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Religion in Bulgaria

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Title: Religion in Bulgaria  
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Religion in Bulgaria

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia is among the largest Eastern Orthodox churches in the world and the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria
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Bulgaria has been traditionally a Christian state since the adoption of Christianity as state religion in 865, and therefore the dominant confession is Eastern Orthodoxy of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. During the Ottoman rule of the Balkans, Sunni Islam established itself in the territories of Bulgaria, Roman Catholicism has roots in the country since the Middle Ages, and Protestantism arrived in the 19th century.

The Constitution of Bulgaria designates Orthodoxy as the "traditional" religion of the country, but guarantees the free exercise of religion.[1] Bulgaria has not experienced any significant ethnic or religious confrontation, unlike the case in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The religious communities in the country coexist peacefully.

In fact, the capital Sofia is known for its so-called Triangle of Religious Tolerance: the St Nedelya Church, Banya Bashi Mosque and Sofia Synagogue are located within metres of each other in the very centre of the city.


  • Distribution 1
  • Orthodox Christianity 2
  • Atheism 3
  • Islam 4
  • Catholic Christianity 5
  • Protestant Christianity 6
  • Armenian Apostolic Christianity 7
  • Judaism 8
  • Buddhism 9
  • Religious freedom 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


The results of the Bulgarian census of 2011, in which the indication of answer regarding the question for confession was optional, are as follows:[2]
Group Population Perc. of answered Perc. of population
Orthodoxy 4,374,135 76.0% 59.4%
Undeclared 1,606,269 - 21.8%
Atheism 682,162 11.8% 9.3%
Islam 577,139 10.0% 7.8%
Protestantism 64,476 1.1% 0.9%
Roman Catholicism 48,945 0.8% 0.7%
Oriental Orthodoxy 1,715 0.0% 0.0%
Jews 706 0.0% 0.0%
Others 9,023 0.2% 0.1%
Figure of percentage - 5,758,301 7,364,570
The results of the Bulgarian census of 2001 by ethnic groups, the latest census in which the indication of identification(whether by confession or as irreligious) in the question for confession was obligatory, are as follows:[3][4]
Ethnic groups
by confession
Total Bulgarians Turks Romani Others
Number % Number % Number % Number % Number %
Orthodoxy 6,552,751 82.6 6,315,938 94.9 5,425 0.7 180,326 48.6 51,062
Islam 966,978 12.2 131,531 2.0 713,024 95.5 103,436 27.9 18,987
Irreligion 308,116 3.9 151,008 2.3 23,146 3.1 59,669 16.1
Roman Catholicism 43,811 0.6 37,811 0.6 2,561 0.3
Protestantism 42,308 0.5 14,591 0.2 2,066 0.3 24,651 6.6 1,000
Others 14,937 0.2 4,331 0.1 442 0.1
Total population 7,928,901 100.0 6,655,210 100.0 746,664 100.0 370,908 100.0 100.0

Orthodox Christianity

By far the dominant religion in Bulgaria is the Orthodox Christianity, professed by the prevalent ethnic group, the Bulgarians, who are adherents of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Other Orthodox churches represented in the country by minorities are the Russian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Romanian Orthodox Church and Greek Orthodox Church.

Christianity was established in the First Bulgarian Empire under Boris I in the middle of the 9th century, although it has had its roots in the Balkans since the 1st century and the mission of Apostle Paul. The rise of the Bulgarian Empire made the Bulgarian Orthodox Church autocephalous in 919, becoming the first new Patriarchate to join the initial Pentarchy. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is the oldest among the Slavic Orthodox churches and has considerably influenced the rest of the Slavic Orthodox world by means of its rich literary and cultural activity in the Middle Ages, as well as by the invention of the Cyrillic script in Bulgaria.


Atheists make up an estimated 9 percent of the population of Bulgaria.


The 15th-century Banya Bashi Mosque, the last remaining active mosque in Sofia

Islam is the largest minority religion in Bulgaria. It is professed by the Turkish minority, the Muslim Bulgarians (Pomaks) and most of the Roma. The former two are concentrated in the Rhodopes, a massif in southern Bulgaria, but are present in clusters in other parts of the country, e.g. the Turks in the Ludogorie region and the Pomaks in the Rhodopes and some villages in northern Bulgaria.

Islam arrived with the Ottoman Turkish conquest of the Balkans in the 14th-15th century. Turkish notables settled in the larger cities (Plovdiv, Sofia, Varna, etc.), while peasants from Anatolia arrived in the Ludogorie and the Rhodopes. Many Orthodox Christians and Paulicians converted to Islam, often voluntarily due to the peculiarities of the Ottoman millet system, but sometimes forcefully. After the Liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 many of the Muslims left Bulgaria, but others chose to remain.

Today, Muslims form the majority in Kardzhali Province and Razgrad Province (mainly by Turks) and Smolyan Province (by Bulgarians).

Catholic Christianity

Rousse's Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Paul

Roman Catholicism has its roots in Bulgaria and the Middle Ages. It was spread among the Bulgarians by Bulgarianized Saxon ore miners in northwestern Bulgaria (around Chiprovtsi) and by missionaries among the Paulician and Bogomil sectarians, as well as by Ragusan merchants in the larger cities. The total number of the Roman Catholics in the country is around 40,000.

Today the bulk of the Roman Catholic population of Bulgaria lives in Plovdiv Province, centred on Rakovski, as well as in some villages in northern Bulgaria. The Banat Bulgarians are a Bulgarian minority in Romania and Serbia adhering to Roman Catholicism. Besides Bulgarians, among the Roman Catholics are also many foreigners.

The Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church, a Byzantine Rite church united with Rome, was formed in the 19th century as part of the Bulgarian church struggle in order to counter the influence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and has some 10,000 members today.

Protestant Christianity

Protestantism in its various forms arrived in the 19th century because of missionaries, mainly from the United States. Today it is a quickly growing confession, with membership having doubled from 1991 to 2001. Half of the Protestants in Bulgaria are newly converted Roma, while the other half are for the most part Bulgarians. The Union of Evangelical Congregational Churches in Bulgaria is a fruit of American missionaries in the 19th century.

Armenian Apostolic Christianity

The majority of the 10,832 Armenians in Bulgaria are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which has an eparchy in the country based in Sofia. Most Armenian Apostolics live in Plovdiv, Sofia, Varna or Burgas.


Despite its low number today (706), Bulgaria's Jewish population has exerted considerable cultural influence on the country in the past and is still of importance today. The Jews in Bulgaria are concentrated in the larger cities, mostly in the capital Sofia. It should be noted, however, that the present reported number of Jewish adherents in Bulgaria is not necessarily reflective of the actual number, given that over 1.6 million members of the population did not disclose religious affiliation.


Religious freedom

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the law prohibits the public practice of religion by unregistered groups. The Constitution also designates Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the "traditional" religion.

See also


  1. ^ "The Bulgarian Constitution". Retrieved 23 March 2011. 
  2. ^ "NSI". Retrieved 24 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "Структура на населението по вероизповедание (Structure of the population by confession)". NSI. 
  4. ^ "Етнически малцинствени общности (Ethnic minority communities)". NSI. 

External links

  • "Bulgaria — Religion".  
  • Kanev, Petar (2002). "Religion in Bulgaria after 1989". South-East Europe Review (1). 
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