Armenians in Bulgaria

Armenians in Bulgaria

Armenians ( _bg. арменци, "armentsi") are the fourth largest minority in Bulgaria, numbering 10,832 according to the 2001 census, [cite web | year = 2001 | url = | title = Population as of 1 March 2001 divided by provinces and ethnic group | publisher = National Statistical Institute | language = Bulgarian | accessdate = 2006-07-10 ] while Armenian organizations estimate up to 22,000.cite web | url = | title = Website of the Armenian community in Bulgaria | accessdate = 2006-07-10 | language = Bulgarian ] They have been inhabiting the Balkans (including the territory of modern Bulgaria) since no later than the 5th century, when they moved there as part of the Byzantine cavalry. The main centres of the Armenian community in the country are the major cities Plovdiv (3,140 Armenians in Plovdiv Province), Varna (2,240 in Varna Province), Sofia (1,672) and Burgas (904 in Burgas Province).

The traditional language of the community is Western Armenian, though due to education during the Communist period in Bulgaria being in Eastern Armenian, many are also fluent in the latter dialect. Bulgarian, being the official language, is spoken by almost all Armenians in the country.


The Armenians that settled between the 6th and the 11th century in the Rhodopes, Thrace and Macedonia were several thousand in number and were mostly Paulicians and Tondrakians. They had very strong ties and influenced the Bulgarian sect of the Bogomils and were later assimilated into it, Bulgarianized and later converted to Roman Catholicism ("see Roman Catholicism in Bulgaria") or Islam ("see Pomaks"). The mother of 11th-century Bulgarian tsar Samuil was the daughter of the Armenian king, Ashot II and 10th-century Tsar Peter I's wife was the granddaughter of Byzantine emperor of Armenian origin Romanos I Lekapenos, Maria. Another Byzantine emperor—Basil I, the founder of the Macedonian dynasty and an Armenian from Thrace—spent his early years as a captive in the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century.

After both Bulgaria and Armenia were conquered by the Ottoman Empire, many Armenian settlers from Armenia, Crimea, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Asia Minor arrived in what is now Bulgaria due to internal migration. Those coming from Armenia were forced to seek a new homeland because of their country's devastation by Arabs, Persians, and Turks.cite web | url = | title = Armenians | accessdate = 2006-07-10 | publisher = | language = Bulgarian] With Bulgaria gaining autonomy in the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, many Armenians fled the Ottoman Empire because of the Hamidian massacres in the 1890s and settled in the country, particularly in the major cities of Plovdiv and Varna. In 1878, there were 5,300 Armenians in the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia, and this number increased by almost 20,000 after the Hamidian massacres.

At the time of the Balkan Wars (1912–1913) the Armenians in Bulgaria were about 35,000. During this time the legendary Armenian national hero, Andranik Ozanian participated in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, within the Bulgarian army, alongside general Garegin Njdeh (another national hero) as a commander of Armenian auxiliary troops. Bulgarian authorities honored him by the "Cross of Bravery" [(in Russian) Андраник Озанян: Документы и материалы, Ереван, 1991.] .After the events surrounding the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire (1915–1917) 22,000 sought refuge in the country during the government of Aleksandar Stamboliyski in 1922.

During the Communist rule of Bulgaria (1945–1989) and the times of the Soviet Union, most of the Armenians returned to their homeland, then the Armenian SSR, but many also chose to stay in their new homeland or emigrate to other countries like the United States. The dissolution of the USSR, the poor economic and life conditions in Armenia and the military conflicts in the Caucasus also forced a number of Armenians to seek a better future in Bulgaria as emigrants in the 1990s or as a transit route to western Europe or the United States.

Culture, religion and media

The Armenians and their historical faith were an inspiration for noted Bulgarian poet Peyo Yavorov to write one of his most recognizable works, the poem " [ Armentsi] " ("Armenians"), describing the Armenians as 'forlorn exiles, a miserable fragment; of an ever-brave martyr-people; little children of a troubled slavewoman-mother; and victims of a legendarily great feat':

Изгнаници клети, отломка нищожна
от винаги храбър народ мъченик,
дечица на майка робиня тревожна
и жертви на подвиг чутовно велик –
далеч от родина, в край чужди събрани,
изпити и бледни, в порутен бордей,
те пият, а тънат сърцата им в рани,
и пеят, тъй както през сълзи се пей.

Three Armenian newspapers are published in Bulgaria, "Armentsi", issued in Burgas every fortnight with a circulation of 3,500, the weekly "Vahan" issued in Plovdiv with a circulation of 1,000, and the weekly "Erevan" issued in Sofia.

There are a total of ten Armenian Apostolic churches and two chapels in twelve cities, mostly in the urban centres with a significant Armenian population, with boards of trustees in Aytos, Burgas, Pazardzhik, Rousse, Shumen, Sliven, Stara Zagora, Varna and Yambol. All churches are organized in an eparchy based in Sofia. The Armenian Evangelical Church in Bulgaria is located in Plovdiv.

Notable Bulgarian Armenians

* Haygashod Agasyan, composer
* Armen Ambartsumyan, footballer (goalkeeper) and Armenia international
* Antranik Arabadzhiyan, better known as Astor, illusionist
* Michael Arlen, writer
* Artine Artinian, French literature scholar
* Krikor Azaryan, film director
* Yuliya Berberyan, tennis coach and UDF deputy
* Steven Derounian, American congressman from New York
* Eduard Eranosyan, footballer and manager
* Magardich Halvadzhiyan, film director and producer
* Vili Kazasyan, composer and conductor
* Kevork Kevorkyan, TV host
* Kirkor Kirkorov, amateur boxer
* Agop Melkonyan, journalist and prolific SciFi author
* Melkon Melkonian, Vice President of the Bulgarian Supreme Court
* Armen Nazarian, Greco-Roman wrestler (naturalized)
* Norair Nurikian, weightlifter
* Dikran Tebeyan, official in the Ministry of Labor and Social Security
* Sylvie Vartan, French pop singer and music hall impressario

Partially Armenian

* Samuil, Tsar of Bulgaria
* Gavril Radomir, Tsar of Bulgaria (Samuil's son)
* Peter Delyan, Tsar of Bulgaria (possibly Samuil's grandson)
* Katerina Maleeva, tennis player
* Magdalena Maleeva, tennis player
* Manuela Maleeva, tennis player
* Alice Panikian, Miss Universe Canada 2006




External links

* [ Official website of the Armenian community in Bulgaria]
* [ Bulgaria-Armenia article on]

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