Infobox Ethnic group
group=Pomaks Помаци (българи мюсюлмани)

poptime=500,000 est. (2002) [K. Gözler, " [http://www.anayasa.gen.tr/pomaks-draganova.htm Les villages Pomaks de Lofça] ", (2002)]

popplace=Flagicon|Bulgaria Bulgaria:
150–200,000 [A. Popovic, "Pomaks", in "Encyclopaedia of Islam"]
Flagicon|Greece Greece:
30,000 (1981) [H. Poulton, "The Balkans, Minorities and Governments in Conflict", (1993)] - 35,000 [ [http://www.hri.org/MFA/foreign/musmingr.htm Μουσουλμανικη Μειονοτητα Θρακησ ] ]
Flagicon|Turkey Turkey:
300,000 (2001) [Ethnologue, [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=TRE "Languages of Turkey (Europe)"] ]

langs=various closely related dialects of Bulgarian, Turkish
rels=Islam, Atheism
related=other Bulgarians, Torbesh, Gorani

The Pomaks (Bulgarian: Помаци, "Pomatsi";
Greek: Πομάκοι, "Pomaki"; Turkish: "Pomaklar")"The analysis of all sources about Mohammedan Bulgarians gives us ground to admit that the name Pomaks was initially used in a much narrower area. Its center must have been to the north of the Balkan Range, where it was probably born... But it didn't reach the Middle and Southern Rhodope region, where the local name Ahryani was preserved." Raichevsky 2004, p.136] or Muslim Bulgarians (българи мюсюлмани, "bălgari mjusjulmani"), also known locally as "Ahryani" (Bulgarian: Ахряни) ["Ahryani is the byname and self-appelation of the Mohammedan Bulgarians of the Rhodope region and Aegean Thrace.The greatest student of the Rhodope Mohammedan Bulgarians Stoyu Shishkov particularly stresses that the Christian Bulgarians in the Rhodope region never call their Muslim brothers and neighbors "Pomaks". They always call them "Ahryani"." Raichevsky 2004, p.130] , are an Islamized Slavic population of the Rhodope region, as well as some villages around Teteven in the central Balkan Mountains region. Their origins are obscure, [F. De Jong, "The Muslim Minority in Western Thrace", (1980), p. 95] but they are generally believed to be Bulgarians who converted to Islam during the period of Ottoman rule in the Balkans. ["Only one thing is indisputable — that the name Pomak has originated on Bulgarian territory. In Turkish historical literatureit appears after 1878, i.e., after the arrival of the Muslim refugees from Bulgaria. It does not appear among the namesin the tax registers for donations or other documents about Bulgarian territories during the Ottoman period. It does not exist in Greek too. In contemporary Greek historiography it appears after WW II..." Raichevsky 2004, p.136]

The term can also be occasionally used to refer to the Torbesh - Slavonic Muslims in Macedonia. Pomaks are settled mainly in Bulgaria, but relevant presences exist also in Greece, Turkey and the Republic of Macedonia.


Etymology of Pomak

The origin of the term "Pomak" is uncertain. For the Bulgarian scholars the term could derive either from the Bulgarian word "pomagach" (помагач), meaning "helper" (the most commonly accepted interpretation)"Today [in 2004] we still cannot answer convincingly the following rhetorical question:"What is the origin of the name Pomak?",asked in the 1930s by the person who knows best the Mohammedan Bulgarians — Stoyu Shishkov.Instead of an answer he only gives the most popular opinion about the origin of the word Pomak — that it comes from pomagach 'helper'.But this explanation was given by Georgi S. Rakovsky in Forest traveler in 1857. These were, according to him, Bulgarian soldierswho helped the Ottoman Turks in their invasions and after that." Raichevsky 2004] rp|136-37Ibid.] , referring to their role as auxiliary units of the Ottoman army; or from "pomohamedancheni" (помохамеданчени), which means "Islamized".

Some Greek scholars claim that Pomak comes from the Greek "pomax", meaning "drinker" an opinion which is based on the habit of ancient Thracians to drink a lot.Fact|date=August 2008

Etymology of Ahryani

The number of possible meanings of the word Ahryani (Ахряни) is very great indeed.

One of the interesting aspects of the name is the very richness of possibilities of meaning associated with it.

*1 Alexander Teodorov Balan considers Ahryani most probably to be derived from the old district name Ahu-chelebi (Smolyan) [Raichevsky 2004, p.132.]

It is suggested it comes from the Old Church Slavonic "Agarjani", meaning "infidels", but it might actually derive from the para-religious Muslim brethren of the "Ahi", very diffuse in the Rhodopes in the Ottoman period, as supposed by the Bulgarian scholar A. Ishirkov. Other versions still derive it from "po măka" (по мъка), that is "by pain", referring to an alleged forced conversion to Islam; or "poturnyak", literally "one made a Turk". None of these etymologies appear to be trustworthy.M. Apostolov, "The Pomaks: A Religious Minority in The Balkans", (1996)] A. Popovic, ibid.]

It is also believed that Ahryani would derive from the name of a supposedly Thracian tribe, the "Agrianoi". [A. Popović, ibid.; T. Seyppel, "Pomaks in Northeastern Greece: An Endangered Balkan Population", (1989), p. 47-8; "A Country Study: Bulgaria", "Pomaks"; M. Apostolov, "The Pomaks: A Religious Minority in The Balkans", (1996)]

Etymology of Torbeshi

The Muslim Bulgarians in Western and North Western Macedonia have been accustomed to call themselves Torbeshi [Raichevsky 2004, 138-39] , especially around the districts of Shar, [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debar Debar] , [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skopje Skopie] , [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kičevo Kichevo] , and so on.

It seems that the Torbeshi have been associated with the [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogomilism Bogomils] [Raichevsky 2004, 139] .

Conversion to Islam

Little is known for certain of the conversion of the Pomaks to Islam; what appears certain is that it was gradual and took place in different periods. The first contacts of Islam with the Balkan nations is reported to have occurred in the 7th and 8th centuries, though it is not known for certain whether any Pomaks converted to Islam at that time [ [http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/6875/nexhat.html Islam’s first contacts with the Balkan nations] ] . A first important wave of conversions took place when, in the second half of the 14th century, the Ottomans conquered Bulgaria; many landholders are reported to have converted as a means to keep the possession of their lands. Other conversions took place under the Sultan Selim II (1512–20), but most important was the 17th century, when the Rhodopes passed to the Muslim faith. Pomak presence further gained strength through the 18th century, while the last waves of conversions in the Balkans took place in the early 19th century.

These conversions were often believed until the early 20th century to have been made under compulsion, a belief that modern historians have discredited observing that Ottoman authorities rarely took measures to promote Islamization, and believe the Pomaks' conversion to have been voluntary. However, as dhimmis (non-Muslims under Muslim rule) they would have been under social and political disadvantages, notably the payment of extra taxes, which disappeared upon conversion to Islam. Official Bulgarian historiography instead has long claimed their conversion to have been forced against their fiercest resistance; this was seen as a mean to salvage the idea that all Bulgarians had been united in opposing the "Turkish yoke". This way the perfect "Bulgarianness" ("bălgarshtina") of the Pomaks could be preserved, coining the official ethonym "Bulgarian Mohammedans" ("bălgaromohamedani"). An example of this sort of positions was expressed in 1989 by the nationalist historian Andrey Pechilkov: "After adopting Islam under the most terrible and harshest circumstances they (i.e. the Bulgarian Muslims) — people whose mind is full of tragedy, but who are hard as stones - did keep their beautiful Bulgarian language, their old Slavic traditions, their pure national character, despite brutal pressure and persecution throughout centuries." [U. Brunnbauer, " [http://www-gewi.kfunigraz.ac.at/csbsc/ulf/pomak_identities.htm Histories and Identities: Nation-state and Minority Discourses — The Case of the Bulgarian Pomaks] "]

Up to the Balkan Wars

With the end of the process of conversion the Pomaks (and the Torbesh) found themselves concentrated in the Rhodopes, but with important settlements in eastern Macedonia and on the Danube districts, where they could be found centered around Lovech, Pleven and Oryahovo. The Pomaks in the Rhodopes appear then to have benefited from a large measure of autonomy, with an agha, a hereditary chieftain, governing from the mountain village of Tamrash. The agha in 1890 also had a permanent ambassador at Plovdiv that provided visitors with a special visa to the territory controlled by the Rhodope Pomaks. [S. Bonsal, "Bulgaria, 1890" in " [http://hungarian-history.hu/lib/balkan/balkan.pdf Balkan Reader] "] The Czech historian Konstantin Jireček estimated at the turn of the 19th century that Torbesh and Pomaks were no less than half a million, even if Turkish sources reduce this number to 200,000.

But the situation started changing rapidly with the rising discontent among the Christian Bulgarian population regards Ottoman rule; this eventually brought in 1876 to the April Uprising. and the Pomaks found themselves in a difficult position, for their being Bulgarians, and as such near the rebels, and Muslims, and as such close to the Turks. At the end, the absence of a clear distinction between faith and nationality and their being perceived by the local Christians like Turks, brought them to side with the Bashi-bazouks in ruthlessly suppressing the revolt. [A. Popovic. ibid.] Pomak auxiliaries played a leading role in the massacres of Batak and Perushtitsa, among the worst made during the quelling of the uprising. [U. Brunnbauer, Ibid.]

The quelling of the uprising and the reaction among the European public opinion against the Bashi-bazouks and "the free actions of the Pomaks"; [W. E. Gladstone, "Lessons in Massacre", (1877), p. 55] reaction was especially strong in Russia, bringing to the Russo-Turkish War (1877–8), with the formation of an independent kingdom of Bulgaria. The 1876 massacres brought during the war to harsh retalions from the Christian peasants and the advancing Russian army, with many Muslims killed and a substantial part of the Pomaks emigrating to the confines of the Ottoman empire, partly forced, partly refusing to live under the rule of the "giaurs" (i.e. infidels). Most hit were the Danube districts, that since the siege of Pleven, almost all Pomaks fled. [A. Popovic, ibid; M. Todorova, " [http://www.tu-dresden.de/phfis/bev/ethnic%20conflict/TODAROVA.doc Identity (trans)formation among Bulgarian Muslims] "] Many returned in 1880, but most, finding it impossible to regain what they had lost during the war, began to emigrate to Anatolia. Migrations like this was in time to reduce by 1926 the number of Pomaks in Bulgaria to a third. [S. Ansari, "Muhajir" in "Encyclopaedia of Islam"]

After the treaty of San Stefano in 1878 ended the war, many Pomaks took part to the "Rhodope mutiny", an organized counterattack of the Ottoman armed forces and the Muslim population of the Rhodopes, led by the former British consul in Varna and Burgas and volunteer officer in the Ottoman army with the active support of the British embassy in Constantinople. Much of the Rhodope region was to be included in the autonomous Ottoman province of Eastern Rumelia, to be governed by a Christian Governor-General; to this prospective twenty Pomak villages rebelled, forming the so-called "Pomak republic". The republic ceased to exist in 1886, a year after the unification of Eastern Rumelia with the kingdom of Bulgaria; the Pomaks' main reason to revolt had ceased, since the demarcation of the southern borders of Bulgaria left these villages in Ottoman territory.M. Todorova, ibid.]

The Unification of Bulgaria in 1885 brought to a new wave of migration among the Pomaks. As to the early behaviour of the Bulgarian government, in general it can be said that there were no attempts to assimilate the Pomaks, who were treated as indistinguishable from the larger Muslim group. This is proven by the census kept in 1880, 1885 and 1888, all of which counted the Pomaks with Turks. It was only in the 1905 census that a separate heading for the Bulgarian Muslims was made, under the voice "Pomaks".

One of the worst moments for the Pomaks came with the start of the Balkan Wars, when Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia united against the Ottoman Empire in 1912. In October, almost simultaneously with the start of the war, the Bulgarian government subjected the Rhodope Pomaks to a wave of forced conversions. The action, known as "Pokrustvane" (meaning both "Christianisation" and "baptism"), affected 150,000 Pomaks, in an operation directed by a special state committee; in theory voluntary baptism should have been carried out by the Bulgarian Church, but in truth a key role was played by the local administration supported by the army and the insurgent bands, a fact that brought to bloody pogroms against the Pomaks in many villages. [E. Marushiakova & V. Popov, [http://www.emz-berlin.de/projekte_e/pj41_pdf/Marushiakova.pdf "Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria"] ; "Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars", (1914), [http://knigite.abv.bg/en/carnegie/chapter2_1.html ch. 2] ]

Brutal force and intimidation were applied to convert the people. Active part in the violence took the members of extremist political formations, such as the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO), whose regiments were sent in Drama region to forcefully Christianise the Pomaks. Muslims were also intimidated into conversion through promises to have their relatives released. But even worse was that the Pomak population was abandoned at the mercy of the army. Together with it, ordinary citizens participated to the "Pokrustvane" campaign as well. While the authorities were intent with Bulgarianising the Pomaks, they ignored their most essential needs—to feed, dress, and shelter them. As a result of the plundering and burning their homes during the "Pokrustvane" operation, the converts were left bare, starving and destitute. [ [http://www.bghelsinki.org/special/en/2003_Shadowrep_FCNM.doc "Bulgarian Helsinki Committee — Alternative Report"] (2003)]

Following the Bulgarian defeat in the war, for both external (the peace negotiations with the Ottoman Empire on the status of Western Thrace) and internal (the upcoming parliamentary elections) reasons the government decided in autumn 1913 to reverse the policy of forced conversion and permitted the Pomaks to resume their former names, a thing they promptly did. [E. Marushiakova & V. Popov, ibid.] The unsuccess of the policy of forced conversion had already been glimpsed a few months before, when the short-lived Republic of Gumuljina was created in Western Thrace with the retreat of both Bulgarian and Ottoman forces; the Pomaks in the area had taken advantage of the situation to reconvert to Islam. [ [http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/english/reports/pomaks.html Greek Helsinki Monitor — Pomaks] ]


In World War I, Bulgaria sided with the Central Powers, while Greece allied itself with the Triple Entente. The latter's victory brought in 1919 to the treaty of Neuilly, under which Bulgaria ceded Western Thrace to Greece. Pomaks there have received status as part of the wider Muslim minority.


Today the Pomaks are present in Turkey in both Eastern Thrace, where they have long been present, and in Anatolia, where they have started migrating since the independence of Bulgaria in 1878, but were not previously present. Major waves of Pomaks arrived from the Rhodopes in 1912, 1950–51 and 1989. Since their settlement in Anatolia they have mostly lost their language, and, together with the local Pomaks in Eastern Thrace, were assimilated to the Turks. [M. Apostolov, ibid.]

This does not mean that the Pomaks have become completely indistinct from the rest of the Turks; and it appears they are politically well-organized. This is has partly expressed itself through associations of emigrants, like the Culture and Solidarity Association of the Rhodope Turks, a relatively well known if small organization founded by Pomaks before the 1980s; it later merged itself with a similar association of Danubian Turks to form the Culture and Solidarity Association of Rodope-Denube Turks. [M. Apostolov, ibid.; N. Ekici, [http://www.emz-berlin.de/projekte_e/pj41_pdf/ekici.pdf "The Diaspora of the Turks of Bulgaria"] ] It is also claimed that Kurdish immigrants settling in Eastern Thrace have brought the Pomaks and Bulgarian Turks living there to become more conscious of their identities. [G.M. Winrow & K. Kirisci, "The Kurdish Question and Turkey", (1997), p. 133]

More important still are the links that connect the Pomak villages in the Rhodopes with their twin villages in Anatolia; the Pomaks who leave Bulgaria often direct themselves to villages inhabited by his kin and friends, that can offer him security. These twin villages are often united by direct lines run by private bus companies. [Y. Konstantinov, "Strategies for Sustaining a Vulnerable Identity" in H. Poulton (ed.), "Muslim Identity and the Balkan State", (1997), p. 51]

Differently from Bulgaria, where the Pomaks are reluctant to leave their mountain villages, in Turkey the Pomaks have largely settled in urban areas, notwithstanding past attempts by the authorities to settle them in Anatolian villages. In Yulian Konstantinov's view, this different behaviour should be seen in the light of shifting perceptions of security and insecurity: while Bulgaria is perceived as "insecure", Turkey is instead felt "secure" by the Pomaks. [Y. Konstantinov & Andrei Simić, [http://condor.depaul.edu/~rrotenbe/aeer/v19n2/Simic.pdf "Bulgaria: The Quest for Security"] in "The Anthropology of East Europe Review", (2003)]

Coming to the number of Bulgarian-speaking Muslims in Turkey, it is claimed by Ethnologue that they are 300,000 at present. [Ethnologue, "Languages of Turkey (Europe)"] The last linguistic census held in Turkey since 1965 recorded 27,226 people whose mother language was Bulgarian; but this number is almost certainly an undercount. [S. Ansari, "Muhajir"]

Regards the Pomaks, its history and identity has been subjected to reinterpretation by the Turks, following the models of appropriation and reinterpretation created among Bulgarians and Greeks. In this view, the Pomaks are really "mountain Turks", descendant of the Turkic peoples that entered the Balkans in the Middle Ages, such as the Avars, Bulgars, and, especially, the Cumans. As for the language, it is claimed that it is a Turkish dialect, very close to Anotolian vernacular dialects, in which 65% of the words are Turkish and only 25% Slavic. Regarding their conversion, it is held that the Cumans living in the Rhodopes came into contact with Muslim missionaries from North Africa and the Middle East and converted to Islam before the arrival of the Ottomans. Works supporting these arguments, while clearly on the outside margins of scholarship, are widely used as political propaganda. [M. Todorova, ibid.; M. Apostolov, ibid.; M. Koinova, [http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/pdf/old_cedime-se-bulgaria-muslims.PDF "Muslims of Bulgaria"] ]

ee also

*Islam in Bulgaria
*Bulgarian Muslims
*Veda Slovena
* Republic of Tamrash (the first state of the Pomaks)
* Republic of Gumuljina (the second state of the Pomaks together with Turks)
*Greek Muslim minority
*Minorities in Greece
*Macedonian Muslims
*Filibeli Hafız Ahmed Pasha (Pomak who became Grand Vizier of Ottoman Empire)
*Ahmet Şefik Mithat Pasha


External links

* [http://features.us.reuters.com/cover/news/031A9814-D500-11DC-A5E9-6E9F15A4.html Pomaks Today] - REUTERS 2008
* [http://www.bghelsinki.org/special/en/2003_Shadowrep_FCNM.doc Bulgarian Helsinki Committee]
* [http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/pdf/cedime-se-macedonia-muslims.PDF Center for Documentation and Information on Minorities in Europe — Southeast Europe (CEDIME-SE)]
* [http://www.pomak.eu Pomak.eu - The voice of Pomaks]
* [http://www.pomaknet.org www.pomaknet.org - Voice of Pomaks]
* [http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/english/reports/pomaks.html The Pomaks]
* [http://www.armory.com/~thrace/pomak.htm Pomak Information Exchange — Culture, People and Language]
* [http://www.ce-review.org/01/19/jacobs19.html A History of Oppression — The plight of the Bulgarian Pomaks]
* [http://www.ecmi.de/jemie/download/JEMIE01Dimitrov10-07-01.pdf In Search of a Homogeneous Nation: The Assimilation of Bulgaria's Turkish Minority, 1984–1985]


  1. cite book | last = Raichevsky | first = Stoyan | authorlink = | coauthors = Maya Pencheva (translator) | title = The Mohammedan Bulgarians (Pomaks) | publisher = Bulgarian Bestseller — National Museum of Bulgarian Books and Polygraphy | date = 2004 | location = Sofia, Bulgaria | pages = | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 9549308413


* D. Hupchik, The Bulgarians in the 17th Century: A Slavonic Christian Culture under Foreign Domination, Ann Arbor (MI), 1986, pp. 39-52.
* Seyppel, Tatjana. 1989. "The Pomaks of Northwestern Greece: an endangered Balkan population," Journal, Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, 10,1 (1989), pp. 41-49.
* Христов, Хр., А. Караманджуков, Дружба “Родина” и възрожденското движение в Родопа (1937-1947). С. 1995.
* Evangelos Karagiannis, Zur Ethnizität der Pomaken Bulgariens, Münster, 1997 (Spektrum, 51).
* Райчевски, Стоян. Българите мохамедани. С., УИ, 1998
* Kucukcan, Talip. "Re-claiming identity: Ethnicity, religion and politics among Turkish-Muslimsin Bulgaria and Greece," Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 49,1 (1999), pp. 49-68.
* [http://www.oei-berlin.de/rezension.asp?ID=230&type=Rezensionen Review by Adamantios Skordos ("History and Culture of South Eastern Europe") 5, 2003. Articles from a conference held in Berlin.]
* Richard Clogg, ed., "Minorities in Greece: Aspects of a Plural Society", London, 2003. ISBN 1-850-65706-8.
* Sevasti Trubeta, "Minorisation" and "Ethnicisation" in Greek Society: Comparative Perspectives on Muslim Immigrants and the Thracian Muslim Minority", Jahrbuecher fuer Geschichte und Kultur Sьdosteuropas, 5 (2003), S. 95-112.
* Παναγιώτης Γ. Παπαδημητίου, Οι Πομάκοι της Ροδόπης. Από τις εθνοτικές σχέσεις στους Βαλκανικούς Εθνικισμούς (1870-1990). Θεσσαλoνίκη, Εκδ. Οίκος Αδελφών Κυριακίδη α.ε., 2003, 232 σελ.
* Груев, Михаил. Между петолъчката и полумесеца. Българите мюсюлмани и политическият режим (1944-1959). С., 2003.
* Domna Michail, From 'Locality' to 'European Identity': Shifting Identities among the Pomak Minority in Greece, Ethnologia Balkanica, vol. 7 (2004).
* Ива Кюркчиева, Българските мюсюлмани в Тетевенско, ИМИР, София, 2004 (Общи Балкани, 3)
* Владимир Арденски. Загаснали огнища. С., Ваньо Недков, 2005.
* Карахасан-Чънар, Ибрахим. Етническите малцинства в България. С., ЛИК, 2005, 121-144.
* Mary Neuburger, The Orient Within: Muslim Minorities and the Negotiation of Nationhood in Modern Bulgaria, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2004.
* Живко Сахатчиев. Якоруда - българската драма. С., Тангра ТанНакРа, 2007.

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