What Is The Ethnic Composition Of Bulgaria?

People in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. Editorial credit: Takashi Images / Shutterstock.com.
People in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. Editorial credit: Takashi Images / Shutterstock.com.

Bulgaria is a country in Southeast Europe, bordering Romania to the south, North Macedonia and Serbia to the east, Turkey and Greece to the north, and the Black Sea to the west. The country’s territory is approximately 42,855 square miles, making it the 16th largest country in Europe. Bulgaria is a multicultural and diverse country with several ethnic groups. It has a population of approximately 7.4 million people. Sofia, the country’s capital and largest city, is the most populated urban center, with a population of about 1.4 million people. Other significantly populated towns include Verna, Plovdiv, Ruse, and Burgas. The population of Bulgaria comprises of one main ethnic group (Bulgarians) and about 40 minority groups. 


Bulgarians are the largest ethnic group in Bulgaria, accounting for about 84.8% of the total population. Bulgarians are a South Slavic ethnic group, mostly found in Bulgaria and the surrounding regions. The group originated from people of different origins who were assimilated by the Slavic settlers in the First Bulgarian Empire founded in 681. Today, there are approximately 6 million Bulgarians in the country. About 1.3 million of the 1.4 million residents of Sofia are Bulgarians. They are also found across the country in large numbers. According to the Constitution of Bulgaria, the term “Bulgarian” is also used to refer to any Bulgarian citizen irrespective of their ethnic background.


Turks are the second largest ethnic group in Bulgaria, comprising about 9% of the total population or 588,318, making them the largest ethnic minority in the country. They account for the largest portion of the population of the Kardzhali Province (66%) and Razgrad Province (50%) and are also found in almost all the provinces across the country. The Bulgarian Turks are direct descendants of the Turks who settled in the region after the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the 15th century. The majority of the Bulgarian Turks (95%) are Muslims and differ from other ethnic groups in the country by their culture, customs, and tradition


The Romani People in Bulgaria account for about 5% of the population (325,343). They speak a variety of languages depending on the region they are found. In Bulgaria, the group is normally referred to as “Tsigani.” The Romani People in Bulgaria are not a unified community in terms of culture and lifestyle with about 30 Romani dialects used in the country. The most widespread group are the “local Roma.” The majority of the Romani are Muslims and a few are Orthodox. The majority of the Romani people are live in urban centers, especially in Dobruja northeastern Bulgaria. While they are spread across all the provinces, the largest number of Romani are in Sliven Province and Montana Province


There are about 10,000 Russian in Bulgaria, making only 0.1% of the population. They are mostly found in big cities such as Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv, and Burgas. Although a large number of Russians came into the country during the Russian Civil War and October Revolution, a group had lived in Bulgaria for many centuries before the events. The earliest Russian settlers in Bulgaria were the Old Believers. Today, Russian in Bulgaria are entitled Bulgarian passport as long as one IS running a business or has invested US$25,000. The ethnic group is also represented by a number of organizations such as the Union of Compatriots.


Armenians are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Bulgaria, numbering about 6,600 or 0.1% of the population in 2011 compared to 11,000 in 2001. They have lived in the territory of modern Bulgaria since the 5th century and have played an important role in the country’s history. Like the Russians, Armenians are found mainly in large urban centers such as Plovdiv, Sofia, Varna, and Burgas. 


There are approximately 3,700 Vlachs in Bulgaria, comprising only 0.1% of the population. They are mainly concentrated in Vidin Province. Although the Vlachs are a significant minority group, they are neither recognized as a national minority nor as an ethnic group. Because of the non-recognition, the group has not had any ethnic right in churches or schools. The Vlachs are divided into two; “White Vlachs” and “Kutzo-Vlachs.” Part of White Vlachs of Vidin is identified as Romanians. However, they are identified as Vlachs in Bulgaria.


Sarakatsani is a subgroup of the ethnic Greek population who are native to Greece but have a significant presence in Bulgaria and other neighboring countries. They were traditionally transhumant shepherds, a way of life that they have since abandoned. There are approximately 2,560 Sarakatsanis in Bulgaria, the majority of which speak Greek and practice Greek Orthodoxy.

Other Ethnic Groups in Bulgaria

The population of Bulgaria comprises of one major ethnic group and about 40 minority groups. Apart from the six minority tribes discussed above, other ethnic groups in Bulgaria include Ukrainians who are approximately 1,800, Macedonians (1,700), Greeks (1,379), Jews (1,200), Tatars, and Romanians.


More in Society