BULGARIAN immigration to Cleveland divides into three periods: turn-of-the-century immigration (1880-1924), post-World War II refugee immigration, and immigration following the fall of communism in 1990. Most arrived during the first period and may be further divided into immigration prior to, or after, the Balkan War of 1912. Bulgarians arriving before 1912 represented every social and economic class. Most were young men, and they came intending to settle permanently in America.
The Bulgarians arriving after 1912 were generally peasants who came for economic reasons, many men planning to return home after making their fortunes. Eventually, most remained and instead brought their families to America. The immigrants settled around Herman and Stone Aves. NW, Orange and Woodland Aves. SE, E. 30th St. between Payne and Perkins Aves., and later W. 105th St. and Madison Ave. NW, working in nearby factories. It is impossible to determine the exact number of Bulgarian immigrants who settled in Cleveland because, between 1899 and 1920, Bulgarians, SERBS, and MONTENEGRINS were counted together by U.S. immigration authorities. The majority of the Bulgarians were from Thrace (Turkey), Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria.
The immigrants arriving after World War II were escaping communism. Once the communists seized control of Bulgaria, only a small number immigrated, followed by others from the former Yugoslavia. The most recent Bulgarian immigrants arrived in Cleveland after the fall of communism in 1990. The ghettos of early Bulgarian immigrants no longer exist; the community is now spread throughout the metropolitan area, numbering approx. 700. A weekly newspaper, Macedonian Tribune, enjoys a large circulation among Bulgarian descendants. Two journals are also available: Rodolubie, from Bulgaria; and the Bulgarian Exile Monitor, published in English, with subscribers throughout the U.S., Australia, and England.
Most of Cleveland's Bulgarians are EASTERN ORTHODOX, a faith that became an expression of their ethnicity as well as of religious loyalty, just as it had been in their homeland for centuries. St. Dimitar Church Organization is the city's Eastern Orthodox church club. Efforts to establish an Eastern Orthodox church in the city have not been successful. ST. THEODOSIUS RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL was attended by some Bulgarians in the early years. Most recently, Bulgarians have attended Serbian or GREEK Orthodox churches. Additionally, many Bulgarian immigrants from the first wave were Protestants.
Updated by the ECH staff
Nicholas J. Zentos
Lorain County Community College
Cuyahoga Community College
Works Project Admin. The People of Cleveland (1942).