Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
The Rise in Human Rights Violations Against Macedonians in Bulgaria - Annual Report

The Rise in Human Rights Violations Against Macedonians in Bulgaria - Annual Report

Bulgaria's official state policy continues to be the outright denial of the existence of the Macedonian minority, as well as of Macedonian identity, language, culture and history. It is this denial, along with the EU's full endorsement of Bulgaria's anti-Macedonian campaigns, that has led to a dramatic rise in hatred and human rights violations against Macedonians in Bulgaria:


2022:15 years since Bulgaria became a member of the European Union, 32 years since it became a democracy, 59 years since the beginning of the policy of denial, assimilation and discrimination of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.


Introduction: Situation of the Macedonian Minority and More Important Developments in 2022

Denial of the Macedonian Minority, Nation, and Identity

Manipulation with the Results of the Census

Hate Speech

Violation of the Right of Association

Violation of the Right of Peaceful Assembly

Discrimination Against Macedonian Organizations and Activists in Bulgaria

Absence of Legal Protection

Refusal of the Authorities to Engage in Dialogue

Conclusions and Recommendations


Situation of the Macedonian Minority in Bulgaria in 2022

During 2022 the situation of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria continued to worsen in corelation with the aggravation in relations with the Republic of Macedonia due to the attempts of the Bulgarian authorities to force Skopje to renounce the existence of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria and the media campaign conducted in Bulgaria in that regard.

None of the rights stipulated in the Framework Convention on National Minority Rights have been granted to the Macedonian minority and the tendency in that regard continued to be negative.[1] In schools children do not learn anything about the Macedonian minority and nation; on the contrary, children are provided with information in which there is no place for the existence of the Macedonian nation and minority. The Macedonian literary language, literature and history continued not being taught.[2] On television and in the media several methods are employed to present the sole viewpoint, according to which there is no Macedonian nation, that everything Macedonian is Bulgarian and that every differing opinion is “anti-Bulgarian”. On educational TV programs or debates the Macedonian point of view is not represented. The very notion of Macedonian consciousness (“Macedonianism” as it is labelled in Bulgaria) is considered to be an artificial anti-Bulgarian ideology. The Macedonian point of view is not included in lectures and discussions about history. Macedonian consciousness itself (“Macedonianism“ as it is labelled in Bulgaria) is looked upon as an artificial anti-Bulgarian ideology. Macedonian consciousness (and also the Macedonian nation as a whole) in Bulgaria is considered to be a product of a Communist experiment or the result of hostile foreign propaganda. A climate of intolerance reigns in society against Macedonians and they are the object of hate speech, which is often given wide exposure through the media without being sanctioned by the institutions of the state and without encountering any condemnation by the wider society.

By taking advantage of the artificially created atmosphere of intolerance, the Bulgarian state successfully keeps representatives of the minority isolated from political and social life in the country-both individually[3] and collectively by not registering Macedonian parties and organisations which defend the rights of the Macedonians.

At the beginning of 2022 there were a total of 11 pending Macedonian cases at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) Nine of the cases were related to the refusal to register Macedonian associations. Three relate to OMO Ilinden, four concern the Association of Repressed Macedonians, one to Macedonian Club for Ethnic Tolerance in the Republic of Bulgaria and one to the Civil Initiative fore for the Recognition of the Macedonian National Minority (Yane Petkov). In all these cases which concern the right of association the initial period of review for examining the admissibility of the appeals has passed. There were also two cases regarding the right of assembly due to the refusal of the mayor of Petrich to permit the celebration at Samoil's Fortress. In the course of the year new cases were added.

The Bulgarian authorities consistently stress that the decisions of the ECtHR and the Committee of Ministers do not prescribe the automatic registration of Macedonian organisations[4] and point out in a detailed way the measures they have taken to remove the errors before the registration of Macedonian organisations, but at the same time do not display any concern for the fact that their “measures” have zero effect and have achieved absolutely nothing (something emphasized at the last session of the Committee of Ministers as well - see below). At the same time. They consistently avoid taking measures, either on their own initiative or when they are called upon to do so, which would remove existing barriers. For example, by making a referral to the Constitutional Court for it to provided interpretive decisions of articles of the Constitution which are constantly abused by the courts as argumentation for the non-registration of Macedonian organisations; or for this same court to rescind or provide a new interpretation of its decision of 29 February 2000 which mentions inter alia that “there is no Macedonian ethnicity in the Republic of Bulgaria” and which is one of the basic arguments used in decisions to refuse the registration the courts. In addition, the authorities have not undertaken any action to withdraw the official views expressed by the Parliament and ministries that there is no Macedonian minority in Bulgaria; on the contrary, these same views are actively supported. In addition, the authorities display an extraordinary slowness and lack of desire to implement the measures recommended to them by the Committee of Ministers leaving them to a large degree to remain as merely a formal expression of wishing to do so.

During 2022 the Bulgarian state did not take any measures to improve the situation of the Macedonian minority. On the contrary, it made efforts to prevent the recognition of a Macedonian minority as well as each and every request in that regard.

Macedonians are not represented in state institutions, by elected representatives (due to the lack of a registered political party) or by organisations. Not one of the registered parties in Bulgaria defends the rights of the Macedonians in Bulgaria. Representatives from across society, with the exception of a small section of civil society[5] treat Macedonians, at best, as something non-existent and not a serious category of persons and, at worst, as a danger to national security and treason. There are no (and there have not been) any Macedonian representatives on the Commission on Minorities. When ethnic groups in Bulgaria are officially spoken and written about, Macedonians are not mentioned at all and Macedonian culture, language and history are not represented in any government publication or official web site. Macedonians are not included in any programs concerning ethnic communities and do not receive any type of assistance from the state for the preservation and development of their culture and identity [6].

This year as well neither the Commission Against Discrimination, the Ombudsman's office, or any other organisation adopted an official stance regarding the situation of the Macedonians in Bulgaria, despite the fact that the number of judgements against Bulgaria at the European Court of Human Rights has risen to 14. In 31 years of democracy not one Bulgarian official institution has done so.

Despite the large number of recommendations by international bodies, Bulgarian authorities persistently continue to refuse to enter into a dialogue with the Macedonian minority.

The Republic of Bulgaria has made a concerted effort to make the raising of this issue within the European Union impossible.

More Important Developments During the Year

After the session of the Council on National Security held on 10 January it was unanimously decided that the raising of the matter of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria by the Macedonian authorities would prevent the removal of the Bulgarian veto regarding Macedonian integration in Europe. Premier Kiril Petkov stated as follows regarding the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria on the most watched Bulgarian television station BTV: “There can be no discussion of such a minority in Bulgaria, on that matter there is a 100% hard line that it cannot be discussed”.[7]

On 19 January Michael Roth the former German state minister for European Affairs from 2013 to 2021 and a deputy in the German Parliament stated as follows: “Bulgaria must carry out the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and recognise the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. In the EU it is not permitted that any one state can make decisions regarding the language and culture of another.".[8]

On 21 January the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee presented its Observations to the Committee of Ministers regarding the cases grouped under the title “UMO Ilinden and others v. Bulgaria”, and stated as follows: “In this regard, there is no positive development whatsoever”, and furthermore made the appeal that: „The Committee of Ministers should not allow this mockery with its recommendations and with the ECtHR judgments to go on. It should initiate infringement proceedings to ensure their implementation”.[9]

On 29 January 2022 Macedonian president Stevo Pendarovski met with representatives of OMO “Ilinden”-PIRIN, the Civil Association for Fundamental Human Rights, the Association of Repressed Macedonians in Bulgaria - Victims of Communist Terror, the Ancient Macedonians, and the Macedonian Club for Ethnic Tolerance in Bulgaria. The situation of the Macedonians in Bulgaria and bilateral relations between Macedonia and Bulgaria were discussed at the meeting. Despite the positive atmosphere in which the meeting took place, it was nevertheless met with an extraordinarily negative response from the official authorities and media in Bulgaria. Deputy Premier, Korneliya Ninova, cancelled her agreed visit to Macedonia, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs issued a sharply worded note in condemnation in which it threatened to create problems for Macedonia's European integration and President Radev characterised the meeting as support for separatism. There were numerous threats that Macedonia's European Integration would be blocked due to this meeting.[10]

On 29 January in the Parliament Premier Petkov stated that the inclusion of the Bulgarians in the Macedonian Constitution was not a sufficient enough condition for the removal of the veto on Macedonia's European integration and on the other hand, also stated that “discussion of topics regarding the Macedonian minority is absolutely inadmissible, I will not discuss that”“.[11]

On 8 and 9 March the Committee of Ministers issued a new decision regarding the Macedonian verdicts in the ECtHR against Bulgaria.[12] Namely, the Deputies:

1. recalled that this group of cases concerns unjustified refusals of the courts, between 1999 and 2015, to register associations aiming to achieve the recognition of “the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria”, based on considerations of national security, protection of public order and the rights of others

2. expressed deep concern that despite the adoption of the Interim ResolutionCM/ResDH(2020)197and the decisions of June 2021, the most recent registration requests initiated by the applicant associations have again been rejected on grounds related to the associations’ goals or grounds related to a confused interpretation of the associations’ statutes, constantly rejected by the European Court

3. expressed deep concern at the fact that almost 16 years after the first final judgment in this group, associations aiming to “achieve the recognition of the Macedonian minority” continue to be routinely refused registration and that this seems at present mainly due to a wider problem of disapproval of their goals

4. stressed that the present judgments do not give rise to an obligation to recognise a group of persons as a minority but clearly require domestic authorities not to refuse registration on grounds, which have been repeatedly rejected by the European Court related to the associations’ goals

6. strongly urged the authorities to take all the necessary outstanding measures to comply fully with Interim ResolutionCM/ResDH(2020)197and Committee’s decisions of June 2021

On 21 February Macedonian organisations lodged a collective complaint with the Ombudsman due to the discrimination and hate speech faced by them as well as the violation of their rights presented a series of demands to the Ombudsman's office (see the chapter Absence of Legal Protection)

On 1 February President Radev with his characteristic double standard stated that “Macedonian Bulgarians are fighting for equality, which is guaranteed in their Constitution. They are fighting for their complete integration in the social life of the country. That is radically different from the separatist tendencies claims to minority status expressed by the people who President Pedarovski met with”. According to him each and every demand for reciprocity regarding the rights of minorities is “counterproductive.“[13]

At the beginning of April the State Department Human Rights Report on Bulgaria for 2021 was published. The problems encountered by ethnic Macedonians were included in two places”. The following was stated in the chapter entitled Freedom of Association: „Authorities continued to deny registration of ethnic-Macedonian activist groups such as the United Macedonian Organization-Ilinden, the Society of Oppressed Macedonians-Victims of Communist Terror, the Association for Defense of Individual Civil Rights, and the Macedonian Ethnic Tolerance Club in Bulgaria, despite 14 prior decisions by the ECtHR that the denials violated the groups’ freedom of association. … on the grounds that the group would pursue a political agenda threatening the unity and security of the nation and would violate the rights of the rest of the population in the country that does not identify as Macedonian“. In the chapter entitled Systemic Racial and Ethnic Violence and Discrimination, the following was stated about the 2021 Census „Similarly, the United Macedonian Organization-Ilinden cited cases in Blagoevgrad in which national census counters told individuals they visited that “Macedonian” was not an available option for ethnic identification.“[14]

On 17 April, during a visit to Macedonia, Vice-President Yotova stated the following in answer to a question on the Macedonian minority: “We do not have minorities in our country, that is how the law is framed” and in so doing once again raised one of the contentious points of Bulgarian state policy in that regard; namely that Bulgaria only recognises individual rights, thereby speculating that minority rights are collective ones, ignoring the fact that they are also individual rights.[15]

On 16 May during a visit to Berlin President Radev stated that “We must not allow the legitimisation of Macedonianism in the EU”.[16]

On 16 June in Blagoevgrad the Civil Association for the Defence of Fundamental Human Rights rented out as premises and began preparations for the opening of the Macedonian Cultural Club “Nikola Vaptsarov”. On 5 July there was an attempt to take away the premises from it.

On 17 June the scandalous Protocol No 2 was signed by Macedonia and Bulgaria. This document is non-reciprocal, unprincipled, discriminatory. It defends the rights of the Bulgarian minority in Macedonia, as represented by Bulgaria, but not the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria which was without representation in these negotiations; takes a specific stance on the matter of repression under Communism in Macedonia, but not in Bulgaria during that period, while the Association of Repressed Macedonians in Bulgaria has not been able to be registered for 13 years. The Macedonian minority is only mentioned in the sense that Macedonia will not express any concern for it while at the same time the very term “Macedonian minority” is carefully avoided.

On 27 august the Club of the “Ancient Macedonians” in the town of Goce Delchev was vandalised. The authorities refused to take any measures due to the “insignificance of the incident.”

In January 2022, in relation to the monitoring set up by the Committee of Ministers due to the refusal to register Macedonian organisations in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian authorities published a document entitled “Principled Positions” for officials dealing with registration and the leadership of associations and revised them in September 2022. These documents were rightly assessed by the Committee of Minsters in December that same year as follows: “these documents do not address sufficiently the need to ensure a Convention-compliant assessment of an association’s goals. Moreover, it should be noted with concern that neither these documents, nor the high-level message included in a letter of the Minister of Justice of October 2021 appear to have permitted an alignment in the practice of the Agency and courts with the requirements of the Convention. In addition, there have been apparently no developments related to the extension of the obligation of the Agency to give instructions for the rectification of registration files, as foreseen in the 2021 road map.” [17]

On 7 October 2022 the Municipal Council of the Municipality of Blagoevgrad adopted in a vote of 25 for, 4 abstained and 12 absentees a Declaration against the Opening of the Macedonian Cultural Club in Blagoevgrad, calling itan anti-Bulgarian provocationand claiming that “the creation of such a centre in our city is a crude provocation by illegitimate organisations under our law”. The following statement in the Declaration is indicative of the low level of societal debate and the lack of awareness of the law by the municipal counsellors: “We consider that all actions for the creation of an organisation in which a group of people self-determine that they constitute a “minority” within the framework of our country represent a crude trampling of the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Bulgaria”.[18]

In December 2022 the final prohibition of the “Civil Association for the Defence of Fundamental Individual Human Rights on 6 October by virtue of a final ruling of the Supreme Court of Cassation was evaluated as follows by the Committee of Ministers [19]: “…. the dissolution of ‘the Civil Association for the Protection of Fundamental Individual Rights’ has already been assessed negatively by the Committee in its Interim Resolution CM/ResDH(2020)197, as based on grounds similar to those rejected by the European Court in the present judgments and that the dissolution proceedings which ended in October 2022 only concerned a procedural issue. Therefore, the Committee could note with concern that the above association has now been dissolved in a final manner, on grounds motivated by a negative assessment of its goal, as rejected by the European Court in the present judgments, and not by actual unlawful activities. It would certainly be futile for the Committee to insist on a Convention-compliant registration procedure, if the authorities were to immediately request the dissolution of such associations without appropriate justification.”[20]

Between 25 and 30 October the club of the Ancient Macedonians in Gotse Delchev was vandalised once again. The authorities again refused to take any action.

On 30 October the Macedonian Cultural Club “Nikola Vaptsarov” was officially opened accompanied by a strengthened police presence and several provocations, in particular the limitation of freedom of assembly (see below). Before that on two occasions parts of the club's name were erased, concretely the word “Macedonian”.

The decision of the Committee of Minsters on 8 December gave the following assessment of recent developments in cases concerning the refusal to register Macedonian organisations in Bulgaria, stating concretely amongst other matters:

“As concerns the individual measures, it should be deplored that, in the most recent registration proceedings concerning the applicant associations, the Agency and the courts have again …failed to respect the principles set out in the Court’s judgments and the Committee’s Interim Resolution CM/ResDH(2020)197 concerning the requirements of Article 11 of the Convention. It is in particular deeply concerning that more than 16 years after the first final judgment in this group, associations aiming to “achieve the recognition of the Macedonian minority” continue to be routinely refused registration, clearly due to a wider disapproval of their goals. In this context, the Committee may wish to stress that while the present judgments do not give rise to an obligation to recognise a group of persons as a minority, they require the domestic authorities not to refuse registration on the grounds repeatedly rejected by the European Court related to the associations’ goals.” Also “The practice of the Agency and the courts over the last years thus casts serious doubts on the capacity of the registration mechanism in place since 2018 to ensure Convention-compliant examinations of the applicants’ registration requests. … it appears particularly relevant to recall that the practice currently in place is not consonant with the case-law of the European Court.”[21]

Furthermore, the Committee of Ministers pointed out the type of progress that was expected of those Bulgarian institutions tasked with the registration of organisations:

“6. noted moreover that to allow tangible progress to be achieved in these cases, the Agency and the competent courts should: (i.) not refuse registration to associations aiming to achieve “the recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria” on grounds, which contradict the European Court’s judgments in these cases; (ii.) exhaustively identify all deficiencies of the registration documents of the applicant associations and associations like them.”[22]


From 1963 onwards the denial of the existence of the Macedonian minority has been an official state policy and doctrine. On 29.02. 2000 the Constitutional Court promoted such a policy in its own Judgement No 1 which banned OMO “Ilinden”-PIRIN and since then that has been one of the main grounds and arguments used to violate the right of association of the Macedonians which moreover this year developed into an official judicial practice and norm (see below). In 2019 and 2020 that was converted into an official condition to be satisfied for the integration into European structures of the Republic of Macedonia and one of the reasons for the blocking of negotiations regarding Macedonia's membership of the EU. On 21 May and 16 June 2021, the caretaker government in Bulgaria affirmed the position that one of the conditions for the integration into European structures of the Republic of Macedonia was that Macedonia renounce the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.[23]

The denial not only of the Macedonian minority, but in principle the denial of the existence of minorities in the country has been considered to be an argument for the non-registration of minority organisations, which are considered to be directed against the territorial integrity of the country (see the chapter Violation of the Right of Assembly).

The concept “Macedonian minority” is often placed in inverted commas in published documents and is regularly accompanied by the phrase “so-called” in official documents as well as in the media and internet forums.

On 12 January 2022 the Macedonian edition of “Voice of America” aired an interview with Gabriel Escobar, the Deputy-Assistant Secretary of US Department of State for the Western Balkans in which he stated: ”The Embassy of the USA in Sofia is working with the Bulgarian government on requests for the respect of the rights of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria”.[24] This statement which was later refuted[25] provoked a spirited reaction in Bulgaria and was viewed as scandalous.

The first to react was the European Parliament MP from the VMRO BND party, Angel Dzhambazki, who stated that “in Bulgaria there has never been a “Macedonian minority”, there is not one now and there will not be such a minority” He also demanded a reply from the USA: ”I really expect a categorical reply. The absence of such a reply as well as all attempts to prevaricate and circumvent the issue will be unanimously taken by the whole Bulgarian nation to be a hostile act of this American administration against our country. Because, if no one has understood, I shall repeat myself- the current policy of the new American administration regarding the Macedonian Question is rightly considered by all of Bulgarian society to be anti-scientific, anti-historical and specifically anti-Bulgarian.“[26] Furthermore, he demanded the resignation of the government if it was in reality working together with the American Embassy in favor of the Macedonian minority. In an additional statement of 14 January he was even more extreme; the very claim that such a minority exists according to him was “ scandalous and anti-Bulgarian”. “That is an insult”. ”The historical falsification “Macedonian minority” is a lie. A vile and disgusting lie thought up by Moscow, Belgrade and the Comintern in order to attack Bulgaria. Today, 90 years after the creation of that lie, it is being used once again in order to attack our nation. Throughout our history we have often have been attacked by enemies - both ones close by and those far away”.[27]

On 16 January another European Parliament MP from the ENP party, Emil Radev, made a statement on this matter as follows: „The attempts to speak of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria are dangerous”. He even went so far as to predict the results of the 2021 Census (whose results are still not published a year and a half after it was held) and contrary to the results of the Censuses conducted in the country in the last 80 years considered that “the next Census in the country will show that there is no Macedonian minority in our country”[28]

On the evening of 16 January Premier Kiril Petkov stated the following in an interview with the national television station BTV: ”I have never had a conversation with representatives of the American Embassy about the “Macedonian minority” in Bulgaria, this topic cannot even be discussed, our government will not admit discussion of this topic”; „There can be no talks about such a minority, there is a 100% firm position on this topic, namely, that it cannot be discussed”.[29]

Premier Petkov stated the following in a statement in Parliament on 29 January 2022 in relation to the meeting that same day between the delegation composed of OMO ”Ilinden”-PIRIN and four organisations of Bulgarian citizens with a Macedonian consciousness and Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski: “The topic regarding the Macedonian minority is absolutely inadmissible. This Bulgarian government would not open the door to discussion of this topic, and I have no intention of discussing it. In this regard we have a firm “NO”.“[30]

On 29 January 2022 in a declaration issued by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs the Macedonian minority (without there even being mention of the concept) was defined as “topics which enter into conflict with the Agreement on Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation concluded in 2017“.[31]

During a visit to Ohrid on 17 April Vice-President Yotova, in relation to a question about the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, stated that “we do not have minorities in our country, that's what the law states”.[32]

On 4 October the European Parliament MP Angel Dzhambazki came out with his point of view entitled ”There has not been, there is not and there will never be a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria!”[33]

The same views are widely accepted in the media. On 1 February Viktoriya Georgieva stated directly: “The goals of the organisation in defending a “Macedonian minority” whose existence is in contradiction to the unity of the nation, because such a minority does not exist.[34] On 31 October the regional daily “Struma” defined as a “provocation” the request made by those persons opening a Macedonian Cultural Club in Blagoevgrad for the “recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria”.[35] On 2 November Rosen Tahov stated in the national daily “Trud” that “There is no Macedonian nation. That is why it has to be invented”.[36]

The mere expression of any request for the recognition of the Macedonian minority is considered to be anti-constitutional and is understood as separatism. ”OMO-Ilinden-PIRIN has been declared unconstitutional in accordance with a judicial decision given that it proclaims existence of a so-called “Macedonian minority” and separatist ideas.“[37]


Closely linked with the denial of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria are the regular manipulations with the number of persons who self-identify as Macedonians in Bulgaria as exemplified by the obvious attempt for that number to be reduced to zero. A key role in that regard is played by the Census as it provides the sole opportunity for citizens to officially declare their identity in state documentation.

Immediately after the Census last year Macedonian organisations expressed the view that due to the massive violations of procedure and manipulations, they would not recognise its results (see our report from last year). The conclusion of that report was as follows: „Given the aforementioned and taking into account state policy regarding the (non) existence of the Macedonian minority, we believe that the data collected at the Census, generally, and especially the data relating to questions regarding the number of Macedonians and those that speak Macedonian will show a drastically reduced number and that this situation will be particularly bad for groups falling within the categories of older and less literate citizens. We therefore believe that official, published Census data will be inaccurate, not objective and unable to serve any useful purpose.” It was not only Macedonian organisations that reacted, but also Roma organisations also reported “numerous instances of violations of procedure during the conduct of the survey... including the filling out of questionnaires without a true interview being conducted” and “ a reduction in the number of Roma in the country as a result of the Census”.[38]

After a delay of more than one year, at the beginning of October 2022 the National Statistics Institute (NSI) published the initial results of the Census, however these were neither complete, nor final. One of the big problems with these results was that it turned out that 18% of the population had not been covered by the Census-in their case the NSI collected information using administrative data. That strongly affected the collection of information regarding ethnicity. In Bulgaria information relating to ethnicity and mother tongue cannot be collected on the basis of administrative data,[39] as nowhere in Bulgarian official documents are such details indicated nor are they required during the procedure for the issuing of personal documents. Because of this the ethnicity and mother tongue of these 18 % are de facto not included into the official data of the census, or are simply “assumed”.

Upon the publishing of the initial results it was reported that “During November information on ethno-cultural characteristics- such as ethnicity, mother tongue, creed and religiosity, as well as migration-will be published”.[40] At the end of November the NSI released to the media information on the ethnic composition of the country, but only in broad terms - Bulgarians, Turks, Roma without mentioning the smaller ethnic groups who were included in the “other” column, amongst them being the Macedonians. In relation to ethnic groups the following was stated: „79.006 persons have self-identified as belonging to other ethnic groups or 1,3%. Those persons who indicated that they could not self-identify comprised 15,746 persons (0.3%). The Answer ‘I do not want to answer’ was checked by 63 767, or 1.0% of the corresponding persons“. „Other mother tongue is chosen by 62 906, or 1.1%. Persons who stated that they cannot determine which is their mother tongue are 10 633 (0.2%). Those who answered ‘I don't wish to respond’ numbered 49,602 or 0.8% of participants“[41]

According to the analysis by Mihail Ivanov “In answer to the question on ethnic group identification out of a total population of 6,519,789 persons, we have 467,678 or 7.2% in the category of “not indicated”; that is persons whose answers we do not possess. We have to add to that number another 63,767(1.0%) who did not want to answer and 15.746 (0.2%) who could not specify their ethnic group or a total of 547,191 (8.4%) In relation to mother tongue and religious creed the number of those falling under the “not indicated” category is that same for both indicators: 616,681 or 9.5%. In that regard in relation to mother tongue we have to add 49,602 (0.8%) that did not wish to answer and 10,633 (0.2%) who could not specify or a total of 676,916 (10.5%)“.[42]

According to another announcement made by the National Statistics Institute on 31 January 2023 final figures for the Census were to be published at the end of March 2023 (after the completion of our report).[43]

As of 14 March in the official published results, the situation relating to ethnic groups was as follows:

„Population by ethnicity as of 7/9/2021 - no data available” [44]

„Population by ethnicity, statistical regions and districts as of 7/9/2021“ [45] – „no data available“.

„Population by ethnicity, statistical regions, districts and municipalities”[46] - „no data available.

„Population by mother tongue, statistical regions, districts and municipalities as of 7/9/2021“[47]- „no data available“.

In such a situation, only semi-official data has been provided on the number of Macedonians in Bulgaria. As expected, the number was again artificially reduced and reached its lowest point – 1143.[48] However, the NSI has never informed media representatives how many people indicated that Macedonian was their mother tongue.[49] Members of Macedonian organizations themselves exceed this figure, without counting members of their families, sympathizers and the majority of Macedonians who do not engage due to fear or for other reasons with the Macedonian movement.

Unfortunately, the true number of Bulgarian citizens with a Macedonian consciousness continues to be a mystery. The only certain thing is that it is much larger than indicated by official figures.


The denial of the Macedonian minority is the basis for the hate speech to which the Macedonian minority is subjected. Without such denial all other accusations levelled against it would not be possible. Accusations levelled against Macedonians, namely that they are anti-Bulgarian elements, traitors, apostates, foreign agents, enemies of the nation, a threat to its unity and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, are based explicitly on the notion that such a minority does not exist and claims to the contrary are able to be interpreted only as a hostile act and betrayal of the state and nation by persons who have renounced their own people.

The treating of Macedonians as separatists and enemies of the state undoubtedly sows hatred towards them amongst the majority of citizens.

One of the means employed for imposing stereotypes about the Macedonians is the use of terms designed to denigrate the Macedonian nation, minority, identity and right to self-determination. In order to achieve this goal, instead of correct terms being used, those such as “Macedonianism”, “Macedonists” and other similar ones are employed, suggesting that in this case one is not dealing with matters of ethnic affinity, self-determination and identity, but rather an artificial ideology and those who adopt it. However, often that is not found to be sufficient such that these concepts have to be imbued with a greater number of even more degrading connotations.

Macedonians are treated not as a minority, but rather as the organisation OMO “Ilinden” which has been formed by forces hostile to Bulgaria,[50] which is moreover “anti-constitutional” (because it proclaims the existence of a “so-called Macedonian minority”), a “separatist party” which is occupied with “Macedonianising Bulgarians”, ”preaches anti-Bulgarianism”, and “ideas of separatism”, is based on “Macedonianism” which is a “Serbo-Comintern lie”.[51]

The same rhetoric is employed by the EURO MP Dzhambazki; “the Macedonian nation is fake news” invented in Moscow by the Communist International in 1934”, “a hostile Comintern propaganda organised by Moscow”.[52] But also speech which is “ scandalous and anti-Bulgarian”. It is also an insult”; ”The historical falsification “Macedonian minority” is a lie. A vile and disgusting lie, invented by Moscow, Belgrade and the Comintern in order to attack Bulgaria. Today, 90 years after the creation of that lie it is once again being used to attack our country. Throughout our history, we have often been attacked by enemies - both near and distant.“[53] Dzhambazki's theses are not perceived to be anomalous or extreme and are disseminated in the national media

On 29 January the Bulgarian Premier stated as follows from the parliamentary rostrum: ”who is OMO “Ilinden”- Yes , we know what they are like. Yes, we are certain that they will try to trip up the young government in the Republic of North Macedonia in whatever way they can. However, we will not succumb to provocations”[54]

In addition, Deputy Premier Korneliya Ninova refused to lead a government delegation to Skopje because “President Pendarovski met with a delegation of the separatist OMO “Ilinden” which insists on the recognition of a Macedonian minority in our country. I consider that meeting to be a provocation to Bulgaria and believe that our visit at this time would be a humiliation for Bulgaria's national dignity”, said Ninova explaining her motivation.[55]

The meeting between the Macedonian President and the organizations of Macedonian minority in Bulgaria is compared to a meeting with the “Basque Separatist Group ETA”[56] by the former intelligence officer Velizar Enchev as well.

President Radev not only made statements against “Macedonianism” but also undertook concrete measures as well. After his visit to Germany on 16 May he stated as follows: “We must not allow the legitimization of Macedonianism in the EU” because it is one of “the ideologemes of former Yugoslavia and the Comintern” and “it does not have a place in the EU”, otherwise “ they will have long-term, unfavourable consequences for the EU”... [57]

Characteristic of this approach is the article in the national daily “24 Chasa” entitled ”How did Pendarovski find a total of 8 Macedonians in Bulgaria, they ask in Facebook?”,[58] in which only posts full of insults towards the Macedonians in Bulgaria were emphasized while the rest were glossed over. Macedonian organisations at the meeting with the President (amongst which were two registered with and one represented by a party in the European Parliament) were presented as being equivalent to Al-Qaeda. This is an example of how a national daily provides a platform for hate speech which has been normalised on the Internet against the Macedonians in Bulgaria,

Toni Maskruchka was especially active in publishing texts containing hate speech in “24 Chasa”.[59]

On 9 September Tsvetlina Lazarova in her text with its characteristic title “Mitskoski raised the invented matter of the Macedonian minority in our country and spoke out against Bulgarians” stated as follows: “ There are no Bulgarians with a Macedonian consciousness. Or if there are they can be counted on one's fingers and are inspired by the pro-Serbian Macedonian intelligence services and nationalists who goal is to create provocations”.[60]

On 4 October the Euro MP Dzhambazki again defined people with a Macedonian self-consciousness in Bulgaria as “horribly boring Macedonists in Bulgaria... fans of a high-grade spiritus, who spit on their homeland. They deny themselves and their country for a denar more from Skopie … apostates”, “mockers of their mother who for a denar more will sell everything out. And they do it... they have obviously fallen into abstinence”, people “who have been overcome by their vices to such an extent that they are prepared to return their breast milk and spit on their homeland”, people who stain heroic Blagoevgrad with their presence”. Their actions are “a provocation” which “should cause righteous anger in the heart of everyone who loves Bulgaria”[61]

The following day he published Facebook posts in which he threatened that “We will not allow separatist organisations to be active on the territory of Bulgaria”. Macedonian self-identification and the expression of this identity were considered to be “ugly anti-Bulgarian ideas” and the opening of the club was deemed to be an “insult” which his party would put a stop to. Macedonian organisations in Bulgaria were deemed to be separatist and created by Yugoslav intelligence services.[62]

On 7 October the Municipal Council in Blagoevgrad in its declaration against the opening of the Macedonian Cultural Club in the city repeated the untruth which interprets that the Macedonian minority was created by means of a “forced imposition of the policy of ‘cultural autonomy’ in the Pirin region” and moreover considered it to be “an indisputable historical fact the fact that the Macedonian nation was artificially created by the Comintern in 1934 and that the sole reason for its existence is to serve the interests of the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet Union and the goals of a foreign nation“ .[63]

In the same declaration support was expressed for the hate-inspiring stereotype; namely that all actions of Bulgarian citizens with a Macedonian self-consciousness for the promotion of their identity or fight in defence of their rights are in essence completely organised by foreign countries, The opening of the club by a group of Bulgarian citizens was interpreted by them as “we consider that by means of such provocative actions, the Agreement on Good Neighbourliness between Bulgaria and North Macedonia has been crudely violated, that all efforts up to now for the improvement of our relations with North Macedonia have been trampled upon and that its path towards European integration and membership of the EU has been significantly obstructed..“[64] The same position was held by the Union of Bulgarian Writers which “ unreservedly supports the position of our Ministry for Foreign Affairs ,namely that similar acts do not at all contribute to the development of good neighbourly relations between two brotherly states.”[65] This same stereotype is disseminated extraordinarily frequently in the media[66] In this regard there is no difference between moderate Bulgarian politicians and radicals such as Angel Dzhambazki who stated as follows on the occasion of the opening of the club: ”This group of wretches has decided to open a club in Blagoevgrad. This is an obvious provocation by Skopie whose goal is to once again mobilise a minibus full of people that it pays in Bulgaria to betray their country”[67] For example Metodiy Ivanov on 28 October would state: ”Support for this organisation and its clones by highly-placed officials in the Republic of North Macedonia is a drastic violation of the 2017 Agreement and this must not pass without a reaction by our country. On the contrary, our country should report all such hostile acts to the European Commission, supported by evidence and to demand the discontinuation of such activity by the republic of North Macedonia.[68] On 28 October on the occasion of the opening of the club the party which defends the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, OMO “Ilinden”-PIRIN was described as “the illegal organisation”,“Macedonist,separatist organisation which works in support of the interests of Skopie” and Macedonian organisations in Bulgaria as “similar organisations with anti-constitutional goals and statutes”. [69]

In its appeal for the organisation of a protest against the opening of the Macedonian Cultural Club in Blagoevgrad (which it deemed to be “provocations by the Serbian puppets in Skopie”), the VMRO BND party would speak of “the creation of a centre for anti-Bulgarianism in our country”, “attempts to introduce separatism on the territory of Bulgaria”, and would call for “The immediate cessation of attempts by separatist organizations to wedge themselves into the public life of the country, masked behind the implementation of cultural activities, because otherwise we shall allow a breach in the national security of the country to occur. Let's stop this brazen Serbo-Communist Macedonianism that is obviously crawling along and growing with the support of the pink liberal white collar brigade in Brussels!“[70]

In Rosen Takov's text published on 2 November in described national daily “Trud” on the occasion of the opening of the Macedonian Cultural Club in Blagoevgrad, Blagoevgrad was defined as “the capital of those without a country. With a dark symbolism because it bears the name of a national traitor... Those without a country who work against Bulgaria gather there“ a town named after Dimitur Blagoev[71] whose historical role is described as follows: “ Then the ghost of Dimitur Blagoev appears from the underworld. To provide support to Macedonianism whose main apostle he was. The anti-Bulgarian doctrine has other apologists as well, however his words carry most weight. … During 1909 in Belgrade the First Social Democratic Conference was held. At this august forum Blagoev proposed the formation of a Balkan Federal Republic. The Macedonian nation which does not exist would enter into this federal republic. That is why it had to be invented.” According to the author a heavy burden of guilt is borne by those who named the city after his name who decided that: “The national traitors decided that we will create a centre for Macedonianism. Gorna Dzhumaya would become Blagoevgrad. Just as they once went there to market to buy potatoes, now Macedonists would gather there to shop. And there you are in the memorable year 1950 by means of Decree No 209 of the Presidium of the National Assembly Gorna Dzhumaya would become Blagoevgrad. This allegedly symbolic act had a phenomenal effect. Blagoevgrad in reality became a centre for Macedonianism. When they have to work against Bulgaria, the followers of Blagoev always gather in Blagoevgrad. Last week the cut the ribbon of a Macedonian Cultural Club. Afterwards they laid flowers at the monument of the first teacher and mentor”.[72]

The journalist Magdalena Tasheva would devote one of her broadcasts of her show “sreshtu Techenieto” on the TV station “Bulgaria 24” to the opening of the Macedonian Club in Blagoevgrad and would give it the title of, characteristically, “Insult to Bulgaria which the President blessed”. In this broadcast the opening of the club was portrayed as “humiliation for Bulgarians” “2-3 vulgar anti-Bulgarians”, in that regard the leader of the Macedonian opposition Hristiyan Mitskoski, who was called a “political geek”, who should not be allowed to set foot in Bulgaria. Tasheva posed the question” why can every paid and unpaid anti-Bulgarian come to Bulgaria and mock our national dignity.” She compared the members who opened the club with the “cut throats of Islamic state” and called them “openly Macedonianising anti-Bulgarians”. The opening of the club was interpreted in the context of a non-existent separatism or territorial pretensions against Bulgaria and betrayal by the Bulgarian authorities, during which "a shameful joke was played with our history.".[73]


During 2022 Bulgarian courts continued denying registration to Macedonian organisations using the same reasons and methods which have been condemned multiple times by the ECtHR, for example:

1. The claim that there is no Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.

2. Using the preceding claim as a basis, the courts interpreted efforts in defence of a Macedonian self-consciousness and traditions as an intention to impose a foreign ethnic consciousness on the Bulgarian population.

3. By treating any mention of a Macedonian minority, ethnicity, or self-consciousness anti-constitutional, and directed against the unity of the nation and the territorial integrity of the country.

4. On the basis of point No 2 efforts in defence of Macedonian self-consciousness and traditions are interpreted as having the goal of creating division and confrontation on an ethnic basis.

5. The goals of the organisations which work to defend the Macedonian minority are interpreted as an effort to create privileges on an ethnic basis.

6. Manipulations with unclear definitions of the concept “political goals”, goals which are intrinsic to organisations with a social benefit and goals intrinsic to private organisations. No matter how the goals of the Macedonian organisations are formulated, according to Bulgarian institutions they are always deemed to apply to organisations of a different category to that category in which registration is sought; it does not help, even when a particular organisation changes the categories in which it attempts to register, preserving the same goals. Those institutions now do not even make recommendations as in the past the procedure for registration to be stopped and instead a new one to be started but now the application is simply rejected. Despite the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers the state has not done anything in that regard, neither in respect of defining the differences in these goals, nor to stop the speculation with and abuses of the ambiguities by state institutions.

7. Speculation as to alleged irregularities in the documentation, and the attempt to find such irregularities leads to extremes and outright speculation. Contrary to the law and the insistence of the Committee of Ministers - there are no instructions given for the correction of alleged irregularities, while they are at the same time said to be unable to be corrected and an outright refusal is issued. Such a tendency for their refusals was particularly apparent this year; state institutions make a special effort to invent formal reasons and at each level an effort is made to add even more, giving them prominence, despite the fact that their consideration of ethnic motives takes precedence in terms of volume and weight of evidence. The invention of formal reasons and demands which are not applied in the cases of other organisations, have as a goal to be used before the Strasbourg institutions for covering the actual ethnic motivation for the discriminatory decisions taken.

In that regard the Committee of Ministers in its last decision commented as follows:

Moreover, the negative practice persists of raising new grounds for refusal even though the documents had been repeatedly examined by the Agency and the courts. The Agency previously examined three applications based on identical statutes of the “Society of the Repressed Macedonians in Bulgaria Victims of The Communist Terror”; in March 2022 it examined them again and established new grounds to refuse registration (and so did the Sofia Court of Appeal), even though the statutes remained unchanged. Similarly, some provisions in the statutes of UMO Ilinden were only criticised by the Sofia Court of Appeal in May 2022, even though they had appeared in the statutes of that organisation at least since 2019.“

8. The Agency for Registration continued the practice which it had begun last year (2021); namely to deal with every new application for registration by a given organisation through the prism of previous refusals and since the goals of the organisation to fight in some way in defence or in favour of persons with a Macedonian self-consciousness had not changed, to treat that as an uncorrected error or irregularity and therefore on that basis to issue a refusal. In that way the violation of the law by the courts and state institutions is converted into a law in and of itself, while the goals for the defence of the Macedonian minority are treated as an error which must be removed from the application.

9. The courts do not always base their decisions on the statute and documents presented but rather strive to “uncover the true will of the founders” which it interprets arbitrarily and tendentiously with a view to refusing registration.

10. The courts continued with the practice instituted last year (2021) whereby they oblige Macedonian organisations which have lodged an appeal against the Agency's decisions to pay its court costs.

The only constant in the practice of the Bulgarian courts in relation to Macedonian organizations is the refusal to register them.

Contrary to the decisions of the ECtHR and the Committee of Ministers, the Bulgarian judicial system has created its own ideological interpretation of the law and built a system and framework that makes it impossible to register an organization that sets among its goals any type of protection of the rights of Bulgarian citizens with a Macedonian self-consciousness and the interests of the Macedonian minority or concern for Macedonian identity and culture.

Citizens' Association for the Protection of Basic Individual Human Rights

The most serious violation of the right of association in 2022 was the dissolution of this association. All proceedings with respect to the Citizens’ Association for the Protection of Basic Individual Human Rights up until 6th October 2022 concerned the applicant’s appeals for restoration of an expired deadline (Art. 64 para. 2 of Code of Civil Procedure) to challenge the initial decision for dissolution of their organisation. In fact, the Citizens’ Association for the Protection of Basic Individual Human Rights sought to dispute several crucial aspects related to the prescribed deadline by the Blagoevgrad Regional Court (BRC) for challenging the initial decision as well as the very legal qualification of the procedure for dissolution.

First of all, they intended to prove that the court of first instance (BRC), in contravention of Article 376 paras. 1-2 of Code of Civil Procedure examined and adjudicated the matter concerning their dissolution and liquidation in a closed session (in camera), whereas none of the parties asked for such a procedure. What is more concerning, it seems that BRC - by giving preference to an examination and adjudication in camera at expense of the publicity - neglected the basic equity principle of audietar et alteram partem, i.e. right to fair hearing and to respond to evidence against them in higher courts, which is of utmost importance in cases concerning the deprivation of the right to freedom of association for members of a non-recognized ethnic minorities. As properly underscored in their cassation appeal: "Dissolving an association of citizens gathered in defense of human rights requires fair public process and exhaustive justification of any court decision. The right of citizens to associate peacefully is a fundamental constitutional right and it is not appropriate to restrict it in the way it was done in the case under review - by excluding the public and by evading the duty to deliver the court act in appropriate manner".

In another aspect, highlighted by representatives of the Citizens’ Association for the Protection of Basic Individual Human Rights, it comes out the BRC deliberately examined their case by applying the rules regulating the commercial and trade disputes (Chapter XXXII of the Code of Civil Procedure), though the request for dissolution of their association was grounded solely on reasons stipulated in the Art. 13 of the Act on Non-Profit Legal Entities. Therefore, since the legal prerequisites for examining the case under the rules regulating the commercial and trade disputes have obviously not been met, the representatives of the Citizens’ Association asked the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) to adjudicate that "inapplicability of the rules regulating the commercial and trade disputes entails the inapplicability of the norm regarding the appeal period (Art. 376, para. 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure)". All these breaches on the part of the BRC amounted to "special unforeseeable circumstances, which could not be surmounted", as required in Art. 64 para. 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Henceforth, they asked the SCC to adjudicate in favour of the restoration of the deadline for submitting appeal on the initial decision ordering dissolution of their association. Unfortunately, SCC in its decision dated from 6 October 2022 rejected the cassation appeal, thus paved the way for dissolution and liquidation of the Citizens' Association.

Therefore, upon the final decision issued by SCC on October 2022, the Association should be deleted from the Non-Profit Legal Entities Register. The president of the Association, Mr Atanas Maznev, has been appointed as liquidator and has legal obligation to finalise its liquidation by April 2023. The president of Association stated that he was unaware for the decision until a journalist text, quoting the decision, appeared on a Bulgarian mainstream media.

The Association of Repressed Macedonians in Bulgaria, Victims of Communist Terror

On February 4, the Sofia Court of Appeal confirmed the refusals of the lower institutions to register the organization.[74] The motives - the goals and means for their achievement were not those of an organization set up for private purposes, but rather "intrinsic to a classic political party", and the holding of peaceful gatherings, debates, gatherings, and conferences were interpreted to be such activities. The court agreed that the organization was planning "activity directed against the unity of the Bulgarian nation" and added:“ The thus formulated goals and means for their implementation define the association as protecting the violated rights and interests of an ethnic minority on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, which objectively does not exist as a separate and established group of people possessing religious, linguistic, cultural or other characteristic that distinguishes them from the rest of the country's population. In these circumstances, in highlighting the existence of such a minority through a non-profit organization-association, intended to satisfy their specific needs, in essence does not aim to protect their rights, insofar as they are not different from those of other citizens, but to cultivate among a certain section of Bulgarian citizens a different ethnic self-consciousness, which was not formed on the basis of a natural historical process, and is therefore directed against the unity of the nation, for which the provision of art. 44, para. 2 of the Constitution establishes an express prohibition.

Therefore, the court finds that it is in order for the right of association to be infringed due to the “necessity for the defence of the rights and freedoms of other citizens not participating as members of the association”.

The Association lodged another application for registration with the Agency for Registrations, however on 8 March it received another refusal.[75] An important reason for refusal was the fact that the details as stated in the application for registration - leaders and statutes, were identical to those which had already been refused and its refusal was confirmed by the courts.[76] The non-changing of the goals related to the Macedonian minority was treated as not having fulfilled Article 94, paragraph 1 of Ordinance No. 1 of February 14, 2007 on keeping, storing and accessing the commercial register and the register of non-profit legal entities, which provides that, upon submission of a new application after a refusal, the official responsible for registration must carry out the requested registration, if the applicant has removed the obstacles which prevented registration as specified in the valid refusal. „In this specific case the applicant has not removed the obstacles indicated in the valid refusal, which were moreover affirmed by the above court decisions, and are related to and expressed by the illegality of the goals and means of achieving them specified in the statute.“ As the aims are indicated to be as such, they are therefore not those which are relevant to an association formed for purposes of private benefit, but rather of a political party, and they are in support of the Macedonian minority and association on the basis of ethnicity.

The refusal was appealed against at the District Court in Blagoevgrad which on 12 April affirmed it.[77] The basic argument employed was that the goals of the association: ”the formulation, corresponding solution, and activities of the association for the solution of the problems of a Macedonian ethnic minority are in clear contradiction to the actual legal order of the country and correspondingly with the established legal order and the societal one which emanates from it in the Republic of Bulgaria.” After enumerating the goals in detail – all of which refer to concern for the rights, interests, and identity of persons from the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria and their attainment by peaceful and legal means, the court concluded that “the goals so formulated and the means for their attainment by the association in question which aims to defend the violated rights and interests of an ethnic minority in Bulgaria, which objectively does not exist as a particular ethnic group or another group of people confirmed as possessing religious, linguistic, cultural or other characteristics which distinguish it from the other part of the population in the country. Given that circumstance, in highlighting the existence of such a minority through a non-profit organization-association, intended to satisfy their specific needs, in essence it does not aim to protect their rights, insofar as they are not different from those of other citizens, but to cultivate among a certain section of Bulgarian citizens a different ethnic self-consciousness, which was not formed on the basis of a natural historical process, and is therefore directed against the unity of the nation.“ „In addition, the court considers that in its Statutes the association has also formulated political goals related to the establishment of an activity relevant to political party, which in the view of Article 12, paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria is inadmissible.” The court also claimed that there were formal errors in the request for registration but did not comment on the legal possibility for the Registration Agency to request their correction or removal.

The court penalised the appellants and required them to pay the Agency 80 Leva.

On 21 June the Sofia Appeals Court affirmed the refusal.[78] The appellants complained that the statement issued by the court in Blagoevgrad, according to which the aims of the association were directed against the unity of the nation, represented direct discrimination on an ethnic basis against the members of the association and that it had not substantiated its conclusion by explaining in what way the Macedonian identity of the members of the association and their right of association would threaten social order in the country.

The court engaged in lengthy speculation in order to defend the claim of a divergence between the requirements for registration and the goals contained in the organisation's statutes, by adding new goals as well.

The court commented on the decision of 28/5/2020 of the ECtHR in favour of the association “for the sake of completeness” by "considering that the court's requirement to comply with the imperative of the substantive law, established by the ZYULNTS and ZTRRYULNTS for all citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria, is not a disproportionate interference with the rights of the applicant".

Apart from that the court claimed that Bulgarian legislation “has created the necessary legal framework for the rehabilitation of all persons, including those who consider that they belong to an ethnicity, different from Bulgarian if they were harmed by the communist regime.” In this case the goals of the association as presented by the applicant are not relevant to the defence of the rights and lawful interests of repressed persons, as has been stated, but are intended to lead to official recognition and popularisation of an ethnicity which the applicants claim exists within the framework of a sovereign country. In order to achieve those goals, there are planned to be celebrations of historical dates and events, without it being concretely specified which ones, in order for an evaluation to be made as to whether they relate to a specific ethnicity or the history of the Bulgarian nation, including the organisation of regional gatherings based on ethnicity. The last matter categorically does not conform to the principles of the unity of the nation established by the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria and the special law ZYULNTS and presuppose the provoking of national and ethnic enmity which is sufficient for the presiding composition of the court to accept that the refusal of the court to grant registration to this particular association is a proportional interference with its rights under Article 11 of Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.

In that way the court in reality arrogated to itself the right to assess the validity of historical interpretations, self-determination and identity of citizens and also to prohibit disagreement with specific state policy.

On 19 September the association lodged a new application for registration and received the refusal on the very next day - 20 September. Formal grounds were employed for the refusal; however, no opportunity was provided to remedy these alleged formal errors. The Agency referred to the fact that there had been previous attempts to register the same association with the same leadership and goals, which it considered to be an independent ground for refusal. In addition, it was emphasised that "the goals of the association can also be defined as contradicting constitutionally established principles in the Republic of Bulgaria by the current Constitution. Among the main goals of the association according to the Statutes is ‘the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of Macedonians, repressed during the communist regime because of their Macedonian self-consciousness and self-determination, as well as because of their activities in defence of the rights and freedoms of Macedonians in Bulgaria...’ In this case, the goals of the association as stated by the applicant and the means to achieve them do not relate to the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of repressed persons as stated but are aimed at officialising and popularising an ethnicity that the applicants claim exists within a sovereign country. … The specified vice is also grounds for refusal.”[79] The supposed request to officially recognise a minority was considered to be a legal “vice”.

United Macedonian Organisation “Ilinden”

This organization, which has been unable to obtain registration for three decades and for this reason has prosecuted the state in the ECtHR on several occasions and is the focus of increased monitoring of the Republic of Bulgaria regarding the "Macedonian affairs", failed to obtain registration this year as well. After the last refusal of the Registration Agency on 17/11/2021 and the confirmation of the same by the Blagoevgrad District Court on 1 December 2021, the case went up to the Sofia Court of Appeal, where it remained blocked for months. On April 21, the organization lodged a complaint regarding slow processing of the appeal to the Minister of Justice.

On May 13, the Sofia Court of Appeal finally ruled and affirmed the refusal.[80] The court accepted that it had to "assess the existence of valid requirements for registration, without being limited by the grounds used for refusing the application" Although all the necessary documents" were submitted, according to the court, "they do not support the existence of grounds required for registration and theirs compliance with the law" and therefore the refusal is valid. More specifically, even though a protocol signed by all the founding members was submitted with a date of 6/11/2021 and place of the meeting - the city of Sandanski, in any case "the exact hour and place of the meeting, which is necessary to be able to assess the existence of a simultaneously expressed will on the part of the necessary number of founding members, as a requirement for valid establishment of the association is not indicated ... the conclusion therefore follows that the protocol drawn up in this way does not provide that the association was validly established and as such this is a sufficient reason to refuse the registration of the association.”

The court also claimed that the Statutes did not contain the rules regarding the commencement and termination of membership, as well as the settlement of property relations upon termination, which in and of itself was sufficient reason for refusal. In order to state that, the court referred to an obvious spelling error in the bylaws, in the text on how to become a member. On the other hand, the text of the Articles of Association, namely that "property relations between the excluded member and the association after termination of membership are governed by the provisions of the Civil Code and Civil Procedure Code", was defined by the court without valid argumentation as "blanket and unclear". In this case, the court was obviously looking for and artificially creating reasons to affirm the refusal, avoiding discussion of the objectives of the association, since the State has been sharply criticized by the Committee of Ministers for the latter. It also allows the court to bypass the organization's main and undisputed argument that the decision of the Agency for Registration was motivated by the goals and self-determination of members and represents discrimination on an ethnic basis. The court declined to rule on the issue of ethnic discrimination evident in the denial of registration, by adhering to fictitious errors in the registration documents and replacing the appellants' arguments with the contention that the denial due to technical errors did not amount to discrimination.

The organization submitted a new request for registration on June 30, and day later, on July 1, the Registration Agency refused the registration.[81] The sole reason being that, according to the Agency, citing court decisions from 2021, the organization's activities fall under the constitutional ban on activities directed against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and the unity of the nation, thus inciting ethnic enmity and violating the rights and freedoms of citizens.

The goals of the organization aimed at protecting the rights of Macedonians and Macedonian cultural heritage and preserving the Macedonian identity were interpreted as those that "define the association as a unifying ethnic minority ... which essentially pursues the artificial creation, imposition and promotion of the idea of there ​​being among a certain section part of the Bulgarian population of an ethnic self-consciousness, distinct from the national identity". The "highlighting of such a minority" does not aim to satisfy their specific needs, but to artificially cultivate among "a part of Bulgarian citizens a different ethnic self-consciousness, creating the prerequisites for ethnic confrontation, thus threatening the territorial integrity of the country". Once again, the denial of the existing of the minority, together with speculation and perverse conflation of the principle of "unity of the nation", the concepts of "ethnic" and "national", are used to create a link between the claim that there is a minority and a danger to territorial integrity.

The decision was appealed against at the Blagoevgrad District Court, which on July 15 affirmed the refusal.[82] The court decided not to limit itself to only the reasons for the refusal, and "without limiting itself to the goals formally included in it (i.e. in the Statutes) and means to achieve them, insofar as this would reveal the actual will of the founders, which should not contradict the law". The court found that the goals of the association "create the impression of the existence of a disenfranchised Macedonian ethnic group on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, standing in opposition to the rest of the Bulgarian citizens and repressed by the state, which is obviously[83] not true and does not correspond to reality. The establishment of an association with such aims and means is undoubtedly aimed at dividing the nation and creates the conditions for ethnic antagonism."

The decision was appealed against in the Appeals Court as having been based on direct discrimination on the basis of ethnicity against members of the Association. It was argued that the court had not substantiated in its decision in what way the Macedonian identity of the members of the Association and their right of association threatened social order, the danger of which has not existed at all and certain procedural violations. On 11 October the Sofia Appeals Court affirmed the decision of the district court and shared the same views expressed in the refusals of registration by lower judicial levels.

The court once again decided to carry out a broader evaluation of the goals of the association without limiting itself to its Statutes. “In this concrete case in Article 5 of the Statute it is indicated that the association has the goal of ‘protecting the Macedonian national, non-material, cultural heritage which has been subjected to ethnocide by Bulgarian cultural institutions’, as well as enabling Macedonians to have a right of reply to propagandistic manipulations of Macedonian history and culture. It is indicated that amongst the means for the achievement of its goals symposiums for discussion of the reasons for the policy of forced assimilation , discrimination and xenophobia against the Macedonians in Bulgaria will be held, as well as the making of requests to Bulgarian state institutions and competent international organisations for the recognition of the national rights of the Macedonians and in addition there will be peaceful marches celebrating significant historical dates in Macedonian national history. In article 7 of the Statute, it is indicated that a member of the organisation may be any natural person – Macedonian male or female. Such formulated goals and the means for their achievement create the impression of the existence of a minority Macedonian ethnicity on the territory of Bulgaria deprived of rights or whose rights are violated, in confrontation with the remaining part of Bulgarian citizens and who are repressed by the state, because of which the establishment of an association with such goals leads to division within the nation and creates the prerequisites for ethnic confrontation. Therefore, on this basis the statute is in contradiction with Article 44, paragraph 2 the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria. On the basis of the abovementioned the preconditions existed for invoking the exceptions provided for in paragraph 2 of Article 11 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.[84]

„United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden-Blagoevgrad”

On June 3, the Agency for Registration refused registration to a new association the "United Macedonian Organization Ilinden-Blagoevgrad". The refusal was appealed against as "it was based on discrimination against the ethnic identification of the founding members and the related goals of the association - protection of the rights of Macedonians in Bulgaria". A request was also made to order the Agency to register the association or, if there were formal omissions or errors, to provide the association with an opportunity to remove them.

The district court in Blagoevgrad affirmed the refusal. "The court finds that ... the stated objectives are not in accordance with the law. In the statute of the association, seven goals, which are related to the protection of the rights of the Macedonian minority, are indicated in point form. One of the questions posed by the intended goals is the official recognition of the existence of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria and whether the Republic of Bulgaria recognizes the Macedonian national identity in order for it to be assumed that these goals do not threaten national and public security. The court finds that the right to association is an inalienable human right, but not when it threatens public order in the state. ... Furthermore, in points 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the statute, obligations of the state are imputed to the Republic of Bulgaria, which is unacceptable, even more so as in essence, this cannot be defined as a goal of the association"[85]

On October 12, this decision was affirmed "as correct and lawful" by the Sofia Court of Appeal, based on formal inconsistencies in the documentation and "due to the coincidence of the final conclusions of both the district court and the court of appeal.“[86]. The court avoided ruling on the issues relating to the Macedonian minority which were unconstitutionally supported by the lower courts.


OMO "Ilinden" officially notified the municipality of Petrich about its plans for its traditional celebration in the area of ​​Samuil's Fortress, however on July 13 the mayor of the city refused it permission under the pretext that a series of events was planned by the municipality on that day and throughout the day, which made it impossible for OMO “Ilinden” to hold their event, as it would create safety and traffic problems. Moreover, the planned lighting of candles would create a fire hazard.[87] The mayor suggested that they choose another place and day, which due to the nature of the event was impossible to do.

The organization filed an appeal against this decision on July 19 at the Blagoevgrad Administrative Court.[88] It was stated in the appeal that the event planned by them would be small in size, would not include musical performances, and would be reduced to the laying of flowers. Moreover, the place is quite large and their event would not interfere with other planned events. In addition, they would not light candles. The court was asked to check what events the municipality of Petrich was planning on that day.

On 1 August the Blagoevgrad Administrative Court affirmed the refusal.[89] According to the court, it had been documented that on the same day, the Municipal Children's Complex - Petrich was to hold a summer workshop "It's fun with us" on August 2 at the Samuil’s Fortress from 10:00am. to 12:00pm. The court did not indicate which other activities that would run for the whole day, but nevertheless, decided that the complaint was procedurally inadmissible, since the mayor had the right to propose a change of place and time.

The court did not take into account that this was a case of a traditional celebration which has been held for years and that the place and time, as well as the venue chosen were of particular importance.

The Organisation appealed against this decision at the Higher Administrative Court, however it was not successful.

The municipality's assertion that this very day (Tuesday) was completely taken up with other municipal events was either an obvious falsehood, or they were deliberately scheduled to prevent the traditional event of the Macedonians from taking place. That the municipality purposefully tried to disrupt the Macedonian celebration became evident on August 2 when representatives of OMO „Ilinden“ went to the site at least to lay flowers, however it turned out that there was no one else there and the site had not been taken over by anyone else. In 2021 a similar thing occurred, when the Petrich municipality refused permission to hold this event under the false pretext that celebrations would be held at the same site for a whole week, which again turned out to be false.

Opening of the Macedonian Cultural Club “Nikola Vaptsarov” in Blagoevgrad

On October 30, the Macedonian Cultural Club "Nikola Vaptsarov" was opened in Blagoevgrad in an atmosphere in which tensions had been stirred up by the media and nationalist forces. Despite the increased police presence, the ultra-nationalist VMRO-BND was allowed to hold an exhibition with provocative content and to play Bulgarian nationalist songs on loud speakers in the narrow street in front of the club where the opening was to be held, which made it impossible for the opening of the club to take place outside. The opening had to take place inside the premises, which were too narrow to accommodate the multitude of guests, and thus most were deprived of the opportunity to be present and participate in the act itself. Despite numerous protests by the organizers, the police never took effective measures to remove the troublemakers. In the end, they were told to move, and they entered a private premises which they had arranged beforehand in the same place, from where they continued to play deafening music. Despite the fact that they were disturbing the peace and public order the police refused to intervene. During the previously arranged march for the members and guests, the police allowed one Bulgarian nationalist to stop and hold up the whole column for a considerable period long time while shouting insults and provocations at the organizers and guests. In addition, the authorities did not provide an opportunity for the procession to visit the monument of Gotse Delchev and lay flowers, even though this had been previously requested of the municipality which had given its tacit consent. Rather some 20 members of the ultra-nationalist VMRO-BND were allowed to illegally occupy the monument and the authorities took no measures to prevent their illegal actions. The police did not allow the procession to visit the monument under the pretext of preventing clashes between the two groups and that another "children's event" was taking place there.[90] Apart from that, the police went to great efforts to avoid physical clashes. To this end, the interior minister and 100 policemen were present in the town, including the motorised division. The reason for the increased police attendance was the presence of the leader of the Macedonian opposition, Hristijan Mickovski, the representative of the Macedonian president Mile Boshnyakovski, as well as leaders of political parties from Macedonia. As a result of the inadequate measures taken by the authorities, the opening of the club was severely restricted and the right to peaceful assembly violated.


On May 15, 2022, the infamous Bulgarian nationalist from Skopje Viktor Kanzurov and his wife Stanisava Kanzurova, in their Facebook profiles, published photos of how they had trampled ribbons and thrown in the trash can "where they belong" the wreaths of the Macedonian organizations laid at the monument of Yane Sandanski in the town of Melnik during the all-Macedonian meeting. Photos taken show how the wreaths were being thrown away and also how the ribbon bearing the name of the Association of Repressed Macedonians in Bulgaria, whose members have spent years in Bulgarian prisons because of their Macedonian identity, was demonstratively stepped on. In the comments following under the published material, numerous Bulgarian nationalists applauded his actions and flooded the Macedonians of Bulgaria with hate speech, threats, and insults. Two of the affected organizations - OMO "Ilinden" and the Society of the Repressed submitted reports to the prosecutor's office in the town of Sandanski and the Commission for Protection from Discrimination with a request for an investigation and the taking of appropriate measures. The prosecutor's office interrogated the complainants. By the time the report was completed, there was no indication that anything more had been done about the case. In the comments under the publication, many Bulgarian nationalists applauded his actions and poured words of hatred, threats and insults on the Macedonians in Bulgaria.[91]

Ban on the Flying of the Macedonian Ethnic Flag

On June 13, 2022, on the day of the "Holy Spirit", the patron day of the village of Cherniche (Simitli municipality) was celebrated in the school yard. Macedonian activists from the village and the municipality attended the celebration. One of them was Borislav Dinev, a resident of the village of Zheleznitsa from the same municipality and a member of the OMO “Ilinden”-PIRIN, who draped the party flag with a sixteen-pointed star around his neck (the flag is not a state flag).When he tried to join in the folk dancing with the flag, an unsuccessful physical attempt was made to have it taken away from him by "Vasil Chief of Police in Simitli",[92] who works within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but was present at the event as a civilian. However, this was prevented thanks to the intervention of other sympathizers of UMO "Ilinden"-PIRIN. After a few minutes, the police arrived and took Boris away from the event to the back of the school where asked him to leave the celebration, however he did not hand over the flag. The next morning he was visited at his home in the village of Zheleznitsa by two policemen, one of them in uniform, who took a statement from him, which he signed. According to Borislav, their goal was to cover up the incident in which they acted unlawfully against him by violating his rights. Borislav refused to file a complaint, stating to the authors of the report that he had had similar problems many times and saw no point in initiating a case against them. For many Macedonians, such discriminatory actions have become something normal, which they do not even consider to be a serious problem, nor do they see any hope of protecting their rights through the Bulgarian institutions, which regularly discriminate against them.

Macedonian Cultural Club “Nikola Vaptsarov”

On July 5, 2022, members of the Civil Association for the Protection of Basic Human Rights were informed by the owners of the premises rented by them for the purposes of the Macedonian Cultural Club "Nikola Vaptsarov" - Stefanka Nikolova Yanakieva and her daughter - that two civilians, who did not introduce themselves, threatened them and demanded that they evict the organization from the premises. After that they threatened that they would come again. The frightened owners asked the Association to terminate the contract by mutual consent, even handing them a pre-prepared agreement, stating that: "It is better to have the premises empty than to be in fear." The organisation refused their request and on 7 July it submitted the case to the Blagoevgrad District Prosecutor's Office. On August 29, the prosecutor's office refused to initiate proceedings on their complaint. The superficial nature of the investigation was apparent from the assertion that the club was going to be used for the activities of the "OMO Ilinden Party”, which is actually an organization and has nothing to do with the club or the organization that supports it, and that, according to them, the owner thought that the premises were rented to VMRO BND (a registered party that was in the government until recently). The company has appealed against the prosecutor's decision, but given the existing climate in the country, they can hardly hope that it will be successful.[93]

Similarly, in the recent past, threats were made periodically via anonymous telephone calls to the life and health of the editor of "Narodna Volya” Georgi Hristov and his wife. The perpetrators were not discovered despite several complaints to the police, however after each complaint the threats temporarily stopped.

Attack on the Club of the Ancient Macedonians in the City of Gotse Delchev

On the evening of August 27, unknown perpetrators set fire to and melted the plastic sign of the club of the "Ancient Macedonians" organization in the town of Gotse Delchev and tore down one poster. In place of the burned sign, they stuck up a map of "Greater Bulgaria" including territories from all countries neighbouring Bulgaria. The chairman of the organization, Ivan Gargavelov, filed a complaint with the police when he discovered what had been done.

On 7 October, the local territorial section of the Prosecutor's Office in the town of Gotse Delchev, headed by prosecutor Ivan Chilev, refused to initiate proceedings, due to the fact that the perpetrator had not been found and the low cost of the material damage caused.[94]

As a consequence of this inaction, a second attack against the Club occurred, which, according to the prosecutor's office, took place in the period 25/10. – 30/10/2022, when once again "a 2x2 meter panel depicting the face of Alexander the Great, which is owned by the association "Ancient Macedonians", was destroyed. However, despite this prosecutor's office in Gotse Delchev refused to initiate criminal proceedings because the perpetrator had not been identified and because the damage was around BGN 200, which is why the crime was deemed to be "only of a formal nature given the relatively low value of the property damage caused ... and the absence of other harmful consequences, the act in terms of danger to the public. Therefore, it is not a criminal act within the meaning of Article 9. paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code.“[95] The Prosecutor's Office ignored the fact of ethnically motivated hate in this case, as well as the fact that it involved recidivism.

The case is repeating scenario of two incidents from 15 years ago, when the police not only refused to investigate an attacks on the club of OMO Ilinden-PIRIN in the same city, but refused to take any action against the perpetrator, even when the party measures found out who it was. The “Ancient Macedonians” organization was registered in 2019 and immediate action was taken to ban it, with members being questioned three times by the police, however it has not yet been banned.



On 21 February seven Macedonian organizations filed a complaint to the Ombudsman: namely, the Ancient Macedonians, UMO Ilinden PIRIN, UMO Ilinden, Association for Protection of Basic Human Rights, Association of Repressed Macedonians in Bulgaria, Victims of the Communist Terror, the Macedonian Club for Ethnic Tolerance and the Committee for Human Rights and Tolerance requesting the following:

- That an investigation be held into the violations of their rights and freedoms as indicated by them.

- To be ascertained that their rights and freedoms have been violated and make recommendations to state institutions and their administrative bodies for their reinstatement.

- To act as an intermediary between the administrative organs and interested parties so that such violations are surmounted and not repeated.

- To establish effective monitoring of the application of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, specifically as it relates to minorities in Bulgaria.

- To take suitable legal action within its area of responsibility for the protection of the violated human rights of the petitioners.

- To file a case with the Constitutional Court for the interpretation of Article 44, paragraph 2 of the Constitution commonly relied upon by the Courts as a reason for denial of registration to Macedonian organizations.

- To propose measures and undertakes actions so that the notion that a Macedonian minority does not exist in Bulgaria is not used as an argument to deny registration to Macedonia organizations in accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Ministers and the Commissioner for Human Rights.

- To suggest measures and undertake actions to ensure that the principle of the national unity is not used against minorities and that the assertion that such minorities exist is not treated as as anti-constitutional and a threat to national unity and the state.

- To involve itself in the process of finding a way to end of the refusal of registration to Macedonian organizations.

All requests made were within the scope of the powers available to the Ombudsman.

68 documents were attached to the complaint which was submitted - namely, – verdicts by Bulgarian courts, judicial decisions by the Court in Strasbourg Court and the Council of Ministers and reports by human rights institutions and organizations.

On 8 April the Ombudsman responded to Complaint No.1142/2022, essentially refusing to undertake the proposed measures. In the reply she stated that it is monitoring the implementation of the ECtHR decisions in Bulgaria and the harmonizing in principle of Bulgarian legislation with international legislation (not specifically the cases of the Macedonians) and cited a series of decisions by the Council of Ministers in relation to Macedonian organizations without specifying what action has been taken in that regard or any plans to do so.[96]

On 15 April the plaintiffs responded to the Ombudsman with a request that they be informed what steps the Ombudsman has taken or is taking in relation to the verdicts by Strasbourg as well as the questions posed in the complaint which do not relate to Strasbourg and again insisted once again that the requests made by them be addressed.

The Ombudsman did not reply to that letter and did not in any way address the complaint.

On 5 May the Association of Repressed Macedonians in Bulgaria, Victims of Communist Terror submitted a separate application to the Ombudsman based on ethnic discrimination displayed towards it during its attempts to obtain registration and made the following request to the Ombudsman:

- To undertake the necessary actions for the law to be applied in relation to their Association in the same manner as it would be to other associations seeking registration in Bulgaria and to put an end to the wrongful policies which lead to the violation of the human rights of Macedonians.

- To use its powers and request that the Constitutional Court determine whether there has been a violation of the Bulgarian Constitution due to the verdicts of the Bulgarian courts which in contradiction to ECtHR decisions have decided the Association’s aims are in violation of the Bulgarian Constitution.

On 12 August the Ombudsman replied once again repeating that he is monitoring the Strasbourg cases, which he includes in his reports and “I react when necessary, however I cannot undertake actions which exceed my statutory authority”.[97]

On 3 September after 4 and half months without any reply the seven organizations again wrote to the Ombudsman to remind her of their requests as well as to express their dismay that despite the Ombudsman's assertions that she is familiar with developments in the Macedonian cases in Strasbourg and aware of the facts and requests in their complaint, she had nevertheless not included anything about this matter in her annual report for 2021 which was completed in 2022 and not participated in the increased monitoring of these cases by the Council of Ministers up to that time as well as her total lack of action regarding the problems of the Macedonians in Bulgaria.

The Ombudsman's replies to the Macedonian organizations from last year and this year were a copy-paste responses and their sole concern was to avoid taking any concrete action on the demands of the Macedonians.

Commission for the Protection from Discrimination

For the duration of its existence up to now the Commission has not even once included in its reports or recommendations to the government the problems faced by Macedonians in Bulgaria on either an individual level or the systemic, institutional discrimination they suffer regardless the fact that in the meantime Bulgaria has been prosecuted 14 times in the ECtHR by Macedonian organizations and that their problems have been included in reports of all international organizations that monitor human rights, as well as many other organizations which deal with such issues. The Commission did not reply positively to any complaint by the Macedonians and strives consistently to do away with them without making any Comment about them. One of the basic methods used is to reclassify the complaints as such made by private persons against other private persons instead of those made by organizations against institutions or the state in general. Another approach used is that after the initial requests to the plaintiff for information, which in our experience have the aim of discovering a reason for refusal, there is total silence from it about the matter at hand and all correspondence ceases (see our 2 reports from 2016 and 2017).

The same thing also happened with the collective complaint lodged by a large number of Macedonian organizations which was accepted as admissible after much discussion and negotiation (correspondence No. 357/2021, see the 2021 Report) however subsequently during December 2021 the Commission sharply changed its position and tried to modify and discontinue it using a person that has no powers to do so; namely, the case officer Mrs. Sapundzieva. In response the plaintiffs with letter No. 44-01-132/16.12.2021 requested the removal of Mrs. Sapundzieva. Despite the fact that the reporter was removed from the case no other correspondence on the case was entered into - neither a notification by the new rapporteur nor an invitation to the applicants for further information or a hearing.

On 26 May, one of the plaintiffs – UMOIlinden- submitted a separate complaint regarding the incident involving Viktor Kanzurov who committed “evident adverse treatment according to the meaning of the Law for Protection from Discrimination ( article 4(1)) of Bulgarian citizens under the protected principles of “ethnic identity“ and “personal convictions“.[98] Due to the lack of registration of the organization making the complaint, it was deemed to be of a private nature. On 30 May the Commission replied and requested that several changes and clarifications be submitted within a week otherwise correspondence on the matter would cease.[99] Mr. Tilev submitted the necessary clarifications. On 14 June the President of the Commission directed that proceedings be initiated under Chapter 128 of 2022 in keeping with article 4 of the Law on Protection from Discrimination under the category of “ethnic identity”.[100]

On 1 September, given that the Commission had not replied to the requests made in the joint complaint, the plaintiffs sent a letter to the President of the Commission, Mrs. Dzumaylieva, in which her attention was drawn to the fact “in the course of 5 months (07.2021 – 12.2022), in violation of Art. 9, item 1 of APK, correspondence has been delayed without any reason and that after a period of 8 months (12.2021– 08.2022) it has been illegally frozen and we have not been informed according to Article 57, paragraph 8 of APK of an extension of time”. They stated furthermore that the refusal of the Commission to make a ruling was on the matter was in fact a reply and a refusal to protect the Macedonians from discrimination.

On 6 October the Commission terminated the proceedings by virtue of decision No. 487. The complaint was not examined and the decision justified with the argument that the instructions in the notification sent out by the previously removed rapporteur Sapundzhieva had not been satisfied (including her illegal request that the admissibility of the case, which had already been accepted as admissible, be proven once again), as well as the repeated attempt to clarify and specify circumstances which had already been clarified and specified and about which the Commission had already expressed the opinion that the complaint was admissible. The Commission informed the plaintiffs of its decision on 13 October. The complainants submitted an appeal to the Administrative Court in Blagoevgrad on the basis that their rights had been violated and lawful procedures not adhered to by the Commission and characterised the decision as a “denial of protection from discrimination. ”By virtue of determination No. 2189 of 22/12/2022 the Administrative Court of Blagoevgrad presided over by Judge Dimitar Ouzunov determined the complaint to be “procedurally inadmissible” and uncritically repeated the Commission's arguments with many of its factual and lawfully untrue assertions. The decision was appealed against in the Supreme Administrative Court.

Ministry of Justice

As a result of the series of refusals to grant registration in 2021 and on the basis of the recommendations to the Bulgarianauthoritiesby the Council of Ministers for the production of detailed and clear instructions regarding registration procedures in order to assist the corresponding organizations achieve registration, on 26 January 2022 OMO Ilinden submitted a request to the Ministry of Justice so that it could investigate and take action in relation to the latest rejection by the Agency which is still in the process of being appealed against. The only action the Ministry undertook was to send a letter to the Agency.[101] On 3 February the Agency sent a reply,[102] according to which the refusal was based on equitable and uniform application of the law to all persons and that it considered the case closed and that no further action could be undertaken.

On 27 January the Ministry of Justice replied to letter No. 279/18/01/2022 sent to the Ministerial Council by the President of the Association of Repressed Macedonians in Bulgaria , Stoyan Vasilev, Gerasimov in relation to the constant refusals to register the Association by the Bulgarian courts despite the Decision by the ECtHR in its favour. The response outlined both the ECtHR decision as well as the decisions of the Council of Ministers related to it. The Ministry described in detail the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers, as well as the formal but totally ineffective measures undertaken by the Bulgarian state which consist of changes to law on registration and the sending of reports to the Councils of Ministers. The Ministry does not comment on the total inefficiency of these measures as well as the continuous delay in applying the lost recent recommended measures by the Council of Ministers which were supposed to enter into force by the end of 2021. However, the Ministry twice stressed that the ECtHR verdicts regarding the “’OMO Ilinden and others’ group do not imply an automatic obligation for the registration of the organizations by the Bulgarian authorities.” That is the basic tenor of the whole reply. At the end it was stated that “there is no obstacle preventing Mr. Vasilev from submitting a new application for registration of the association,”[103] totally ignoring the fact that the association had submitted documents for registration on tens of occasions to only be rejected each time.

In adopting that position the Ministry merely reiterated its statement to both the Council of Ministers and the ECtHR; namely, that the refusals to register Macedonian organizations by the Bulgarian courts do not exhaust judicial mechanisms in the country as they can resubmit registration papers. It is evident that the Bulgarian authorities are not embarrassed at all by the inability of these organizations to obtain registration and it is only through external pressure that this situation could be remedied.

On 29 April the Association of Repressed Macedonians submitted an application to the Ministry of Justice regarding the continuing refusal of the Bulgarian courts and the Agency for Registration to abide by the ECtHR decisions and the continuous systemic refusals to grant registration to the Association using arguments that were struck out numerous times and rejected by both the ECtHR and the Council of Ministers. The Ministry which is responsible for implementing the decisions of the ECtHR replied that “the review of the statements in the application is outside the scope of responsibilities of the of the Minister of Justice,” and that “the Ministry of Justice has no authority to either initiate lawsuits or to carry out any investigation into the arguments contained in the application or to express opinions about them.” The Ministry transferred the correspondence to the Inspectorate of the High Judicial Council.[104]

Lack of Action by the Prosecutor

The same lack of protection of rights and the non-functioning of mechanisms for the protection of rights can be seen in the cases of Kanzurov, the Nikola Vaptsarov Club and the Ancient Macedonians Club. Despite accepting all three cases and conducting initial investigations in two of them it refused to initiate proceedings (Ancient Macedonians and Nikola Vaptsarov) and in the third case it did not undertake any further action.

In the case of the Nikola Vaptsarov Club the Prosecutor acted in a neglectful and even discriminatory manner by classifying (without any basis) the club as part of the OMO Ilinden political party club, instead of the plaintiff, the Association for the Defence of Basic Human Rights, as well as part of those non-members of the Association who initiated the complaint.[105] It is difficult to accept the Prosecutor’s version that the landlord of the premises felt threatened by the fact that one of the renters (Maznev) was an IMRO member (which he is not) and in addition he ignored the fact of the agreement (evidently planned and prepared) for breaking the contract and the declaration that “It is better that the premises remain vacant than to live in fear.”

In this case it was not a matter of a simple mistake yet all Macedonian organizations, regardless of their differences, were characterised as being one and the same and their members as belonging to “ОMO.” This is usual practice of the media,[106] as well as of the institutions, which is based on the categorical refusal to acknowledge the existence of a minority with its own social and cultural life and pluralism and to treat all such organizations as one body created by foreign anti-Bulgarian elements which appear under various names. The same position has been adopted by Sofia before the Council of Ministers in order to reduce the negative impression created by numerous accumulated cases of denial of registration to various Macedonian organizations and to replace the reality of ethnic discrimination with the supposed technical issues of one organization. We stress this fact because it demonstrates the strong coordination which exists in all state institutions in discriminating against and refusing protection to Bulgarian citizens with a Macedonian identity.

The same view is also apparent in the identical style and approach in the responses and the (lack of) action by supposed independent institutions such as the Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutors Office, the Ombudsman and the Commission Against Discrimination. The lack of any desire to stop discrimination against Bulgarian citizens with a Macedonian consciousness is obvious – all actions and responses are aimed to avoid external pressure and to justify the lack of any action by relevant institutions.

National Statistical Institute

Due to the unusually long delay in publishing the results of the national Census which ended at the beginning of October 2021, on 8 June the President of ОMO Ilinden Kiril Tilev sent a letter to the President of NSI questioning the reason of the delay and requesting that he be informed which ethnic group he was entered as belonging to.[107] On 12 June he received a reply that the results would be published on 1 October 2022 and that they could not divulge the requested information due to legal limitations.[108]


Dialogue between the representatives of the Macedonian minority and the authorities is regularly recommended in the monitoring reports on Bulgaria. This year again the authorities did not make any attempt to implement the recommendations in the reports of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Commission for the Fight Against Racism and Intolerance and the Consultative Committee for the Application of the Framework Convention on National Minorities for the start of a dialogue with the Macedonian minority. On the contrary, not one reply was received to the many written requests from Macedonian organizations for meetings and talks with Bulgarian institutions such as those of the President, Premier, Parliament, Minister of Education, the Commission for Minority Issues.

The Commission Against Discrimination after the meeting with Macedonian representatives at the end of last year and after attempting to stop the complaint submitted to the Commission (see our report from last year), in practice discontinued all communication with the plaintiffs.


The violation of the right to association as well as the hate speech and discrimination that Macedonians are subjected to are based on the dominant ideology from the time of the communist regime, according to which a key role is played by the denial of the Macedonian minority and the treatment of the mere idea that such a minority exists as hostile to Bulgaria.

Given the existing situation in the country, it does not appear probable that the situation of the Macedonians in Bulgaria can be improved without serious external intervention, especially on the part of European institutions. This problem is very old and serious and requires emergency measures.[109] The denial of and discrimination against the Macedonian minority represents the last vestige of totalitarian policy in the European Union.

In order for the current problems of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria to be solved the following changes should occur in Bulgaria:

The decision of the Constitutional Court of 29 February 2000 and the Declaration of the Bulgarian Parliament of 6 March 1990, which officially postulate that in Bulgaria there is no concrete Macedonian ethnic group, as well as the parliamentary declaration of 9 November 2019, must be rescinded. These decisions serve as an ideological and legal basis for discrimination. The government should officially declare that the Macedonian minority will no longer be denied or discriminated against and that its rights will be defended.

The state should officially recognise the existence of national minorities in the country and the concept “national minorities” should be included in the Constitution. The state should take the necessary legal measures so that the principle of the unity of the nation cannot be interpreted to deny the very existence of national minorities and their rights. If possible, national minorities should be listed by name in order to avoid any possibility of misinterpretation of the Constitution and denial of minorities.

Measures should be taken so that the constitutional prohibition on forming organizations on an ethnic basis is not interpreted and used to oppose the right of minorities to form their own organizations.

The law on the registration of non-government organizations should be changed and articles included in it which would make it impossible to interpret the self-determination of minority groups as an anti-constitutional, anti-state act which threatens territorial integrity and justifies denial of registration.

Bulgaria should implement the judgements of the ECtHR and Macedonian organisations should be registered. The obstacles preventing registration of Macedonian organisations should be removed- the implementation of the decisions of the ECtHR are of fundamental significance in order to ensure the supremacy of the law.[110] The existing blockade on the registration of Macedonian organization should be lifted.

An active dialogue must be initiated between the state and the representatives of the Macedonian minority in order to solve current problems and there should be a Macedonian representative on the Commission on Minorities.[111]. This dialogue should begin immediately, without waiting for the recognition of the Macedonian minority as „recognition by the state as a minority is not a prerequisite to qualify for the protection of the Framework Convention“ and should focus on the application of the Framework Convention to the Macedonians in accordance with specific articles of the Convention.[112].

The Census documents in the future should contain a separate column for “Macedonian” and during the conduct of the Census it is to be publicly and officially announced that everyone who self-identifies as a Macedonian can freely do so.[113] The same advice should be contained in the directions given to the Census takers.

Measures should be taken for the promotion of tolerance vis-à-vis the Macedonian minority and for its protection against hate speech and institutional discrimination.

The study of the Macedonian literary language, culture and history should be included in curricula for children belonging to the Macedonian minority. At the same time basic school curricula should be modified so as not to exclude references to the Macedonian nation and its history, culture and language (something which is not new, and which was done in the past in Bulgaria, but which has now been abandoned).

Committee for the Defence of Human Rights “Tolerantnost”

with the Support of: OMO ”Ilinden”-PIRIN, OMO “Ilinden”, The Association of Repressed Macedonians, Victims of Communist Terror, The Association for the Defence of Fundamental Civil Rights, The Civil Initiative for the Recognition of the Macedonian National Minority in Bulgaria and Defence of the Rights of Bulgarian Citizens with a Macedonian Consciousness, Macedonian Club for Ethnic Tolerance in the Republic of Bulgaria, Macedonian Human Rights Movement International


[1]As a negative and regressive trend and illustration, it should be pointed out that in the last and fifth consecutive report of the Republic of Bulgaria on the implementation of the Framework Convention on National Minorities, for the first time the Bulgarian authorities did not mention the problem of non-recognition of the Macedonian minority in relation to the scope of the minority groups (ethnic Macedonians and Pomaks) who wish to be protected through the mechanisms of the Convention and to whom at the same time the measures for its implementation adopted by the Republic of Bulgaria (Article 3) should be applied; instead, they simply referred to their previous reports, in which they claim that the issue surrounding the request of ethnic Macedonians and Pomaks for their recognition as national minorities, as well as "the non-existence of simultaneous objective and subjective conditions for their placement under the protection of the RCNM mechanism " was, according to them, closed (Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Fifth Report submitted by Bulgaria Pursuant to Article 25, paragraph 2 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities - received on 22 October 2021, p . 27).

[2]PACE: Post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria, Explanatory memorandum by Mr Frank Schwabe and Mr Zsolt Németh, co-rapporteurs,, 160: “There is no Macedonian language or history in schools.”

[3] There is not one politically or socially influential personality in the country who publicly states that he/she possesses a Macedonian consciousness, which shows that such persons are either unable to achieve such a status or that they are forced to cover up their self-determination as Macedonians because of a fear of negative consequences.

[4] Here it is worth quoting the latest study by the European Implementation Network (EIN) and Democracy Reporting International (DRI) entitled “Justice Delayed and Justice Denied: Non-Implementation of European Courts' Judgments and the Rule of Law”, dated April 2022: “Bulgaria has a very serious problem regarding the implementation of ECtHR judgments. Statistics indicate a very high number of leading judgments pending implementation, second only to Romania in the EU. These judgments have been pending implementation for a long time. Finally, Bulgaria is failing to implement a high proportion of the leading judgments handed down by the Strasbourg Court.As of January 2022, there were 92 leading judgments pending implementation concerning Bulgaria. This very high number of unimplemented judgments can only be effectively addressed by implementing individual or/and general measures... Bulgaria also has a high percentage of leading judgments from the last decade which are pending implementation: 55%, higher than the 37.5% EU average” (European Implementation Network (EIN) & Democracy Reporting International (DRI), Justice Delayed and Justice Denied: Non-Implementation of European Courts’ Judgments and the Rule of Law, April 2022, pp. 28-29. The research is available here: .

[5] Here we should mention the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the people grouped around the "Marginalia" editorial office.

[6] PACE: Post-monitoring dialogue, 160

[9]Observations of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee on the execution of the group of judgments “UMO Ilinden and others v. Bulgaria”, 21 January 2022, 8, 9.

[10]Нинова отказа визита в Скопие заради ОМО "Илинден", 31 Януари, 2022 ,; Радев: Посещението на Петков в Северна Македония беше прибързано, 01.02.2022,; МВнР: Действия на президента на Северна Македония отново повишават напрежението,

[12].1428th meeting, 8-9 March 2022 (DH), H46-7 United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden and Others group v. Bulgaria (Application No. 59491/00), Reference document CM/Notes/1428/H46-7

[13]. Радев: Посещението на Петков в Северна Македония беше прибързано, 01.02.2022,; Дали Радев ќе му ја откаже посетата на Пендаровски поради „Омо Илинден“, 01.02.2022,

[14] United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Bulgaria 2021 Human Rights Report, 3-4, 25,

[17]CM/Notes/1451/H46-8, 8 December 2022, 1451-Session of the Ministerial Council of the Council of Europe *December 2022. (Format “ Human Rights”), H46-8 Group cases „United Macedonian Organization Ilinden and others vs Bulgaria (appeal№59491/00), pp5-6 (

[18] OBC Blagoevgrad, Protocol No 342 / 07.10.2022

[19] Determination № 50420 of 6 October 2022. Court President Boyan Balevski.

[33]Dzhambazki, 4 October 2022, There has not been, there is not and there will never be a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria!!

[35].JUSTIFIED ANGER! They opened the Macedonian Club” Nikola Vaptsarov” in Blagoevgrad,the organisers stage a provocation: We want the recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, 31.10.2022,

[42] Mihail Ivanov: There are problems with the Census 2022, | Акцент, Анализ, Анализи | Marginalia. Compare with the article by Svetla Encheva, How the Census Data in Bulgaria was distorted from Svobodna Evropa-22.12.2022

[48] Evgeniya Marinova, 85% of the population self-determines as Bulgarian,reports NSI,24.11.2022,

[49]Mihail Ivanov: There are problems with the Census 2022, | Акцент, Анализ, Анализи | Marginalia.

[50]. For example when Stevo Pendarovski met with 4 Macedonian organizations the meeting was attributed by the highest levels of the state (Premier, President and Parliament) to UMO “Ilinden” which did not attend the meeting ( ; Dilyana Panayotova, Emil Radev: The attempts to speak of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria are dangerous, 16.01.2022,

[55]Ninova refuses to visit Skopie because of UMO “Ilinden”,31 January 2022

[58]Toni Maskruchka, How did Pendarovski manage to find a total of 8 Macedonians in Bulgaria , they ask on Facebook,


[60]. Tsvetlina Lazarova . Mickoski raises the invented topic of a Macedonian minority in our country and made statements against Bulgarians,09.09.2022,

[61]Dzhambazki, 4 October 2022, There has not been, there is not and there will never be a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria!! ,

[63]OBS Blagoevgrad, Protocol № 342 / 07.10.2022

[64]OBS Blagoevgrad, Protocol № 342 / 07.10.2022

[65] The Union of Bulgarian Writers declared itself to be in opposition to the opening of the Macedonian Club with the name of Vaptsarov (

[67]Dzhambazki, 4 October 2022, There has not been, there is not and there will never be a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria!! ,

[68] Metodiy Ivanov, Who in reality is behind the provocation – Macedonian Club “Nikola Vaptsarov'“,

[69] Metodiy Ivanov, Who in reality is behind the provocation – Macedonian Club “Nikola Vaptsarov',

[71] Macedonian who was the founder of the Bulgarian lefttst movement.

[74] Decision No 78, 04.02.2022. Appeals Court, President Svetla Stanimrova

[75]Refusal of the Appeals Court № 20220307110109/08.03.2022г., Association of Repressed Macedonians in Bulgaria, Victims of Communist Terror

[76] The following refusals were cited № 20200214133939/ 14.02.2020г.; рег. № 20201116134735/ 16.11.2020., рег. № 20210726111922/ 26.07.2021. and court verdicts № 1188 of 10.03.2020. № 41/20г. Of the District Court in Blagoevgrad, affirmed by № 1149 of 08.06.2020.,.№ 1555/2020. of the Sofia appeals Court ; № 6 of 21.01.2021., № 202/20.of the District Court in Blagoevgrad, affirmed by № 320 of 31.05.2021,№ 301/2021. of the Sofia Appeals Court; № 59 of 08.10.2021, № 146/21г. Of the District Court in Blagoevgrad, affirmed by № 78 of 04.02.2022., № 1110/2021 of the Sofia Appeals Court.

[77] Decision No 36, 12.04.2022. District Court in Blagoevgrad, President Angelina Biserkova

[78] Decision № 423, 21.06.2022г., Sofia Appeals Court, President Velichka Borilova

[79] Refusal No 20220919101236/20.09.2022 of the Agency for Registration., pp3,4

[80] Decision No 315, of 13 May 2022 of the Sofia Appeals Court, judge Hristo Lazarov

[81]Decision № 20220630121016/01/07/2022 , Asen Emilov.

[82] Decision No 82/15.07.2022, Vladimir Kovachev

[83] The form of the used Bulgarian word on this place (очевадно instead of очевидно) which are completely divorced from normal legal vocabulary is a clear signal that judge Vladimir Kovachev was emotionally invested in the case and conveyed his personal biases and convictions into the decision directly discriminating against people who hold a different opinion to his.

[84] Decision No 631, Sofia, 11.10.2022, Appeals Court, President Bistar Nikolova pp.2,3.

[85] Decision No 66, Blagoevgrad, 17.06.2022, District Court- Blagoevgrad, Twelfth Chamber, President: Atanas I, p.4. Toni Maskruchka, 17.06.2022, "Македонско малцинство" у нас пак иска признаване и регистрация (

[86]Decision No 632, Sofia, 12.10.2022, Appeals Court - Sofia, Thirteenth Commercial Court, President: Hristo Lazarov p.6.

[87] Letter No № 94-00-3925-001/13.07.22, Dimitur Brchkov to Kiril Tilev.

[88] Appeal by Kiril Tilev to the Administrative Court in Blagoevgrad against the decision by the Municipality of Petrich.

[89] Determination No 1386 of 1 August 2022, judge Sasha Aleksova.

[92] This possibly relates to Vasil Petrov ( born in the villages of Cherniche and head of the police in Simitli from 2015-2021 or Vasil Mitov ( intelligence officer and head of the police station in Simitli before 2014.

[93]Decree on refusal to institute criminal proceedings № 6264/2022 оf 29.08.2022, of the Blagoevgrad Regional Court p.2 „the rented premises … the intention was to use it for the activities of the club linked to UMO Ilinden”

[94]Decree on refusal to institute criminal proceedings № 1961/2022, 07.10 2022 city of Gotse Delchev. Ivan Chilev, pp1,2.

[95]Decree on refusal to institute criminal proceedings No 299/2022of, 08.12.2022г., Regional Prosecutor's Office – Blagoevgrad, Territorial Division, City of Gotse Delchev, prosecutor Karamfil Temelkov, pp.1,2.

[96]Letter № 1142/08.04.22 of the Ombudsman of R. Bulgaria to Atanas Maznev.

[97]Letter № 6985/12.08.22 from the Ombudsman of R. Bulgaria to Stoyan Vasilev.

[98]Complaint of Kiril Tilev to the President of KZD.

[99]Information No.14-30-47 of 30.05.2022, Ana Dzumaylieva.

[100]Instructions of the President of KZD No. 392/14.06.2022

[101]№ 04-01-22/26.01.2022

[102]X 04-01-22/03/02/2022, Diana Vasileva Miteva

[103]№99-00-77/19/27.01.2022, signed Albena Yordanova Angelova

[104] Letter by the Ministry of Justice to Stoyan Vasilev № 94-С-93/21 after correspondence № 94-С-93/21 of 29.04.2022.

[105] Decree on refusal to institute criminal proceedings, № 6264/2022 of 29.08.2022, of Blagoevgrad Regional Prosecutor, p. 2.

[106]Compare the example of how even Macedonian organizations which fought against the terror and assimilation under the regime of Todor Zhivkov during the 1970s, together with all others up to this moment are declared as belonging to UMO Ilinden in the article by Victoria Georgieva Подадеш му пръст, отхапе ти ръката, 01.02.2022,

[107] Letter by Kiril Tikev to the President of NSI, Sandanski, 8 June 2022.

[108] № 07-15-128, Sofia, 13.06. 2022, Sergey Cvetarski, President of NSI.

[110]Report of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe following her visit to Bulgaria on 25-29 November 2019, 31/03/2020, & 6,, & 49

[111]Commissioner, & 49

[112]Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the protection of National minorities, Fourth Opinion on Bulgaria-adopted on 26 May 2020, ACFC/OP/IV(2020)001Final,, & 25 - 27.

[113]Cf. Advisory, & 31 – 36.