Migration and Urbanization in Industrializing Bulgaria 1910–1946
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Historical Studies
Urbanization is among the most important demographic phenomena of the modern age. Today, half of the world’s population lives in cities, and by 2050 this share is expected to reach 70 percent. Urbanization theorists see this as a consequence of three mutually impacting processes: natural growth (population growth as a result of birth rates exceeding mortality rates), migration (mainly from the villages to cities), and reclassification (the administrative mechanism for giving urban status to former villages or urban settlements) – whose relative contribution to the urbanization process varies depending on the environment.
The processes of urbanization and internal migration in Bulgaria in 1910–1946 have not often been made the subject of rigorous study, perhaps because the scale of urbanization at the time was small and the pace slow compared to the period after World War II. At the same time, however, the first half of this period was characterized by intensive waves of refugees and immigrants (Bulgarians, Russians, and Armenians). Having in mind the lack of attention which this question has been given in the secondary literature, in this paper I examine the urbanization processes in Bulgaria at the time and the role of migration to and within the country in these processes. In particular, I monitor the significance of gender, nationality/“nationalité ethnique” in urbanization in Bulgaria and the roles of smaller and larger cities and the capital, Sofia. I rely heavily on the five censuses carried out between 1910 and 1946, which drew a distinction between local-born and non-indigenous populations, including people who had been born abroad. In other words, the data contain information on native-born people (i.e. born in the locality where they were enumerated or, as one might say “locals”), people who were enumerated in a locality different from their birthplace within the country (i.e. internal migrants, in-migrants), and people who were foreign-born (i.e. external migrants, immigrants).
Concerning the role of migration to and within the country in the urbanization process in Bulgaria, my quantitative analysis shows that urbanization in Bulgaria was influenced by migration (mainly internal migration), partly by the waves of refugees and immigrants during the war and in the interwar period, which accelerated the growth of cities. At the same time, the urbanization of small towns was due primarily to immigration. The trend towards urbanization (albeit at a slow pace) in Bulgaria was a result of the migration of the predominantly ethnic Bulgarian population from villages to cities, but the contribution of Armenian and Russian refugees was also notable.
Keywords: internal and external migration, immigration, in-migration, Bulgaria, urbanization, towns, cities, ethnicity, sex, 1910–1946