The term "Pomak" refers to Bulgarians who converted to Islam during the Ottoman occupation, beginning in the latter portion of the 1300s. During the Communist period of forced assimilation in Bulgaria (1970s and 1980s), the term disappeared from official use. Since the 1989 democratic reforms, however, Pomaks are quite active in public political life. The region of Pomak origin is principally the Rhodope Mountains and the southeast slopes of the Pirin, but because of a series of population exchanges there are a large number of Pomaks in both Greece and Turkey.
The total Pomak population, worldwide, is estimated to be at least 300,000 to 400,000, of which perhaps 75,000 are currently living in Bulgaria. However, this last figure is difficult to verify, as Bulgaria has not provided census data broken down into ethnic minorities. The Muslim settlements of the Rhodope Mountains are currently enjoying a certain demographic growth relative to Christian villages of the Region, partly because of a higher birthrate and the fact that Pomak villages appear to be less affected by processes of urbanization.
The language spoken is a dialect of Bulgarian, with some introduced elements from Turkish.