My Kevorkian family settled in Vratsa, Bulgaria after surviving the Armenian Genocide, and their three children (Rebecca, Levon, and Shavash) lived there till 1942, when they managed to come to America. The parents, uncle, and grandfather were away at the time, but they come to America later in 1942. My dear Laura Nicholson is also of partial Bulgarian descent on her mother’s side (family name Zoravkov), and I made one of the midwives in Little Ragdoll a Bulgarian–American who also has the surname Zoravkov.
Bulgaria also gets much love from me since the heroic (if imperfect) Tsar Boris III saved his kingdom’s Jewish community from the Nazis. The communities in annexed Thrace and Macedonia weren’t nearly so miraculously blessed, but the Bulgarian people and their brave Tsar did the best they could to save their friends and neighbors.
My orphanage girls Naina Yezhova and Katya Chernomyrdina also have a Bulgarian connection, as arrangements are made for them to defect under the pretext of taking an approved cruise to Bulgaria in April 1927. When the ship stops in Varna, they simply never get back on, and are met by an underground contact who gets them on a ship taking a dance troupe to America.
The Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet is very easy to get the hang of if you already know Russian. Unless you have a pressing desire to learn another Cyrillic alphabet and Slavic language first (e.g., you’re a proud Montenegrin–American or you’ve been a passionate Ukrainophile since you were 13), I really highly recommend learning Russian first. It serves as a great base for picking up all the other Cyrillic alphabets and Slavic languages.
Like Ukrainian and Belarusian, there are only a few differences in letters and transliteration. They don’t have Ë or Э, and only use the letter E for their E sound. Unlike the other Cyrillic alphabets, in Bulgarian, E is pronounced and accurately transliterated as E, not Ye. Щ is pronounced SHT (as in schtick), not SHCH. X is transliterated as H, not KH. They’re also missing Ы (a short Y sound), and Ъ, instead of being rendered as the unpronounced hard sign, is rendered as an A and pronounced something like the U in “turn.”
Patronymics and surnames:
Bulgarian patronymics are formed by adding -ov(a) or -ev(a) to the end of the father’s name. Historically, if one’s surname wasn’t an established family name, one would take one’s father’s patronymic as a family name. For example, if your father’s patronymic were Petrov, your surname would become Petrov(a). Thus, surnames would continually change in each new generation. This is almost never done anymore, as it was rather confusing.
Some people are better-known by their patronymics than their surnames, particularly since surnames and patronymics take the same endings.
As in Russian, surnames usually end in -ov(a), -ev(a), -in(a), and -ski/ska. Many names also end in -ek.
Common Bulgarian names and their nickname forms:
Bistra (Pure; Clean)
Grozda, Grozdana (Dana) (Grapes)
Kalina (Viburnum tree)
Nadezhda (Nadya) (Hope)
Nedelya, Nedyalka (Neda) (Sunday)
Rada (Radka) (Happy)
Rosa, Roza (Rositsa)
Tsveta (Tsvetanka) (Flower)
Vasiliya (Vaska, Vasilka)
Yordana (Yordanka, Dana)
Zaharina (Zaharinka, Zara)
Zornitsa (Morning star)
Andon, Anton (Doncho)
Branimir (Lyuba and Ivan’s Kabardin horse, as well as the underground contact who helps Naina and Katya in Varna)
Chavdar (Leader; Dignitary)
Georgi (Gosho, Zhoro, Getza, Gogo)
Haralambi (To shine from happiness)
Hristofor (Hristo, Itso, Hrisi)
Ivan (Ivo, Vanko, Vanyo)
Ivaylo (Iva, Ivo) (Wolf)
Kaloyan (Handsome Ioan)
Konstantin, Kostadin (Kosta)
Krasto, Krastyu (Cross)
Lyubomir (Lyubo, Miro)
Milan, Milen (Milko)
Nikola, Nikolay (Niki, Kolyo)
Petar (Penko, Petya, Petko)
Radomir, Radoslav (Radko)
Rumen (Red-cheeked; ruddy)
Stanimir, Stanislav (Stanko)
Stoyan (To stay; to stand)
Teodor, Todor (Tosho, Totyo, Toshko)
Tsvetan, Tsvetko (Flower)
Vasil (Vaska, Vasko)
Yasen (Ash tree; clear; serene)
Zlatan (Zlatko) (Golden)