Capital city: Sofia (Population: 1.2 million)
Area: 109,910 Km2
Religion: Orthodox (85%), Muslim (8%), others (7%)
Currency: The Bulgarian Lev is pegged to the euro. 1 EUR = 1.955 BGN.
Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria, re-incarnates one of the oldest states in Europe and is located in South eastern Europe, bordering five other countries: Romania to the north (mostly along the 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.
The country preserves 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), the country came under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries. Diplomacy re-established Bulgaria as a constitutional monarchy in 1878, with the Treaty of San Stefano marking the birth of the Third Bulgarian Kingdom. After World War II, Bulgaria became a communist state and part of the Eastern Bloc. In 1990, after the Revolutions of 1989, the Communist party gave up its monopoly on power and Bulgaria transitioned to democracy and free-market capitalism.
Currently Bulgaria functions as a parliamentary democracy under a unitary constitutional republic. A member of the European Union since 2007 and of NATO since 2004, it has a population of approximately 7.7 million, with Sofia as its capital and largest city
According to the 2001 census, Bulgaria’s population consists mainly of ethnic Bulgarian (83.9%), with two sizable minorities, Turks (9.4%) and Roma (4.7%). Of the remaining 2.0%, 0.9% comprises some 40 smaller minorities, most prominently in numbers are the Russians, Armenians, 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 of 2001.
96.3% of the population speak Bulgarian as their mother tongue. Bulgarian, a member of the Slavic language group, remains the only official language, but numbers of speakers of other languages (such as Turkish and Romany) correspond closely to ethnic proportions.
The country has a Roma population estimated at between 200,000 and 450,000. Most Bulgarians (82.6%) belong, at least nominally, to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the national Eastern Orthodox Church. 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%.
In recent years, Bulgaria has had one of the slowest population growth-rates in the world. Negative population growth has occurred since the early 1990s, due to economic collapse and high emigration. In 1989 the population comprised 9,009,018 people, in 2001 7,950,000 and in 2008 7,640,000. Now Bulgaria faces a severe demographic crisis. Bulgaria has a fertility-rate of 1.4 children per woman as of 2007, with a predicted rate of 1.7 by the end of 2050. The fertility-rate will need to reach 2.2 to restore natural growth in population.
The economy of Bulgaria declined dramatically during the 1990s with the collapse of the COMECON system and the loss of the Soviet market, to which the Bulgarian economy had been closely tied. The standard of living fell by about 40%, and only recently regained pre-1989 levels in June of 2004. In addition, UN sanctions against Serbia (1992-95) and Iraq took a heavy toll on the Bulgarian economy. The first signs of recovery emerged when GDP grew 1.4% in 1994 for the first time since 1988, and 2.5% in 1995. Inflation, which surged in 1994 to 122%, fell to 32.9% in 1995. During 1996, however, the economy collapsed due to the BSP’s, slow and mismanaged economic reforms, its disastrous agricultural policy, and an unstable and decentralized banking system, which led to an inflation rate of 311% and the collapse of the Lev. When pro-reform forces came into power in the spring 1997, an ambitious economic reform package, including introduction of a currency board regime, was agreed to with the IMF and the World Bank, and the economy began to stabilize. As of 2007 the economy is growing at a steady pace of above 5% a year with budget surpluses and shaky inflation. Future prospects are tied to the country’s increasingly important integration with the European Union Member States. The country is expected to join the Eurozone between 2010 and 2012.
|Agriculture and industry in Burgas Province source|
External trade & Investment
Since 1990, the bulk of Bulgarian trade has shifted from former COMECON countries primarily to the European Union, although Russian petroleum exports to Bulgaria make it Bulgaria’s single largest trading partner. In December 1996, Bulgaria joined the World Trade Organization. In the early 90’s Bulgaria’s slow pace of privatization, contradictory government tax and investment policies, and bureaucratic red tape kept foreign investment among the lowest in the region. Total direct foreign investment from 1991 through 1996 was $831 million. In the years since 1997, however, Bulgaria has begun to attract substantial foreign investment. In 2004 alone over 2.72 billion euros (3.47 billion US dollars) were invested by foreign companies. In 2005 economists observed a slowdown to about 1.8 billion euros (2.3 billion US dollars) in FDI which is attributed mainly to the end of the privatization of the major state owned companies.
In the European Union
On 1 January 2007 Bulgaria entered the European Union. This led to some immediate international trade liberalization, but there was no shock to the economy. The government is running annual surpluses of above 3%. This fact, together with annual GDP growth of above 5%, has brought the government indebtedness to 22.8% of GDP in 2006 from 67.3% five years earlier. This is to be contrasted with enormous current account deficits. Low interest rates guarantee the availability of funds for investment and consumption. For example, a boom in the real estate market started around 2003 and has not subsided yet. At the same time annual inflation in the economy is variable and during the last five years (2003-2007) has seen a low of 2.3% and high of 7.3%. Most importantly, this poses a threat to the country’s accession to the Eurozone. The Bulgarian government plans for the Euro to replace the Lev in 2010. However, experts predict that this might happen as late as in 2012. From a political point of view, there is a trade-off between Bulgaria’s economic growth and the stability required for early accession to the monetary union. Bulgaria’s per-capita PPP GDP is still only about a third of the EU25 average, while the country’s nominal GDP per capita is about 13% of the EU25 average.
As of 1 January, 2008 the income tax for all citizens is set to a flat rate of 10%. This flat tax is one of the lowest income rates in the world and the lowest income rate in the European Union. The reform was done in hope for higher GDP growth and greater tax collection rates. Some called it a "revolution" in taxation, but the changes were only met with mild discussions and some protests by affected working classes. The proposal was modified to allow for compensating the perceived loses from the changes in the tax formula. The corporate income tax is also 10% as of 1 January, 2007 which is also among the lowest.
The Thracians lived in what is now known as Bulgaria from about 3500 B.C. They were incorporated into the Roman Empire by the first century A.D. At the decline of the empire, the Goths, Huns, Bulgars, and Avars invaded. The Bulgars, who crossed the Danube from the north in 679, took control of the region. Although the country now bears the name of the Bulgars, the Bulgar language and culture soon died out, having been replaced by Slavic language, writing, and religion. In the year 865, Boris I adopted Orthodox Christianity. The Bulgars twice conquered most of the Balkan Peninsula between 893 and 1280. But in 1396 they were invaded by the Ottoman Empire, which made Bulgaria a Turkish province until 1878. www.infoplease.com
|Thracian peltast - source|
In 1878, Bulgaria became an independent state after the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). The Congress of Berlin (1878) limited Bulgaria’s territory and fashioned it into a small principality ruled by Alexander of Battenburg.
Alexander was succeeded in 1887 by Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who declared Bulgaria a kingdom.
During the First Balkan War (1912–1913), Bulgaria and the other members of the Balkan League fought against Turkey to regain Balkan territory. Angered by the small portion of Macedonia it received after the battle (having considered Macedonia an integral part of Bulgaria) the country instigated the Second Balkan War (June–Aug. 1913) against Turkey as well as its former allies. Bulgaria lost the war and all the territory it had gained in the First Balkan War. Bulgaria joined Germany in World War I in the hope of again gaining Macedonia. After this second failure, Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his son, Boris III, in 1918. Boris III squandered Bulgaria’s resources and assumed dictatorial powers in 1934–1935. Bulgaria then fought on the side of the Nazis in World War II, but after Russia declared war on Bulgaria on Sept. 5, 1944, Bulgaria switched sides. Three days later, on Sept. 9, 1944, a Communist coalition took control of the country and set up a government under Kimon Georgiev. www.infoplease.com
|Balkan Wars source|
A Soviet-style People’s Republic was established in 1947. The general secretary of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Todor Zhikov, resigned in 1989 after 35 years in power. His successor, Peter Mladenov, purged the Politburo, ended the Communist monopoly on power, and held free elections in May 1990 that led to a surprising victory for the Communist Party. Renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Mladenov was forced to resign in July 1990.
In October 1991, the Union of Democratic Forces won, forming Bulgaria’s first non-Communist government since 1946. Power shifted back and forth between the pro-Western Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and the BSP during the 1990s.
A country often described as lying at the crossroads linking the East and West, Bulgaria functioned as the hub of Slavic Europe during much of the Middle Ages, exerting considerable literary and cultural influence over the Eastern Orthodox Slavic world by means of the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools. Bulgaria also gave the world the Cyrillic alphabet, the second most-widely used alphabet in the world, which originated in these two schools in the 10th century A.D.
A number of ancient civilizations, most notably the Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Slavs, and Bulgars, have left their mark on the culture, history and heritage of Bulgaria. The country has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
- the early medieval large rock relief Madara Rider.
- two Thracian tombs (one in Sveshtari and one in Kazanlak)
- three monuments of medieval Bulgarian culture (the Boyana Church, the Rila Monastery and the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo)
- two examples of natural beauty: the Pirin National Park and the Srebarna Nature Reserve
- the ancient city of Nesebar, a unique combination of European cultural interaction, as well as, historically, one of the most important centres of sea-borne trade in the Black Sea
|Madara rider - source|
Note also the Varna Necropolis, a 3500-3200 B.C. burial-site, purportedly containing the oldest examples of worked gold in the world.
Bulgaria’s contribution to humanity continued throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with individuals such as John Atanasoff — a United States citizen of Bulgarian descent, regarded as the father of the digital computer. A number of noted opera-singers (Nicolai Ghiaurov, Boris Christoff, Raina Kabaivanska, Ghena Dimitrova), Anna Veleva, the world-famous harpist Anna-Maria Ravnopolska-Dean and successful artists (Christo Yavashev, Pascin, Vladimir Dimitrov) popularized the culture of Bulgaria abroad.
One of the best internationally known artists, Valya Balkanska sang the song Izlel e Delyu Haydutin, part of the Voyager Golden Record selection of music included in the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir also known as Mystery of Bulgarian voices has also attained a considerable degree of fame.
Here you can find Bulgarian traditions as well as their explanations.
This link includes everything about the historic influences of Bulgaria.
In this link you can find a list of most of Bulgaria’s famous composers. www.wikipedia.org - List of famous Bulgarians
Religion in Bulgaria is different than in western Europe, in this link you can find a description of the Orthodox church
In the northern-hemisphere winter, Samokov, Borovets, Bansko and Pamporovo become well-attended ski-resorts. Summer resorts exist on the Black Sea at Sozopol, Nessebur, Golden Sands, Sunny Beach, Sveti Vlas, Albena, Saints Constantine and Helena and many others. Spa resorts such as Bankya, Hisarya, Sandanski, Velingrad, Varshets and many others attract visitors throughout the year. Bulgaria has started to become an attractive tourist destination because of the quality of the resorts and prices below those found in Western Europe.
|Borovets - source|
Bulgaria has enjoyed a substantial growth in income from international tourism over the past decade. Beach-resorts attract tourists from Germany, Russia, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The ski-resorts are a favourite destination for British and Irish tourists.
Bulgaria now attracts close to 7 million visitors yearly. Tourism in Bulgaria makes a major contribution towards the country’s annual economic growth of 6% to 6.5%.
|Sozopol - source|
If you want get some interesting information about airlines and airports, hotels, sea-resorts, mountain-resorts, rent a car, weather and sports see:
If you want know more about interesting places in Bulgaria, follow this link. You will find here museums, old towns, galleries, romantic places, monuments, castles, and churches. http://www.bulgariatravel.org/eng/sights.php
Tourism in Bulgaria is very diverse. Bulgaria offers, for example, hunting, golf, skiing, spa and wellness centres, sport, and cultural tourism.
Bulgaria has very interesting and unique sights which are on the UNESCO list. This link offers World Natural and Cultural Heritage monuments.
History and everything about Bulgaria.
Here you can find out about Bulgarian traditions.
Traditions and culture
General Bulgarian information