Fly to Bulgaria
|Republic of Bulgaria
|Motto: Съединението прави силата (Bulgarian)Saedinenieto pravi silata (transliteration)Unity makes strength (English)|
Мила Родино (Bulgarian)
Mila Rodino (transliteration)
Dear Motherland (English)
Location of Bulgaria (dark green)– in Europe (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (green) — [Legend]
|Capital(and largest city)||Sofia (София)42°41′N 23°19′E|
|Ethnic groups (2011)||84.8% Bulgarians,8.8% Turks, 4.9% Roma, 1.5% others|
|-||Prime Minister||Boyko Borisov|
|-||First Bulgarian Empire||681|
|-||Liberation from Ottoman rule||1878|
|-||Declaration of Independence||22 September 1908|
|-||Total||110,993.6 km2 (105th)42,823 sq mi|
|-||2011 census||7,364,570  (98th)|
|-||Density||66.2/km2 (139th)171/sq mi|
|GDP (PPP)||2011 estimate|
|-||Total||$101.627 billion (70th)|
|-||Per capita||$13,563 (65th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2011 estimate|
|-||Total||$54.271 billion (75th)|
|-||Per capita||$7,243 (74th)|
|Gini (2007)||45.3 (high)|
|HDI (2011)||0.771 (high) (55th)|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|-||Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||BG|
Bulgaria/bʌlˈɡɛəriə/ (Bulgarian: България, Balgariya, IPA: [bɤ̞ɫˈɡarijɐ]), officially the Republic of Bulgaria (Република България, transliterated: Republika Balgariya, IPA: [rɛˈpublikɐ bɤ̞ɫˈɡarijɐ]) is a country in Southeast Europe. Bulgaria borders five other countries: Romaniato the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south.
With a territory of 110,994 square kilometers (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria ranks as the 15th-largest country in Europe. Several mountainous areas define the landscape, most notably Stara Planina (the Balkan mountains) and Rhodope mountain ranges, as well as the Rila range, which includes the highest peak in the Balkan region. In contrast, the Danubian plain in the north and the Upper Thracian Plain in the south represent Bulgaria’s lowest and most fertile regions. The 378-kilometer (235 mi) Black Sea coastline covers the entire eastern bound of the country.
The emergence of a unified Bulgarian ethnicity and state dates 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, which at times covered most of the Balkans and became a cultural hub for the Slavs in the Middle Ages. With the downfall of the Second Bulgarian Empire in 1396, its territories came under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 resulted in the establishment of a third Bulgarian state, the independence of which was fully recognized in 1908. After World War II it became a people’s republic and was a part of the Warsaw Pact until theRevolutions of 1989, when the Communist Party allowed multi-party elections. Bulgaria transitioned to democracy and free market capitalism was introduced.
The government functions as a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic. Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, NATO, the Council of Europe, and is a founding state of the OSCE. It is home to some of the most ancient cultural artifacts in the world and is a historical crossroad of various civilizations.
Prehistory and Antiquity
A gold rhyton from the Panagyurishte treasure, the 4th–3rd century BC
Prehistoric cultures in the Bulgarian lands include the Neolithic Hamangia culture and Vinča culture, the eneolithic Varna culture (5th millennium BC), and the Bronze Age Ezero culture. The Varna Necropolis serves as a tool for understanding the social hierarchy of the earliest European societies.
The Thracians, one of the three primary ancestral groups of modern Bulgarians, lived separated in various tribes until King Teres united most of them around 500 BC in the Odrysian kingdom. They were eventually subjugated by Alexander the Great and later by the Roman Empire. After migrating from their original homeland, the easternmost South Slavs settled on the territory of modern Bulgaria during the 6th century and assimilated the Hellenized or Romanised Thracians. Eventually the élite of theBulgars, a Central Asian people, incorporated all of them into the First Bulgarian Empire and adopted the local south Slavic language.
First Bulgarian Empire
Asparukh, heir of Old Great Bulgaria’s khan Kubrat, migrated with several Bulgar tribes to the lower courses of the rivers Danube, Dniester andDniepr. After 670, he crossed the Danube with a horde of up to 50,000 people and conquered Moesia and Scythia Minor (Dobrudzha) from the Byzantine Empire, expanding his new kingdom further into the Balkan Peninsula. A peace treaty with Byzantium in 681 and the establishment of a capital at Pliska south of the Danube mark the beginning of the First Bulgarian Empire.
Succeeding khans strengthened the Bulgarian state throughout the 8th and 9th centuries — Tervel established Bulgaria as a major military power by defeating a 26,000-strong Arab army during the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople; Krum doubled the country’s territory, killed emperor Nicephorus I in the Battle of Pliska, and introduced the first written code of law; Boris I abolished Tengriism in favor of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in 864, and introduced the Cyrillic alphabet. Simeon the Great’s 34-year rule began in 893 and saw the largest territorial expansion of Bulgaria in its history, along with a golden age of Bulgarian culture and a military supremacy over the Byzantine Empire, demonstrated in theBattle of Achelous.
Khan Krum feasts with his nobles after the battle of Pliska. His servant (far right) brings the wine-filled skull cup of emperor Nicephorus I.
After Simeon’s death, Bulgaria declined, weakened by wars with Croatians, Magyars, Pechenegs and Serbs, and the spread of the Bogomil heresy. This resulted in consecutive Rus’ and Byzantine invasions, which ended with the seizure of the capital Preslav by the Byzantine army.Under Samuil, Bulgaria somewhat recovered from these attacks and even managed to conquer Serbia, Bosnia and Duklja, but this ended in 1014, when Byzantine Emperor Basil II defeated its armies at Klyuch. Samuil died shortly after the battle, on 15 October 1014, and by 1018 the Byzantine Empire conquered the remaimed parts of the First Bulgarian Empire, putting it to an end.
Second Bulgarian Empire
After conquering Bulgaria, Emperor Basil II retained the local rule of the Bulgarian nobility (incorporated into Byzantine aristocracy as archons orstrategoi), and recognized the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid, thus preventing discontent and revolts. After his death Byzantine domestic policies changed, which led to a series of unsuccessful rebellions, the largest being led by Peter II Delyan. It was not until 1185 when Asen dynasty nobles Ivan Asen I and Peter IV organized a major uprising and succeeded in reestablishing the Bulgarian state, marking the beginning of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
The Second Bulgarian Empire under TsarIvan Asen II in the mid-13th century
The Asen dynasty set up its capital in Tarnovo. Kaloyan, the third of the Asen monarchs, extended his dominions to Belgrade, Nish and Skopje; he acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the Pope, and received a royal crown from a papal legate. Cultural and economic growth persisted under Ivan Asen II (1218–1241), who extended Bulgaria’s control over Albania, Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace. In his time the empire attained a prosperity unknown by that moment: commerce, the arts and literature flourished. Tarnovo became a major political, economic, cultural and religious center seen as “the Third Rome”, unlike the already declining Constantinople.
The Asen dynasty ended in 1257, and due to Mongol invasions, internal conflicts, and constant Byzantine and Hungarian attacks, the country’s military and economic might declined. By the end of the 14th century, factional divisions between Bulgarian feudal landlords and the spread of Bogomilism had caused the Second Bulgarian Empire to split into three small tsardoms - Vidin, Tarnovo and Karvuna - and several semi-independent principalities that fought among themselves, and also with Byzantines, Hungarians, Serbs, Venetians and Genoese. In the same period the Ottoman Turks, who had already started their invasion of the Balkans, conquered most Bulgarian towns and fortresses south of the Balkan Mountains and began their northwards conquest.
Ottoman Rule and National Awakening
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 all Bulgarian lands south of the Danube.North of the Danube, where a significant number of Bulgarian nobility and common folk remained, the population was under the jurisdiction of various Christian autonomous, predominately Wallachian-led principalities, where the Bulgarian alphabet continued to be used and many cities, like the Wallachian capital of Targovishte, kept their Bulgarian names. The nobility in these Christian principalities continued to be known by their Bulgarian titles of bolyars and regularly helped the southern population to migrate north. The southern nobility however, was eliminated and the peasantry was enserfed to Ottoman masters. The population lost its national consciousness under the oppression, intolerance and misgovernment of the invaders. Bulgarian culture was suppressed and the educated clergy fled to other countries, while Bulgarians were considered an inferior class of people and were subjected to heavy imposts.
The Battle of Shipka Pass was crucial for the liberation of Bulgaria. In only five days, the Bulgarian volunteers killed 1/3 of the 30,000-strong Ottoman Central army. In the final stage of the battle the defenders, having finished their ammunition, used rocks and bodies of fallen comrades to repulse the Ottoman attacks.
Throughout the nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule, the Bulgarian people responded to their oppression by strengthening the haydut tradition, and attempted to reestablish their state by organizing several revolts, most notably the First and Second Tarnovo Uprisings (1598 / 1686) and Karposh’s Rebellion (1689). The National awakening of Bulgaria became one of the key factors in the struggle for liberation, resulting in the 1876 April uprising—the largest and best-organized Bulgarian rebellion. Some 15,000 to 30,000 Bulgarians were killed as the Ottoman authorities put down the uprising. The massacres prompted the Great Powers to take action. They convened the Constantinople Conference in 1876, but their decisions were rejected by the Ottoman authorities. This allowed the Russian Empire to seek a solution by force without risking military confrontation with other Great Powers, as had happened in the Crimean War. In 1877 Russia declared war on the Ottoman empire, and with the help of Bulgarian volunteersdefeated the Ottoman forces. The Treaty of San Stefano was signed on 3 March 1878, which set up an autonomous Bulgarian principality.
The other Great Powers immediately rejected the treaty, fearing that such a large country in the Balkans might threaten their interests. The subsequent Treaty of Berlin (1878) provided for a much smaller autonomous state comprising Moesia and the region of Sofia. The Bulgarian principality won a war against Serbia and incorporated the semi-autonomous Ottoman territory of Eastern Rumelia in 1885, and proclaimed itself an independent state on 5 October (22 September O.S.), 1908.
Third Bulgarian State
Tsar Ferdinand I and his cabinet prepare to announce the declaration of independence, 1908
In the years following the achievement of independence Bulgaria became increasingly militarized and was referred to as “the Balkan Prussia”. Between 1912 and 1918, Bulgaria became involved in a string of three consecutive conflicts – the Balkan Wars and World War I. After a disastrous defeat in the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria again found itself fighting on the losing side as a result of its alliance with the Central Powers in World War I. Despite achieving several decisive victories at Doiran, Monastir and again at Doiran in 1918, the country capitulated in 1918 and suffered significant territorial losses, a total of 412,000 casualties, and a wave of more than 253,000 refugees who put an additional strain on the already ruined national economy.
The political unrest resulting from these losses led to the establishment of a royal authoritarian dictatorship by Tsar Boris III (1918–1943). Bulgaria entered World War II in 1941 as a member of the Axis but declined to participate in Operation Barbarossa and saved its Jewish population from deportation to concentration camps. In the summer of 1943 Boris III died suddenly, an event which pushed the country into political turmoil as the war turned against Nazi Germany and the Communist guerilla movement gained more power. In September 1944 the Communist-dominatedFatherland Front took power, following strikes and unrest, ending the alliance with Nazi Germany and joining the Allied side until the end of the war in 1945.
The Communist uprising of 9 September 1944 led to the abolition of monarchic rule, but it was not until 1946 that a people’s republic was established. It came under the Soviet sphere of influence, with Georgi Dimitrov (1946–1949) as the foremost Bulgarian political leader. Bulgaria installed a Soviet-style planned economy with some market-oriented policies emerging on an experimental level under Todor Zhivkov (1954–1989). By the mid 1950s standards of living rose significantly. Lyudmila Zhivkova, daughter of Zhivkov, promoted Bulgaria’s national heritage, culture and arts worldwide. On the other hand, an assimilation campaign of the late 1980s directed against ethnic Turks resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 of them to Turkey. On 10 November 1989, the Bulgarian Communist Party gave up its political monopoly, Zhivkov resigned, and Bulgaria embarked on a transition from a single-party republic to a parliamentary democracy.
Zhelyu Zhelev (left), the first democratically elected president of Bulgaria with George H. W. Bush in 1990
In June 1990 the first free elections took place, won by the moderate wing of the Communist Party (the Bulgarian Socialist Party—BSP). In July 1991, a new constitution that provided for a relatively weak elected President and for a Prime Minister accountable to the legislature, was adopted. The new system eventually failed to improve living standards or create economic growth — the average quality of life and economic performance actually remained lower than in the times of Communism well into the early 2000s. A reform package introduced in 1997 restored positive economic growth, but living standards continued to suffer. After 2001 economic, political and geopolitical conditions improved greatly, and Bulgaria achieved High Human Development status. It became a member of NATO in 2004 and of the European Union in 2007.
Bulgaria’s geographic coordinates are 43° N 25° E. Its total area is 110,994 square kilometers, which ranks it as the 105th largest country in the world. A total of 1,808 kilometers of land borders are shared with five countries — Greece (494 km), Macedonia (148 km), Romania (608 km), Serbia (318 km) and Turkey (240 km).
Bulgaria has several notable topographical features: the Danubian Plain, which runs along both sides of the border with Romania; the Balkan Mountains; the Thracian Plain; and the Rhodope Mountains. The southern edge of the Danubian Plain slopes upward into the foothills of the Balkans, which are highest in the western part of the country. The Thracian Plain is roughly triangular, beginning near Sofia in the west and broadening as it reaches the Black Sea coast.
A view of the Sredna Gora range
Sunrise near Chernomorets. The Black Sea covers the entire eastern bound of Bulgaria
About 30% of the land is made up of plains, while plateaus and hills account for 41%. 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 Balkan mountain chain runs west-east through the middle of the country, north of the Rose Valley. Hilly countryside and plains lie to the southeast, along the Black Sea coast, and along Bulgaria’s main river, the Danube, to the north. Bulgaria’s highest point is Musala (2,925 meters (9,596 ft)) and its lowest point is the sea level at the Black Sea coast.
Bulgaria overall has a temperate climate, with cold winters and hot summers. Considering its relatively small size, Bulgaria has substantial climatic variation because it is located at the meeting point of Mediterranean and continental air masses and because its mountains partition climatic zones.Precipitation averages about 630 millimeters (24.8 in) per year. In the lowlands rainfall varies between 500 and 800 millimeters (19.7 and 31.5 in), and in the mountain areas between 1,000 and 2,500 millimeters (39.4 and 98.4 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.
The Eastern Imperial Eagle has a gradually growing population in Bulgaria.
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. Most rivers flow through mountainous areas. The longest river located solely in Bulgarian territory, the Iskar, has a length of 400 kilometers (249 mi). Other major rivers include the Struma and the Maritsa in the south.
Environment and wildlife
Bulgaria has signed and ratified the Kyoto protocol and has achieved a 30% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 to 2009, completing the protocol’s objectives. However, pollution from outdated factories and metallurgy works, as well as severe deforestation, continue to be major problems. Urban areas are particularly affected mostly due to energy production from coal-based power plants and automobile traffic,while pesticide usage in the agriculture and antiquated industrial sewage systems have resulted in extensive soil and water pollution with chemicals and detergents. Bulgaria remains the only EU member which does not recycle municipal waste, although an electronic waste recycling plant was put in operation in June 2010. The situation has improved in recent years, and several government-funded programs have been initiated in order to reduce pollution levels.
Three national parks, 11 nature parks and 17 biosphere reserves exist on Bulgaria’s territory. Nearly 35% of its land area consists of forests, where some of the oldest trees in the world – such as Baikushev’s Pine and the Granit oak – have grown. The flora of Bulgaria encompasses more than 3,800 species of which 170 are endemic and 150 are considered endangered. The fauna is represented prominently by the brown bear and the jackal, while the Eurasian lynx and the Eastern imperial eagle have small, but growing populations.
The national assembly of Bulgaria
Bulgaria functions as a parliamentary democracy in which the prime minister occupies the most powerful executive position. The political system has three separate branches of power – legislative, executive and judicial. Bulgaria has universal suffrage for citizens 18 years of age and older. Elections are supervised by an independent Central Election Commission that includes members from all major political parties. Parties must register with the commission prior to participating in a national election. Normally, the selectee as prime minister is the leader of the party receiving the most votes in parliamentary elections.
The National Assembly (Народно събрание) consists of 240 deputies, each elected for four-year terms by direct popular vote. 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. The president serves as the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. 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 simple majority of all MPs. Boyko Borisov, leader of the centre-right party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (Grazhdani za Evropeysko Razvitie na Bulgaria, GERB), became prime minister on 27 July 2009, and Georgi Parvanov was re-elected as a president in 2005. In 2011 Rosen Plevneliev from GERB was elected to succeed Parvanov, receiving 52.5% of the votes on the second round against 47.5% for his Socialist Party opponent Ivaylo Kalfin.
The Bulgarian legal system recognizes the Acts of Parliament as a main source of law, and is a typical representative of the Romano-Germanic law family. The judiciary is a separate branch and is overseen by the Ministry of Justice, while the Supreme Administrative Court and Supreme Court of Cassation, the highest courts of appeal, rule on the application of laws in lower courts. The Supreme Judicial Council manages the system and appoints judges. Bulgaria’s judiciary remains one of Europe’s most corrupt and inefficient.
Law enforcement organisations are mainly subordinate to the Ministry of Interior. The National Police Service is responsible for combating general crime and supporting the operations of other law enforcement agencies, the National Investigative Service and the Central Office for Combating Organized Crime. The Police Service has criminal and financial sections and national and local offices. The Ministry of Interior also heads the Border Police Service and the National Gendarmerie, a specialized branch for anti-terrorist activity, crisis management and riot control. In 2008, the State Agency for National Security, a specialized body for counterintelligence, was established with the aim to eliminate threats to national security. Bulgaria’s police force numbers 27,000 officers.
Bulgaria is a unitary state. Between 1987 and 1999 the administrative structure consisted of nine provinces (oblasti, singular oblast). In 1999, with the aim of decentralizing the country, a new administrative structure was adopted. It includes 27 provinces and a metropolitan capital province (Sofia-Grad). All areas take their names from their respective capital cities. The provinces subdivide into 264 municipalities.
Regional governors are named by the national Council of Ministers, providing for a highly centralized state. Municipalities are run by mayors, who are elected to four-year terms, and by municipal councils, which are directly elected legislative bodies. Subnational jurisdictions are heavily dependent on the central government for funding.
Foreign Relations and Military
Bulgaria became a member of the United Nations in 1955, and a founding member of OSCE in 1975. It joined NATO on 29 March 2004, signed the European Union Treaty of Accession on 25 April 2005, and became a full member of the European Union on 1 January 2007. Euro-Atlantic integration has been a priority for the country since the Fall of Communism, although even the Communist leadership had aspirations of leaving the Warsaw Pact and joining the European Communities as early as 1987. Bulgaria’s relationship with its neighbors has generally been good. The country has played an important role in promoting regional security.
A Bulgarian Air Force Mikoyan MiG-29fighter jet at Graf Ignatievo Air Base
Bulgaria remained free of foreign deployments on its territory until 2001, when it hosted six KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft and 200 support personnel for the war effort in Afghanistan, which was the first stationing of foreign forces on its territory since World War II. In April 2006 Bulgaria and the United States signed a defense cooperation agreement providing for the usage of the Bezmer and Graf Ignatievo air bases, the Novo Selo training range, and a logistics center in Aytos as joint military facilities. The facilities serve to enhance Bulgaria’s military capabilities by means of joint training. Foreign Policy magazine lists Bezmer Air Base as one of the six most important overseas facilities used by the USAF.
The military of Bulgaria, an all-volunteer body, consists of three services—land forces, navy and air force. The country maintains a total of 913 troops deployed abroad as part of various UN and NATO missions. Historically, Bulgaria deployed significant numbers of military and civilian advisers in socialist-oriented countries, such as Nicaragua and Libya (more than 9,000 personnel).
Following a series of reductions beginning in 1990, the active troops today number about 32,000, down from 152,000 in 1988, and are supplemented by a reserve force of 303,000 soldiers and officers and 34,000 paramilitary servicemen. The inventory includes mostly equipment of Soviet origin, such as MiG-29 fighters, SA-10 Grumble SAMs and SS-21 Scarab short-range ballistic missiles. Military spending in 2009 cost $1.19 billion.
Sofia is the financial heart of the country and is included in the Yugozapaden planning region, which has a per capita PPS GDP of $25,130.
Bulgaria has an industrialized free market economy in the upper middle income range, with a large private sector accounting for more than 80% of GDP. From a largely agricultural country with 80% of its population in rural areas in 1948, by the 1980s Bulgaria transformed into an industrial economy with scientific and technological research as its top priorities. After the loss of COMECON markets, in the 1990s the country suffered a sharp drop in industrial and agricultural production, and ultimately an economic collapse in 1997. After 2001, Bulgaria experienced rapid economic growth, even though its income level remains one of the lowest within the EU with an average monthly wage of 689 leva (354 euro).According to Eurostat data, Bulgarian PPS GDP per capita stood at 44% of the EU average in 2010, while the cost of living was 51% of the EU average. The currency is the lev, which is pegged to the euro at a rate of 1.95583 levа for 1 euro.
Amidst the late-2000s financial crisis, unemployment rates increased to 10.1% in 2010, while GDP growth contracted from 6.2% (2008) to −5.5% (2009). The crisis had a negative impact mostly on industry, with a 10% decline in the national industrial production index, a 31% drop in mining, and a 60% drop in “ferrous and metal production”. Positive growth was restored to 0.2% in 2010.
Corruption in the public administration and a weak judiciary have hampered Bulgaria’s economic development.However, it ranks 28th in theEconomic Freedom of the World index, has the lowest personal and corporate income tax rates in the EU, and the second lowest public debt of all European Union member states at 16.2% of GDP in 2010. In 2010, GDP (PPP) was estimated at $97.1 billion, with a per capita value of $12,934. The services sector accounts for 64.6% of GDP, followed by industry with 30.1% and agriculture with 5.3%. Major industries include iron, copper, lead and coal extraction,chemicals, machinery, petroleum refinement, steel and vehicle components production. The total labor force amounts to 2.5 million people.
Primary industrial exports are clothing, iron and steel, machinery and refined fuels. The mining sector employs a total of 120,000 people and generates about 5% of the country’s GDP with $3.51 billion worth of exports. In Europe, the country ranks as the 3rd-largest copper producer, 4th-largest gold producer and 9th-largest coal producer. In 2008 the electronicsindustry marked more than $ 260 million in exports, primarily of components, computers and consumer electronics. Another major item of Bulgaria’s industry is military equipment, the exports of which amounted to $358 million in 2010, including the manufacture of 50% of all radar systems for Northrop Grumman’s UK branch.
In contrast with the industrial sector, agriculture has marked a decline since the beginning of the 2000s, with production in 2008 amounting to only 66% of that between 1999 and 2001 and an overall drop in cereal and vegetable yields with nearly 40% since 1990. Despite this, Bulgaria remains a net agricultural and food exporter and two-thirds of its exports are to OECD countries. It is the third-largest producer of tobacco in Europe and the largest global producer of perfumery essential oils such as lavender and rose oil. A five-year modernization and development program was launched by the government in 2007, aimed at strengthening the sector by investing a total of 3.2 billion euro.
In recent years Bulgaria has emerged as an attractive tourist destination as it holds some of the least expensive resorts in Europe and boasts some of the last deserted beaches on the continent. In 2010, Lonely Planet ranked Bulgaria among its top 10 travel destinations for 2011. Annually it is visited by some 9,000,000 people, with Greeks, Romanians and Germans accounting for more than 40% of all visitors. Main destinations include the capital Sofia, the medieval capital Veliko Tarnovo, coastal resorts Albena, Golden Sands and Sunny Beach and winter resorts Bansko, Pamporovo and Borovets.
Wind turbines near cape Kaliakra.
Although it has relatively few reserves of fossil fuels, Bulgaria’s well-developed energy sector and strategic geographical location make it a key European energy hub. Nearly 34% of the electricity is produced by nuclear energy from the power station at Kozloduy and public opinion is strongly in support of nuclear energy development. Recent years have seen a rapid increase in electricity production from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power,making Bulgaria one of the fastest-growing wind energy producers in the world. The country aims at producing 16 % of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.
Bulgaria’s national road network has a total length of 40,231 kilometers (24,998 mi), of which 39,587 kilometers (24,598 mi) are paved, but nearly half of them fall into the lowest international rating for paved roads. Railroads are a major mode of freight transportation, although highways carry a progressively larger share of freight. Bulgaria has 6,238 kilometers (3,876 mi) of railway track and plans to construct a high-speed railway by 2017, at a cost of €3 bln. Sofia and Plovdiv are major air travel hubs, while Varna and Burgas are the principal maritime trade ports.
Bulgaria has an extensive, but antiquated telecommunications network which requires substantial modernization. Telephone service is available in most villages, and a central digital trunk line connects most regions. Currently there are three active mobile phone operators - Mtel, GLOBUL and Vivacom.Since 2000, a rapid increase in the number of Internet users has occurred – from 430,000 they grew to 1,545,100 in 2004, and 3.4 million (48% penetration rate) in 2010. Bulgaria has the fastest average Broadband Internet speed in the world after Romania and South Korea.
Science and Technology
Tower of the 200 cm (79 in) telescope at the Rozhen Observatory.
In 2010 Bulgaria spent 0.25% of its GDP on scientific research, which represents one of the lowest scientific budgets in Europe. Chronic underinvestment in the sector since 1990 forced many scientific professionals to leave the country. As a result, Bulgaria’s economy scores low in terms of innovation, competitiveness and high added value exports.
The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) is the leading scientific institution in the country and employs most of Bulgaria’s researchers in its numerous branches. The principal areas of research and development are energy, nanotechnology, archaeology and medicine. With major-generalGeorgi Ivanov flying on Soyuz 33 in 1979, Bulgaria became the 6th country in the world to have an astronaut in space. Bulgaria has deployed its own experiments on various missions, such as the RADOM-7 dosimeters on the International Space Station and Chandrayaan-1 and the space greenhouse (a Bulgarian invention) on the Mir space station. In 2011 the government announced plans to reboot the space program by producing a new micro satellite and joining the European Space Agency.
Due to its large-scale computing technology exports to COMECON states, in the 1980s Bulgaria became known as the Silicon Valley of the Eastern Bloc. The country ranked 8th in the world in 2002 by total number of ICT specialists, outperforming countries with far larger populations, and it operates the only supercomputer in the Balkan region, an IBM Blue Gene/P, which entered service in September 2008.
A group of Bulgarian men in 1926
The 2011 census gives a figure of 7,364,570 inhabitants, down from a peak population of 9 million inhabitants in 1989. Bulgaria has had negative population growth since the early 1990s, when the collapse of the economy caused some 800,000 people – mostly young adults – to emigrate by 2004. The population continues to decrease with 30,000 people per year and the growth rate is the lowest of any sovereign country in the world.
According to the 2011 census, the population consists mainly of ethnic Bulgarians (84.8%), followed by the Turkish (8.8%) and Roma minorities (4.9%). Of the remaining 1.5%, 0.7% comprises some 40 smaller minorities, while 0.8% of the population have not declared their ethnicity. About 5,659,000 people (85%) in the country speak Bulgarian as their mother tongue, which is the only official language. Bulgarian is the most ancient Slavic language, with certain grammatical peculiarities distinguishing it from the other languages in this group.
Most of the population (76%) self-identify as Orthodox Christian. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church gained autocephalous status in 927 ADand is the earliest Slavic Orthodox Church. Other religious denominations include Islam (10%), Roman Catholicism (0.8%) and Protestantism(1.1%); other religions (0.2%), and with “not stated” totalling approximately 11.9%. Bulgaria regards itself officially as a secular state. The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion, but appoints Orthodoxy as a “traditional” religion.
Government estimates from 2003 put the literacy rate at 98.6%; approximately the same for both sexes. Bulgaria has traditionally had high educational standards. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Science funds all educational establishments, sets criteria for textbooks and oversees the publishing process. The State provides education in its schools free of charge, except for higher education establishments. The educational process spans through 12 grades, where grades one to eight are the primary level and nine to twelve are the secondary level.Secondary level establishments can be technical, vocational, general or profile-oriented, while higher education consists of a 4-year bachelor degree and 1-year master’s degree.
Life expectancy is 73.6 years, below the European union average. The primary causes of death are similar to those in other industrialized countries, mainly cardiovascular diseases,neoplasms and respiratory diseases. Bulgaria has a universal health care system financed by taxes and compulsory or voluntary health insurance contributions. The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) pays a gradually increasing portion of the costs of primary health care. Between 2002 and 2004, health care expenditures in the national budget increased from 3.8% to 4.3%, with the NHIF accounting for more than 60% of annual expenditures. In 2010, the health care budget amounts to 4.2% of GDP, or about 1.3 billion euro. Bulgaria has 181 doctors per 100,000 people, above the EU average.
Most of the population (72.5%) resides in urban areas. Bulgaria has the highest home ownership rate in the world; about 97% of the population own a private home. There is also a very high rate of household appliances ownership, such as television sets (97.9% of all households), refrigerators (93.3%) and telephones (90.6%), and a relatively high ownership rate for computers(42.9%) and automobiles (41.9%). The average rates in all categories are substantially higher in Sofia, by far the largest settlement in the country and the 12th largest city in the European Union with a population of more than 1,200,000 people. Other cities have a population as follows:
|view · talk · editview · talk · editLargest cities of Bulgaria2011 Census|
|Rank||City Name||Province||Pop.||Rank||City Name||Province||Pop.|
|6||Stara Zagora||Stara Zagora||138,272||16||Veliko Tarnovo||Veliko Tarnovo||68,783|
Ancient Roman architecture in Plovdiv, the oldest city in Europe and the 6th oldest settlement in the world, continuously inhabited since at least 3,000 BC.
Traditional Bulgarian culture contains mainly Thracian, Slavic and Bulgar heritage, along with Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Celtic influences.Thracian artifacts include numerous tombs and golden treasures. The country’s territory includes parts of the Roman provinces of Moesia, Thrace andMacedonia, and many of the archaeological discoveries date back to Roman times, while ancient Bulgars have also left traces of their heritage in music and in early architecture. Traces of Gothic culture also exist on Bulgaria’s territory, as testified by the Wulfila Bible - the first book written in a Germanic language, which was created in Nicopolis ad Istrum in the 4th century.
A vast number of archaeological sites from all eras are scattered around the country’s territory. Bulgaria has the third-largest total number of uncovered archaeological sites in Europe after Italy and Greece, and many of them are Thracian in origin. A historical artifact of major importance is the oldest golden treasure in the world, coming from the site of the Varna Necropolis and dating back to 5,000 BC. The Varna Necropolis also reveals evidence of the first European civilization.
Apart from these sites, nine objects have been inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Madara Rider, the Thracian tombs in Sveshtari and Kazanlak, the Boyana Church, the Rila Monastery, the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo, Pirin National Park, Sreburna Nature Reserveand the ancient city of Nesebar.
Literature, Music and Arts
Worldwide usage of the Cyrillic alphabet
Both the First and the Second Bulgarian empires functioned as the hub of Slavic culture during much of the Middle Ages, exerting considerable cultural influence over the Eastern Orthodox Slavic world by means of the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools. The Cyrillic alphabet, used as a writing system to many languages in Eastern Europe and Asia, originated in the former around the 9th century AD. However, Bulgaria’s impetus in the arts ended with the Ottoman occupation in the 14th century when many early masterpieces were destroyed. Native artistic life did not re-emerge until the National Revival in the 19th century.
One of the earliest pieces of Slavic literature were created in Medieval Bulgaria, such as The Didactic Gospel by Constantine of Preslav and An Account of Letters by Chernorizets Hrabar, both written c. 893. Notable Bulgarian authors include late Romantic Ivan Vazov, Symbolists Pencho Slaveykov and Peyo Yavorov, Yordan Radichkov and Blaga Dimitrova. In 1981 Bulgarian-born writer Elias Canetti was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Writer and philosopher Tzvetan Todorov
Bulgarian musical tradition is long-standing and can be traced back to the early Middle Ages and the works of Yoan Kukuzel (c. 1280–1360). National folk music has a distinctive sound and uses a wide range of traditional instruments, such as gudulka, gaida (bagpipe), kaval and tupan. One of the most distinguishing features of Bulgarian folk music is the extended time, which has no equivalent in the rest of European music. The State Television Female Vocal Choir is the most famous performing folk ensemble, and received a Grammy Award in 1990. Classical music, opera and ballet are represented by composers Emanuil Manolov, Pancho Vladigerov and Georgi Atanasov and singers Ghena Dimitrova and Boris Hristov.
Bulgaria has a rich religious visual arts heritage, especially in frescoes, murals and icons, many of them produced by the medieval Tarnovo Artistic School. Vladimir Dimitrov, Nikolay Diulgheroff and Christo are some of the most famous modern Bulgarian artists.
Rakiya distilled in Elena, central Bulgaria
Yogurt (kiselo mlyako), lukanka, banitsa, shopska salad, lyutenitsa and kozunak give Bulgaria a distinctive cuisine. Most dishes are oven baked, steamed, or in the form of stew. Deep-frying is uncommon, but grilling — especially different kinds of meats — is widely practiced. Pork is the most common meat, followed bychicken and lamb. Oriental dishes such as moussaka, gyuvech, and baklava are also present. Bulgarian cuisine is also noted for the quality of dairy products (a large variety of sirene and kashkaval cheese sorts) and salads, as well as the variety of wines and local alcoholic drinks such as rakiya, mastika and menta.
Exports of Bulgarian wine go worldwide, and until 1990 the country exported the world’s second-largest total of bottled wine. As of 2007, more than 200,000 tonnes of wine were produced annually. Among the more prominent local sorts are Dimiat and Mavrud.
The national volleyball team in the 2011 FIVB World League qualification
Bulgaria performs well in sports such as volleyball, wrestling, weight-lifting, canoeing, rowing, shooting sports,gymnastics, chess, and recently, sumo wrestling and tennis. The country fields one of the leading men’s volleyballteams, ranked 6th in the world according to the 2011 FIVB rankings, while the women’s volleyball team finished second in European League 2010.
Football has become by far the most popular sport in the country. Some of the most famous players are Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov and Hristo Stoichkov, twice winner of the European Golden Shoe and the most successful Bulgarian player of all time. Prominent domestic football clubs include PFC CSKA Sofiaand PFC Levski Sofia. Bulgaria’s best performance at World Cup finals came in 1994, where the national team consecutively eliminated Greece, Germany and Argentina and finished 4th.
Bulgaria participates in most Olympic competitions since its first appearance at the 1896 games, when it was represented by Charles Champaud. The country has appeared in most Summer Olympiads, and by 2010 had won a total of 218 medals: 52 gold, 86 silver, and 80 bronze, which puts it at 24th place in the all-time ranking.
2010 Wimbledon semi-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova is also Bulgarian.