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There is hardly another ethnic group in Crimea that has a more transparent history than the Bulgarians. They officially went to Crimea recently, two centuries ago, so we have documents on the process of Bulgarian colonization of Crimea. However, in the VII century. the ancestors of the Bulgarians came to the peninsula, settled in the steppes and dissolved for centuries among the indigenous nation that was already being formed.
Bulgaria is known to have suffered from Ottoman pressure for many centuries. At the beginning of the last century, the Russian Empire, concerned about the colonization of the conquered Crimea, began to interest the peasants of their own and neighboring countries in the Crimean perspective. German, Czech, Polish, and Estonian colonies appeared on the peninsula; the devastated land of Crimea required even more effort and willing people from the Empire. This was already a big policy, the interests of which could dramatically change the fate of ordinary people, peasants and artisans.
The first 63 families of Bulgarian peasants from the Ottoman Empire arrived in the Crimea in 1802. The newcomers settled in the Old Crimea, where they created a settlement, which is still called Bulgaria. The other two Bulgarian colonies of that period in the Crimea were Kishlav and Bala-Chokrak. Unable to compete in the market with the products of the traditional economy, the Bulgarians took the quality and novelty. It was they who raised fine-wooled sheep, hitherto unknown in the Crimea, and also thanks to Bulgarian gardeners and gardeners enriched the peninsula with new varieties of fruits and vegetables.
The archaic system of land ownership and high demographics of the Bulgarian colonies quickly led to the search for new lands, the Bulgarians went to sea, settled Koktebel and Otuzy. There are still preserved old Bulgarian buildings, mazanki or brick two-story buildings, 4-5 rooms, without a balcony or gallery. According to ancient researchers, Bulgarian families usually did not even “live” in rooms, but spent time together in a small room between the house and the outbuildings of the yard.
In subsequent years, Bulgarian colonists appeared in the Crimea due to migration processes in the Empire itself. There were two more waves of migrants from Bulgaria. The first was facilitated by the next Turkish war of 1826-1828, the second was caused by another outflow of Crimean Tatars from the Crimea as a result of the Eastern War. But the situation in the Balkans was completely different, the Bulgarian Renaissance was gaining strength, whose leaders called on the Bulgarians to stay and build their Bulgaria. Of the last batch of Bulgarian emigrants who arrived in the Crimea in 1861-1862, almost no one remained on the peninsula.
Later, the tsarist government did not provide the Bulgarians with land to create new colonies, resettled in the existing Ukrainian villages of the foothills and steppes, on the other hand – resettled in the Bulgarian settlements of Ukrainian and Russian settlers. The resistance of the Bulgarians to this was purely humanitarian. Thus, having learned a lot in the economy and culture from neighbors, mainly – the Crimean Tatars, the Bulgarians firmly adhered to customs and native language. In every Bulgarian settlement there was a church, in almost all of them – primary schools, according to the level of literacy of the Bulgarians in the Crimea in 1916 were fourth – after the Germans, Czechs and Estonians. Before World War II, there were more than 15,000 Bulgarians in the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.
In World War II, Bulgaria was an ally of Germany. Perhaps this is why the Soviet authorities deported the Bulgarians from the peninsula. The military merits of the partisans and the loyalty of the population as a whole no longer mattered: on the night of June 24, 1944, 12,000 Bulgarians were deported to the Crimea…
Gradually the Bulgarians returned. In 1991, the people of Simferopol founded the Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Union. Then the republican Bulgarian community was created, which included 22 local communities. At the turn of the millennium, there were almost 2,000 Bulgarians in Crimea. The Bulgarian component was a bright line in the spectrum of the Crimean cultural field. Now the Bulgarians on the peninsula are almost as many, not increased. Apparently, they traditionally preserve elements of their own cultural space… But in terms of development prospects, we have to wait until at least the status quo in Crimea is restored.
Photos from the sites: http://www.eurochicago.com/ and the Crimean Ethnographic Museum
Stepan Chuzhynsky, “Crimean Room” № 10, 2017