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Genetic traits of present-day Bulgarians

Photo: ww.en.wikipedia.org
The Bulgarian nation is predominantly Slavic with some shared traits with the population of Northern Greece and of Northern Italy. Therefore, scientists define Bulgarians as a specific type of Slavs. This is the conclusion concerning the genetic makeup of Bulgarians suggested by a major two-year survey of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences carried out jointly with Italian scientists. The survey was held in 57 European, Asian and African countries. In fact this is the biggest study of the genetic makeup of Bulgarians so far including the biggest study of the so-called mitochondrial chromosome in DNA passed down from the mother to her offspring. It has been financed by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science jointly with an Italian foundation. The survey has been published in American science journals and now the commentaries of historians are expected.

The Bulgarian population stands closest to the group of the Slavic peoples with closest genetic similarities found with the Poles and Croats. Russians are believed to be the most typical among Slavs. Scientist have found some Thracian roots in the Bulgarian genotype. This is hardly surprising because the earliest recorded inhabitants of what is now Bulgaria were the Thracians. Present-day Bulgarians have Slav and Thracian blood, and also the blood of the ancient Bulgarians. Despite that the nation spent as long as five centuries under Turkish rule, the local genotype has not been enriched with typically Turkish genes, Prof. Draga Toncheva argues. She heads the Medical Genetics Chair at the Medical University in Sofia and the National Genomic Center.

© Photo: www.zdrave.net

“The study is part of a project of the Ministry of Education, Prof. Toncheva explains. This is one of the biggest studies so far of the European population, and the third one for Bulgarians. The earlier ones were held in 1996 and 2000 but they were based on a limited number of participants. This time the number of the Bulgarians and Bulgarian Mohammedans surveyed is impressive – 855, and their DNA was compared to DNA of other European nations.”

The participation in the Bulgarian genotype survey was voluntary. Blood tests were used to analyze genes. The project continues with the research of ancient DNA dated to 6-8 c. BC and to 8-10 c. AD. Geneticists have specified that the study would target dental tissue providing credible information for the purposes of the research.

What are the latest survey’s other findings? “The Bulgarian genetic fund is homogeneous across the territory of the country, i.e. in Northeastern Bulgaria and in the southern Rhodope Mountains the genetic structure of Bulgarians is the same and also exhibits high incidence of the so-called West European components”, explains Academician Angel Galabov, Director of the Institute of Microbiology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. More notably, he says that the new findings could become instrumental in rejecting theories about the Turkic genes in the Bulgarian genotype.

© Photo: BGNES

“We have found out that ancient Bulgarians were genetically unlike the Turkic peoples”. Angel Galabov says. “For many years there was a theory about the Turkic origin of the nomadic Proto-Bulgarians who created the Bulgarian state in the Balkans in 7 c. This is absolutely not true. The Bulgarians are mostly Slavs, but a specific kind of Slavs, because of their geographic closeness to the Mediterranean peoples of Northern Italy and part of Greece. The Mediterranean influence is definitely there and it is also connected with the Thracian roots in the Bulgarian genotype. After all, Thracians lived in our lands for long centuries. The Thracians mixed with the Slavs coming from the North, and with the ancient Bulgarians who arrived from the East, hence our Indo-European descent. Let me repeat this important point – the Proto Bulgarians arrived from territories to the east of Pamir and had nothing in common with any of the Turkic tribes”, Angel Galabov concludes. 

Translated by Daniela Konstantinova

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