Ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria

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Macedonians in Bulgaria
Македонци во Бугарија
Makedonci vo Bugarija
Total population
1,654 (2011 census)[1] - 25,000 (1998, Kanev est.)[2]
Regions with significant populations
Blagoevgrad Province and Sofia [1]
Bulgarian[2] and Macedonian[3]
Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria (Macedonian: Македонци во Бугарија, translit. Makedonci vo Bugarija) are a group in Bulgaria concentrated within Blagoevgrad Province and the capital Sofia. In the 2011 Bulgarian census, 1,654 people declared themselves to be ethnic Macedonians. They are not recognised as an ethnic minority but were recognised as such between 1947 and 1958. During this period there was a surge of Macedonistic policies, the government went as far as to declare Macedonian an official language of the Pirin region.[4][5] The Bulgarian Communist Party was compelled by Joseph Stalin to accept the formation of Macedonian, Thracian and Dobrujan nations in order to include those new separate states in a Balkan Communist Federation.[6][7][8] There are strong indications that the majority of the population from Blagoevgrad Province was listed as ethnic Macedonians against their will in the 1946 and 1956 censuses.[6][7][9]

On the other hand, over 70,000 Macedonian nationals have received Bulgarian citizenship between 2001 and 2018, or roughly 3.5% of the country's population. Their citizenship is based on declared Bulgarian ethnic origin. Indeed, both ethnic groups are closely related.[10][11][12]


Until 1913 the majority of the Slav population of all three parts of Macedonia identified as Bulgarian.[13] During World War II, most parts of Yugoslav and Greek Macedonia were annexed by Bulgaria, and the local Slavic-speakers were regarded and self-identified as Macedonian Bulgarians.[14][15] Not until much later did the process of Macedonian national identity formation gain momentum.[13] After 1944, the People's Republic of Bulgaria and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia began a policy of making Macedonia a connecting link for the establishment of new Balkan Federative Republic and stimulating there a development of distinct Slav Macedonian consciousness.[16] The Greek communists as well as its fraternal parties in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, had already been influenced by the Comintern and it was the only political party in Greece to recognize Macedonian national identity.[17] The region of Vardar Macedonia received the status of a constituent republic within Yugoslavia and in 1945 a separate Macedonian language was codified. The local Slavic population was proclaimed to be ethnically Macedonian - a new nationality meant to be different from the Bulgarians or Serbs.


Recognition of the minority[edit]

The number of Macedonians in the Pirin region (Blagoevgrad Province) has varied greatly since the 1960s.

For a period of some years after the war, the Yugoslav and Bulgarian leaders Josip Broz Tito and Georgi Dimitrov worked on a project to merge their two countries into a Balkan Federative Republic according to the projects of Balkan Communist Federation. As a concession to the Yugoslavian side, Bulgarian authorities agreed to the recognition of a distinct Macedonian ethnicity and language as part of their own population in the Bulgarian part of geographical Macedonia. This was one of the conditions of the Bled Agreement, signed between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria on 1 August 1947. In November 1947, pressured by both the Yugoslavs and the Soviets, Bulgaria also signed a treaty of friendship with Yugoslavia, and teachers were sent from the Socialist Republic of Macedonia to Blagoevgrad Province to teach the Macedonian language.[18][19] The Bulgarian president Georgi Dimitrov was sympathetic to the Macedonian Question.[20] The Bulgarian government Communist party was compelled once again to adapt its stand to Soviet interests in the Balkans.[19] The same process started regarding the populations in Dobrudja and Thrace.[6][7] At the same time, the organisation of the old nationalist movement the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) in Bulgaria was suppressed by the Bulgarian communist authorities.[21]

Reversal of recognition[edit]

A change of policy came in 1958.[6][7] At the plenum of the Bulgarian Communist Party held the same year, the decision was made that the Macedonian nation and language did not exist.[22][23] Afterwards, the teaching of the Macedonian language was discontinued and the Macedonian teachers from Yugoslavia were expelled.[18] Since 1958, Bulgaria has not recognised a Macedonian minority in the Pirin region and in the following ten years, the 178,862 strong Macedonian population fell to just 8,700.[18]

Since 1958[edit]

In 1964 four people were tried for writing :"We are Macedonians" and "Long live the Macedonian Nation" on a restaurant wall.[24] Since the fall of communism in the early 1990s various associations have been set up to represent the minority, these include United Macedonian Organisation: Ilinden–Pirin (UMO Ilinden-Pirin) and the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation - Independent (IMRO-I) .[25] These organizations have called for the restoration of rights granted to Macedonians during the 1940s and 1950s.[25] Republic of Bulgaria has not recognized the Macedonian language. However, in 1999 the linguistic controversy between the two countries was solved with the help of the phrase: "the official language of the country in accordance with its constitution".[26] Since the early 1990s there has been much speculation as to the size of the minority. The Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook for the years 1992[27] - 1998[28] gave estimates between c. 221,800 – 206,000 or roughly 2.5% of the total population. No information is provided however as to how the data was acquired. Later editions, for example, the 2011[29] edition have not given a percentage for the Macedonians but have instead included them in the "Others" group, which comprises 0.7% of the population and includes, among others, Russians, Armenians and Vlachs.

In 2006, according to personal evaluation of a leading local ethnic Macedonian political activist, Stoyko Stoykov, the present number of Bulgarian citizens with ethnic Macedonian self-consciousness is between 5,000 and 10,000. He has claimed that the result of the 2011 Census, which counted only 1,654 Macedonians is a consequence of manipulation. Stoykov has explained that from this figure, even about 1,000 people were registered as Macedonia citizens.[30] According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the vast majority of the population in Pirin Macedonia has a Bulgarian national self-consciousness and a regional Macedonian identity similar to the Macedonian regional identity in Greek Macedonia.[13] Moreover, the majority of Bulgarians believe that most of the population of Macedonia is Bulgarian.[31]

Meanwhile, in 1999, Ivan Kostov and Lyubcho Georgievski, the prime ministers of Bulgaria and Macedonia respectively, signed a common declaration, which has proclaimed no Macedonian minority exists within Bulgaria.[32]

Census results[edit]

Government intervention[edit]

From 20 to 31 December 1946, the People's Republic of Bulgaria conducted a census during which, on December 27 the governor of Blagoevgrad districts sent a telegram with an order all Bulgarians (excluding the ones migrated from other regions of Bulgaria) in the region to be counted as ethnic Macedonians, including the Bulgarian Muslims.[33] According to the census results 169,544 [34] people of Bulgaria declared themselves to be ethnic Macedonians. Of the total 252,908 inhabitants of Blagoevgrad Province 160,541 or roughly 64% of the population declared themselves to be ethnic Macedonians.[35] Other areas of Macedonian declaration was 2638 in Sofia, 2589 in Plovdiv, 1825 in Burgas and a further 1851 were scattered throughout Bulgaria.[citation needed]

The forcible change of the ethnicity of the population was confirmed by the leader of the opposition party BZNS "Nikola Petkov" who on December 30, 1946 stated that "The population is disgusted by this outrageous violation of conscience."[36] This issue was confirmed by the ex-president of the Republic of Bulgaria Petar Stoyanov[37] and Veselin Angelov (аssoc scientist, Ph.D. in history), from the Regional Historical Museum of Blagoevgrad - where the document with the order is kept.[38] и, без разлика дали са отсам или оттатък р. Места. #10269, 27 XII 1946 г., гр. Неврокоп. Окол. Управител: Лаков (подпис и печат) - "од државниот архив на Благ.

Ethnic Groups in Blagoevgrad (1946 Census) Nevrokop % Gorna Dzumaya % Sveti Vrach % Petrich % Razlog % Total %
Ethnic Macedonians 29,251 45.1% 24 169 47% 41,247 82.5% 42,047 91% 23,837 60% 160 541 63.64%
Bulgarians 14,007 21.5% 24,825 48.3% 7,600 15.1% 2,927 6.4% 5,066 12.8% 54,425 21.5%
Macedonian or Bulgarian Muslims 18,174 27.9% 874 1.7% 55 0.1% 35 0,1% 9,786 24.6% 28 924 3.03%

There are strong indications that the majority of the population from Blagoevgrad Province was listed as ethnic Macedonians against their will in the 1946 and 1956 census.[6][7]

In 1956, 187,789 people of Bulgaria declared themselves to be ethnic Macedonians. Of the 281,015 inhabitants of Blagoevgrad Province, 178,862 people declared themselves to be Macedonians; a rate which stayed the same at roughly 64% of the population.[39][40] Other areas of Macedonian declaration consisted of: 4046 from Sofia, 1955 from Plovdiv and the remaining 2926 were scattered throughout Bulgaria.[citation needed]

Under strong pressure of the Bulgarian Communist Party, the 1956 census results were falsified again as the previous 1946 census and the Bulgarian population in Blagoevgrad Province was forced to declare as ethnic Macedonian.

Government intervention withdrawn[edit]

The change in the population came in 1965 census, when the people in the province declared free as Bulgarians, within ten years the 187,789 strong Macedonian minority fell to just 9,632 individuals.[9]

The 1965 census counted only 9,632 people declaring themselves to be Macedonians.[18] Of them, 1732 came from the Blagoevgrad Province while 8195 were from the other regions of Bulgaria.[citation needed]

In the 1992 census, 10,803 people declared themselves to be Macedonian. Of them, 3,500 registered Macedonian as their mother tongue.[41] According to the President of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Krasimir Kanev, the real number of Macedonians in Bulgaria varies from 15,000 to 25,000.[13]

Results of the 2001 census in the Blagoevgrad region of Bulgaria.[42]

Ethnic Groups in Blagoevgrad Province (2001 Census) Total %
Bulgarians 286,491 83.97%
Ethnic Macedonians 3117 0.91%
Others 51,565 15.12%
Total 341,173 100.00%

As regards self-identification, a total of 1,654 people officially declared themselves to be ethnic Macedonians in the latest Bulgarian census in 2011 (0,02%) and 561 of them are in Blagoevgrad Province (0,2%).[43] There are 1,091 Macedonian citizens, who are permanent residents in Bulgaria.[44]

Political representation[edit]

The UMO Ilinden-Pirin party claims to represent the ethnic Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. In 2007 it was accepted as member of the European Free Alliance. On February 29, 2000, by decision of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court, UMO Ilinden–Pirin was banned, as a separatist party, which is banned by the Bulgarian constitution,[45] which also forbids parties on ethnic and religious grounds. On November 25, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, condemned Bulgaria because of violations of the OMO Ilinden–Pirin's freedom of organizing meetings.[46] The court stated that Bulgaria had violated Act 11 from the European Convention of Human Rights.[47] UMO-Ilinden has been accused of being funded by the Skopie government,[48] which was confirmed by members of the party itself.[49]

Many other Macedonian organizations have been set up since the fall of communism they include; Independent Macedonian Association – Ilinden, Traditional Macedonian Organization — TMO, Union for the Prosperity of Pirin Macedonia, Committee on the Repression of Macedonians in the Pirin part of Macedonia, Solidarity and Struggle Committee of Pirin Macedonia, The Union for the Prosperity of Pirin Macedonia, The Macedonian Democratic Party and The People's Academy of Pirin Macedonia.[13]

Macedonian media[edit]

In 1947 the newspaper 'Pirinski Vestnik' (Pirin Newspaper)[50][51] was established and a "Macedonian Book" publishing company were set up.[51][52] These were part of the measures to promote the Macedonian language and consciousness and were subsequently shut down in 1958. In the early 1990s a new newspaper was established for the ethnic Macedonian minority in Blagoevgrad Province, it is called Narodna Volja and its main office is in Blagoevgrad. The ideology of the newspaper is similar to official state policies and historiography in the Republic of Macedonia. Among its main topics are the history and culture of Macedonia and the Macedonians in Bulgaria.

Notable individuals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Bulgarian 2011 census" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-07-21.
  2. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-07-23. Retrieved 2006-07-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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  4. ^ Bugajski (1995)
  5. ^ Zang, Theodor (1991). "Selective Persecution of Macedonians in Bulgaria," News from Helsinki Watch, No.2, 1991.
  6. ^ a b c d e Rothschild, Joseph. The Communist Party of Bulgaria; Origins and Development, 1883-1936. Columbia University Press. p. 126.
  7. ^ a b c d e A. Cook, Bernard (2001). Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 810. ISBN 0-8153-4058-3.
  8. ^ Coenen-Huther, Jacques (1996). Bulgaria at the Crossroads. Nova Publishers. p. 166. ISBN 1-56072-305-X.
  9. ^ a b Ulrich Büchsenschütz - "Minority Policy in Bulgaria. BKP policy to Jews, Gypsies, Turks and Pomaks (1944-1989), p. 5 (in Bulgarian: Улрих Бюксеншютц - „Малцинствената политика в България. Политиката на БКП към евреи, роми, помаци и турци (1944-1989)“, стр. 5) Archived 2013-05-20 at the Wayback Machine Even today, it is not clear whether Bulgaria has a significant number of people who feel themselves "Macedonians", although the results of Census 1956 indicate the number of almost 200,000 (see Table. 5). These results, however, are grossly falsified - at that time on the population of Pirin Mountain exercised massive pressure to identify itself as "Macedonian". (in Bulgarian:До днес не e ясно, дали в България има значим брой хора, които се чувстват като "македонци", макар резултатите от преброяването през 1956 г. да посочват техния брой на почти 200000 (виж табл. 5). Тези резултати обаче са грубо фалшифицирани - в онова време върху населението на Пирин планина се упражнява масивен натиск да се признаят за "македонци".)
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  33. ^ Бърза! Телефонограма до Г Г кметовете на околията: Незабавно свикайте контрольорите и преброителите и им съобщете при попълване на графа 13 от домакинската карта и графа 5 на домакинския лист Б народност да се пише МАКЕДОНСКА, по изключение само евреите, циганите, турците и българите дошли от пределите на България. Българомохамеданите да се пишат по народност македонцоевград, ф.242, оп.1, а.е.25, л.50" (in Bulgarian)
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  • Bugajski, Janusz (1995). Ethnic Politics in Eastern Europe: A Guide to Nationality Policies, Organizations and Parties. New York, NY: M. E. Sharpe. ISBN 1-56324-282-6.
  • Poulton, Hugh (1995). Who are the Macedonians? (1st ed.). London: Hurst & Co. ISBN 978-1-85065-238-0.
  • Poulton, Hugh (2000). Who are the Macedonians? (2nd ed.). London: Hurst & Co. ISBN 1-85065-534-0.
  • Simpson, Neil (1994). Macedonia: its Disputed History. Aristoc Press. ISBN 0-646-20462-9.

External links[edit]