Uncovering the origins of the Bulgarians

The origins of the Bulgarian people are woven into a complex tapestry of history, migration, and cultural interaction. This article aims to shed light on the fascinating origins of the Bulgarians, tracing their roots through ancient civilizations, migrations and the formation of the Bulgarian state. From the ancient Thracians to the Slavic tribes and the establishment of the First Bulgarian Kingdom, let us embark on a journey through time to explore the origins of the Bulgarians.

Ancient Thracians

The earliest known inhabitants of the region that is now Bulgaria were the ancient Thracians. Thrace was a diverse civilization that flourished from the 2nd millennium BC until the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC. The Thracians, with their rich cultural heritage, played a significant role in shaping the land that would later become Bulgaria.

Slavic Migration

In the 6th and 7th centuries AD, Slavic tribes began to migrate to the Balkans, including the territory of present-day Bulgaria. These tribes, coming from the vast Slavic-speaking regions of Eastern Europe, gradually settled in the area and interacted with the existing population, including remnants of the Thracians and Romanized inhabitants.

Formation of the First Bulgarian Kingdom

The arrival of the Slavs marked a crucial turning point in the formation of Bulgarian identity. In the late 7th century, under the leadership of Khan Asparuh, the Bulgars, a Turkic-speaking people, forged an alliance with the Slavic tribes of the region. This alliance led to the establishment of the First Bulgarian Kingdom in 681 A.D., with its capital at Pliska. The Bulgars and the Slavs gradually merged to form a new unified Bulgarian people.

Byzantine influence and Christianization

Throughout the First Bulgarian Empire, which lasted until the late 10th century AD, Byzantine influence played a significant role in shaping Bulgarian culture and society. The Byzantine Empire exerted political, religious, and cultural influence on the Bulgarians, including the adoption of Orthodox Christianity as the state religion in 864 AD under the rule of Khan Boris I.

Ottoman rule and cultural resilience

In the late 14th century, the Ottoman Empire conquered Bulgaria, leading to centuries of Ottoman rule. During this time, Bulgarians faced many challenges, including efforts at cultural assimilation. However, despite the oppressive conditions, Bulgarians maintained their language, traditions, and identity, fostering a strong sense of resilience and cultural preservation.

National Revival and Modern Bulgaria

The 18th and 19th centuries marked a period of national revival for the Bulgarian people. As the Ottoman Empire began to decline, a movement for Bulgarian cultural and political autonomy emerged. This era saw the rise of prominent figures such as writers, educators, and revolutionaries who played a crucial role in preserving and revitalizing Bulgarian national identity.

Contemporary Bulgaria

Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, Bulgaria gained independence from the Ottoman Empire and underwent significant territorial and political changes. Today, the Republic of Bulgaria is a diverse nation, encompassing the historical lands of the Thracians, the Slavic settlers and the First Bulgarian Kingdom. The Bulgarians, as a modern people, are the descendants of this complex historical tapestry.

Thracian influence and heritage

The Thracians, an ancient Indo-European people, inhabited the lands of present-day Bulgaria long before the arrival of the Slavic tribes. The Thracian civilization left a lasting mark on Bulgarian culture. Their rich mythology, art and craftsmanship, including the famous Thracian gold treasures, continue to fascinate historians and archaeologists. Many Bulgarian cultural traditions and customs can be traced back to Thracian roots.

Byzantine Influence and Byzantinization

During the period of Byzantine rule, which lasted several centuries, there was a process known as Byzantinization, in which the Byzantine Empire attempted to assimilate the Bulgarian population into the Byzantine culture and way of life. This included the promotion of the Greek language, Byzantine religious practices, and the adoption of Byzantine administrative and legal systems. Despite these influences, however, Bulgarians managed to maintain their own identity, language, and traditions.

Ottoman rule and cultural resistance

The Ottoman Empire conquered Bulgaria in the late 14th century and ruled the region for nearly five centuries. During this time, the Ottoman authorities imposed their own cultural, religious, and administrative systems on the Bulgarian people. Bulgarians faced restrictions on their language, religion, and social mobility. Despite these challenges, however, there were numerous instances of cultural resistance, such as the preservation of the Bulgarian language through the Cyrillic alphabet, the maintenance of traditional folk customs and music, and the clandestine education of Bulgarian children.

Ethnographic regions and diversity

Bulgaria is characterized by its ethnographic regions, which highlight the geographical and cultural diversity within the country. These regions, such as the Rhodope, Pirin, and Danube regions, have distinct dialects, customs, and traditions that reflect the historical influences and migrations that have shaped Bulgarian identity.

Diaspora Communities

Bulgarians have formed diaspora communities around the world, particularly in countries such as the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Australia. These communities have contributed to the preservation of Bulgarian culture, language and traditions outside of Bulgaria. They often organize cultural events, establish Bulgarian language schools, and maintain ties with their ancestral homeland.

Modern Bulgarian Identity

Today, Bulgarians identify themselves as a unique and diverse people with a rich historical heritage. They are proud of their language, folklore, cuisine and cultural traditions. Bulgarian literature, music, and art continue to flourish, with renowned Bulgarian artists gaining international recognition. The country celebrates its historical legacy through festivals, museums and historical sites that showcase the diverse origins and influences that have shaped Bulgarian identity.


The origins of the Bulgarians are deeply rooted in the ancient Thracian civilization, the migration of Slavic tribes and the formation of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. The fusion of various ethnic and cultural elements, including Turkic-speaking Bulgarians and Slavic tribes, contributed to the emergence of a distinct Bulgarian identity. Despite centuries of foreign rule, Bulgarians have shown resilience and determination in preserving their language, heritage and national identity. Today, Bulgaria stands as a testament to the rich historical legacy and diverse origins of its people.


Where do Bulgarians originate from?

Bulgars. The Bulgars (also Bolgars or proto-Bulgarians) were a semi-nomadic people of Turkic descent, originally from Central Asia, who from the 2nd century onwards dwelled in the steppes north of the Caucasus and around the banks of river Volga (then Itil). A branch of them gave rise to the First Bulgarian Empire.

Who are Bulgarians descended from?

The Byzantines grouped the numerous Slavic tribes into two groups: the Sclaveni and Antes. Some Bulgarian scholars suggest that the Antes became one of the ancestors of the modern Bulgarians. The Bulgars are first mentioned in the 4th century in the vicinity of the North Caucasian steppe.

What are Bulgarians mixed with?

Polish is selected to represent Slavic-speaking donor groups from the Middle Ages that are estimated to make up 97% of the ancestry in Belorussians, 80% in Russians, 55% in Bulgarians, 54% in Hungarians, 48% in Romanians, 46% in Chuvash and 30% in Greeks.

Are Bulgarians Mongolian?

Topic Subject: Are realy Bulgarians from mongolian origin? The modern science definitely proved that this is not true. Bulgarians are mixed east-iranians with altaic people. They were not a tribe, but a civilization, as you can see from the ruins of Pliska, 1.5 times bigger than Constantinopol (modern Istanbul).

Are Bulgarians Persian?

The place of origin of the Ancient Bulgarians is most likely Eastern Iran, a group of anthropologists and scientists have claimed after an exploratory trip to the Persian lands.

Are Bulgarians Tatars?

As regards the ethnonym as a marker of ethnicity, there are traces of internal ethnic differentiation among the Tatars as part of – and, at the same time, in opposition to their collective identity. The Turks and the Bulgarians have come to use the popular term “Tatar” as a stereotype (6) rather than an ethnonym.

Is Bulgaria Turkic?

Bulgaria, since both its ancient and modern beginnings, has been invariably a multiethnic, mainly Slavic and Turkic, polity. School textbooks in Bulgaria lavish much attention on the ancient Bulgars, who in the Middle Ages founded several Bulgarias from the Volga to Italy, including the surviving one in the Balkans.

Did Genghis Khan invade Bulgaria?

During the Mongol invasion of Europe, Mongol tumens led by Batu Khan and Kadan invaded Serbia and then Bulgaria in the spring of 1242 after defeating the Hungarians at the battle of Mohi and ravaging the Hungarian regions of Croatia, Dalmatia and Bosnia.

When did Bulgaria become Slavic?

By the time Bulgaria was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire early in the 11th century, the Bulgars and Slavs had melded into a Slavic-speaking, Christianized people essentially identical to today’s Bulgarians.

Is Bulgarian an ethnicity?

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.

Is Bulgaria one of the oldest countries in the world?

Bulgaria is the oldest country in Europe and the only country that has not changed its name since it was first established. In the 7th century AD, the Proto- Bulgarians led by Khan Asparuh crossed the Danube River and in 681, they established their own state south of the Danube.

What happened to the Volga Bulgarians?

Over time, the cities of Volga Bulgaria were rebuilt and became trade and craft centers of the Golden Horde. Some Volga Bulgars, primarily masters and craftsmen, were forcibly moved to Sarai and other southern cities of the Golden Horde. Volga Bulgaria remained a center of agriculture and handicraft.

Is Bulgaria in Africa?

Bulgaria is a small country situated in Southeastern Europe, in the east of the Balkans.

Did Ottoman defeat Mongols?

The Mongolian Empire began in 1206 and hit its peak in 1270. The Mongolian empire lasted until 1368. The Ottoman Empire was superior to the Mongols. The Ottomans lasted about 450 years longer than the Mongols and knew how to use gunpowder.

Who drove the Mongols out of Turkey?

Alauddin sent an army commanded by his brother Ulugh Khan and the general Zafar Khan, and this army comprehensively defeated the Mongols, with the capture of 20,000 prisoners, who were put to death.

Are Mongols Turkic?

Importantly, the Turkic identity of the Mongols and their successors was a non-Tajik, Inner Asian nomadic identity. Turk was an antonym of Tajik, meaning sedentary Iranians, not an antonym of Mongol. In other words, Turk was a term relational to Tajik, not to Mongol in Mongol and post-Mongol Iran and Central Asia.

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