Ethnic Minorities




        1.1 Legal Instruments
                1.2 The Judicial System
                1.3 Political Context


        2.1 Political Participation
                2.2 Language Issues
                2.3 "Turkification" of Other Minorities


        3.1 Roma and "Mob" Violence
                3.2 Roma and the Police
                3.3 Government Responses to Violence Against Roma
                3.4 Cultural Development
                3.5 Roma Organizations
                3.6 Military Service
                3.7 Employment
                3.8 Roma Women and Children


        4.1 Macedonian Organizations
                4.2 Police Treatment of Ethnic Macedonians


        5.1 Jews







See original


There are many ethnic minorities in Bulgaria. According to the 1992 census, Bulgaria's population was 8,472,724 of which 822,253 were Turks, 287,700 Roma and 6,000 Macedonians (UNHCR Nov. 1994, 10). [For information on problems with the results of the 1992 census the reader may wish to consult Radio/Free Europe's RFE/RL Research Report article "Bulgaria's 1992 Census: Results, Problems and Implications" (5 Feb. 1993).] According to the UNHCR, some sources claim that the Roma population is between 500,000 and 600,000 [Some Roma organizations claim the Roma population to be closer to one million, but that many will not identify themselves as Roma because of fear of discrimination (AI May 1993, 1). According to Ilona Tomova, their estimates "often appear unrealistic" (Tomova Oct. 1994b, 20). Other reports also note that some Roma chose to identify themselves as either Bulgarian or Turkish in the 1992 census (Country Reports 1994 1995, 770; HRW/Helsinki Nov. 1994, 3; RFE/RL 5 Feb. 1993, 60). Another report claims that Roma leaders estimate the population to be as large as two million (BTA 25 Nov. 1994).] and that there are 100,000 ethnic Macedonians in the country (ibid.). The 1992 census counted 275,000 Pomaks (ethnic-Bulgarian Muslims) making it one of the largest minority groups in the country (ibid.; Country Reports 1993 1994, 822). In the past, ethnic minorities have often identified themselves as Bulgarian or as another minority in efforts to avoid discrimination (RFE/RL 5 Feb. 1993, 60; International Helsinki Federation 1994, 33) and this has made it difficult to find reliable statistics on the sizes of these populations.

        According to Krassimir Kanev, the chair of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee in Sofia, the Pomaks are an isolated group and there is little reliable information available on it (Krassimir Kanev 25 July 1995). Kanev also stated that the Pomaks do not appear to have a problem with their basic rights, but do suffer economic discrimination (ibid.). As information on the current situation of Pomaks is currently unavailable, this paper will not examine the Pomaks, except for a brief reference in Section 2.3. on "Turkification". [The reader may be interested in the attachment to the DIRB's Response to Information Request BGR21770.E (30 Aug. 1995) which provides some historical information on Pomaks in Bulgaria. Responses to Information Requests are saved in the Refinfo database, available in all DIRB's Documentation Centres.]

This paper will focus on the situation of the Turkish, Roma and Macedonian communities in Bulgaria primarily in 1994 and early 1995. For information related to the topic and previous to the period covered in this paper the reader may also wish to consult the UNHCR report entitled Background Paper on Bulgarian Refugees and Asylum Seekers (Nov. 1994) as well as Refinfo and sources available in the Regional Documentation centres. Please note that information specific to minority women and children is of limited availabilty.

1.1 Legal Instruments

 Bulgaria is a signatory to several international human rights instruments, including the 1951 Convention on the status of refugees and its 1967 Protocol; the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights and Associated Protocols 1,2,3,5,7 and 8 (UNHCR Nov. 1994, 7).

In July 1991, Bulgaria adopted a new constitution (ibid.), which, according to Country Reports 1994, "provides for individual rights, equality, and protection against discrimination" (Country Reports 1994 1995, 769). According to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), while individual rights are provided for, the constitution "falls short of protecting the collective rights of minorities, omitting even the word 'minority' [in its text]" (CSCE Sept. 1993, 9).

1.2 The Judicial System

In July 1994, the National Assembly adopted a new Law on the Judiciary (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 8 Mar. 1995, 4; Human Rights Project 25 Feb. 1995; Country Reports 1994 1995, 765). It is structured with a Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, and regional and district courts (ibid.). The new law provides for Supreme Courts of Cassation and Administration (ibid.; Human Rights Project 25 Feb. 1995). This new law "consolidat[es] the legal system and ensur[es] the independence of the judiciary" (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 8 Mar. 1995, 4). The Human Rights Project, an independent NGO established in September 1992 that defends the rights of Roma in Bulgaria, claims that the new courts have not begun operation yet in the absence of parliament adopting procedural laws (Human Rights Project 25 Feb. 1995).

        While the judiciary is independent there are problems with its operation, such as confusion over the new law, low salaries, court vacancies and backlogs (Country Reports 1994 1995, 766). Country Reports 1994 states that "most citizens have little confidence in their judicial system" (Country Reports 1994 1995, 766).

According to Krassimir Kanev, a shortcoming in the Bulgarian judicial system is that civil suits must be halted the moment there is evidence of "criminal circumstances" in a case (Obektiv July-Sept. 1994a, 3). It is then up to the prosecutor to lay criminal charges, which he does only in "extremely rare cases" (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 8 Mar. 1995, 15). There is no judicial review mechanism if the prosecutor fails to bring charges except to appeal to the chief prosecutor, and then there is no appeal process if he chooses not to bring charges (Obektiv July-Sept. 1994a, 3). Kanev also states that Bulgarian legislation makes it very difficult to bring charges when the violations are committed by authorities as it does not allow private prosecution of public officials (ibid.). In his speech to an international conference on Police Abuses in Sofia in June 1994, Kanev stated that "the numerous 'no indictments' in the face of easily provable abuses discouraged so many victims in their efforts to seek redress through the courts" (ibid.).

1.3 Political Context

Bulgaria has undergone three parliamentary elections since the overthrow of the Zhivkov regime in 1989. In the most recent elections, held in December 1994, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), formerly the Bulgarian Communist Party, regained control of parliament winning a majority vote (Country Reports 1994 1995, 769) and Zhan Videnov became prime minister (The Globe and Mail 29 Apr. 1995, D4). Seventy-five per cent of the Bulgarian electorate voted for more than forty political parties and coalitions (Country Reports 1994 1995, 769). The BSP-led coalition won 125 of the Grand National Assembly's 240 seats (OMRI 29 Mar. 1995b, 33). The Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), which had formed the government after taking 110 seats in the October 1991 elections, took 69 seats in December 1994 (ibid.). The primarily-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) also lost seats in the election taking only 15, down from 24 in the 1991 elections (ibid.). Only two other parties captured seats in the election; the People's Union-a coalition of the Democratic Party and the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union-won 18 seats, and the Bulgarian Business Bloc took 13 seats (ibid.). For a comparison of results in the 1991 and 1994 elections see the Appendix.

        In August 1990 Zhelyu Zhelev, resigned his position as the Chair of the UDF to assume the presidency of the country after being elected to a five year term (Europa 1994 1994, 620). In 1992, he was re-elected (OMRI 2 Aug. 1995).


In the final years of the Zhivkov era, Bulgaria's ethnic Turks were targets of assimilation policies that required them to adopt Bulgarian names, limit their religious activity, and refrain from speaking Turkish in public (UNHCR Nov. 1994, 6; CSCE Sept. 1993, 11). The assimilation program was not restricted to the ethnic Turks but included other Muslim groups, including those Roma who were Muslim [Hancock notes that Muslim Roma usually have Slavic surnames, so the name change policy only affected their (Muslim) given names (Hancock 27 July 1995). ] (Hancock 27 July 1995).

Zhivkov's fall signalled an improvement in the situation for Bulgaria's Turks (CSCE Sept. 1993, 11; Tomova Oct. 1994a, 17). The post-Zhivkov government's attitudes towards minorities were more democratic and even sympathetic (Reuters 2 Jan. 1990). The policy of forcing Muslim minorities to adopt Slavic names was rescinded in March 1990 and within a year some 600,000 people had reverted to their original names (UNHCR Nov. 1994, 6).

In 1993 the government put five former state security officials on trial for using unnecessary force and detaining ethnic Turks in a make-shift labour camp in the town of Ruse in 1989 (CSCE Sept. 1993, 19). This marked the first time civil servants were held accountable for their actions during the assimilation program of the 1980s (ibid.). Information on the outcome of this trial was unavailable among the sources consulted by the DIRB at the time of writing this document. In June 1995, President Zhelev told a group of ethnic Turks that those responsible for the assimilation program of the 1980s must be prosecuted (BTA 17 June 1995).

In 1994, a report claimed that over 920 mosques and mechets were active in the country and that religious literature, including the Koran, is published in the Turkish language (Tomova Oct. 1994a, 17). As well, Turkish language newspapers and magazines are published and circulated (ibid.). However, with political pluralism came an increase in expressions of Bulgarian nationalism (Keesing's Jan. 1990, 37192). Restrictions on freedom of speech, which had been enforced under the communist regime have been loosened in the transition to democracy and this has caused hostilities towards minorities to become more vocal (INS Mar. 1993, 5; Hancock 27 July 1995). According to several sources, tensions between ethnic Turks and ethnic Bulgarians has decreased in recent years (RFE/RL 22 Apr. 1994, 77; International Helsinki Federation 1994, 34; Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights Oct. 1994, 6; Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 5 Nov. 1994, 5). Nonetheless, one of these sources, an RFE/RL report, state that "Bulgarian nationalism can virtually be equated with anti-Turkish sentiment" (RFE/RL 22 Apr. 1994, 77). Political parties, including the BSP and some radical nationalist parties, have incorporated societal hostility toward ethnic Turks into their political campaigns (INS Mar. 1993, 16; Trud 30 Nov. 1994). Some of these radical parties including the Liberal Democratic Party, which is closely aligned with Vladimir Zhirinovsky's party in Russia, the Fatherland Party, the National Radical Party, and the Committee for the Defense of National Interests, protested the cancellation of the assimilation policies for Bulgaria's minorities in the early 1990s and claimed the policies were necessary to "persuade the country's Turkish community that it was originally ethnically Bulgarian and had been forcibly 'Turkified' during Ottoman rule" (RFE/RL 22 Apr. 1994, 77-78).

Despite decreased tensions between Turks and Bulgarians, as mentioned earlier, on 10 June 1995, a group of people threw stones at a dormitory for ethnic Turkish students in the town of Ruse (OMRI 12 June 1995; AP 11 June 1995). Windows were broken in the attack, but no injuries were reported (ibid.; OMRI 12 June 1995). The same day, Anton Rachev, a local "skinhead" leader, was put on trial for disseminating fascist literature, and local newspapers received warnings that there would be more attacks if Rachev were convicted (ibid.; AP 11 June 1995). On 23 June 1995, Rachev was convicted and fined (OMRI 27 June 1995). Information on whether the warnings of further attacks were carried out was not found in the sources consulted by the DIRB.

While on a state visit to Bulgaria in July 1995, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel told the National Assembly that he is satisfied that Bulgaria has treated its ethnic Turkish community well since the Zhivkov era (OMRI 6 July 1995). Two days later, he reiterated these sentiments before a group of ethnic Turks (ibid.).

2.1 Political Participation

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) has politically empowered the Turkish minority (CSCE Sept. 1993, 11; Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 8 Mar. 1995, 8). It has been an important player in the Grand National Assembly (Europa 1994 1994, 620; INS Mar. 1993, 15; RFE/RL 19 Mar. 1993, 40) and has even played a "key and sometimes deciding role in the Bulgarian parliament" (CSCE Sept. 1993, 11). While the MRF is predominantly a Turkish and Muslim party, it is not exclusively so at one time its chair was Jewish (INS Mar 1993, 15). However the fact that it is predominantly a Turkish and Muslim party has caused problems in the past: for example, in 1991, when the BSP led the government, some BSP members tried to have the MRF's registration as a political party revoked, citing Article 11(4) of the Bulgarian constitution which prohibits the formation of political parties based on religion, ethnicity or race (Country Reports 1994 1995, 768; News from Helsinki Watch 2 Apr. 1993, 4). The Supreme Court ruled that by virtue of contesting the 1990 elections, the MRF was "'grandfathered' into the 1991 elections as well" (ibid.) and its legal status was later upheld in a vote by the Constitutional Court (Country Reports 1994 1995, 768; News from Helsinki Watch 2 Apr. 1993, 4; CSCE Sept. 1993, 10). According to Krassimir Kanev, even though the BSP is again in power since the December 1994 elections, there have not been any concrete indications that the BSP has been, or is, censuring the MRF (Krassimir Kanev 25 July 1995). Kanev also believes that the BSP would not dare question the registration of the MRF as it did in 1991 (ibid.).

        Recently, the MRF has had to compete with two newly formed parties, the Turkish Party for Democratic Change and the Turkish Democratic Party, for the ethnic Turkish vote (RFE/RL 24 June 1994, 25). [According to Dimitrina Petrova, chairperson of the Human Rights Project, these parties are not registered as political parties (Petrova 28 July 1995).] These parties, and the Democratic Party of Justice, which focuses on Muslim interests, reportedly have not garnered much support (Tomova Oct. 1994a, 18).

2.2 Language Issues

Efforts to allow the teaching of the Turkish language in schools were met by resistance from nationalistic ethnic Bulgarians in 1991, resulting in the BSP-dominated parliament passing legislation banning minority language classes in October 1991 (INS Mar. 1993, 16). The ban was short-lived however, as widespread Turkish school boycotts ensued, prompting the BSP to lift the ban before the October 1991 elections (ibid.). Following the elections the UDF, relying on the support of the MRF, formed the government (UNHCR Nov. 1994, 4; INS Mar. 1993, 16), which decreed that children from grades three to eight could receive optional, after school language instruction in their minority language for four hours a week (ibid., 16-17; UNHCR Nov. 1994, 7). Another source claims that the classes were "part of the regular school program in areas with substantial numbers of ethnic Turks" (CSCE Sept. 1993, 11). As of September 1994, government regulations allow Turkish language instruction to begin in the first grade (Country Reports 1994, 1995, 770).

        In the past several months, there has been talk of reducing or cancelling Turkish-language classes in areas with small Turkish populations or of making such classes optional and holding them after school, which is expected to decrease interest in them (Kanev 25 July 1995). Further information on this was not available to the DIRB at the time of writing this paper.

In 1994, attempts to ban the Turkish language in the armed forces failed when the MRF protested a draft bill to make Bulgarian the "mandatory" language to be used in the military (Country Reports 1994, 1995, 770; UNHCR Nov. 1994, 10). The MRF claimed that the bill discriminated against Turkish-speaking conscripts and the draft was altered to say that Bulgarian is the official language of the military, while still allowing Turkish-speakers to use their native language when speaking among themselves (Country Reports 1994 1995, 770).

2.3 "Turkification" of Other Minorities

The MRF which is predominantly an ethnic Turkish and Muslim organization has been seen by some Pomaks as too focused on Turkish issues (INS Mar. 1993, 17). According to a CSCE report, there were claims by some Bulgarian media that MRF representatives were pressuring Pomaks to adopt Turkish names and learn the Turkish language (CSCE Sept. 1993, 12). Following the 1992 census, a report in the BSP newspaper Duma, suggested that as many as 40,000 Pomaks may have been coerced by MRF activists into saying they were Turkish (RFE/RL 5 Feb. 1993, 60). In response to allegations of Turkification, Prime Minister Berov stated in April 1993 that his government "would not tolerate expressions of nationalism and attempts to manipulate the population or Turkification in areas of mixed ethnic and religious communities" (CSCE Sept. 1993, 12). While some Pomaks have been identifying themselves as Turkish (RFE/RL 19 Mar. 1993, 40), reports claim that there is little evidence to support the charges of "Turkification" (CSCE Sept. 1993, 12; International Helsinki Federation 1994, 33).


Amnesty International claims that the overthrow of the Zhivkov regime brought a new period of development in which: "the lifting of previous restrictions on freedom of expression ... transformed more subtle forms of discrimination into open racial hatred and violence against Roma" (AI May 1993, 1). Another source adds that violence against Roma has "escalated dramatically" in Bulgaria since 1990, including police abuses and "mob" violence (HRW/Helsinki Nov. 1994, 2). The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee claimed in its 1994 report on the human rights situation in Bulgaria, that "violations of the rights of [Roma] continued to be the dominant human rights problem in Bulgaria" (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 8 Mar. 1995, 5). Furthermore, according to a Human Rights Watch/Helsinki report, police and local officials are often acquiescent about such attacks (ibid.) and those who commit violent acts against Roma often go unpunished (ibid.; Petrova 28 July 1995). According to Country Reports 1994, police violence against Roma decreased in 1994 over 1993, while violence against Roma by members of the general population has increased (Country Reports 1994 1995, 764, 771). Amnesty International however, states that:

The number or the regional distribution of such human rights abuses against Roma [as ill-treatment by police and failure of police to adequately protect lives and property] in Bulgaria is difficult to estimate but the consistency, regularity and credibility of the allegations received by Amnesty International causes the organization to believe that the problem is large-scale and widespread (AI Sept. 1994, 1).

Some members of the Roma community claim that Roma are used as scapegoats during periods of economic difficulty, and a 1992 poll found that anti-Roma feelings within the general population was "very high" (ibid.). The Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights, a Bulgarian-based NGO, also claims that Roma are "gradually becoming scapegoats for the Bulgarian public and for the police" (Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights Oct. 1994, 6).

3.1 Roma and "Mob" Violence

Since 1993, there have been many reports of mob violence against Roma and their property (Country Reports 1994 1995, 771; HRW Helsinki Nov. 1994, 2). Most attacks have occurred in villages with large groups of Bulgarians attacking their Roma neighbours (ibid., 15). According to HRW/Helsinki there are reports that local authorities, including police and mayors on occasion, have watched these attacks or joined the ethnic Bulgarians (ibid.).

        In the village of Malorad, private security guards known as "wrestlers" reportedly approached the mayor in December 1993 and offered to protect the village from crime for a fee (ibid., 22; Obektiv Mar.-May 1994a, 6). A few days later, these guards were involved in an attack on the residents of a Roma neighbourhood in which a Rom man was shot and killed (HRW/Helsinki Nov. 1994, 21). While the mayor claimed that he did not hire the wrestlers to attack the Roma (ibid., 22; Obektiv Mar.-May 1994a, 6), the chief of the national police, in an interview with Human Rights Watch/Helsinki reportedly claimed that the "security guard firm had been asked by the mayor to make a punitive action in the Gypsy neighbourhood." (HRW/Helsinki Nov. 1994, 22).

The U.S.-based, Anti-Defamation League reported that a small "skinhead" movement has been noticed in Sofia, Pleven and Varna (U.S. Newswire 28 June 1995). This report claims that "skinhead" attacks are most frequently leveled at foreigners and Roma. It cites an attack on a Roma community in Pleven in March 1994 which saw several Roma beaten and one house set ablaze (ibid.). The Human Rights Project and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee have also reported attacks on gypsy neighbourhoods by "skinhead" groups (Obektiv Feb.-Apr. 1995a, 1; Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 8 Mar. 1995, 7). As well, the Human Rights Project reported an attack on a Roma neighbourhood by Bulgarian Muslims in the village of Brestnitsa in September 1994 (Obektiv July-Sept. 1994b, 4).

From April 1994 until early 1995, the Human Rights Project was verbally attacked by nationalist leader Father Gueorgui Gelemenov (Petrova 28 July 1995). Gelemenov has threatened the group and its chairperson, Dimitrina Petrova, both publicly and privately. Petrova claims that Gelemenov's followers in the "skinhead" movement have acted on his calls to commit acts of violence against Roma and immigrants (Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe 1994/5, 7). Petrova stated that only after international intervention from a group of United States senators and congressmen and from human rights groups did the harrassment by Gelemenov end (Petrova 28 July 1995). Petrova also stated that the incident was resolved when police made Gelemenov sign a declaration that he had been warned to leave the HRP alone (ibid.).

Additional case studies of mob violence against Roma can be found in the HRW/Helsinki report Bulgaria: Increasing Violence Against Roma in Bulgaria (November 1994) as well as in Human Rights Watch World Report 1995 (1994) and various Amnesty International reports, available in the Regional Documentation Centres.

3.2 Roma and the Police

In January 1993, the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA) reported that one-third of the 70,000 people apprehended by the police in 1992 were Roma (AI May 1993, 1). However, Amnesty International claims that "much of the Bulgarian mass media, often referring pejoratively to Roma as 'our dark skinned compatriots', considers them responsible for the greatest proportion of the crimes committed. This further increases ethnic divisions and prejudices" (ibid.). "Social prejudices are so deep-rooted that the very presence of Roma in a neighbourhood is regarded with disapproval" (ibid., 2). As stated in a 1993 report, the popular perception of Roma as criminals exacerbates the tensions not only between Roma and ethnic Bulgarians, but between Roma and ethnic Turks and Macedonians as well (CSCE Sept. 1993, 13).

Police abuses against Roma, in the form of alleged beatings and murders and unwarranted arrests, are documented by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. See, for example, Amnesty International's reports entitled Bulgaria: Turning a Blind Eye to Racism (Sept. 1994) and Bulgaria: Torture and Ill-Treatment of Roma (May 1993) as well as Human Rights Watch/Helsinki's Bulgaria: Increasing Violence Against Roma in Bulgaria (Nov. 1994). However, as noted earlier, Country Reports 1994 states, that the number of such incidents appears to have decreased since 1993 (Country Reports 1994 1995, 765). The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee notes that it has received complaints of police abuses from other Bulgarian citizens as well as from Roma (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 8 Mar. 1995, 5).

The CSCE reported in 1993 that, according to President Zhelev's advisor on ethnic matters, Mikhail Ivanov, "clashes between Gypsies and police are no longer isolated incidents" (CSCE Sept. 1993, 14). In fact, Krassimir Kanev, the then Chief Expert of the President's Office, who authored a report on the 1992 attack on Roma by police in a Pazardzhik neighbourhood, [For details of the attack see News From Helsinki Watch 2 April 1993.] stated: "There are tens, even hundreds, of incidents where police beat Gypsies as a matter of routine. Such incidents are especially common when Gypsies come out of bars or restaurants. It seems like beating such people has become a sport for some police officers" (News from Helsinki Watch 2 Apr. 1993, 10). Police were reportedly involved in a series of altercations between Roma and "skinheads" in the Filipovtsi area of Sofia in March 1995 (Obektiv Feb.-Apr. 1995b, 12). One report claims that police beat and arrested Roma and then brought "skinheads" to the police station and allowed them to beat the Roma detainees (ibid.). This report could not be corroborated in the sources consulted by the DIRB.

While Human Rights Watch/Helsinki claims that "police have been able to commit crimes against Roma with absolute impunity" and that it is unaware of any police officer being held accountable for such crimes (HRW/Helsinki Nov. 1994, 3), other reports mention the initiation of some investigations. For example, an investigation was initiated, by police and a human rights group, into the case of Lyubcho Terziev, a Rom from Pazardzhik, who died while in custody after a police roundup in August 1994. The attack was similar to one in the same town in 1992. Terziev's body exhibited signs of torture (Country Reports 1994 1995; HRW 1994, 198; AI Sept. 1994, 10). An investigation was also initiated following the death of Slavcho Lyubenov Tsonchev in September 1994 (AI 10 Oct. 1994, 1). Tsonchev, a Rom, was reportedly arrested for stealing cows one day; the following day, his body was returned to his wife bearing signs of having been beaten (ibid.; Obektiv July-Sept. 1994c, 5). Another investigation was initiated following the death of Hristo Georgiev, who, allegedly, was shot to death by police as he slept in his bed on 25 December 1994 (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 8 Mar. 1995, 7). Country Reports 1994 indicates that the launch of an investigation is unusual as police have generally been uncooperative in investigations of police abuses (Country Reports 1994 1995, 765). Petrova notes however that there are many investigations but that they never seem to end, or they are closed without someone being held accountable (28 July 1995). As of July 1995, according to Petrova, no police officer has been convicted of human rights abuses against any minority (ibid.).

3.3 Government Responses to Violence Against Roma

Following the December 1993 attack on the Roma community in Malorad (see Section 3.1), one witness to the killing claimed that he was pressured by an investigator from the Ministry of Interior to pretend that he had not witnessed the event. The witness also claimed that the investigator "was beating the chair with his truncheon while talking" (HRW/Helsinki Nov. 1994, 23). Following the incident other Roma were allegedly threatened that if they reported the incident and identified the perpetrators to the police, the information would be passed on to the perpetrators (ibid., 22). This fear of further retaliation apparently stopped Roma from seeking redress (ibid.). An investigtion into the incident was ended in March 1994 without identifying any of the people responsible for the attack (Obektiv Mar.-May 1994a, 6). According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, "despite the fact that the Criminal Justice system provides opportunities for legal redress by all citizens against unlawful acts of violence, the administration of justice in cases where the rights of Gypsies were violated was impeded by what appears to have been discriminatory handling of complaints by the authorities" (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 8 Mar. 1995, 5).

        In the aforementioned report on his investigation of the incident in Pazardzhik in 1992, Krassimir Kanev claimed that the police had committed abuses against Roma (News from Helsinki Watch 2 Apr. 1993, 8). President Zhelev asked the Ministry of the Interior to investigate the incident. While the Ministry did not publish its findings (LCHR July 1994, 34; News from Helsinki Watch 2 Apr. 1993, 8), the Regional Director for Pazardzhik, Khristo Ranchev, did state that "everything done by the police was legal" (ibid). However, Ranchev also stated that three policemen had been "disciplined pursuant to Article I of the Ministry of the Interior Regulations (July 3, 1991), but he could not remember specifically what disciplinary measures had been taken against them" (ibid.). Dimitrina Petrova, the chair of the Human Rights Project claims that the Human Rights Project heard that the Ministry of Interior Affairs had sent a letter to Helsinki Watch making these statements, but has been unable to obtain any other information on the case (Petrova 28 July 1995). Following a complaint filed by the Human Rights Project, another investigation was initiated by the military prosecutor (ibid.).

In April 1994, almost two months after a conflict in the village of Dolno Belotintsi between ethnic Bulgarian and Roma residents [The incident was sparked by a Roma conscript allegedly robbing and killing an ethnic Bulgarian (Country Reports 1994 1995, 771; AI 23 Mar. 1994, 1). ], the Human Rights Project tried to have the mayor of the village and four others charged with the instigation of racial hatred [Two days after the attack, the mayor reportedly presided over a rally at which people shouted anti-Gypsy statements and wrote a letter to Zhelev asking that Gypsies be deported from the town (Obektiv Mar.-May 1994b, 7). ] under Article 162(1) of the Penal Code. This would be a precedent as this article has not been invoked before (HRW/Helsinki Nov. 1994, 25-26). The case has not yet been resolved (Petrova 28 July 1995).

According to Country Reports 1994, "the climate of impunity that the Government allows to prevail is the single largest obstacle to ending [police] abuses" (Country Reports 1994 1995, 765). Country Reports 1994 also claimed that "Amnesty International and Bulgarian human rights groups have charged that the government violated the human rights of these Roma by failing to provide them with adequate protection" (Country Reports 1994 1995, 771). In some cases Roma have filed complaints about violence perpetrated by police or others, but, according to HRW/Helsinki, police being prosecuted for committing such crimes is rare in Bulgaria, as prosecutors often ignore the claims even when supported by substantial evidence (HRW/Helsinki Nov. 1994, 3). HRW/Helsinki also claims that the fact that much of the abuse committed against Roma is perpetrated by the police or groups with close ties to the police "sends a clear message that the state will not protect Roma" (ibid.). Furthermore, it states that "there is more than sufficient evidence that the political will does not exist, at either the national or local level, to combat racial violence against Roma and to afford the victims of such violence a prompt and adequate remedy" (ibid., 5). Ian Hancock, the United Nations Presidium Head of the International Romani Union, and Dimitrina Petrova state that this is the case in Bulgaria (Hancock 27 July 1995; Petrova 28 July 1995).

In September 1993, Zhelev's office proposed the establishment of an advisory board to deal with the situation of Roma (OMRI 29 Mar. 1995a, 5). Both Hancock and Petrova are unaware of the creation of such a body, although Petrova notes that Zhelev has been unsuccessful in his attempts to encourage the government to create such an organization (Hancock 27 July 1995; Petrova 28 July 1995). Since 1993, minority police officers have been hired [Country Reports 1994 notes that some Roma police have been hired in some locations (Country Reports 1994 1995, 771). The Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights claims that Roma police officers have been hired since 1992 (Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights Oct. 1994, 6). ], and the Interior Ministry has been instructed by Zhelev to investigate allegations of police abuses against Roma (OMRI 29 Mar. 1995a, 5). However, as noted in Section 3.4., the continuation of language programs is uncertain.

3.4 Cultural Development

Since 1993, several schools have begun teaching Romani-language; a Romani-language faculty has been created in Shumen; pilot literacy programs were started in 1994 (OMRI 29 Mar. 1995a, 5). Nevertheless, Ian Hancock indicates that the cultural development of the Romani community has not progressed at the same pace as that of the ethnic Turkish community (Hancock 27 July 1995). In 1991, two Romani-language publications started up, but were forced to close, mainly for economic reasons (Tomova Oct. 1994b, 22). In September 1994, another Romani-language newspaper, Romani Ilo (The Gypsy Heart) was launched with the help of a Swiss organization (ibid.).

        In schools with Roma students, Romani-language schoolbooks are being slowly introduced and some teachers are being taught the Romani language, although at a much slower pace than ethnic Turks are being taught Turkish (Country Reports 1994 1995, 771). There are some concerns that Romani language teaching will be cancelled (Kanev 25 July 1995; Hancock 27 July 1995). The government appears to offer many different reasons for this: the Romani community has not expressed enough interest in the program to warrant the expense (Kanev 25 July 1995); bilingualism has a negative effect on attaining proficiency in one language because students are dividing their efforts between two languages (Hancock 27 July 1995); the program to offer Romani-language training is just too expensive (Petrova 28 July 1995). Dimitrina Petrova states that the government throws up so many obstacles to Romani-language training that it becomes practically impossible (Petrova 28 July 1995). For example, the Ministry of Education reportedly does not have the funds to train teachers in the new Romani-language text books which are scheduled to be introduced in the 1995-1996 school year (ibid.).

Roma schools, created in the 1970s to segregate Roma children, were officially banned in 1992 by the Ministry of Education when it adopted a new classification system for schools (Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society 1994, 5). However, in practice many of Bulgaria's 60,000 school-aged Roma children still attend these schools which "continued to exist with no changes in the curriculum [or] educational conditions..." (ibid.). Dimitrina Petrova agrees that this is the case (Petrova 28 July 1995). Most of these schools offered programs which directed children into "professional craft training" (Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society 1994, 5). The schools had low graduate levels and left most students with education levels below the national average (Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society 1994, 5; Petrova 28 July 1995). According to Petrova, while there are no official obstacles to a Romani child going to a non-Roma school, it would require much more effort on the part of the parents and they would face discrimination at each step of the process (ibid.).

3.5 Roma Organizations

The Romani community in Bulgaria is very heterogenous (RFE/RL 19 Mar. 1993, 38; Tomova Oct. 1994b, 20). It is divided on the basis of religion, occupation, and dialect (Hancock 27 July 1995). While there does not appear to be a collective Roma will represented by any single organization, and Roma groups are divided amongst themselves (Country Reports 1994 1995, 770-71; RFE/RL 19 Mar. 1993, 39), there are two national Roma organizations: the Confederation of Roma in Bulgaria, which focuses on housing and Roma standard of living, and the Associated Roma Union, which claims that Roma are "manipulated by parties and the media, administratively oppressed and otherwise discriminated against" (CSCE Sept. 1993, 13).

        The constitutional restrictions forbidding ethnically- or racially-based political parties (Article 11(4)) have prevented the Roma and Macedonians (see section 4.1.) from successfully registering political parties (CSCE Sept. 1993, 10). The Democratic Union of Gypsies-ROMA, estimated by its leadership to have 50,000 members nation-wide, was denied registration in 1991 as a political party on these grounds, and was thereby disqualified from participating in the October 1991 elections (News from Helsinki Watch 2 Apr. 1993, 4). Even though it had an open membership, the Democratic Roma Union, formed in 1989, was also denied political registration (CSCE Sept. 1993, 13). According to Hancock and Petrova there are still no registered Romani political parties (Hancock 27 July 1995; Petrova 28 July 1995). In order to participate in elections, the Romani community must elect Roma candidates who are running on other party lists (Petrova 28 July 1995). There are several Roma organizations which are registered as social or cultural/educational groups (ibid.; Hancock 27 July 1995; BTA 25 Nov. 1994) such as the Democratic Roma Union which has made public the plight of Roma with respect to housing, education and employment (OMRI 29 Mar. 1995a, 5).

3.6 Military Service

 Roma and other minority conscripts are usually placed in labour construction and maintenance units instead of in regular military units (International Helsinki Federation 1994, 34; Country Reports 1994 1995, 771; Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 5 Nov. 1993, 3). While there are a few ethnic Turkish officers in the Bulgarian military, there are reportedly no Roma officers (ibid.).

3.7 Employment

Prior to 1990, according to Ian Hancock, the Romani community was so marginalized that it was basically left alone and allowed to undertake small scale entrepreneurial activities. With the move towards a market economy, tensions may be heightened between some entrepreneurially successful Roma and ethnic Bulgarians who are having difficulties making the market transition (Hancock 27 July 1995).

However, in general, Roma have suffered disproportionately as economic deterioration in Bulgaria has forced large-scale layoffs and factory closings (LCHR July 1994, 34; HRW/Helsinki Nov. 1994, 3). The national Roma unemployment rate is estimated to be about 64 per cent, which may range seasonally from 80 to 90 per cent, compared to a national unemployment rate of about 17 per cent (ibid.). Hancock believes the rate to be closer to 95 to 98 per cent and says that this has led to frustration which occasionally leads to altercations between Roma and the police (Hancock 27 July 1995). Gypsy leaders also have claimed that rising unemployment has led to increased crime and also increased tensions between Roma and police (News from Helsinki Watch 2 Apr. 1993, 3). In addition to being the first persons laid off, along with other minorities, Roma often lose supervisory positions to ethnic Bulgarians (Country Reports 1994 1995, 771).

3.8 Roma Women and Children

In attacks against Roma by ethnic Bulgarians, women and children have also been victimized (International Helsinki Federation 1994, 34). In the February 1994 incident in Dolno Belotintsi for example, after ransacking Roma homes, the Bulgarians forced a group of Roma, mostly women, children and the aged, on a six-kilometre march (AI 23 Mar. 1994, 1; Obektiv Mar.-May 1994b, 7). [Further information on the treatment of ethnic minority women was not available to the DIRB at the time of writing.] Incidents of mob violence have also reportedly included the beatings of children (International Helsinki Federation 1994, 34).

        According to one source, employment prospects for Roma children who receive a sub-standard education in Roma schools are "severely" limited (Country Reports 1994 1995, 771). Increasing drop-out rates of Roma children are also expected to decrease their employment opportunities (Tomova Oct. 1994b, 26).

There has been a growing number of homeless Roma children, especially in Sofia, since the transition to democracy (AI May 1993, 2; Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 5 Nov. 1993, 4; Petrova 28 July 1995). Many of these children come from what the communist regime called "Homes for the Socially Weak", many of which have been closed in the 1990s. If these children, many of whom are orphans, do not have any place to go they end up on the streets (Petrova 28 July 1995). The high unemployment and crime rates have also forced some Roma children into the streets as one or both parents may be in prison and there may not be a relative to take them in (ibid.).

Sometimes, for economic reasons, Roma children are forced into prostitution by their families (Country Reports 1994 1995, 770). Roma children are increasingly attacked and beaten by nationalist youth groups and "skinheads" (AI May 1993, 2; Country Reports 1994 1995, 770). Police reportedly offer little help to protect children from such treatment (ibid.; Tomova Oct. 1994b, 24).


Except for a brief period after World War II, Bulgaria has never officially recognized a Macedonian minority (UNHCR Nov. 1994, 12). While it recognized the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 1992 (Bobev and Bozeva Oct. 1994, 44; Bulgarian Helsinki Committee n.d., 1), Bulgaria "officially declared that the recognition of statehood does not mean also recognition of [a] Macedonian nation or ethnicity" (ibid.). Following the June 1990 elections, "the official policy of the Bulgarian state, supported by all political parties, denounced the existence of [a] Macedonian minority in Bulgaria and gave [a] free hand to the police in suppressing all public manifestations of Macedonian identity." (ibid., 3).

According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Bulgarians share similar physical characteristics and lifestyles and ethnic Macedonians "face discrimination only after they declare their Macedonian self-identity" (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee n.d., 2). The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee also indicates that in 1994 "hostile policy" towards ethnic Macedonians "decreased somewhat" (ibid. 8 Mar. 1995, 9).

4.1 Macedonian Organizations

Article 44 of the Bulgarian constitution prohibits organizations that "threaten the country's territorial integrity or unity or that incite racial, ethnic, or religious hatred" (Country Reports 1994 1995, 767-68). This has been used to deny registration of UMO-Ilinden and other Macedonian groups (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee n.d., 2-4; INS Mar. 1993, 21) and has been used by police as justification for dispersing UMO-Ilinden rallies (Country Reports 1994 1995, 768). One Macedonian group, Traditional Macedonian Organization, VMRO-Ilinden (TMO, VMRO Ilinden), led by Georgi Solunski, was registered in 1992 but was deregistered by the Supreme Court on 23 April 1993 (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee n.d., 2, 4; International Helsinki Federation 1994, 35; Bobev and Bozeva Oct. 1994, 43). Ethnic Macedonians can run for political office on the electoral lists of other parties (ibid., 44).

        More recently, some human rights groups have accused the Bulgarian government of using legislation passed in June 1994, which regulates the activities of the National Security Service (NSS), to monitor UMO-Ilinden (Country Reports 1994 1995, 766-67). The NSS is the organization responsible for internal civilian counterintelligence and under the new law, the Interior Minister can authorize "electronic surveillance for up to 24 hours without informing other government agencies, if he determines there is imminent danger to national security" (ibid.).

In January 1995, UMO-Ilinden registered a complaint with the International Court at the Hague alleging that the human rights of its members in Pirin Macedonia, in southwest Bulgaria, "were being systematically violated" (24 Chasa 21 Mar. 1995). The 24 Chasa report gave no further details on this issue.

For additional information on Macedonian organizations, please refer to DIRB's Response to Information Request BGR19798.E (14 Feb. 1995), available in all Regional Documentation Centres.

4.2 Police Treatment of Ethnic Macedonians

Macedonian groups are not allowed to register formally or organize rallies (UNHCR Nov. 1994, 12). Nevertheless, each year at the Rozhen Monastery, UMO-Ilinden commemorates the anniversary of the death of Yane Sandanski, a turn of the century Macedonian hero who fought against the Ottoman empire (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee n.d., 3). In April 1990, 3000 to 4000 people participated in the commemoration (ibid.). In subsequent years, however, the Rozhen Monastery celebration has been marred by police actions. In 1991, nationalistic groups and police staged what the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee termed an "organized series of provocations" at the celebrations (ibid.). According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, in April 1992, police used force to disperse the peaceful participants at UMO-Ilinden rallies in Rozhen (ibid.).

In April 1993 and April 1994, police blocked the access roads to the monastery (ibid., 4; BTA 23 Apr. 1994; ibid. 27 Apr. 1993). In those years, police also refused to allow UMO-Ilinden members to go to Sandanski's grave site (24 Chasa 21 Mar. 1995; Bulgarian Helsinki Committee n.d., 3). About 30 people were beaten by police and troops of the Interior Ministry Special Force for Fighting Terrorism during their attempts to visit the grave in 1993, reportedly for identifying themselves as Macedonians (AI 22 Apr. 1994, 1; Bulgarian Helsinki Committee n.d., 3). They were subsequently refused medical certificates by doctors who treated them at a nearby hospital (ibid., 4). In a related incident, citizens of the Republic of Macedonia who had travelled to attend the commemoration ceremonies were also reportedly beaten by police near the village of Spatovo (ibid.). Shortly before the scheduled commemoration in April 1993, three members of UMO-Ilinden were beaten by police for posting notices about the Sandanski commemoration ceremonies, and an issue of the UMO-Ilinden newspaper Skornuvane (Awakening) was confiscated (ibid.; International Helsinki Federation 1994, 35), marking the first confiscation of a newspaper in the country since 1989 (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee n.d., 4). The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee reported that there were "no mass beatings" of UMO-Ilinden members in 1994 as there had been in the previous three years (ibid. 8 Mar. 1995, 9). In April 1995, UMO-Ilinden reportedly held a ceremony at Rozhen at which its leader claimed there was a "mass police presence" (Kontinent 25 Apr. 1995). The sources consulted by the DIRB could not corroborate this information.

On 1 August 1993 and 1 August 1994, police also blocked Macedonians from going to Samuilova Krepost to celebrate the 90th and 91st anniversaries of the Ilinden Rebellion [In August 1994 UMO-Ilinden sought official permission to celebrate the 91st anniversary of the Ilinden Rebellion, but was refused by the mayor of Petrich. The mayor's decision was upheld by the Regional Court (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee n.d., 4). It had also failed in its efforts to obtain official permission to celebrate the anniversary of Sandanski's death in April 1994 (HRW 1994, 199).] (ibid.; Nova Makedonija 28 July 1994). UMO-Ilinden members were reportedly also prevented by police from holding ceremonies in other towns (Kontinent 1 Aug. 1994)

According to an article in the Skopje, Macedonia-based newspaper Nova Makedonija, in 1994 the leader of UMO-Ilinden, Yordan Kostandinov, had his passport confiscated by Bulgarian authorities (Nova Makedonija 28 July 1994). The article also claimed that "this is not the first time that passports have been taken away from members of [UMO] 'Ilinden' and it has become common practice in the last few years..." (ibid.). Bobev and Bozeva also claim that passports of Ilinden activists are confiscated "along with their literature and lists of subscribers" (Bobev and Bozeva Oct. 1994, 43).

On 16 June 1993 Georgi Solunski, the leader of TMO, VMRO-Ilinden was arrested in Sofia on charges of attempted murder following a brawl with members of the nationalistic Bulgarian National Democratic Party (ibid.). The charge was later changed to "insolent hooliganism"; in January 1994 the case was sent for reinvestigation and Solunski was released from prison (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee n.d., 4; International Helsinki Federation 1994, 35).

For additional information on the treatment of ethnic Macedonians, please see the DIRB's Response to Information Request BGR19797.E (20 Feb. 1995), which contains information provided in a telephone interview with the chairperson of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. This Response includes information on the possible ill-treatment of ethnic Macedonians, including by individuals within the judicial system; it also includes information on their treatment in cities and towns. For information on the differences and similarities between the Macedonian and Bulgarian languages, see the DIRB's Response to Information Request MCD21141.E (26 June 1995). All of these are available in all Regional Documentation Centres.


 The Bulgarian government's treatment of other small minority groups, such as Armenians, has reportedly been positive with few reports of discrimination (CSCE Sept. 1993, 15).

5.1 Jews

Reports claim that historically anti-Semitism has had little support in Bulgaria, noting that Bulgaria was one of the few Nazi allies that refused to surrender its Jews during World War II [According to Tomova, Bulgarian Roma also benefitted from the refusal as Bulgaria would not surrender its Gypsy or Jewish citizens to the Nazis (Tomova Oct. 1994b, 21). ] (RFE/RL 22 Apr. 1994, 77; Reuters 19 Apr. 1995; Insitute of Jewish Affairs 1994, 99). These claims are supported by an INS report, which states that "according to all available sources, both governmental and societal attitudes towards Bulgaria's estimated 6,000 Jews are quite positive" (INS Mar. 1993, 22). The Jewish community's cultural activities began to re-emerge following Zhivkov's fall (Avdala Oct. 1994, 53).

Anti-Semitic incidents have occurred in Bulgaria. When anti-Semitic slogans were found on the walls of a synagogue and a Jewish school in April 1995, Zhelev told a visiting delegation of Israeli deputies that such provocations "are the work of a small group and the Bulgarian public firmly condemns such acts" (BTA 20 Apr. 1995a; OMRI 20 Apr. 1995; Reuters 19 Apr. 1995). Police mounted an investigation to find those responsible for the vandalism (AP 19 Apr. 1995) and the Ministry of the Interior issued a statement condemning all acts of xenophobia and anti-Semitism (BTA 20 Apr. 1995b; Obektiv Feb.-Apr. 1995a, 1). According to Samuel Frances, the editor of Bulgaria's Jewish News newspaper, the recent emergence of anti-Semitic literature and groups in the country is cause for concern because the historical lack of anti-Semitism in Bulgaria has left it disadvantaged as it has not developed a way to counteract anti-Semitism (Reuters 9 May 1995).

        Some anti-Semitic literature exists in Bulgaria and some newspapers articles have appeared which have anti-Semitic overtones (Insitute of Jewish Affairs 1994, 99; Avdala Oct. 1994, 57). On 9 November 1994, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre sent a letter to President Zhelev seeking a ban on the recently published book Masons, Jews, and Revolutions: How these Forces of Satan are Preparing the End of Mankind (RFE/RL 10 Nov. 1994; Reuters 9 Nov. 1994). The book reportedly blames the Jews "for the deaths of three Russian Tsars and the advent of Communism;" according to Shimon Samuels, the Wiesenthal Centre's European director, the book is a "'rehash of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' a 19th century forgery used by Tsarist Russia to justify anti-Jewish pogroms" (RFE/RL 10 Nov. 1994; Reuters 9 Nov. 1994). Another book, The World-Wide Conspiracy, which "in effect blames the Jews for all the World's problems" has also been printed (Avdala Oct. 1994, 57).


On 15 December 1993, the National Assembly adopted a new National Police Law, which removes the police from military court jurisdiction (HRW 1994, 200). The law, which became effective 1 January 1994, means future allegations of police abuses will be dealt with by civilian prosecutors and investigators (ibid.). It is unclear how the law is being interpreted or implemented (Markotich 22 Aug. 1995).

In June 1994, before the change in government, human rights NGOs held a seminar in Sofia to discuss the issue of police brutality against minorities in Eastern Europe (Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe June 1994a, 4-5; Reuters 12 June 1994). The seminar participants discussed the situation of Roma in all east European countries and noted that they are often subjected to police violence and abuses. The Bulgarian police refused to participate in the seminar (Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe June 1994a, 4-5; Reuters 12 June 1994) and responded by holding a press conference at which the Deputy Chief of the National Police, Major Rumen Ghenev, stated: "We are against the title of this seminar because Bulgarian Police do not have special policies or attitudes toward minorities, and we apply the law equally to all Bulgarian citizens" (Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe June 1994b, 5). Many of Bulgaria's top newspapers labelled the seminar "tendentious" (ibid.).

According to Country Reports 1994, some human rights groups believe that there needs to be more vigorous investigations of allegations of crimes against minorities (Country Reports 1994 1995, 766). In April 1995, Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev reportedly stated that internal administrative decree Number 2, "will facilitate procedures for imposing penalties on uniformed officials" (Bulgarska Armiya 14 Apr. 1995). However, Ian Hancock and Dimitrina Petrova both believe that the police still act with impunity when dealing with Roma (Hancock 27 July 1995; Petrova 28 July 1995).

In 1994, the Council of Ministers established the Ethnic Affairs Council (Country Reports 1994 1995, 771; Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights Oct. 1994, 5), to act as "a body for consultation and coordination for the organization and implementation of state policy on various ethnic groups...and for the regulation of inter-ethnic relations (ibid.). According to Kanev, this council was disbanded and replaced with the Department of Demographic and Social Issues by a June 1995 decree (Kanev 25 July 1995). This new department, which is not yet fully established, will treat ethnic minorities as social groups instead of ethnic groups (ibid.). According to Kanev, the department will have a council and elected representatives of various ethnic groups will be members. However the regulations are complicated. For example, to qualify for representation on the council, an ethnic group must comprise at least one-third of the population in a municipality. This will make it very difficult for the Roma to be represented on the council as Kanev doubts that Roma constitute one-third of the population in any of Bulgaria's some 270 municipalities (Kanev 25 July 1995).


The years of transition have affected ethnic minorities in Bulgaria differently (BTA 25 Nov. 1994; CSCE Sept. 1993, 1). For example, the treatment of ethnic Turks has "improved markedly" (ibid.), while the situation for Roma remains a problem (BTA 25 Nov. 1994; CSCE Sept. 1993, 1). Country Reports for both 1993 and 1994 claim that, in general, "xenophobia, nationalism, and antiethnic expression [have grown] markedly among the population at large" (Country Reports 1994 1995, 764; Country Reports 1993 1994, 816).

        A report in OMRI claims that the "BSP [election] win is likely to heighten, not diminish ethnic tensions" (OMRI 29 Mar. 1995b, 35). According to Stan Markotich, an analyst at OMRI, while there is no clear evidence that the BSP has targetted any specific minority group, there are elements within the BSP that are sympathetic to the idea of a return to the policies of the communist regime (Markotich 22 Aug. 1995). However, although these BSP members may have some influence at the local level, dealing with individuals, their ideas are not party policy (ibid.). Kanev states that one specific area where there appears to be some concern is the issue of minority-language education (25 July 1995). While the National Assembly has not yet passed any legislation on ethnic minorities, there are indications that minority-language education may be reduced or cancelled (ibid.).

A commentary on the first three months of BSP rule published in the UDF's newspaper Demokratsiya in April 1995 claims that "many 'professionals' related to the former communists have been returned to the police and other places" and that "the police are beating up and killing people" (Demokratsiya 17 Apr. 1995). Dimitrina Petrova, the chair of the Human Rights Project agrees, adding that the government boasts that former communists are being returned to the security services (28 July 1995).

Finally, the appointment of Ilcho Dimitrov as Minister of Education and Science in the new BSP government has been met with protests from the MRF and some members of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (OMRI 31 Jan. 1995). Dimitrov, who had been Education Minister in the 1980s, is considered, especially by the MRF, to have played a key role in the 1980s' assimilation program (ibid.; ibid. 27 Jan. 1995; ibid. 24 Jan. 1995). Dimitrov has reportedly stated that the MRF is "anti-constitutional and its policies are harming national interests" (ibid. 27 Jan. 1995). For its part, the MRF's local committee in Kardzhali has issued a document claiming that "efforts are afoot to revive the mid-1980s campaign to forcefully Bulgarize ethnic Turkish names" (ibid. 11 Jan. 1995).



Election Results 1991 and 1994 elections.

Party       Percentage            Seats

                 1991 1994              1991 1994

BSP coalition          33.1 43.5                  106 125

of which:

 BSP        116

 BZNS (AS)           5

 Ekoglasnost         4


UDF 34.3 24.2                110 69

PU*        -- 6.5      --            18

MRF        7.5          5.4          24 15

BBB*      --            4.7 -- 13

Source: OMRI 29 March 1995b. *PU = People's Union, BBB = Bulgarian Business Bloc


The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee is a Bulgarian-based NGO founded in 1992 for the protection of human rights. It is affiliated with the International Helsinki Federation (IHF) in Vienna and it produces the periodical Obektiv. It is chaired by Krassimir Kanev.

The Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights is a Bulgarian-based NGO which cooperates closely with Minority Rights Group International in London.

The Human Rights Project (For the Legal Defence of Gypsies) is a Bulgarian-based NGO founded in September 1992, which focuses on the situation of Roma in Bulgaria. It is affiliated with the International Helsinki Federation (IHF) in Vienna and is chaired by Dimitrina Petrova.

The International Helsinki Federation For Human Rights (IHF) is a Vienna-based, non-profit NGO that monitors compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act and its Follow-up documents as well as their reference to international law. It publishes the newsletter Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society. It represents 30 Helsinki Committees in Europe and North America including the Bulgarian Helsinki Committtee.

Ian Hancock, UN Presidium Head for International Romani Union.

        While on the surface it may appear that there are a number of sources available on ethnic minorities in Bulgaria, closer inspection reveals that there is a small source pool from which many organizations gather information. For example, as mentioned above, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee is connected to the International Helsinki Federation in Vienna. Likewise, Dimitrina Petrova, the chair of the Human Rights Project is also a representative of the International Helsinki Federation and is a member of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. Petrova has provided information for reports on ethnic minorities written by Human Rights Watch/Helsinki and Amensty International. Helsinki Watch has also drawn upon the work of Krassimir Kanev, the head of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.


24 Chasa [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 21 March 1995. "'Illegal' Organization Invites Canadians to Rally." (FBIS-EEU-95-057 24 Mar. 1995, p. 3)

        Amnesty International. 10 October 1994. "Bulgaria: Another Rom Dies in Custody in Suspicious Circumstances." (AI Index: EUR 15/WU 04/94) London: Amnesty International.

Amnesty International. September 1994. Bulgaria: Turning a Blind Eye to Racism. (AI Index: EUR 15/04/94). London: Amnesty International.

        Amnesty International. 22 April 1994. "Bulgaria: Amnesty International Urges Authorities to Ensure Police Observance of International Human Rights Standards." (AI Index: EUR 15/WU 03/94). London: Amnesty International

Amnesty International. 23 March 1994. "Bulgaria: Amnesty International Concerned by Attacks on Roma Community." (AI Index: EUR 15/WU 02/1994). London: Amnesty International.

Amnesty International. May 1993. Bulgaria: Torture and Ill-treatment of Roma (AI Index: EUR 15/03/93). London: Amnesty International.

        Associated Press (AP). 11 June 1995. Muslim Dormitory Attacked as Trial of Skinhead Leader Begins." (NEXIS)

Associated Press (AP). 19 April 1995. "Swastikas, Nazi Slogans Daubed on Synagogue, Jewish School." (NEXIS)

Avdala. Albert. October 1994. "The Jews in Bulgaria," Minority Groups in Bulgaria in a Human Rights Context. Sofia: Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights.

        Bobev, Bobby and Kalina Bozeva. October 1994. "The Macedonians in Bulgaria," Minority Groups in Bulgaria in a Human Rights Context. Sofia: Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights.

        Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Sofia. N.d. Macedonians.

        Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Sofia. 8 March 1995. Human Rights in Bulgaria in 1994. Sofia: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

        Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Sofia. 5 November 1993. Human Rights in Bulgaria in 1993. Sofia: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

        Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA) [Sofia, in English]. 17 June 1995. "Zhelev: Those Responsible for 1980s Muslim Name Change Must Stand Trial." (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts 19 June 1995-NEXIS)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA) [Sofia, in English]. 20 April 1995a. "Zhelev Discusses Anti-semitism with Knessett Delegation." (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts 22 Apr. 1995-NEXIS)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA) [Sofia, in English]. 20 April 1995b. "Interior Ministry Statement on Xenophobic Acts." (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts 22 Apr. 1995-NEXIS)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA) [Sofia, in English]. 25 November 1994. Ani Parmaksizyan. "Gypsies: Seminar on Gypsies: BTA Sets Out Their Special Problems." (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts 28 Nov. 1994-NEXIS)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA) [Sofia, in English]. 23 April 1994. "Police Ban Gathering of Illegal Macedonian Organization." (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts 27 Apr. 1994-NEXIS)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA) [Sofia, in English]. 27 April 1993. "Bulgaria Protests at Macedonian Statement After Talks on Yane Sandanski Events." (BBC Summary of World Braodcasts 29 Apr. 1993-NEXIS)

Bulgarska Armiya [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 14 April 1995. "Military Counterintelligence May be Under MVR." (FBIS-EEU-95-080 26 Apr. 1995, p. 6)

        Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). September 1993. Human Rights and Democratization in Bulgaria. Washington, DC.: CSCE.

        Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights. October 1994. "Introduction," Minority Groups in Bulgaria ina a Human Rights Context. Sofia: Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights.

        Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1994. 1995. United States Department of State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.

        Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993. 1994. United States Department of State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.

        Demokratsiya [Sofia, in Bulgarian] 17 April 1995. "BSP Rule Viewed as 'Communist Totalitarianism'." (FBIS-EEU-95-077 21 Apr. 1995, pp. 2-3)

        The Europa World Year Book 1994. 1994. 35th ed. Vol. 1. London: Europa Publications.

        The Globe and Mail [Toronto]. 29 April 1995. Stephen Kinzer. "Bulgaria Tries on a Younger, Tougher Face."

        Hancock, Ian. 27 July 1995. UN Presidium Head for International Romani Union. Telephone interview with DIRB.

Human Rights Project. 25 February 1995. Letter to DIRB.

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 1994. Human Rights Watch World Report 1995. New York: Human Rights Watch.

        Human Rights Watch/Helsinki (HRW/Helsinki) [New York]. November 1994. Vol. 6, No. 18. "Bulgaria: Increasing Violence Against Roma in Bulgaria."

        INS Resource Information Center. March 1993. Alert Series. Bulgaria: Status of Democratization. (AL/BGR/93.001). Washington, DC.: INS.

        International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. 1994. Annual Report of Activities 1993/1994. Vienna: International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.

        Institute of Jewish Affairs. 1994. Antisemitism World Report. London: Institute of Jewish Affairs.

        Kanev, Krassimir. 25 July 1995. Chair, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. Telephone interview with DIRB.

Keesing's Record of World Events [Cambridge]. January 1990. Vol. 36, No. 1. "Bulgaria: Protests Over Restoration of Turkish Minority Rights."

        Khorizont Radio [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 20 April 1995. "Zhelev Recieves DPS Leader, BBB Members." (FBIS-EEU-95-077 21 Apr. 1995, p. 2)

Kontinent [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 25 April 1995. "Illinden Leader Urges Europe to Unite Macedonia." (FBIS-EEU-95-086 4 May 1995, pp. 4-6)

        Kontinent [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 1 August 1994. "Ilinden OMO Barred from Commemorating Uprising." (FBIS-EEU-94-151 5 Aug. 1994)

        Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR). July 1994. Critique: Review of Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993. New York: LCHR.

        Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR). July 1993. Critique: Review of Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1992. New York: LCHR.

        Markotich, Stan. 22 August 1995. Research Analyst with OMRI who deals with Serbia and Bulgaria. Telephone interview with DIRB.

News from Helsinki Watch [New York]. 2 April 1993. Vol. 5, No. 5. "Bulgaria: Police Violence Against Gypsies."

        Nova Makedonija [Skopje, in Macedonian]. 28 July 1994. "Paper on Bulgarian 'Repression' of Macedonians." (FBIS-EEU-94-147 1 Aug. 1994, p. 48)

        Obektiv [Sofia]. February-April 1995a. "Targets of Racist Attacks."

        Obektiv [Sofia]. February-April 1995b. Savelina Danova and Ruyman Russinov. "Skinheads Are Closing In."

        Obektiv [Sofia]. July-September 1994a. Krassimir Kanev. "Denial of Justice."

        Obektiv [Sofia]. July-September 1994b. Ruyman Russinov. "Another Act of Brutality."

        Obektiv [Sofia]. July-September 1994c. Ruyman Russinov and Savelina Danova. "Deaths in Custody."

        Obektiv [Sofia]. March-May 1994a. Dimitrina Petrova. "Murder to Intimidate."

        Obektiv [Sofia]. March-May 1994b. Ruyman Russinov. "Ethnic Cleansing."

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). [Prague]. 2 August 1995. OMRI Daily Digest. Stefan Krause. "Bulgarian President Says His Election Was 'a Deal' Between Parties." (Internet mailing list)

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 7 July 1995. OMRI Daily Digest. Stan Markotich. "Demirel Ends Visit to Bulgaria." (Internet mailing list)

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 6 July 1995. OMRI Daily Digest. Stan Markotich. "Turkish President on Ties with Bulgaria." (Internet mailing list)

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 27 June 1995. OMRI Daily Digest. Stefan Krause. "Bulgarian Skinhead Fined for Desecrating Soviet Graves." (Internet mailing list)

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 20 June 1995. OMRI Daily Digest. Stefan Krause. "Bulgarian Constitutional Court Rejects Land Law." (Internet mailing list)

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 12 June 1995. OMRI Daily Digest. Stefan Krause. "Ethnic Turkish Dormitory in Bulgaria Attacked." (Internet mailing list)

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 20 April 1995. OMRI Daily Digest. Stefan Krause. "Anti-Semites Deface Bulgarian Synagogue." (Internet mailing list)

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 29 March 1995a. Transition. Vol. 1, No. 4. Zoltan Barany. "Grim Realities in Eastern Europe."

Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 29 March 1995b. Transition. Vol. 1, No. 4. Stefan Krause. "Socialists at the Helm."

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 31 January 1995. OMRI Daily Digest. Stefan Krause. "Bulgarian Education Minister Still Under Fire." (Internet mailing list)

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 30 January 1995. Transition. Vol. 1, No. 1. 30 January 1995. Kjell Engelbrekt. "Political Turmoil, Economic Recovery."

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 27 January 1995. OMRI Daily Digest. Stefan Krause. "Bulgarian Minister Attacks Ethnic Turkish Party." (Internet mailing list)

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 24 January 1995. OMRI Daily Digest. Stefan Krause. "Bulgarian Turks Protest Against New Minister." (Internet mailing list)

        Open Media Research Institute (OMRI). 11 January 1995. OMRI Daily Digest. Stefan Krause. "Zhivkov Says BCP Was Not About to Recognize Ethnic Turks." (Internet mailing list)

        Petrova, Dimitrina. 28 July 1995. Chair, Human Rights Project. Telephone interview with DIRB.

Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe [Vienna]. 1994/5. No. 5/6. Dimitrina Petrova. "The Radical Nationalist Movement and Human Rights Monitoring in Bulgaria."

        Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe [Vienna]. 1994. No. 4. Elena Marushiakova and Vesselin Popov. "'Gypsy Schools' in Bulgaria."

        Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe [Vienna]. June 1994a. No. 2. "Police Brutality: Human Rights NGOs and the Legal Defense of Minorities."

        Promoting Human Rights and Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe [Vienna]. June 1994b. No. 2. "Media Reactions to Seminar 'Police Brutality' in Sofia."

        Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Institute [Munich]. 10 November 1994. Daily Report. Jiri Pehe. "Bulgarian Book Ban Sought." (Internet mailing list)

        Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Institute [Munich]. 24 June 1994. RFE/RL Research Report. Vol. 3, No. 25. Kjell Engelbrekt. "Bulgaria's Political Stalemate."

        Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Institute [Munich]. 22 April 1994. RFE/RL Research Report. Vol. 3, No. 16. Kjell Engelbrekt. "Bulgaria."

        Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Institute [Munich]. 19 March 1993. RFE/RL Research Report. Vol. 2, No. 12. Ivan Ilchev and Duncan M. Perry. "Bulgarian Ethnic Groups: Politics and Perceptions."

        Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Institute [Munich]. 5 February 1993. RFE/RL Research Report. Vol. 2, No. 6. Rada Nikolaev. "Bulgaria's 1992 Census: Results, Problems, and Implications."

        Reuters. 9 May 1995. BC Cycle. Gareth Jones. "Jews Fondly Remember Bulgaria's Wartime Protection." (NEXIS)

Reuters. 19 April 1995. BC Cycle. "Anti-Semitic Vandals Deface Bulgarian Synagogue." (NEXIS)

Reuters. 9 November 1994. BC Cycle. "Jewish Pressure Group Seeks Bulgarian Book Ban." (NEXIS)

Reuters. 12 June 1994. BC Cycle. Tsvetelina Parvanova. "Rights Aides, Police in Rift on Bulgaria Gypsies." (NEXIS)

Reuters. 2 January 1990. BC Cycle. Elif Kaban. "Consul Says Amnesty Possible for Ethnic Turks." (NEXIS)

Tomova, Ilona. October 1994a. "The Turks in Bulgaria," Minority Groups in Bulgaria in a Human Rights Context. Sofia: Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights.

        Tomova, Ilona. October 1994b. "The Roma in Bulgaria," Minority Groups in Bulgaria in a Human Rights Context. Sofia: Committee for the Defence of Minority Rights.

        Trud [Sofia, in Bulgarian]. 30 November 1994. "Radicalization Feared if Turkish Party Isolated." (FBIS-EEU-94-233 5 Dec. 1994, p. 7)

        United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). November 1994. Background Paper on Bulgarian Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Geneva: UNHCR Centre for Documentation on Refugees.

        The United Press International (UPI). 23 March 1995. BC Cycle. Vladimir Zhelyazkov. "Bulgarians Protest Land Ownership Rules." (NEXIS)

U.S. Newswire. 28 June 1995. "Text of ADL Report 'The Skinhead International; A Worldwide Survey of Neoi-Nazi Skinheads'." (NEXIS)

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