Through the lands of Asia Minor:

110 years after Vasil Kanchov



In 1899 the prominent Bulgarian scientist Vasil Kanchov set off on the first research expedition in the regions of Asia Minor, inhabited by Bulgarians. His article ‘Through the lands of Asia Minor. A journey to the Bulgarian settlements’, was published in the journal ‘Bulgarski Pregled’ in the same year and discusses the findings of the expedition. 110 years after Knachov’s travels, three young researchers – the specialist in Ottoman studies Stoyan Shivarov, the folklorist Konstantin Panaiotov and the historian Georgi Zelengora, decide to follow the same route and to look for traces of the former Bulgarian populace. The expedition formed a part of a project for researching the linguistic, cultural and historical heritage of the Bulgarian population in the neighboring countries. The project is funded by the research fund of the Bulgarian ministry of education, youth and science.  


Who are the Bulgarians in Asia Minor?


They form a small and relatively unknown part of the Bulgarian diaspora. From the beginning of the 18th century until the 1870s the Bulgarian populace has gradually settled in twenty villages in Northwestern Anatolia. Although the Bulgarians in Asia Minor live detached from their ethnic milieu, nevertheless they have always preserved the awareness of their Bulgarian cultural identity - the first Bulgarian schools were founded in the villages of Mandar and Kodja Bunar in the late 19th century.   


The return to the motherland


During the 1880s, 1700 people return to Bulgaria; the next wave of organized settlement is in the spring of 1914. The last remaining Bulgarians in Anatolia return in the 1920s.


The pomaks in Asia Minor


Parallel to the displacement of the Bulgarians from Northwestern Anatolia, there is another process of settlement of refugees from the Bulgarian peninsula; many of them are pomaks (Slavic people of Muslim faith). The refugees settle in new neighbourhoods, which they name after the Bulgarian cities they come from – Tarnovo, Pleven, Silistra…The spoken language of the community comprises of different dialects of Bulgarian, which the people call ‘pomak language’ (Pomakça). Many of the people still cherish not only the language, but also the traditions and the songs of their ancestors.


The Bulgarians in Asia Minor – sources


The Bulgarians living in Asia Minor are not well known to their Balkan compatriots. Apart from Vasil Kanchov, other Bulgarian historians have also been interested in that community – among them are Konstantin Fotinov, Petko Slaveikov and Ivan Shishmanov. However, the most extensive study remains ‘The Bulgarian settlements in Asia Minor’ by Luka Dorosiev, published in 1922. The rich culture of the pomaks currently living in Anatolia has not yet attracted the attention it undoubtedly deserves.