Coordinates: 42°45′N 25°30′E
Bulgaria /bʌlˈɡɛəriə/ (Bulgarian: България, IPA: [bɤ̞ɫˈɡarijɐ]) is a country located in Southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south and the Black Sea to the east. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe's 14th-largest country. Its location has made it a historical crossroad for various civilisations and as such it is the home of some of the earliest metalworking, religious and other cultural artifacts in the world.
Cultures began developing in the area during the Neolithic period, and ancient history saw the presence of the Thracians, Greeks, and Romans. The First Bulgarian Empire was established in 681, and dominated most of the Balkans in the 9th-10th centuries and functioned as a Slavic cultural hub. After a short period of Byzantine rule, the Second Bulgarian Empire emerged and lasted until 1396, when most of its territory was included in the Ottoman Empire. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 created the Third Bulgarian State, which became independent in 1908. The following years saw several conflicts with its neighbours, which prompted Bulgaria to align with Germany in both World Wars. In 1946 it became a Communist republic with a single-party system. In 1989 the Communist Party allowed multi-party elections, following which Bulgaria transitioned to democracy and a market-based economy.
The population of 7.36 million people is predominantly urban and mainly concentrated in the administrative centres of its 28 provinces. Most commercial and cultural activities are concentrated in the capital Sofia. The strongest sectors of the economy are heavy industry, power engineering and agriculture, all relying on local natural resources.
The current political structure dates to the adoption of a democratic constitution in 1991. Bulgaria is a unitary parliamentary republic with a high degree of political, administrative and economic centralisation. It is a member of the European Union, NATO and the Council of Europe, a founding state of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and has taken a seat at the UN Security Council three times.
Prehistory and antiquity
The earliest examples of symbolic behaviour in humans were discovered in the Kozarnika cave, dating to 1,400,000 BC. Prehistoric cultures in Bulgarian lands include the Neolithic Hamangia culture,Vinča culture and the eneolithic Varna culture (fifth millennium BC). The Varna Necropolis offers insights for understanding the social hierarchy of the earliest European societies.
The earliest and one of the three primary ancestral groups of modern Bulgarians were the Thracians, who populated various tribes until king Teres united most of them in the Odrysian kingdom around 500 BC. They were eventually subjugated by Alexander the Great and later by the Roman Empire in 46 AD. After the division of the Roman Empire in 5th century the area fell under Byzantine control. From the 6th century the easternmost South Slavs gradually settled in the region, assimilating the Hellenised or Romanised Thracians.
First Bulgarian Empire
Asparukh, son of Old Great Bulgaria's khan Kubrat, migrated with several Bulgar tribes (supposed by most scholars to have been a semi-nomadic Turkic people from Central Asia) to the lower courses of the rivers Danube, Dniester and Dniepr. After 670 he was forced by the Avars to move into the Balkan Peninsula by leading a horde of 50,000 across the Danube and in 680 severed Scythia Minor from the Byzantine Empire. A peace treaty with Byzantium in 681 and the establishment of a permanent capital at Pliska south of the Danube marked the beginning of the First Bulgarian Empire. A common language developed from Slavonic, which functioned as a lingua franca for the region.
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 Byzantine emperor Nicephorus I in the Battle of Pliska, and introduced the first written code of law. Then in 864 Boris I abolished paganism in favour of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The Cyrillic Alphabet was created in Bulgaria's capital Preslav, becoming the official alphabet of Bulgaria in late IX century AD. Shortly after the Cyrillic Alphabet started its gradual spread from Bulgaria to Slavic nations to the north and north east of Bulgaria. Simeon the Great's 34-year rule began in 893 and saw the largest territorial expansion of Bulgaria, along with a golden age of Bulgarian culture.
Wars with Croatians, Magyars, Pechenegs and Serbs and the spread of the Bogomil heresy weakened Bulgaria after Simeon's death. Two consecutive Rus' and Byzantine invasions resulted in the seizure of the capital Preslav by the Byzantine army in 971. Under Samuil, Bulgaria somewhat recovered from these attacks and managed to conquer Serbia and Albania, but this rise ended when Byzantine emperor Basil II defeated the Bulgarian army at Klyuch in 1014. Samuil died shortly after the battle, and by 1018 the Byzantines had ended the First Bulgarian Empire.
Second Bulgarian Empire
After his conquest of Bulgaria, Basil II prevented revolts and discontent by retaining the rule of the local nobility and recognising the autocephaly of the Archbishopric of Ohrid. After his death Byzantine domestic policies changed and a series of unsuccessful rebellions broke out, the largest being led by Peter Delyan. In 1185 Asen dynasty nobles Ivan Asen I and Peter IV organised a major uprising which resulted in the re-establishment of the Bulgarian state. Ivan Asen and Peter laid the foundations of the Second Bulgarian Empire with Tarnovo as a capital.
Kaloyan, the third of the Asen monarchs, extended his dominion to Belgrade and Ohrid. He acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the Pope and received a royal crown from a papal legate. The empire reached its zenith under Ivan Asen II (1218–1241), when commerce and culture flourished. The strong economic and religious influence of Tarnovo made it a "Third Rome", unlike the already declining Constantinople.
The country's military and economic might declined after the Asen dynasty ended in 1257, facing internal conflicts, constant Byzantine and Hungarian attacks and Mongol domination. By the end of the 14th century, factional divisions between the feudal landlords and the spread of Bogomilism had caused the Second Bulgarian Empire to split into three tsardoms—Vidin, Tarnovo and Karvuna—and several semi-independent principalities that fought each other, along with Byzantines, Hungarians, Serbs, Venetians and Genoese. By the late 14th century the Ottoman Turks had started their conquest of Bulgaria and had taken most towns and fortresses south of the Balkan mountains.
Tarnovo was captured by the Ottomans after a three-month siege in 1393. After the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 and the fall of the Vidin Tsardom three years later, the Ottomans conquered all Bulgarian lands south of the Danube, with sporadic resistance ending when the Ottomans gained a firm hold on the Balkans by conquering Constantinople in 1453. Under the Ottoman system, Bulgarians were considered an inferior class of people and were subjected to heavy taxes; Bulgarian culture was suppressed and the educated clergy fled to other countries. The nobility was eliminated, the peasantry was enserfed to Ottoman masters, and the population lost its national consciousness.
Throughout the nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule, the Bulgarian people attempted to re-establish their state by organising several revolts, most notably the First (1598) and Second Tarnovo Uprisings (1686) and Karposh's Rebellion (1689). In the 18th century, the Enlightenment in Western Europe provided influence for the initiation of a movement known as the National awakening of Bulgaria. It restored national consciousness and became a key factor in the liberation struggle, resulting in the 1876 April Uprising. Up to 30,000 Bulgarians were killed as Ottoman authorities put down the rebellion. The massacres prompted the Great Powers to take action. They convened the Constantinople Conference in 1876, but their decisions were rejected by the Ottomans. 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 defeated its forces with the help of Bulgarian volunteers.
Third Bulgarian state
The Treaty of San Stefano was signed on 3 March 1878, setting up an de jure autonomous Bulgarian principality on the territories of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The Great Powers immediately rejected the treaty out of fear that such a large country in the Balkans might threaten their interests. The subsequent Treaty of Berlin provided for a much smaller state comprising Moesia and the region of Sofia, leaving large populations of Bulgarians outside the new country. This played a significant role in forming Bulgaria's militaristic approach to foreign affairs during the first half of the 20th century.
The Bulgarian principality won a war against Serbia and incorporated the semi-autonomous Ottoman territory of Eastern Rumelia in 1885, proclaiming itself an independent state on 22 September 1908. In the years following independence, Bulgaria increasingly militarised and was often referred to as "the Balkan Prussia". Between 1912 and 1918, Bulgaria became involved in three consecutive conflicts—two 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 fielding more than a quarter of its population in a 1,200,000-strong army and achieving several decisive victories at Doiran and Monastir, the country capitulated in 1918. The war resulted in significant territorial losses, a total of 412,000 casualties, and a wave of more than 253,000 refugees who put 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. The sudden death of Boris III in the summer of 1943 pushed the country into political turmoil as the war turned against Germany and the Communist guerilla movement gained momentum. Following strikes and unrest, in September 1944 the Communist-dominated Fatherland Front took power, ending the alliance with Germany and joining the Allied side until the war ended.
The left-wing uprising of 9 September 1944 led to the abolition of monarchic rule, but it was not until 1946 when a single-party people's republic was established. It became a part of the Soviet sphere of influence under the leadership of Georgi Dimitrov (1946–1949), who laid the foundations for a rapidly industrialising stalinist state. By the mid-1950s standards of living rose significantly, while political repressions were lessened. The Soviet-style planned economy saw some market-oriented policies emerging on an experimental level under Todor Zhivkov (1954–1989). His daughter Lyudmila bolstered national pride by promoting Bulgarian heritage, culture and arts worldwide. In an attempt to erase the identity of the ethnic Turk minority, an assimilation campaign was launched in 1984. This resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 of them to Turkey.
Under the influence of the collapsing Eastern Bloc, on 10 November 1989 the Communist Party gave up its political monopoly, Zhivkov resigned, and Bulgaria embarked on a transition to a parliamentary democracy. The first free elections in June 1990 were won by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP, the freshly-renamed Communist Party). A new constitution that provided for a relatively weak elected President and for a Prime Minister accountable to the legislature was adopted in July 1991. The new system initially failed to improve living standards or create economic growth—the average quality of life and economic performance remained lower than under Communism well into the early 2000s. A 1997 reform package restored 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 occupies a portion of the eastern Balkan peninsula, bordering five countries—Greece and Turkey to the south, Macedonia and Serbia to the west, and Romania to the north. The land borders have a total length of 1,808 kilometres (1,123 mi), and the coastline has a length of 354 kilometres (220 mi). Its total area of 110,994 kilometres (68,968 mi) ranks it as the world's 105th-largest country. Bulgaria's geographic coordinates are 43° N 25° E.
The most notable topographical features are the Danubian Plain, 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, while the Danube defines the border with Romania. The Thracian Plain is roughly triangular, beginning southeast of Sofia and broadening as it reaches the Black Sea coast.
The Balkan mountains run laterally through the middle of the country. The mountainous southwest of the country has two alpine ranges—Rila and Pirin, which border the lower but more extensive Rhodope Mountains to the east. Bulgaria is home to the highest point of the Balkan peninsula, Musala, at 2,925 metres (9,596 ft) and its lowest point is sea level. Plains occupy about one-third of the territory, while plateaus and hills occupy 41 per cent. The country has a dense network of about 540 rivers, most of which are relatively small and with low water levels. The longest river located solely in Bulgarian territory, the Iskar, has a length of 368 kilometres (229 mi). Other major rivers include the Struma and the Maritsa in the south.
Bulgaria has a dynamic climate, which results from its being positioned at the meeting point of Mediterranean and continental air masses and the barrier effect of its mountains. Northern Bulgaria averages 1 °C (34 °F) cooler and registers 200 millimetres (7.9 in) more annually than the regions south of the Balkan mountains. Temperature amplitudes vary significantly in different areas. The lowest recorded temperature is −38.3 °C (−36.9 °F), while the highest is 45.2 °C (113.4 °F).Precipitation averages about 630 millimetres (24.8 in) per year, and varies from 500 millimetres (19.7 in) in Dobrudja to more than 2,500 millimetres (98.4 in) in the mountains. Continental air masses bring significant amounts of snowfall during winter.
Environment and wildlife
Bulgaria adopted the Kyoto Protocol and achieved the protocol's objectives by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 to 2009 by 30 per cent. However, pollution from factories and metallurgy works and severe deforestation continue to cause major problems to the health and welfare of the population. Urban areas are particularly affected by energy production from coal-based powerplants and automobile traffic, while pesticide usage in the agriculture and antiquated industrial sewage systems produce extensive soil and water pollution with chemicals and detergents. Bulgaria is the only EU member which does not recycle municipal waste, although an electronic waste recycling plant opened in June 2010. The situation has improved in recent years, and several government-funded programmes have been put into place in an attempt to reduce pollution levels. According to Yale University's 2012 Environmental Performance Index, Bulgaria is a "modest performer" in protecting the environment.
Bulgaria's biodiversity is conserved in three national parks, 11 nature parks and 17 biosphere reserves. Nearly 35 per cent 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, grow. Its flora encompass 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.
Bulgaria is a parliamentary democracy in which the most powerful executive position is that of prime minister. The political system has three branches—legislative, executive and judicial, with universal suffrage for citizens at least 18 years old. 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 prime minister-elect is the leader of the party receiving the most votes in parliamentary elections.
Political parties gather in the National Assembly, which consists of 240 deputies elected to 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, and has the authority to return a bill for further debate, although the parliament can override the presidential veto by a simple majority vote of all members of parliament.Boyko Borisov of the centre-right party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) became prime minister on 27 July 2009, while GERB-backed Rosen Plevneliev was elected president in 2011, after receiving 52.5 per cent of the votes on the second round against 47.5 per cent for his Socialist Party opponent Ivaylo Kalfin. As of 2012, GERB has 117 seats in the National Assembly and no permanent political allies, thus ruling as a minority government.
Bulgaria has a typical civil law legal system. The judiciary is overseen by the Ministry of Justice. The Supreme Administrative Court and Supreme Court of Cassation are the highest courts of appeal and oversee the application of laws in subordinate courts. The Supreme Judicial Council manages the system and appoints judges. Bulgaria's judiciary, along with other institutions, remains one of Europe's most corrupt and inefficient.
Law enforcement is carried out by organisations mainly subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. The National Police Service (NPS) combats general crime, maintains public order and supports the operations of other law enforcement agencies. NPS fields 27,000 police officers in its local and national sections. The Ministry of Interior also heads the Border Police Service and the National Gendarmerie—a specialised branch for anti-terrorist activity, crisis management and riot control. Counterintelligence and national security are the responsibility of the State Agency for National Security, established in 2008.
Bulgaria is a unitary state. Since the 1880s, the number of territorial management units has varied from seven to 26. Between 1987 and 1999 the administrative structure consisted of nine provinces (oblasti, singular oblast). A new administrative structure was adopted in parallel with the decentralisation of the economic system. 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.
Municipalities are run by mayors, who are elected to four-year terms, and by directly elected municipal councils. Bulgaria is a highly centralised state, where the national Council of Ministers directly appoints regional governors and all provinces and municipalities are heavily dependent on it for funding.
Foreign relations and military
Bulgaria became a member of the United Nations in 1955 and since 1966 has been a non-permanent member of the Security Council three times, most recently from 2002 to 2003. Bulgaria was also among the founding nations of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (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 became a priority for the country since the fall of Communism, although the Communist leadership also had aspirations of leaving the Warsaw Pact and joining the European Communities by 1987. Bulgaria's relationship with its neighbours since 1990 has generally been good. The country also plays an important role in promoting regional security. Bulgaria has an active tripartite economic and diplomatic collaboration with Romania and Greece, maintains strong relations with EU members, the United States and Russia, and continues to improve its traditionally good ties with China and Vietnam. The HIV trial in Libya, which followed after the imprisonment of several Bulgarian nurses in Benghazi in 1998, had a significant impact on relations between Bulgaria, the European Union, and Libya. It resulted in the release of the nurses by Muammar Gaddafi's government, which was granted a contract to receive a nuclear reactor and weapons supplies from France in exchange.
Bulgaria hosted six KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft and 200 support personnel for the war effort in Afghanistan in 2001, which was the first stationing of foreign forces on its territory since World War II. International military relations were further expanded in April 2006, when Bulgaria and the United States signed a defence cooperation agreement providing for the usage of Bezmer and Graf Ignatievo air bases, the Novo Selo training range, and a logistics centre in Aytos as joint military training facilities. The same year Foreign Policy magazine listed Bezmer Air Base as one of the six most important overseas facilities used by the USAF due to its proximity to the Middle East. A total of 756 troops are deployed abroad as part of various UN and NATO missions. Historically, Bulgaria deployed significant numbers of military and civilian advisors in Soviet-allied countries, such as Nicaragua and Libya (more than 9,000 personnel).
Domestic defence is the responsibility of the all-volunteer military of Bulgaria, consisting of land forces, navy and air force. The land forces comprise of two mechanised brigades and eight independent regiments and battalions; the air force operates 106 aircraft and air defence systems in six air bases, and the navy operates a variety of ships, helicopters and coastal defence measures.
Following a series of reductions beginning in 1990, the number of active troops contracted from 152,000 in 1988 to about 32,000 in the 2000s, supplemented by a reserve force of 302,500 soldiers and officers and 34,000 paramilitary servicemen. The inventory is mostly of Soviet origin, such as MiG-29 fighters, SA-10 Grumble SAMs and SS-21 Scarab short-range ballistic missiles. By 2020 the government will spend $1.4 billion for the deployment of new fighter jets, communications systems and cyber warfare capabilities. Total military spending in 2009 cost $819 million.
Bulgaria has an industrialised market economy in the upper middle income range, where the private sector accounts for more than 80 per cent of GDP. From a largely agricultural country with a predominantly rural population in 1948, by the 1980s Bulgaria had transformed into an industrial economy with scientific and technological research as its top priorities in terms of budget expenditures. The loss of COMECON markets in 1990 and the subsequent "shock therapy" of the planned system caused a sharp drop in industrial and agricultural production, ultimately followed by an economic collapse in 1997. After 2000, Bulgaria experienced rapid economic growth, even though its income level remained one of the lowest within the EU with a gross average monthly wage of 755 leva (386 euro) in June 2012. Wages, however, account for only half of the total household income. Bulgarian PPS GDP per capita stood at 45 per cent of the EU average in 2011 according to Eurostat data, while the cost of living was 51 per cent of the average. The currency is the lev, which is pegged to the euro at a rate of 1.95583 levа for one euro. Bulgaria is not part of the eurozone and the financial crisis has pushed the accession date beyond 2015 according to some economic analysts.
Unemployment rate stood at 12.4 per cent in July 2012 and GDP growth contracted from 6.2 (2008) to −5.5 per cent (2009) amid the late-2000s financial crisis. The crisis had a negative impact mostly on industry, causing a 10 per cent decline in the national industrial production index, a 31 per cent drop in mining, and a 60 per cent drop in "ferrous and metal production". Positive growth was restored in 2010, reaching 0.2 per cent. However, by the end of 2011, investments were diminishing and consumption was dropping steadily due to rising unemployment. In 2010, intercompany debt exceeded 51 billion euro, and about 60% of all Bulgarian companies were indebted, excluding subcontractors, suppliers and producers.
Corruption remains a serious problem in the country as it is ranked 86th in the Corruption Perceptions Index and its rankings are gradually worsening. At the same time Bulgaria ranks 28th in the Economic Freedom of the World index, has the lowest personal and corporate income tax rates in the European Union, and the second-lowest public debt of all member states at 16.3 per cent of GDP in 2011. In 2011, GDP (PPP) was estimated at $101 billion, with a per capita value of $13,597. Sofia and the surrounding Yugozapaden planning area are the most developed region of the country with a per capita PPS GDP of $24,647 in 2009. The service sector accounts for 64.6 per cent of GDP, followed by industry with 30.1 per cent and agriculture with 5.3 per cent. The labour force is about 2.5 million people. Bulgaria is a net receiver of funds from the EU. The absolute amount of received funds was 589 million euro in 2009.
Local iron, copper, coal and lead deposits are vital for the domestic manufacturing sector. Major industries include extraction of metals and minerals, production of chemicals, machinery and vehicle components,petroleum refinement and steel. The mining sector and its related industries employ a total of 120,000 people and generate about five per cent of the country's GDP. The country is Europe's fourth-largest gold producer and sixth-largest coal producer. Almost all top export items of Bulgaria are industrial commodities such as oil products ($2.24 billion), copper products ($1.59 billion), medicaments ($493 million) and military equipment ($358 million).
In contrast with the industrial sector, agriculture has declined for the past decade. Production in 2008 amounted to only 66 per cent of that between 1999 and 2001, while cereal and vegetable yields dropped by nearly 40 per cent after 1990. Bulgaria, however, remains a net agricultural and food exporter, and two-thirds of its exports are to OECD countries. The country is the largest global producer of perfumery essential oils such as lavender and rose oil. A five-year modernisation and development programme was launched by the government in 2007, aimed at strengthening the agricultural sector with a total investment of 3.2 billion euro.
In recent years Bulgaria has emerged as an attractive tourist destination with some of Europe's least expensive resorts and the last remaining beaches outside the reach of the tourist industry.Lonely Planet ranked Bulgaria among its top 10 travel destinations for 2011. More than 40 per cent of its 9,000,000 annual visitors were Greeks, Romanians and Germans. Main destinations include the capital Sofia, the medieval capital Veliko Tarnovo, coastal resorts Golden Sands and Sunny Beach and winter resorts Bansko, Pamporovo and Borovets.
Science and technology
Bulgaria has one of Europe's lowest scientific research budgets at 0.25 per cent of GDP in 2010. Chronic underinvestment in the sector since 1990 forced many scientific professionals to leave the country. As a result, Bulgaria scores low in terms of innovation, competitiveness and high-value added exports.
The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) is the leading scientific institution and employs most Bulgarian researchers in its numerous branches. Principal areas of research and development are energy, nanotechnology, archaeology and medicine. Bulgaria became the 6th country in the world to have an astronaut in space with Georgi Ivanov's flight on Soyuz 33 in 1979. It has deployed its own experiments on various missions, such as RADOM-7 dosimeters on the International Space Station and Chandrayaan-1, and space greenhouses (a Bulgarian development) on the Mir space station. In 1999, Bulgaria joined CERN and in 2011 the government announced plans to reboot the space programme by producing a new microsatellite and joining the European Space Agency. In the 1980s Bulgaria became known as the "Silicon Valley of the Eastern Bloc" due to its large-scale computing technology exports to COMECON states. The country ranked third in the world in 2011 by total number of ICT specialists, outperforming countries with far larger populations, and operates the only supercomputer in the Balkan region, an IBM Blue Gene/P at the National Centre for Supercomputing Applications.
Although it has relatively few reserves of fossil fuels, Bulgaria's well-developed energy sector and strategic geographic location make it a key European energy centre. Nearly 34 per cent of its electricity is produced by the nuclear power station at Kozloduy and public opinion strongly supports nuclear energy development. The rapid expansion of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power stations make Bulgaria one of the fastest-growing wind energy producers in the world. The country aims to produce 16 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.
The national road network has a total length of 40,231 kilometres (24,998 mi), of which 39,587 kilometres (24,598 mi) are paved, but nearly half 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 kilometres (3,876 mi) of railway track and currently a total of 81 km of high-speed lines are in operation and a further 380 km are under construction with expected completion in 2013. Rail links are available with Romania, Greece and Serbia, and express trains serve direct routes to Kiev, Minsk, Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Sofia and Plovdiv are the country's air travel hubs, while Varna and Burgas are the principal maritime trade ports. Varna is also scheduled to be the first station on EU territory to receive natural gas through the South Stream pipeline.
The telecommunications network is generally antiquated and requires substantial modernisation. 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. The number of Internet users has increased rapidly since 2000—from 430,000 their number grew to 1.55 million in 2004, and 3.4 million (48 per cent penetration rate) in 2010. Bulgaria has the third-fastest average Broadband Internet speed in the world after South Korea and Romania with an average speed of 1,611 KBps.
According to the 2011 census, the population of Bulgaria was 7,364,570 people, down from a peak of nine million in 1989. Bulgaria has had negative population growth since the early 1990s, when the collapse of the economy caused some 937,000 people—mostly young adults—to emigrate by 2005. The population continues to decrease and the current growth rate is one of the lowest in the world.
Bulgarians are the main ethnic group and comprise 84.8 per cent of the population. Turkish and Roma minorities comprise 8.8 and 4.9 per cent, respectively; some 40 smaller minorities comprise 0.7 per cent, and 0.8 per cent do not self-identify with an ethnic group. Romani people are considered second-class citizens by some Bulgarians and approximately 70,000 of them are engaged in criminal activities. Trafficking among Romani people is also widespread due to their bride market traditions. Roma integration programmes funded by the European Union have so far been unsuccessful. All ethnic groups speak Bulgarian, the only language with official status, and a native language for 85.2 per cent of the population. The oldest Slavic written language, Bulgarian is distinguishable from the other languages in this group through certain grammatical peculiarities such as the lack of noun cases and infinitives, and a suffixed definite article.
Bulgaria regards itself officially as a secular state. The Constitution guarantees religious freedom, but designates Orthodoxy as a "traditional" religion. A majority of the population (76%) self-identify as Orthodox Christian. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church gained autocephalous status in 927 AD, and currently has 12 dioceses and over 2,000 priests. Other religious denominations include Islam (10%), Roman Catholicism (0.8%) and Protestantism (1.1%); 0.2% practice other beliefs; and 11.8% do not self-identify with a religion; 21.8% of those taking part in the survey chose not to state any belief.
Government estimates from 2003 put the literacy rate at 98.6 per cent, with no significant difference between the sexes. Bulgaria has traditionally had high educational standards. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Science funds all public educational establishments, sets criteria for textbooks and oversees the publishing process. The State provides free education in government schools, except for higher education. The educational process spans through 12 grades, where grades one through eight are primary and nine through twelve are secondary level. High schools can be technical, vocational, general or specialised in a certain discipline, while higher education consists of a 4-year bachelor degree and a 1-year Master's degree.
Average life expectancy is 73.6 years, below the European Union average. The primary causes of death are similar to those in other industrialised countries, mainly cardiovascular diseases, neoplasms and respiratory diseases. Bulgaria has a universal healthcare system financed by taxes and contributions. The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) pays a gradually increasing portion of the costs of primary healthcare. Healthcare expenditures in the national budget increased to 4.3 per cent between 2002 and 2004, and the NHIF accounted for more than 60 per cent of annual expenditures. The healthcare budget amounted to 4.2 per cent of GDP in 2010, or about 1.3 billion euro. The number of doctors is above the EU average with 181 physicians per 100,000 people, although there is a severe shortage of nurses and other medical personnel, and the quality of most medical facilities is poor.
Most Bulgarians (72.5 per cent) reside in urban areas. About 97 per cent of the population live in privately owned and owner-occupied homes. There is also a high rate of household appliance ownership, such as television sets (97.9 per cent of all households), refrigerators (93.3) and telephones (90.6), and relatively high rates for computers (42.9) and automobiles (41.9 per cent). The average rates in all categories are substantially higher in Sofia, the 12th-largest city in the European Union with a population of more than 1,200,000 people.
Traditional Bulgarian culture contains mainly Thracian, Slavic and Bulgar heritage, along with Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Persian and Celtic influences. Traces of Gothic culture also appeared in Antiquity. Evidence for this is the Wulfila Bible—the first book written in a Germanic language, created in Nicopolis ad Istrum in the 4th century.
A vast amount of uncovered archaeological sites are spread throughout the country; local archaeologists claim that the size of the archaeological heritage is the third-largest in Europe after Italy and Greece. In 1972 the oldest golden treasure in the world was discovered in a necropolis near Varna, consisting of coins, weapons and jewellery dating to 4,600 BC. The site revealed evidence of the first European civilisation. Other objects testifying for the early development of advanced culture on Bulgaria's lands are Plovdiv, one of the oldest cities in the world, and the first Christian monastery in Europe, established in 344 AD.Nine historical and natural 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 Reserve and the ancient city of Nesebar.Nestinarstvo, a ritual fire-dance of Thracian origin, is included in the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Fire is an essential element of Bulgarian folklore, used to banish evil spirits and diseases. Bulgarian folklore personifies illnesses as witches and has a wide range of creatures, including lamya, samodiva (veela) and karakondzhul. Some of the customs and rituals against these spirits have survived and are still practiced, most notably the kukeri and survakari.Martenitsa is also widely celebrated.
Both the First and the Second Bulgarian empires functioned as the centre of Slavic culture during much of the Middle Ages, exerting considerable cultural influence over the Eastern Orthodox world by means of the Preslav, Ohrid and Tarnovo literary schools. The Cyrillic alphabet, used as a writing system to many languages in Eastern Europe and Asia, originated in the Preslav Literary School around the 9th century. The medieval advancement in the arts and letters ended with the Ottoman conquest when many masterpieces were destroyed, and artistic activities did not re-emerge until the National Revival in the 19th century. After the Liberation, Bulgarian literature quickly adopted European literary styles such as Romanticism and Symbolism. Since the beginning of the 20th century, several Bulgarian authors, such as Ivan Vazov, Pencho Slaveykov, Peyo Yavorov, Yordan Radichkov and Tzvetan Todorov have gained prominence. In 1981 Bulgarian-born writer Elias Canetti was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Bulgarian folk music is by far the most extensive traditional art and has slowly developed throughout the ages as a fusion of Eastern and Western influences. It contains Far Eastern, Oriental, medieval Eastern Orthodox and standard Western European tonalities and modes. The music has a distinctive sound and uses a wide range of traditional instruments, such as gadulka, gaida (bagpipe), kaval and tupan. One of its most distinguishing features is extended rhythmical 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. Bulgaria's written musical composition can be traced back to the early Middle Ages and the works of Yoan Kukuzel (c. 1280–1360). Classical music, opera and ballet are represented by composers Emanuil Manolov, Pancho Vladigerov and Georgi Atanasov and singers Ghena Dimitrova and Boris Hristov. Bulgarian performers have gained popularity in several other genres like progressive rock (FSB), electropop (Mira Aroyo) and jazz (Milcho Leviev).
The religious visual arts heritage includes frescoes, murals and icons, many produced by the medieval Tarnovo Artistic School.Vladimir Dimitrov, Nikolay Diulgheroff and Christo are some of the most famous modern Bulgarian artists. Film industry remains weak: in 2010, Bulgaria produced three feature films and two documentaries with public funding. Cultural events are advertised in the largest media outlets, including the Bulgarian National Radio, and daily newspapers Dneven Trud and 24 Chasa.
Bulgarian cuisine is similar to those of other Balkan countries and demonstrates a strong Greek and Turkish influence.Yogurt, lukanka, banitsa, shopska salad, lyutenitsa and kozunak are among the best-known local foods. Oriental dishes such as moussaka, gyuvech, and baklava are also present. Meat consumption is lower than the European average, given a notable preference for a large variety of salads.Rakia is a traditional fruit brandy which was consumed in Bulgaria as early as the 14th century.Bulgarian wine is known for its Traminer, Muskat and Mavrud sorts, of which up to 200,000 tonnes are produced annually. Until 1989, Bulgaria was the world's second-largest wine exporter.
Bulgaria performs well in sports such as wrestling, weight-lifting, boxing, gymnastics and tennis. The country fielded one of the leading men's volleyball teams, ranked sixth in the world according to the 2011 FIVB rankings.Football is by far the most popular sport. Some famous players are Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov and Hristo Stoichkov, winner of the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball and the most successful Bulgarian player of all time. Prominent domestic football clubs include PFC CSKA Sofia and PFC Levski Sofia. The best performance of the national team at FIFA World Cup finals came in 1994, when it advanced to the semi-finals by defeating consecutively Greece, Argentina, Mexico and the defending champion Germany and finished fourth. Bulgaria participates in most Olympic competitions since its first appearance at the 1896 games, when it was represented by Charles Champaud. The country has won a total of 218 medals: 52 gold, 86 silver, and 80 bronze, which puts it in 24th place in the all-time ranking.
- Outline of Bulgaria
- International rankings of Bulgaria
- List of twin towns and sister cities in Bulgaria
Geographic data related to Bulgaria at OpenStreetMap
- Bulgaria at UCB Libraries GovPubs
- Bulgaria at the Open Directory Project
- Wikimedia Atlas of Bulgaria
- Bulgaria travel guide from Wikitravel
- President of The Republic of Bulgaria
- Chief of State and Cabinet Members
- Photos and pictures from Bulgaria
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