ISSN 2330-717X

Bulgaria: Highest Peak Keeps ‘Arabic’ Name For Now


By Mariya Cheresheva


The nationalist campaign to change the ‘Arabic-sounding’ name of the highest peak in Bulgaria, and rename it after a Christian saint, has suffered another setback.

The Bulgarian Presidency’s committee on naming objects of national significance and communities has refused to back a call to rename the Musala peak, the highest point in the country, after Bulgaria’s patron saint.

The presidency rejected the appeal, filed by Sofia’s regional governor, Ilian Todorov, on the grounds that it requires expert consultations and “serious public debate”, a letter to the regional administration, quoted by Focus agency, reveals.

The commission pointed out also the unclear etymology of the name of the 2,925-metre-high summit, which some believe comes from the Arabic word “musalla” – a place for Muslim prayer.

Another reason why it rejected the claim is that changing the name of the peak would mean redoing maps, documents and tourist guides, which is not seen as desirable at the moment.


Todorov has repeatedly asked President Rumen Radev to change the “Turkish-Arabic” name of the peak to St Ivan Rilski, one of the most important saints of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the patron saint of Bulgaria.

He denied being inspired by a desire for “political dividends, egoism, pride or fame. God and the Orthodox faith are the only and leading motive,” he said in a letter of July 27.

This was not the first time that Todorov’s nationalist Ataka party has demanded that the Presidency changes Musala’s name.

In 2016, the party submitted a similar proposal to ex-President Rosen Plevneliev, who again did not support it.

The name of the Musala peak dates from the period of Ottoman rule in Bulgaria, which lasted from 1396 to 1878. Between 1942 and 1962 it was renamed after Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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