Bulgaria History, Religious Beliefs, Custom and Traditions, Languages


We give a brief and short review of the history of Bulgaria, a country with a communist history.


From about 400 BC a race called the Thracians lived in parts of what is now Bulgaria. The Thracians were a tribal society and they were magnificent horsemen. They were also known for making beautiful gold and silver jewelry.

Around 100 AD the Romans conquered Bulgaria. The Romans founded the city of Trimontium (present-day Plovdiv). They also built the city of Serdica on the site of Sofia.

In 395 the Roman Empire split in two. Bulgaria became part of the Eastern Roman Empire (later called the Byzantine Empire ). However, Byzantium was weakened and about 500 Slavs settled in Bulgaria.

Then in 680, the Bulgarians invaded under the leadership of their ruler Khan Asparukh. They were descendants of the Huns of Central Asia. They crossed the Danube and founded the state of Bulgaria. Then they married the Slavs.

In 716 the Byzantine Empire recognized the state of Bulgaria.

However, in the late 8th century, Emperor Constantine V tried to destroy Bulgaria, but without success. Then the pendulum swung the other way. From 809 Khan Krum attacked the Byzantine Empire . Led by Khan Krum, the Bulgarians were victorious. In 811 the Byzantine emperor Nicephorus was killed in combat. Krum’s skull was covered in silver and he used it for drinking. In 813 Krum even besieged Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium, but did not capture it. Finally in 816 Khan Omurtag made peace.

Then, in 846, Boris I of Bulgaria accepted Christianity and his subjects followed him. Bulgaria accepted the Eastern Orthodox Church instead of the Western Catholic Church.

Bulgaria reached a peak under Simeon the Great 893-927. He called himself “Emperor of all Bulgarians and Greeks .” The Pope recognized it, but the Byzantine Emperor did not!

However, at the end of the 10th century, Bulgaria declined. In 971 the Byzantines took the capital Preslav along with a large part of eastern Bulgaria. Finally in 1014, after the Battle of Belasita, the Byzantines captured 15,000 Bulgarians. Of every 100 men, 99 were blind and one was left with one eye to take the others home. In 1018 Bulgaria became part of the Byzantine Empire .


The Byzantines ruled Bulgaria until 1185. Then heavy taxes caused a rebellion. A new Bulgarian kingdom was founded with its capital at Turnovo. In 1202 the Byzantines accepted the situation and made peace.

Then, in 1204, the Crusaders captured Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire . The Crusaders claimed that the Bulgarians were their vassals, but the Bulgarians defeated them in battle.

The second Bulgarian kingdom reached its peak under Ivan Asen II 1218-1241. Bulgaria became prosperous and powerful.

However, the Bulgarians had powerful enemies. In 1330 the Bulgarians were defeated by the Serbs at the Battle of Velbuzhd. Bulgaria was temporarily under Serbian rule.


From the 9th to the 15th century a religious sect called the Bogomils flourished in Bulgaria. The Bogomils were probably named after an 8th century priest named Bogomil.

The Bogomils were dualists. It was a very ancient belief in the Middle East that there were two gods, one good and one bad. The evil god created the material world while the good god created the spiritual. This belief entered Bulgaria and assumed some Christian elements. Bogomils believed that Satan created the material universe while God created the soul.

Bogomils did not believe in the incarnation (the doctrine that God became man – Jesus). They did not believe in infant baptism or the Eucharist (sharing bread at mass). They also rejected the entire organization of the Orthodox Church.

The leaders of the Bogomil led austere lives. They refrained from marrying, eating meat and drinking wine. However, his followers did not have to live such a strict life.

The Bogomil sect spread to the Byzantine Empire and other parts of Southeast Europe. However, it became extinct after the Turks conquered the area.


In the 14th century, the Ottoman Turks were a rising power in the region. In 1393 they captured Turnovo. All Bulgarian resistance to the Turks ended in 1396. Bulgaria was under Turkish rule for almost 500 years.

However, the Bulgarians had to pay taxes to the Turks . They also had to hand over their children. At intervals the Turks drank the cream of the Bulgarian children from 7 to 14 years old. They were separated from their families and raised as Muslims. They were also trained to be soldiers called Janissaries.

In 1688, the Chirpiest Bulgarians rebelled. However, the rebellion was crushed. However, beginning in the late 17th century, the Ottoman Empire went into inexorable decline.

Then in the 19th century, nationalism became a powerful force in Europe, including Bulgaria, and the ideas of the French Revolution spread. There was a growing interest in Bulgarian culture and history and a growing resentment of Turkish rule .

Finally, in April 1876, some Bulgarians rebelled. However, the Turks easily crushed the rebellion.


Then, in April 1877, Russia declared war on Turkey . In January 1878 the Russians captured Sofia. Then, on March 3, the Treaty of Stefano ended the war. The treaty created an independent Bulgaria. However, the British and Austro-Hungarians feared that this new Bulgaria could be a powerful ally for Russia and insisted that the treaty be revised.

By the Treaty of Berlin , July 1878 Bulgaria was divided in two. The northern half was not allowed to be totally independent. Instead, Bulgaria would be a vassal state of Turkey called a principality. It was to be ruled by a prince with a parliament called the sabranie.

The southern half of Bulgaria became only semi-autonomous within the Ottoman Empire . It was given the name of Oriental Rumelia.

The Bulgarians would not accept this solution. In 1885 the people of Eastern Rumelia staged a coup and joined the northern half of Bulgaria. However, other countries intervened again. In November 1885 the Serbs declared war. However, they were crushed in the Battle of Slivnitsa.

The great powers then drew up a new agreement. The two halves of Bulgaria were not allowed to unite completely. Instead, they remained two separate entities, but the Prince of Bulgaria (of the north) was appointed “governor general” of Eastern Rumelia.

This arrangement was only an interim measure. In 1908 the Bulgarians revoked it. On October 5, Prince Ferdinand announced the total independence of Bulgaria. He became King Ferdinand of Bulgaria.


Meanwhile, at the beginning of the 20th century, Turkish rule in Europe was crumbling. The Turks faced rebellions. The Balkan states feared that the great powers would intervene. They wanted to liberate the territories that are still in the hands of the Turks and impose their own solutions. So they formed a triple alliance between Serbia , Bulgaria and Greece .

In October 1912 the three countries invaded Turkish territory in Europe. However, the great powers intervened. They insisted that an independent Albania be created . The three allies could do whatever they wanted with the rest of the Turkish territory .

However, the Allies soon fell out and on June 29, 1913, Bulgaria attacked Serbia and Greece . However, Romania intervened and Bulgaria was forced to make amends. Bulgaria was forced to hand over part of its territory.

Then in 1914, the First World War came. In October 1915, Germany persuaded Bulgaria to join its promising territory as a reward. However, an Allied blockade causes severe shortages in Bulgaria and eventually near starvation.

In September 1918 French and British troops entered Bulgaria and on September 29, 1918 Bulgaria signed an armistice. On October 3, 1918, Fernando abdicated. His son Boris III replaced him.

In 1919 Bulgaria was forced to sign the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine. It lost significant parts of its territory. Furthermore, Bulgaria was not allowed to have more than 20,000 men in its army and was forced to pay reparations (a form of compensation for the war). However, the repairs were canceled in 1932.

In the 1919 elections, the parties that had supported Bulgaria’s entry into the war lost votes, while those that had opposed it (the Communists and the Agrarian Party) won them.

In December 1919 the Communists and Social Democrats joined forces and called a general strike in Bulgaria. However, Prime Minister Stamboliyski arrested the leaders of the strike and the strike was suspended on January 5, 1920.

Despite its troubles in 1920, Bulgaria was allowed to join the League of Nations, the first of the nations on the losing side to do so.

However, democracy in Bulgaria gave way to an authoritarian regime. In 1922 some disgruntled army officers formed an organization called the Military League. In 1923 a group of conspirators, including members of the Military League, seized power in a coup. Prime Minister Stamboliyski was assassinated.

Aleksandar Tsankov formed a new government. Then, in 1925, the Communists exploded a bomb in a cathedral in Sofia. Later thousands of communists were arrested and many were executed.

However, in 1926 Tsankov was replaced by Andrei Liapchev. He removed some of the restrictions imposed by Tsankov. The formation of unions was allowed and in 1927 the reform of the Communist Party was allowed. In 1931 elections were held in Bulgaria.

However, in the early 1930s, Bulgaria suffered severely from depression. Peasant incomes were cut in half and unemployment soared in the cities. Then, in May 1934, a group of officers staged a coup.

However, the new government was divided over what to do with the king. Its leader Colonel Damián Velchev was a Republican, but in January 1935 his opponents managed to force him to leave office. In 1936 Boris dissolved the Military League and promised to return to constitutional government. The elections were held in 1938.

When World War II began in 1939, King Boris was initially determined to keep Bulgaria neutral. However, beginning in March 1941 he agreed to allow German troops to pass through Bulgaria on their way to Greece . As a reward, Bulgaria received territory in Thrace and Macedonia.

However, although some anti-Semitic laws were passed in Bulgaria, Bulgarian Jews were not deported to concentration camps. King Boris died in August 1943.

In the summer of 1944 Germany was obviously losing the war and the Russians were closing in on Bulgaria. Russia declared war on Bulgaria on September 5, 1944. Bulgaria declared on Germany on September 7, 1944 (effective September 8). However, on September 8, 1944, Russian troops entered Bulgaria.


In 1942 the Front of the Fatherland or FF was formed. It was made up of communists, social democrats and agrarians. On September 9, 1944 the FF staged a coup and formed the new government. In the new cabinet, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Justice were communists. (The fact that Russian troops were stationed in Bulgaria also helped .)

The seizure of power by the communists in Bulgaria was gradual. From the beginning they controlled the radio and many newspapers. However, the communists eliminated their opponents one by one. New people’s courts were created under the Ministry of Justice to try “war criminals” and “collaborators.”

All supporters of the old regime were rounded up and executed or imprisoned in labor camps. Not only politicians, but also priests, teachers, and police. In addition, “unreliable” officers were removed from the army. The elimination of all rightists made the communists even more powerful.

The Communists turned against their fellow leftists in Bulgaria. They managed to cause divisions in the Social Democratic Party and the Agrarian Party between the pro and anti-communist factions. In both cases, the Communist-controlled Ministry of Justice decided that party property belonged to the pro-Communist factions.

Meanwhile, in 1946, the Bulgarian army was purged again. Some 2,000 officers were dismissed. In September 1946, a referendum on the monarch caused Bulgaria to become a republic. In the November 1946 elections, the Communists insisted that all the FF candidates should form a single list.

Previously, the votes had been able to vote for individual parties (communist, agrarian or social democratic). Now they could only vote for or against the FF. The FF won the majority of the seats in the National Assembly.

However, most of the seats in the FF were held by communists and not by social democrats or agrarians (much more than would justify support for the communists among voters). In this way, the Communists gained control of the Assembly.

Finally, in June 1947, Nikola Petkov (1889-1947), leader of the anti-communist part of the Agrarian Party and leader of the opposition to the communists, was arrested. He was executed in August 1947 after a rigged trial.

Then, in 1947, the Communists introduced the Dimitrov Constitution. It is named after Georgi Dimitrov, leader of the communists after 1945 and brought a complete communist regime to Bulgaria.

The communists nationalized industry and collectivized agriculture in Bulgaria. They also persecuted the Orthodox Church.

Finally, after imposing communism, the Communist Party turned against its own members. After the anti-communist uprising in Hungary in 1956 there was a purge in Bulgaria in which many communists were expelled from the party. Some were sent to labor camps.

So for many years, Bulgaria had to bear the burden of a totalitarian regime, slavishly obedient to the Soviet Union .

From 1954 it was ruled by Todor Zhivkov. He reigned until 1989.

During the communist era attempts were made to increase industry in Bulgaria, but it remained a primarily agricultural country.

In 1985, Zhikov tried to “bulgarise” the Bulgarian Turks. The Bulgarian Turks were ordered to choose from a list of Bulgarian names. If they refused, one was chosen for them. Troops were sent to enforce the law, but the Bulgarian Turks continued to resist.

Finally, in the summer of 1989, Zhikov announced that the Turks could leave Bulgaria and go to Turkey if they wished. Many of them did.


Finally, in the late 1980s, the communist tyranny in Bulgaria began to unravel. On November 10, 1989 Zhikov was deposed. In April, the Communists renamed themselves the Bulgarian Socialist Party. The totalitarian regime was dismantled.

On March 6, 1990, strikes were legalized. However, multiparty elections were not held until June 1990. The Bulgarian Socialist Party remained in power. However, state socialism was scrapped in Bulgaria.

Starting in 1991, price controls were removed and the industry was privatized. The collective farms were dissolved. In July 1991 a new constitution was introduced and, following the holding of new elections in October 1991, the Socialist Party lost power.

Today Bulgaria is a relatively poor country and suffered greatly in the recession of 2009. However, Bulgaria recovered and today the economy is growing steadily, while tourism is a fast growing industry in Bulgaria.

Tourists are drawn to the beautiful architecture and beaches of Bulgaria. Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007. Currently, the population of Bulgaria is 7.1 million.



Explore the customs and traditions of Bulgaria, a country in Eastern Europe.



The daily diet is largely based on local, seasonal produce. Bread, an important staple, is often purchased rather than baked at home. Dairy products are widely consumed, particularly yogurt and white brine cheese.

Homemade lunches and dinners often include soups, salads, stews, grilled meats, or stuffed vegetables, while meals away from home can consist of foods such as bread, cheese, sausage, and vegetables. Banitsa is a popular dough filled with cheese and eggs, pumpkin, rice, spinach, or leeks.

For snacks and breakfasts, it is accompanied by a cereal-based drink, boza, or yogurt-based airan… The most popular alcoholic beverages are rakiya, a powerful fruit-based brandy, and wine. Many people can eat fruits and vegetables and make sauerkraut for the winter when fresh produce is not available or affordable.

Regional culinary variation reflects local environmental conditions, for example fish along the sea, vegetables in the plains, and dairy products in mountainous areas.

Some observant Muslims avoid eating pork. In response to post-socialist conditions, consumption of meat and dairy products has declined relative to less expensive bread.

The offer of typical restaurants is more limited than home cooking, with menus based on salads, soups, grilled meats and perhaps a meatless offer. Cafes, pubs, and sweet shops are popular meeting places for a drink, coffee or snack.


Some Orthodox Christians observe a Lenten fast before Easter, and observant Muslims avoid eating and drinking during daylight hours during Ramadan.

Within the Islamic tradition, numerous dishes are served and sweets are exchanged at Ramazan (Ramadan) Bairam, and a ram or calf is ritually sacrificed for Kurban Bairam. Kurban means sacrifice and also refers to a boiled meat dish prepared for ceremonial occasions.

Another popular dish of the celebration is lamb or goat roasted with saliva. The Christmas Eve table includes numerous dishes, predominantly meatless, including stuffed cabbage leaves, beans, lentils, boiled wheat, dried fruits and nuts. For Christmas or New Years, fortunes in the form of coins, carnelian cherry sprigs, or scraps of paper are inserted into banitsa or bread.

Special holiday breads include the braided Easter kozunak, which is sometimes decorated with dyed eggs.


In Bulgaria, the gestures to indicate “yes” and “no” are essentially the opposite of those common in most of the rest of Europe. A lateral tremor of the head indicates “Yes”, and a small up and down movement (nod of the head) indicates “No”.

Bulgarians generally pride themselves on their hospitality and neighborhood. An uninvited visitor will first be greeted with a handshake or verbal greeting at the outermost door or portal, and will be invited to enter the private domestic space, depending on the nature of the visit.

At meal times, a guest will be offered food and drink, and at other times a drink (often homemade rakiya); it is rude not to accept this hospitality.

The obligation to accept a host’s offer extends to situations outside the home, such as when you are invited to eat or drink in a restaurant or other establishment. When visiting someone’s house, it is customary to bring flowers or sweets.

On the street or in other public places, strangers often avoid eye contact. In public transport, young people are expected to give up a seat to an older woman or a father with a young child. Failure to do so invites public censure of other passengers.

In mixed ethnic areas, it is considered polite to greet a neighbor or acquaintance in your own language.



Most Bulgarians belong to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, although there are a small number of Muslims (Pomaks), Protestants, and Roman Catholics. Most Turks and many Gypsies are Muslims, while some (especially Gypsies) are Christians.

In Bulgaria, both Orthodox Christianity and Islam incorporate some pagan beliefs and rituals. Christian and Islamic beliefs and practices often coexist between the Pomaks and the Gypsies. Other religions include Judaism, Armenian Orthodox Christianity, and a variety of Protestant churches and sects.

Orthodox Christianity is enshrined in the Constitution as the traditional religion of Bulgaria, and the Church has a legacy of links with nationalist groups. State regulation of religious affairs has declined since the fall of state socialism.

However, political interference remains a factor in religious affairs, and the schisms in the Orthodox and Muslim communities in the 1990s (above challenges to the legitimacy of the leaderships installed under state socialism) were dominated. by partisan political interests. Proselytizing foreign churches and sects is seen as a threat to national identity.

Most Orthodox Bulgarians and Muslims are not observant, and many are atheists, partly as a result of attempts by the state socialist government to discredit the religion. Despite some revival of interest in religious observance since the fall of state socialism, religious practices have become markers of cultural identity.


The Orthodox Church in Bulgaria is headed by a patriarch, who presides over the Holy Synod (or Council of the Church), with a hierarchy of regional archbishops, bishops and priests. There are also monasteries where monks and nuns practice a life of religious devotion and scholarship.

The Muslim community is governed by the Supreme Muslim Council under the command of the Chief Mufti (religious judge), with a hierarchy of regional muftis, imams (clerics) and religious teachers.


For both Christians and Muslims, the most significant rituals are those related to the passage of life: birth, marriage and death, as well as baptism (for Christians) and circumcision (for Muslims).

Christian holidays include Christmas, Easter, Lent, and the days of the Saints. Services in Bulgaria are held on Sundays and often daily, and people often visit churches to pray to the saints, burning candles in honor of their loved ones.

Muslim holidays include the one-month fast of Ramadan and the Festival of Sacrifice (Kurban Bairam). The observer attends the mosques on Fridays and can observe the daily prayers.

Churches and especially monasteries are considered sacred, not only for the Orthodox Church but also for the nation, as they played an important role in national emancipation.


Both Orthodox Christians and Muslims believe in life after death. For both, proper observance of death and burial-related rituals is considered crucial for the proper passage of the soul to life after death.


During the socialist era, efforts were made to replace religious festivals and life cycle rituals with secular rituals; for example, civil ceremonies substituted for church weddings and Grandfather Frost delivered gifts on January 1 in place of Grandfather’s Christmas on December 25.

With the fall of communism, the government-recognized holidays include Easter and Christmas, and some socialist holidays like September 9, which marks the beginning of the socialist era, have disappeared.

The New Year is celebrated on January 1 with Christmas foods and traditions designed to bring luck and health to the coming year. Baba Marta (Grandmother’s March), March 1, is a pre-Christian welcoming spring, in which people exchange martinitas as good luck charms made of red and white threads.

The liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire is celebrated on March 3, International Women’s Day on March 8, Labor Day on May 1, and Bulgarian education and culture on May 24, the day associated with saints. Cyril and Methodius, founders of the Cyrillic alphabet.

Other celebrations – often associated with the agricultural calendar, the Orthodox Christian calendar, or both – are the day of the winegrower, February 14; St. George’s Day, May 6, in honor of the patron saint of shepherds and the army; and the Masked Kukeri festivals that mark the beginning of spring and the agricultural season (dates vary).

Important life cycle celebrations mark births, high school graduations, discharges from military service, weddings and deaths. The latter are commemorated at specific intervals after death (eg, nine days, forty days, six months, a year).



During the state socialist period, the arts were financed (and regulated) by the state. State-sponsored folk groups were charged not only with preserving heritage, but also with the task of transforming popular art forms to the level of high culture.

State patronage allowed the arts to flourish, and ideological boundaries did not necessarily compromise the art. The puppet theater, for example, developed to a high level of excellence.

Since the fall of state socialism in 1989, state funding in Bulgaria has evaporated, and entrepreneurship on the part of individuals and groups has become necessary for survival, where before wages and programming emanated largely from the Culture Ministry.

This has been a difficult transition for many practitioners of the arts. The remaining state funding is subject to free competition.


Bulgarian literature begins with the advent of Old Church (Old Bulgarian) Slavic literacy in the late 9th century AD. The earliest writings were religious in nature. In the late 18th century, secular writings began to be written using a more accessible modern vernacular Bulgarian.

Several important writings on the history of the Bulgarian nation date from this period. In the early 19th century, standard modern language developed through the promotion of literacy in schools.

Literature and journalism flourished around the theme of national emancipation. Ethnologists began to collect and publish folklore, another vehicle for the development of national consciousness.

The Bulgarian Renaissance and early modern literature continue to form the core of literature studies within the Bulgarian educational system. Several Bulgarian authors and poets have achieved international fame.


The traditions of Bulgarian graphic arts have their roots in the Orthodox Christian icon and fresco painting, and some medieval Bulgarian works are world famous and significant in world art history, in particular the frescoes in the Boyana Church, near From Sofia.

Folk arts and crafts thrive, and there are distinctive and beautiful traditions in wood carving, pottery, weaving, and other textile arts.


Bulgaria has a rich palette of music, dance and theater, ranging from folk music and dance to classical and modern opera, jazz, and western-style folk music.

In this sense, it is worth highlighting the variety of popular and popularly influenced music, many of which have become well known in the outside world since the mid-eighties, reaching the status of virtual icons of Bulgarian national culture. The female vocal music (choral) and the music of the wedding groups stand out especially.

Traditionally, folk musicians are often Gypsy, the music is sensual, and the performances involve a high degree of spontaneity, especially at events such as weddings.

In theater, opera and ballet, the repertoire of Bulgarian artists includes a wide range of international and local productions. Bulgarian cinema had its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s under state patronage, but now it only produces between five and ten films a year.

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