Bulgaria has its origins in the mediaeval First Bulgarian Kingdom, established in AD 681 as the Roman Empire collapsed. It adopted the Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity and the Cyrillic (Russsian) alphabet. Like other Balkan countries its history is too complex to describe in detail here but in 1396 it was taken over by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, and they ruled Bulgaria for nearly 5 centuries. In 1878 the Russians, added by Bulgarian rebels, defeated the Ottomans and the Third Bulgarian Kingdom was established. During World War 2 Bulgaria sided with the Axis powers but refused the join in Operation Barbarossa, the Jewish genocide, so its substantial Jewish population survived the war. Most have since emigrated to Israel. Post World War 2 Bulgaria became part of the Communist Warsaw Pact bloc until the collapse of the Soviet state, and since 1991 it has been a parliamentary democracy and since 2007 part of the EU.
Bulgaria has borders with Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia and Romania, and a coastline of 354 kilometres on the Black Sea. It has a very varied geography, from the heights of the Balkan Range to the Black Sea, and it a hotspot of ecological diversity.
Bugarian reader ON has recently sent us this interesting account of the changing fortunes of circumcision in Bulgaria.
The most popular religion here is Orthodox Christianity, which means not many people are circumcised for religious reasons. What we have though is a rather large minority of Turkish people, who being Muslim are circumcised. From the beginning of the 20th century until like the 70’s circumcision was not so rare among Bulgarians even though they were Christians. It seems to me that every 3rd ethnic Bulgarian was circumcised for hygienic or medical reasons. Apparently it used to be very popular around the countryside in the part where there were Turkish people. In my place of origin (a small village with around 1000 people, 50% Bulgarians and 50% Turkish) it seemed that every man was cut no matter his origin. But that was the older generation.
After the 70’s began, the government persecuted the Turkish people and also forbade circumcision unless there were very specific medical reasons. Even then it was not easy to obtain it. Another Bulgarian reader, Michael, has commented:
If you went to a hospital and asked to be circumcised they would refuse, emphasizing a hundred medical reasons. But if you took the doctor aside and dropped some cash in his pocket, he would find another hundred medical reasons to do it.For some time the general attitude towards circumcision became hostile, particularly among young people with strong nationalistic ideas and hatred towards the Turkish people. It was so until recently. In the past ten or so years circumcision is starting to become more and more common, luckily.
To sum it up, we have 10-15% Turkish population, ~20% gypsies (some of whom consider themselves Bulgarian, others think of themselves as Turkish). And we have ~70 % Bulgarians. Of these Bulgarians, among the men aged 60-80 around 50% are circumcised. In the group 30-50 the percentage is no more than 5%, and from the group 0-20 it is more like 20%. Another interesting thing is that most uncircumcised guys over 50 keep their foreskin retracted while the younger ones do not. Personally I think that circumcision should be more common as it is very healthy, hygienic and better for sex. I am circumcised as I am a mixed breed of Turkish and Bulgarian. By the way I am surprised how common it is for guys here to suffer from phimosis and not do anything about it.
Personal testimony of members of the CIRCLIST discussion group.
Islamweb edition date 25 September 2006, article number 136011.
Maps courtesy of www.youreuropemap.com and the US Central Intelligence Agency.