Bulgaria (Europe; 7 million people): Lands of the Thracian tribes of the Odrysian kingdom were subjugated by Alexander the Great about c.325 BC; and three centuries later by the Roman Empire. One of the earliest states in Europe, the Bulgar tribe signed a peace treaty with Byzantium in 681 and became the First Bulgarian Empire. In 864 Orthodox Christianity began the state religion. In 1018 it surrendered to the Byzantine Empire.
In 1185 the Second Bulgarian Empire arose and in the 13th century was the dominant power in the Balkans. It fell in 1396 to the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman Bulgaria lasted over 480 years under Muslim rule, when in 1878, after the Russo-Turkish War, a Bulgarian state was created. But it was not until 1908, that full independence was declared. This was followed by the Balkan Wars, WWI and World War II when it was compelled to sign the Tripartite Pact and ally with Germany.
In 1945, the Soviet backed Fatherland Front took power. Communist President Zhivkov allied with the USSR; yet forced Turks to take Slavic names or flee the country in 1984. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, June 1990, Bulgaria held its first free elections since 1931. July 1991 a new Constitution was adopted.
The CIA World Factbook has Bulgaria’s religions as: Eastern Orthodox 59.4%, Muslim 7.8%, other 1.7%, none 3.7%, unspecified 27.4% (2011 est.). The ARDA (pre-2015 data) puts their largest religious groups as: 77.9% Orthodox, 5.8% Sunni Muslim, not religious 3.6% and unknow 10%. And Pew-Templeton, Global Religious Futures, estimated of 2010: 82.1% Christians, 13.7% Muslims and 4.2% unaffiliated; and for 2020: 81% Christians, 14.2% Muslims and 4.7% unaffiliated.
In Bulgaria: A Country Study (G. Curtis, 1992), he wrote in the chapter on Religion, “…In 1991 most Bulgarians were at least nominally members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and independent national church… Because of its national character and its status as a national church… until the advent of communism, the church was considered an inseparable element of Bulgarian national consciousness. Baptism, before 1944 an indispensable rite establishing individual identity, retained this vital role for many even after the communists took power…’
‘Although communist regimes could not eliminate all influence, they did undermine church authority significantly. First, the communists ruled that the church only had authority on church matters and could not take part in political life. Second, although the constitution made the church separate from the state, the clergy’s salaries and the fees needed to maintain the churches were paid by the state. This meant that the clergy had to prove its loyalty to the state. From 1949 until 1989, religion in Bulgaria was mainly controlled by the Law on Religious Organizations…’
‘…The number of Orthodox priests declined from 3,312 in 1947 to 1,700 in 1985. Priests associated with the prewar regime were accused of …illegal or antisocialist activities, supporting the opposition… Rila Monastery, the largest …in Bulgaria, became a museum in 1961.’
‘In 1987 the Orthodox Church had 3,720 churches and chapels, 120 monasteries, 981 regular and 738 retired priests… A new translation of the Bible was published in 1982, but in small quantities… After the fall of Zhivkov, the Orthodox Church and other churches in Bulgaria experienced a revival… The government returned some church property, including the Rila Monastery…’
‘As of 1987, Muslims in Bulgaria had 1,267 mosques served by 533 khodzhai or religious community leaders… In 1991, about 44,000 Roman Catholics remained in Bulgaria… 5,000 to 6,000 Pentecostals made that sect the largest Protestant group…”
According to Mouzenidis.com, Bulgarian Travel, ‘Religion of Bulgaria (2018): ‘Bulgaria is a secular state… Believers estimate that they are about 80% of the population, although only 13.6% of them regularly attend services… 13% of the population is Muslim… Christianity came to Bulgaria in the 1st century AD… Eusebius of Caesarea spoke of a bishopric in Bulgarian cities of Debelt and Anhial in the second century. Bishop of Sardiki (now Sofia) was a member of the First Ecumenical Council in 325.”
According to the Bulgarian site dnevnik.bg (12/2018), ‘In Bulgaria, 18% of the people are highly religious… 19% of Bulgarians say religion is very important in their lives…. 19% say they attend religious service at least once a month, 15% pray daily, 30% believe in the Lord…”
Bulgaria’s DW.com, in their April 2019 article ‘Religion as a way of use’ wrote, “Religion has become a kind of decency. It is accepted to pretend to be Orthodox – it is just a sign of national identity, as if you were asked by a Turk or Bulgarian, comments Prof. I. Dichev. If you ask me if I believe in God, I will answer you a question: what do you call God?… creation of the world in six days… Jonah (and) the whale, the resurrection of Lazarus… the Apocalypse… these stories are regarded by normal people as moral parables, not as historical facts. Doxa, that is, the opinion of the modern Bulgarian has been modernized step by step at least since the Renaissance, respectively, orthodoxy is already far from the canon of the …church. However, the traditional ritual practices remain – religion is reduced to orthopractic practice…’
‘Such a divergence of beliefs and actions in Bulgaria is particularly visible… Trend, for example, found a year ago that only 14% attend religious temples at least once a month, yet so many believe that a church marriage should be concluded. We take out Muslims and get about a dozen percent of serious believers… There will be so many who have a priest to whom they confess… Maximum 10%…’
‘…What exactly do Bulgarians say… They believe in God 50-60%, in paradise and hell – under 40%… this ethicization of Christianity probably has something to do with the legacy of communism, because it is happening all over Eastern Europe, even with supposedly universalist Catholics… (Google Translated)”
In the book, The Study of Religion in Bulgaria: A Challenged Legacy (2011; J. Baer; pages 125), Prof. Daniela Kalkandjieva of Sofia University writes, “…The collapse of communism in 1989 destroyed the monopoly of atheism in Bulgarian society. The return of religion to the public, however, turned out to be a complicated process. It did not restore the domination of Orthodoxy as declared in the Turnovo Constitution (1879), which was abolished by the communist regime in 1947. On the contrary, the 1991 Constitution preserved the separation of Church and state (Art. 13.2). It replaced the communist expression ‘freedom of worship’ with the liberal principle of freedom of religion (Art. 31.1), a fundamental condition for religious pluralism. The only gesture to the pre-socialist period was the declaration that Eastern Orthodoxy was ‘the traditional religion in the Republic of Bulgaria’ (Art. 13.3). According to the Constitutional Court, the term ‘traditional religion’ does not affect the rights of the non-Orthodox denominations, but simply ‘expresses its cultural and historical role for the Bulgaria state… The situation changed in 2002, when the first post-communist Denominations Act changed the meaning… The preamble does not mention Orthodoxy as the ‘traditional religion’ …but refers to ‘the tradition role of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.’ In this way, the traditional aspect of a specific faith is transferred to a particular institution.’
‘…In 1762, Father Paisii’s famous book Hilendarski, Istoriia Slaviano-bulgarskaia (Slav-Bulgarian History) laid the grounds for modern Bulgarian historiography. It played an important role in the strengthening of the Bulgarian national conscience, inspiring the fight against the Ottoman Empire on the one hand, and the ecclesiastical-cultural oppression by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, on the other. Father Paisii appealed to his compatriots to restore their state independence as well as their great medieval Church, which had been abolished at the beginning of the fifteenth century… Modern Bulgarian (historians) burred the differences between the Medieval and Ottoman times Paisii had made… in spite of the fact that there was not Bulgarian Church from the beginning of the 15th century until 1870. This confusion was responsible for the mistaken idea that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had been the guardian of Bulgarinan-ness throughout history… Due to its atheist ideology, communist historiography neglected religious history until the 1970s… At the end of the 1980s, secular scholars were allowed to investigate religious and church issues… a new understanding emerged that focused on the relationship of the Orthodox Church and the nation… ‘religious only in name,’ while its spirit was ‘secular, socio-political and national-liberating’…”
Going beyond the below links that primarily use an outdated census and does not consider actual beliefs, TheTruthSource.org (TTS) looks at trends, local studies as able, and practices; however, of course God only knows the percentage of those saved in the world and Bulgaria. Nevertheless, TTS finds and estimates that Bulgaria has: 65% Christians (about 60% Orthodox by profession or census) and about 13% Muslim. Yet, considering their practices and beliefs, their Non-Religious is >35% and they are >50% Non-Christian.
ARDA (Association of Religion Data Archives)
CIA World Factbook (Central Intelligence Agency)
European Social Survey
Pew Research Center / Pew-Templeton: Global Religious Futures Project