Bulgarians of Asia Minor – the 1914 Exodus
From the early 16th century to 1914 Bulgarians of Asia Minor inhabited more than 20 villages in the Northwestern part of Anatolia roughly corresponding to ancient Bithynia. While not particularly numerous, they were quite a homogeneous community, distinct from their coreligionists in the area. Unlike their migration from Rumeli towards Anadolu which is scarcely documented, there are numerous sources about their re-emigration. In the 19th century, as the financial situation of the Ottoman Empire turned from bad to worse and nationalistic sentiment grew significantly, life in Asia Minor deteriorated. The state tried to exercise more control over this area and integrate itself into the everyday lives of what had up to this point been relatively autonomous communities. Yet all memoirs and archival sources are unanimous that it was the Circassian, Muhacir and later the Pomak menace that drove Anatolian Bulgarians back to their ancestral homeland. As early as the 1850s, Muslim refugees from the Caucasus were settled in the Bulgarian villages and gradually drove their inhabitants away. The evacuation of all Bulgarians in Asia Minor in 1914 was a direct consequence of the Balkan wars. Anatolian Bulgarians petitioned directly to the Bulgarian state for their evacuation as many of their villages saw an even bigger wave of Muslim refugees settling there.