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Image for Sofia's discreet Turkish minority

Sofia's discreet Turkish minority

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Default profile picture Dana Cojbuc

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Coming together for festivals or in the mosques, Turkish people make up 10% of the Bulgarian population and an awful lot of Bulgaria's history

Sofia's mosque

The presence of a Turkish minority in Bulgaria dates from the formation of the Bulgarian nation-state itself in 1878, following the dissolution of the Ottoman empire. Currently about 10% of the population of Bulgaria is ethnically Turk. In 1985, before the persecution that included the requirement to adopt a Slavic name, there were more than a million Turkish Bulgarians. In 1989 roughly 300, 000 of them left the country. Some of these people returned in the 1990s, others emigrated westwards, mostly to Germany.

Because of their number, ethnic background and religion, as well as their location, Bulgarian Turks have always had a unique role in the politics of both Bulgaria and Turkey.

Sofia's mosque: father and son

The Banya Bashi Mosque is the only mosque where religious ceremonies are still carried out in Sofia, and is also part of the heritage of the Ottoman occupation that lasted more than five centuries!

Other generations at the doors of the mosque

In Sofia, the presence of a Turkish minority is hard to detect, unnoticeable as a community distinct from the rest of the population. Bulgarian Turks are completely integrated into the Bulgarian population. It is only on special cultural occasions or in religious buildings where they sometimes all come together.

Getting ready for prayers
Father and son generations of Turks in Bulgaria
Inside the mosque
Birchen at home: a Turkish Bulgarian

Birchen's family have lived in Bulgaria for several generations. In 1989, she decided to leave for Turkey, but she felt she didn't fit in to Turkish society and returned a short time afterwards. She holds her language, culture and traditions dear. Birchen and her sister are both going to get married in the traditional Turkish way and their dowry (cheiz) is all ready.

Birchen and her mother
Mama Birchen

'Terlik and 'bash ortu' (slippers and headscarves) are just some of the items Birchen's mother has carefully prepared.

'Bash ortu', the headscarf

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Translated from Discreta minoría turca de Sofía