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Bulgaria Table of Contents

Bulgaria

Pomaks

Pomaks--a term that loosely translates as collaborators- -were the descendants of ethnic Bulgarians who accepted the Islamic faith during Ottoman rule, mostly between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1990 about 150,000 Pomaks lived in mountain villages in southern and southwestern Bulgaria. They were chiefly employed in agriculture, forestry, and mining. Because of their relative isolation in the mountains, the Pomaks did not become ethnically mixed with their coreligionist Turks during the occupation, and they largely retained their Slavic physical features. Because the Ottoman Turks showed little interest in Pomak lands, and because the Pomaks were converted rather late, most of their traditional Bulgarian customs remained intact. Thus, for example, the Pomaks never learned to speak Turkish. The Bulgarian government always considered the Pomaks as Bulgarians rather than as a separate minority.

As a result of the 1972-73 assimilation campaign, about 550 Pomaks were arrested and imprisoned at Belene in north central Bulgaria and in Stara Zagora. Unrest flared in 1989 when Pomaks from the Gotse Delchev area in southwest Bulgaria were refused passports that would have enabled them to emigrate with the Turks. Some Pomaks in southwest Bulgaria were subjected to a second name change because the names they received the first time were not definitely Bulgarian. Riots, work stoppages, and hunger strikes ensued. According to reports from the Plovdiv region, local officials banned public gatherings of more than three Pomaks and forbade residents to leave their villages.

Data as of June 1992