Bulgaria is located in what is known as the Balkans region of Europe. Its people are descended from Slavs who arrived in the region in the 500s AD, Bulgars who came in the 600s and Turkish immigrants – who make up about ten percent of the population. Bulgaria fought two Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913, and participated in World Wars I and II. In each war, Bulgaria lost territory and prestige and became one of the most impoverished countries in Europe. The Communist Party took control in 1946 and quickly outlawed much of the people’s social and religious freedoms. The Communist Party began to industrialize the country and much of its rural population moved into the cities to find work. Communist rule ended in December of 1989 when the government passed sweeping reforms. But still today, the Communist Party governs Bulgaria having won the last elections.
Islam is growing in Bulgaria. The groups of Muslims that were once nominal are moving toward fundamentalism. Bulgarian Mohammadens, Turks, and Millet are at the front, but there are many refugees from the Middle East who are staying in Bulgaria. The government lists most people as Orthodox Christians regardless of official polls. Many people with dual passports from Turkey are taking residence in Bulgaria. Other Bulgarians suffer from a broken spirit because of the failed enterprises of democracy and strict atheistic Communism and the large number of inactive Orthodox Christians. The Pentecostal movement started in Bulgaria in 1920 when Pastor Dionisi Zaplishni came as a missionary and established the first Pentecostal Church in the town of Burgas. Later, Assemblies of God missionary Nikolai Nikolov, a native Bulgarian, organized the Pentecostal movement in Bulgaria in 1928. Nikolov had to flee Bulgaria when the communists took over, but his work planting churches and strengthening the fellowship helped the church endure 50 years of communist rule.
The Movement Today
Bulgaria needs your prayers as it teeters on the edge of a possible spiritual awakening. In the decade following Communist rule, 35 churches multiplied to over 500 gatherings. The Assemblies of God again sent missionaries to Bulgaria in 1992 to continue Nikolov’s work of spreading the Gospel. Since then, over 300 people have graduated from Bulgaria’s first Pentecostal Bible School since the Communist occupation, Sofia Pentecostal Bible College. The Pentecostal Assemblies of Bulgaria reports the following statistics: 500 gatherings and outstations, over 50,000 members and adherents, 150 national pastors, one Bible School with 23 enrolled students, and an extension program training 100 students.
Additional Facts About Bulgaria
Area: 42,823 square miles
Population: 7.4 million
Agriculture: Sunflower oil, wheat, corn, barley, sugar beets, grapes, tobacco, and milk products
Industry: Machinery, processed foods, metal products, and textiles
Mining: Salt, sulfur, lead, kaolin, and copper