Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

dence was provided after the collapse of communism, when Simeon II declared his unwillingness to return.


Bibliography

Brown J. F., Bulgaria Under Communist Rule ( New York, 1970); McIntyre Robert J., Bulgaria: Politics, Economics and Society ( London-New York, 1988)

Religious Policies. A census conducted in Bulgaria in 1934 showed that 85 percent of the population belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Christian church. Thirteen percent were Muslims and the rest of the people confessed Roman Catholic, various Protestant and American-Gregorian beliefs. Before the Ottoman conquest, there was an Orthodox Bulgarian patriarchate, headed by a primate. After the loss of independence, the Bulgarian Orthodox church became part of an Ottoman religious district, administered from Constantinople (Istanbul) by the Greek patriarch. Greek priests were then installed in Bulgarian churches, and the language of the liturgy became Greek. This situation lasted until 1870, when the Turkish authorities consented to the establishment of an autocephalous Bulgarian exarchate. This was not the equivalent of a patriarchate, but it was at least independent of the patriarch of Istanbul. The area that was put under the jurisdiction of the exarchate included not only Bulgaria proper, but also Macedonia and most of Thrace. However, the patriarch of Istanbul refused to consent to the new arrangements, and the matter was not settled until later in the twentieth century. The cooperation between the exarchate and the Bulgarian state was always close. The clergy were paid by the state and were, for all practical purposes, civil servants.

After the communists took over the government, and forced the church to continue its cooperation with the existing authority, they followed the Bulgarian traditions. The major difference was, of course, that the communists openly professed atheism, and severe persecution of the religious ensued. Clergymen were constantly harassed, many of them were imprisoned or even killed. Others were banished from their parishes. Exarch Stefan was locked up in a monastery because he was considered an opponent of the regime. However, once the first wave of persecutions passed, the communists realized the possible advantages to be derived from church-state cooperstion. Thus, they encouraged the reconciliation of the exarchate with the patriarchate of Istanbul and, in 1951, the exarchate was raised to the higher rank of a patriarchate. In 1953, Metropolitan Kiril of Plovdiv was appointed Bulgarian patriarch. The patriarch closely cooperated with the communist government and instructed the clergy not to resist the state authorities. By succeeding in the promotion of the exarchate to a patriarchate, the communists also had their eye on Moscow, since this strengthened the Russian Orthodox church in its struggle for supremacy among the Orthodox Christians with the Patriarchate of Istanbul. Through these efforts the hierarchs of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church became subordinates of the Soviet Union.


Bibliography

Brown J. F., Bulgaria under Communist Rule ( New York, 1970); Kjell,Engelbrek , "Bulgaria's Religious Institutions under Fire"

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