Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, to Remove Turkish-Arabic Names

Bulgaria will remove the Turkish-Arabic names of 838 places in the Stara Zagora area.

Since the country was part of the Ottoman Empire, many parts of the country still carry Islamized names, despite Bulgaria being a Slavic, Orthodox Christian country. The proposition gathered 39 votes for and only 2 against in the regional council of Stara Zagora.

While this decision will undoubtedly prove popular with Bulgarian nationalists, the Muslim community and the “Movement for Rights and Freedoms” (DPS), the liberal party mostly focused on representing the Bulgarian Turkish and Muslim minorities, condemned the decision. The votes against the proposition were from DPS representatives.

The Muslim community called it a new “Revival Process,” a 1980s government program for swapping Islamic names of Bulgarian Turks with Bulgarian ones. The program is often claimed to have contributed to the massive exodus of Turks from Bulgaria after the fall of the Communist Regime.

The Bulgarian nationalist party VMRO was the driving force behind this proposition.

They had this to say: “With its decision today in Stara Zagora, we finished a process started by our ancestors in the distant 1878. The credit goes to multiplicity councilmen Anton Andonov from VMRO and to Mihail Mihailov from ATAKA.” The nationalist state that many of the names in the Stara Zagora area are incomprehensible for the local population, due to their origin being a mix of Turkish, Arabic, and old-Bulgarian.

Some of the names will be translated directly, other will be analogically interpreted, and some will be replaced altogether. VMRO points to various previous instances of Bulgarianizing the Turkish-sounding names of the country, most notably the change of 1875 settlements in 1934.

Alex Dimchev

Alex Dimchev is a writer, editor, and weapons master for

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