The Bulgarian minority in Hungary is one of the least populous national communities in the country, but it has a major historic importance as it played a decisive role in the growth of vegetable farming in Hungary.

Although Bulgarian traders appeared in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy before Bulgarian vegetable farmers did, the Bulgarian minority is still associated with migrant Bulgarian vegetable farmers. The reason for this is that the Bulgarian vegetable farmers who initially only came to Hungary for seasonal work brought with them a vegetable growing method that had been unknown in the country at the time.

From the second half of the 19th century, their activity had such an impact on Hungarian agriculture and vegetable farming in the territory of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy that both those working in agriculture and the Governments of the time studied their activities purposefully, in depth.

The first ‘ambulatory’ Bulgarian vegetable farmers arrived in Hungary after the Austro-Hungarian Conciliation of 1867. This coincidence was crucial and very beneficial for Bulgarians. The economic situation of Hungary had stabilized. The urban population grew significantly, their eating habits changed, with a growing demand for vegetables, leading to a growth in the number of vegetable farmers.

Initially, only men migrated to Hungary in small groups, with mass immigration starting in the 1870s.

The Bulgarians arriving in Hungary – mainly from Polikraishte, Draganovo, Lyaskovets and Dolna Oryahovitsa – initially went back home every autumn, but eventually brought their families along and settled in Hungary.

The Association of Ethnic Bulgarians in Hungary (MBE) was founded in 1914 by Bulgarian vegetable farmers living in Hungary. On 27 July 1914, on the initiative of Lazar Ivanov, a 17-member organizational committee decided to set up the Association, and start recruiting members. 170 people applied in six days, offering 4,345 gold crowns for the purposes of the Association. The constitutive meeting was held on 2 August 1914. The Statute, proposed by Stefan Gyokov, was adopted unanimously, and the first Presidency was elected under the leadership of Lazar Ivanov. Dimitar Dimitrov, the host of the Association offered his home in 11 Lónyai Street for the purposes of the Association’s Club. In May 1916, a meeting was convened, and a decision was reached to set up a fund for the construction of a school and a church. The school and the chapel opened in the town of Miskolc in 1923. In 1932, the Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius Bulgarian Orthodox Church was built, funded by donations. The church building was designed by the famed architect of the time, Aladár Árkay. Árkay designed a three-nave church with a dome based on a Byzantine layout, which also houses the spaces for Orthodox liturgy. The church is of special architectural value, as it is not only the only building in Budapest in the Byzantine style, but also the westernmost outpost of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

In 1953, a fund raising campaign was started for the construction of a Centre of Bulgarian Culture. 445 families donated a total of 2,725,000 Forints for the purpose. The cultural centre opened in the autumn of 1957, and the attached hotel and restaurant opened in 1982.

The basic goal of the Association is protecting the traditions of people of Bulgarian ethnicity living in Hungary, and the spreading of their culture as widely as possible.

The MBE is active as a cultural organizer, continuing decades-old traditions. In recognition of its many years of activity, the Association received the highest order of the Cyril and Methodius Medal in 1964.

The seat of the Association, the House of Bulgarian Culture was built in 1957, and it has hosted cultural and traditional events and scientific conferences on a regular basis ever since. The MBE celebrates the traditional festivals each year, such as the festival of St. Trifon the Pruner, the day of the liberation of Bulgaria, the day of Bulgarian culture and that of Slavic writing, Demetrius day, etc.

With its history of nine decades, the creation of numerous NGOs (Bulgarian Youth Association, Pro Cultura Bulgarica Foundation etc.), the two active dance groups and a pensioners' club, the Association plays a central role in the preservation of Bulgarian national values, in the cultural life of ethnic Bulgarians living in Hungary and in promoting Bulgarian culture in general.

On 18 December 2005, MBE received the Pro Cultura Minoritatum Hungariae Minority Award, founded by the Hungarian Institute for Culture and Art.

MBE celebrated the 95th anniversary of its foundation in 2009. At the event held on 7 November 2009, the Office of Bulgarians Living Outside the Home Country awarded the Ivan Vazov memorial plaque to the Association in recognition of its several decades of work. On 18 December 2009, President Dimiter Tanev received the memorial plaque and diploma together with the For Minorities award from the Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary in Parliament. The MBE, during its almost one-century existence, has done the utmost for the protection of the identity and culture of Bulgarians living in Hungary, and the conservation of their traditions.

The goal of the National Bulgarian Self-Government is to help protect the identity of the ethnic Bulgarian community living in Hungary, contribute to improving their possibilities for using and developing their mother tongue, promote the conditions for cultural autonomy among the Bulgarian community and introduce Bulgarian cultural values to the majority society.

The cultural plan is executed in close cooperation with the MBE, the Bulgarian Self-Government of Budapest, the Bulgarian Youth Association and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

The National Bulgarian Self-Government intends to cooperate closely with the MBE, which is the most important non-governmental organization of Bulgarians in Hungary.

They provide support to the most important Bulgarian organizations, art groups and artists every year (including the Hungarian Bulgarian theatre Malko Teatro, folk dance groups Roszica, Jantra and Martenica, and the Zornica heritage preservation group).

They also support rural Bulgarian self-governments to the extent that they can.

The National Bulgarian Self-Government publishes a monthly newspaper ‘Bolgár Hírek’ (Bulgarian News), which had a major redesign in terms of both form and content in early 2011. The Self-Government now sends the paper to 1250 families, covering all the costs itself. The Self-Government also publishes Haemus, a Bulgarian-Hungarian cultural and social journal, every six months. It publishes or supports the publication of Bulgarian and bilingual books as well.

It maintains the Bulgarian Language Teaching Minority School opened within the framework of state education on 1 September 2004, currently teaching Bulgarian language, literature and national studies to 56 primary and secondary school students. It also took over the Bulgarian Bilingual Minority Kindergarten on 1 February 2008, which currently has one mixed class made up of 30 children. The Self-Government intends to expand the kindergarten to two classes from September 2012.

The Self-Government, along with the Bulgarian Self-Government of Budapest, publishes calls for bursary applications for secondary and higher education students who are of Bulgarian origin and speak Bulgarian.

In 2011, the National Bulgarian Self-Government founded the Centre for Bulgarian Culture, Information and Documentation, the main task of which is the operation of the Bulgarian library and the collection, archiving and digitisation of historical documents on Bulgarians and Bulgarian vegetable farmers in Hungary and providing access to the documents.

The Self-Government considers it an important task to organize cultural events, exhibitions, film projections, literary events and visits by Bulgarian artists.

Each summer, the Self-Government organizes a now traditional one-week language and folk art camp in Fertőd with the Bulgarian Youth Association and the Bulgarian Self-government of Sopron for about 80 Bulgarian and Hungarian youths coming from across the country.

The National Bulgarian Self-Government provides funding received from the national budget to Bolgár Művelődési és Kulturális Nonprofit Kft. for the maintenance and basic activities of the House of Bulgarian Culture.