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Republic of Bulgaria
Република България
FlagCoat of arms
MottoСъединението прави силата  (Bulgarian)
"Saedinenieto pravi silata"  (transliteration)
"Union makes strength"
AnthemМила Родино  (Bulgarian)
Mila Rodino  (transliteration)
Dear Motherland
Location of  Bulgaria  (green)

– on the European continent  (light green & grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  —  [Legend]

(and largest city)
42°41′N 23°19′E / 42.683°N 23.317°E / 42.683; 23.317
Official languagesBulgarian
Ethnic groups 83.9% Bulgarians, 9.4% Turkish, 4.7% Roma, 2% other groups[1]
GovernmentParliamentary democracy
 - PresidentGeorgi Parvanov
 - Prime MinisterBoyko Borisov
 - Chairperson of the National AssemblyTsetska Tsacheva
 - Medieval Balkan state681[2] 
 - First Bulgarian Empire681–1018 
 - Second Bulgarian Empire1185–1396 (1422) 
 - Independence lost1396 (1422) 
 - Self-government re-established (under nominal Ottoman suzerainty)3 March 1878 
 - Bulgarian unification6 September 1885 
 - Independence22 September 1908 from Ottoman Empire 
EU accession1 January 2007
 - Total110,910 km2 (104th)
42,823 sq mi 
 - Water (%)0.3
 - 2008 estimate7,606,551[3] (99th)
 - 2001 census7,932,984 
 - Density68.9/km2 (124th)
185/sq mi
GDP (PPP)2008 estimate
 - Total$93.728 billion[4] (63rd)
 - Per capita$12,322[4] (65th)
GDP (nominal)2008 estimate
 - Total$49.904 billion[4] (75th)
 - Per capita$6,560[4] (69th)
Gini (2003)29.2 (low
HDI (2009) 0.840 (high) (61st)
CurrencyLev3 (BGN)
Time zoneEET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST)EEST (UTC+3)
Drives on theright
Internet TLD.bg4
Calling code359
1"Bulgaria’s National Flag". Bulgarian Government. 3 October 2005. http://www.government.bg/cgi-bin/e-cms/vis/vis.pl?s=001&p=0159&n=000006&g=. Retrieved 2007-01-01. 
2Vidin Tsardom.
3plural Leva.
4Bulgarians, in common with citizens of other European Union member-states, also use the .eu domain.
5Cell phone system GSM and NMT 450i
6Domestic power supply 220 V/50 Hz, Schuko (CEE 7/4) sockets

Bulgaria (pronounced /bʌlˈɡɛəriə/ ( listen); Bulgarian: България, Bălgariya, pronounced [bəlˈɡarija]), officially the Republic of Bulgaria (Република България, Republika Bălgariya, [rɛˈpublika bəlˈɡarija]), is a country in the Balkans in south-eastern Europe. Bulgaria borders five other countries: Romania to the north (mostly along the River Danube), Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. The Black Sea defines the extent of the country to the east.

Bulgaria includes parts of the Roman provinces of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. Old European culture within the territory of present-day Bulgaria started to produce golden artefacts by the fifth millennium BC.[5]

The emergence of a unified Bulgarian national identity and state date back to the 7th century AD. All Bulgarian political entities that subsequently emerged preserved the traditions (in ethnic name, language and alphabet) of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/681 – 1018), which at times covered most of the Balkans and spread its alphabet, literature and culture among the Slavic and other peoples of Eastern Europe. Centuries later, with the decline of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 – 1396/1422), Bulgarian kingdoms came under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 led to the re-establishment of a Bulgarian state as a constitutional monarchy in 1878, with the Treaty of San Stefano marking the birth of the Third Bulgarian State. In 1908, with social strife brewing at the core of the Ottoman Empire, the Alexander Malinov government and Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria formally proclaimed the full sovereignty of the Bulgarian state at the ancient capital of Veliko Turnovo.[6] After World War II, in 1945 Bulgaria became a communist state and part of the Eastern Bloc. Todor Zhivkov dominated Bulgaria politically for 33 years (from 1956 to 1989). In 1990, after the Revolutions of 1989, the Communist Party gave up its monopoly on power and Bulgaria undertook a transition to democracy and free-market capitalism.

Bulgaria functions as a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic. A member of the European Union, NATO and the World Trade Organization, it has a high Human Development Index of 0.840, ranking 61st in the world in 2009.[7] Freedom House in 2008 listed Bulgaria as "free", giving it scores of 1 (highest) for political rights and 2 for civil liberties.[8]


Geographically and in terms of climate, Bulgaria features notable diversity with the landscape ranging from the Alpine snow-capped peaks in Rila, Pirin and the Balkan Mountains to the mild and sunny Black Sea coast; from the typically continental Danubian Plain (ancient Moesia) in the north to the strong Mediterranean climatic influence in the valleys of Macedonia and in the lowlands in the southernmost parts of Thrace.

Bulgaria overall has a temperate climate, with cold winters and hot summers. The barrier effect of the Balkan Mountains has some influence on climate throughout the country: northern Bulgaria experiences lower temperatures and receives more rain than the southern lowlands.

Bulgaria comprises portions of the regions known in classical times as Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia. The mountainous southwest of the country has two alpine ranges — Rila and Pirin — and further east stand the lower but more extensive Rhodope Mountains. The Rila range includes the highest peak of the Balkan Peninsula, Musala, at 2,925 metres (9,596 ft); the long range of the Balkan mountains runs west-east through the middle of the country, north of the famous Rose Valley. Hilly country and plains lie to the southeast, along the Black Sea coast, and along Bulgaria's main river, the Danube, to the north. Strandzha is the tallest mountain in the southeast. Few mountains and hills exist in the northeast region of Dobrudzha. The Balkan Peninsula derives its name from the Balkan or Stara planina mountain range running through the centre of Bulgaria and extends into eastern Serbia.

Bulgaria has large deposits of manganese ore in the north-east and of uranium in the south-west, as well as vast coal reserves and copper, lead, zinc and gold ore. Smaller deposits exist of iron, silver, chromite, nickel, bismuth and others. Bulgaria has abundant non-metalliferous minerals such as rock-salt, gypsum, kaolin and marble.

The country has a dense network of about 540 rivers, most of them—with the notable exception of the Danube—short and with low water-levels.[9] Most rivers flow through mountainous areas. The longest river located solely in Bulgarian territory, the Iskar, has a length of 368 km (229 mi). Other major rivers include the Struma and the Maritsa River in the south.

The Rila and Pirin mountain ranges feature around 260 glacial lakes; the country also has several large lakes on the Black Sea coast and more than 2,200 dam lakes. Many mineral springs exist, located mainly in the south-western and central parts of the country along the faults between the mountains.

Precipitation in Bulgaria averages about 630 millimetres (24.8 in) per year. In the lowlands rainfall varies between 500 and 800 mm (19.7 and 31.5 in), and in the mountain areas between 1,000 and 1,400 mm (39.4 and 55.1 in) of rain falls per year. Drier areas include Dobrudja and the northern coastal strip, while the higher parts of the Rila, Pirin, Rhodope Mountains, Stara Planina, Osogovska Mountain and Vitosha receive the highest levels of precipitation.


 Prehistory and antiquity

The Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari, a 3rd century BC tomb listed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites

Prehistoric cultures in the Bulgarian lands include the Neolithic Hamangia culture and Vinča culture (6th to 3rd millennia BC), the eneolithic Varna culture (5th millennium BC; see also Varna Necropolis), and the Bronze Age Ezero culture. The Karanovo chronology serves as a gauge for the prehistory of the wider Balkans region.

The Thracians, one of the three primary ancestors of modern Bulgarians, left lasting traces throughout the Balkan region despite the tumultuous subsequent millennia. The Thracians lived in separate tribes until King Teres united most of them around 500 BC in the Odrysian kingdom, which later peaked under the leadership of King Sitalces (reigned 431-424 BC) and of King Cotys I (383–359 BC). Thereafter the Macedonian Empire incorporated the Odrysian kingdom and Thracians became an inalienable component in the extra-continental expeditions of both Philip II and Alexander III (the Great). In 188 BC the Romans invaded Thrace, and warfare continued until 45 AD when Rome finally conquered the region. Thracian and Roman cultures merged to an extent, although the core traditions of the former remained untouched. Thus by the 4th century the Thracians had a composite indigenous identity, as Christian "Romans" who preserved some of their ancient pagan rituals.

The Slavs emerged from their original homeland in the early 6th century and spread to most of Eastern Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, dividing in the process into three main branches: the West Slavs, the East Slavs and the South Slavs. A portion of the eastern South Slavs assimilated the Thracians before the Bulgar elite incorporated them into the First Bulgarian Empire.[10]

 The First Bulgarian Empire

In 632 the Bulgars, originally from Central Asia, formed under the leadership of Khan Kubrat an independent state that became known as Great Bulgaria. Its territory extended from the lower course of the Danube to the west, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea to the south, the Kuban River to the east, and the Donets River to the north.[11] Pressure from the Khazars led to the subjugation of Great Bulgaria in the second half of the 7th century. Kubrat’s successor, Khan Asparuh, migrated with some of the Bulgar tribes to the lower courses of the rivers Danube, Dniester and Dniepr (known as Ongal), and conquered Moesia and Scythia Minor (Dobrudzha) from the Byzantine Empire, expanding his new khanate further into the Balkan Peninsula.[12] A peace treaty with Byzantium in 681 and the establishment of the Bulgar capital of Pliska south of the Danube mark the beginning of the First Bulgarian Empire. At the same time one of Asparuh's brothers, Kuber, settled with another Bulgar group in present-day Macedonia.[13]

Ruins of Pliska, capital of the First Bulgarian Empire from 680 to ca. 890

During the siege of Constantinople in 717–718 the Bulgarian ruler Khan Tervel honoured his treaty with the Byzantines by sending troops to help the populace of the imperial city. According to the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes, in the decisive battle the Bulgarians killed 22,000 Arabs, thereby eliminating the threat of a full-scale Arab invasion into Eastern and Central Europe.[14]

The influence and territorial expansion of Bulgaria increased further during the rule of Khan Krum,[15] who in 811 won a decisive victory against the Byzantine army led by Nicephorus I in the Battle of Pliska.[16]

In 864, Bulgaria under Boris I The Baptist accepted Eastern Orthodox Christianity.[17]

Bulgaria became a major European power in the ninth and the tenth centuries, while fighting with the Byzantine Empire for the control of the Balkans. This happened under the rule (852–889) of Boris I. During his reign, the Cyrillic alphabet developed in Preslav and Ohrid,[18] adapted from the Glagolitic alphabet invented by the monks Saints Cyril and Methodius.[19]

Baba Vida fortress in Vidin, built in the 10th century

The Cyrillic alphabet became the basis for further cultural development. Centuries later, this alphabet, along with the Old Bulgarian language, fostered the intellectual written language (lingua franca) for Eastern Europe, known as Church Slavonic. The greatest territorial extension of the Bulgarian Empire—covering most of the Balkans—occurred under Emperor Simeon I the Great, the first Bulgarian Tsar (Emperor), who ruled from 893 to 927.[20] The Battle of Anchialos (917), one of the bloodiest battles in the Middle ages.[21] marked one of Bulgaria's most decisive victories against the Byzantines.

However, Simeon's greatest achievement consisted of Bulgaria developing a rich, unique Christian Slavonic culture, which became an example for the other Slavonic peoples in Eastern Europe and also ensured the continued existence of the Bulgarian nation despite forces that threatened to tear it into pieces throughout its long and war-ridden history.

Bulgaria declined in the mid-tenth century, worn out by wars with Croatia, by frequent Serbian rebellions sponsored by Byzantine gold, and by disastrous Magyar and Pecheneg invasions.[22] Because of this, Bulgaria collapsed in the face of an assault of the Rus' in 969–971.[23]

The Bulgarian Empire ca. 893 in dark green, with territorial gains up to 927 in light green

The Byzantines then began campaigns to conquer Bulgaria. In 971, they seized the capital Preslav and captured Emperor Boris II.[24] Resistance continued under Tsar Samuil in the western Bulgarian lands for nearly half a century. The country managed to recover and defeated the Byzantines in several major battles, taking the control of the most of the Balkans and in 991 invaded the Serbian state.[25] But the Byzantines led by Basil II ("the Bulgar-Slayer") destroyed the Bulgarian state in 1018 after their victory at Kleidion.[26]

Byzantine Bulgaria

No evidence remains of major resistance or any uprising of the Bulgarian population or nobility in the first decade after the establishment of Byzantine rule. Given the existence of such irreconcilable opponents to Byzantium as Krakra, Nikulitsa, Dragash and others, such apparent passivity seems difficult to explain. Some historians[27] explain this as a consequence of the concessions that Basil II granted the Bulgarian nobility in order to gain their allegiance. In the first place, Basil II guaranteed the indivisibility of Bulgaria in its former geographic borders and did not officially abolish the local rule of the Bulgarian nobility, who became part of Byzantine aristocracy as archons or strategoi. Secondly, special charters (royal decrees) of Basil II recognised the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid and set up its boundaries, securing the continuation of the dioceses already existing under Samuel, their property and other privileges.[28]

The people of Bulgaria challenged Byzantine rule several times in the 11th century and again in the early 12th century. The biggest uprising occurred under the leadership of Peter II Delyan (proclaimed Emperor of Bulgaria in Belgrade in 1040). From the mid 11th century to the 1150s, both Normans and Hungarians attempted to invade Byzantine Bulgaria, but without success. Bulgarian nobles ruled the province in the name of the Byzantine Empire until Ivan Asen I and Peter IV of Bulgaria started a rebellion in 1185 which led to the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

The Second Bulgarian Empire

The Bulgarian Empire under Tsar Ivan Asen II

From 1185, the Second Bulgarian Empire re-established Bulgaria as an important power in the Balkans for two more centuries. The Asen dynasty set up its capital in Veliko Tarnovo. Kaloyan, the third of the Asen monarchs, extended his dominions to Belgrade, Nish and Skopie (Uskub); he acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the pope, and received the royal crown from a papal legate.[10] In the Battle of Adrianople in 1205, Kaloyan defeated the forces of the Latin Empire and thus limited its power from the very first year of its establishment.

Ivan Asen II (1218–1241) extended his rule over Albania, Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace.[29] During his reign, the state saw a period of cultural growth, with important artistic achievements of the Tarnovo artistic school.[10] The Asen dynasty ended in 1257, and due to Tatar invasions (beginning in the later 13th century), internal conflicts, and constant attacks from the Byzantines and the Hungarians, the power of the country declined. Emperor Theodore Svetoslav (reigned 1300–1322) restored Bulgarian prestige from 1300 onwards, but only temporarily. Political instability continued to grow, and Bulgaria gradually began to lose territory. This led to a peasant rebellion led by swineherd, Ivaylo, who eventually managed to defeat the Emperor's forces and sit on the throne.

By the end of the 14th century, factional divisions between Bulgarian feudal landlords (boyars) had gravely weakened the cohesion of the Second Bulgarian Empire. It split into three small Tsardoms and several semi-independent principalities which fought among themselves, and also with Byzantines, Hungarians, Serbs, Venetians, and Genoese. In these battles, Bulgarians often allied themselves with Ottoman Turks. Similar situations of internecine quarrel and infighting existed also in Byzantium and Serbia. In the period 1365–1370, the Ottomans conquered most Bulgarian towns and fortresses south of the Balkan Mountains.[30]

Ottoman rule

In 1393, the Ottomans captured Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, after a three-month siege. In 1396, the Vidin Tsardom fell after the defeat of a Christian crusade at the Battle of Nicopolis. With this, the Ottomans finally subjugated and occupied Bulgaria.[31][32][33] A PolishHungarian crusade commanded by Władysław III of Poland set out to free the Balkans in 1444, but the Turks defeated it in the battle of Varna.

The Ottomans decimated the Bulgarian population, which lost most of its cultural relics. Turkish authorities destroyed most of the medieval Bulgarian fortresses in order to prevent rebellions. Large towns and the areas where Ottoman power predominated remained severely depopulated until the 19th century.[21][page needed] Bulgarians had to pay much higher taxes than the Muslim population, and completely lacked judicial equality with them.[34] Bulgarians who converted to Islam, the Pomaks, retained Bulgarian language, dress and some customs compatible with Islam.[32][33]

During the last two decades of the 18th and first decades of the 19th centuries the Balkan Peninsula dissolved into virtual anarchy. Bulgarians refer to this period as the kurdjaliistvo: armed bands of Turks called kurdjalii plagued the area. In many regions, thousands of peasants fled from the countryside either to local towns or (more commonly) to the hills or forests; some even fled beyond the Danube to Moldova, Wallachia or southern Russia.[32][35]

Shipka memorial (located near Gabrovo) — built in honor of the Battle of Shipka Pass; one of the important symbols of Bulgarian liberation.

Throughout the five centuries of Ottoman rule, the Bulgarian people organized many attempts to re-establish their own state. The National awakening of Bulgaria became one of the key factors in the struggle for liberation. The 19th century saw the creation of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee and the Internal Revolutionary Organisation led by liberal revolutionaries such as Vasil Levski, Hristo Botev, Lyuben Karavelov and many others.

In 1876 the April uprising broke out: the largest and best-organized Bulgarian rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. Though crushed by the Ottoman authorities, the uprising (together with the 1875 rebellion in Bosnia) prompted the Great Powers to convene the 1876 Conference of Constantinople, which delimited the ethnic Bulgarian territories as of the late 19th century, and elaborated the legal and political arrangements for establishing two autonomous Bulgarian provinces. The Ottoman Government declined to comply with the Great Powers’ decisions. This allowed Russia to seek a solution by force without risking military confrontation with other Great Powers as in the Crimean War of 1854 to 1856.

Principality and Kingdom

In the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878, Russian soldiers together with a Romanian expeditionary force and volunteer Bulgarian troops defeated the Ottoman armies. The Treaty of San Stefano (3 March 1878), set up an autonomous Bulgarian principality. But the Western Great Powers immediately rejected the treaty, fearing that a large Slavic country in the Balkans might serve Russian interests. This led to the Treaty of Berlin (1878) which provided for an autonomous Bulgarian principality comprising Moesia and the region of Sofia. Alexander, Prince of Battenberg, became Bulgaria's first Prince. Most of Thrace became part of the autonomous region of Eastern Rumelia, whereas the rest of Thrace and all of Macedonia returned to the sovereignty of the Ottomans. After the Serbo-Bulgarian War and unification with Eastern Rumelia in 1885, the Bulgarian principality proclaimed itself a fully independent kingdom on 5 October (22 September O.S.), 1908, during the reign of Ferdinand I of Bulgaria.

Ferdinand, of the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, became the Bulgarian Prince after Alexander von Battenberg abdicated in 1886 following a coup d'état staged by pro-Russian army-officers. (Although the counter-coup coordinated by Stefan Stambolov succeeded, Prince Alexander decided not to remain the Bulgarian ruler without the approval of Alexander III of Russia.) The struggle for liberation of the Bulgarians in the Adrianople Vilayet and in Macedonia continued throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, culminating with the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising organised by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization in 1903.

Bulgarians overrun a Turkish position at bayonet-point during the First Balkan War of 1912–1913, Painting by Jaroslav Věšín.

The Balkan Wars and World War I

In the years following the achievement of complete independence Bulgaria became increasingly militarised: Dillon in 1920 called Bulgaria "the Prussia of the Balkans"[36] In 1912 and 1913, Bulgaria became involved in the Balkan Wars, first entering into conflict alongside Greece, Serbia and Montenegro against the Ottoman Empire. The First Balkan War (1912–1913) proved a success for the Bulgarian army, but a conflict over the division of Macedonia arose between the victorious allies. The Second Balkan War (1913) pitted Bulgaria against Greece and Serbia, joined by Romania and Turkey. After its defeat in the Second Balkan War Bulgaria lost considerable territory conquered in the first war, as well as Southern Dobrudzha and parts of the region of Macedonia.

During World War I, Bulgaria found itself fighting again on the losing side as a result of its alliance with the Central Powers. Defeat in 1918 led to new territorial losses (the Western Outlands to Serbia, Western Thrace to Greece and the re-conquered Southern Dobrudzha to Romania). The Balkan Wars and World War I led to the influx of over 250,000 Bulgarian refugees from Macedonia, Eastern and Western Thrace and Southern Dobrudzha.

World War II

A Bulgarian sentry at his post, Sofia, 1942

In the 1930s the country suffered political unrest, which led to the establishment of military rule, eventually transforming into a royal authoritarian rule by King Boris III (reigned 1918–1943). After regaining control of Southern Dobrudzha in 1940, Bulgaria became allied with the Axis Powers, although it declined to participate in Operation Barbarossa (1941) and never declared war on the USSR. During World War II Nazi Germany allowed Bulgaria to occupy parts of Greece and of Yugoslavia, although control over their population and territories remained in German hands. Bulgaria became one of only three countries (along with Finland and Denmark) that saved its entire Jewish population (around 50,000 people) from the Nazi camps through different rationales and the continued postponement of compliance with German demands.[37] However, the Nazis deported almost the entire Jewish population of the Bulgarian-occupied Yugoslav and Greek territories to the Treblinka death camp in occupied Poland.

In the summer of 1943, Boris III died suddenly, and the country fell into political turmoil as the war turned against Nazi Germany and the communist movement gained more power.[38] In early September 1944, the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria and invaded it, meeting no resistance. This enabled the Communists (the Bulgarian Workers' Party) to seize power and establish a communist state. The new régime turned Bulgaria's forces against Germany.

The People's Republic of Bulgaria

The Fatherland Front, a Communist-dominated political coalition, took over the government in 1944 and the Communist party increased its membership from 15,000 to 250,000 during the following six months. It established its rule with the coup d'état of September 9 that year. However, Bulgaria did not become a people's republic until 1946. It fell under the Soviet sphere of influence, with Georgi Dimitrov (Prime Minister 1946 to 1949) as the foremost Bulgarian political leader. The country installed a Soviet-type planned economy, although some market-oriented policies emerged on an experimental level[39] under Todor Zhivkov (First Secretary, 1954 to 1989). By the mid 1950s standards of living rose significantly, and in 1957 collective farm workers benefited from the first agricultural pension and welfare system in Eastern Europe.[40] Todor Zhivkov dominated the country from 1956 to 1989, thus becoming one of the most estalished Eastern Bloc leaders. Zhivkov asserted Bulgaria's position as the most reliable Soviet ally, and increased its overall importance in the Comecon. His daughter Lyudmila Zhivkova became very popular in the country by promoting national heritage, culture and arts on a global scale.[41] On the other hand, a forced assimilation campaign of the late 1980s directed against ethnic Turks resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 Bulgarian Turks to Turkey.[42][43] This severely damaged Zhivkov's image and increased even more the already existing overall discontent with the stagnating system.[citation needed]

The People's Republic ended in 1989 as many Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, as well as the Soviet Union itself, began to collapse. Opposition forced Zhivkov and his right-hand man Milko Balev to give up their power on 10 November 1989.

The Republic of Bulgaria

President Georgi Parvanov (left) with former Russian president Vladimir Putin, 2008

In February 1990 the Communist Party voluntarily gave up its monopoly on power, and in June 1990 free elections took place, won by the moderate wing of the Communist Party (renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party — BSP). In July 1991, the country adopted a new constitution which provided for a relatively weak elected President and for a Prime Minister accountable to the legislature. The 1990s featured high unemployment, unstable (and often high) inflation rates and discontent.

Since 1989, Bulgaria has held multi-party elections and privatized its economy, but economic difficulties and a tide of corruption have led over 800,000 Bulgarians, most of them qualified professionals, to emigrate in a "brain drain". The reform package introduced in 1997 restored positive economic growth, but led to rising social inequality. Bulgaria became a member of NATO in 2004 and of the European Union in 2007, and the US Library of Congress Federal Research Division reported it in 2006 as having generally good freedom of speech and human rights records.[44] In 2007 the A.T. Kearney/Foreign Policy Magazine globalization index ranked Bulgaria 36th (between the PRC and Iceland) out of 122 countries.[45]


Guardsmen in front of the Presidency

Since 1991 Bulgaria has a democratic, unitary parliamentary republican constitution.

The country became a member of the United Nations in 1955, and a founding member of OSCE in 1995. As a Consultative Party to the Antarctic Treaty, Bulgaria takes part in the administration of the territories situated south of 60° south latitude.[46][47] The National Assembly or Narodno Sabranie (Народно събрание) consists of 240 deputies, each elected for four-year terms by popular vote. A party or coalition must win a minimum of 4% of the vote in order to enter the parliament. The National Assembly has the power to enact laws, approve the budget, schedule presidential elections, select and dismiss the Prime Minister and other ministers, declare war, deploy troops abroad, and ratify international treaties and agreements. A minority government formed by the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party took office following the election of July 2009.

The judicial system consists of regional, district and appeal courts, as well as a Supreme Court of Cassation. In addition, Bulgaria has a Supreme Administrative Court and a system of military courts.

The President of Bulgaria serves as the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He also chairs the Consultative Council for National Security. While unable to initiate legislation other than Constitutional amendments, the President can return a bill for further debate, although the parliament can override the President's veto by vote of a majority of all MPs.

The country joined NATO on 29 March 2004 and signed the European Union Treaty of Accession on 25 April 2005.[48][49] It became a full member of the European Union on 1 January 2007,[50] and elects 17 members to the European Parliament.[51]


The military consists of three services – land forces, navy and air force.

Following a series of reductions beginning in 1989, the active troops number fewer than 45,000 today[update], down from nearly 200,000 in 1988. Reserve forces include 303,000 soldiers and officers. A number of paramilitary branches, such as border-guard and railroad-construction troops exist and number about 34,000 men. The armed forces have an inventory including highly capable Soviet equipment, such as MiG-29 fighters, SA-6 Gainful and SA-10 Grumble SAMs and SS-21 Scarab short-range ballistic missiles.

Bulgarian up-armored M1114 patrol on the streets of Kabul, July 2009

Bulgarian military personnel have participated in international missions in Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. As of 2009 Bulgaria had more than 700 military personnel deployed abroad, mostly in Afghanistan (610 men), in Bosnia and Herzegovina (about 100 men) and in Kosovo (about 50 men).

In 2008 Bulgaria abolished compulsory military service for its citizens. Bulgaria's naval and air forces became fully professional in 2006, and the land forces followed suit at the end of 2008. The Special Forces have conducted missions with the SAS, Delta Force, KSK, and the Spetsnaz of Russia.

In April 2006 Bulgaria and the United States of America signed a defence cooperation agreement providing for the usage of the air bases at Bezmer (near Yambol) and Graf Ignatievo (near Plovdiv), the Novo Selo training range (near Sliven), and a logistics centre in Aytos as joint military facilities. Foreign Policy magazine lists Bezmer Air Base as one of the six most important overseas facilities used by the USAF.[52]

As of 2009 military spending accounts for 1,98% of GDP.

Provinces and municipalities

Between 1987 and 1999 Bulgaria consisted of nine provinces (oblasti, singular oblast); since 1999, it has consisted of twenty-eight. All take their names from their respective capital cities:

The provinces subdivide into 264 municipalities.


A view of Business Park Sofia. The capital generates a large portion of the nation's GDP.
A sunflower field in Dobrudja, one of the most fertile regions in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has an industrialised, open free market economy, with a large, moderately advanced private sector and a number of strategic state-owned enterprises. The World Bank classifies it as an "upper-middle-income economy".[53] Bulgaria has experienced rapid economic growth in recent years, even though it continues to rank as the lowest-income member state of the EU. According to Eurostat data, Bulgarian PPS GDP per capita stood at 40 per cent of the EU average in 2008.[54] The United States Central Intelligence Agency estimated Bulgarians' GDP per capita at $12,900 in 2008,[55] or about a third that of Belgium.[56] The economy relies primarily on industry and agriculture, although the services sector increasingly contributes to GDP growth. Bulgaria produces a significant amount of manufactures and raw materials such as iron, copper, gold, bismuth, coal, electronics, refined petroleum fuels, vehicle components, weapons and construction materials.

Due to high-profile allegations of corruption, and an apparent lack of willingness to tackle high-level corruption, the European Union has partly frozen EU funds of about €450 million and may freeze more if Bulgarian authorities do not show solid progress in fighting corruption.[57]

Bulgaria has tamed its inflation since the deep economic crisis in 1996–1997, but latest[update] figures show an increase in the inflation-rate to 12.5% for 2007. Unemployment declined from more than 17% in the mid 1990s to nearly 7% in 2007, but the unemployment-rate in some rural areas continues in high double-digits. Bulgaria's inflation means that the country's adoption of the euro might not take place until the year 2013–2014.[58]

Economic forecasts for 2005 and 2006 predicted continued growth for the economy. Economists predicted annual year-on-year GDP growth for 2005 and 2006 of 5.3% and 6.0% respectively. Forecasters expected industrial output in 2005 to rise by 11.9% from the previous year, and by 15.2% in 2006. Projections of unemployment envisaged 11.5% for 2005, 9% for 2006 and 7.25% for 2007.[59] Unemployment remained relatively low at 6.3% for 2008. GDP growth in 2008 remained relatively high (6%), but it has largely been negative in 2009.


Agricultural output has decreased overall since 1989, but production has grown in recent years, and together with related industries like food processing it still plays a key role in the economy. Arable farming predominates over stock breeding. Agricultural equipment amounts to over 150,000 tractors and 10,000 combine harvesters, as well as a large fleet of light aircraft.

Bulgaria ranks as one of the top world producers of agricultural commodities such as anise (6th in the world), sunflower seed (11th), raspberries (13th), tobacco (15th), chili peppers (18th) and flax fibre (19th).[60]


Although Bulgaria has relatively few reserves of natural fuels such as oil and gas, it has a very well-developed energy sector which plays a crucial role throughout the Balkans. The country's strategic geographical location makes it a major hub for transit and distribution of oil and natural gas from Russia to Western Europe and to other Balkan states. In terms of electricity production per capita, it ranks fourth in Eastern Europe.

The only Bulgarian nuclear power plant operates in the vicinity of Kozloduy, and has a total capacity of 3,760 MW. Construction of a second nuclear power plant has started near Belene with a projected capacity of 2,000 MW. Thermal power plants (TPPs) provide a significant amount of energy, with most of the capacity concentrated in the Maritsa Iztok Complex.

Recent years have seen a steady increase in electricity production from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, although it still relies mostly on coal and nuclear powerplants.[61] Due to the abundance of forests and agricultural land, biomass can provide a viable source of electricity. Wind energy has large-scale prospects, with up to 3,400 MW of installed capacity potential.[62] As of 2009 Bulgaria operates more than 70 wind turbines with a total capacity of 112.6 MW, and plans to increase their number nearly threefold to reach a total capacity of 300 MW in 2010.[63]

Industry and mining

"Elatsite" gold and copper mine extracts about 13 million tonnes of ore annually, and produces about 42,000 tonnes of copper, 1.6 tonnes of gold and 5.5 tonnes of silver.[64]

Industry plays a key role in the economy. Although Bulgaria lacks large reserves of oil and gas, it produces significant quantities of minerals, metals and electricity.

Bulgaria ranks as a minor oil producer (97th in the world) with a total production of 3,520 bbl/day.[65] Prospectors discovered Bulgaria's first oil field near Tyulenovo in 1951. Proved reserves amount to 15,000,000 bbl. Natural gas production halted in the late 1990s. Proved reserves of natural gas amount to 5.663 bln. cu m.[66]

Mining is an important source of export earnings, and has become pivotal to the Bulgarian economy. The country ranks as the 19th largest coal producer in the world,[67] 9th largest bismuth producer,[68] 19th largest copper producer,[69] and the 26th largest zinc producer.[70] Ferrous metallurgy also has major importance. Much of the production of steel and pig iron takes place in Kremikovtsi and Pernik, with a third metallurgical base in Debelt. In production of steel and steel products per capita the country heads the Balkans. The largest refineries for lead and zinc operate in Plovdiv (the biggest refinery between Italy and the Ural mountains), Kardzhali and Novi Iskar; for copper in Pirdop and Eliseina (defunct as of 2009); for aluminium in Shumen. In production of many metals per capita, such as zinc and iron, Bulgaria ranks first in Eastern Europe.

About 14% of the total industrial production relates to machine building, and 20% of the people work in this field.[71] Its importance has decreased since 1989.


A view of Rila mountain

In 2007 a total of 5,200,000 tourists visited Bulgaria, making it the 39th most popular destination in the world.[72] Tourists from Greece, Romania and Germany account for 40% of visitors.[73] Significant numbers of British (+300,000), Russian (+200,000), Serbian (+150,000), Polish (+130,000) and Danish (+100,000) tourists also visit Bulgaria. Most of them are attracted by the varying and beautiful landscapes, well-preserved historical and cultural heritage, and the tranquility of rural and mountain areas.[citation needed]

Main destinations include the capital Sofia, coastal resorts like Albena, Sozopol, Golden Sands and Sunny Beach; and winter resorts such as Pamporovo, Chepelare, Borovetz and Bansko. The rural tourist destinations of Arbanasi and Bozhentsi offer well-preserved ethnographic traditions. Other popular attractions include the 10th century Rila Monastery and the 19th century Euxinograd château.

Science, technology and telecommunications

Bulgaria spends only 0.4% of its GDP on scientific research,[74] or roughly $ 376 million on a 2008 basis. The country has a strong tradition in mathematics, astronomy, physics, nuclear technology and sciences-oriented education, and has significant experience in medical and pharmaceutical research. The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), the leading scientific institution in the country, employs most of Bulgaria's researchers working in its numerous branches.

Tower of the 200 cm (79 in) telescope at the Rozhen Observatory, the largest astronomical observatory in Southeastern Europe.

Bulgarian scientists have made several important discoveries and inventions that have revolutionized global society: the world's first electronic digital computer, designed by Bulgarian-American scientist John Vincent Atanasoff; the first electronic digital watch (Peter Petroff), the first purpose-built aircraft bombs (capt. Simeon Petrov); the molecular-kinetic theory of crystal formation and crystal growth (formulated by Ivan Stranski) and photoelectrets (Georgi Nadjakov), the last forming an important step in the development of the first photocopier machine. Bulgaria was also the 6th country in the world to have an astronaut in space: major-general Georgi Ivanov on Soyuz 33 (1979), followed by lieutenant-colonel Alexander Alexandrov on Soyuz TM-5 (1988).[75]

Among Bulgaria's most advanced scientific branches computer technology features highly[citation needed], and in the 1980s the country became known as the Silicon Valley of the Eastern Bloc.[76] According to the Brainbench Global IT IQ report, Bulgaria ranks first in Europe in terms of IT-certified specialists per capita[77] and 8th in the world in total ICT specialists, out-performing countries with far larger populations.[78] In addition, Bulgaria operates the most powerful supercomputer in Eastern Europe (one of the top 100 in the world as of 2009), an IBM Blue Gene/P, which entered service in September 2008 at the State Agency of Information Technology.[79] The years after 2000 have seen a rapid increase in the number of Internet users: in 2000, they numbered 430,000, in 2004 – 1,545,100, and in 2006 – 2.2 million.[80]


Sofia University's Faculty of chemistry

Education in Bulgaria is overseen by the Ministry of Education and Science. Full-time education is mandatory for all children aged between 7 and 16. Six-year olds can be enrolled at school at their parents' discretion. Education at state schools is free of charge, except for higher education establishments, colleges and universities. The curriculum focuses on eight main subjects: Bulgarian language and literature, foreign languages, mathematics, information technologies, social sciences and civics, natural sciences and ecology, music and art, physical education and sports.

In 2003, the literacy rate was estimated to be 98.6 percent, being approximately the same for both sexes. Traditionally Bulgarian educational standards have been high.[81]


Bulgaria occupies a unique and strategically important geographic location. Since ancient times, the country has served as a major crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa. Five of the ten Trans-European corridors run through its territory. Bulgaria's roads have a total length of 102,016 km (63,390 mi), 93,855 km (58,319 mi) of them paved and 441 km (274 mi) of them motorways. The country has several motorways in planning, under construction, or partially built: Trakiya motorway, Hemus motorway, Cherno More motorway, Struma motorway, Maritza motorway and Lyulin motorway.

Trakiya motorway

Bulgaria also has 6,500 km (4,000 mi) of railway track, more than 60% electrified. A €360,000,000 project exists for the modernisation and electrification of the PlovdivKapitan Andreevo railway. The only high-speed railway in the region, between Sofia and Vidin, will operate by 2017, at a cost of €3,000,000,000.[82]

Air travel has developed relatively comprehensively. Bulgaria has six official international airports  — at Sofia, Burgas, Varna, Plovdiv, Rousse and Gorna Oryahovitsa. After the fall of communism in 1989, most of the smaller domestic airports stood unused as the importance of domestic flights declined. The country has many military airports and agricultural airfields. 128 of the 213 airports in Bulgaria are paved.

The most important ports by far, Varna and Burgas, have the largest turnover. Like Burgas, Sozopol, Nesebar and Pomorie support large fishing fleets. Large ports on the Danube River include Rousse and Lom (which serves the capital).


According to the 2001 census,[83] Bulgaria's population consists mainly of ethnic Bulgarians (83.9%), with two sizable minorities, Turks (9.4%) and Roma (4.7%).[84] Of the remaining 2.0%, 0.9% comprises some 40 smaller minorities, most prominently in numbers the Russians, Armenians, Arabs, Vlachs, Jews, Crimean Tatars and Sarakatsani (historically known also as Karakachans). 1.1% of the population did not declare their ethnicity in the latest census in 2001.

The 2001 census defines an ethnic group as a "community of people, related to each other by origin and language, and close to each other by mode of life and culture"; and one's mother tongue as "the language which a person speaks best and which is usually used for communication in the family (household)".[85]

Native LanguageBy ethnic groupPercentageBy first languagePercentage
Gypsies (roma)371,0004.67%328,0004.13%
Total7,929,000100%7,929,000100% [85]

In recent years Bulgaria has had one of the lowest population growth rates in the world. Negative population growth has occurred since the early 1990s,[86] due to economic collapse and high emigration. In 1989 the population comprised 9,009,018 people, gradually falling to 7,950,000 in 2001 and 7,606,000 in 2009.[3] As of 2009 The population had a fertility-rate of 1.48 children per woman in 2008. The fertility rate will need to reach 2.2 to restore natural growth in population.


Most Bulgarians (82.6%) belong, at least nominally, to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Founded in 870 AD under the Patriarchate of Constantinople (from which it obtained its first primate, its clergy and theological texts), the Orthodox Church had autocephalous status from 927 AD. Other religious denominations include Islam (12.2%), various Protestant denominations (0.8%) and Roman Catholicism (0.5%); with other denominations, atheists and undeclared totalling approximately 4.1%.[87] Bulgaria is officially a secular state and the Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion but appoints Orthodoxy as an official religion. In the 2001 census, 82.6% of the people declared themselves Orthodox Christians, 12,2% Muslim, 1.2% other Christian denominations, 4% other religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Judaism).

Islam came to the country at the end of the fourteenth century after the conquest of the country by the Ottomans. In the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, missionaries from Rome converted Paulicians from the districts of Plovdiv and Svishtov to Roman Catholicism. As of 2009 Bulgaria's Jewish community, once one of the largest in Europe, numbers less than 2,000 people.