The forced renaming of Muslims began in 1973 in Kornitsa with its 1,800 ethnic Bulgarian Pomak Muslims and spread across the nation. Ethnic Turks, who form the other large group of Bulgarian Muslims, were equally harshly targeted in the assimilation campaign.
The communists tried to snuff out Muslim identity in other ways. Education in Turkish was first limited, then suppressed. Talking Turkish in public, wearing the veil and circumcising boys were forbidden.
The repression culminated in 1985 when 310,000 ethnic Turks were forced to change their names. Protests grew and in August 1989 -- as communism was crumbling across eastern Europe -- Bulgaria forced 360,000 ethnic Turks to cross into Turkey.