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Bus bombing: Why in Bulgaria, and why look to Iran?

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Political terrorism is unknown in post-Communist Bulgaria. The last politically-linked bomb attacks were carried out in the mid-1980s during a period of clashes between the Communist regime and the Muslim minority. The government’s attempts to force Bulgarian identity on a Turkish minority led both to an exodus of ethnic Turks from the country and to a number of bombings, most notoriously on a train near Sofia. Bulgarians still debate whether these were the works of Turkish terrorists or agent provocateurs from the shady Committee for State Security.

Bulgaria's minorities

Bulgaria has a substantial Muslim population – around 10 percent of the population according to the2011 census, which may well be an underestimate. But the Muslim population is overwhelmingly moderate. Religious extremism is rare in the Balkans as a whole, despite a history of ethnic conflict overlaid with religious differences. While there have been reports of jihadi cells and even training camps established in Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia, they do not hold sway among the population as a whole – and there have been no such allegations made in Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s tiny Jewish community is extremely well-integrated, says Mr. Georgieff. It officially numbers 5,000 people, but he estimates that 2,000 may be a more accurate number if mixed marriages are taken out of the equation, making them perhaps the smallest recognized ethnic minority in the country.

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