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The Pomaks: an Islamized People of Europe

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The Pomaks: an Islamized People of Europe Empty The Pomaks: an Islamized People of Europe

Mesaj tarafından Perş. Ocak 07, 2010 5:19 pm

The Pomaks: an Islamized People of Europe

Edouard Selian December 25, 2009

"The past is not dead. In fact, it´s not even past."

William Faulkner

The Pomak history is connected to the Paulician Christian movement and to the Armenian national history. According to the Webster´s 1913 dictionary Paulicians are a sect of Christian dualists originating in Armenia in the seventh century. Others claim they were an Adoptionist, Gnostic, or quasi Manichaean Christian group which came about earlier (1).

In 844 BC the Paulicians constructed on the bank of Euphrates in Western Armenia the fortress-town Tephrike (modern Divrigi in Sivas Province of Turkey) which became the capital of their independent Paulician states.

The Paulicians were at war against the Byzantine Empire for a number of years. Many Paulicians were killed while others were deported. In 878 BC (2), with the fall of Tephtike, the Paulician state ceased to exist.

The deportation was a favorite method of the Byzantine emperors in dealing with the Paulicians. Byzantine Emperors deported thousands of Paulicians from Armenia to the other territories of the empire: Balkan Peninsula, Sicily*, and elsewhere. The first Paulicians were deported from Armenia to Thrace (a geographic area in Southeastern Europe) in 747BC. In most cases, the Paulician Armenians´ deportations had Southeastern Europe as the final destination.

The Paulicians are mentioned as nation (Nation Paulianista) and people (Popoli Paolianiati) in the manuscript number 5305 of the Vatican Apostolic Library. The Ottoman Turks, also, distinguished the Paulicians as a population with its own identity. The regions between the modern Bulgarian towns Plovdiv and Karlovo (18th century) and Svishtov and Nikopol (19th century) were called Paulician districts.

The Paulician identity was noted in the past by the well known historian and expert in Slavonic studies, professor of the Charles University in Prague and the University of Vienna Konstantin Josef Jireček (1854 - 1918) and the Bulgarian historian, philologist, and the first chairman of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences professor Marin Stoyanov Drinov (1838 - 1906) who maintained that the Paulicians antropological type is Armenian – Asian (3).

The memory about the Paulicians is still alive. Some villages and towns, as the town Pavlikian (modern Pavlikeni), in modern Bulgaria, still maintain their identity.

Bulgarian Catholics from Banat (region in modern Romania) still claim that they are of Paulician origin and sing in Paulician language many songs such as the popular old song called "Palućenska muma" ("The Paulician Girl").

One-time Paulicians - Today´s Pomaks

During the Byzantine domination of the Southeastern Europe many Paulicians Armenians were converted to Orthodox faith. Others became Catholics and Muslim during the Ottoman Empire´s rule. In 1862 AD, there were still some non-converted Paulicians around the town Filibe (modern Plovdiv, Southern Bulgaria).

The Pomaks are descendants of the Paulicians - Armenians who were converted to Islam during the Ottoman Empire domination over the Southeastern Europe. This is supported by the Catholic missionaries reports send to Rome**. Also, some of the names of towns and villages show the connection between the Paulicians, Pomaks, and Armenians.

The population of the town Pavlikeni and village Muslim Pavlikian (modern Goran) in Bulgaria was Pomaks and moved to Turkey during and after 1877/1978 AD (4).

The village Ermenlii (from 1934 AD Bogomil, region of Varna in Bulgaria; his Pomak population moved to Turkey in 1937/1938 AD) which is mentioned in the Turkish tax registers from 19th century.

The Armenian root-word "Chur" (water) is the name of the Pomaks villages: Churek (modern Churukovo), Churka, and Churen in modern Southeastern Bulgaria. Also, in this geographical area is the Pomak village Dorkovo named after Dork Ankegh – a character from Armenian mythology.

The population of the village Toros (typical Armenian name) in modern Northern Bulgaria is partly Pomak.

The Pomak Language

The father of History, Herodotus noted: "The Armenians were armed like the Phrygians of whom they are a colony" (Herodotus, VII, 73). The Armenians were only a tribe of the Briges or later named Phrygians and following the destiny of the whole nation they emigrated with them towards the Asia Minor. After many centuries of living there, some of the Armenians come back to Europe.

Armenians settled for the first time on the Balkan Peninsula during the 5th century. Their migration continued during the reigns of various Byzantine emperors. In the 10th century AD alone, 200,000 Armenians were settled near the town Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv, Bulgaria) (5).

During the Byzantine rule over Southeastern Europe, the language of these Armenians (Paulicians or non-Paulicians), under the influence of the language of the Slavic tribes (Smolenes, Moraci, and others) around – mostly the area of the Philippopolis, Rhodopes Mountains, and Thrace, was slavonized. Later on, under the Ottoman Turkish rule, part of this population used to speak the Turkish language as a parallel and official language.

During and after the liberation of the Southeaster Europe of the Ottoman Turkish rule, the Paulicians converted to Roman faith (the Catholics) used their specific Slavic language, which nowadays is the well known "Paulician dialect" of Bulgarian language. This "Paulician dialect" is used, also, in the area of Banat in Romania. There are some common elements between the "Paulician dialect" and the Armenian language (6).

The "Paulician dialect" is also the base of the Pomaks´ and some Orthodox populations´ language living in Southeastern Europe.

The Pomak language consists of many branches in Southeastern Europe. For example, in Bulgaria, the Pomaks language has two dialects: Northern and Southern dialect. Member of the Northern dialect are the speeches of Galata, Dragizhevo, and Varbitsa area. Member of the Southern Pomak dialect are many speeches of the area of Rhodope Mountains and other places.

Currently, in addition to speaking Pomak language, some of the Pomaks have adopted Bulgarian, Macedonian, Greek, and Turkish as a second language.

Some typical Armenian words are still used in the Pomak language dialects in Bulgaria. Champion in respect of the formation of different words is the Armenian word "chur" or "dzhur" ("water" in Armenian) which is in the root of many dialect words and names (7). "Chur", even, forms the name of some Pomak villages in Southeastern Bulgaria: Churen (area of Rodopes), Churka (area of Madan), Churek or Churekovo (modern Churukovo) (area of Devin).

Some Pomak - Greek (Cool and Goran (Albanian and Kosovo Pomaks) - Albanian (9) dictionaries have been published.

The Pomaks Customs

There are many popular customs of the Pomak people related to the specific activities:

Before marriage, women receive presents from the future in laws which could include gold money. The name of custom is "Nishan" as in the similar Armenian custom.

On March 14th, fire and smoke is used to keep away snakes and lizards as well as please the fire god. People jump over fires in their yards. This is a pagan, very old custom as it is the Armenian custom "Trndez".

However, one of the oldest Pomaks customs (village Zhizhevo and Tsrancha, modern Bulgaria) is related to the 22 March or Nowruz (the first day of spring).

Also, the most important Pomak customs (village Nedelino, modern Bulgaria) are related to two important dates - the 6th of May and the 7th of November. The 6th May is one of the biggest Pomak feasts named "Adralez". "Adralez" is the first day of the summer or the New Year. The 7th of November is another feast – "Kasam", the first day of the winter and the end of the year. The year begins with "Adralez" and finishes with "Kasam".

These customs and their names "Nowruz", "Adralez", and "Kasam" are indicative of the direct tie with the Zoroastrianism and Armenia***.

The Pomak Identity

The Pomaks from Paulician-Armenian origin are a branch of the large Indo-European group of nations. This statement fits with an old theory that Armenians were a tribe of the Thrace-Phrygian group of tribes who moved towards the Asia Minor at the end of the second millennium BC.

During the Ottoman domination of Southeastern Europe, there was a Pomak district of Lovech with many villages in it (modern Nortern Bulgaria). The Pomak population has been subject to periodic forced Christianisation after the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman Turkish rule. The communist regime in Bulgaria organized a campaign to change the Arabic Pomak names; even in 1989 AD, there was a campaign to remove the traditional Pomaks dresses**** in the region of Teteven, Bulgaria by force.

These names and dresses were part of the Pomaks´ identity, side by side with other elements of their identity such as their language and their customs which are alive even today.

The Pomaks have formal recognition in Greece as a Muslim religious minority in accordance with the Treaty of Lausanne (1923).

Currently, many Pomaks hold firm belief in their Muslim religion, but are also aware that their origin is different from that of their neighbors: Bulgarians, Greeks, Turks, and others. They are Pomaks with their own old history, language, customs, national dresses, songs, and many others.

The Origin of the Name "Pomak"

The name "Pomak" is corrupted from the word "Parik"- a Turkic and Turkmen dialect word from Kayseri (modern Turkey) meaning "One who turned into other faith". This word is recorded in the Armenian Root Dictionary as borrowed from the Armenian language (10).

Currently, the name "Pomak" is used for the Islamized population living mostly in Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey. The state authorities and the local people of Balkan states sometimes use different names to describe the Pomaks: Bulgarian Muslims, Macedonian Muslims, Torbeshi (Republic of Macedonia), Pomaklar (Turkey), Gorani (Kosovo and Albania), Bosniaks (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Ahriani (Central and Eastern Rhodope Mountains). Also, in different parts of the Balkan Peninsula, you can find: Apovtsi, Babechani, Dilsazi, Marvatsi, and Chechentsi.

The Pomak Locations

The Pomaks currently live in different parts of Southeastern Europe (Bulgaria, Greece, Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, and Turkey), Italy, as well as a number of other regions. The total number of Pomaks is estimated to be at least one million.

The Pomak district of Lovech, during the Ottoman Turkish rule, included the areas of the towns of Svishtov, Sevlievo, Teteven, Lukovit, Bjala Slatina, Pleven, and Botevgrad in modern Bulgaria.

Following the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman Turkish rule, many Pomaks from Pomak district moved to present day Turkey, but some remained in the area of the towns Teteven, Lukovit, and Byala Slatina. There are also some Pomaks in the Rhodopes Mountains (area of Rupchos) in Southeastern Bulgaria, in the area of town Simitli from the two sides of the Bulgarian – Macedonian borders, and other places.

The descendants of the Paulicians converted to Roman faith (the Catholics) live until now in the town of Rakovski, some towns and villages in Northern Bulgaria, and in the area of Banat, Romania. The descendants of the Paulicians converted to the Orthodox faith live in the village of Gorno Pavlikene (Lovech district, Bulgaria) and in other places.

There are some good sources about the location of the Paulicians converted to Roman faith (3, 4) and Pomaks (11).


"One thing is certain, that in Italy, in France, and along the Rhine, the Paulicians and the Albigenses were found in the same territory, and there were no great differences between them in practice and doctrines. Writers go so far as to assert that there was a succession of churches and of interests. It is well attested, that in the middle of the eleventh century they were numerous in Lombardy and Isurbia, but especially in Milan, in Italy; and it is no less certain that they traveled through France, Germany and other countries, and by their sanctity they won large numbers of common people to their way of thinking. In Italy they were called Paternes and Cathari, and in Germany, Gazari. In France they were called Albigenses. They were called Bulgarians, particularly in France, because some of them came from Bulgaria, and they were also known by the name of Boni Homines (Mosheim, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, II. pp. 200-202)." (John T. Christian. Chapter 4, in: Of Baptists.htm)

"In 1160 a company of Paulicians (Baptists) entered Oxford. Henry II ordered them to be branded on the forehead with hot irons, publicly whipped them through the streets of the city, to have their garments cut short at the girdles, and be turned into the open country. The villages were not to afford them any shelter or food and they perished a lingering death from cold and hunger." (Moore, Earlier and Later Nonconformity in Oxford, p.12.)

Eusebius Fermendzin. Acta Bulgariae ecclesiastica ab a.1565 usque ad a.1799. Zagrabiae,1887. Also, the translation in Bulgarian in: сп. "Архив и поселищни проучвания", год.II, кн. 2, стр. 174 – 210.

"Nowruz" is a Zoroastrian holiday. Zoroastrianism in time evolved from monotheistic to di-theistic faith. One of its outstanding practices was the worship of the Sun. In the capital of Armenia – Armavira, the founder of the Arsacide dynasty (2nd century B.C.) erected temples where he set up statues to the Sun and Moon. The oldest Armenian calendar dating was first connected to March 21. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day. The name "Nowruz" (meaning "New Day"), nowadays, is the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Iranian and other nations calendars.

"Adralez" consist of two Armenian root-words: "adr" (fire) and "lez" ("tongue") (10). The letter "a" joins these two root-words. The meaning of "Adralez" is "fire-tongue" (flame). Obviously, it is an old pagan custom dedicated to the "God-fire".

"Kasam" is generated from the Armenian root-word "kas" ("to stop", "to cease", or "to abandon") (10).

The Paulicians converted to Roman faith (the Catholics) were forced to change their traditional dresses and customs in 19 century (3).



2. Gilbert Dagron, Pierre Riché et André Vauchez (resp.), Histoire du christianisme des origines à nos jours, tome IV, Évêques, moines et empereurs (610-1054), Desclée, Paris, 1993, p. 229.

3. Нено Неделчев. Диалект на българите – католици. (Neno Nedelchev. The Dialect of the Bulgarian – Catholics) Велико Търново, 1994 г., с. 12, 18.

4. Милчо Йовков. Павликяни и павликянски селища в българските земи XV-XVIII в. (Milcho Yovkov. The Pavlikians and the Pavlikian Towns and Vilages on the Bulgarian Lands in the 15th – 18th c.) Университетско издателство "Св. Климент Охридски", София, 1991, c. 140,112.

5. Jovan Cvijic. La Peninsula Balkanique, Librairie Armand Colin, Paris, 1918, p. 476.

6. Selian, Edouard: Le dialect Paulicien. In: The Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Armenian Linguistics, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec.

7. Селян, Е. Коренът "джур" в българска езикова среда. (Selian,E. The Rooth-Word "Dzhur" in Bulgarian Lingual Environment) В: сп. Филология, Изд. СУ "Св. Кл. Охридски", София, 1983, бр. 12 -13, с.137 – 139.

8. "ΠΟΜΑΚΟ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟ ΛΕΞΙΚΟ του Πέτρου Δ. Θεοχαρίδη (Θεσσαλονίκη 1996)", Pomakian – Greek Dictionary with 6500 words.

9. Назиф Докле. Горанско - Албански речник. София, 2007. (Nazif Dokle. Goranian – Albanian Dictionary. Sofia).

10. Hr. Acharian. Hayeren armatakan bararan (Armenian Rout Dictionary).Yerevan State University, Yerevan, 1971, v. 1, p. 424; 289; 1073, v. 2, p. 271, 277, 531.

11. Хюсеин Мехмед. Помаците и торбешите в Мизия, Тракия и Македония. (Huseyin Mehmed. The Pomaks and the Torbeshes in Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia) София, 2007. Also, see Списък на помашките селища (List of Pomaks settlements) in:

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Mesaj Sayısı : 1529
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Tesekkur : 42
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Kayıt tarihi : 27/05/07

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