Greeks in Bulgaria (Bulgarian: гърци Gǎrci) constitute the eighth-largest ethnic minority in Bulgaria (Greek: Βουλγαρία Voulgaria). They number 1,356 according to the 2011 census.[1] They are estimated at around 25,000 by Greek organizations[2] and around 28,500 by the Greek government.[3] These larger estimates include the Sarakatsani community, the descendants of the post-WWII Greek emigrants, and other Greek citizens living in Bulgaria as students, businessmen, consorts etc. Today, Greeks mostly live in the large urban centres like Sofia and Plovdiv, but also in the coastal zone.

Ethnic map of Southeastern Europe from 1880 (Greeks in blue)
Ethnic map of Bulgaria according to the census results from 1892 (Greek minority areas in yellow)
Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George in Sofia, Bulgaria



Historically, the presence of a Greek population in what is today Bulgaria dates to the 7th century BC, when Milesians and Dorians founded thriving Greek colonies on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, often on the site of earlier Thracian settlements.[4] Maritime poleis like Nesebar (Μεσημβρία Mesembria), Sozopol (Απολλωνία Apollonia), Pomorie (Αγχίαλος Ankhialos) and Varna (Οδησσός Odessos)[4] controlled the trade routes in the western part of the Black Sea and often waged wars between each other.

Prior to the early 20th century, there was a small Greek minority in Southeastern Bulgaria, living largely between Varna to the north, Topolovgrad to the west and the Black Sea to the east, with a scattered rural population in the inland regions of the Strandzha and Sakar mountains.[2] The Greek-inhabited places in Strandzha and Sakar were the towns of Topolovgrad (Greek: Καβακλί, Kavakli) and Elhovo (Greek: Κιζίλ Αγάτς, Kizil Agats), and 10 villages in that area.[5] However, a large part of this population, the so-called Kariots (Greek: Καρυώτες),[6] is regarded by some ethnographers (including Konstantin Josef Jireček) as having been only Greek-identifying, but of Bulgarian origin.[7] Raymond Detrez deems this theory improbable, since the Kariots are a rural population.[8] Greek communities also existed in Plovdiv (Greek: Φιλιππούπολη, Filippoupoli), Sofia (Greek: Σόφια, Sofia), Asenovgrad (Greek: Στενήμαχος, Stenimachos), Haskovo (Greek: Χάσκοβο, Chaskovo), and Rousse (Greek: Ρούσε, Rouse), among others.[2] In 1900, the Greeks in Bulgaria numbered 33,650.[9]

Following the anti-Greek tensions in Bulgaria in 1906 and the Politis–Kalfov (1924) and Mollov–Kafantaris (1927) population exchange agreements after World War I, the bulk of the Greek-speaking population in Bulgaria was forced to leave for Greece and was substituted by Bulgarians from Western Thrace and Greek Macedonia.[10] Among the few exceptions were some of the Sarakatsani, mainly in Sliven (Greek: Σλίβεν, Sliven) and Kotel (Greek: Κότελ, Kotel), estimated at 4,107 in 2006[11] and a small group of Greek speakers with Bulgarian self-consciousness. This group, living in Suvorovo (Greek: Κοζλουτζά or Σουβόροβο, Kozloutza or Souvorovo), and two nearby villages, according to the Bulgarian ethnographer Anastas Angleov: "...They themselves used to say [to their Bulgarian-speaking neighbours]: We are Bulgarians, but we speak Greek...".[7]



From the 19th century the Greek communities on the coastal areas were thriving as they financed and maintained several religious and cultural buildings and institutions: churches, schools of all grades, libraries and press. Until the early 20th century, there were a total of 117 churches and 8 monasteries maintained by Greeks in Bulgarian territory, while a number of Greek dioceses were located in coastal cities and in particular in Pomorie, Varna, Nesebar and Sozopol.[12] The most prosperous communities were that of Varna, with seven Greek schools that hosted ca. 1,200–1,500 students in 1907, and of Plovdiv, with a total of eight schools. Among them, the Zariphios in Plovdiv, established at 1875, became one of the most well known Greek educational institutions of the region.[13]

Census data

A Greek tombstone from 1775 (Burgas Archaeological Museum)
Year Greek Population[14] Percentage of total
1881/1884 65,756 2.2
1887 58,326 1.85
1892 58,518 1.77
1900 70,887 1.89
1905 69,761 1.73
1910 50,886 1.17
1920 46,759 0.96
1926 10,564 0.19
1934 9,601 0.16
1956 7,437 0.10
1965 8.241 0.10
1992 4.930 0.06
2001 3,219 0.04
2011 1,356 0.02

Notable Greeks from Bulgaria


See also



  1. ^ Retrieved 2020-10-15. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ a b c Чернев, Черньо (2002-05-11). Гърците в България (Speech) (in Bulgarian). Burgas. Archived from the original on 2007-02-19. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  3. ^ "Bilateral relations between Greece and Bulgaria". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
  4. ^ a b "Траките" (in Bulgarian). България Травъл. Archived from the original on 2007-05-23. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  5. ^ Ангелов, Анастас (20 January 1997). "За кипренските "гърци"". Кипра— следи от миналото (in Bulgarian). Литернет. ISBN 0-471-34655-1. Retrieved 2007-02-20.
  6. ^ From Καραις, the Greek name of the once Kariot-inhabited village of Oreshnik, Haskovo Province, also known in Turkish as Kozluca.
  7. ^ a b Ангелов, Анастас (20 January 1997). "За кипренските "гърци"". Кипра— следи от миналото (in Bulgarian). Литернет. ISBN 0-471-34655-1. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-02-20.
  8. ^ Detrez, Raymond (2014). Historical Dictionary of Bulgaria (in German). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 272. ISBN 978-1-4422-4180-0. The origin is unclear: either they are Graecized Bulgarians, which is rather improbable, since they are a rural population...
  9. ^ "Етнически малцинствени общности" (in Bulgarian). Национален съвет за сътрудничество по етническите и демографските въпроси. Archived from the original on 2013-03-22. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  10. ^ Mintchev, Vesselin (October 1999). "External Migration... in Bulgaria". South-East Europe Review (3/99): 124. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-03-22. Retrieved 2007-02-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) p.4
  12. ^ Papakonstantinou, Katerina. "Greek populations at the Bulgarian shore of the Black Sea (18th - 20th century)". Εγκυκλοπαίδεια Μείζονος Ελληνισμού, Εύξεινος Πόντος. Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  13. ^ Cornis-Pope, Marcel; Neubauer, John (2006). History of the literary cultures of East-Central Europe: junctures and disjunctures in the 19th and 20th centuries. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 134. ISBN 978-90-272-3453-7.
  14. ^ Bulgaria, R. J. Crampton, 2007, p.424

Further reading

  • Daskalova-Zhelyazkova, Nevena (1989). Karioti (in Bulgarian). Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. OCLC 21482370.
  • Valchinova, Galya (1998). "Greek Population and Greek Ethnic Identity in Bulgaria. A Contribution to the History of an Unidentified Minority". Historical Future (in Bulgarian) (2).