legal clinics legal clinics


Communities: Stolipinovo and Sheker Mahala in Plovdiv, villages of Bolyartsi, towns of Peshtera, Rakovski, Asenovgrad

Social Policy Department, Plovdiv Municipality

  •  38, 4 Yanuari str., entr. B, fl. 2 - 4000, Plovdiv
  • Consultation hours: Wednesday, from 09:00 - 17:00
  • Telephone number: 09895553920


Veliko Tarnovo

Communities: Veliko Tarnovo, Zlataritsa, Gorna Oryahovitsa, Rodina, Elena, Konstantin, Pavlikeni, Lyaskovets, Strajitsa

Bar association Veliko Tarnovo

  • 39 Tsanko Tserkovski street, office No 106, ground floor, 5000 Veliko Tarnovo
  • Consultation hours: Friday, 12:00 - 16:00
  • Telephone number: 09888734943
Country profile Country profile
Size, composition and historical presence of the Roma communities


Data from the National Statistical Institute from the population and housing census of 2011 show that Roma remain the third largest ethnic group in Bulgaria. 325,343 persons, i.e. 4.9% of the Bulgarian citizens identified themselves as belonging to the Roma ethnos. Data on ethnicity are collected only on the principle of voluntary self-determination and in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Personal Data Protection Act and the Protection from Discrimination Act, which are synchronized with European legislation.

The census shows a persistent tendency from a part of the population to self-identify as Bulgarians, Turks, or Romanians, whilst they would be identified by the general population as Roma or “Gypsies” (derogatory term). This is possible due to the fact that the persons participating in the census have the right to define their ethnic background themselves or to refrain from indicating it.

NGO estimates consider that the total number of Roma living in Bulgaria is between 600,000 and 800,000 (closer to 9% of the total population), in line with the Council of Europe estimate of 700,000.

As it is most commonly admitted, the first big waves of Roma immigrants arrived in the Balkans during the 13th and 14th centuries from Asia Minor (which was, at that time, a part of the Byzantine Empire). During the 18th and especially during the 19th centuries, Roma from the Romanian principalities of Walachia and Moldova also entered the Bulgarian territory (a part of them came straight from the Romanian principalities; another part crossed first the territory of Austro-Hungary). This immigration process particularly intensified with the so called "Kalderash invasion" from the second half of the 19th century. That is the reason why the contemporary Roma who live in Bulgaria speak different dialects (often quite different from one another) of the Romani language and belong to at least three different Roma groups, each of them sub-divided into a number of sub-groups and branches.

Historically, the first group of Roma are the so-called "Yerlii," who are nowadays all sedentary. They are the descendants of those Roma who came from Asia Minor in the first waves of Roma immigration. They were forced to abandon the free nomadic life to durably settle in villages and towns. The greater part of them adopted Islam as confession. The Yerlii are divided into two big groups: the "Horahane Roma", i.e. Muslim Roma who often identify themselves as Turks and speak Turkish and the "Das(i)kane-Roma" who are Christians (Eastern Orthodox or Protestant), identifying themselves often as Bulgarians and speak Bulgarian. Horahane Roma is probably the most numerous Roma (sub-)group in Bulgaria, but it is difficult to assess since some of them prefer to self-identify as Turks. There are well preserved branches of Horahane Roma, such as Drandars, Katkaji, etc., but there are also well preserved branches of so called Walachian Roma, Burguji, etc. who clearly demonstrate their Roma identity and call themselves "parpul Roma" - "the real Roma".

The second largest Roma group in Bulgaria is the Kalderash (also known as "Kaldarashi" or "Kardarashi"). They are the descendants of big Roma groups who left Romania within the so- called "Kalderash invasion during the second part of the 19th century. A great part of the Kalderash came from Austro-Hungary, passed through Serbia and settled in Bulgaria; that is why they are known as "Austrian gypsies", "Hungarian gypsies" or "Serbian gypsies". The Kalderash are prominently Orthodox Christians. They preserve the Romani language and self-determination, as well as a significant part of the Roma traditions, such as the Gypsy court (“meshere”). The Kalderash are divided into two main sub-groups: the "Lovari" and the "Kalaijii", as well as into more additional branches within these sub-groups: "Grebenari", "Bakarjii", "Reshetari", etc.

The third main Roma group in Bulgaria are the Rudari (also known as “Vlax gypsies”). They also came to Bulgaria from Romania during the big "Kalderash invasion”. Unlike the Kalderash, they do not speak Romani, but an old Romanian language[1] and have predominantly Romanian self-determination. The Rudari are also divided into three sub-groups: the "Mechkari" (known in other countries as “Ursari” – bear trainers), the "Kopanari" (known in other countries as “Lingurari” – carpenters and wooden bowl makers), and “Lautari” (musiciens). Another ground of self-determination of the Roma is indeed their traditional occupation: basket makers, miners, goldsmiths, horse tradesmen, etc.


Source: CAHROM thematic report on Roma health mediators (adopted in June 2016)


[1] Rudari are similar to the Boyash in Croatia or to the Béas in Hungary.

  • Ms Dilyana GITEVA
Lawyers Lawyers


  • Ms Milena KADIEVA

Veliko Tărnovo

  • Mr Ventsislav FOTI
Legal assistants Legal assistants


  • Ms Rada ELENKOVA

Veliko Tărnovo

  • Ms Teodora KRUMOVA
facilitators facilitators


  • Mitko MANOLOV

Veliko Tărnovo

  • Eleonora DIMITROVA