This article, which is part of a wider project, ‘Experiences of Communist Modernisation in a Bulgarian Muslim Village, 1945–2005’, examines the assimilation of Bulgarian-speaking Muslims in the Rhodope Mountains in the 1970s. By analysing communist efforts to ‘modernise’ Bulgarian Muslims, it sheds light on the relationship between modernity and the views of the communist state on such cultural categories as ‘nation’, ‘ethnicity’, ‘gender’ and ‘religion’. It argues that this particular campaign was not simply the latest chapter in an ongoing effort by the Bulgarian authorities to assimilate such populations, but should rather be seen as a specific response by the communist regime to ideas of modernity. Despite national and patriotic elements, the aim of the communist assimilation campaign was to introduce ‘modernity’ and ‘civilisation’ to the whole of Bulgarian society, especially those living at the social, cultural and political peripheries. In Bulgaria, as elsewhere in communist eastern Europe, gender and ethnic policy merged. Gender equality was one of the essential aims of the modernisation programme, but for the communist modernisers introducing gender equality among ethnically marginal groups, such as the rural Muslim group of Pomaks, was even more important. ‘Emancipating’ Muslim women was more significant than the ‘struggle against religion’ or the ‘fight for national homogeneity’.