairs of the liberated territories. Given these dangers the Russians handled the agrarian problem with considerable skill. In the summer of 1877 Bulgarian refugees from Macedonia, Thrace and Ottoman Rumelia had been allowed to harvest the crops left by Turkish émigrés and in September all Bulgarians, the incoming refugees and the indigenous, were allowed to sow vacant Turkish land, though it was insisted that this did not in any way signify a transfer of ownership. With the mass exodus of Turks after the Treaty of San Stefano the Provisional Administration had little choice but to allow the Bulgarians to work the vacant land with rent, set at half the value of the harvest, to be paid to the legal owner. In many cases the Bulgarians simply refused to pay this rent and the Russians were not over-zealous in collecting such monies.

When the Treaty of Berlin guaranteed Turkish property rights and restored southern Bulgaria to the Sultan's sovereignty at least 80,000 of the 150,000 Turkish émigrés had returned by September 1878. This caused enormous problems including housing the returning Turks whose property had been taken over by Bulgarians or destroyed. In September local authorities ordered that any houses taken over by Bulgarians were to be restored to their former owners on the latter's demand, whilst other returning Turks were given Tatar or Circassian land.

These problems were insignificant compared to those raised when the returning Turks demanded the restitution of their lost lands.

In July 1878 the Russian Provisional Administration had come to an agreement with the Porte by which Turkish refugees were allowed to return under military escort, if necessary, and were to have their lands back on condition that they surrendered all their weapons. In August 1878 it was decreed that those returning would not be immune from prosecution and anyone against whom any charges were substantiated would be deprived of his lands. This decree did more than anything else to discourage the return of more Turks and from the date of this enactment the flow of returning refugees began gradually to diminish. There were, however, many claims still to be dealt with and in November 1878 mixed Turkish and Bulgarian commissions were established in all provinces to examine these claims. The decisions were to be made in accordance with rules drawn up by the Russian embassy in Constantinople in consultation with the Porte, and under them Bulgarian could secure the legal right to a piece of land if they could produce the authentic title-deeds, tapii, and thereby prove that the land at dispute had originally been taken from them forcibly or fraudulently.

After the departure of the Russians in the spring of 1879 the administration in Plovdiv ordered to enforce court decisions returning land to the Turks. Only half of the courts had recorded such decisions. Other actions were even less emotive and in 1880 the position of the Bulgarians in Eastern Rumelia had improved. The Plovdiv government introduced new methods for authenticating claims, allowing local courts to issue new title deeds if they were satisfied that existing documentation proved ownership, or if local communal councils had issued certificates attesting ownership. Most local councils were entirely Bulgarian or were dominated by Bulgarians and decided in favour of their co-nationals far more often than did the mixed commissions with whom the prerogative of adjunction had previously rested. In many instances, too, Bulgarians refused to relinquish land they had seized and as late as 1884 there were still Turkish landlords demanding the implementation of court orders restoring their property.

The Bulgarians in Rumelia were also helped from 1880 onwards because the Turks began to drift once more into exile. This was very much the result of disappointed hopes for a full restoration of Turkish power south of the Balkan range. By 1880 the Bulgarians had become the majority and had established political ascendancy in the province and to this many Turks, and particularly the richer and previously more influential ones, could not adapt. The Turks had seldom persecuted the Christians, that had been the intermittent past time of Pomak (Bulgarian Muslim), Circassian and Tatar, but the Turks have never allowed the Bulgarians social or legal equality. Now they were forced to concede their superiority and for many Turks this was too much to bear and they gratefully accepted offers of land from the Sultan and returned to the more familiar atmosphere of the Ottoman Empire.

The Turks were also encouraged to emigrate from Bulgaria by regulations against the cultivation of rice - which was originally introduced to the region by the Turks. This was part of a project to eradicate malaria that included also draining of swamps in the Tundzha, Arda, and Maritsa Basins. The project succeeded in eradicating malaria, however, it also exacerbated droughts in those regions. Rice was a staple crop for the Turks and in its prohibition many of them saw yet another sign of unacceptable Bulgarian domination. An even more important impulse to Turkish emigration was the Bulgarian land tax of 1882. By Moslem law all land was owned by God but after the abolition of feudalism in the 1830s use of that land conferred temporary wardship upon the user, and thus the tithe which had been the main levy on land until 1882 conformed to traditional Moslem codes of thought and practice. The land tax did not. Furthermore land tax applied to all land in a man's possession not, as under the tithe, merely to that part which had been cultivated. This hit the Turks hard for they customarily left large proportion, in many cases as much as half, of their land fallow. Taxation now fell on the fallow land too but production and earnings could not be increased by the same proportion and as a result many of the remaining Turkish owners of large estates left Rumelia. Significantly 1882 was the peak year for the sale of larger Turkish properties in Rumelia, though the sale of such properties continued steadily throughout the first half of the 1880s. From the end of the war to the summer of 1880 only six large Turkish chifliks in Eastern Rumelia had been sold but the five years before union with the Principality of Bulgaria in 1885 saw the sale of about a hundred. That most of the larger Turkish owners and many smaller ones left Rumelia was undoubtedly an important factor in the easy attainment of Bulgarian supremacy in Rumelia during the early 1880s.

In Principality of Bulgaria as in Rumelia the chaos of war had allowed a number of seizures to go unrecorded meaning that the new occupiers were to be left in untroubled possession of their land. The Constituent Assembly had considered a proposal to legislate such illegal transfers but no action had been taken as Karavelov had easily persuaded the Assembly that it was pointless to legislate about so widespread a phenomenon. The Bulgarians in the Principality could afford such bold stance as there was little danger of direct Ottoman intervention over the land question. There was a constant stream of emigration by Turks from Bulgaria and by the early 1890s so many Turks had left the former Turkish stronghold of north-eastern Bulgaria that the government in Sofia began to fear that the area would be seriously under-populated. In 1891 the Minister of Finance reported to the Subranie that there were 26,315 vacant plots in the country, many of them in the north-east and most of them under twenty dekars in extent.

In Bulgaria the government also took possession of Turkish land which had been vacant for three years. A number of returning Turkish refugees who demanded restitution of or compensation for their lands were denied both on the grounds that they had without duress left their property unworked for three years [R.J. Crampton, Bulgaria 1878-1918, A History, pp.183, ISBN 0-88033-029-5] .

Turks in Bulgaria During Communist Rule (1945 to 1989)

The Assimilation Campaign of 1980s

The zero percent annual increase in birth rate among Christian Bulgarians is the primary reason which caused the Bulgarian government to commit "a flagrant violation of human rights" [Ethnic Turks in Bulgaria - NATO and Department of State statement - transcript, US Department of State Bulletin, Oct, 1989 [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1079/is_n2151_v89/ai_8139879] ] by forcing 900,000 people, 10 percent of the country's population, to change their names. The people affected were all ethnic Turks.

By 1984 the Roma and the Pomaks had already been forced to give up their Turkish or Muslim names for Bulgarian names. By 1974, 500 of the 1,300 inmates of the notorious Belene labour camp were Pomaks who had resisted pressure to change their names [R.J. Crampton, A Concise History of Bulgaria, pp.203, ISBN 0-521-56719-X] . The communist government had been encouraging the educated Turks to voluntarily adopt Bulgarian names.

In June 1984, the Politbureau voted a policy named “For the further unification and inclusion of Bulgarian Turks into the cause of socialism and the policies of the Bulgarian Communist Party". The grandiose plan of the Communists was to re-name all Islamic minorities with Slavic names, band the wearing of distinctive Turkish clothing, to forbid the use of the Turkish language and close down the mosques. The “The Assimilation Campaign” was sold to the ethnic Bulgarian majority as an attempt for national “revival”. [http://pdc.ceu.hu/archive/00002060/01/transition,_violence.pdf]

As it was later to turn out the Communist regime was misled by its own agents among the Turkish minority and taken aback when the Turkish minority refused to submit to the aims of the “Assimilation Campaign” or as it was called by the Communists the “The Revival Process”. The regime fount its self in a position where they had to use violent methods to implement “The Revival Process”. [http://pdc.ceu.hu/archive/00002060/01/transition,_violence.pdf]

In the period between 1984 and 1989, the Communist government of Bulgaria, led by Todor Zhivkov, attempted the forced Bulgarisation of the country's Turkish minority. After the introduction in 1985 of new laws to forcefully assimilate the minority, the Bulgarian government banned education in Turkish and sought to erase Turkish culture and identity. Turkish names were forcibly changed to Slavic ones.

American writer-reporter Robert Kaplan who visited Bulgaria in 1985 describes the forced Bulgarization of Bulgaria's Turkish minority as follows:

It usually happened in the middle of the night. The number of army half-tracks and the blinding glare of searchlights would disturb the sleep of an ethnic Turkish village. Militiamen would then burst into every home and thrust a photocopied form in front of the man of the house, in which he was to write the new Bulgarian names of every member of his family. Those who refused or hesitated, watched as their wives or daughters were raped by the militiamen. According to Amnesty International and Western diplomats, the militiamen beat up thousands and executed hundreds. Thousands more were imprisoned or driven into internal exile. [Robert Kaplan, Balkan Ghosts, pp. 214-215, ISBN 0-679-74981-0]

The Communist Regime’s violence did achieve its immediate aims. All Turks had been registered with Slavic names, Turkish was forbidden in public and the mosques abandoned. This however was not the end of the matter but the beginning of the revival of the Turkish identity where the oppressed minority strongly re-define itself as Muslim and distinct. Bulgarians came to be seen as occupiers and oppressors and protest demonstrations took place in some of the bigger villages in the southern and northern Turk enclaves. Moreover, the Turkish community received the solidarity of Bulgarian intellectuals and opponents of the regime. [http://pdc.ceu.hu/archive/00002060/01/transition,_violence.pdf]

As a response to the Bulgarian government policies, on March 9th, 1985, an underground Turkish organisation (TNFM) was responsible for planting an explosive device on the Sofia-Burgas train. The bomb exploded on Bunovo station in a car that was specifically designated for mothers with children, killing seven people (two children) and wounding nine [http://www.netinfo.bg/?tid=40&oid=1011656 Terrorism Yesterday - netinfo.bg, 27.02.2007 (in Bulgarian)] , source verified in the Discussion section.] . Professor Yanko Yankov has suggested that the assailants of the so called “TNFM” have been associates of then Bulgarian State Security Service, thus linking the Bulgarian State Security Apparatus to the tragic events in Bunovo. [проф. Янко Янков ДОКУМЕНТ ЗА САМОЛИЧНОСТ (Политическа документалистика). Том 3. Българската държава абдикира в полза на Червената мафия. - С., "Янус", 2002. – pp. 551-561, pp. 564-572 ] In fact the ethnic Turks in Bulgaria used nonviolent ways to resist the communist oppression. The movement later called the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) was founded by intellectuals. It used civil disobedience and focused on providing information to the outside world of the physical persecution and suppression suffered by the Turks in Bulgaria. The activities of the MRF consisted of peaceful demonstrations and hunger strikes with the goal of restoring civil liberties and basic human rights. The Moslems in Bulgaria were one of the first to oppose the brutal conduct of the communist regime. [http://liternet.bg/publish/alba/en/toro.htm]

In a statement in 1987 a former Bulgarian legislator Halil İbişoğlu accused the Bulgarian government of being responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 ethnic Turks in Bulgaria and the imprisonment of some 40,000 during the “Assimilation Campaign”. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE5D71131F936A25751C0A961948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1 Bulgaria Accused of Persecuting Ethnic Turks - New York Times ] ]

In May 1989 there were disturbances in regions inhabited by members of the Turkish minority. In the so called “May events” of 1989 emotions reached the boiling point and tens of thousands Turkish demonstrators took to the streets in the north-eastern and south-eastern provinces. The demonstrations were violently suppressed by police and the military forces. [ [http://www.hrw.org/reports/1989/WR89/Bulgaria.htm Bulgaria ] ] It is estimated that up to 50 people were killed during the clashes with Bulgarian security forces. The Bulgarian government has put the death toll only at 7. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE4DB163EF936A2575BC0A96F948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=2 Flow of Turks Leaving Bulgaria Swells to Hundreds of Thousands - New York Times ] ] On 10 May 1989 travel restrictions to foreign countries were partly lifted. Todor Zhivkov gave a speech on 29 May 1989, in which he demanded that Turkey open its borders in order to receive all "Bulgarian Muslims", who wanted to live there. There followed an exodus [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,958355,00.html Refugees A Modern Balkan Exodus] , "TIME Magazine", August 14, 1989] of over 300,000 Turks to Turkey. On 10 November 1989 Zhivkov was replaced by Petar Mladenov and by the end of that year communism fell.

These laws were removed after the change to democracy in the early months of 1990.On November 10, 1989 Bulgaria's Communist regime was overthrown. On December 29 a decision was made on the governmental level and later on, on March 1990 a law was ratified on allowing the Turks of Bulgaria to «restore» their Turkish surnames. Until the first of March of the coming year for about 600 thousand applications were received on the above mentioned issue. In the same year the institutition of the Spiritual leader of the Turks of Bulgaria, the Mufti was founded. In 1991 the new Constitution was adopted granting the citizens of non-Bulgarian origin a wide range of rights, lifting the legislative ban of teaching Turkish. In January of the same year another law was adopted allowing the Turks to change their names or «strike out» their Slavonic endings like «ov», «ova», «ev», «eva» within three years [http://www.noravank.am/file/article/257_en.pdf] . Many have now reverted to their old names and Bulgarian governments have apologised to the Turkish minority for the policies. Some developments noted by the US Department of State 2000 report include the fact that Turkish-language classes funded by the government continued, and that on 2 October 2000 Bulgarian national television launched Turkish-language newscasts [ [http://www.ethnopolitics.org/ethnopolitics/archive/volume_I/issue_4/petkova.pdf The Ethnic Turks in Bulgaria: Social Integration and Impact on Bulgarian–Turkish Relations, 1947-2000] ] .

Since 1992, the Turkish language teachers of Bulgaria have been trained in Turkey. At the initial stage only the textbooks published in Turkey were used for teaching Turkish, later on, in 1996, Bulgaria's Ministry of Education and Science began publishing the manuals of the Turkish language. A number of newspapers and magazines are published: the «Müslümanlar» («Muslims»), «Hak ve Özgürlük» («Right and freedom»), «Güven» («Trust»), «Jır-Jır» («Cricket», a magazine for children), «Islam kültürü» («Islamic culture»), «Balon», «Filiz». In Turkey summer holidays for the Turkish children living in Bulgaria are organized. During the holidays the children are thought the Koran, Turkish literature, Turkish history and language [«Bulgarsitan’dan 70 Turk Ogrenci, Tatilini Tekirdag’da degerlendiriyor», «BTHA» Bulgar-Turk Haber Ajansi - 24, 07 2004] [http://www.noravank.am/file/article/257_en.pdf] .

Turks in Post-Communist Bulgaria

Collapse of Zhivkov regime and civil liberties given to Turks

As in other parts of Eastern Europe, the repeal of single-party rule in Bulgaria exposed the long-standing grievances of an ethnic minority. Especially in the 1980s, the Zhivkov regime had systematically persecuted the Turkish population, which at one time numbered 1.5 million and was estimated at 1.25 million in 1991. Mosques were closed, Turks were forced to Slavicize their names, education in the native language was denied, and police brutality was used to discourage resistance. The urban intelligentsia that participated in the 1990 reform movement pushed the post-Zhivkov governments toward restoring constitutionally guaranteed human rights to the Turks. But abrogation of Zhivkov's assimilation program soon after his fall brought massive protests by ethnic Bulgarians, even in Sofia.

In January 1990, the Social Council of Citizens, a national body representing all political and ethnic groups, reached a compromise that guaranteed the Turks freedom of religion, choice of names, and unimpeded practice of cultural traditions and use of Turkish within the community. In turn the Bulgarian nationalists were promised that Bulgarian would remain the official language and that no movement for autonomy or separatism would be tolerated. Especially in areas where Turks outnumbered Bulgarians, the latter feared progressive "Islamification" or even invasion and annexation by Turkey--a fear that had been fed consciously by the Zhivkov assimilation campaign and was revived by the BSP in 1991. Because radical elements of the Turkish population did advocate separatism, however, the non-annexation provision of the compromise was vital.

The Bulgarian governments that followed Zhivkov tried to realize the conditions of the compromise as quickly as possible. In the multiparty election of 1990, the Turks won representation in the National Assembly by twenty-three candidates of the predominantly Turkish MRF (The Movement for Rights and Freedoms. At that point, ethnic Bulgarians, many remaining from the Zhivkov regime, still held nearly all top jobs in government and industry, even in the predominantly Turkish Kurdzhali Province. Nevertheless, parts of Bulgarian society felt threatened by the rise of the MRF. In 1990 that faction collided with a hard-line Bulgarian group, the National Committee for Defense of National Interests--an organization containing many former communists instrumental in the Zhivkov assimilation program. In November 1990, Bulgarian nationalists agitated about establishing the Razgrad Bulgarian Republic [http://www.segabg.com/online/article.asp?issueid=2101&sectionid=2&id=0000203] [http://www.bsp.bg/fce/001/0037/files/TYK.doc] [http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/pdf/cedime-se-bulgaria-turks.doc] in a heavily Turkish region to protest the government's program of restoring rights to the Turks. In the first half of 1991, intermittent violence and demonstrations were directed at both Turks and Bulgarians in Razgrad.

These conditions forced the government to find a balance between Turkish demands and demonstrations for full recognition of their culture and language, and Bulgarian nationalist complaints against preferential treatment for the ethnic minority. In 1991 the most important issue of the controversy was restoring Turkish language teaching in the schools of Turkish ethnic districts. In 1991 the Popov government took initial steps in this direction, but long delays brought massive Turkish protests, especially in Kurdzhali. In mid-1991 continuing strikes and protests on both sides of the issue had brought no new discussions of compromise. Frustration with unmet promises encouraged Turkish separatists in both Bulgaria and Turkey, which in turn fueled the ethnocentric fears of the Bulgarian majority-- and the entire issue diverted valuable energy from the national reform effort.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms

With 120,000 members, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) was the fourth largest political organization in Bulgaria in 1991, but it occupied a special place in the political process. The leader of the movement, Ahmed Dogan, was imprisoned in 1986 for opposition to the Zhivkov policy of assimilating ethnic Turks. Founded in 1990 to represent the interests of the Turkish ethnic minority, the MRF gained twenty three seats in the first parliamentary election that year, giving it the fourth-largest parliamentary voting bloc. Its agenda precluded mass media coverage or building coalitions with other parties, because of the strong anti-Turkish element in Bulgaria's political culture. By mid-1991, the UDF had held only one joint demonstration with the MRF; their failure to reconcile differences was considered a major weakness in the opposition to the majority BSP. In early 1990, the MRF protested vigorously but unsuccessfully its exclusion from national round table discussions among the major Bulgarian parties.

In 1991 the MRF broadened its platform to embrace all issues of civil rights in Bulgaria, aiming "to contribute to the unity of the Bulgarian people and to the full and unequivocal compliance with the rights and freedoms of mankind and of all ethnic, religious, and cultural communities in Bulgaria." The MRF took this step partly to avoid the constitutional prohibition of political parties based on ethnic or religious groups. The group's specific goals were ensuring that the new constitution protect ethnic minorities adequately; introducing Turkish as an optional school subject; and bringing to trial the leaders of the assimilation campaign in the 1980s. To calm Bulgarian nationalist resentment, the MRF categorically renounced Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, and ambitions for autonomy within Bulgaria. Political overtures were made regularly to the UDF, and some local cooperation occurred in 1991. Although the MRF remained the fastest growing party in Bulgaria, however, the sensitivity of the Turkish issue caused official UDF policy to keep the MRF in isolation.

Participation in Bulgarian politics

The Bulgarian Turks take part in the country's political life. Back in the end of 1984 an underground organization called «National Liberation Movement of the Turks in Bulgaria» was formed in Bulgaria which headed the Turkish community's antigovernmental movement. On January 4, 1990 the activists of the movement registered an organization with the legal name «Movement for Rights and Freedom» (MRF) (in Bulgarian: Движение за права и свободи: in Turkish: Hak ve Özgürlükler Hareketi) in the Bulgarian city of Varna. At the moment of registration it had 33 members, at present, according to the organization's website, 68 thousand members plus 24 thousand in the organization's youth wing [http://www.dps.bg/cgi-bin/e-cms/vis/vis.pl?s=001&p=0368&g=] . As a result of elections held in 2001 and 2005, the MRF was included in the coalition government. At the parliamentary elections held on June 17, 2001, the MRF got 21 deputy mandates by 7.45% of votes. In the parliament, there was also an independent Turkish deputy, Osman Ahmed Oktay. The Turkish party formed a coalition government in a non-Turkic country. Mehmet Dikmen, Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment represented the MRF. Filiz Huseynova, presently working at the European Parliament, held the post of the State Minister for minorities. Earlier she was the Deputy Mayor on humanitarian issues in her native town Silistra; she was appointed Minister on July 17, 2003.On June 25, 2005 the parliamentary elections were held. The party's success was very impressive: it won 14.07% of the votes, 34 MRF members entered the parliament; two of them were Bulgarians. A new coalition was formed which at this time consisted of three parties: the Bulgarian Socialist Party, «National Movement of Simeon II» and the MRF.In the budget of 2008, MRF directed a large parts of the subsidies for agriculture to tobacco growers (which are predominantly Turks, Pomaks, and Romani) leaving staple crops, like wheat, without subsidies for buying the seed for sowing. This evoked protests by farmers in the regions of Vratsa, Knezha, and Dobrudzha. During the May 2007 Bulgarian European Parliament elections the Movement for Rights and Freedom (MRF) gained 20,26% of the vote and currently has 3 MEPs in the European Parliament.

Distribution of Turkish dialects in Bulgaria

There are two main dialects; the first one is spoken in every area in south-east Bulgaria and is also used in the neighbouring countries (Greece and Turkey). It can be identified from the second one by looking at the "present continuous time"; it has the suffix forms -yirin, -yisin, -yiri. In formal Turkish they are -yorum, -yorsun, -yor. In the second dialect, used near Kurdzhali, the forms are; -værin, -væsin, -væri.Fact|date=October 2008

Notable Turks in Bulgaria

* Vezhdi Rashidov - Sculptor
* Ahmed Doğan - Human rights activist and politician, leader of Movement for Rights and Freedoms.
* Emel Etem Toshkova - Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria.
* Nihat Kabil - Minister of Agriculture of Bulgaria
* Dzhevdet Chakarov (Cevdet Çakarov) - Minister of the Environment of Bulgaria
* Yuksel Kadriev - Popular news reporter of the Bulgarian TV
* Yıldız İbrahimova - Jazz Singer
* Silviya Katsarova (Silver Nuri) - Pop Singer
* Tchetin Kazak (Çetin Kazak) - Politician, Member of the European Parliament
* Filiz Husmenova (Filiz Hüsmenova) - Politician, Member of the European Parliament
* Nedzhmi Ali (Necmi Ali) - Politician, Member of the European Parliament
* Ivailo Marinov (Ismail Mustafov) - World and Olympic medalist in boxing.
* Salim Salimov - Boxer
* Mehmed Fikretov 2008 European Weightlifting Championships bronze medallist
* Husein Mehmedov (Hüseyin Mehmedov) - Olympic medalist in wrestling
* Naim Süleymanoğlu - World and Olympic champion in weightlifting.
* Halil Mutlu - World and Olympic champion in weightlifting.
* Nejdet Zalev - Olympic medalist in wrestling
* Said Chifudov - Olympic medalist in wrestling
* Lyutvi Ahmedov (Lütfü Ahmedov) - Olympic medalist in wrestling
* Osman Duraliev - Olympic medalist in wrestling
* Hasan Isaev - Olympic medalist in wrestling
* Nermedin Selimov - Olympic medalist in wrestling
* Ismail Abilov - Olympic medalist in wrestling
* Osman Nuri Peremeci – Intellectual and historian
* Mehmed Talat Paşa - Minister and in 1917 Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire.
* Ömer Fahreddin Paşa - Commander of the Ottoman Army and Governor of Medina.
* Ahmed Cevdet Paşa - Famous Ottoman statesman, historian, and lawmaker.

ee also

* Big Excursion
* Crimean Tatars in Bulgaria
* Gagauz people
* Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire
* Islam in Bulgaria
* Turks of Western Thrace
* Turks in the Republic of Macedonia
* Turks in Kosovo

Further reading

* cite journal
quotes =
last = Mahon
first = Milena
authorlink =
coauthors =
date =
year = 1999
month = November
title = The Turkish minority under communist Bulgaria - politics of ethnicity and power
journal = Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans
volume = 1
issue = 2
pages = 149–162
issn =
pmid =
doi =
id =
url =
language =
laysummary =
laysource =
laydate =
quote =

* cite journal
quotes =
last = Warhola
first = James W.
authorlink =
coauthors = Orlina Boteva
date =
year = 2003
month = September
title = The Turkish Minority in Contemporary Bulgaria
journal = Nationalities Papers
volume = 31
issue = 3
pages = 255–279
issn =
pmid =
doi =
id =
url =
language =
laysummary =
laysource =
laydate =
quote =



*Eminov, A., "Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities of Bulgaria", 1997, Routledge

*Crampton, R.J., "Bulgaria 1878-1918", A History
* [http://www.ethnopolitics.org/ethnopolitics/archive/volume_I/issue_4/petkova.pdf The Ethnic Turks in Bulgaria: Social Integration and Impact on Bulgarian–Turkish Relations, 1947-2000]
* [http://www.emz-berlin.de/projekte_e/pj41_pdf/ekici.pdf The Diaspora of the Turks of Bulgaria in Turkey]
* [http://www.ingilish.com/turksofbulgaria.htm Ingilish.com]
* [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+bg0084) A Country Study: Bulgaria - Ethnographic Characteristics (Turks)] (Data as of 1992)
* [http://www.bgolympic.org/fce/index.shtml?s=001&p=0046 Bulgarian Olympic Committee]

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