Christianity in Bulgaria
The history of this land which today we call Bulgaria is easily traced back through eight thousand years. The most recent millenium is when the earliest inhabitants began to give up paganism and accepted the religious spirts. The Slavs, a fair, well-built people dominated this region during the fourth and fifth centuries. By the middle of the 7th century, the Bulgars came into the land now known as Bulgaria and merged with the Slavs. These people continued to remain "officially" pagan until the reign of Czar Boris Obedinitel, who came to power around 852. In the year 855, the brothers Cyril and Methodius began their work which would create a written language, today known as Cyrillic, for these people. With a written language, it became possible to create an official translation of the Christian Bible which previously existed only in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Thus it was before the dawning of the 10th century that Christianity was widely accepted in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria forms the frontier of Christian Europe. Beyond its border stretches the immense sea of Islam. Archeological studies have shown that Islam existed in Bulgaria three centuries before its conquest by the Ottomans. Half way through the year 962 AH (1356 Christian dating), an Islam invasion, led by Genghis Khan's Tartars of the Golden Horde, a Turkish-Mongolian people from Central Asia, entered the Balkans. A portion of this era's history will be found in our section on Asenova Krepost. While the Orthodox faith remained strong during the time of the Turkish yoke, no church was permitted to have a spire which exceeded the height of the mosques', and any new churches were built behind fortified walls.
Bulgaria's wartime government refused to hand over its 50 000 Jewish citizens to the Nazis in 1943. Anti-Semitism found little support in Bulgaria, and the country's large number of Jewish residents worshiped in the synagogues scattered in the larger communities.
Today, Bulgaria remains a multi-ethnic land, with a mixture of 85 % Bulgarian Orthodox, 13 % Islamic (Sunni Muslim and Shi'i Muslim), 3.6 % Gypsy (Romi) 0.8 % Jewish, 0.7 % Roman Catholic and 0.5 % other.
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