UNHCR Bulgaria : Bulgarian-speaking Muslims (Pomaks)

Profile Bulgarian-speaking Muslims, commonly known as Pomaks, are most probably descendants of Bulgarian Christians who converted to Islam during the period of Ottoman rule, while retaining the Bulgarian language as well as certain Orthodox practices. Although precise figures are not available in census data, the minority is estimated at about 160,000-240,000 people, dwelling mainly in the Rhodope Mountains. The authorities do not consider the Pomaks a distinct minority and in the 2001 there was no figure given for them.

Historical context

Bulgarian-speaking Muslims were subjected to forcible conversion in 1912-13 and were the victims of government-led name-changing in the early 1940s. In 1948, the communist authorities initiated programmes aimed at their assimilation, including population transfer to areas of ethnic Bulgarian settlement. Between 1970 and 1973, vigorous attempts were made to oblige Pomaks to abandon their Muslim and Arabic names and adopt Bulgarian ones.

These measures were accompanied by violence and led to many deaths. In the late 1980s Pomaks participated in the mass protests at the name-changing campaign of the communist government. Unlike ethnic Turks, Bulgarian-speaking Muslims were refused permission by the authorities to emigrate to Turkey.

Even after the demise of the communist regime in 1989, Pomaks continued to face governments refusing to recognize their separate identity. Beyond the state, Pomaks remain subject to outside pressure on their identity from a number of different sources including the ethnic Turkish community, and Orthodox and other religious groups proselytizing among them. Some Pomaks, mainly in the eastern Rhodope mountains, have converted to Christianity, mainly by joining the Uniate and Protestant churches.

While those in the central and eastern Rhodope tended to identify with Bulgarians, in the more impoverished and neglected western Rhodope region the situation was different. Here, in the early 1990s a large minority of Pomaks began to militantly identify themselves as Turks. In the 1992 census, 27,000 Bulgarian-speaking Muslims are believed to have identified themselves as Turks, while a further 35,000 are thought to have declared their mother tongue to be Turkish, even though they could not speak the language. This was believed to be due to shared religion as well as economic factors since emigration to Turkey is perceived as one way of overcoming employment difficulties. Thus, in this period it seemed that perhaps as many as a third of the community claimed to be Turkish while a third saw themselves as Bulgarians with the remainder claiming some form of 'Pomak' identity. In the 1992 census 65,000 declared themselves as 'Muslims', 'Pomaks', 'Bulgarian Mohammedans' and the like.

However, the number claiming to be Turks dropped dramatically by the late 1990s to only about five per cent in the western Rhodope while the number seeing themselves as Pomaks 'Muslims' or 'Mussulman' being the usual form of self-classification grew to perhaps half the community. Another factor is the drift from town to country. Previously the community remained predominantly village based with only some 20 per cent residing in towns. By the late 1990s this had risen to about 40 per cent and the trend has continued. Pomaks tended not to move to Sofia but rather Plovdiv, Asenovgrad, Pazardzhik and other towns near or in the Rhodope region. Those who move to the towns tend to identify themselves more readily as Bulgarians especially as religious practice tends to decline in urban settings.

When the government formed an important consultative body on minority rights, the National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Questions, in 1997, Pomaks were excluded.

Current issues

There are no Pomaks in the National Assembly, and Pomak political participation remains restricted to the local level.

Upon its accession in January 2007, Bulgaria became the EU member state with the largest percentage of Muslims, comprised overwhelmingly of its Turkish, Pomak, and part of its Roma populations. Despite anti-Muslim agitation by extreme right-wing organizations, the Bulgarian government has displayed a track record of religious tolerance. Its ongoing refusal to recognize Pomaks as a distinct group remains grounded in insistence on Slavic ethnic homogeneity as Bulgarians.

 

Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Bulgaria : Bulgarian-speaking Muslims (Pomaks)

 

Comments

СРАМОТА

Sramota ,che ste imali neshcho obshcho s Blgariya navremeto . Sledniyat citat e dostatchen : "Slavyanoblgarska istoriya" Paisiy Hilendarski - SLOVOTO TI, BLGARINO, NE SE MAMI, ZNAY SVOYa ROD I EZIK I SE UChI NA SVOYa EZIK!

Dokolkoto se znae Paiisi go e

Dokolkoto se znae Paiisi go e kazal tova za gar4ee6tite se balgari.

Лъжа

Pomashchka i slavyannska nacii nyama! Vsichki sme blgari-potomci na trakite! I blgarite vinagi sa bili tuk! Ako e imalo nyakakvo dvizhenie na blgari ot Aziya prez 5 vek, to te sa se prisedinili km drugite blgari na Balkanite! Pomacite sa blgari-trakiyci,prieli islyama prez 16/17 vek!

Много е лошо...

Mnogo e losho da ne znaesh kakv si i da si izmislyash kakvi li ne teorii, za da poluchish identichnost. Taka stoyat neshchata s pomacite! Zashchoto edni kazvat, che sa s blgarski proizhod, drugi che sa s turski, a treti - s arabski (izvnzemen).

Така е - помаците говорищи български са българи.

Mozhe bi malko hora znayat , che samite turci v hronikite si govoryat za myusyulmani balgari. Zashcho sa zabravya tova?

POMAKS MUST BE A DISTINCT GROUP

"Its ongoing refusal to recognize Pomaks as a distinct group remains grounded in insistence on Slavic ethnic homogeneity as Bulgarians." Pomaks are not homogeneous with the rest of Bulgarians! Simply because they speak Bulgarian does not mean that they are of the same ethnic and cultural origin as the majority of Bulgarians! Pomaks speak their own dialect, have their own cultural background and traditions, and as such they have the right of being recognized as a distinct group.

What about the christian-ortodox inhabitants of the Rhodope

What about the Christian-Orthodox inhabitants of the Rhodope mountain who speak the same Slavic dialect are they same extraterrestrial aliens landed by some nationalist Bulgarian UFO.

За езиците на този сайт

{Do Pletena 01/07/2010 - 19:56} Pomaci ima ne samo v Blgariya: pomashkiya etnos e i v Turciya, Grciya, bivsha Yugoslaviya, Albaniya... (Dori da govorim i samo za blgarskite pomaci, prinudeni ot varvarskite politicheski rezhimi na Blgariya da se izselyat i zhiveyat v teritorii na ssedni strani.) Zatova e redno tozi sayt da e i na drugi ezici, osven na blgarski. Hubavo e obache da ima cyalosten prevod na sayta na sotvetniya ezik: molya szdatelite na sayta, napravete cyalostni prevodi - primerno foruma v momenta e samo na turski ezik, ima prevodi za tozi vid forum i na blgarski, angliyski, grcki...

Pomatsite?!?

V BG tvardyat 4e pomatsite bili bulgari prieli islyama,v tursiya 4e bili turtsi oba4e zabravili ezika,a v gartsiya 4e bili gartsi i t.n.,ostave te horata da se samoopredelyat sami!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Nali tova e demokratisyata,az imam mnogo priyateli pomatsi,dori nai dobrite mi priyateli sa takiva,ni6to lo6o ne moga da kaja za tyah................

Pomacite i Ahmacite !

De, povecheto ot NePomacite da misleha kato teb, to jivota im shteshe da bude lesen i kato pesen!

descendants of Bulgarian Christians

Complete nonsense the Pomak were Muslim long before the Ottomans arrived to the Balkans. Is there a way to stop the Bulgarian propaganda machine? When the Pomaks inhabited the Rhodopes the Slavs were very far from Bulgaria and were yet to migrate to those areas.

You are talking complete

You are talking complete nonsense. The Bulgarians came to this territory long before the Islam was 'created' by Muhamad in the first half of the 7th century AD. The Slavs inhabited Bulgaria since the end of the 5th century. The religion of both tribes (Bulgarians and Slavs) was pagan until th 9th century AD when Bulgaria converted to Christianity. The first muslims in Bulgaria date from the 15th century AD. All these facts are indisputable and easily checkable.

Stanislav

This is bulshit! In Bulgaria were not any muslims before turkish invasion. "the Pomak were Muslim long before the Ottomans arrived to the Balkans" - this are shameless turkish lies!!!

Complete nonsense

Complete nonsense the Pomak were Muslim long before the Ottomans arrived to the Balkans. Is there a way to stop the Bulgarian propaganda machine? When the Pomaks inhabited the Rhodopes the Slavs were very far from Bulgaria and were yet to migrate to those areas. It is complete nonsense, that Pomaks were Muslim long before the Ottomans arrived to the Balkans. First of all, the name "Pomak" become since 1880 year, not before or soon after Ottomans invasia. The second, there is so many documents, ottomans including, (click here for example: http://www.edliny.com/smf/index.php?topic=364.0) who very detailly describe the process of islamization on the Balkans. Were is absolutely clear, that this was a slow, very offenly forsed process, as a result of Central Ottoman Policy to convert Balkan people in to islam on quantity, that Ottoman autority feel comfort for him selfe, because of security reasons. And, the third: if you talk about "Slavs", please, try to explain the following questions: - Who are Slavs and who from the ancient chronists first was mentioned or presence of Slavs people (exactly with this name): in which year, in wich chronic? - Who are Thraks, and do they are something different from Ancient Bulgarians? Ancient chronists believe, that those are the same people. Click here for details: http://www.edliny.com/smf/index.php?topic=37.0 - Who are ancient Biulgarians, and do they come to the Balkan's peninsula with Asparukh firstly, or they come a senturies earlier, or they was on the Balkans since milleniums? Click here for details: http://www.edliny.com/smf/index.php?topic=37.msg203#msg203 Try to give a answer to these questions, and with good sources, prouvs and narrated sources prefferably, and your theory, that Pomaks was muslims even before Ottomans invasion, will dissapear.

Pomaks

Well there are many documents and academical research from porminent sources stating that forced Islamization has not been evident during the Ottoman Empire, to the contrary most monesteries and churches were actually build in Bulgarian during Ottoman Turkish rule. The Ottoman Millet based system allowed freedom of religon and wide freedoms for it subjects with the main prerequisite being that taxes are paid on time. Adoption of Islam for personal benefit or other reasons has been voluntary and in Bulgaria involed mainly the higher nobility class (matter of convinience). Islamic missionaries were active in Bulgaria already durig the 9th century, also mentioned in a letter by the Pope at that time. Pomak is a reference to a ethnic group inhabiting the area of the Rhodopes for a millenia...the origin of the Pomaks has been investigated down to DNA level and are quite far from the current ethnic Bulgarian population. And no the Pomaks did not sell their religion and kept their language and No the Gagauz did not sell their language and kept their religion (Buglarian mumbo jumbo ala State Security historical department) BTW Proto-Bulgarians have not left much traces on the current Bulgarian population, who are completely Slavisized with no cultural or linguistic links to the Turkic Proto-Bulgarians. Thracians are Bulgarian? no wonder Bulgarian history is such a mess, you write it as you go.

Martin Hurricane Kitschukov

Na blgarski: Ne sm mnogo siguren ot kde si i kde zhiveesh, bi li go obyavil tova? Taka, ako nasilstvenata islyamizaciya ne se e sluchvala (kakto tvrdish), kakvo mislish za enicharite? I te li sa fashlivi ili bebetata dobrovolno se poislyamili. Nyamam predrazsdci km islyama, privetstvam go kato religiya na tezi blgari, no protiv turci imam mnogo protiv, ako shche i hristiyani da sa. Da zhivey obedinena Blgariya! I am not quite aware of your nationality and residence, would you care to declare it? So if the so-called forced islamization never happened, what do you think of the Janissary? Are those fake too, or the babies were voluntary converts? And relax, there is no such thing as a "Slav". I have no prejudice against Islam, I greet the Bulgarians who follow it, but I really hate turks, even if christian. Long live united Bulgaria.

Abe za kaki bebeta govori6 ta

Abe za kaki bebeta govori6 ta te sa bili mejdu 14 i 20 godi6ni hlapeta i sled dylgo obu4enie stavat eni4eri bez pokolenie razbirase.

Плетена

Mnogo mi e interesno zashcho sayta e osnovno na turski ezik, sled kato se znae che na pomacite i turcite samo religiyata im e obshcha. Ss sshchiya uspeh mozhehte da go napravite ili na albanski, ili na arabski ili na malayziyski. Pomacite sa slavyani, prieli islyama. Tova ne gi pravi otdelen etnos ot etnosa, koyto e zapazil religiyata si. Myusyulmani amerikanci ima, no nikoy ne gi razgezhlda kato neshcho otdelno, proizlyalo ot Lunata, ot Sahara ili Marianskata padina. Ezika na pomacite si e ezik na etnosa, km koyto prinadlezhat i tova e fakt, koyto ne mozhe da se preskochi. Tryabva chovek da e mnogo neobrazovan za da smyata che religita e svrzana s etnosa. A tiya vremenna veche svrshiha....