Where: Communities in Sofia, Plovdiv, Ruse, Varna, Burgas
Language: Bulgarian, Armenian
Religion: Armenian Orthodox
Who are they?
The first Armenians left Asia Minor for the Balkans in the 5th Century, but they really started to arrive en masse in 8-10th centuries, when the Byzantine emperors organised mass migration of hundreds of thousands. The reason? They were "heretics." What happened to these Paulicians is not clear. Later waves occurred at the time of the Ottoman invasion of the 14-17th centuries. In 1894-1896 another 20,000 Armenians arrived, escaping hostilities in the Ottoman Empire. About 20 years later about 35,000 Armenians were living in Bulgaria. The number rose considerably when 22,000 refugees arrived after atrocities committed in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1922. Under Communism, the Armenian and the Jewish minorities were considered "model" in that they were well-integrated into the Communist system and never caused any trouble.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers