Islam in Bulgaria: Wikis


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Banya Bashi mosque, built in 1576 by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, is the only functioning mosque that remains of 500 years of Ottoman domination in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria
General Mufti's Office of Bulgaria

Islam is the second largest religion in Bulgaria after the dominant religion in the country, Orthodox Christianity. According to the 2001 Census, the total number of Muslims in the country stood at 966,978, corresponding to 12.2% of the population[1]. The Muslim population of Bulgaria, which is made up of Turks, Bulgarians, Roma, and Crimean Tatars, lives mainly in northeastern Bulgaria and in the Rhodope Mountains[2].


Muslims in Bulgaria according to ethnic group

According to the criterion of ethnicity, Muslims in Bulgaria were divided into the following groups in 2001[3][4]:

Most of the Muslims in Bulgaria are Sunni Muslims as Sunni Islam was the form of Islam promoted by the Ottoman Empire during their five-century rule of Bulgaria (see History of Bulgaria). Shi'a sects such as the Alians, Kizilbashi and the Bektashi also are present, however. About 80,000 Shi'a Muslims live mainly in the Razgrad, Sliven and Silistra provinces. They are said to be mainly descendants of Bulgarians who converted to Islam to avoid Ottoman persecution but chose a Shi'a sect because of its greater tolerance toward different national and religious customs. For example, Kuzulbashi Bulgarians could maintain the Orthodox customs of communion, confession, and honoring saints. This integration of Orthodox customs into Islam gave rise to a type of syncretism found only in Bulgaria.[citation needed]

The largest mosque in Bulgaria was the Tumbul Mosque in Shumen, built in 1744.

History of Islam in Bulgaria

Islam in Bulgaria can be traced back to the mid-ninth century with Islamic missionaries spreading Arab literature and thus influencing Bulgarian art during the time of Tsar Simeon.[5]Already during 866 Pope Nicholas describes in a letter that the Muslims in Bulgaria presented a problem in the Danube region.[6]. Later during the 11th and 12th centuries, nomadic Turkic tribes such as the Cumans and the Pechenegs entered Bulgaria and engaged the Byzantine Empire. According to scholars, some of these were Muslim[7][8]. It is suggested by some that the Turks in the Ludogorie could be descendants of these tribes. On the other hand, the Orthodox Christian Gagauzes are also purported to originate from the Cumans and Pechenegs[9] who settled in northern Bulgaria, which would imply that their ancestors were either already Christian or adopted Christianity upon their arrival[citation needed]]].

Migration of Muslim Seljuk Turks to Dobruja during the 13th century is also mentioned[10]. In 1362, Ottoman Turks captured the city of Edirne and with in the next two years they had advanced as far as Plovdiv. The city of Sofia fell in 1385. Thus, Bulgaria was under Islamic domination until 1878 when the Principality of Bulgaria was established after the Russo-Turkish War[11].

According to the office of the Grand Mufti in Sofia during the Turkish Ottoman rule in Bulgaria there were 2356 mosques, 174 tekke, 142 madrasah and 400 waqf. After the Russo-Turkish War many Islamic properties were either destroyed or confiscated for civilian use[12]. Currently there are 1458 mosques in Bulgaria[13].

Persecution during communist rule

Like the practitioners of other beliefs including Orthodox Christians, Muslims suffered under the restriction of religious freedom by the Marxist-Leninist Zhivkov regime which instituted state atheism and suppressed religious communities. The Bulgarian communist regimes declared traditional Muslim beliefs to be diametrically opposed to secular communist ideology. In 1989, 310,000 Turks fled 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. 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.[14] After the breakdown of communism, Muslims in Bulgaria again enjoyed greater religious freedom. Some villages organized Qur'an study courses for young people (study of the Qur'an had been completely forbidden under Zhivkov). Muslims also began publishing their own newspaper, Musulmani, in both Bulgarian and Turkish.

See also

Further reading


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ H. T. Norris: "Islam in the Balkans: religion and society between Europe and the Arab world" 1993 pp.21
  6. ^ H. T. Norris: "Islam in the Balkans: religion and society between Europe and the Arab world" 1993 pp.21 pp.27
  7. ^ Ali Eminov: "Turkish and other Muslim minorities in Bulgaria" 1997 pp.25
  8. ^ H. T. Norris: "Islam in the Balkans: religion and society between Europe and the Arab world" 1993 pp.26
  9. ^ Searching for the Origin of Gagauzes: Inferences from Y-Chromosome Analysis
  10. ^ H. T. Norris: "Islam in the Balkans: religion and society between Europe and the Arab world" 1993
  11. ^ R. J. Crampton: "A short history of modern Bulgaria" 1987
  12. ^ Office of the Grand Mufti - Sofia:Müslümanlar Publication 5/2009
  13. ^ Office of the Grand Mufti - Sofia:Müslümanlar Publication 11/2009
  14. ^ Glenn E. Curtis, ed. Bulgaria: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1992


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