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Republic of Bulgaria

Republika Bulgariya

CAPITAL: Sofia (Sofiya)

FLAG: The flag is a tricolor of white, green, and red horizontal stripes.

ANTHEM: Bulgariya mila, zemya na geroi (Dear Bulgaria, Land of Heroes).

MONETARY UNIT: The lev (lv) of 100 stotinki has coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 stotinki and 1 and 2 leva, and notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 leva. lv1 = $0.64103 (or $1 = lv1.56) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Days, 12 May; Education and Culture Day, 24 May; Christmas, 2425 December.

TIME: 2 pm=noon GMT.


Part of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria has an area of 110,910 sq km (42,822 sq mi), and extends 330 km (205 mi) ns and 520 km (323 mi) ew. Comparatively, the area occupied by Bulgaria is slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. Bulgaria is bounded on the n by Romania, on the e by the Black Sea, on the se by Turkey, on the s by Greece, and on the w by Macedonia and Serbia, with a total boundary length of 1,808 km (1,123 mi).

Bulgaria's capital city, Sofia, is located in the west central part of the country.


Bulgaria consists of a number of roughly parallel eastwest zones. They are the Danubian tableland in the north, the Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina) in the center, and the Thracian Plain, drained by the Maritsa River, in the south. The Rhodope, Rila, and Pirin mountains lie in the southwestern part of the country. The average elevation is 480 m (1,575 ft), and the highest point, in the Rila Mountains, is the Musala, at 2,925 m (9,596 ft). The Danube (Dunav), Bulgaria's only navigable river, forms most of the northern boundary with Romania. Located along the Eurasian Tectonic Plate, the country does experience some low-level magnitude earthquakes.


Bulgaria lies along the southern margins of the continental climate of Central and Eastern Europe. Regional climatic differences occur in the Danubian tableland, exposed to cold winter winds from the north, and the Thracian Plain, which has a modified Mediterranean climate and is protected by the Balkan Mountains against the northern frosts. January temperatures are between 0° and 2°c (3236°f) in the lowlands but colder in the mountains; July temperatures average about 22° to 24°c (7275°f). Precipitation is fairly regularly distributed throughout the year and amounts to an average of 64 cm (25 in).


As of 2002, there were at least 81 species of mammals, 248 species of birds, and over 3,500 species of plants in the country. In the northeast lies the typical steppe grassland zone of the Dobrudja, merging into the wooded steppe of the Danubian tableland. Most trees in this area have been cut down to make room for cultivated land. The Balkan Mountains are covered by broadleaf forests at lower altitudes and by needle-leaf conifers at higher elevations. The vegetation of the Thracian Plain is a mixture of the middlelatitude forest of the north and Mediterranean flora. Deforestation has reduced the amount of wildlife, which includes bears, foxes, squirrels, elks, wildcats, and rodents of various types. Fish resources in the Black Sea are not extensive.


Bulgaria's air pollution problem results from the combined influence of industry and transportation. In the mid-1990s, Bulgaria was among the 50 countries with the highest industrial emissions of carbon dioxide, producing 54.3 million metric tons, or 6.08 metric tons per capita. In 1996, the total was 55.2 million metric tons. Industrial pollutants, especially from metallurgical plants, are responsible for damage to 115 sq mi of land in Bulgaria. Bulgaria's rivers and the Black Sea are seriously affected by industrial and chemical pollutants, raw sewage, heavy metals, and detergents. However, nearly 100% of the population have access to safe drinking water.

Twenty-five percent of Bulgaria's forests have been significantly damaged by airborne pollutants. In 2000, about 33.4% of the total land area was forested. Only 4.5% of the country's total land area is protected, including the Pirin National Park and the Srebarna Nature Reserve, which are both natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are 10 Ramsar wetland sites.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 12 types of mammals, 11 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 10 species of fish, and 11 other invertebrates. Endangered species in Bulgaria include the Rosalia longhorn, Atlantic sturgeon, and slender-billed curlew.


The population of Bulgaria in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 7,741,000, which placed it at number 94 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 17% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 14% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 94 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be -0.5%, a rate the government viewed as too low. With one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, Bulgaria has experience population declines since 1990. The projected population for the year 2025 was 6,565,000. The population density was 70 per sq km (181 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 70% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were declining in population at an annual rate of -0.31%. The capital city, Sofia (Sofiya), had a population of 1,076,000 in that year. Other large cities include Plovdiv, 715,904; Varna, 320,668; Burgas, 259,985; Ruse, 266,213; and Stara Zagora, 167,708.


Emigration between 1948 and 1951 consisted mainly of Jews going to Israel and Turks going to Turkey. A high of 99,477 (of whom 98,341 were Turks) was reached in 1951. Most of the emigrants since the 1950s have been Turks bound for Turkey or other Balkan countries. A total of 313,894 emigrated to Turkey in 1989 because of government persecution. More than 100,000 had returned to Bulgaria by February 1990. Meanwhile, about 150,000 ethnic Bulgarians also emigrated. In 1991 about three million Bulgarians were living abroad. Of those emigrating 85% were under age 30.

According to Migration News, due to low fertility and emigration, Bulgaria's population is shrinking faster than any other nation in Europe. The majority of those leaving Bulgaria are moving to Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and North America. The net migration rate, estimated for 2005, was -4.3 migrants per 1,000 population. Once the European Union (EU) lifted visa requirements for Bulgarians in 2001, Bulgarians illegally migrated to Western countries. Between April 2001 and October 2002, about 6,561 Bulgarians were arrested and expelled from EU counties, the United States, and Canada. The number of illegal foreigners in Bulgaria is low. Due to the high unemployment rate (12% in 2004), there are serious restrictions on foreign workers.

As of 2004, there were 4,684 refugees and about 920 registered asylum seekers in Bulgaria. Most of the refugees and asylum seekers were from Afghanistan, Iraq, Serbia, Montenegro, and Armenia.


In 2001, Bulgarians accounted for an estimated 83.9% of the total population. The Turks, who constituted about 9.4% of the total, are settled mainly in the southern Dobrudja and in the eastern Rhodope Mountains. Romas account for about 4.7% of the population. Other groups, including Macedonians, Armenians, Tatars, and Circassians, make up the remaining 2% of the populace.

Macedonians live mainly in the Pirin region of southwestern Bulgaria. Romanian-speaking Vlachs live in the towns and countryside of northwestern Bulgaria. Greek-speaking Karakatchans are nomadic mountain shepherds of Romanian origin. The Gagauzi of northeastern Bulgaria are a Turkish-speaking group of Christian Orthodox religion. Bulgaria's cities have small minorities of Russians, Jews, Armenians, Tatars, and Greeks.


Bulgarian is classified as a Slavic language of the southern group, which also includes Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, and Slovenian. Old Bulgarian, also known as Old Church Slavonic, was the first Slavic language fixed in writing (9th century). For this purpose, two Bulgarian monks, Cyril and Methodius, created a new alphabet, based partly on the Greek, that became known as the Cyrillic alphabet. Both the grammar and the vocabulary of modern Bulgarian show Turkish, Greek, Romanian, and Albanian influences.

According to a 2001 census, 84.5% of the population speak Bulgarian, 9.6% speak Turkish, 4.1% speak Roma, and 1.8% speak other languages or did not specify a primary language.


According to a 2004 report, about 82.6% of the population belonged at least nominally to the Bulgarian (Eastern) Orthodox Church. There were also an estimated 12.2% who were Muslims. Other religious groups include Roman Catholics, Jews, Uniate Catholics, Protestants, and Gregorian-Armenians.

After seizing power in 1946, the Communist regime, whose aim was eventually to establish an atheistic society, sought during the ensuing period to replace all religious rites and rituals with civil ceremonies. The new constitution of 1991 guaranteed freedom of religion to all, but named the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as a "traditional" religion of state. Under a 2002 Confessions Act, all religious groups except for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church must register with the Sofia Municipal Court in order to offer public worship. The registration process tends to be long and selective.


The Bulgarian Railway Company (BDZ) oversees Bulgaria's railway system. Railroads are still the basic means of freight transportation in Bulgaria. Of the 4,294 km (2,671 mi) of railroad lines in use in 2004, about 94% were standard gauge. A total of 245 km (152 mi) of narrow gauge right of way accounted for the remainder.

In 2003, roadways extended for 102,016 km (63,453 mi), of which 93,855 km (58,378 mi) were paved, including 328 km (204 mi) of expressways. Road transportation has grown steadily in recent years. Bulgaria has many highway projects underway, including portions of the Trans-European Motorway (TEM), a route connecting Budapest with Athens via Vidin and Sofia and with Istanbul via eastern Bulgaria. As of 2003, there were 2,309,300 passenger cars and 337,200 commercial vehicles registered for use.

Water transportation is also significant. As of 2005, Bulgaria's maritime fleet was comprised of 64 ships with a total capacity of 757,972 GRT, as compared with 97,800 GRT in 1961. The major seaports are Burgas and Varna. Principal river ports are Ruse, Lom, and Vidin. In addition, the country as of 2004 had 470 km of navigable internal waterways.

In 2004 there were an estimated 213 airports. As of 2005 a total of 128 had paved runways, and there was also a single heliport. Sofia's Vrazhdebna Airport is the major air center, but there are also international airports at Varna and Burgas, as well as seven domestic airports. Initially a joint Soviet-Bulgarian concern, Bulgarian Airlines (BALKAN) passed into Bulgarian hands in 1954. Civilian airlines in Bulgaria carried about 75,000 passengers on scheduled domestic and international airline flights in 2003.


Ancient Thrace and Moesia, the areas that modern Bulgaria occupies, were settled in the 6th century ad by Southern Slavs migrating from the area north of the Carpathian Mountains (modern-day Ukraine and Romania). The Thracian tribes, which had populated that territory since the middle of the 2nd century bc, were displaced or conquered. In the 7th century ad, the Bulgars, a Central Asian Turkic tribe, crossed the Danube River to settle permanently in the Balkans. In alliance with the overpowered Slavs, the Bulgars formed the Bulgarian state, which was recognized by the Byzantine Empire in 681 ad. The name and initial political framework of the new state were taken from the Bulgars, but the language and the culture remained predominantly Slavic.

In the late 9th century, Bulgaria became an arena for political and cultural rivalry between the Byzantine Empire centered in Constantinople and the Roman Empire. The Bulgarians adopted Christianity from the Byzantine Empire and embraced the Cyrillic alphabet, named for St. Cyril. As a result, the integration of the disparate tribes into a Bulgarian people was more or less complete by the end of the 9th century.

The early Bulgarian state reached its territorial and cultural height under Simeon I (r.893927). In 1018, Bulgaria, which had struggled to assert itself against Constantinople since its foundation, fell under Byzantine dominance. The country rose again as a major Balkan power in the 12th and 13th centuries, especially under Ivan Asen II (r.121841) whose rule extended over nearly the whole Balkan Peninsula except the Greek islands. However, by the end of the 14th century, Bulgaria was overrun by the Ottoman Turks, who ruled the country for nearly five centuries.

The Ottoman rule was often oppressive and sought to assimilate Bulgarian Christianity, culture, and language. Rebellions were frequent but sporadic and unorganized. However, in the early 19th century, under the influence of Western ideas such as liberalism and nationalism, a well-organized national liberation movement emerged. Its efforts culminated in the April uprising of 1876, which was brutally crushed. Russia, a rival of the Ottoman Empire at the time, insisted on a peaceful solution to the Bulgarian question. When diplomacy failed, Russia declared war on Turkey. The Bulgarian state was restored in the aftermath of the Russian-Turkish War of 18771878.

Apprehensive of the existence of a big Bulgarian state under Russian influence, the Congress of Berlin (JuneJuly 1878) divided the Bulgarian territories into three parts. Northern Bulgaria was given the status of an independent principality under Turkish suzerainty, with its capital at Sofia. Southern Bulgaria (then known as Eastern Rumelia) remained under Turkish rule as an autonomous province. Lastly, ethnic Bulgarians in the regions of Macedonia and Thrace were unconditionally returned to the Ottoman Empire. The decisions of the Congress triggered first the KresnaRazlog uprising (18781879), which sought to unify the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia; and the IlindenPreobrazhenie Uprising (1903), which demanded the liberation of Macedonia. Neither rebellion was immediately successful.

In 1879 the First Grand National Assembly adopted the first Constitution of Bulgaria and elected the German prince Alexander Battenberg as the prince of Bulgaria. In 1885, the continuing unrest in Eastern Rumelia culminated in a military coup, which annexed the province to Bulgaria. Stefan Stambolov, premier from 1887 to 1894, consolidated the country's administration and economy. In 1908 Bulgaria declared itself a kingdom completely independent of Turkey.

Striving to unite "all Bulgarians," the country took part in the First Balkan War (October 1912May 1913) and fought with the anti-Turkish coalition (Greece, Serbia, and Montenegro) against the Ottomans. Bulgaria gained most of Thrace including a long-desired outlet to the Aegean Sea. But as a result of a dispute over Macedonia, Bulgaria became pitted against Greece and Serbia. Turkey joined the Greece-Serbia coalition in the hope of winning back some of its territories. Romania also sided against Bulgaria in the Second Balkan War (JuneJuly 1913), and Bulgaria was defeated. As a result, Bulgaria lost southern Dobrudja to Romania, a large part of Macedonia to Serbia, western Thrace to Greece and southeastern Thrace to Turkey. Having sided with the Central Powers in World War I in an attempt to recoup its losses, Bulgaria also lost its outlet to the Aegean Sea and additional parts of Macedonia and Dobrudja through the Treaty of Neuilly (27 November 1919).

At the end of World War I, Bulgarian ruler Tsar Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha abdicated in favor of his son, Boris III, who ruled Bulgaria until his death in 1943. After an early period of stability and initial progressive reform under the leadership of Premier Alexander Stamboliski (assassinated in 1923 after agreeing to recognize Yugoslav sovereignty in Macedonia), growing political rivalries allowed Tsar Boris to establish a military government in 1934 and then to personally assume dictatorial powers in 1935.

When World War II broke out, Bulgaria moved toward an alliance with Germany in the hope of recovering lost territories. In 1940, Romania was forced to return southern Dobrudja, and during the war, Bulgaria occupied Macedonia and western Thrace. By 1943, some 20,000 Jews were deported but protests from political and clerical leaders stopped further cooperation, thus saving all of the remaining 50,000 Jews in the country. Bulgaria did, however, actively deport Jews in all areas it conquered.

After Tsar Boris's sudden death in 1943, a cabinet, which was in most respects a German puppet, assumed power. Coordinated mainly by Communists, resistance to the Germans and the authoritarian Bulgarian regime was widespread by 1943. In September 1944, Soviet troops entered the country. At that time, the Bulgarian government withdrew from the occupied territories, severed relations with Germany, and intended to sign an armistice with the Western Allies. But Moscow declared war on Bulgaria and proceeded with the occupation of the country. A coalition governmentthe Fatherland Front (Otechestven Front)was established, which, with the assistance of the Soviet army, came under the domination of the Communist Party. Subsequently, anti-Communist political activists were purged.

A plebiscite in September 1946 replaced the monarchy with the People's Republic of Bulgaria and the Communists openly took power. The 1947 peace treaty formally ending Bulgaria's role in World War II allowed the nation to keep southern Dobrudja but limited the size of its armed forces.

Shortly after coming to power, the Bulgarian Communist Party fell under increasing pressure from Moscow to demonstrate its loyalty by stepping up the "socialist transformation" in the country. The Bulgarian leadership moved to ascertain its effective monopoly on political power by eliminating political opposition in the country and "nationalist" elements within the party and to emulate the Soviet economic experience through the introduction of a planned economy. A new constitution in 1947 instituted the nationalization of industry, banking, and public utilities and the collectivization of agriculture. Centralized planning was introduced for the development of the national economy through a series of five-year plans, which stressed the expansion of heavy industry at the expense of agriculture and light industry. Subsequently, Bulgaria joined the Warsaw Pact and CMEA, thus placing itself firmly within the Soviet bloc.

Under Todor Zhivkov, first secretary of the Communist Party since 1954 and president since 1971, the Bulgarian government remained unquestionably loyal to the Soviet Union. This continued even after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death in 1953. While some freedom of expression was gradually restored, labor camps closed, and persecution of the Christian church ended, upheavals like those in Poland and Hungary in 1956 or in Czechoslovakia in 1968 were not allowed in Bulgaria. Still, a cultural "thaw" took place in the late 1970s under the leadership of Zhivkov's daughter, Lyudmila Zhivkova. To further strengthen support for the regime, the party leadership devoted enormous resources to the celebration of the national past and culture. However, the period of the so-called "revival process" (with two peaks in 19721974 and 19841985) was marked by a campaign to assimilate members of Bulgaria's Turkish minority by forcing them to take Slavic names, prohibiting them from speaking Turkish in public, and subjecting them to other forms of harassment; more than 300,000 Bulgarian Turks crossed the border into Turkey to escape persecution.

The Communist regime drew its legitimacy by preserving the strong egalitarian and statist political traditions in the country. Additionally, the relatively good economic performance and impressive set of social policy achievements generated a considerable level of popular support. The developmental rise in mechanization, technical sophistication, and productivity was remarkable especially given the lack of natural resources and energy endowment and the very low initial material and cultural levels. However, despite these accomplishments, Bulgaria remained one of the countries with the lowest living standards in both Western and Eastern Europe. Moreover, the many and generous social policies were secured at the expense of economic efficiency.

Thus the radical changes introduced in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Gorbachev were welcomed and readily replicated in Bulgaria. A program of far-reaching political and economic changes was announced in July 1987, including an administrative overhaul meant to reduce the number of Communist Party functionaries by as much as two-thirds, the introduction of self-management for individual enterprises, and liberalization of rules for joint ventures with foreign investors. Economic and political restructuring throughout the Soviet Bloc empowered reformist elements within the Bulgarian Communist Party, which were growing increasingly restive under Zhivkov.

Although Zhivkov was never a despot in the Stalinist mold, by the early 1980s his regime was growing increasingly corrupt, autocratic, and erratic. The long-time ruler resisted attempts to change and moved into a pattern of direct confrontation with reformists, led by his foreign minister, Petar Mladenov. Mladenov, who had close ties to Gorbachev, wanted to change Bulgaria's image, which had been tarnished by Zhivkov's intensifying efforts to "assimilate" the country's ethnic Turks. Finally, in November 1989, Mladenov, backed by other reformists within the party, was able to take advantage of an international environmental conference convened in Sofia to press for Zhivkov's resignation. Mladenov was also successful in winning support from Defense Minister Dobri Dzhurov, thus leaving Zhivkov without resort to the military. Zhivkov had no choice but to resign.

Mladenov had intended to reform the Communist Party, not remove it from power. However, demonstrations on ecological issues in the streets of Sofia in November 1989 soon broadened into a general campaign for political reform. However, as the newly emergent opposition groups signaled their entry into the political arena by organizing the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the Communist leaders invited opposition leaders to roundtable negotiations meant to provide the elite with a safe channel against the anticipated popular backlash against communism. A new democratic constitution was negotiated and multiparty elections held in June 1990.

In something of a surprise, the Socialists led by Mladenov received nearly 53% of the 1990 vote, while the UDF got only about a third; the rest of the votes went to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which had emerged to represent the interests of the country's one million ethnic Turks. Popular hostility to Mladenov forced him to resign about a month after the election. Since the Socialists remained generally in charge of the government, there was little tangible progress with economic reform, and Bulgaria's economy, left in poor condition by Zhivkov, continued to decline. In addition, a great deal of effort was devoted to the attempt to prosecute Zhivkov and his prominent cronies for malfeasance, incompetence, and other failings. Zhivkov fought back vigorously, exposing the sins of former colleagues who had remained in power.

Although convictions were eventually obtained (in 1992, with additional charges brought in 1993), the exercise served to undermine public sympathy for the Socialists. That opened the way for the National Assembly to appoint the leader of the UDF and famous dissident, Zhelyu Zhelev, as a president. Moreover, the first Socialist government, led by Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov, a Mladenov ally, collapsed after a few months of its coming to power; in December 1990, the replacement government of Dimitar Popov, an unaffiliated technocrat, outlined an ambitious program of economic reform.

The National Assembly passed a new constitution in July 1991, making Bulgaria the first of the Eastern Bloc countries to adopt a new basic law. Among other things, this document called for new parliamentary elections to be held in October 1991. The UDF received 34%, the Socialists, 33%, and the MRF, 8%. The UDF adamantly refused to cooperate with the former Communists, instead taking the MRF as their coalition partner. Filip Dimitrov of the UDF led Bulgaria's first non-Communist government since World War II; however, most of his ministers were chosen for technical expertise rather than party affiliation and 60% of them were drawn from outside the National Assembly. In January 1992, there were direct presidential elections. Zhelev received 45% of the votes while his Socialist opponent, Velko Vulkanov, received 30%.

Dimitrov undertook an ambitious program of economic and political transformation: he invested his administration in returning property confiscated by the Communists and in the privatization of industry by issuing shares in government enterprises to all citizens. However, Bulgaria's economy continued to deteriorate and unemployment continued to grow as uncompetitive industries failed, exposing strains within the ruling coalition. In late 1992 the Dimitrov government was replaced by a minority coalition of the Socialists, the MRF, and some defecting UDF deputies. Widely seen only as a caretaker prime minister, Lyuben Berov defied predictions, remaining in power for more than 15 months.

The UDF was unrelenting in its hostility to Berov, accusing Berov of trying to "recommunize" Bulgaria; they submitted as many as six votes of no-confidence in a single year. This increasing political deadlock and the continued deterioration of Bulgaria's economy led to new parliamentary elections in 1994.

Pledging to defend ordinary citizens against the excesses of the free market, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and its two nominal coalition partners won an absolute majority in the 1994 elections. The BSP government, headed by Zhan Videnov, failed to move forward with economic reforms and by the end of 1996, Bulgaria had become the poorest country in Europe with average wages at only $30 a month. In the November 1996 presidential elections, Petar Stoyanov of the UDF was elected president by a wide margin over Socialist party candidate Ivan Marazov.

Fueled by a slow pace of structural reforms, rampant corruption, and a failure to establish market discipline, Bulgaria's problems culminated in a severe economic crisis in 19961997. Without a stable government and with their economy in free fall, Bulgarians demonstrated in the capital for new parliamentary elections. After a few months of chaos and hyperinflation, a major foreign exchange crisis, and the collapse of the banking sector, Bulgaria adopted a Currency Board Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund in July 1997. A conservative fiscal policy and a significant acceleration of structural reforms have underpinned the Currency Board Arrangement.

The elections held in April 1997 were won by a four-party alliance, United Democratic Forces (UtDF), anchored by the UDF. The new prime minister Ivan Kostov quickly instituted economic reforms, passed a tough budget, and clamped down on crime and corruption. The economy began to stabilize and popular discontent began to subside. New IMF loans were approved, and the government embarked on a campaign to attract foreign investment and speed up privatization. The battle against entrenched political corruption continued through 1999 and 2000 and included the dismissal of top government officials. The government increasingly embraced the West, declaring its interest in NATO membership and allowing access to its airspace during the NATO bombing of Serbia in the spring of 1999.

In 1999 Bulgaria also started the accession negotiations to become a member of the European Union (EU). Despite much economic and political progress achieved by the Kostov cabinet, the citizenry was nevertheless disillusion with the party's corruption and its inability to address the high unemployment in the country.

In April 2001, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the exiled son of Tsar Boris, established a political party, the National Movement for Simeon II (NMS2), pledging to fight corruption, to improve Bulgaria's chances for EU membership, and to better the economy (through deregulation, privatization, and investment). Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was accused (both by the left and the right) of being an opportunist and a populist without competence and political experience, but he claimed his party's intent was not to restore the monarchy but to move ahead with reforms. And as the elections came closer, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's popularity kept growing. His NMS2 party won 120 of 240 parliament seats in the 2001 elections. Having failed to win an absolute majority, the NMS2 signed a coalition agreement with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's cabinet included two MRF and two BSP ministers.

However, only 100 days after Saxe-Coburg-Gotha came to power, workers (including miners, power engineers, health professionals, transport, construction, railway and metal workers, and teachers) took to the streets of Sofia to protest the lack of progress in improving the economy and their living standards.

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha pursued a strongly pro-Western course. Bulgaria sent a nearly 500-strong stabilization force patrol to Iraq. In November 2002, NATO officially invited Bulgaria to join the organization in 2004. Also in 2002, the EU announced that Bulgaria was not ready to become a member in 2004, but was expected to join the EU in 2007. In Luxembourg on 25 April 2005, the Treaty of Accession of Republic of Bulgaria to the European Union was signed. At the time, support for Bulgaria's integration in the EU was about 65%.

Four years after Saxe-Coburg-Gotha came to power, the government reported significant economic growth (5.3 %) but corruption and organized crime continued to plague the country, and high unemployment, low standard of living, and increasing inequality continue to face Bulgarians. Moreover, for the first time in Bulgaria's post-Communist history, ethnic tensions escalated into riots between the Bulgarian and Roma communities in several Bulgarian cities, including Sofia. Hopes for better social protection, disillusionment with Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's policies, and heightened ethnic tensions were all reflected in the results of the 25 June 2005 parliamentary elections. The Coalition for Bulgaria (CfB) won the elections but failed to muster majority. The NMS2 came second but received only half of the votes it got in the 2001 elections. The right was in disarray, as the conservative votes were divided among three parties. Lastly, the rising support for the MRF, the third-largest parliamentary group, was paralleled by the emergence of an ultranationalist coalition, Attack Coalition (ATAKA). After the elections, ATAKA was largely marginalized by other parties and soon began to crumble as its representatives began to defect.

In the political maneuvering that followed the elections, the Socialist bid for forming a government was immediately supported by the MRF but was blocked by the NMS2. The stumbling blocks in the negotiations process seem to be the distribution of key posts and the head of the future cabinet. As negotiations dragged on, the EU urged a rapid resolution of the situation so the country could continue implementing the reforms required for accession in 2007. Ending weeks of postelection deadlock, the new Bulgarian government formally took office on 17 August, after parliament approved the nominations of Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and his 17 cabinet members. The new cabinet was finally elected following a coalition deal among the three leading partiesthe BSP, the NMS2, and the MRFthat jointly control 169 out of 240 seats in the legislature.

Prime Minister Stanishev maintained that EU membership was his government's top priority and pledged to make up for lost time. He also promised to intensify the campaign against corruption and organized crime and confirmed that the 400 remaining Bulgarian troops deployed in Iraq will be withdrawn before the end of 2006.


The Bulgarian constitution of July 1991 provides for a multiparty presidentialparliamentary form of republican government, in which all the citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria take part with the right to vote. The document provides clear distinctions among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

The Council of Ministers is the main executive body, headed by the prime minister. The Council of Ministers conducts the internal and foreign policy of the state, secures public order and national security, and exercises control over the public administration and the military forces. The president, who is chief of state, is popularly elected to a five-year term, and may serve a maximum of two terms. The president serves as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and appoints and dismisses their senior command. Among the president's duties is also setting the date for national referenda, scheduling parliamentary elections and naming of the prime minister, who must be confirmed by the National Assembly. Together with the prime minister or the respective minister, the president countersigns decrees to promulgate newly adopted laws. The emerging tradition is that the president sets the overall direction of policy, while the prime minister and his cabinet, presently 14 people, are responsible for day-to-day implementation.

The legislative branch of government is the National Assembly, with 240 members elected to four-year terms. Deputies are elected on a proportional voting basis in a mixed proportional/majoritarian system of elections, in which parties must receive at least 4% of the total national vote in order to receive seats. The largest parliamentary group constructs the cabinet. A simple majority is required to approve the Council of Ministers and to adopt regular legal acts. Amendments to the constitution, however, require approval by a three-quarters majority. Members of parliament represent not only their electoral regions but also the whole nation. The National Assembly elects temporary and permanent commissions, where parliamentarians participate. Members of the National Assembly, as well as member of the Council of Ministers, have the right to introduce draft laws, but only the Council of Ministers develop draft laws on the state budget.


Bulgaria did not develop the welter (confusing array) of political parties that most of the other post-Communist societies enjoyedor suffered.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) is the successor of the former Bulgarian Communist Party and combines various leftist factions. Some are of social democratic orientation while others remain attached to communism. The 1989 internal coup left the party with strong public support53% of the vote in the 1991 elections. In 1994 the socialists won a majority in the parliamentary elections for the second time after the fall of state socialism but fell out of favor after two years of particularly disastrous economic policies, which had reduced their popular support to 10% by the end of 1996. The reputation of the BSP is still tied to its inability to deal with the problems of 1996 in the minds of the populace. The BSP remained in opposition after the 1997, 2001, and 2005 elections. In 2000, the socialists remaining in the BSP also made a significant break with the past by changing their former negative attitude towards NATO membership (without however cooling down support for good relations with Russia). In December 2001, Sergey Stanishev was elected as the new party leader with a mission to not only redefine and reform the BSP but also to rejuvenate it by trying to attract younger supporters. In addition, BSP became a full member of the Socialist International. In its campaign for the 2005 parliamentary elections, the party chose to focus on the neglected social rights of the Bulgarian citizens.

The Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) was created in the final days of the Communist regime (1989) as a platform movement uniting 15 different formerly dissident political groups. When the UDF came to power in 1992, the divisions between these factions weakened the government, which lost a vote of confidence in parliament in 1994. Under the leadership of Ivan Kostov in early 1997, the UDF was transformed into a single party with liberal ideology. During the 19961997 political and parliamentary crisis, the UDF dominated the a conservative coalition, United Democratic Forces (UtDF), which became the main opposition force to the Bulgarian Socialist Party and won a majority in the 1997 parliamentary elections. Kostov stepped down after the party lost in the 2001 parliamentary elections and was succeeded by his former foreign minister Nadezhda Mikhailova in June 2002. However, despite the party losing the 2003 local elections, Mihailova was reelected as UDF chairwoman.

In February 2004, Ivan Kostov, together with about 2,000 party members (among them 29 members of parliament), left the party. In May 2004, the group around Kostov established a new rightwing party named Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB), which vows to work for a country with strong democracy, capable state institutions, and wealthy society. The party won about 6% of the vote in the 2005 elections.

The Union of Free Democrats (UFD) is one of the smaller rightist parties in Bulgaria. It was founded by Stefan Sofiyanski in December 2001 as a split-off of the Union of Democratic Forces. The party's main goals are economic prosperity, political stability, and integration in the EU and NATO.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) primarily represents the interests of Bulgaria's large Turkish minority (about 10% of the population), which was harshly repressed during the Zhivkov years. In economic issues the MRF advocates neoliberal policies. Even though the party did not participate in Dimitrov's cabinet, the MRF initially supported the UDF and later was the pivot on which the Berov cabinet hinged; then, however, the party switched to being an informal coalition partner of the Socialists. Nevertheless, it supported the UtDF government during its tenure in office. For the 2001 parliamentary elections the MRF formed a coalition with two small parties and got in power together with the NMS2. Yet, nationalist antipathy among many Bulgarians towards the country's large Turkish minority makes the MRF an unpopular coalition partner for most political parties. In fact in 1991 the MRF was accused of "being an ethnic party" and has proven a costly partner in the majority of post-1989 governments.

While ethnic Turks have been represented in parliament since 1990, parties have included very few members of the Roma national minority. Still, compared with Roma in Slovakia and Romania for example, Bulgarian Roma are relatively successful in exercising influence on the government through the formation of an umbrella coalition. Nonetheless, Roma efforts are hampered by corruption and the lack of focused agendas among Roma organizations. Discrimination, unwillingness of mainstream political parties to encourage Roma participation, and the lack of political engagement within the Roma community itself are all obstacles to the political inclusion of the Roma.

The National Movement Simeon II (NMS2) is a coalition of the unregistered movement Simeon II and two registered partiesBulgarian Party of Women (led by Vessela Draganova-Dencheva) and the Movement for National Revival (headed by Tosho Peikov). Registered as a party in April 2002, it was founded by Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the exiled son of Tsar Boris. Simeon SaxeCoburg-Gotha's advisors and top ministers were young Bulgarian emigrants who, having built careers abroad mostly in Western finance, returned to their homeland to affect economic change. The NMS2 proposed to bring about change to Bulgaria's economic and political outlook "within 800 days." Thousands of Bulgarians hastened to join the NMS2 in what many saw as a protest against those who ruled Bulgaria since the collapse of communism. In the 2001 elections, the NMS2 took the lead in forming a new government but the popularity of the party quickly declined. The movement places NATO and EU integration high on the political agenda. After the 2005 elections, the party received only half of the seats it had in the previous assembly.

In the 25 June 2005 parliamentary elections, the Coalition for Bulgaria (dominated by the Bulgarian Socialist Party) was backed by 31.1% of votes and received a total of 83 seats in the 240-seat Assembly. The National Movement Simeon II (NMS2) garnered 19.9%, and 53 seats. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) ranked third with 12.7% and 33 seats. The surprise in the 2005 elections, the nationalist coalition ATAKA received 8.2% and 17 seats. The United Democratic Forces (UDF), which was supported by 7.7% of the voters, received 20 seats, whereas the other rightist party Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB) won 6.5% and 17 seats. Lastly, the Bulgarian People's Union (BPU), a coalition of the Union of Free Democrats (SSD) and the Agrarian Party of Anastasia Mozer (BZNS), won 5.2% and 13 seats.


Bulgaria is divided into 262 municipalities (obshtini). The municipality is the main administrative territorial unit for local government and is governed by a mayor and an elected municipal council. Municipal councils determine the policy of every municipality, including economic development, environmental, and educational policies, as well as cultural activities. Mayors are in charge of the whole executive activity of their municipality, of keeping the public order, and of organizing distribution of the municipal budget.

Bulgaria is also divided into 28 provinces (oblasti), which are larger administrative territorial units through which the government decentralizes its policies. The Council of Ministers appoints the regional governor for each province.

In preparation for EU accession, six planning regions were created in 1999 to fulfill the requirements for receiving cohesion funds. However, as of mid-2006, those regions existed on paper only.


Bulgaria has an independent judicial system. The 1991 constitution provides for regional courts, district courts, a Supreme Court of Cassation, which rules on decisions by the lower courts, and a Supreme Administrative Court, which rules on the legality of actions by institutions of government. A Constitutional Court is responsible for judicial review of legislation and for resolving issues of competency of the other branches of government as well as impeachments and election law. Judges are appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council, which organizes and administers the judiciary. The Constitutional Court has 12 judges appointed to a nine-year term by the National Assembly, the president, and judicial authorities.

Military courts handle cases involving military personnel and national security issues. Under the 1991 constitution, the judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive branches. The trials are public. Criminal defendants have the right to confront witnesses, the right to counsel, and the right to know the charges against them to prepare their defense. The constitution prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, home, or correspondence.

Bulgaria accepts compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.


As of 2005, the armed forces of Bulgaria consisted of 51,000 active personnel with reserves numbering 303,000. For that year, the army numbered 25,000 active members, while the navy had 4,370 active personnel and the air force 13,100 active members. The army that year had 1,474 main battle tanks, 18 reconnaissance vehicles, 214 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 1,643 armored personnel carriers, and 1,774 artillery pieces. The navy's major units consisted of one tactical submarine, one frigate, seven corvettes, 16 patrol/coastal vessels, and 20 mine warfare ships. The air force had 137 combat capable aircraft, including 35 fighters and 94 fighter ground attack aircraft. There were also a 34,000-member paramilitary force that included 12,000 border guards, 4,000 security police, and 18,000 railway and construction troops. Bulgaria participated in six missions abroad, including Afghanistan and Iraq. The defense budget for 2005 totaled $630 million.


Bulgaria joined the United Nations on 14 December 1955 and participates in the ECE and all the nonregional specialized agencies. It belongs to the WTO (1996) and is a candidate for membership in the European Union. The nation also belongs to NATO (2004), the Council of Europe, the Central European Initiative, G-9, the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), and the OSCE, and has observer status in the OAS. Bulgaria is part of the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group). It is a guest in the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, Bulgaria is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Air Pollution, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Before World War II, Bulgaria was an agricultural country, consisting mainly of small peasant farms; farming provided a livelihood for about 80% of the population. After the war, the Communist regime initiated an industrialization program. By 1947, a sizable portion of the economy was nationalized, and collectivization of agriculture followed during the 1950s. Until 1990, the country had a centrally planned economy, along Soviet lines, and its sequence of five-year economic plans, beginning in 1949, emphasized industrial production. In 1956, according to official Bulgarian statistics, industry contributed 36.5% of national income, and agriculture and forestry, 32.9%; in 1992, the respective contributions were 42.5% and 12%.

Although Bulgaria has brown coal and lignite, iron ore, copper lead, zinc, and manganese, it lacks other important natural resources and must export in order to pay for needed commodities. Because it relied on the USSR and other CMEA countries for essential imports and as the major market for its exports, and lacks foreign exchange, the Bulgarian economy was greatly influenced by the breakup of the Soviet bloc and the switch to hard-currency foreign trade. In the 1970s, the economic growth rate was quite high (6.8% annually), but the pace of growth slowed in the 1980s, mainly because of energy shortages. The average annual growth rate was only 2% in that decade.

With the disintegration of Soviet-bloc trade and payments arrangements, GDP declined by about 10% in 1990, 13% in 1991, 8% in 1992, and an estimated 4% in 1993. Meanwhile, Bulgaria began an economic reform program supported by the World Bank and IMF. But the economy remained largely state controlled, although there was progress in privatizing many smaller enterprises. The private sector accounted for only about 20% of GDP in 1993 and 45% in 1996. Efforts at economic reform stalled in 1994 as the Socialist government again failed to privatize state-owned industries and institute structural reforms aimed at creating a market economy. The economy was further plagued by wide-scale corruption among businessmen from the former Communist Party who stripped state enterprises of their assets and transferred the funds out of the country. By 1997, the Bulgarian economy was at the brink of collapse with inflation at 300%, the banking system in chaos, and the government on the verge of bankruptcy. Bulgaria became the poorest country in Europe with average monthly wages of $30 a month.

Angry with the governing Socialists, tens of thousands of Bulgarians demonstrated in the capital calling for early elections. In April of 1997 a new government took power and instituted structural reforms designed to bring order to the economy. The government of Prime Minister Ivan Kostov quickly moved to implement market reforms. While operating under the direction of an IMF currency board, Bulgaria pegged the lev to the deutschmark (and now also to the euro), and reduced inflation to 1%. In 1997, the private sector accounted for 65% of GDP. This milestone marked the first time in the post-Communist era that the private sector outperformed the public sector in production. In addition to structural reforms, the Kostov government also moved to combat corruption by becoming the first non-OECD country to ratify the anti-bribery convention.

As of 2003, industry increasingly was being privatized, and agriculture was almost completely privatized. Bulgaria started accession talks with the EU in 2000, but was not one of 10 new countries formally invited to join the body in December 2002. If Bulgaria completes its accession requirements, it is expected to join the EU in 2007, along with Romania. Bulgaria's laws are being harmonized with EU laws, and customs barriers between them are breaking down. By the end of 1999, more than 50% of Bulgaria's exports went to EU nations.

Following the 2001 elections that brought Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to office as prime minister, the stock market soared 100%, but the government in 2002 was unable to live up to its pledge to improve living standards. Foreign direct investment rose modestly in 2002, and although economic growth slowed that year from its 5.8% high in 2000, it was higher than that of many other European countries. Tourism was strong in 2002, and although the weather was poor that year, Bulgaria's agricultural sector performed well. Taxes were lowered, and there is a zero percent capital gains tax on stock market investments.

Bulgaria's overall economic performance has been positive in the last couple of years. In 2004, the GDP grew by 5.7%, and was expected to expand by 6% in 2005, and 4.5% in 2006. This growth was fueled by an increase in domestic demand (encouraged by higher real wages and remittances from abroad), a more dynamic job market, and bank credits. Inflation was rather high in 2004, peaking at 6.2%, but was expected to regress to 4% in 2005. At 12%, unemployment was on a downward path in 2004, and was expected to drop even further by 2006, to 10%. This was the result of a more dynamic private job market, and government policies geared towards unemployment reduction. Corruption, however, remains a stumbling block to Bulgaria's economic success, and a challenge that has to be addressed before the 2007 EU accession deadline.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Bulgaria's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $67.0 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $9,000. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.4%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 4.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 9.3% of GDP, industry 30.4%, and services 60.3% in 2005.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $67 million or about $9 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.3% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $414 million or about $53 per capita and accounted for approximately 2.1% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Bulgaria totaled $13.72 billion or about $1,754 per capita based on a GDP of $19.9 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of -0.4%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 30% of household consumption was spent on food, 17% on fuel, 8% on health care, and 11% on education. It was estimated that in 2002 about 13.4% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In 2005, Bulgaria's workforce totaled an estimated 3.34 million. As of third quarter 2004, an estimated 11% of workers were in agriculture, with 32.7% in industry and the remaining 56.3% in the service sector. Unemployment was estimated at 11.5% in 2005.

The constitution guarantees the right of all to form or join trade unions of their own choosing. The labor code recognizes the right to strike when all other means of conflict resolution have been exhausted. Essential employees, mainly military and law enforcement personnel, are forbidden to strike and political strikes are prohibited as well. Although the law forbids discrimination against union members and union organizing activities, there are reports of union members and organizers being harassed, demoted, dismissed or relocated. There are also reports that some newly hired workers are being forced to sign "yellow dog" contracts, namely agreements that they would not join a union or help organize one. About 18% of Bulgaria's workforce is unionized, although that percentage has been decreasing.

Minimum age for employment is 16 years, with 18 years the minimum for hazardous work. In the formal sector these regulations are generally observed, but in certain industries, family operations, and illegal businesses, children are exploited. The law establishes a standard workweek of 40 hours with at least one 24hour rest period per week. Overtime rates of no less than 150% during weekdays, 175% during weekends, and 200% during official holidays are mandated by law. The minimum wage was about $94 per month as of 2005, but is inadequate to support a worker and a family with a decent standard of living. Minimum health and safety standards exist and are effectively enforced in the public sector, but not effectively enforced in the largely unregulated and often informal private sector.


In 2002, the total arable land area covered 3,583,000 hectares (8,834,000 acres). The average annual agricultural growth rate was -2.1% for 198090 and -0.4% for 19902000. By 2000, agricultural output was only two-thirds of what it was in 1990. However, during 200204, crop production averaged 2.9% higher than during 19992001. In 2005, agriculture accounted for 9.3% of GDP. In 2004, agriculture (including fishing and forestry) engaged about 11% of the economically active population.

Collectivized agriculture became the norm under the Communist government after 1958. In March 1991, the government adopted a land law which restored ownership rights to former owners of expropriated land. These owners were to receive 2030 hectares (4974 acres) each of land approximating the type and location of the former holdings, regardless of whether or not the owner cultivates that land. After February 1991, full price liberalization for producers and consumers was to occur. However, the agricultural sector was still shrinking due to the lack of progress in the implementation of privatization and property restitution. A grain crisis developed when Bulgaria exported a million tons of wheat in 1995. Currency depreciations, increased taxes, and lack of funds exacerbated the disintegration of the agricultural sector in the mid-1990s.

The principal grain-growing areas are the Danube tableland and southern Dobrudja. The production of major crops in 2004 (in thousands of tons) was wheat, 3,961; corn, 2,123; barley, 1,181; sunflower seeds, 1,079; and rapeseed, 22.

Bulgaria is a major supplier of grapes, apples, and tomatoes to Europe and the former Soviet Union. Potatoes and paprika are also important crops. Production in 2004 included (in thousands of tons): grapes, 400; apples, 30; tomatoes, 400; and potatoes, 574. About 60,000 tons of tobacco were also produced that year.

Machinery available to agriculture has increased significantly. Tractors rose from 25,800 units in 1960 to 53,800 units in 1985, before falling to 32,100 in 2002; combines increased from 7,000 to 16,000 in 1985, but by 2002 numbered only 9,000 in use. About 16% of the cultivated area is irrigated.


Meadows and pastures make up about 18% of the total land area. Bulgaria had 2,100,000 sheep, 18,000,000 chickens, 1,000,000 hogs, 750,000 goats, 668,000 cattle, 200,000 donkeys, and 150,000 horses in 2004. Meat production (in carcass weight) in 2004 amounted to 479,000 tons. In the same year, the country produced 1,590,000 million tons of milk and 92,000 tons of eggs.


Fishing resources in the Black Sea are less than abundant. Before 1960, the annual catch was slightly above 5,000 tons. Fishing output reached a high of 167,100 tons in 1976, then fell to 115,607 tons in 1982. Prior to 1989, Bulgaria used to produce about 20,000 tons of fish from freshwater aquaculture. The fish farms and fish processing industries went through major restructuring and privatization during the 1990s. Only after 2000 did the fish industry register some growth. In 2003, the total catch was 16,498 tons, about 80% from inland waters. Fishing vessels are based at the ports of Varna and Burgas. The most popular river fish is sturgeon. Due to environmental limitations, the government sets an annual sturgeon quota; for 2003 it was 22 tons. The beluga caviar quota set that year was 1,720 kg (3,780 lb).


Forests cover 3,700,000 hectares (9,143,000 acres), or 33.4% of Bulgaria's territory. About 80% of the total forest area is wooded forest land. Forests are about 34% coniferous and 66% deciduous, and mainly occupy regions of higher altitudes. Over half of the forests in Bulgaria are situated on slopes of over 20°, making harvesting and reforestation very difficult. The principal lumbering areas are the Rila and western Rhodope Mountains in the southwest and the northern slopes of the Balkan Mountains in the center. Forestry and the forest industry contribute about 2% to the GDP.

Intensive exploitation and neglect before and during World War II (193945) and even more intensive exploitation following the war contributed to the deterioration of the forests. So during 194565, 860,000 hectares (2,125,000 acres) were reforested; the 20-year plan (196180) called for the planting of 1.4 million hectares (3.5 million acres). During the 1980s, annual reforestation averaged 50,000 hectares (123,500 acres). Despite the intensive harvesting during 195073 (which exceeded the government's Forest Management PlanFMP), the total timber volume has increased from 165 million cu m (5.8 billion cu ft) in 1934 to 404 million cu m (14 billion cu ft) in 1995. The FMP decreased the amount of timber permitted to be cut from 6.8 million cu m (240 million cu ft) in 1955 to 6.2 million cu m (219 million cu ft) of roundwood in 1995 because fewer large trees are available. Roundwood production has decreased from 8.6 million cu m (304 million cu ft) in 1960 to 4.8 million cu m (522 million cu ft) in 2003. Forestry exports in 2003 totaled $139.3 million. Bulgaria exports logs to Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Macedonia; veneer to Greece and Syria; and particleboard to Greece, Macedonia, and Egypt. The main problems prohibiting greater roundwood production are diseases, drying of trees, and pests. Acid rain and heavy metals have not hurt the local forests. In 1998, the government began a forestry restitution and privatization program covering 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres). The average annual reforestation rate was 0.6% during 19902000.


Bulgaria was an important regional producer of nonferrous metal ores and concentrates, and was mostly self-sufficient in mineral requirements. Mining and metalworking in the region was well documented by Roman times, when Bulgaria and Romania, known respectively as Thrace and Dacia, were important sources of base and precious metals. Small quantities of bismuth, chromite, copper, gold, iron, lead, magnesite, manganese, molybdenum, palladium, platinum, silver, tellurium, tin, uranium, and zinc were mined, as well as the industrial minerals anhydrite, asbestos fiber, barite, bentonite, common clays, refractory clays, dolomite, feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum, kaolin, industrial lime, limestone, nitrogen (in ammonia), perlite, pyrites, salt (all types), sand and gravel, silica (quartz sand), calcined sodium carbonate, dimension stone, sulfur (content of pyrite), sulfuric acid, and crushed stone. Most of the copper deposits were within a roughly 50 km-wide (30 mi) swath from Burgas in the east, to the former Yugoslavia in the west, and almost all was produced by two enterprises, Asarel-Medet, at Panagurishte, and Elatzite-Med, at Srednogorie; copper was also mined at Burgas and Malko Turnovo. Lead and zinc were mined chiefly in the Rhodope Mountains, at Madan and Rudozem. Production outputs for 2003 were: gold, 2,142 kg; gross copper, 26,415,000 tons; barite ore (run of mine), 637,000 metric tons; limestone and dolomite, 11,000,000 tons; industrial lime, 2,902,000 tons; and silica, 610,000 tons. Manganese ore production was zero in 1999 and 2000, but totaled 1,516 metric tons in 2001 and 4 metric tons each in 2002 and 2003.

In 1998, the National Program for Sustainable Development of Mining in Bulgaria was drafted and approved, and the Underground Resources Act was enacted. The latter, which aimed to promote private enterprise and foreign investment, stipulated that underground mineral wealth was the property of the state, and provided for claims by domestic and foreign companies for the development and operation of mineral deposits for up to 35 years with potential 15-year extensions. Improved economic performance at the end of the 1990s, the significant shift away from economic uncertainties during the transition from central economic planning, improving political stability in the Balkans, and greater investor confidence in the legal underpinnings of the growing privatization process combined to contribute to the $1 billion net foreign investment in 2000, one-third more than in 1999.


Bulgaria has only modest reserves of oil and natural gas, but somewhat larger recoverable reserves of coal. But it is nuclear power that allows Bulgaria to be an exporter of electricity.

In 2002 Bulgaria's output of electrical power was estimated at between 40.9 and 43.1 billion kWh, of which: around 43% came from fossil fuels; 5% from hydropower; 49% from nuclear energy; and the remainder from geothermal and other sources. In the same year, consumption of electricity is estimated at 31.797 billion kWh to 32.7 billion kWh. Total installed capacity is estimated at about 11.8 GW in 2002, of which: hydropower accounts for 1.672 million kW; nuclear for 3.782 million kW; and thermal for 6.326 million kW.

As previously noted, Bulgaria's nuclear power generating capability accounts for a major portion of the country's electrical power output, as well as allowing Bulgaria to be a power exporter. That capability is based upon its Kozloduy facility, which has six reactors, of which only four are working. In 2002, Bulgaria exported 8.335 billion kWh of electricity. In 2001, it earned $150 million from exports of electric power to Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo, Greece, Turkey, and Macedonia.

Bulgaria is heavily reliant on petroleum product imports. The country's proven oil reserves, as of 1 January 2005, were estimated at 15 million barrels, with production and consumption estimated in 2004 at 1,000 barrels per day and 86,000 barrels per day, respectively. Exploration for oil and natural gas is primarily centered in the Black Sea and in the northern part of the country. Bulgaria's sole refinery is located at Burgas, the country's main port. In 2002, refinery output was put at 123,140 barrels per day, but according to an Energy Information Administration analysis brief, updated as of March 2005, actual refining capacity was estimated at 115,000 barrels per day.

Bulgaria's consumption of natural gas far exceeds its proven reserves and production, and it must rely on imports to meet almost its entire natural gas needs. As of 1 January 2005, Bulgaria's proven reserves of natural gas were estimated at 0.2 trillion cu f. Output in 2002 was estimated at only 0.1 billion cu ft. Imports and consumption were both estimated at 174 billion cu ft. for that same year

Coal is the most important mineral fuel, with lignite accounting for nearly 90% and brown coal for around 10%. Bulgaria was estimated in 2002 to have recoverable coal reserves of 2,988 million short tons. Production, consumption and imports of coal are estimated at: 28.4 million short tons; 32.4 million short tons; and 4.0 million short tons, respectively


Before World War II, Bulgarian industry, construction, mining, and handicrafts contributed only 17% to the net national income and accounted for only 8% of employment. Handicrafts in 1939 contributed almost half the net industrial output, followed by textiles and food processing. In the postwar period, the Communist regime nationalized industry and, through economic planning, emphasized a heavy industrialization program that resulted in a substantial increase in the metalworking and chemical industries. Between 1950 and 1960, the annual rate of growth of output in industry (including mining and power production) was 14.8%, according to the official index of gross output. Official statistics indicate that industrial output grew by 1,100% between 1956 and 1980, with the production of capital goods increasing by 1,500% and the production of consumer goods by 658%. Industrial output increased by 9.1% annually during 197175, 6% during 197680, 6.8% during 198085, and 2.7% during 198590. Ferrous metallurgy was given special emphasis in the 1960s, machine-building and chemicals in the 1970s and early 1980s, and high technology in the mid-1980s.

Even before the collapse of communism, industrial and agricultural production fell annually until 1997 and 1998, respectively, when the Kostov reforms took effect. Although traditional industries remain the foundation of the industrial sector, Bulgaria expects high-technology production to post gains in the future as high-tech companies establish operation there.

Industry accounted for 29% of GDP in 2001. The privatization of Bulgaria's industries was largely complete as of 2002, with the exception of a few large companies, such as Bulgartabac. The construction sector should realize strong growth due to the need to undertake major infrastructure projects. Growth in 2003 was expected in light industry, including electronics, textiles, and food processing.

In 2004, industry accounted for 30.1% of the GDP (and 32.7% of the labor force); agriculture made up 11.5% of the GDP (and 11% of the labor force), while services came in first with a 58.4% representation in the economic output, and 56.3% of the workforce.

Primary industries included electricity, gas and water, food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and equipment, base metals, chemical products, coke, refined petroleum, and nuclear fuel. Bulgaria also produces electrical components and computers. The industrial production growth rate reached 5.2% in 2004.


In 1996, Bulgaria had 25 agricultural, medical, scientific, and technological learned societies and 117 research institutes. The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (founded in 1869) is the main research organization. The Academy of Medicine (founded in 1972) has five higher medical institutes. Total expenditures on research and development (R&D) in 2002 totaled $278.313 million or 0.5% of GDP. Of that amount, 69.8% came from the government, while 24.8% came from business. Higher education and nonprofit sources each accounted for 0.2% in 2002. The remainder came from foreign sources. In that same year there were 1,158 researchers and 466 technicians per million people, actively engaged in R&D. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $85 million, accounting for 3% of the country's manufactured exports. A large-scale program of scientific and technological cooperation of CMEA countries was adopted at the end of 1985.

Bulgaria has 18 universities and colleges offering degrees in basic and applied sciences. In Sofia are the National Natural History Museum (founded in 1889) and the National Polytechnical Museum (founded in 1968). In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 27% of university enrollment.


Private shops and small supermarkets are open in many cities and local farmer's markets are still active. A few warehouse stores have opened in Sofia. The government has remained committed to privatization efforts. By the end of 1999, 71% of state-owned assets had been privatized. Bulgaria has also attracted a number of foreign investors, including US companies such as American Standard, McDonald's, Kraft Foods, and Hilton International. However, Germany is the top foreign investor.

Newspapers and magazines are the important means of advertising to the population at large. Radio advertisements are permitted for half an hour each day.

Offices are open from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 1:30 to 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Normal banking hours are 8 am to 12 noon, MondayFriday, and 8 to 11 am on Saturday.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 7,540.2 10,901.1 -3,360.9
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 1,057.5 1,114.7 -57.2
Germany 812.1 1,555.1 -743.0
Greece 781.8 725.0 56.8
Turkey 690.0 667.4 22.6
Belgium 457.7 149.7 308.0
France-Monaco 382.5 614.5 -232.0
Area nes 352.3 100.1 252.2
United States 337.0 279.3 57.7
Serbia and Montenegro 249.0 249.0
Romania 230.0 262.2 -32.2
() data not available or not significant.


The principal imports were crude oil, natural gas, diesel fuel, fuel oil, coal, textiles, and machinery and equipment.

Geographic distribution of trade has changed radically twice: since World War II and the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Whereas before the war Bulgaria traded mainly with the countries of Western and Central Europe, after the war, trade shifted almost entirely to the countries of the Communist bloc. In 1991, 49.8% of all exports still went to the former USSR and 43.2% of all imports still came from the former USSR.

By the mid-1990s, weak demand in the former Soviet bloc markets led to an increase in exports to European Union countries which now take about 56% of Bulgaria's exports. Other important export areas include Central and Eastern European, and other OECD countries. Principal export markets in 2004 included Italy (with 13.1% of all exports), Germany (11.6%), Turkey (9.3%), Belgium (6.1%), Greece (5.6%), US (5.3%), and France (4.9%). The main import partners were Germany (with 15.1% of all imports), Italy (10.2%), Russia (7.9%), Greece (7.5%), Turkey (6.9%), and France (4.4%). Exports totaled $9.1 billion (FOBFree on Board) in 2004; imports grew to $12.2 billion (FOB); the trade deficit was $3.1 billion.


During the postwar industrialization program, Bulgaria had a trade imbalance, made up largely by credits, particularly from the former USSR. From 1952 to 1958, the country had visible export surpluses, but another industrialization drive resulted in a trade imbalance during 195961, and there were persistent imbalances during the latter part of the 1960s. In the early 1970s, export surpluses were reported for most years; there were also small surpluses in 1979, 1980, and 1984. With the collapse of COMECON trade, Bulgaria began exporting agricultural products and light manufactured products in exchange for consumer goods. During the first nine months of 1992, Bulgaria recorded its first surplus in many years. Failure of the government to institute economic reforms, however, led to severe economic hardship and trade deficits of $1.4 billion in 1993 and $1.6 billion in 1994. In 1994, the

Current Account -1,675.8
    Balance on goods -2,478.0
      Imports -9,922.8
      Exports 7,444.8
    Balance on services 599.6
    Balance on income -489.1
    Current transfers 691.7
Capital Account -0.2
Financial Account 2,058.1
    Direct investment abroad -21.8
    Direct investment in Bulgaria 1,419.4
    Portfolio investment assets -72.0
    Portfolio investment liabilities -130.0
    Financial derivatives -1.1
    Other investment assets 147.5
    Other investment liabilities 716.1
Net Errors and Omissions 349.9
Reserves and Related Items -732.0
() data not available or not significant.

deficit was partially financed by almost $1.1 billion in aid from other countries and international financial institutions. In 2000, the current account deficit was financed by $1 billion in foreign direct investment and additional funding from international financial institutions.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2002 the purchasing power parity of Bulgaria's exports was $5.3 billion while imports totaled $6.9 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $1.6 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Bulgaria had exports of goods totaling $5.11 billion and imports totaling $6.7 billion. The services credit totaled $2.42 billion and debit $1.88 billion. By 2004, the exports of goods and services grew to $14 billion, while the imports totaled $16.5 billion. The resulting resource balance was thus -$2.5 billion, while the current account balance hit -$1.8 billion. Bulgaria's total reserves (including gold) amounted to $9.2 billion in 2004.


All banks were nationalized in 1947 in accord with Soviet banking policies. Until 1969, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) was the chief banking institution handling deposits of state and local governments and national enterprises. It was the bank of issue and was authorized to credit enterprises with funds for facilities and activities not covered by the capital investment plan. In 1969 it was renamed the Bulgarian Central Bank and remained the bank of issue. Two new banksthe Industrial Bank and the Agricultural and Trade Bankassumed the functions of providing credit for industry and for agriculture and individuals, respectively. In 1968, the Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank was established as a joint-stock company. The State Savings Bank was the chief savings institution.

In 1996, the Bulgarian National Bank, lacking reserves, virtually gave up attempts to stabilize the exchange rate and contain inflation. However, the outlines of future economic policy under a new government appear to be decided, given that all parties agreed that a currency board was the linchpin of economic stabilization. The IMF opened negotiations with the caretaker government on the introduction of a currency board, which it made a condition of further funding. When Bulgaria achieved independence in 1991, a two-tier banking system was formed. The Bulgarian National Bank became the country's central bank. The country has a state savings bank with 491 branches. There are about 80 commercial banks in Bulgaria. Some of the commercial banks are cross-border banks that are involved in the foreign exchange market. Some of the banks licensed for cross-border foreign exchange include: Agricultural and Co-operative Bank (1987), Balkenbank (1987), Biochim Commercial Bank (1987), Bulgarian Post-Office Bank, Economic Bank (1991), Hemus Commercial Bank, and the Bank for Economic Enterprise (December 1991).

In a related move that was also seen as a step towards the restrictive regime of a currency board, the central bank announced in late January of 1997 that it would no longer be fixing a base interest rate. Instead, the BNB would set an indicative rate defined by the interest on short-term government bonds. Banks themselves would be able to set their own rates according to market principles, without interference from the central bank. In 2001, the exchange rate to the dollar was 2.1847 leva. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $2.2 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $5.5 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 3.74%.

The First Bulgarian Stock Exchange was established in Sofia on 8 November, 1991 as a joint stock company with capital of Lv10,000,000 divided into 10,000 shares of Lv1,000 each. Designated as SOFIX, it is managed by a Board of Directors and by a Chief Executive. The exchange currently trades mainly in unlisted securities. As of 2004, there were 332 companies listed on the SOFIX. Market capitalization as of December 2004 stood at $2.804 billion, with the SOFIX Index up 37.6% from the previous year at 625.3.


Private insurance companies were nationalized in 1947 and absorbed into the State Insurance Institute. Property insurance and life insurance are compulsory for collective farms and voluntary for cooperatives, social organizations, and the population in general. Insurance policies and premiums have increased steadily for both. Third-party automobile liability and workers' compensation are also compulsory insurances. The Insurance Regulatory body is the Ministry of Finance. Since March of 1998, foreigners have been permitted to own a Bulgarian insurer. In 2003, total direct premiums written totaled $387 million, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $343 million. Bulgaria's top nonlife insurer was Bulstrad, with $58.9 million of gross nonlife premiums written in 2003. That same year, DZI was the country's top life insurer with $18.1 million of gross life premiums written.


An annual budget for all levels of government, becoming effective on 1 January, is voted by the National Assembly, after having been prepared by the Ministry of Finance. The disintegration of the Communist system in November 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet trade bloc caused severe economic disruption, pushing the government's budget deficit to 8.5% of GDP in 1990 (not including interest payments on commercial foreign debt). However, by the late 90s the country was seeing unprecedented growth (5.8% in 2000), due to aggressive market reforms put in place by the government during the prior decade.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Bulgaria's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.1 trillion and had expenditures of $1 trillion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $0.1 trillion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 32.4% of GDP. Total external debt was $15.46 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were lv12,484 million and expenditures were lv12,417 million. The value of revenues was us$7,092 million and expenditures us$7,054 million, based on an exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = lv1.7604 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 17.1%; defense, 6.6%; public order and safety, 7.6%; economic affairs, 11.9%; housing and community amenities, 0.7%; health, 11.9%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.6%; education, 5.2%; and social protection, 37.3%.


Bulgaria revised much of its tax system in 1996. One of the changes states that foreign persons receiving remuneration as lecturers and consultants, royalties, license payments, and remuneration for technical services, are charged with a 32% tax at the time of payment. The personal income tax is progressively rated up to 24%. As of 1 January 2005, the standard corporate or profit tax rate is 15%. A withholding tax of 7% is assessed on dividends. Employers are required to contribute 37% of employees' gross salaries for social security insurance while the employees contribute an additional 2%. The value-added tax covers all goods, services and imports at a standard rate of 20%. However, exemptions include insurance and financial services, the transfer of or the renting of land, and educational and health related services. Other taxes include a property tax at a rate of 24%.


Most imports are subject only to declaration and registration. However, special licenses are required for imports of tobacco, alcoholic beverages, oils, military hardware, radioactive materials, jewelry, precious metals, pharmaceutical items, and narcotics. The Ministry of Foreign Trade supervises the collection of customs duties. The amount collected is not published.

Goods arriving from foreign points to be unloaded in Bulgaria must have customs manifests and other shipping documents as specified by law. Customs duties are paid ad valorem at a rate of

Revenue and Grants 12,484 100.0%
    Tax revenue 6,527 52.3%
    Social contributions 3,654 29.3%
    Grants 306 2.5%
    Other revenue 1,997 16.0%
Expenditures 12,417 100.0%
    General public services 2,127 17.1%
    Defense 815 6.6%
    Public order and safety 949 7.6%
    Economic affairs 1,477 11.9%
    Environmental protection
    Housing and community amenities 87 0.7%
    Health 1,479 11.9%
    Recreational, culture, and religion 195 1.6%
    Education 651 5.2%
    Social protection 4,637 37.3%
() data not available or not significant.

540% on industrial products and 570% on agricultural products. Goods from EU nations receive preferential tariff rates. Duty must be paid on all goods except those specifically exempt, such as many foods products, farm machinery, toiletries, fertilizer and pesticide, mining equipment, and medical and dental supplies. In August 1987, the national assembly adopted a law to establish tariff-free zones to attract foreign investment beginning in January 1988. Taxes on imports include a value-added tax of 20%, a 0.5% customs clearance fee, and a 3% import surcharge.


Bulgaria has realized the need to attract foreign investment and has one of the most liberal foreign investment laws in the region. The 1997 Foreign Investment Law set up the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) to administer the regime. In 1999, currency laws were liberalized to conform with IMF Article VIII obligations. Foreign investors can enter into joint ventures, start new (greenfield) ventures, purchase companies in Bulgaria's privatization process, or acquire portfolio shares. The law governing privatizations is the 1992 Law on the Transformation and Privatization of State and Municipal Enterprises. In November 2000, amendments were made to enhance the transparency and efficiency of the privatization process and to bring it under parliamentary control, but domestic political turmoil and austerity under an IMF stand-by program combined with the external economic slowdown to bring foreign investment in privatization to a low of less than $20 million in 2001. By 2000, about 78% of the state enterprises slated for privatization had been sold off with foreign investors participating mainly through direct cash purchases. The government encourages the use of Brady bonds (debt-for-equity swaps) in payment instruments. Bulgarian bad debt bonds (zunks) can be purchased on the local market at a 3035% discount on the face value and are accepted at a 40% premium in privatization sales.

Under legislation from 1987 and since revised, Bulgaria has six free zones where companies with foreign participation can receive equal or preferential treatment. The most profitable free zone is the one at Plovdin. Others are on the Danube (at Ruse and Vidin), near the Turkish border (at Svilengrad), near the Serbia border (Dragomen), and on the Black Sea (at Burgas, which has the most advanced warehousing and transshipment facilities).

In 1992, foreign direct investment (FDI) was $34.4 million, mostly from Austria and Hungary. In 1993, FDI jumped to $102.4 million, $22 million from privatization and over half ($56 million) from Germany. By 1997, FDI inflow had risen to $636.2 million. Most ($421.4 million) came from privatization sales and the largest source was Belgium ($264 million). In 1998, the effects of the Russian financial crisis helped produce the first postindependence decline to $620 million; $155.8 million was from privatization and Cyprus was the largest source ($109 million), mainly from Stambouli Enterprises. In 1999, FDI inflow recovered to $818 million, with $226.7 million coming from privatization sales and with Germany, Cyprus, and Russia each the source of over $100 million FDI. FDI inflow peaked in 2000 at $1 billion, with $366 million from privatization. The largest sources were Italy ($339.7 million) and Greece ($241million). The global economic slowdown beginning in 2001 reduced FDI inflow to $812.9 million in 2001 and to an estimated $478.7 million in 2002. Contributions from privatization reached a low of $19.2 million, recovering to an estimated $135.6 million in 2002. In 2001, Greece ($240.2 million) and Italy ($146.5 million) were the sources of the largest investments, and in 2002, the only FDI inflow over $100 million was from Austria ($137.7 million). A main source of disinvestments was Korea (Daewoo and Hyundai), with negative flows of -$9.2 million in 2001 and -$41.3 million in 2002.

From 1992 to 2002, total FDI inflow was $5.14 billion, $1.58 billion from privatization sales. Sources include at least 25 countries, with the top five being Greece (12.4%), Germany (12.2%), Italy (10.5%), Belgium (9.4%), and Austria (8.7%). The sectors receiving the most net FDI 1998 to 2002 were banks and other financial activities (23.5%); trade and repair services (14.1%); telecommunications (9.1%); petroleum, chemicals, rubber and plastics (7.2%); and mineral products including cement and glass (6.8%). In 2004, FDI reached a record high of $2.5 billion (the equivalent of 9.2% of the GDP), and was expected to remain high in 2005 at around $2.1 billion. The main source of FDI has been the EU, with around 67% of total investments.

Capital markets are small and underdeveloped in Bulgaria. The new Bulgaria Stock Exchange opened in 1998 with 998 companies and a total market valuation of $992 million. In December 2001, there were 399 listed companies with a market capitalization of $505 million. However, Bulgaria offers a favorable investment climate, boasting strong economic growth, political stability, a well educated workforce and competitive costs. It is a good springboard to other markets in Europe and the Middle East, and as EU accession candidate in 2007 it can serve as an entry point to otherwise well protected markets.


Until 1990 when the post-Communist government began a program of privatization, the economy was almost entirely nationalized or cooperatively owned and operated on the basis of state plans. These were designed to expand the economy as a whole, with emphasis on the growth of heavy industry (fuels, metals, machinery, chemicals) and on the development of export goods. In 1971, productive enterprises were grouped into more than 60 state concerns responsible for almost all nonagricultural production.

Bulgaria's first five-year plan (194953) emphasized capital investment in industry. The period was marked by a slow pace in agricultural production (owing largely to collectivization and small investment), an inadequate supply of consumer goods, and a poor livestock output. The 195357 plan provided for a decrease in industrial investment, with a resultant improvement in agriculture, housing, and living conditions. The food-processing industry, important for export, began to receive greater attention in 1958, as did textiles and clothing. The lagging rate of growth during the early 1960s was due mainly to poor agricultural output and to a slower industrial pace. The third five-year plan (195862), with its "big leap forward" (195960), was claimed to have reached its goals by the end of 1960, but definite shortcomings remained. The fourth plan (196165) devoted 70% of total investment to industry, while agriculture received only 6.5%. Investments directed by the fifth plan (196670) adhered essentially to precedent, with some shift toward agriculture, and this trend continued under the sixth plan (197175). Of total investment during 197173, over 40% went to industry and 15% to agriculture. The 197680 plan resulted in a 35% increase in industrial output and a 20% increase in agricultural output. The overall growth rate began to slow down in the late 1970s, and the 198185 plan reflected the concept of a more gradual economic growth. Under the 198690 plan, it was projected that national income would grow by 2225%, industrial output by 2530%, and agricultural production by 1012%. Priority was to be given to the development of high technology.

In the 1990s, the post-Communist government began a program to reform of the nation's economy. It rescheduled the foreign debt, abolished price controls, and became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and IBRD. The reforms, however, were not embraced by the Socialist government that took power in 1994 and by 1996 the economy was in a tailspin. The government led by Prime Minister Ivan Kostov that took power in 1997 laid the financial groundwork for a market economy by selling off state firms, strengthening the currency (lev), and doing away with price controls, state subsidies, monopolies, and trade restrictions. As a result of its successful stabilization of the lev and inflation, Bulgaria is viewed favorably by investors and is a candidate for membership in the European Union (EU). Membership in that body was expected for 2007 if accession requirements are met, including progress on privatization.

The government of Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, which came to power in 2001, took steps to reduce taxes, rein in corruption, and encourage foreign investment. Bulgaria nevertheless suffers from high unemployment and low standards of living. A $337 million stand-by arrangement with the IMF, approved in February 2002, expired in February 2004. The government, while pledging to the IMF that it would adhere to sound macroeconomic policies (including controlling spending, strengthening tax administration, curbing inflation, balancing the budget, and strengthening the country's external financing position), stated the improvement of Bulgarians' living standards was central to the country's economic development.

Although Bulgaria has registered some of the highest GDP growth rates in Europe, the real income of the population (and subsequently their living standards) have failed to develop as quickly. Policy makers in Bulgaria are therefore looking to match the macroeconomic boom with similar improvements at the population level, particularly in terms of lower unemployment and more job opportunities. The national elections from June 2005 were followed by political turmoil, none of the parties being able to gain a clear majority. Eventually, the socialist party managed to form a government around Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev and promised to continue economic reforms and market restructuring. Together with Romania, Bulgaria is seeking to meet the EU accession date of 2007. Corruption remains the main point of contention for both countries, and is an issue that needs to be addressed promptly in the coming period.


The code for compulsory social insurance was revised in 2000. It provides for dual coverage by a social insurance system and mandatory private insurance. The program covers all employees, selfemployed persons, farmers, artists, and craftsman. Old age benefits begin at age 61 and 6 months for men and 56 and 6 months for women; these will be increased incrementally until 2009 when retirement age will be 63 for men and 60 for women. Survivors' and disability pensions are also provided, as well as work injury and unemployment benefits. Maternity benefits amount to 90% of earnings for 135 days. The government provides family allowance benefits based on the age and number of children.

Although women have equal rights under the constitution, they have not had the same employment opportunities as men. Although many women attend university, they have a higher rate of unemployment, and are likely to work in low paid jobs. Violence against women remains a serious problem, and domestic violence is considered a family problem and not a criminal matter. The government provides no shelter or counseling for women. There exists societal stigma against rape victims, and no laws prohibit sexual harassment. Trafficking in women remains a huge problem.

A significant problem of discrimination against the Roma minority continued in 2004. Although freedom of speech is provided for by the constitution, the government maintains influence over the media and libel is a criminal offense. The government and public have limited tolerance for religious freedom.


The Ministry of Health is the controlling and policy-making agency for the health system in Bulgaria. An estimated 4% of GDP went to health expenditure. The Bulgarian government passed a bill restoring the right of the private sector to practice medicine and permitting the establishment of private pharmacies, dentists, and opticians. Bulgarian citizens resident in the country still have use of the free national health service. Bulgaria is in the process of restructuring its health care system from one based on command and control to one founded on pluralism. Medical care has never been well funded, but the shift from a centrally planned to a private enterprise system has left the medical sector in disarray. Doctors continue to receive low wages and operate inadequate and outdated machinery and patients on the whole receive minimal health services. In 1993, the World Bank assessed the country's problems and recommended numerous changes and improvements. The Ministry of Health sought funding for 1921 additional health centers and the rehabilitation of 67 secondary centers served by 283 emergency medical teams. Utilization of health care services, including hospitalization, outpatient treatment, and preventive care, declined throughout the 1990s.

Bulgaria has 98 municipal hospitals with an average of 227 beds apiece, and 32 general district hospitals with an average of 874 beds. In addition there were 12 university hospitals in Sofia. As of 2004, there were an estimated 338 physicians, 443 nurses, 81 dentists, and 16 pharmacists per 100,000 people. Mortality in 2000 was 13 per 1,000, compared with 8.1 in 1960.

Stroke mortality is among the highest in Europe and circulatory diseases account for more than half of all deaths. Smoking is on the increase; alcohol consumption is high; physical activity is low; and obesity is common. Bulgarians have a high intake of fats, sugars, and salt. One out of eight people has high blood pressure. Improved maternal and child care lowered infant mortality from 108.2 per 1,000 in 1951 to 13 per 1,000 in 2000. However, by 2005 the infant mortality rate increased to an estimated 20.55 per 1,000 live births. In 1999, there were 46 cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people despite high immunizations for this disease. In the same year Bulgaria immunized children up to one year old as follows: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 96%, and measles, 96%. An estimated 76% of married women (ages 15 to 49) used contraception. The fertility rate has deceased from 2.2 per woman in 1960 to 1.3 per woman in 2000. Bulgaria's maternal mortality rate is below the average for countries of medium human development. Approximately 99% of the population had access to safe drinking water. Life expectancy in 2005 was 72 years on average.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 346 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


There are two main types of housing environments in the country: street district and housing complexes. Most of the street district housing was built before World War II and consists of private lots built to follow a street regulation plan. Beginning in the 1950s, housing complexes were built on public property, though the homes themselves are privately owned. Over 120 complexes have been built in the last 50 years, with a large number of prefab homes. Capital investment for housing construction during the period 197680 amounted to Lv3.5 billion. At the end of 1985 there were 3,092,000 dwelling units in the country, 24% more than in 1975; by 1991, this figure had risen to 3,406,000. In 2004 there were an estimated 3,704,798 dwellings; about 477 per 1,000 population. The average number of people per household was 2.09. About 11% of all housing stock are one-room dwellings; about 65% are two or three-room units. About 63% of all dwellings are in urban areas.

Although housing construction during the period 197685 averaged about 60,000 units per year, the housing shortage continues, especially in the larger cities, because of the influx into urban areas of new workers and because of the emphasis placed on capital construction. In 1975, to curb urban growth, the government instituted tight restrictions on new permits for residences in major cities. In December 1982, the Communist Party decreed that, in order to halt the growth of Sofia, a number of enterprises in the capital would be closed or moved elsewhere.


Education is free and compulsory for eight years between the ages of 7 and 19. Primary education is divided into two stages of four years in each stage. Secondary students then choose either a general studies or vocational training program, each of which lasts for four years. The Academic year runs from September to June. The language of instruction is Bulgarian.

In 2001, about 70% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 90% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 87% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 97% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 17:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 12:1.

There are over 30 higher education institutions, including four universities. The most important is the University of Sofia, founded in 1888. The others include the University of Plovdiv (founded 1961), the University of Veliko Tarnovo (founded 1971), and the American University in Bulgaria (founded 1991). All higher level institutions had a total of 262,757 students and 26,303 teaching staff in 1997. In 2003, about 39% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 98%, with fairly even rates for men and women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.6% of GDP.


The St. Cyril and St. Methodius National Library, established in 1878 in Sofia, is the largest in Bulgaria (2.52 million volumes); since 1964, the Elin Pelin Bulgarian Bibliographic Institute has been attached to it. Other important libraries are the Central Library of the Scientific Information Center (with 740,000 volumes), the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences library (1.74 million volumes), the Sofia University Library (1,500,000 volumes), and the Ivan Vazov National Library in Plovdiv (with 1,300,000 volumes). The Pencho Slaveykov Public library in Varna has over 800,000 volumes. The Union of Librarians and Information Services Officers was established in Bulgaria in 1990.

Bulgaria has some 200 museums, of which the most important include the National Archaeological Museum (attached to the Academy of Sciences) and the National Art Gallery (with a collection of national and foreign art), both in Sofia. Other museums are devoted to history, science, and the revolutionary movement, and include the Bojana Church Museum in Sofia, the Museum of Wood Carvings and Mural Painting in Trjauna, with an important collection of artifacts from the Bulgarian National Revival Period in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the Open-Air Museum of Ethnography in Gabrovo.


Telecommunications systems are owned and operated by the state. In 2003, there were an estimated 380 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 114,600 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 466 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

In Spring 2000, the government awarded a license for the first privately owned television station with nationwide coverage to the Balkan News Corporation; in 2003, Nova TV became the second national commercial station. All other national television stations are state-owned, though there are a number of privately operated regional stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 543 radios for every 1,000 people; the number of television sets was not available in the same survey. It is estimated that about 133 of every 1,000 people subscribe to cable television services. In 2003, there were 51.9 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 206 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 46 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The principal Sofia papers, with their publishers and estimated daily circulations (2002), are: 24 Chasa, Vest Publishing House, 330,000; Bulgarska Armiya, Ministry of Defense, 30,000; Demokratsiya, Union of Democratic Forces, 45,000; Duma, Socialist Party, 130,000; Trud, Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, 200,000; Zemedelsko Zname, Agrarian People's Union, 178,000; and Zemya, Socialist Party, 53,000.

The constitution of Bulgaria ensures freedom of speech and of the press, and the government is said to generally respect these rights. National television and radio broadcasting remain under supervision of the Council for Electronic Media and the Communications Regulation Commission.


Bulgaria's important economic organizations include the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1985) and organizations dedicated to promoting Bulgaria's exports in world markets. There are trade unions representing a wide variety of vocations. The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria was founded in 1901 and taken over by the Communists after World War II. In 1990, it became an independent organization. It has about 75 member federations and four association members. There are professional and trade organizations representing a variety of fields.

The Bulgarian Medical Association serves as a national organization promoting high standards of healthcare, advancement in medical research, and the free dissemination of health information. There are also several similar medical organizations dedicated to promoting research and education concerning specific conditions and diseases.

There are several associations promoting a wide range of sports and leisure activities, including bobsledding, badminton, baseball, chess, yoga, and amateur radio. The National Federation of Sports in Schools was established in 1993 to promote and coordinate sport activities through the schools. There are national branches of the Olympic Committee, the Special Olympics, and the Paralympic Committee.

The Bulgaria Academy of Science promotes scientific study and advancement, conducts research projects, and maintains a museum. The Institute of Art Studies is cosponsored by the Academy of Science as an organization dedicated to promoting Bulgarian art and culture.

Since 1990, a number of youth organizations have developed throughout the country. The Bulgarian Democratic Youth, with about 90,000 members, became the successor to the Dimitrov Young Communist League. The group serves to advance civic enterprise and control and promote a social environment for enterprising youth. Student groups include the Federation of Independent Student Associations, the Bulgarian Association of University Women, the Independent Student Trade Union, and the Student League of Beliko Turnovo. There is an Organization of Bulgarian Scouts and active branches of YMCA/YWCA.

There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity, and Caritas.


Bulgaria is rich in mineral waters and has numerous tourist spas. Visitors are attracted to the Black Sea resorts and the archaeological monuments. There are three national parksPirin, Rila, and Central Balkanall rich in historic sites and self-regulating ecosystems. Lying between the slopes of the Balkan and the Sredna Gora mountain range is the Valley of Roses. Foreign visitors to Bulgaria must have a passport. Visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days.

In 2003, about 6.2 million tourists visited Bulgaria, a 12% increase from 2002. In that same year, tourist receipts totaled $2.1 billion. There were 143,960 beds available in hotels and other establishments, with an occupancy rate of 34%. Visitors stayed in Bulgaria an average of four nights.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Sofia at $221 per day. In smaller towns the daily costs were approximately $87.


The founders of modern Bulgarian literature, writing before the end of Turkish rule, were Georgi Rakovski (182167), Petko Slaveikov (182795), Lyuben Karavelov (183579), and Kristo Botev (184876), who was one of Bulgaria's greatest poets. The most significant writer after the liberation of 1878 was Ivan Vazov (18501921), whose Under the Yoke gives an impressive picture of the struggle against the Turks. Pentcho Slaveikov (18661912), the son of Petko, infused Bulgarian literature with philosophical content and subject matter of universal appeal; his epic poem A Song of Blood recalls an insurrection suppressed by the Turks in 1876. In the period between the two world wars, Nikolai Liliyev (18851960) and Todor Trayanov (18821945) were leaders of a symbolist school of poetry. Elin Pelin (18781949) and Iordan Iovkov (18841939) wrote popular short stories on regional themes. More recent writers and poets include Nikola Vaptzarov, Christo Shirvenski, Dimiter Dimov, Orlin Vassilev, and Georgi Karaslavov. Elias Canetti (190594), Bulgarian born but lived from 1938 until his death in the United Kingdom, received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1981. Tzvetan Todorov (b.1939), is a Bulgarian philosopher and literary theorist living in France; he is the author of The Conquest of America (1982). Ivan Mrkvicka (18561938), a distinguished Czech painter who took up residence in Bulgaria, founded the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia.

A prominent Bulgarian statesman was Alexander Stamboliski (18791923), Peasant Party leader who was premier and virtual dictator of Bulgaria from 1920 until his assassination. The best known modern Bulgarian, Georgi Dimitrov (18821949), was falsely charged in 1933 with burning the Reichstag building in Berlin; he became general secretary of the Comintern until its dissolution and prime minister of Bulgaria in 1946. Traicho Kostov (18971949), an early revolutionary leader, was a principal architect of Bulgaria's postwar economic expansion. Caught up in the Tito-Stalin rift, he was expelled from the Politburo and executed in December 1949. Todor Zhivkov (19111998) was first secretary of the Bulgarian Communist Party between 1954 and 1989, the longest tenure of any Warsaw Pact leader. His was marked by ardent and steadfast support of Soviet policies and ideological positions. Zhivkov's daughter Lyudmila Zhivkova (194281), a Politburo member since 1979, was regarded by Western observers as second only to her father in power and influence. Zhivkov was replaced by Dimitar Popov as premier of a coalition government headed by the Socialist Party (formerly the Communist Party). Simeon II (b.1937) was the last tsar of Bulgaria from 194346, and was prime minister from 200105. He is also known as Simeon of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.


Bulgaria has no territories or colonies.


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Detrez, Raymond. Historical Dictionary of Bulgaria. 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2006.

Dimitrov, Georgi. The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, 19331949. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria's Jews Survived the Holocaust: A Collection of Texts. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Frucht, Richard (ed.). Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2005.

International Smoking Statistics: A Collection of Historical Data from 30 Economically Developed Countries. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Otfinoski, Steven. Bulgaria. 2nd ed. New York: Facts On File, 2004.

Petkov, Petko. The United States and Bulgaria in World War I. Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs, 1991.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Bulgaria
Region: Europe
Population: 7,796,694
Language(s): Bulgarian
Literacy Rate: 98%
Number of Primary Schools: 3,170
Compulsory Schooling: 8 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 3.2%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 8,496
Libraries: 4,237
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 431,790
  Secondary: 733,362
  Higher: 262,757
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 99%
  Secondary: 77%
  Higher: 41%
Teachers: Primary: 25,860
  Secondary: 67,088
  Higher: 26,303
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 17:1
  Secondary: 11:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 98%
  Secondary: 76%
  Higher: 52%

History & Background

Bulgaria is a South East European country situated in the heartland of the Balkan Peninsula. With a territory of 110,993 square kilometers, it ranks among the smaller states of Europe. Bulgaria borders Romania to the north, Yugoslavia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the west, Greece to the south, Turkey to the southeast, and has a Black Sea coast line to the east. Demographic trends in the 1990s led to the decline of a population of roughly eight million. An estimated one million Bulgarians reside abroad, primarily in North America and Western Europe. Turks constitute the largest ethnic minority (about 10 percent), followed by the Roma or Gypsies, a group elusive to statistics. There are also Russian, Jewish, Armenian, Tatar, Pomak (Bulgarian Muslim), and Greek populations in Bulgaria. Bulgarian is the official language and the language of education, although most minority groups also use their mother tongues.

Bulgarian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, a choice made in the ninth century at the time of conversion to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Bulgarian is a Slavic language, akin to Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, and Russian. Compulsory education was widespread for most of the twentieth century, causing literacy rates to be as high as ninety-nine percent and to be almost equal for both genders. The capital city Sofia is a major center of culture and education and boasts some of the nation's most prestigious schools of higher learning. Otherwise, educational facilities are evenly distributed throughout the country and available to both urban and rural citizens.

Bulgarian traditions in education go back to the Middle Ages when the First Bulgarian Kingdom (893-1018) provided the conditions for a blossoming of early Slavic literature and culture based on the Cyrillic alphabet. The Bulgarian Tsar Simeon The Great (893-927) welcomed the disciples of the "Apostles of the Slavs," St. Cyril and Methodius and furthered their effort. A court school was established in the Bulgarian capital of Preslav. St. Clement, founded a school on the shores of Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. Thus Bulgaria became the "cradle of Slavic civilization", where an estimated 3,500 priest-teachers were trained, large-scale translation of service books was carried out, and original works of theology, philosophy, literature, and art were created. This legacy later enriched other Slavic Eastern Orthodox nations, including Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine. The Bulgarians celebrated May 24th, the day of the Slavic alphabet and culture, as one of the most cherished national holidays.

The Ottoman conquest (1396-1878) brought education and culture to a standstill. The nation had lost the institutions that previously sponsored it: the state was defeated and the autocephalous church submitted to the control of the Greek-dominated Orthodox millet in Constantinople. The only Bulgarian schools during this period were kiliini (cell) schools at monasteries which taught basic literacy. The Greek schools available at the time were not Bulgarian in spirit and were not trusted by the local population. The national revival was stirred by a "Slav-Bulgarian History," a book written in 1762 by the monk Paisii from the Hilendar Monastery in Mount Athos. It revived the memory of past glory and had enormous impact on the nation. Other books followed and generated a popular movement for secular education, which was at the mainstream of the Bulgarian national renaissance. In 1824, the distinguished Bulgarian scientist Dr. Peter Beron published the "Fish Primer," titled after the illustration on the front page. This textbook taught the essentials of arithmetic, geography, biology, and hygiene. In its forward, the author gave valuable pedagogical advice to teachers and promoted the concepts of secular education. The first fully secular Bulgarian school, known as the Aprilov Gymnasium, was established in the town of Gabrovo in 1835. Secular education quickly gathered momentum and by the middle of the nineteenth century, a real system of schools existed throughout the entire territory of the country.

State education dates back to 1878 when independence was restored with the decisive help of Russia. However, the first Ministry of Education did not have to start from nothing; a system of 1,479 primary schools, 50 secondary institutions, and 130 reading clubs was already in existence. The young modern nation-state pursued vigorous policies in the field of education. The legal foundations for these were laid out in the Turnovo Constitution of 1879, which sanctioned free and secular primary education, compulsory for all children regardless of gender, age, nationality, or faith. A law adopted in 1921, during the rule of the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union, extended the period of compulsory education to seven years. The establishment of the first institution of higher learning, St. Clement Ohridski University of Sofia, occurred in 1888. During the period 1878-1912 a fine arts and a music academy, teacher-training institutes, vocational schools, theological institutions, and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences was established. Educational development was slowed down during the period of the Balkan Wars (1912-13) and the First and Second World Wars.

The advent of communism's rise to power, shortly after the end of the Second World War, had a decisive impact on education. During the period 1944-89, education in Bulgaria was heavily centralized and placed under the rigid control of the Communist Party. Religious influences, previously quite strong in the schools, were replaced by heavy obedience to the atheistic doctrine of Marxism-Leninism. Private schools were abolished. In the meantime, the education system was expanded and new schools were founded at all levels. A law passed in 1948 made education compulsory until the age of 16. The curriculum was rigorous and comprehensive, with very few elective subjects, and placed special emphasis on math and the sciences. Education was free at all levels, including higher education and post-graduate studies. Many new universities, mostly with technical profile, opened new opportunities for professional growth to previously underprivileged groups of society and to women. A typical characteristic of academia was the separation of higher teaching from research, institutionalized in the parallel existence of universities and research institutes. Under communism, education bred sophisticated urban elites, whose covert opposition to the system undermined its very foundations and facilitated its fall in the "tender" revolution of 1989. The freedom of travel after the fall of communism enabled many Bulgarian professionals to look for employment on the world labor market. Many found white-collar jobs in North America and Western Europe during the 1990sa testimony to the quality of Bulgarian education in this period.

Since 1989, the nation has lived through a transition period, which has encompassed thorough changes of the economy, from command to market-oriented and the polity from totalitarianism to pluralist democracy. These changes affected education in a variety of ways. Some of the immediate positive effects included freeing of the education system from ideological constraints, its decentralization, and the restoration of private schools as an alternative in education. Nonetheless, the transition brought about an acute economic crisis. The state economy could no longer continue as the only source to fund education. The cuts in the state appropriations for science and education were extremely severe in the beginning of the 1990s. For example, in 1990 the resources provided by the Bulgarian government for higher education and research were reduced 2.5 times compared to the level of 1989, after corrections for inflation. This underscored the need for introducing paid tuition in higher schools. The economic crisis reached unprecedented official rates of 15 to 17 percent and families in which one or both parents were unemployed were struggling to keep their children in school or college. Despite the crisis, the best traditions in education were preserved and enrollment in higher schools increased. This fact underscores the value that Bulgarians placed on education.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Education was in a state of reform and had been subject to intense legislative activity throughout the 1990s. The Bulgarian Constitution adopted by the Great National Assembly in 1991 and promulgated in The State Newspaper No. 56 on July 13, 1991 laid out the basic principles of education. Article 53 guaranteed the right to education for all citizens as well as the right to free primary and secondary education in state and municipal schools. Higher education was also free under conditions specified by law. Education was compulsory until the age of sixteen. The constitution placed all schools under the control of the state; however, it provided for the academic autonomy of institutions of higher learning.

The Public Education Act of 1991, amended and supplemented several times since, gave substance to the constitutional provisions and enhanced the democratic character of changes in the education system. It established the secular character of education; however, it also authorized the establishment of religious schools and the equality of religious education. The Act sanctioned the restoration of private schools as an alternative to state and municipal schools, and allowed the establishment of schools with foreign participation. The Act specified the compulsory age and the official language of instruction. The law guaranteed the right to choice of school and type of education based on personal preference and ability. It ruled out corporal punishment and guaranteed students the right to dignified treatment. The Act detailed the rights and obligations of both teachers and students. It further laid out the structure of the education system, comprising of basic, secondary, and higher education and outlined the system of administration and finance of education.

The Higher Education Act of 1995 describes the goal of higher education; the training of highly qualified specialists and promoting the progress of science and culture. The Act legalized many changes that were made in the sphere of higher education during the period of 1990-1995. The state allowed higher schools to initiate their reform and sanctioned the results, which included the introduction of new system of academic degreesspecialist, bachelor, master, doctor; the initiation of the process of accreditation; and the principle of academic autonomy. The latter gives expression to the intellectual freedom of the academic community and provides for academic freedoms, academic self-government, and the inviolability of the higher school's territory. The law also strictly lessens the functions of the state in the management of higher education, reducing considerably its role of supervisor and sponsor of higher learning. The Act has been amended several times since its adoption in 1995.

A Law on the Level of Schooling, the General Educational Minimum, and the Curriculum was adopted in 1999. It aimed at establishing uniform requirements for all schools in the country, guaranteeing equivalency of certificates issued for the completion of a particular grade and level of schooling. The law regulated the first two levels of schooling, basic and secondary. It provided the basis for curriculum development and grading.

The Vocational Education and Training Act of 1999 sanctioned a large variety of educational programs guaranteeing professional education to all citizens who were older than thirteen and had completed at least sixth grade of general education. It established uniform requirements for certification of the acquired professional skills, comprising six degrees of proficiency. The law also sanctioned the establishment of a network of centers for professional orientation.

Educational SystemOverview

Education in Bulgaria is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16. Parents have legal responsibility to secure the school attendance of their child. All schools in the country are co-educational, admitting students of both genders. The official language of instruction is Bulgarian. Schoolchildren who have a different first language, besides the compulsory study of the Bulgarian language may study their mother tongue in municipal schools under the protection and control of the state.

The educational system (prior to higher education) comprises 12 grades, organized in two major levels: basic and secondary. Basic education (grades first through eighth) is subdivided into two sub-levels: elementary (grades first through fourth) and presecondary (grades fifth through eighth). Secondary education normally encompasses grades eighth through twelfth, but can start earlier depending on the type of school. There are two major kinds of secondary schools: secondary comprehensive, usually called gymnasia (high school) and secondary vocational, most often referred to as tehnikum (vocational school.) Special schools at all educational levels accommodate students with impaired health. Private schools constitute a new element in the structure of the education system.

Special schools accommodate students in need of special care because of learning disabilities, health, or emotional problems. There is a wide variety of special schools, catering to children who are chronically ill, mentally retarded, blind or visually impaired, hearing and speech impaired, or who have behavioral problems bordering on juvenile delinquency. In 1999-2000, there were 146 special schools at all levels of the education system with 16,000 students enrolled. A significant number of the special schools function as internati (boarding schools).

Private schools are still relatively few in numbers. By January 1999, there were only 52 private schools. Six of the private schools were elementary, twenty-three basic, two presecondary, seventeen high schools, and four general comprehensive including all levels. There were 4,382 students enrolled in all private schools, or only 0.5 percent of the whole student population. Private schools are subject to social controversy because of widespread concerns that they undermine the nation's democratic traditions in education. Despite that, their numbers slowly increase: in comparison with 1998, there were eight more private schools and student enrollment enlarged by 389.

The curriculum is structured into three components: compulsory, elective, and optional; the correlation between those varies at different types of schools. Subjects fall into the following eight major areas of content: Bulgarian language and literature, foreign languages, mathematics, information technologies, social sciences and civics, natural sciences and ecology, music and art, physical culture and sports.

Schools operate on a five-day week schedule. September 15 or the workday closest to it marks the beginning of the school year. This is a festive occasion. Many students go to school carrying bouquets of flowers for their teachers and may be accompanied by their families. The duration of the school year varies by the school level and grade and depends on the quantity of material that needs to be covered. It ends on May 24 for grades 1 and 12 (in the latter case, the intention is to provide time for the matriculation examination). The school year continues until May 31 for grades 2 through 4, until June 15 for grades 5 through 8, June 30 for grades 9 through 11. The school year is divided into two sroka (terms, singular is srok ); the first term begins on September 15 and ends on February 4, the second one starts on February 9. There is a Christmas break (December 24 through January 6), an inter-term break (February 7-8), a spring break (April 1-10), and a two-day break before Eastern Orthodox Easter. In addition, first graders only have a short break in the fall (November 11-13). Setting school vacations in relation to religious holidays is a departure from the practices of the communist regime, which did everything possible to discourage religion and banish it from the public sphere. The summer vacation spans from the end of the school year until September 15. If schools are to be closed due to inclement weather or fuel shortage, the days missed are compensated at the expense of vacation time.

Students from grades 1 through 12 normally spend half a day in school; the other half is dedicated to homework and independent study at home. In elementary school and sometimes in presecondary school there exists an option called zanimalnya (extended care) for students to spend the other half of the day in school working on their lessons under the control of a teacher. This is done upon the explicit request of the parents. Schools in big cities operate according to a two-shift scheme (morning and afternoon) because of shortage of school premises. In small cities and villages the one-shift scheme is prevalent.

The grading system is based on numerals, where 6 is otlichen (excellent), 5 is mnogo dobar (very good), 4 is dobar (good), 3 is sreden (satisfactory), and 2 is slab (poor). Passing grades are 3 through 6; 2 denotes a failure. Very rarely applied, 1 (very poor) is sometimes given for academic misconduct. This grading system is used at all levels of schooling. Grading is based on written and oral testing, homework, and in-class participation. Students do not pass automatically to a higher grade level. Students who have poor grades in more than three subjects repeat the year. In case of three or less poor grades the student has the right to take a supplementary examination, a failure in which also results in repeating the grade. There is no passing to a higher grade on probation. Students are not allowed to repeat grades more than twice in their school career.

Textbooks are subject to contest-based writing, publication, and distribution. All Bulgarian publishing houses that meet the criteria set by the Ministry of Education and Science can compete. The textbooks suitable for use in a particular subject are selected under conditions of real competition with respect to content, artistic layout, and price. On those terms, the Ministry works with more than thirty state and private publishing houses, which print and distribute over 480 textbooks for comprehensive and 800 textbooks for vocational instruction. The schools then place their orders directly with the publishers. The introduction of the contest principle in the publication of textbooks raised professional standards and resulted in improved quality of textbooks.

Bulgarian schools are well equipped with traditional audiovisual aids, such as maps, charts, and globes. Simple technical appliances (like overhead projectors, TV sets, cassette-recorders, and slide-projectors) are also widespread, but the instructional materials that go with them are often obsolete and not in compliance with the new content of study. Office equipment, copiers, and printers are generally lacking in classrooms. But schools face grave problems in securing contemporary computer hardware, software, and communications. The need to update information technologies is well recognized and guidelines have been developed for their introduction.

Bulgarian educators are generally quite open to new instructional techniques and methods. The problems stem from a poor material base. Relatively few computers are available, and those tend to be outdated models with inadequate performance. The existing computers in 1995 were IBM (about 30 percent), Macintosh (2 percent), and the archaic Bulgarian Pravets-8 (67 percent). Due to financial difficulties, very few funds have been allocated for purchase of new computers and any contributions in this field come primarily from donors. Despite all these difficulties, many Bulgarian schools are on-line and teachers and students partake in the information exchange.

Bulgaria has significant minority populations whose first language is not Bulgarian. Under the circumstances, it is very important that schools breed a public spirit of tolerance and dialogue. Traditionally, minorities have enjoyed all rights to education as Bulgarian citizens and have been well integrated in the education system. After the fall of communism in 1989, many former Eastern Bloc nations lived through a process of redefining of national identity, nation-states and citizenship that led to the eruption of conflicts and civil wars. Bulgaria constituted a fortunate exception from this pattern and the education system was entitled to some credit for preserving the national peace. Though, a significant deficiency is the lack of methods for teaching Bulgarian as a foreign language to schoolchildren who speak another language at home. An alarming symptom of alienation is the increasing dropout rate among Roma children who are of compulsory education age.

Education in Bulgaria, although fundamentally national in character, has significant foreign influences. Russian impact was most pronounced during the period of the national revival in the nineteenth century and stemmed the ideas of Slavophilism and pan-Orthodoxy. Many young Bulgarians went to pursue their education in St. Petersburg and Odessa. Immediately after the liberation from Ottoman domination in 1878, achieved with decisive help from Russia, Russian experts remained in Bulgaria to assist with the establishment of the administrative structure of the young nation-state. After the end of the World War II, Bulgaria became a satellite state of the Soviet Union and was heavily subjected to Russian influence in the sphere of culture and education. The model of the entire education system, and particularly that of higher education, was designed to emulate the Soviet education system. Russian language became a compulsory subject as early as fifth grade and intensified at every subsequent school level. The generations of Bulgarians educated under communist rule have command of Russian which provided immediate access to a much larger scope of publications. Russian was promoted as a lingua franca among professional circles of the Eastern Bloc nations. Many Bulgarians received their higher education in Soviet institutions of higher learning, particularly in the technical fields. Although, after 1989, Russian influences on Bulgarian education were on the decline.

Western European and American influences are also evident. German impact, channeled through the Bulgarian royal house which was of German dynastic descent and facilitated by German economic interests in the Balkans, was considerable during the two World Wars that Bulgaria entered as an ally of Germany. French cultural and educational influences infiltrated through the efforts of Jesuit priests in the nineteenth century and the francophone programs of the French government throughout the twentieth century. The first exposure to American educational influence began with the work of Protestant missionaries in the middle of the nineteenth century, remained in the country until the communist regime expelled them in 1945. Meanwhile, they opened some of the first nurseries in Bulgaria, as well as teacher training institutes, vocational schools, and a college in Sofia. The latter was restored in the early 1990s; despite its name, it is in fact one of the most prestigious high schools in the Bulgarian capital. The most significant embodiment of American presence in the Bulgarian education system is the American University in Blagoevgrad, which attracts students from all Balkan nations. Well-educated strata of the population normally speak at least one Western language. Until the 1970s, choices were almost evenly split between German, French and English; younger generations, especially after 1990, overwhelmingly opted for English.

A major goal of the reform of Bulgaria's education system was to bring standards in line with the European context and to harmonize the educational process with that of Western Europe. This was expected to assist the nation's accession to the European Union. In December 1999 Bulgaria was invited to begin negotiations to that effect with practical discussion that begun in March 2000 on six topics, the first two of which were "education and training" and "science and research." Of primary importance is the impact of educational programs and initiatives sponsored by international organizations: UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the World Bank. Joint initiatives in education, such as the programs PHARE, TEMPUS, COPERNICUS in the 1990s vastly improved Bulgaria's structure and content of its education.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preprimary and primary education in Bulgaria consists of two levelsdetski yasli (nurseries) for children through the age of three and detski gradini (kindergartens) for children ages three to seven. These age limits are not absolute, since kindergartens often accept children who are two and a half years old, and elementary schools enroll six-year-olds. Attendance in both cases is voluntary and fees are charged. The nurseries are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and are not considered part of the education system.

Bulgaria's traditions in preprimary education go back 120 years. An education act in 1891 introduced compulsory kindergarten attendance in the cities. While preschool education is not a requirement, there exist impressive facilities, sufficient to enroll the entire children population in all-day kindergartens. However, attendance is on the decline. The major reason for that are the high unemployment rates and the economic difficulties encountered by many families. In 1990-1991, about 312,000 of 595,448 children ages two through seven attended kindergartens (52.4 percent). The percentages slightly differ between cities (53.13 percent), and villages (50.78 percent), and are lowest in Sofia (49.78 percent). The number of children in this age rapidly decreases as well, due to falling birth rates. This explains why relative numbers increased, and absolute enrollment in kindergartens fell. For instance, in 1998-1999 nearly 230,330, or 58 percent, of the children in this age group, attended kindergarten. In consequence to declining enrollment, preprimary education enhances the intellectual and social development of youngsters and prepares them for a smooth transition to grade school. Kindergarten attendance is socially desirable; most of the children who are not enrolled in preprimary education come from low-income families where one or both parents are unemployed.

Grades 1 through 4 comprise the first sub-level of basic education or nachalno uchilishte (elementary school). According to a 1998 amendment of the Public Education Act, children start school at the age of seven; they are supposed to have turned or are going to turn seven in the year they join first grade. Six-year-olds may be enrolled in case their physical and mental development allows for such a step, a decision left to the discretion of their parents or guardians. The curriculum for grades 1 through 4 includes eight compulsory subjects: Bulgarian language, mathematics, introductory Bulgarian history and geography, natural science, fine art, music, and physical education. Minimum comprehensive instruction includes 22-25 hours per week. The curriculum also provides for three to four hours of optional subjects per week. Primary education is completed without exam. Svidetelstvo (certificate) of primary education is issued on the basis of the grades earned in fourth grade. In 1999-2000, there were 385,000 students enrolled in elementary education.

The second sub-level of the basic school, called progimnaziya (pre-high school) covers grades 5 through 8. The curriculum at this level includes 12 compulsory subjects: Bulgarian language and literature, mathematics, history, geography, physics, chemistry, biology, fine arts, music, technical education, physical education, and one foreign language. A second foreign language may be included in the seventh grade. The minimum instruction time includes 27-30 hours per week; another four hours per week are allowed for optional subjects. A Svidetelstvo (certificate) for completed basic education is issued on the basis of the grades earned in eighth grade without a final exam. In 1999-2000, there were 357,000 students enrolled at this school level.

Secondary Education

Secondary education normally covers grades 8 through 12 and is regarded as a preparation for higher education. There exist several types of schools, usually called gymnaziya (high school). Most common is the secondary comprehensive school, which is the third and completing level of general comprehensive school, following the elementary and presecondary levels. In 1999-2000 there were 398 secondary schools. Socially more prestigious and widely preferred are the profile-oriented secondary schools, of which there are two kinds. The first one comprises secondary schools with intensive instruction in a foreign language (most often English, but also French, German, Spanish, and Italian). A peculiarity of this foreign-language gymnaziya is that admission takes place after the completion of seventh grade and is based on competitive entrance examination in mathematics and the Bulgarian language. The first year of instruction, called preparatory class, is dedicated to an in-depth study of a respective foreign language. This is followed by grades 8 through 12, which complete the general curriculum. The second kind of profile-oriented secondary schools, with entrance after eighth grade and competitive admission, are those specializing in math and science, the humanities, sports, and the arts. In 1999-2000, there were 69 foreign language, 14 sports, 15 humanities, and 34 math and science profile-oriented secondary schools.

The course of study ends with a compulsory matriculation examination, which comprises three exams: Bulgarian language and literature, social sciences and civics, and a subject corresponding to the profile of the school. Those who complete a secondary comprehensive school successfully are awarded a diploma, which qualifies them to apply to institutions of higher learning. In 1999-2000, there were 177,000 students enrolled in all secondary comprehensive schools.

Traditions in the secondary education field go more than 120 years back in history. In the 1990s, vocational education was given special attention resulting in the Vocational Education and Training Act of 1999. Secondary vocational education combines the goals of providing professional qualification with broadening the general comprehensive education of the students. There are several types of schools: tehnikum (technical school) with admission after completed eighth grade and a four-year course of instruction; technical schools with admission after completed seventh grade with intensive foreign language studies and a five-year course of instruction; secondary vocational-technical schools with admission after eighth grade and a three-year course of instruction; vocational schools with admission after sixth, seventh, and eighth grade; and vocational classes within the framework of the secondary comprehensive school. This is practiced in small settlements lacking a developed network of vocational schools. The fields and degrees of qualification are in accordance with standards established by the International Labor Organization.

Forms of instruction include daytime, evening, extramural, correspondence, individual, and self-instruction. This flexibility allows for the inclusion of adults in vocational education. Studies are completed after matriculation exams and result in a diploma, which entitles graduates to continue their education on a higher level or to enter the workforce. Statistics showed a trend towards increase in the percentage of students who pursue higher or semi-higher education after graduating from secondary vocational schools. In 1999-2000, there were 189,000 students enrolled in secondary vocational schools, six percent more than the students in secondary comprehensive schools.

Higher Education

Vische obrazovanie (higher education) is the sector of the education system that experienced most intensive growth during the 1990s, despite unfavorable economic conditions and diminishing state funds. This tendency indicates that Bulgarian society in times of economic duress and social crisis resorts to higher education as a reliable investment. The pace of reform and the changes introduced in higher education are also more considerable than those in preprimary, basic, and secondary education. Some major outcomes of this reform are the abolition of ideological subjects and content; the reshaping of study programs, curricula, and syllabi; the abolition of research institutes and ensuing unemployment among researchers; the introduction of tuition fees in public universities; the increase of the number of universities as a result of the transformation of many higher institutes into universities; and the establishment of private universities and colleges.

The total number of higher schools in Bulgaria is 88. There exist three types of higher schools: universities, specialized higher schools (academies and institutes), and independent colleges. There are 26 universities, belonging to one of the following two kinds: traditional universities with faculties of law, history, education, philosophy, economics, philology, chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, and geography; and specialized universities of medicine, technology, agriculture, and economics. The number of specialized high schools is 15. Some of them are institutes (of technological sciences), others are academies (of fine arts, music, sport, theology, theater and cinema, and the military). Because universities and specialized high schools have an equal status, it is often said that there are altogether 41 universities. There are also 47 colleges specializing in technology, teacher-training, nursing, tourism, and telecommunications. Although, there are slightly more colleges than universities, the latter are more prestigious because of the quality of education offered and the employment possibilities after graduation. Despite the fact that most colleges exist within the structure of a university, the 'functional bridges' between them are not well constructed. Ten of the higher schools in Bulgaria are private: four of them are universities and specialized high schools and six are colleges.

Higher schools offer study programs that result in the following types of degrees: a specialist diploma awarded for completion of a three-year program; a bachelor's diploma awarded for completion of a four-year program; a master's diploma awarded for the completion of a five-year program, or one year after the bachelor's degree; doctoral degree awarded for completion of a three-year research program after the master's diploma. A necessary prerequisite for enrollment in a higher school is a diploma for completed secondary education. Otherwise, rules of admission are left to the discretion of the particular school and vary considerably, being lower in the newly established private institutions of higher learning. The most prestigious universities apply a formula, which combines results from written admission exams with grades from the high school diploma.

During the 1990s student enrollment in institutions of higher learning increased considerably. In 1988-1989, there were 160,000 students pursuing higher education. By way of comparison, the number for 1992-1993 was 192,000; in 1994-1995, about 221,000; in 1996-1997, about 263,000; and in 1999-2000, about 258,000. Taking into consideration that the country's population as a whole and the numbers of university-aged individuals is on the decline, this trend is even more pronounced. According to Popov, the main reasons for this lie in the expansion of public universities and the opening of private ones, the attraction of students from medium-sized towns to newly established university branches outside the major urban centers, the introduction of paid tuition and the subsequent lowering admission requirements for paid education, as well as the option for adult college graduates to obtain bachelor's and master's degrees in part-time, short-term university programs. This boom reached a peak in 1996-97, coinciding with the deepest financial, economic, and social crisis of the 1990s. The number of enrolled students is slightly declining, reflecting the decline of university In 1999-2000, there were 258,000 students of higher education, 57 percent of whom are women. Highest enrollment was in the economics and business programs, followed by the technological sciences. Some fields of the humanities and the social sciences, and particularly law, are also considered prestigious fields of study. An surprising fact is the large number of students enrolled in teacher training programs. Colleges experience a markedly low rate of enrollment: in 1999-2000, they had only 18,500 students. In the same year, the private higher schools had 27,500 students, or 10 percent of the total enrollment.

The faculty ranks consist of professor (full professor), docent (associate professor), assistant (assistant professor), and prepodavatel (lecturer). The total number of teaching faculty in 1999-2000 was 26,735, approximately 42 percent of which are women; there were 2,447 full professors, 19 percent of whom were women.

Higher education in Bulgaria is managed at two levels: national and institutional. The entities supervising higher education at the national level are the parliament (the National Assembly), the cabinet (Council of Ministers), and the Ministry of Education and Science. The parliament acts as the decision-making authority on the establishment, transformation, and the closing of public and private higher schools. It also annually allocates subsidies to public higher schools on the basis of the State Budget Act. The main actor in managing higher education on the national level is the Council of Ministers, which has wide-ranging prerogatives; the Ministry of Education and Science plays a more limited role. A National Evaluation and Accreditation Agency is established by the Council of Ministers as the specialized government authority for quality assessment and accreditation of higher school activities. The institutional level of management has acquired significant importance according to the principle of academic autonomy. The general assembly, the academic council, and the rector (president) are the main figures of importance.

Financing of higher education has been a most controversial issue of public discourse since 1989. Under communism, the general public was accustomed to the nearly egalitarian character of higher education, and grew to perceive it as a kind of social service. The popular expectation that the government should be the main source of funding higher education is still widespread and made it very difficult for those in power to renounce the government's function. The introduction of student paid education, parallel with the limited state funded enrollment, was met with considerable social and political resistance, despite the apparent need for additional sources of university revenue. The government continues to sponsor a limited number of students enrolled through the system of darzhavna porachka (state quota), a quantity of specialists perceived as necessary to sustain the continuity of manpower in every professional field. These spots are highly contested in the enrollment process and only the best candidates qualify for these positions. In addition, the schools of higher learning admit a great number of students who pay for their own tuition.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Under the communist regime, education was strongly centralized and placed entirely under the control of the state and the communist party. Since the early 1990s, an on-going process of decentralization has brought about considerable changes in this respect. Administration of basic and secondary education is effected on four levels: national, regional, municipal and school level.

The Ministry of Education and Science is a specialized body of the Council of Ministers for the administration of education on the national level. It determines and carries out the government policy in the field of education. The ministry plans activities related to the development of education in long-term programs and operation plans, organizes and coordinates the work of all administrative units and education establishments, and exercises control over all levels and types of schools in the country, including kindergartens and private schools. It interacts with other ministries and state departments in connection with the administration of schools which train specialists in respective spheres (e.g., engineering, mining, agriculture) and also conducts international activities in the field of education. There are 28 school inspectorates set up on a regional level which act as specialized territorial bodies of the Ministry of Education and Science. They exercise planning, coordination, and control functions over the work of the schools on the territory of a particular region. The staff of a regional inspectorate comprises experts in school administration as well as specialists in various academic subjects.

The municipal education bodies have a broad range of prerogatives to further educational policies on the territory of a city. According to article 36 of the Public Education Act, municipalities are responsible for the compulsory school education of children up to the age of 16; the health care and safety of schools and kindergartens; the funds for maintenance, construction, furnishing, and repair of schools, kindergartens, and servicing units; the funds for meeting the annual cost per schoolchild, remuneration of teachers, as well as for financial back-up of all sections of the syllabus of municipal kindergartens, schools, and servicing units; the appropriate conditions in canteens, boarding houses, recreation and sports facilities; for transportation for preschoolers, schoolchildren, and teachers; and for scholarships and grants for students. This makes the municipal level a very important part of the system of the administration of education. The school is a legal entity. During the 1990s, its autonomy in pedagogical, organizational, methodological, administrative, and managerial matters had been considerably extended. Schools are headed by a director (principal), who continues to teach on a reduced workload and has the status of a head-teacher. They are not purely a manager. The director and the pedagogicheski savet (pedagogical council) are the administrative bodies of the school. Since 1995-1996, an old Bulgarian tradition of establishing boards of school trustees as a link with the community has been restored. The boards of trustees comprise the school principal, teachers, parents, public figures, businessmen, among others. The National Assembly discussed a special law to regulate the functions of the school boards of trustees. Most schools also have a parents council, a students council, and a class councils which act in accordance with the age of the student body and the administrative needs of the school.

Education is funded from two major sources: the state budget through the Ministry of Education and Science and the local budgets through the municipal administrations. Funding is appropriated according to the level of education and type of school. Other sources of funding, such as donations and contributions from private companies and government entities are permitted by law. The government does not subsidize private schools. The relative share of expenditures for education in the gross domestic project has been steadily on the decline since the beginning of the 1990s. It reached 3.20 percent in 1998, which is half from the relative weight of educational expenses in 1992 (6.06 percent). Though, there was a modest increase of capital investment in education, for instance investment in repairs of existing school facilities and building new ones. The chronic deficit in the education budget made the practice of distributing free textbooks impossible to all students from first to eighth grade. Distribution of textbooks was then abandoned. Scientific research in the field of education is carried out at the Institute for Education as well as some other higher education institutions, universities, and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Nonformal Education

Under communism, formal classroom education was complemented by an extensive system of children and youth organizations and establishments. Since 1989, non-formal education has been gravely destabilized, owing this to ideological considerations, acute shortage of material and financial resources, and a lack of a strategy on the part of the education administration. There exists municipal children's centers, sports, art, and music schools, young technicians and agrobiologists labs, and centers for works with children, in Bulgaria. However, their number and capacity is considerably lower than the actual needs. There is an acute shortage of summer schools and activities for schoolchildren.

Legislation adopted in 1998 specified that distance education is a legitimate mode of study for obtaining a university degree. Approximately 85,000 students of higher education are enrolled in extra-mural courses. These students constitute a significant potential market for high quality distance education programs. Distance learning is institutionalized and operates within the framework of the National Center for Distance Education, established in 1994 by the Ministry of Education and Science. This is a consortium of 20 universities, with representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science, the Bulgarian National Television, and the Bulgarian National Radio. It is chaired by a representative of the PHARE program for Bulgaria. The role of the center includes development of distance learning strategy, research, development of materials, dissemination of information, promotion of contacts with external entities, and co-ordination of the implementation of the PHARE Multi-Country Program for Distance Learning.

Teaching Profession

A total of 68,482 teachers taught in all Bulgarian schools in 1999-2000: 23,820 in elementary schools (first through fourth grade); 32,479 in presecondary schools (fifth through eighth grade); and 12,283 in secondary schools (ninth through twelfth grade). Women constituted 82 percent of the overall number of teachers, which indicated a marked feminization of the teaching profession. The percentage of the teachers who possessed the necessary formal qualifications for teaching at a particular school level was higher than 98 percent. Elementary school teachers are required to have a specialist or a bachelor degree in the field nachalna uchilishtna pedagodika (elementary school pedagogy). There are six schools of higher learning in the country that train elementary school teachers.

There was a marked increase during the 1990s of the numbers of teachers at this level who hold advanced university degrees. In 1999-2000, some 14,948 (63 percent) of all elementary school teachers held higher than a specialist degree. The student-teacher ratio, which in the 1990s fluctuated between 14:1 and 18:1, is much higher in the cities. In the remote countryside it may drop as low as 6:1, but still the prevalent policy is to keep the schools open and hire teachers, thus preventing villages from depopulation.

Teachers at the presecondary and secondary level are required to have professional qualification in the subject(s) they teach accompanied by pedagogical qualification. A specialist, bachelor, or a master degree can establish these. There are specific demands for hiring teachers in vocation schools, including previous practice and specific training in the subject they teach. In 1999-2000, some 23,132 teachers (71 percent) at the pre-secondary school held bachelor and master degrees. The student-teacher ratio at this level is thirteen-fourteen. During the same year, the number of secondary school teachers holding bachelor and master degrees was 11,652 (94 percent) and the student-teacher ratio was 16:1 or 17:1. There is a well-established system of continuing education, and teachers are motivated to improve their qualifications by higher salaries.

Despite the fact that teachers' salaries had been relatively low for many years, the education system of Bulgaria managed under the stress of acute economic crisis to maintain professional integrity and prestige of the profession, and preserve the continuity of teaching. The overall number of teachers increased slightly in comparison with previous years and so did the numbers of students enrolled in teacher-training programs. There was a minimal decrease of the number of elementary school teachers, which corresponds to the demographic decline. There was a marked trend of improving teachers' qualifications.


Bulgaria has established democratic traditions in modern secular education, which date back to the middle of the nineteenth century. During the 1990s, the education system was subject to a thorough transformation running parallel to the nation's post-communist transition. The success of the education reform will shape the future of the nation in profound ways. Schools are expected to be an agent of democratization, grooming generations with better skills for critical thinking and public discourse. Transformed and modernized education is regarded as a vehicle of Bulgaria's integration in the European context.

The educational reform is an on-going process and more changes are bound to occur in the foreseeable future, while some of those that have been introduced have not come to fruition. Private schools at all levels, which have a considerably lower enrollment than the public ones and often face unfavorable attitudes, are yet to prove themselves as a viable alternative in education. Higher education is disconnected from secondary education; there is no system of pre-university establishments. The education system does not correspond to the needs of the labor market. Because of the shrinking of the latter, the schools overproduce specialists. The worst problem is the general lack of facilities to meet the challenges of a technology-based society and foster the qualifications that the nation needs in a high-tech environment.

Despite all difficulties, in the 1990s Bulgaria sustained the integrity of its education system and introduced considerable improvements. This positive trend is bound to continue because Bulgarian national psyche relates education closely to the ideas of progress and personal betterment.


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Petya Nitzova

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Republic of Bulgaria

Major Cities:
Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna

Other Cities:
Burgas, Pleven, Ruse, Shumen, Sliven, Stara Zagora, Tolbukhin


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2000 for Bulgaria. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


The Bulgarian lands are an historic crossroads that to this day preserve evidence of many ancient civilizations and peoples: bronze and iron spears and arrows, ruins of classical temples, palaces, and cities, wise words carved on rocks and stone columns or written on parchment and leather. In the mid-17th century, early Slavic tribes came from the north, crossing the Danube river and reaching as far as the Black Sea and the Adriatic. They were followed by the Bulgars of Khan Asparuh. The first Bulgar state was founded in 681 A.D. as an alliance between the Bulgars and the Slavs.

In 862 the Saints Cyril and Methodius created the first Slavic alphabet-the Glagolitsa. At the end of the 9th century another Bulgarian alphabet was created-the Cyrillic alphabet, which later was spread beyond the boundaries of Bulgaria. The Cyrillic script is still used in Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, and other Slavic nations.

In 865, under the reign of Prince Boris I, the Bulgarians converted to Orthodox Christianity, which consolidated the country. The first Bulgarian kingdom reached its height during the reign of Tsar Simeon 1 (893-927). This era is known as the "Golden Age of Bulgaria" and is associated with the flourishing of literature, arts, and handicrafts. After a period of 167 years under Byzantine control (11th-12th centuries), Bulgaria reestablished itself as a state under the reign of Tsar Peter. During the 13th century, the Bulgarian state stabilized and its boundaries expanded to the Black, White, and Adriatic seas. In the middle of the 14th century, armies of the Ottoman Empire began raids into Bulgaria and finally conquered it in 1396. For the next five centuries Bulgaria remained under Ottoman rule. During this period over 400 uprisings broke out across the country, but all were suppressed.

The second half of the 18th century marked the beginning of a Bulgarian national renaissance, which extended through the next century. Numerous schools were opened, textbooks in Bulgarian were printed, and teachers were trained. The Bulgarian Church regained its independence from the Greek Orthodox Church, replaced the clergy, and established an independent exarchate. The revolutionary movement organized across Bulgaria culminated in an uprising in 1876. The subsequent Russo-Turkish war led to the liberation of Bulgaria and the signing of the San Stefano Peace Treaty on March 3, 1878. Bulgaria became a principality which was nominally under Ottoman control, but in fact acted as an independent state. The Berlin Congress of the Great Powers, held in June-July 1878, annulled the San Stefano Peace Treaty and split up Bulgaria. The northern region (Principality of Bulgaria) and southern region (East Rumalia) were unified in 1885 by Prince Alexander Batenberg.

In 1908 Bulgaria became a fully independent constitutional monarchy, which survived to the end of WW II. Bulgaria fell under the Soviet sphere of influence, became a People's Republic, and a loyal Soviet satellite beginning in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1989. In the early 1990s, Bulgaria began the contentious process of moving toward political democracy and a market economy.



Sofia, the political, economic, cultural, and administrative center of the country, is a city where large parks and attractive older buildings blend with modern high-rises. Sofia is situated on a plain 1,830 feet high. Ten miles to the north lie the Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina), and just to the south is Mount Vitosha (7,000 feet), which is a national park and a popular hiking and skiing area. Behind Mt. Vitosha, near the resort town of Borovetz, lies Mt. Musala, the highest peak in Bulgaria (9,650 feet).


Electricity is 220v, 50-cycle, single phase. The current is erratic, with frequent voltage fluctuations (as much as 10%) and occasional breaks in service. When repairs are taking place at the power station, regular power breaks occur, which are announced in advance. The city water supply, to which all apartments are connected, has frequent interruptions. Water pressure often fluctuates or is low on upper floors. Many buildings have an insufficient or inconsistent hot water supply that is centrally controlled. Each summer for about 3 weeks, sometimes less in the diplomatic apartments, the hot water is turned off to clean the water pipes. This is announced in advance. Heating is supplied through a centralized citywide system, which means that one cannot regulate one's own apartment temperatures.


There has been a great improvement in food availability in Bulgaria following economic liberalization. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are always offered at the markets, as well as some hardy, less seasonal imports. Meat and poultry are always available but are not cut and prepackaged American-style. Frozen vegetables on the local market do not look particularly appetizing, but American and Turkish brands are available at the commissary. Finding good fresh or frozen fish is still a problem, but some people report that they have found sources.

The present exchange rate makes local produce reasonable for foreigners, and the sources of supply have increased. Many private shops and small supermarkets have opened recently, stocking a good variety of imported items as well as local products. There are now two "Metro" stores in Sofia that are of the size and variety of a Price Club-type store. These stores are more like warehouses and sell everything from wine to lawn furniture. This is pretty close to a one-stop-shop, since you can buy food, household appliances and furnishing, clothing, diapers, products for your office, and even automotive supplies.

Open or covered farmers' markets offer a rich assortment of local and imported produce all year around, although you may not be able to find your favorite fruits or vegetables. The larger vegetable markets are open every day of the week. Local dairy products, meats, and dry goods are found in corner groceries.


You will need approximately the same kinds of clothing here as for the U.S. Winters are generally long and cold while summers are shorter, cooler, and dry. You should bring warm winter clothing, especially if you intend to take advantage of the winter sports opportunities available here.

The cobblestone streets can be hard on shoes. For women, closed-toe shoes with low or moderate heels are better than sandals or high-heeled shoes for most of the year, although many young Bulgarian women wear the latest platform high heels even on the cobblestones. Bulgarians are quite proud of their locally made shoes and boots, which are available all over town, and imported shoes and boots are also easy to find for adults. For children's shoes and boots most people still either shop in Greece or Turkey or buy from American catalogs.

Office clothing is similar to that of the U.S., though those who regularly use public transportation may dress slightly less formally. More and more upscale sports and fashion shops are opening, and the Bulgarian clothing industry produces many attractive items. But in general it is still difficult to find what you want with regards to style and fabric in the size you want, so most people buy clothing at home or from catalogs.

In the last few years it has become much easier to find baby clothing, but parents with 10-12-year-olds report that

Domestic Help

Both full-time and part-time Bulgarian servants are available. All live out, and few speak English well. Normal work hours are Monday through Friday, with special arrangements made for weekends and holidays. Rates vary widely depending on the contract, 36.7% of that amount is given in addition for social security, unemployment and health insurance. It is also customary to give servants a gift at the end of the year; an extra month's wages is expected. For extra help at cocktails, lunches, and dinner parties, you can hire cooks, bartenders, and waiters. Evening babysitters cost about $2 an hour, plus taxi fare.

Religious Activities

Most churches in Bulgaria are Bulgarian Orthodox. Anyone may attend services at these churches, including the

Alexander Nevski Cathedral, to hear the famous unaccompanied choir. This is especially interesting at Christmas and Easter. The former regime encouraged atheism; this is no longer the case, and now many foreign missionary groups are active.

There is a resident chaplain at the British Embassy in Bucharest who holds Episcopal services periodically in the Fox Club, in the British Embassy residence building. The papal nunciature holds Roman Catholic services in English Sundays at 11:00 am, and St. Joseph's Catholic Church holds services in Polish, Bulgarian, and Latin at different times on Sundays. The International Baptist Church holds English services Sunday at 11:00 am in the basement of the World Trade Center; Sunday School at 10:00 am; and Bible study and prayer group meetings, as well as nursery service, during the 11:00 am service. Branches of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints and a Sephardic Jewish Synagogue with worship are also present in Sofia.


The Anglo-American School in Sofia (AAS), a PK-8 school established by the American and British to the south of Sofia. Embassies in 1967, takes children primarily of the two embassies; other international children and a limited number of Bulgarians are given places as space permits. The school is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the European Council of International Schools. The school has a specific commitment to focus on curricula, resources, and methodologies that relate to the mainstreams of education in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. The director is British, and the teachers are mostly American or British.

The AAS of Sofia is governed by a Board of Directors, consisting of nine members; four members are appointed by the British Ambassador, and four by the American Ambassador, with the PTO president serving as a full board member. The AAS is located on the campus of the American College of Sofia in Mladost. At present, about 140 children from 30 different countries are enrolled.

The school operates a preschool for children who are already 4 years old; it also offers an intensive ESL program, remedial reading and writing, a study skills program, a standardized testing program, French, music, art, after-school activities, field trips inside and outside Bulgaria, and an annual ski week on Mount Vitosha. There are classroom computers and an extensive library. The school does not have any special separate provision for children designated as gifted and talented or as learning-disabled beyond what is listed above. Provision is made for individual differences by the teachers within the normal favorable classroom situation. Classes on average have 20 or fewer pupils. The annual educational allowance covers tuition and bus service. Classes begin in late August and end in mid-June.

Places are limited, so if you wish to enter a child, write as early as possible. The school will hold seats open. The address is: The Director, The Anglo-American School of Sofia American Embassy Sofia Department of State, 5740 Sofia Place Washington, DC 20521-5740.

The American College of Sofia, a private high school blending aspects of the Bulgarian and American educational systems, graduated its first class in 1997 after being shut down for 50 years under the Communist government. Most students are Bulgarian, with a minority of Americans and other internationals. A preparatory year, equivalent to the 8th grade, is used almost entirely to teach the entering Bulgarians English. In subsequent years students are taught math, philosophy, four sciences, including computer science, and languages and arts.

American teens have attended ACS and have received an excellent education there. Also, in the past, a few American teenagers have studied in the Bulgarian special-language high schools, where the language of instruction is either English, French, Russian, or German. Not all classes are held in the designated language and, of those classes given in English, the level is naturally most suitable for ESL students. Students beyond the 8th grade also have taken the University of Nebraska home study program. This requires active parent participation.

Special Educational Opportunities

Besides the Anglo-American School of Sofia, there are other opportunities for young children. The International Children's Creativity Centre (ICCC) is open to children aged 2 to 4, who attend the Centre two, three, or five mornings a week to play and learn using the English language. The ICCC Board is made up of five members, some of whom are parents of children registered at the Centre. The Centre has enjoyed a good reputation since its inception.

The American English Academy offers courses in English for prekindergarten through 12th grade. The academy is accredited by ACSI in Colorado Springs, and the parents of children attending the academy are very pleased with the education their children are receiving. There is a religious affiliation, but no religion is taught. The textbooks and curriculum are American, and the president and at least half the teachers are American.

The American University of Bulgari is located just 100 kilometers south of the capital city of Sofia. All instruction is in English, and the faculty is over 60% American. The University of Maine, the U.S. partner, provides accreditation and assists with curriculum development.

There is a French Government Lycee which welcomes children of all nationalities. Its students are eligible to specialize in baccalaureates in the sciences, literature, or social sciences. The program is rigorous and highly valued at American Universities, which often offer 1 year or more of advanced credit to holders of the Baccalaureate.


Skiing is a very popular winter sport, and prices for rental equipment and lift tickets are well below those in Western Europe. Sledding and winter hiking are also popular, with Vitosha Mountain right at the doorstep. There is a Hash House Harrier group, which organizes regular weekend runs and walks. Hiking on the Vitosha Mountain is popular. For the more adventurous sports enthusiasts, Bulgaria has a selection of mountain ranges from which to choose. Hiking, spelunking, hang gliding, kayaking and rock climbing opportunities exist.

Fitness centers are becoming more popular and there are several indoor and outdoor swimming pools in the city. There are several reputable good stables on the outskirts of Sofia.

Good locally produced and imported sports equipment and clothing is becoming more available in shops all over Sofia, although for the newest styles and equipment you may still have to shop elsewhere.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Within the city there are many fascinating museums to visit as well as several buildings of historical and cultural significance. Organized tours are available from Sofia to visit the many delightful points of interest in the country, including the nearby Rila Monastery and the town of Koprivshitsa, one of 14 designated museum towns. The Boyana Church, one site not to be missed, is located just outside of Sofia. This church contains frescoes that date from the 12th and 13th centuries and are of unusual interest to art in-and out-of-country travel opportunities. Many families drive fairly regularly to the Greek and Turkish coastal resorts and/or to Thessaloniki and Istanbul for shopping and pleasure. Bucharest is an eight-hour drive from Sofia via the Bulgarian city of Ruse on the Danube.


Several movie theaters in Sofia show American and European films. American films are usually shown in English with Bulgarian subtitles. The English titles are published weekly in the private newspaper, The Sophia Echo.

There are many theaters in Sofia offering a rich variety of performances from the classical to avant garde, with performances in Bulgarian. In the last couple of years there has been an English play performed by volunteers from the English-speaking community. Children's puppet theaters occasionally have pantomime shows, and there is a musical theater, which frequently performs musicals such as "Hello, Dolly."

The Sofia Philharmonic runs several cycles of performances at reasonable prices.

Sofia also boasts a young private orchestra, the New Symphony Orchestra, whose director is Rossen Milanov, also the director of the Chicago Youth Orchestra.

Numerous other musical events take place in the National Palace of Culture, a monstrosity of a building left from the days of communism. Pop, rock, jazz, and classical groups perform there.

The many and ever-changing assortment of restaurants, cafes, and pubs offer varied opportunities for exploration. Most restaurants are fairly inexpensive by American standards but have improved considerably in the last few years. Food and service are greatly improved, and excellent Bulgarian wines with dinner are well within an FS officer's budget. Besides a variety of international restaurants-Korean, Chinese, Indonesian, French, Spanish, Indian, and Italian-there are folkloric restaurants with floor-shows, a restaurant that sells the antiques surrounding your table, restaurants with a view, and the usual assortment of American fast food restaurants.


Plovdiv, rich in both ancient and modern history, is Bulgaria's second largest city, with a population of about 375,000. Situated on the cliffs overlooking the Maritsa River, it is about 100 miles east of Sofia, on the international highway to Istanbul. For more than 2,000 years, it has been a crossroads for east-west trade, and today is the site of the Plovdiv International Sample Fair, where tradespeople from both capitalist and communist countries gather each September to show their wares.

The ancient city was known as Philippolis, for Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, who made it a military post in 341 B.C. Under the Romans, who took the city in 46 B.C., it was the capital of Thrace (or Thracia), and known as Trimontium. It was razed by the Goths, but recovered after Constantine V of Byzantine settled the Armenian Paulicians here. Again destroyed in the 13th century by Bulgarian raids, it revived as a center of the Bogomils, who were part of a religious movement of the Middle Ages. The Greeks retook the city in 1262, then lost it to the Turks in 1364. It became the capital of Eastern Rumelia when it passed to Russia in 1877. It was not until 1885 that it became part of Bulgaria.

The Plovdiv of today retains the color of its history in the town walls and gate, the old quarter, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Roman architecture. Many places of historical interest are a short drive from Plovdiv, most notably the Bachkovo monastery, second only to Rila in interest and beauty. Plovdiv has a 4,000-student university and several other institutions of higher learning, as well as a number of notable museums.


Varna is Bulgaria's principal seaport, and is also a beautiful resort with fine beaches on the western shores of the Black Sea. It has a thriving tourist industry, and its museums, galleries, and good theaters contribute to the economic health of the city. Varna supports its own symphony orchestra and also an opera house. During the resort season, its hotels are both busy and expensive. One of the major attractions of this city of more than 311,000 residents is its international music festival. Every three years, a ballet competition is also held here. From Varna, throngs of visitors take excursion boats up and down the coast.

Varna was founded in 580 B.C. as Odessus, a Greek colony. It passed to the Roman Empire in the first century A.D., and remained part of the Byzantine Empire until the Bulgarians defeated Constantine IV here in the year 679. Captured by the Turks in 1391, it became an important seaport and, in the 19th century, a crucial railroad terminus. The Turks used Varna for almost five centuries as an outpost against the Christian Crusaders. In a turn-about, the British and the French made it their naval base in the Crimean War. The city was ceded to Bulgaria in 1878 by the Treaty of Berlin.

For eight years after World War II (1949-1957), Varna was known as Stalin.


BURGAS , situated on the Gulf of Burgas, an inlet of the Black Sea, is one of the country's major ports. A city of about 200,000 people, it has several industries, including fish canneries, an oil refinery, and engineering plants. It also is the site of an institute of chemical technology. Burgas (also spelled Bourgas) was founded in the 18th century on the site of a fortified town which had existed four centuries earlier.

PLEVEN , with a population of about 140,400, is located 80 miles northeast of Sofia in north-central Bulgaria. The city lies near the Vit River in a small agricultural region surrounded by limestone hills. Pleven is a trading hub for the nearby farm districts and vineyards. Industries include those producing rubber goods, ceramic articles, tobacco, and cloth. A historical city since pre-Roman times, there are a number of museums and a school of viticulture here. A major battle of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 was fought in Pleven, and a mausoleum commemorating the Turkish surrender in December 1877 is in the center of the city.

RUSE (sometimes spelled Roussé), a city of close to 185,500, lies in northeast Bulgaria on the Danube, across from the Romanian city of Giurgiu (Giurgevo). It is Bulgaria's chief river port and an industrial and communications center which developed after 1878. Founded in the second century B.C. as Prista, it later became a Roman naval base. The Turks ruled the city from the 15th to the 19th centuries, called it Ruschuk, and made it a military base. Ruse, noted for its old churches and mosques, houses a large technical university, Angel Kancev.

Founded in 927, SHUMEN is located in northeastern Bulgaria, about 500 miles west of Varna. Under Turkish rule during the 15th through 19th centuries, the city was strategically an important stronghold during the Turkish wars in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, Shumen is a manufacturing city whose chief industries include flour milling, brewing, canning, and motor vehicle assembling. It is also a railway junction and a market for grains and other agricultural products. The city was originally called Shumen or Shumla, but was renamed Kolarovgrad in 1950 in honor of the communist leader Kolarov, who was born here. It reverted to Shumen in 1965. The current population is about 104,000.

SLIVEN (also called Slivno) is situated 155 miles east of Sofia at the foot of the Balkan Mountains in east-central Bulgaria. The city has long been considered strategically important due to its location at the entrance to the Balkan passes and has, consequently, been the center of conflictin medieval times between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire, and between the Russians and the Turks in the 19th century. Today, Sliven is a textile center that also produces foodstuffs, wine, machinery, glass, and electrical goods. Coal is mined in the nearby region. Several churches and mosques, and the ruins of a medieval fortress may be found in Sliven. The capital of Sliven Province, the city has a population of 102,000.

STARA ZAGORA is the capital of the district with the same name; it is approximately 110 miles southeast of Sofia and 50 miles northeast of Plovdiv. The city, with a population of about 145,000, is near the famous Shipka Pass in the Balkan Mountains. Stara Zagora produces furniture, chemicals, textiles, and tobacco, and is known particularly for its vast fields of roses which provide oils for the perfume industry. It had to be rebuilt after the Russo-Turkish War and, as a result, several Roman and Turkish antiquities were found. A spa called Stara Zagora is located near the city.

TOLBUKHIN is a cultural and commercial center located 25 miles north of Varna in northeastern Bulgaria. The capital of the province of the same name, Tolbukhin produces cotton textiles, farm machinery, metal goods, and foodstuffs. Tolbukhin was formally called Dobrich; when it was occupied by Romania, from 1913-40, it was called Bazargic. It was officially renamed Tolbukhin in 1949 to honor the Soviet marshal who had liberated the city in 1944. Tolbhukin's population is about 102,300.


Geography and Climate

Bulgaria is a country of mountains, plains, and seacoast, occupying 110,000 square kilometers (43,000 square miles) of the Balkan Peninsula. It measures roughly 260 miles from east to west and about 150 miles from north to south. Much of the country is rugged and mountainous, and only about 40 percent is cultivated. The Danube River, Black Sea, and Pirin-Rhodope Mountains provide natural borders on the north, east, and south. Flowing south into Greece are the non-navigable Struma, Maritsa, Mesta, and Arda Rivers, important sources of water for irrigation. The Balkan range extends across the north-central part of the country, separating the wheat-growing Dobrudzha region from the Thracian plain, where vegetables, fruits, grapes, and tobacco are cultivated.

The climate is usually designated as "continental, with many microclimates." From May to November, the climate is pleasantly warm and sunny. Sofia, though approximately on the same latitude as Rome, is about 1,500 feet up; it therefore, has a climate similar to, for example, Frankfurt. All plants, flowers, and fruits common in Britain and France grow well here, and the climate is too cold for citruses. November through April are cold, with snow and temperatures hovering near 32°F (0°C) but often falling lower, sometimes to 5°F (-15°C) in Sofia. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 90°F, and humidity is moderate. During July, the mean temperature is 68.7°F (20.4°C); during January, 30.6°F (-8°C). Mildew and insects are not significant factors.

Sofia's main climatic problem is winter smog, which is caused by industrial air pollution, soft-coal smoke, vehicle exhaust emissions, fog, and surrounding mountains that keep winds from blowing the smog away. Gray-brown dirt or coal-dust, as well as sand, is scattered on Sofia's snow-covered streets in winter. In Sofia, winters may often be gray, but they are quite beautiful in the nearby mountains. Mount Vitosha (altitude 2,290 m.), with its ski resorts and runs and walking paths, overlooks the city. Abundant trees and flowers make Sofia a more colorful city the rest of the year. Rainfall is moderate, averaging 25 inches a year.


Bulgaria's National Statistics Institute reported the 1996 population at just over 8 million. Roughly 1.2 million, or 13%, live in and around Sofia, the nation's capital. Plovdiv, the second largest city and cultural center, has a population of about 350,000, while the Black Sea coast town of Varna, the third largest, has just over 300,000. Few of the other cities have populations greater than 100,000.

Recent years have seen a negative growth in the population, a condition also present in the early 1980s. The number of abortions exceeds live births, and in 1996 the country had an infant mortality rate of 15.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. Death and illness rates have increased since the early 1980s. The "squared" population profile is projected to lead to a population of 6 million by the year 2030. The population is aging, with nearly 30% of the people over the retirement age of 55; 48% representing those of working age (20-54 years); and a relative few remaining to address the needs of a hoped for economic expansion. A doubling of the percentage of severely handicapped further complicates this condition.

About 85% of the population is Bulgarian-a designation that includes people with numerous regional folklore traditions-and 9% is of ethnic Turkish origin. About 6% of the population is Roma, some of whom claim to be of Turkish descent. The country also has small numbers of Armenian, Jewish, Greek, and other minorities. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which belongs to the family of Eastern Churches that also includes Greek, Serbian, Romanian, and Russian Orthodoxy, is the principal religious denomination. Today, Bulgaria has one of the highest levels of true literacy in the world.

The Bulgarian language, like Russian and Serbian, is based on the Cyrillic alphabet, the founders of which were two Greek brothers, Cyril and Methodius, who worked among the Slavs, and is a source of great pride for Bulgarians. The Cyrillic alphabet spread from Bulgaria to Russia. Knowledge of other Slavic languages (particularly Russian) is helpful in learning Bulgarian, in spite of significant differences in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Learning foreign languages has always been stressed in Bulgaria, and the systems developed for learning language are quite effective. The levels of fluency in languages such as English, French, and German, often without the benefit of travel, is noteworthy.

Public Institutions

The 1991 constitution includes the following provisions: that there be separation of powers, political pluralism, free economic enterprise, inviolability of private property, and protection of the investments and businesses of Bulgarians and of foreigners. Human rights are generally well protected, and Bulgarian domestic laws are being brought into conformity with international agreements.

The President is commander-in-chief of the army and appoints and dismisses ambassadors. He has a staff of advisers. When in office, he officially relinquishes partisan allegiances and is the leader of all the Bulgarian people. He cannot initiate legislation, but has a qualified veto. Elected by direct popular election for five-year term, he can be reelected once.

The Narodno Sobranie, or National Assembly, consists of 240 members, each elected for a 4-year term with no term limit. They have public sittings that are extensively broadcast and televised. Both the Assembly and the Council of Ministers initiate legislation. The executive function rests with the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, including chairmen of functional committees. They are responsible for internal and foreign affairs. The judiciary does not check the actions of the executive or legislative sections; however, the new constitution provides for an independent judiciary.

A two-tier local government system is specified: regions and municipalities. Regional governors are appointed by the council of ministers, and the municipalities elect councils and mayors. Bulgaria became a member of the UN in 1955 and belongs to most UN-related agencies. It is a member of the World Bank, the IMF, and is a candidate for membership of the European Community and NATO.

Arts, Science, and Education

Full state support for the arts ended with the fall of the communist regime; however, the art scene remains vibrant, and one can pick from a rich variety of offerings: art and craft galleries; museums; theater (for those whose Bulgarian is good enough); opera; and classical, jazz, rock, and folk concerts.

Sofia has six full-time theaters whose offerings range from Bulgarian and European classics to modern works of world drama. The Sofia Opera features standards of classic grand opera as well as ballet, while operettas and musicals can be seen at the Musical Theater. There are three full symphonic orchestras, the Sofia Philharmonic, the National Radio Orchestra, and the New Symphony Orchestra, which exists and performs completely without subsidy from the state. Fans of popular music can enjoy live bands at many of the clubs around town and at the several commercial concerts throughout the year. Bulgaria also has international festivals of dance, classical music, folk, jazz, and rock during the spring, summer, and fall. By U.S. standards, tickets to all cultural events are inexpensive and are readily available.

There are excellent state museums of Bulgarian and foreign art, an historical museum, an ethnographic museum, and a natural history museum, all with interesting exhibits. In addition, private art galleries have proliferated in recent years, and one can see (and purchase) works ranging from icons through modern abstract work.

For those interested in folk culture, Bulgaria offers a wealth of possibilities. Throughout the year one can see festivals of dance and folk music, and there are opportunities to attend traditional events such as the parades of mummers (kukeri). Several world-renowned troupes perform on occasion (when not traveling abroad), and the chance to hear troupes such as the Pirin Ensemble, the Filip Koutev Ensemble, and the famous part-singing women's choir, "Les Mysteres des Voix Bulgares," should not be passed up.

Bulgaria has had an excellent reputation in the world of science and education for years, and the recent economic troubles notwithstanding, it continues to educate students, particularly in math and science, whose test scores rank among the best in the world. Compulsory schooling ends at age 15, but more than 80% of students go farther. Bulgaria's literacy rate is greater than 98%, considerably higher than that in the U.S. With the political reforms of the last several years has come educational reform as well, and the entire educational system from primary school through graduate school is being reconstituted along Western lines.

The Ministry of Education has overall responsibility for maintaining standards and prescribing curricula for all public schools and any private educational institutions qualified to offer recognized diplomas. Secondary education in Bulgaria, despite serious economic problems, continues to offer a large variety of educational choices ranging from vocational programs (often closely associated with factories) to special science and math high schools. Very popular also are the foreign-language high schools, which like the math and science schools, are "entrance by examination" institutions.

Bulgaria has 43 universities and other institutes of higher education and 45 colleges and technical schools. ("College" refers to semi-higher learning institutions for nursing, paramedical training, teaching, and technical education.) A new feature on the Bulgarian educational scene are the recently (re)established private schools. While these are governed by the various laws on education and are subject to a greater or lesser amount of oversight by the Ministry of Education, they receive no financial support from the state budget. Most notable among these private institutions are the American University of Bulgaria in Blagoevgrad, an American liberal arts college with a strong business school; the New Bulgarian University in Sofia; and the American College of Sofia, an English-language high school that was founded in the middle of the last century and reopened in 1992 after being closed for nearly 50 years. There is also a private English-language primary through middle school with American accreditation, the Anglo-American School of Sofia.

Unlike the situation in America, most basic research is not carried out in universities but rather in one of the more than 160 institutes and laboratories of the Bulgarian Academies of Science, Medicine and Agriculture. The Academies, which are not teaching institutions, have suffered even more than the school system from the economic hardships of the last years, and this has inhibited the exploitation of Bulgaria's scientific talent.

All educational and scientific institutions are eagerly seeking partnerships with Western institutions, and American programs sponsored by the Fulbright Commission and IREX have contributed significantly to linking Bulgarian scholars and scientists with their counterparts in the U.S.

Commerce and Industry

Following a severe economic crisis, the newly elected Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) Government adopted a currency board arrangement (CBA) in 1997. The CBA and its associated IMF program have provided the framework for cutting inflation from nearly 600% in 1997 to 6.2% in 1999. Fiscal discipline has kept budget deficits small and led to successive increases in Bulgaria's credit ratings. Despite the conflict in Kosovo, GDP grew by 2.4% in 1999 and is projected to grow by 4% in 2000. However, in the wake of large-scale restructuring of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), unemployment increased to 19% of the labor force in April 2000.

The UDF Government made considerable progress in privatizing SOEs last year. As of the end of 1999, about 71% of state-owned assets destined for privatization had actually been sold. The privatization process was to have been substantially completed in 2000, but difficulties in some sales make it increasingly likely that several large state-owned companies will not be sold until 2001.

Bulgaria joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 1996 and became a full member of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) in July 1998. Bulgaria trades with European countries under preferential terms according to the European Union Association Agreement, effective February 1, 1995, and an agreement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), effective 1993. Bulgaria signed free-trade agreements with Turkey (effective January 1, 1999) and Macedonia (effective January 1, 2000).

In 1999, according to preliminary estimates, Bulgaria attracted $755.3 million in foreign direct investment; during the period 1992-1999; foreign direct investment totaled $2.8 billion. The U.S. is the fourth largest source of foreign direct investment ($198.4 million, or 7% of the total). Among the largest foreign investors are the following U.S. companies: American Standard, AIG/ALICO,

McDonald's, Entergy Power Group, Hilton International, Seaboard Overseas, World Trade Company, Kraft Foods International, Bulgarian-American Enterprise Fund (BASF), Caresbac, DTS, Investments Corporation, Eurotech, Kontrako, and Eagle.

Germany is the top foreign investor, with $425.9 million, or 15% of total foreign investment, followed by Belgium, with $373 million, or 13% of total foreign investment, and Cyprus, with $249 million, or 9% of total foreign investment.

The government seeks to improve the country's infrastructure. Many roads and railways have been reconstructed by the Phare Cross Border Program, but much remains to be done. Despite the ongoing modernization of the telephone system, the quality is below international standards. There are two cellular radiotelephone networks-one analogue and one digital. A second GSM (the Global System for Mobile communications) license will be issued later this year; the Bulgarian Telecommunication Company (BTC) is also to be privatized in the near future.



Road conditions in Bulgaria can be poor, especially in winter, as only the major roads are cleared of ice and snow. Four-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended. Shell gas stations can be found in larger cities and along most major highways.

In Sofia and along the main highways, super (96 octane), and regular (91 octane) and unleaded (95H) gasoline is available. Diesel fuel is available at major gas stations only.

An International Driver's License is recommended, but not required, and can be obtained through AAA or an equivalent organization.

Traffic moves on the right as in the U.S. The following rules may be unfamiliar to people new to Europe: You must stop 3 meters behind and to the right of a tramway car stopping to discharge or pick up passengers. Speed limits are 120 kph on divided highways; 90 kph on regular main roads; and 50 kph in populated areas, unless there are signs to the contrary. Priority is given to the driver entering from the right on any equal junction.

You should strictly observe the priority of a pedestrian who has stepped onto a painted pedestrian crossing. It is illegal to drive with more than 0.05 parts per thousand of alcohol in the blood or when alcohol in any quantity has been consumed immediately before taking the wheel. If you have an accident, you must call the police, and both drivers should wait at the scene, even if there has been no personal injury. The police will issue a protokol za proizshestivie (police protocol). Without this piece of paper, you cannot make a claim on your insurance.

"Green Card" short-term, the overseas third-party liability, is mandatory for auto travel in Europe. When you arrive in Bulgaria, take out this policy for Bulgaria and for all of Europe through the local Insurance Corporation. It has also recently become possible to obtain this policy from Clements & Co. and other American firms.


Sofia is served by a network of tram, trolley bus, and auto lines. A one-month pass cost $14 (August 2000). Vehicles are often crowded but are handy, frequent, and very cheap-an important point now that parking is very tight around the center of town. Taxis are legion. There are many taxi stands; taxis cruise, and you can also get taxi service by telephone.

Frequent air and railway service link Sofia with the Black Sea resorts of Varna and Burgas, as well as with other major Bulgarian cities.


No American air carrier serves Sofia. The Western European cities with frequent service by American carriers are Frankfurt, Paris, London, Zurich, Munich, and Vienna, but connections to and from Sofia vary in convenience according to the day of the week. The Bulgarian airline, Balkan, and other foreign carriers provide regular service between Sofia and Western European cities. In late fall and winter, fog or heavy snow may occasionally close Sofia Airport for several days at a time.

There are many rail and bus lines to/from major European cities, and to resort areas in Greece and Turkey. Travelers should be cautious about theft, especially when crossing borders on land transportation. The preferred route for coming to Sofia from Europe by car is via Vidin/Kalafat.


Telephone and Telegraph

Direct dialing is available from the U.S. to Bulgaria. International connections with the U.S. vary from quick and clear to slow and unsatisfactory. The cost of calling the U.S. in early 1999 was about $1.50 per minute when using the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company and dialing direct. Telephone charges begin when the connection is made with the U.S. operator, not with your party. From your home, you may dial direct to most Eastern and Western countries. Some people have had success with Internet telephony.

Several service providers offer connection to the Internet and also permit the use of American-based services. Prices are relatively reasonable in comparison to telephone costs and assist in maintaining contact with other Internet users on a considerably faster basis than "snail mail."

Radio and TV

Bulgarian TV broadcasts nationwide on two channels, Channel 1, which is broadcast in SECAM, and Channel 2, which broadcasts in PAL. Local broadcast stations exist in many cities. In Sofia the two local (and private) stations are New TV (PAL) and Seven Days TV (SECAM). Currently, there are two stations that have broadcast capability nationwide, one public-Channel 1, and the other private-BTV (Bulgarian TV).

In addition to broadcast TV, satellite reception is possible for those having a dish, and there are a number of cable operations as well. Satellite and cable offerings make available CNN, CNBC, BBC, SKY NEWS, MTV, and SKY SPORTS, and a large variety of other European channels. European-system and Mufti-system television receivers are widely available for sale. Programming runs the gamut of news, entertainment, business news, film, and the like. Broadcast TV is almost exclusively in Bulgarian, while cable and satellite offerings feature programming in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Greek, and Arabic.

Radio has both private and public (state) stations, with the latter having the only truly nationwide coverage. Deutsche Welle, BBC Radio, Radio France International, and Radio Free Europe have local FM broadcasting arrangements and are easily and clearly received. All but RFE do programs in both Bulgarian and their respective national languages (RFE does Bulgarian language news only). Bulgarian radio of both the private and state varieties offer some very good news, talk show, and music programming; however, a good grasp of Bulgarian is required for all but the music programs.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Many general-interest publications, including English-, French-, and German-language newspapers and magazines are widely available in Sofia, though they tend to arrive a day late and are quite expensive. These, as well as a large variety of Bulgarian periodicals, are available in hotels and at street kiosks throughout the downtown area in Sofia.

Community Health

Apart from smog, coal dust, and pollen, which particularly affect people with sinus and respiratory problems (asthma sufferers in particular), Sofia has no special health hazards. Water, although deemed generally safe, should be distilled to remove heavy metals, mineral deposits, unusual taste, and color. Fluoride supplements are recommended for children up to age 16. Milk and butter are of uneven quality. Vegetables, fruits, and eggs should be thoroughly washed, but no other special treatment is necessary. Local pottery should not be used for cooking, storing, or serving food, as it may leach lead from local paints and glazes. Municipal services generally collect garbage and trash regularly, and there is a regimen of sweeping the city streets.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Flights on American carriers from the U.S. fly to Frankfurt, Paris, London, Vienna, Zurich, and Munich. From these cities, foreign airlines provide reasonably good connections to Sofia. To avoid possible conflict with the Fly America Act, consider Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, or Vienna as the nearest points to Sofia served by an American carrier. Note that Sofia time is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)/Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 2, whereas Yugoslavia and the countries of central and Western Europe are on GMT/UTC + 1.

A passport is required. A visa is not required for U.S. citizen visitors using regular passports for stays up to 30 days. Travelers who intend to stay more than 30 days, or travelers using official or diplomatic passports, must obtain a special 30 day visa from a Bulgarian embassy or consulate. Once in Bulgaria, this visa gives them grounds to apply for a residence permit. Travelers who have a 1-year multiple-entry visa for Bulgaria may stay up to 90 days altogether within six months. If a traveler comes to Bulgaria, stays in the country 90 days and then goes out, he or she will not be able to enter the country within the next 90 days.

All travelers are required to register with the regional passport office for foreigners or the police within 48 hours after their arrival in the country and to inform the office about any change in their address. For those staying at a hotel, a private boarding house or an apartment rented through an accommodation company, registration is taken care of by the proprietor. Visitors should carry their passport with them at all times. The Bulgarian authorities do not consider presentation of a copy of one's passport to be sufficient. For further information concerning entry requirements, travelers should contact the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria at 1621 22nd St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; Internet, tel. (202) 483-5885 (main switchboard (202) 387-7969) or the Bulgarian Consulate in New York City.

Travelers carrying cash equivalent to 5,000 Bulgarian leva (about $2,200) or more must declare the amount they are carrying on a customs declaration upon arrival or departure. Failure to declare currency and jewelry or improper exit from the customs area through the "green" (nothing to declare) line have resulted in confiscation of the currency or the jewelry and, in some cases, arrest. Travelers who have with them the equivalent of 20,000 Bulgarian leva or more upon departure must have a permit to export the money issued by the Bulgarian National Bank's Headquarters, if they had less than the equivalent of 20,000 Bulgarian leva upon entry in the country. Travelers should also declare jewelry, cameras, computers, and other valuables to avoid difficulties on departure. Please contact the Embassy of Bulgaria in Washington, D.C. or one of Bulgaria's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs regulations.

Americans living in or visiting Bulgaria are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria and obtain updated information on travel and security within Bulgaria. The U.S. Embassy is located in Sofia at 1 Suborna (formerly 1 A. Stamboliyski Boulevard); tel. (359) (2) 937-5100; fax (359) (2) 981-8977. The Consular Section of the Embassy is located at 1 Kapitan Andreev Street in Sofia; tel. (359) (2) 963-2022; fax (359) (2) 963-2859. The Embassy's web site address is Questions regarding consular services may be directed via e-mail to: [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].


Dogs and cats are admitted to Bulgaria with proof of current rabies shot and health certificate that should be obtained before arrival. Examination by a Bulgarian veterinarian is required upon arrival. Dogs should be licensed. Satisfactory veterinary care is available in Sofia, as well as most vaccines and medications.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The unit of currency is the lev (plural: leva). Currency notes are available in the following denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 leva. Coinage includes 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 stotinki (100 stotinki = 1 lev). The lev is pegged to the euro at 1.956 leva per euro.

Bulgaria is still a largely cash economy. Visitors should exchange cash at banks or Change Bureaus. Some Change Bureaus charge commissions on both cash and travelers' check transactions that are not clearly posted. People on the street who offer high rates of exchange are usually con artists intent on swindling the unwary traveler. Damaged or very worn U.S dollar bank notes are often not accepted at banks or Change Bureaus. Major branches of the following Bulgarian banks will cash travelers' checks on the spot for leva, the Bulgarian currency, or other desired currency: Bulbank, Bulgarian Postbank, Biochim, First Investment Bank and United Bulgarian Bank (UBB). UBB also serves as a Western Union agent and provides direct transfer of money to travelers in need. ATM cash machines are increasing in numbers in Sofia and other major cities. Major credit cards (MC, VISA, AMEX, etc.) can be used at a few establishments in and around Bulgaria (hotels, restaurants, and other tourist establishments), but usage is very low and is not recommended due to the risk of credit card fraud. Credit cards are useful when ordering goods from mail order houses in the States and from overseas duty-free supply companies like Peter Justesen.


Jan. 1New Year's Day

Apr/May.Orthodox Easter

Apr/May.Orthodox Easter Monday

May 1Labor Day

May 24Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day

Sep. 6 Unification Day

Dec. 24 Christmas Eve

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec 26Day After Christmas


These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published in English about Bulgaria.

American Automobile Association Travel Guides. Tourbook for Eastern Europe.

Ash, David. Essential Bulgaria. 1997. Arie, Gabriel. A Sephardi Life in Southeastern Europe: The Autobiography and Journal of Gabriel Arie, 1863-1939. 1998.

Bar-Zohar, Michael. Beyond Hitter's Grasp, The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews. 1998.

Bousfield, Jonathan and Richardson, Dan. The Rough Guide: Bulgaria. Fourth ed. 1999.

Carney, Peter and Anastassova, Mary, Bulgaria: The Black Sea Coast. 1997.

Carney, Peter and Anastassova, Mary. Bulgaria: The Mountain Resorts 1999. Sold in the U.S. by Book Clearing House, tel: 800-431-1579,,,,, www.onlinLbr

Carney, Peter and Anastassova, Mary. Bulgaria: Sofia and Plovdiv. 1998.

Chary, Frederick B. The Bulgarian Jews and the Final Solution, 1940-44. University of Pittsburgh Press: Pittsburgh, 1972.

Constant, Stephen. Foxy Ferdinand, Tsar of Bulgaria. Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd.: London, 1979.

Crampton, R.J. A Concise History of Bulgaria. Cambridge, 1997.

Danforth, Loring M. The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World. Princeton, 1995.

Groueff Stephane. Crown of Thorns. Madison Books: Maryland, 1987.

Marazov, Ivan, ed. Ancient Gold: The Wealth of the Thracians: Treasures from the Republic of Bulgaria. 1998.

Markov, Georgi. The Truth that Killed. Ticknor & Fields: New York, 1984.

Norwich, John Julius. Byzantium: The Apogee. New York, 1997.

Thompson, E.P. Beyond the Frontier: The Politics of a Failed Mission; Bulgaria 1944. 1997.

Vazov Ivan. Under the Yoke. Twayne Publishers, Inc.: New York, 1971.

Ware, Timothy. The Orthodox Church. 1993.

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Bulgaria
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 7,707,495
Language(s): Bulgarian, secondary languages closely correspond to ethinic breakdown
Literacy rate: 98.0%
Area: 110,910 sq km
GDP: 11,995 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 43
Total Circulation: 1,400,000
Circulation per 1,000: 203
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 114
Total Circulation: 1,750,000
Newspaper Consumption (minutes per day): 16
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 39 (Lev millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 26.40
Magazine Consumption (minutes per day): 15
Number of Television Stations: 96
Number of Television Sets: 3,310,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 429.5
Television Consumption (minutes per day): 78
Number of Cable Subscribers: 1,066,820
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 130.1
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 160,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 20.8
Number of Radio Stations: 119
Number of Radio Receivers: 4,510,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 585.1
Radio Consumption (minutes per day): 40
Number of Individuals with Computers: 361,000
Computers per 1,000: 46.8
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 430,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 55.8
Internet Consumption (minutes per day): 58

Background & General Characteristics

Bulgaria is undergoing a renaissance. In 2001 the Bulgarian people elected exactly half of the members of the national Parliament from a novice political party, the National Movement for Simeon II (NMSII), formed only a few months before the election, supporting Bulgaria's former king, Simeon II. Simeon II created a coalition government with the Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS), representing the Turkish minority to form a working parliamentary majority. His Majesty became His Excellency Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In 2002, in a surprise election upset, President Petar Stoyanov, representing the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), was defeated for reelection by former Communist and Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader, Georgi Purvanov. A president who is a former Communist and a prime minister who was once its king lead Bulgaria in 2002.

Bulgaria's history extends back to the seventh century, when the first Bulgar tribes formed a nation-state created and recognized by the Byzantine Empire in 681. In the ninth century Bulgaria's first kings or czars successfully fought the armies of the Byzantine Empire. Czar Boris I accepted Christianity, the Eastern Orthodox rite, for his people. Bulgaria's first golden age and the first Bulgarian Empire reached its peak during the reign of Czar Simeon I (893-927). The country's first period of independence ended after successive defeats to the Byzantine armies. In 1018 Bulgaria was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire.

The Bulgarian state was reestablished in 1185 under Princes Asen and Peter. A second Bulgarian Empire, created in 1202 under the leadership of Czar Ivan Asen II (1218-1241), saw Bulgarian culture again flourish. After Czar Ivan Asen's death, internal strife, invading Tartars, a militarily more powerful Byzantine Empire, and a peasant revolt fueled by the nobles' excessive taxation, ended Bulgaria's independence, and returned the nation to the rule of Christian Constantinople. A brief national resurgence under Mikhail Shishman and Ivan Aleksandur only postponed Bulgaria's ultimate absorption into the Muslim Empire of the Ottoman Turks (1385). The collapse of the Christian Byzantine Empire in 1453 brought all of Eastern Europe under direct Muslim rule. Attempts at Bulgar insurrections brought swift and brutal retaliation from the Ottoman Turks.

Under centuries of Ottoman control the flame of Bulgarian independence and culture was kept alive by Bulgarian exiles Hristofor Zhefarovich who wrote Stematografía, a seminal work on Bulgaria's history (1741), and Paisi of Hilendar's History of the Bulgars (1762) written in vernacular Bulgarian. Bulgarian money and men supported Serbian and Greek rebellions against Turkish rule in the early 1800s. Bulgarian independence remained an ideal in the cultural and intellectual realm outside the region but not in Bulgaria. In 1824 Dr. Petur Beron published the first educational primer in colloquial Bulgarian. Beron's primer and educational philosophy were gradually adopted in nineteenth-century Bulgaria's schools. The development of an educational system awakened Bulgars to their history and culture, and the realization of the oppressive nature of Ottoman rule. Bulgarians seeking higher education went to Russia and France. European beliefs in constitutional government and the French Revolution's ideas of liberty and equality were carried back to Bulgaria and deposited as the intellectual "seeds of independence."

The first Bulgarian periodical was printed in 1844. Its focus was the recapitulation of earlier journals printed outside Bulgaria in Romania and beyond Ottoman censorship. As the nineteenth century progressed, an increasing number of periodicals printed by Bulgarian émigrés and smuggled into Bulgaria fueled beliefs in independence. Soon Bulgarian cultural and charitable organizations operating from Constantinople nurtured the idea of Bulgaria's freedom when they established the chitalishte (reading room), which served as a center for adult education, social gatherings, lectures, performances, and debates, where Bulgarians could discuss their future. By 1871, 131 reading rooms spread the Bulgarian language and culture among the Bulgars. Dobri Chintulov wrote the first poetry in modern Bulgarian and helped begin a cultural revival among the Bulgars. Western literature, translated into the Bulgarian language, presented Bulgarians with knowledge of the political, social, and economic changes occurring in the rest of Europe.

As the Bulgarian national identity developed, so did the desire of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to be independent of the Greek Patriarch in Constantinople. Decades of petitions and protests brought results. In 1870 the Sultan in Constantinople designated the Bulgarian Church as separate from and outside the control of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople. Bulgarian revolutionaries used the organizational structure of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as the skeletal framework for a future state.

A series of Bulgarian uprisings in 1835, 1841, 1850, and 1851 were brutally suppressed by the Turks. The failure of the revolts led Bulgaria's independence movements to split, with each one suggesting a different approach to end Turkish domination. Eventually the gradual disintegration of the Ottoman Empire led Great Britain and France to intervene and forced the Turkish government to implement political, economic, and social reforms within the Bulgarian region.

Under the leadership of Georgi Rakovski, Bulgaria launched its first major rebellion against their Turkish overlords in 1862. Serbian betrayal dashed the dream of Bulgarian independence and led to generations of feuding between Serbians and Bulgarians. Fortunately for the Bulgarian people even Rakovski's death in 1867 did not end the Bulgarian dream of independence. The insurrections of September 1875 and April 1876 on behalf of independence were poorly organized and collapsed under the onslaught of a trained and equipped Ottoman army. However, the deaths of over 30,000 Christian Bulgarians raised European concern about the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. The possibility of Russian military intervention in the Eastern Mediterranean in support of the Bulgars forced the convening of an international conference on the Bulgarian question. Russia took the opportunity to charge the Turks with the slaughter of Christians. Turkish refusal to allow the creation of two semiautonomous Bulgarian states was the excuse Czarist Russia needed to declare war on the Ottoman Empire, with the ulterior motive being Russia's desire to gain access to and control of the Black Sea.

Russian intervention on Bulgaria's behalf and with British connivance, witnessed the rapid advance of Russian troops into Bulgaria and on to Constantinople. Through the conference of Berlin in 1876, a smaller Bulgarian state was recognized. Bulgarians in Eastern Rumelia remained under Turkish rule but with a Christian governor. The Treaty of Berlin allowed Bulgaria to adopt a constitution, elect a prince, but continue as a vassal state to the Ottoman Sultan. Europe's exclusion of Bulgarians living in Macedonia, Thrace, and Eastern Rumelia would remain a contentious issue for the next century and lead to numerous Balkan wars.

In 1879 an assembly of Bulgarians meeting in Turnovo, the medieval capital of an independent Bulgaria, wrote a constitution, elected legislators, and selected a German prince, Prince Alexander of Battenberg, to govern them. The principality of Bulgaria's politicians quickly divided into competing factions of liberals and conservatives. Each established its own party newspaper: the Nezavisimost for the liberals and the Vitocha for the conservatives. Within a few years Bulgaria had 19 weekly newspapers publishing around the country.

The brief reign of Prince Alexander of Battenberg (1879-1886) was fraught with great difficulties. A nephew of the Russian czar, Alexander II, Prince Alexander initially enjoyed Russian support for a conservative regime in Bulgaria. However, Bulgaria's conservatives did not have the people's support. The assassination of Alexander II had a tremendous impact on Bulgaria's future. The new Russian czar, Alexander III, did not like his Bulgarian cousin, Alexander of Battenberg. Although the cousins were both conservatives, the Russian czar demanded the Bulgarian Parliament institute his changes, which diluted many freedoms and liberal clauses guaranteed in the Constitution. The unpopularity of the conservatives ultimately forced Prince Alexander to restore the liberals and revoke the Russian-imposed constitutional changes. Prince Alexander's decision to block increasing Russian influence in Bulgaria by denying the permit for the construction of a railroad for Russia in Bulgaria and the increased presence of the Russian army in Bulgaria led to a serious split between the two nations. In 1885 Prince Alexander's increasing assertions of independence led to the union of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia against the wishes of Russia. Russia retaliated by placing army officers inside Bulgaria who led the 1886 coup, which ousted Alexander of Battenberg.

Russia then imposed a three-man regency council on Bulgaria. The regency quickly rejected Russian interference in Bulgarian affairs. An embittered Russia withdrew from Bulgaria and for a decade only hostility existed between the two nations. Under the leadership of Stefan Stambolov as prime minister, the Bulgarian legislature elected, against Russian advice, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a German Catholic and a cousin of Queen Victoria, as Prince of Bulgaria. Although Ferdinand was Bulgaria's new ruling prince, the real power remained Stambolov, who moved quickly to limit constitutional freedoms and squelched the press with strict government censorship. Bulgaria's first national newspaper was the Stambolov creation Svaboda (Freedom). Later when Stambolov was out of office, the former prime minister used Svaboda to criticize Prince Ferdinand. The newspaper was written with a "racy sarcasm" and included articles that were withering attacks on the government and Prince Ferdinand. It was alleged that Stambolov leaked negative stories about the Bulgarian government to the foreign press. The government unsuccessfully tried to convict Stambolov for defamation of Prince Ferdinand's character in the foreign press. Bulgaria's courts rejected the government's argument. Prince Ferdinand responded by allowing government ministers to leak stories to the newspapers that compromised Stambolov's moral and political integrity.

Europe's Great Powers did not recognize Prince Ferdinand as the ruler of Bulgaria for a decade. Stambolov ruled as a virtual dictator who suppressed political parties, the press, and extreme nationalists. The prime minister remained in power because he neutralized the army leadership, shifted the national economy into profitable capitalism, and won support from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Stambolov acquired many enemies, and in 1894 Ferdinand had consolidated enough power and support from the various factions within his country to dismiss the prime minister. Stambolov continued to use Svaboda to attack the government, both the new prime minister and Prince Ferdinand. When Stambolov was assassinated in 1895, Svaboda accused Prince Ferdinand of engineering the former prime minister's death. The ascension of Czar Nicholas II to the throne of Russia in 1896 brought Russian recognition of Ferdinand as Prince of Bulgaria. Prince Ferdinand continued to increase his political powers over the next two decades by maintaining a semblance of parliamentary rule, supporting industrialization, and encouraging Bulgarian nationalism at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. In 1908 Ferdinand felt secure enough to break all ties to the Ottomans and declare himself King of Bulgaria. Numerous small newspapers began circulation in the cities of Sofia, Plovdiv, and Varna. The nation's new leading print media were the Vetcherna Poschta (Evening Courier) and Dnevnik (Journal). Advertising as a source of revenue increased the number of newspapers to 239 publications in 1911. Ironically Svaboda still published, but as the government's newspaper.

The press in Bulgaria suffered during World War I because of a shortage of newsprint and strict military censorship. The defeat of the Central Powers and the overthrow of Europe's three emperors in Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, forced the politically astute King Ferdinand to abdicate in favor of his eldest son, Boris, to save the dynasty. Ferdinand opted for permanent exile from Bulgaria and a life of comfortable exile in Coburg, Germany.

The reign of Boris III (1919-1943) was beset by severe crises on all fronts. As a defeated nation, Bulgaria lost territory, was forced to pay war reparations, and suffered from parliamentary instability. Under Agrarian Party leader and prime minister, Alexander Stamboliiski, Bulgaria underwent severe economic reforms. The government took control over the grain monopoly, ended land monopolies, and redistributed land to the nation's poor, passed a progressive income tax, enacted an obligatory labor law, and made secondary education compulsory. Stamboliiski garnered many enemies from among the other political parties and Bulgarian nationalists from Macdeonia. In June 1923 he was assassinated.

The Bulgarian Communist Party, Europe's oldest, attempted to overthrow the new coalition government in 1923 and in 1925 attempted to kill the king by blowing up the Sofia cathedral with the czar in attendance. The Bulgarian press reacted to the nation's political instability, experiencing periods of some freedom to publish, followed by severe repression and censorship when the military ruled Bulgaria in the king's name. Prior to World War II, the press restrictions under the royal dictatorship of King Boris were relaxed. Each of Bulgaria's many political parties published a newspaper but did so with great care, fearing censorship or closure.

World War II brought Bulgaria into the conflict on the Axis side, as it once again sought territory from its neighbors, which Bulgars inhabited. King Boris skillfully navigated a tightrope between Hitler's increasing demands for war contributions and Boris's desire to keep his nation out of the spreading conflict. In 1943, after returning from a stormy meeting with Hitler in Germany, Boris III died under mysterious and still unresolved circumstances. The throne passed to his six-year-old son, Simeon, and power to a Regency Council of three.

The brief reign of Simeon II was affected by the approaching Soviet armies and the increasing power of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The three regents were charged with treason in 1945 and executed. Until September 1946 and the abolishment of the monarchy, Bulgaria rapidly witnessed the closure of the media, suppression of political parties and the execution of their leaders, and the conversion of a capitalistic economy to a Communist one. The 1947 People's Republic of Bulgaria Constitution, known as the Dimitrov Constitution for Prime Minister Georgi Dimitrov, guaranteed all Bulgarian citizens equality before the law, freedom of speech, press, assembly, and the inviolability of person, domicile, and correspondence. All these rights were qualified by a constitutional clause prohibiting such freedoms if they jeopardized the attainments of the Communist revolution of 1944.

During the Communist era Bulgaria was regarded as one of the most loyal of the Soviet Union's allies. Religious, press, and speech freedoms were gone. On Stalin's demand, Bulgarian Communists viewed as sympathetic to Yugoslav Communist maverick, Marshal Tito, were purged from the party. Under Stalin protégé Vulko Chervenkov (1950-1956), Bulgaria faced one of its harshest periods of repression against any who failed to follow party line. Bulgarian nationalism, culture, and the arts all suffered. All farmland was collectivized.

After the death of Stalin and a period of Soviet liberalization under Nikita Khrushchev, Bulgaria adopted some mild reforms. Newspapers and journalists were permitted more latitude in writing news articles. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 again forced further repression within Bulgaria. Attempting to reassure the Soviet Union of Bulgaria's steadfast loyalty, Chervenkov purged the leadership of the Bulgarian Writer's Union, and all liberal journalists and editors were fired. In 1962 Soviet Premier Khrushchev selected Todor Zhivkov as Bulgaria's next prime minister, who served in that position until his overthrow 27 years later (1989). During those three decades Bulgaria had brief periods of improved press-state relations followed by longer periods of repression. Detente in the early 1970s briefly benefited the Bulgarian press. The 1978 murder of exiled Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov, believed ordered by the Bulgarian secret police, harmed the nation's international image and signaled a return to stricter press regulation. Discontent in Communist Poland (1980) could not be reported for fear of encouraging domestic dissent.

Under Communist rule Bulgaria published 13 daily newspapers, 5 in the provinces, and 8 in Sofia, the capital. The leading newspapers were still the Communist Party organs Rabotnichesko Delo and Otechestven Front. A Communist youth newspaper, Narodna Mladezh, was the third most influential newspaper. Thirty-three newspapers published as either weeklies or twice a week. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church printed its own newspaper but with a careful eye to government censorship. During periods of economic crises, the newspapers reduced the number of pages from 6 pages to 4 and the number of days of publication from 7 to 6 or even 5 days. Each newspaper targeted a specific audience within Communist Bulgaria. They were not subject to circulation concerns or worried about advertising revenue. Bulgaria's other major newspapers published during the Zhivkov era were Trud, the trade unions newspaper, agricultural dailies Koopernativno Selo and Zemedelsko Zname, Vecherni Novini, the only newspaper to give considerable space to advertising, and Narodna Armiya, published by the Ministry of Defense. Only 2 provincial newspapers had wide circulation, the Varna newspaper Narodno Delo and Otechestven Glas, published in Plovdiv.

During the 1980s Zhivkov temporarily eased state oppression of Roman Catholics and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The media was permitted to cover and publish more news events. This brief liberalization period was attributed to the influence of Zhivkov's daugher, Liudmilla, who was chairman of the Commission on Science, Culture, and Art. Her death in 1984 witnessed Bulgaria's return to greater repression of basic freedoms. In 1987 Bulgaria had 17 daily newspapers, most of them local. Rabotnichesko delo remained the nation's leading daily and continued as the mouthpiece for the Bulgarian Communist Party. The weakening of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union led to the emergence of dissident Bulgarian groups protesting the lack of human rights and environmental issues. The Bulgarian government's forced assimilation of its Muslim Turkish minority, denying them their culture, religion, and language, met strong internal resistance and international criticism. Public demonstrations across Bulgaria in 1989 denouncing the Communist government led to the dismissal of Zhivkov and the holding of Bulgaria's first multiparty elections in 1990 since the 1930s. Elections led to the adoption of a new constitution.

The Constitution of Bulgaria was adopted July 12, 1991, creating Bulgaria as a republic and a parliamentary democracy. Its chief of state is a president elected by direct popular vote for five-year terms. The head of the government is the prime minister, who serves as the chairman of the Council of Ministers. The prime minister is nominated by the president and normally heads the largest voting block in the legislature. Since July 2001 Bulgaria's prime minister is its former King Simeon II, now Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Bulgaria's legislature (Narodno Sobranie ) is a unicameral legislature of 240 seats elected by popular vote every four years.

The Ministry of Transport and Communication, under the department of public administration, oversees Bulgarian communications. The Ministry follows public investment policy in communications, prepares projects for international treaties and agreements in communication, and organizes and guides the preparation of communication during crises, maintaining working communications nationwide for the armed forces and security forces. This Ministry designates representatives to international communications organizations, determines the communications budget, participates in the National Communications System, and controls the actions of authorized legal entities, which receive licenses, permits, and certificates from appropriate government personnel.

Article 34 guarantees the freedom and confidentiality of correspondence and all other communications as inviolable, except when the judicial authorities permit investigation to discover or prevent a crime. Article 38 states that no one shall be persecuted or restricted in his rights because of his views, nor shall be obligated or forced to provide information about his own or another person's views. Freedom of expression (Article 39) is guaranteed, entitling everyone to have an opinion and publicize it through words, written or oral, sound, or image, or in any other way. This right shall not be used to the detriment of the rights and reputation of others, or for the incitement of a forcible change of the constitutionally established order, the perpetration of a crime, or the incitement of enmity or violence against anyone. Article 40 governs the press and the media. The press and the mass information media are free and shall not be subjected to censorship. An injunction on or a confiscation of printed matter or another information medium shall be allowed only through an act of the judicial authorities in the case of an encroachment on public decency or incitement of a forcible change of the constitutionally established order, the perpetration of a crime, or the incitement of violence against anyone. An injunction suspension shall lose force if not followed by a confiscation 24 hours. Under Article 41 of the Constitution, the people of Bulgaria are entitled to seek, obtain, and disseminate information. This right shall not be exercised to the detriment of the rights and reputation of others, or to the detriment of national security, public order, public health, and morality. Citizens of Bulgaria are entitled to obtain information from state bodies and agencies on any matter of legitimate interest to them that is not a state or official secret and does not affect the rights of others.

In 1996 Bulgaria had 1,053 newspapers, 635 periodicals, and published 5,100 books. Forty-six newspapers are considered national newspapers with 1,464,000 readers (1995). The major dailies are all morning newspapers. They include: 24 Chasa, Chernomorski FarContinent,Democraciya, published by the Democratic Forces Union, the Socialist Party newspaper Duma, GlassNarodno Delo, Novini, the business newspaper PariStan-dart, TrudZemedelsko Zname, printed by the Agrarian Union, and the Socialist Party Zemya. Additional daily newspapers published in Sofia are Abv, Banker Daily, Chassa Daily, Daily Monitor, Democratsiya, Demokratsia Daily, Dneven Trud, Dnevnik Daily, Duma Daily, Ikonomiceski Zivot, Kkk, Kontinent Daily Newspaper, Mladezhko Zemedelsko, Monitor Daily, Novinar Daily, Pari Daily, Podkrepa, Politika/Bulgaria, Sofia News, Standart Daily, Troud Daily, Trud Daily, Vecerni

Noviny, Vek 21, and WAZ Bulgarian Newspaper. Bulgaria's weekly newspapers are Chassa Weekly, Kapital Weekly, Kultura Weekly, Media and Reklama Magazine, Media Sviat Magazine, and Sofia Echo. Three major dailies are printed outside Sofia, Chernomorski far (Bourgas), Demokraticesko zname (Plovdiv), and Narodno Delo Daily (Varna).

Bulgaria's major general interest periodicals (with 1995 circulations in parentheses) are the weeklies 168 Chasa (65,000), Bulgarska Korona (15,000), Cash (70,000), and the Stolista (15,000). Special interest periodicals are the business weeklies Bulgarski Business (25,000) and Capital Press (15,000). Darzhaven Vestnik, published by the National Assembly, has 30,000 readers. The Ministry of Culture publishes Kultura (8,000).

Lechitel is a health magazine with 90,000 subscribers. A major women's magazine is Nie Zhenite (10,000). Pogled, published by the Journalists Union, has a circulation of 5,000. New periodical publications are Paralleli Magazine, published by the Bulgarian News Agency, Capital Weekly, Century 21, Otechestvo, Sports Plus, Bulgarian Journalist, Debati, Geopolitical Weekly, Literaturen Forum, Radio & TV Center, and Reforma.

Economic Framework

The population of the Republic of Bulgaria is 83 percent Bulgarian, a Slavic ethnic group. The rest of Bulgaria's population is distributed among Turks (8.5 percent), Roma or Gypsy (2.6 percent), and Macedonian, Armenian, Tatar, Gagauz, and Circassian (5.9 percent). The Bulgarian Orthodox Church accounts for 83.5 percent of Bulgarian worshippers followed by Muslim (13 percent), Roman Catholic (1.5 percent), Uniate Catholic (0.2 percent), Jewish (0.8 percent), and the remaining 1 percent divided among Protestant, Gregorian-Armenian, and others.

Bulgaria is a former Communist country establishing a capitalist economy. A severe economic recession in the Balkans in 1996 and 1997 confronted Bulgaria with triple-digit inflation. The governments of Bulgaria since 1997 have stabilized the economy, promoted privatization of state-owned industries, and undertaken major administrative reorganization of the government bureaucracy. Bulgaria is aggressively seeking membership in the European Union and NATO. The labor force in Bulgaria is divided between agriculture (26 percent), industry (31 percent), and the service industry (43 percent). Bulgarian industry produces electricity, gas and water, food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and equipment, base metals, chemical products, coke, refined petroleum, and nuclear fuel. Major exports are clothing, footwear, iron and steel, machinery and equipment, and fuels. Bulgarian agriculture produces vegetables, fruits, tobacco, livestock, wine, wheat, barley, sunflowers, and sugar beets.

Bulgaria began major reforms within the government's bureaucracy, particularly its judicial system, which previously was subject to executive influence, corruption, and structural and staffing problems. A major breakthrough came in 1989 when Bulgaria's Turkish minority was emancipated and given equal rights with the rest of the Bulgarian people. A nationalistic wave threatening Bulgaria's internal peace was avoided when Bulgarian Turks were given the right to run for political office. The political party representing Bulgaria's Turks is part of a governing coalition with the National Movement for Simeon II.

By 1991 Bulgaria had eight national newspapers printing without restriction both national and international news stories. Tainted by decades of association with the Communist era, the newspaper Rabotnichesko delo changed its name to the Duma, adopted more moderate newspaper coverage, and changed the newspaper's format. The leading newspapers in 1991 were the Duma, Demokratsiya (an independent), Trud (a trade uniondaily), and Zemia (a rural daily). Popular weekly newspapers were Pogled, Sturshel (a publication featuring folk humor), and 168 Chasa, which parodied the West's more sophisticated papers.

With the end of Communism the media became more critical of past regimes and demanded public inquiries. Major Bulgarian news stories were about the nation 's Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, Chernobyl, and the 1978 murder of writer Georgi Markov. The new openness in Bulgaria extended to the government's decision to open its files to allow the media to investigate whether or not Bulgaria had a role in the 1981 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. The new press freedom did not eliminate government lawsuits against individual publications for alleged treasonous stories. A 1991 poll conducted by 168 Chasa indicated that 46 percent of the Bulgarian people still believed that the government was trying to regulate and control the media. By 2001 and 2002 the respective Union of Democtratic Forces (UDF) parliamentary and presidential defeats were not based on opposition to government policies, but because privatization of state industry was moving too slowly, there was still considered widespread government corruption, and the economy had not rebounded. The Bulgarian press freely reported these stories with each major political party sponsoring a daily newspaper. The freedom to publish extended to Bulgaria's publishing houses.

Bulgarian book publishers gained international attention in 2001 when Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf was published, and the publication was widely advertised. Press clamor claimed that Bulgaria was anti-Semitic. The truth is closer to the Bulgarian people's desire to read publications long denied them during World War II and the Communist era. Bulgarian King Boris III died under mysterious circumstances after returning from a meeting with Hitler in 1943. Mein Kampf continues to be published in the West without incident. The vast array of book titles published each year in Bulgaria accurately represents a greater freedom to publish.

In 1996 King Simeon II returned to Bulgaria after a 50-year exile. At a Brookings Institute forum in Washington, D.C., in 2002 Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha commented that he was surprised how little had changed in Bulgaria since his 1946 departure outside of industrialization. However, the prime minister noted that in the last five years, Bulgaria had dramatically changed. Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg-Gotha stressed that Bulgaria was always intellectually "European" even if separated by the wall of Communism from the rest of the continent. He preferred to have Bulgaria designated a part of southeastern Europe rather than the Balkans, because the latter term indicates a negative image of backwardness and instability, which Bulgaria is not.

Bulgaria's prime minister stressed the need for further judiciary reform. The Ministry of Justice is reviewing Bulgaria's laws and seeking authority to bring them into compliance with the Western democracies. When this is accomplished, Bulgaria's media will be legally protected to print and broadcast with less fear of legal recrimination from government officials. In 2002 Bulgaria's media are uncensored, foreign satellites broadcast programming in Bulgaria, and Western journalists have freedom of movement within the nation. More state industry needs to be privatized, which will affect employment. International bids are encouraged. The issue of pre-Communist era land ownership awaits a final resolution. The prime minister actively courts foreign investment.

The Bulgarian people have high expectations. The prime minister wants to see these expectations met, which was why he was on a tour of Europe and the United States to push for Bulgaria's membership in both the European Union and NATO. To reject Bulgarian membership in both organizations could have a devastating impact on the nation. Bulgaria needs a deadline and a commitment for dates of admittance. The prime minister stated that Bulgaria has already accomplished many changes to meet membership requirements, and even if all required changes are not complete, this should not keep Bulgaria from membership. Should membership be denied, Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg-Gotha feared that Bulgaria's relatively new democracy would be harmed, there would be tremendous public disappointment, and the nation could face a major destabilizing effect. However, Bulgaria's support for the United States against world terrorism and offers of assistance in Afghanistan reflect the new maturity of the Bulgarian nation. It is clear that Bulgaria is moving rapidly to adapt, modernize, and be a strong multiparty democracy.


In the decade after the fall of Communism, Bulgaria has moved more rapidly than other nations of southeastern Europe in becoming a Western style democracy. The 1991 Constitution guarantees basic press and speech freedoms. However, obstacles still confront the Bulgarian government, preventing it from achieving full press freedom.

In January 2000 the Bulgarian Parliament changed the press law, which imposed prison sentences on journalists. Under the new law, public officials must bring libel charges against journalists instead of the government agency bringing legal suit. Government officials must pay their own legal bills and hire their own attorneys. The press law ended the imprisonment of journalists but increased the fines for journalists if found guilty. Bulgaria's president vetoed the measure. The president also vetoed the Electronic Media bill, approved by Parliament in October 1998, because the bill prohibited commercial advertising on television during prime time. Parliament overruled the president. The ban on commercial advertising was ended February 2000.

The Law on Radio and Television and the Law on Telecommunications both regulate Bulgaria's electronic media. The Law on Radio and Television is criticized because the oversight agency, the National Council on Radio and Television, which issues broadcast licenses and reviews possible violations of editorial policies, was not made an independent regulatory agency. The Telecommunications Law assigns broadcast frequencies and determines regulatory rules but is criticized because the complexity of the rules might deter broadcasters with limited resources from operation. A national debate continues on both laws because they fail to conform to European Union standards on the media.

In 2000 the European Union (EU) invited Bulgaria to participate in its Media II Program. The EU's strategy encourages Bulgaria to implement EU policies on economics, science, and culture. The Media II Program is designed to strengthen the audiovisual industry by providing support for the training of film industry personnel, develop audiovisual projects, and encourage transnational distribution of audiovisual projects. Bulgaria has achieved progress in the European Union's Media II Program by adopting a new broadcasting law and its ratification of the EU's Convention and Protocol on Transfrontier Television, but both measures await implementation by the government and Bulgarian media.

News Agencies

Bulgaria has three major news agencies, the Balkan Information Pool, the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, and the Sofia Press Agency. Two recent additions are the Bulgarian News Agency and LEFF Information Agency. The Independent Journalists Union and the Journalists Union are Bulgaria's two major press associations.

Broadcast Media

Broadcasting in Bulgaria is regulated by the state-controlled Bulgarian National Radio and Bulgarian Television agency. There are four national and six regional radio programs. Bulgaria's major radio station is the government-owned Bulgarian Radio. Privately owned radio stations are Daric, Radio FM, and TNN. A radio service is broadcast for tourists from Varna. Bulgaria has two independent television stations, Nova TV (New Television) and 7 Dni (Seven Days). The government-run Bulgarian-TV is considered the nation's leading television station. Bulgaria receives television transmissions from the French satellite channel TV5.

The National Council on Radio and Television (NCRT) regulates the broadcast industry and appoints the directors of Bulgaria's national radio and television systems. NCRT members are appointed on the recommendation of nongovernmental agencies. Parliament selects four from the list of potential appointees, and the president appoints three. The NCRT is criticized for being too influenced by government opinion in the selection of its members. On January 30, 2001, 200 Bulgarian journalists protested to the government that the NCRT was a politicized agency. The dispute stemmed from the NCRT's failure to approve radio directors in a nonpartisan manner.

Since 1991 Bulgaria has licensed 80 radio stations and 18 national and local television stations. There are over 200 local cable stations for both radio and television. Private radio stations are rated as having more professional employees, being financially solvent, and are alleged to number as many as 160 stations because all are not legally licensed. Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) is generally given high marks for its professionalism and generally rated better than Bulgaria's print media. BNR has two national stations, Horizont and Christo Botev, which provide local and regional programming, as well as foreign language broadcasts in Turkish, Greek, Serbo-Croat, French, and Italian. The BBC, Deutsche Welle, Radio Free Europe, and the Voice of America freely broadcast inside Bulgaria.

Private radio stations broadcasting in Bulgaria (with the broadcast site in parentheses) are Agency Balkan (Sofia), Alma Mater (Sofia), Alpha (Varna), Aura (Blagoevgrad), Berkk (Berkovitsa), Bravo FM (Varna), Classic FM (Sofia), Contact Radio (Sofia), Darik (Sofia), Express (Sofia), FM+ (Sofia), Glarus (Bourgas), Iujen Briag (Bourgas), RFI (Sofia), Tangra (Sofia), Valina (Blagoevgrad), and Vitosha (Sofia).

Television networks are fewer in number in Bulgaria because of the high start up costs and limited revenue from advertisers. The Bulgarian National Television (BNT) operates the country's two national television channels, Channel 1, which offers entertainment, westerns, and variety shows, and Efir 2, whose focus is the arts and documentaries. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch was granted the right to convert Efir 2 into a private channel in 1999, leaving Bulgaria with only one government channel. A third television channel was approved for nationwide broadcasting using the frequency formally used by Russian television channel, ORT. The third station will only reach about 55 percent of Bulgarian people but is required to expand coverage gradually to the entire nation. Small television stations offer pirated programming. Cable television is limited by the inability of the people to afford the additional costs and a general lack of advertising revenue. Media frequently judged critical of the government were less likely to get needed advertising revenue during the decade of the nineties. Bulgarian public and private television stations, except for TRI V&X Ltd. in Blagoevgrad, are Sofia based and include 24 Chassa, 7 Dni, BTV, Bulgaria Cable, Bulgarian National Television, Bulgarian Television, Canal 3, MSAT TV, and Nova TV.

Electronic News Media

The Internet has achieved great popularity in Bulgaria with an estimated 150 Internet service providers. The Ministry of Telecommunications lost a 1999 case legally raised by the Internet Society of Bulgaria challenging the law licensing Internet service providers as a direct denial of the public's right to information.

An increasing number of Bulgarian media offer online services. State-run media with Internet services are the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency ( with an English version (, The Bulgarian National Television (, and Bulgarian National Radio ( Political parties with Internet service are the National Movement for Simeon II ( and the Union of Democratic Forces ( Bulgarian television stations online are 7 Days Bulgarian Television Online and Bulgarian Internet Television ( Bulgarian radio stations with Internet connections are Darrik Radio (, 107.9 FM (, 97.6 FM (, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty ( Important news services with Internet addresses are News Bulgaria (, Mediapool, which offers daily updates of Internet information and analysis about Bulgaria ([email protected]), Bulgaria OnLine (, and NI (

Specialized media offering Internet services are Bulgarian Business News (English version), Bankers (, the English weekly Capital (, and the Daily Chronicle ( Major economic publications online are the Bulgarian Financial & Business News Daily, English version ( and the Bulgarian Economic Review, a biweekly publication (

Print media with online editions include Bulgaria's three largest publications, Standart News (, Monitor (, andSega Daily ( Additional Bulgarian newspapers with Internet editions are the English language The Sofia Independent, Duma, Trud, Sega Weekly, Novinar, Kultura, Bulgar Voice, and The Insider. The Bulgarian Press, Nedelnik Weekly, The Bulgarian-Macedonian National Education and Cultural Center, The BG-Reporter, and the Bulgarian Room in the Balkan Info Home, The Sofia Echo,7 Sport, and Mmatch offer Internet editions. Vox, an online magazine for literature, was Bulgaria's first independent literary magazine. It was banned by the Communists, but emerged as an underground publication for political journalism and literature in 1989, first called Samizdat and later Vox Glas. News

Education & TRAINING

Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski is Bulgaria's oldest university, founded in 1888 with three academic faculties: History and Philology, Physics and Mathematics, and Law. The school became a university in 1904 with the addition of degree granting programs in medicine, agriculture, forestry, theology, and economics. By 1938 Sofia University contained 9 colleges and 72 institutes and clinics. New higher education programs won government approval from 1947-52: the Higher Institute of Economics, the Medical Academy, the Veterinary-Medical Institute, the Academy of Agriculture, and the Bulgarian Academy of Science.

Sofia University is the major institution of higher learning in Bulgaria for a degree in the media, offering undergraduate and graduate programs in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication. The department specializes in the fields of press and book publishing, communication and public relations, history and theory of journalism, and radio and television. The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication has a working relationship with several major Bulgarian newspapers, Monitor, Capital, Kontinent, Pari Daily, Sega, and Stan-dart. Affiliation with European Union nations allows Bulgarian students in a variety of media fields to study outside Bulgaria at major universities in Western Europe and North America.


Bulgaria has had few periods of complete independence. In the Middle Ages Bulgaria was twice briefly free before being absorbed by either the Byzantine or Ottoman Empires. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries more powerful neighbors manipulated the future of the Bulgarian people, most notably the Turks and the Russians. Attempts to unite all Bulgars under one national flag failed because Bulgaria's neighbors, Greece and Yugoslavia, claimed the same lands. The desire for a Greater Bulgaria, led the nation to make the ultimately disastrous decisions to join both the Central Powers and the Axis in two world wars to achieve the union of all Bulgars.

Independent since 1879, Bulgaria was denied the right to unite all Bulgars under one national flag, and its governments were interfered with and destabilized by more powerful neighbors, particularly Russia under the czars and the Soviet Union under Communism. Throughout Bulgaria's history, human rights and press freedoms existed for only brief periods. Political instability led to political assassinations and coups. Constitutions were replaced and even though each one guaranteed press, speech, and expression rights, those rights were usually ignored, reduced, or suspended altogether. Within a decade of Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov's overthrow, Bulgaria has begun a remarkable transformation into becoming a modern democratic state. The paradox of a former king leading his nation as a prime minister out from under the shadows of decades of Communist rule has achieved great attention in Europe and the United States. Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is politically astute, cultured, and is completely dedicated to making Bulgaria a modern nation of the twenty-first century. The change in Bulgaria began in 1997 with the election of the Union of Democratic Forces. The momentum must be continued, and it will be if Bulgaria's progress is rewarded with membership into the European Union and NATO.

Significant Dates

  • 1997: Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) win the presidency and control of Parliament from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the nation's former Communist Party.
  • 2001: Exiled King Simeon II wins parliamentary elections and becomes prime minister of a coalition government with the Turkish minority party
  • 2002: Bulgarian Socialist Party leader and former Communist, Georgi Purvanov, is elected president.


Assenova, Margarita. "New Freedoms, Old Problems." The World and I, 1 November 1999.

Constant, Stephen. Foxy Ferdinand, Tsar of Bulgaria. New York: Franklin Watts, 1980.

Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria.

Curtis, Glenn E., ed. Bulgaria, A Country Study. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1993.

Dimitroff, Pashanko. King of Mercy. London: Wexford & Barrow, 1986.

Embassy of Bulgaria. Available from

Glenny, Misha. The Balkans, Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, 1804-1999. New York: Viking, 1999.

Groueff, Stephane. Crown of Thorns. Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 1987.

International Journalists' Network. Available from

Kaplan, Robert D. Balkan Ghosts. New York: St. Marti's Press, 1993.

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prime Minister Simeon. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute, 24 April 2002.

Turner, Barry, ed. Statesman's Yearbook 2002. New York: Palgrave Press, 2001.

World Mass Media Handbook, 1995 Edition. New York: United Nations Department of Public Information, 1995.

Zhelev, Veselin. "Hitler's Autobiography Doing Well in Sofia." AP Worldstream, 11 December 2001.

William A. Paquette

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Republic of Bulgaria

Republika Bulgaria



The Republic of Bulgaria shares its borders with 5 other countries in southeastern Europe and has a coastline on the Black Sea. Romania lies to the north, Turkey to the southeast, Greece to the south, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the southwest, and Serbia (with Montenegro part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) to the west. The eastern coastline on the Black Sea is 354 kilometers (220 miles) long, and the total area of the country is 110,910 square kilometers (42,823 square miles), making it slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. The capital, Sofia, is situated at the foot of the Balkan and Vitosha Mountains in western Bulgaria; other principal cities are Plovdiv in south-central Bulgaria, the coastal cities of Varna and Burgas, and Ruse on the Danube River.


The Bulgarian population recorded in the 1985 census was 8,948,649, but by July 2000, largely due to emigration , the population was estimated to have decreased to 7,796,694. In 2000, the birth rate stood at 8.06 and the death rate at 14.63 per 1,000 population, but this downward trend should be halted as the economy improves, emigrants return, and the country joins the European Union (EU) in 2007. By 2010, the population is projected to reach 7.26 million. Population density is about 70 persons per square kilometer (181 per square mile).

Ethnic Bulgarians account for 85 percent of the population, Turks 9 percent, and Roma (Gypsies) 3.7 percent. Other small, miscellaneous groups round out the total. Bulgarian, a Slavic language with a written tradition da ting back to the 9th century, is the principal language, with other languages spoken corresponding to the ethnic breakdown. Religions include Orthodox Christian (83 percent), Muslim (13 percent), and Roman Catholic (1.5 percent), with Jewish, Protestant, and other groups making up the rest. The population of Bulgaria is aging, with 16 percent below the age of 14 and 16 percent older than 65. The median age is expected to increase from 37.5 years in 1995 to nearly 41 in 2005. A majority of the population, 69 percent, lives in urban areas, and Sofia and its suburbs are home to the largest number.

Prior to 1989, the government encouraged population growth by providing maternity benefits, free health care, affordable pre-school day care, and reasonably adequate pensions. Emigration was negligible due to government restrictions on travel. Since then, however, deteriorating living standards, the opening of the economy, and freedom to travel have generated emigration, mostly of young people, to Western Europe and North America, and of ethnic Turks to their neighboring home-land. Many of the latter, however, return or maintain households in both countries.


Until 1944, Bulgaria was a predominantly agricultural country. Under the socialist regime introduced after World War II, industry and infrastructure were nationalized and operated in line with central government economic planning. Most farming was collectivized (organized into government-run units), and the development of heavy industry was made a priority. From the 1970s until 1989, Bulgaria enjoyed one of the most prosperous economies in Eastern Europe, with good health, education, and living standards. Considered by many to be the "Red Silicon Valley" (denoting its role as the communist equivalent of the U.S. technology breeding ground), it became the sixth nation to fly in space.

The socialist economy, however, was dependent on the imports of subsidized Soviet fuels (some re-exported to obtain hard currency ) and the extensive but straightforward Soviet (and other socialist) markets for most exports of machinery, computers and peripherals, clothing, tobacco, beverages, and food. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, economic sanctions , and the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990-91, Bulgaria lost many of its markets, its cheap energy sources, and hard currency revenues. As a result, living standards declined significantly in the 1990s. Bulgaria has become a poor European country and, like most its neighbors and near-neighbors, except Poland and Slovenia, it is a long way from improving on its 1989 real level of output. The Yugoslav wars interrupted both road and river (the Danube) trade routes to Western Europe and hurt the economy, but the Stability Pact, a regional initiative for economic development, democratization, and security devised in the late 1990s and backed by the United States and the EU, should facilitate future recovery.

Despite these many problems, Bulgaria earned a reputation for economic and political stability during the 1990s. The government followed a slow but sure path towards a market economy and expanded its commercial ties with Western Europe and the United States. The European Union (EU) currently accounts for 52 percent of its exports and nearly half of its imports, and the United States is among the top foreign investors. Bulgaria aspires to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the first decade of the 21st century and is on course to join the EU.

In 1997, the government imposed tight monetary policies and strict financial discipline, stabilizing the banking system and cutting government spending. Triple-digit inflation gave way to moderate price increases, but growth and foreign investment have remained low. Ongoing market reforms include privatization or liquida tion of state-owned enterprises and liberalization of agriculture and the creation of a land market. Privatization is seen as the only efficient way to restructure the economy, create jobs, and introduce new technology. It is also crucial for attracting foreign investment, stopping the slide in output, increasing exports, and generating cash for current needs. But the government has been criticized for relying heavily on controversial management-employee buyouts for smaller enterprises. New social policy measures include reforming social insurance and addressing the issues of crime and corruption.

The external debt estimated at over $10.4 billion in 2000 and accumulated as a result of foreign trade deficits throughout the 1980sis considered high but not unduly so. Although the balance of payments situation had stabilized by 2000, the debt has caused a negative long-term impact on economic growth and living standards. Another problem arises from the depreciation of the euro (the common currency of the EU), since most revenue is measured in euros while the debt is calculated mostly in dollars. There are attempts to encourage debt-for- equity swaps (transforming bank debt into foreign direct investment ) which, along with the expected growth over the next few years, might alleviate the debt burden.


In 1990, communist rule in Bulgaria gave way to a multiparty parliamentary democracy, with executive power vested in the Council of Ministers. Although political life has been active, Bulgaria has sound policies regarding minorities and is regarded as an oasis of stability in the tinderbox of the Balkans. In the 1997 parliamentary elections, the United Democratic Forces, an alliance of the reformist Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) and the People's Union, won 137 of 240 National Assembly seats. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), reformed communists, was reduced to 58 seats, which reflected the BSP responsibility for the 1996-97 financial meltdown, from which the SDS was perceived as a deliverer. The remaining seats were shared between the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF); a centrist, predominantly ethnic Turkish party; the Euroleft; and the Business Block. The Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union and the Democratic Party form the People's Union coalition. The local elections in 1999 gave the BSP control over most local governments and signaled decreasing SDS popularity due to persistent economic hardship and corruption charges. All major parties currently support market reforms and membership in the EU and NATO. During the 1999 Kosovo crisis, the government cooperated fully with NATO.

The government aims to privatize all state-owned firms except for utilities, strategic railroads, natural gas, postal services, education and sciences, environmental protection, geology, and cartography. The law requires that the state retain at least a 51 percent interest in merchant shipping and passenger fleets, major ports and airports, transport, and highway construction companies. By June 1999, about 40 percent of state enterprises had been privatized, while the public sector accounted for 36 percent of the GDP. The private sector contributed 25-30 percent of the GDP in 1995; 35-40 percent in 1996; approximately 65 percent in 1997 and 1998, and 64 percent in 1999, and is expected to increase further.

Privatization processes were particularly dynamic in 1999 and 2000, with priority given to tourism, food processing, agriculture, heavy industry, engineering, textiles, and construction materials. The privatization program is being carried out through capital market offerings, mass privatization, and cash deals. The offerings on the capital market (through corporate stocks and bonds sales) are insignificant, and the local stock exchange is still in its infancy. In the mass privatization program, all citizens and company employees were made eligible to receive free vouchers for company (or privatization fund) shares. More significant for foreign investors is cash privatization, which allows investors to buy smaller enterprises from central government ministries, larger ones from the privatization agency, or municipal assets from local government. The privatization agency hires foreign consultancy firms to assess the value of important enterprises and to advise on marketing, but the process has often been described as slow and challenging. Potential investors have been frustrated by the difficulties of investing, and others are unhappy with inflexible procedures. Complex criteria for determining which buyers are eligible to invest has caused concern about corruption.

Taxes are a major source of government revenue. Personal income tax rates are progressive, from 20 percent to 40 percent. The profit tax rate is 20 percent for large firms and 15 percent for small firms. Value-added tax (VAT) is levied at a rate of 20 percent. All firms pay 10 percent on profits in municipal tax. Investors in high unemployment areas get a 10 percent reduction on government profit tax. The tax system is still perceived by many as unfriendly to business, and tax cuts are being debated within the government.


Bulgaria's transportation infrastructure includes railroads, with 3,979 kilometers (2,472 miles) of track in use, and about 36,724 kilometers (22,819 miles) of paved roads, although some of these are unsatisfactory. There are only about 250 kilometers (160 miles) of 4-lane highway. Back in the 1980s, Somat, the state trucking company, was among the largest in Europe. However, political troubles involving Serbia made the road route to Western Europe across Serbian territory problematic. The result was greater traffic via Romania across the only existing bridge with a ferry crossing on the Danube. Bulgaria recognized the need for a second bridge, but mixed signals from Romania have held up the project. However, the reopening of traffic through Yugoslavia following the ousting of Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 may rule out bridge construction.

Bulgaria has many highway projects under construction, notably portions of the Trans-European motor-way connecting Budapest, Hungary, with Athens, Greece, via Sofia, and with Istanbul, Turkey, via eastern Bulgaria. International investors and the state budget are the main sources for financing road network improvements. Completion and modernization of portions of the Trakia, Cherno More, and Hemus expressways are being given out to contractors, and there are plans for a north-south tunnel under Mount Shipka.

The Danube River is an important artery, and much of the freight traffic uses the Black Sea. There is a sizeable merchant marine fleet operated by the Navibulgar shipping company. Two major seaports and east-west transport corridor gateways, in Varna and Burgas, are planned for rehabilitation. Balkan, the national airline, serves major cities and international destinations, although it has suffered after its recent sale to the Israeli Zeevi group in a questionable privatization deal. Smaller airlines also operate, and 3 major international airports, in Sofia, Varna, and Burgas, are currently undergoing modernization. There are 129 airports with paved runways.

Bulgaria's energy sector is state-owned and derives most of its output from thermal plants burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas (52 percent), nuclear plants (41 percent), and hydroelectric facilities (7 percent). Newer units of the Kozloduy nuclear plant will be upgraded under a contract between the National Electric Company and the U.S. company, Westinghouse. Bulgaria exports energy, primarily to Turkey and Yugoslavia. The country produced 38.423 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy in 1998, a slight decrease from the previous year, and electricity consumption stood at 35.493 billion kWh. Studies to determine the feasibility of oil pipelines carrying oil from the Caspian Sea through Bulgaria to the Greek Aegean Sea coast or the Albanian Adriatic Sea coast could bring future opportunities for expansion. There are extensive networks of pipelines carrying natural gas throughout the country.

Bulgaria has the highest penetration of telephone service in Eastern Europe, at 38.47 percent. The network is operated by the state-owned Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC). In 1998, it replaced antiquated facilities with up-to-date equipment and connected major cities with digital exchanges, satellite ground stations, fiber-optic lines, and digital microwave networks in a $300 million project funded by international investors. Residential telephone development will reach EU standards by 2008. There is analog cellular telephone network operated by the Mobifon company, created as a joint venture between Cable & Wireless (49 percent), BTC (39 percent), and the Bulgarian company Radio Electronic Systems (12 percent). The Bulgarian company, Mobiltel, operates a digital cellular telephone network,

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Bulgaria 257 543 398 28.8 15 N/A N/A 11.89 235
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Romania 300 319 233 119.2 29 N/A 10.2 9.01 600
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

and the country has many small, unregulated, Internet service providers. Privatization of 51 percent of the BTC, worth more than $500 million, will be the largest privatization deal in Bulgaria, and was being prepared in 2001, while the Greek telecommunications company, OTE, was granted a license for a second national digital cellular phone network.


Since the late 1980s, manufacturing, mining, transport, construction, and agriculture have been declining in Bulgaria, while the service sector has been growing, particularly in retail business and finance. Energy, communications, and tourism have also become high-profile if turbulent industries. The World Factbook estimated that by 2000 agriculture accounted for 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), industry 29 percent, and services 56 percent. Estimates for the division of the labor force were from 1998, when 26 percent of the labor force was employed by the agriculture sector, 31 percent by the industry sector, and 43 percent by the services sector.

Much of Bulgaria's earlier economic strength lay in heavy industry powered, until the early 1990s, by subsidized energy from the Soviet Union. With the collapse of centrally planned Eastern European economies, manufacturing suffered a downturn. Major state-owned chemical, oil-refining, and metallurgical plants were targeted for privatization and examined to determine whether they could compete effectively in international markets. The largest privatization deal in heavy industry was the sale of the Sodi Devnia chemical plant to the Belgian company, Solvey, in 1999 for $160 million. Many other major assets, including oil refineries and chemical, metallurgical, and cement plants were privatized, while some were reduced to a shambles.

Food processing, textiles and apparel, and other consumer goods manufacturers have performed comparatively better, often attracting investment from renowned companies such as Kraft Jacobs Suchard or Danone. Future growth looks probable in light industry, led by electronics, textiles, and food processing. A small percentage of new private companies are involved in manufacturing. Private sector growth is greatest in the construction and food industries, maintenance and repair of electronic tools and equipment, household appliances, and automobiles.


Bulgaria is renowned for sheep's milk cheese, oriental tobacco, wine, rose attar (used in perfumery), vegetables, fruit, medicinal herbs, and, particularly, natural yogurt. The temperate climate, abundant arable land, and soil conditions support the farming of both livestock and crops (grains, oil seeds, sugar beets, vegetables, grapes, fruit), but the country was affected by drought in the late 1990s and into 2000. Tobacco is among the most important of Bulgaria's crops, contributing nearly 20 percent to the value of agricultural goods. The principal timber areas are in the Rila, Rhodope, and Balkan Mountains. The fishing industry, which in the 1980s operated a large ocean fleet, is currently depressed. All told, the agricultural sector was estimated to account for 21 percent of the GDP in 1999 and to employ 26 percent of the workforce. Although estimations for the labor force were not available, the percentage of the GDP the sector contributed dropped slightly by 2000 to 15 percent.

Although historically a surplus food producer, Bulgarian agriculture was facing a downturn at the turn of the century. Cropland, livestock population, and yields were declining (limited use of fertilizers, however, has led to cleaner rivers and sea water). Animal feed is imported and its shortage has led to distress slaughtering, the killing of livestock in the face of a shortage of feed. The price of agricultural goods is not rising in line with inflation. Imported subsidized vegetables, fruit, dairy products, and meat from the EU adversely affect local producers. Restitution of collective farmland to private owners has been complicated and considerable collective farm assets were lost in the process. New private holdings are too small and can only be serviced with technical equipment or irrigated if their owners band together, but such efforts are proving slow to develop.

Price liberalization should encourage more output, especially as income gradually rises. Agriculture has the potential to make Bulgaria again basically self-sufficient in grains, and prospects are excellent for further increases in hard currency earnings from wine and dairy products, particularly cheese.


Before 1989, heavy industry dominated the Bulgarian economy. Metallurgy was largely dependent on iron ore imports, while locally mined copper, zinc, and lead ores were smelted in Bulgaria. The chemical industry produced fuels, plastics, rubbers, soda ash, and fertilizers. Engineering was well developed, especially in the production of electrical equipment, electric and motor trucks, heavy machinery, machine tools, electronics, and shipbuilding. Since the transition to a market economy, with a few exceptions that have attracted major foreign investment or serve sizeable international demand, the remaining heavy industry companies have struggled under management-employee privatization schemes. By 1999 industry contributed 29 percent to the GDP and employed 31 percent of the workforce. More recent labor force estimations were not available, but the percentage of GDP the sector contributed by 2000 remained the same.

Computer and software industries grew spectacularly in the 1980s, but, since then, many hi-tech players have been severely hit. DZU, a modern data storage equipment manufacturer in 1989, later leased out its production facilities to dubious firms that made Bulgaria the world's second largest producer of pirated compact discs (CDs). A government crackdown then all but ruined DZU, whose chances of survival currently lie with Hungary's Videoton, which acquired it for a nominal price. At best, it will function as a cheap assembly plant, but other companies will not even be this lucky. Bulgaria lost more than 50,000 computer programmers and engineers to developed countries over the 1990s, and this drain on a skilled workforce showed no sign of slowing down.

Textiles, the oldest industry in Bulgaria, together with apparel, leather goods, and footwear manufacturers, use largely domestic raw materials. The manufacture of building materialscement, bricks, and glassis well established. Pharmaceuticals and beauty products, food processing, including wine and other beverages, and tobacco processing, were once major revenue sources and show prospects for future growth.

Industries whose market prospects show promise in the 21st century include the manufacture of electrical equipment; telecommunications equipment and services; computers, software, and information technology; medical equipment; automotive parts and service equipment; agricultural equipment; building materials; chemicals; and, to some extent, metallurgy. All these enterprises, however, require massive restructuring and investment for their revitalization.


The service sector, generating approximately half of Bulgaria's GDP in 1999 and employing 43 percent of the workforce, continues to experience the highest growth of any sector. Most private sector activity involves some form of trade or retail, and financial services such as insurance and lending, health-care services, and tourism are well regarded by private companies.


With the breakup of the rigid socialist banking system, the 1990s witnessed expansion of the banking and financial services sector. In 1996, however, many state-owned and some private banks collapsed under the burden of bad debts accumulated by state factories that had become obsolete and by the now infamous "credit millionaires." In 1997, the government focused on achieving stabilization and financial discipline, forcing the banks to avoid new lending and to maintain very high liquidity rates (a measure of how much cash is kept on hand). Bulgaria's low inflation is accompanied by low interest rates, but the level of lending is a third of that in most central European countries and is a major barrier to investment. The economy is heavily reliant on cash payments, which is detrimental to efficiency and conducive to corruption and tax evasion. Savings have been declining since 1999 due to generally low income levels.

The government is privatizing remaining state banks, and there were plans to sell in 2001 the largest, Bulbank, to a consortium made up of UniCredito (Italy) and Allianz (Germany), and the Bulgarian State Savings Bank. The large Post Bank was sold in 1998 to a consortium of Greek banks and AIG (U.S.), which also bought a stake in the United Bulgarian Bank in 1999. Most hard-won loans are now going to private companies. Consumer credit is developing, although slowly, with banks actively encouraging car and home loans to the tune of $400 million. Credit card companies have also started operations in this formerly virgin market.


Tourism plays a significant but not crucial role in the economy. While its competitors, Spain, Greece, and Turkey, have the advantage of aggressive and expensive marketing campaigns and decades of exposure to the market, Bulgaria has been unable to capitalize on its popular image as a land with a rich folklore tradition. The country offers extensive beach resorts along the Black Sea coast, several alpine skiing resorts in the Vitosha, Rila, Pirin, and Rhodope Mountains, and natural mineral water health spas. Nevertheless, the number of Western tourists fell by a third between 1994 and 1996, and the total revenue from the tourist industry in 1996 was $669 million. Attracted by low prices, cultural similarities, the lack of visa formalities, and a Russian-friendly population, former Soviet nationals spent 130 percent more overnight stays in Bulgaria in 1996 than in 1985, and 63 percent more than in 1993. Former East Germans are also frequent visitors. In 1996, overnight stays by Russians and Germans were around 2 million each, but the number of British and Scandinavian visitors is low. Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians, among the top tourists to Bulgaria in the 1980s, now prefer other destinations. Foreign-acquired tourist hotels on the coast are mainly Russian-owned, while others have been leased to tour operators such as Germany's Neck-ermann who carry out renovation. However, it is 5-star business hotels that most attract foreign investors.


Growing quickly during the 1990s, the retail sector was energized by the privatization of state and municipality-owned stores, the emergence of many small private firms, and the import of cheap foreign consumer goods. Major foreign retailers, such as the German Metro, the Turkish Koc Holding, and others from Austria and France, began developing a network of large hypermarkets. The choice of goods has widened impressively, but low-income Bulgarians are generally reluctant or unable to pay more for better-looking products, often leaving consumers reliant on traditional domestic suppliers. The lower price of subsidized agricultural goods from the EU make them popular with buyers but detrimental to local producers. Direct and network marketing, which became popular in Eastern Europe after Oriflame (Sweden) made a success of it, is taking root, but only gradually, due to low levels of disposable income .


As a consequence of the foreign debt incurred in the late 1980s, Bulgaria suffered from declining markets and negative trade balances during the early 1990s. Although dependent on imports as heavily as ever, Bulgaria showed improvement after 1994 as the lev weakened, making exports more affordable in foreign markets; trade with former Soviet republics was revived, and trade with the EU increased. However, after 1997, the Yugoslav embargo , together with the government's restrictive policies aimed at financial stabilization,

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Bulgaria
exports Imports
1975 N/A 5.949
1980 N/A N/A
1985 13.339 13.657
1990 4.822 4.710
1995 5.354 5.657
1998 4.300 4.979
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

brought a downturn in the balance of trade. In 1998, exports of goods stood at $4.293 billion and imports at $4.609 billion, generating a current account deficit of $316 million. This trade deficit mushroomed to $1.5 billion in 1999, when Bulgaria imported $5.3 billion in goods while exporting just $3.8 billion.

An accumulating trade deficit would badly affect Bulgaria's ability to meet its financial obligations in the future, but June 2000 was the tenth month in succession to see an increase in exports. Exports for that month reached $393.6 million, an increase of 21.8 percent over 1999, attributed to the recovery of EU economies in general and the rise in the international price of Bulgarian exports. Exports to the United Kingdom (UK) rose by 40 percent, due to the strong pound against the weak euro, which is linked to the lev. Export to other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries rose by almost 45 percent, with most going to Turkey. Exports to Balkan countries, mainly Serbia and Macedonia, boomed after the Kosovo war in 1999, but those to other member countries of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) rose by less than 6 percent and those to the former Soviet Union fell by 17 percent, with exports to Russia falling by one-third.

Imports increased by 23 percent over the previous year, to $511.2 million in June 2000. Over 50 percent of the rise was due to higher oil prices. Imports of industrial raw materials rose by more than 8 percent and imports associated with the recovering metallurgical sector grew, while those required by the food sector fell. Investment also rose in 2000, but the greatest growth, 56 percent, was in energy, mainly imported from Russia. The EU is now the main supplier of consumer and investment goods to Bulgaria. Imports from Balkan countries expanded impressively a year after the Kosovo war.

A fairly active trade-show calendar attracts firms from many countries. Major export commodities included textiles, clothing and footwear; base metals and metal products; minerals and fuels; food, beverages, and tobacco; machinery and equipment; chemicals and plastics; furniture and household appliances. Italy accounted for 14 percent of exports in 1998. Germany (10 percent), Greece (9 percent), Turkey (8 percent), and Russia (5 percent) were other major partners. Together, EU countries accounted for 52 percent of exports.

Major import commodities included fuels, minerals, and raw materials; metals and ores; textiles and apparel; machinery and equipment; automobiles; chemicals and plastics; and food. Major import partners were Russia, accounting for more than 20 percent of all imports in 1998, Germany (15 percent), Italy (9 percent), Greece (6 percent), France (5 percent), and the United States (4 percent). Together, EU countries accounted for more than 48 percent of imports.


The Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) is the bank of issue . It controls government funds and state-owned enterprises. All banks were nationalized in 1947, but since 1990, private banks have been established and international banks allowed to enter the market. The banking sector has been consolidated, and complete privatization of the remaining state-owned commercial banks was expected by 2001.

The Bulgarian currency plunged dramatically in late 1996 and early 1997, reaching a low of approximately 3,000 leva per US$1. Many banks that had extended loans to failing concerns, both state-owned and private, were forced into insolvency. By early 1997, most banking institutions were bankrupt or had closed doors to depositors. The new government that took office in May of 1997 committed itself to stringent financial and structural policies for dealing with this drastic situation and received the encouragement of backing from international financial institutions.

Since July 1997, as required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Bulgarian government has been operating under the control of a currency board . This body rules that the BNB must hold hard currency reserves in leva to cover circulation and banking reserves. Further, the currency board dictates that the BNB cannot refinance commercial banks except in an emergency and restricts the government's freedom to take on new financial liabilities or provide sovereign guarantees. The lev was tied to the German mark and later to the euro at a fixed rate, and in 1999 the currency was redenominated (new bills and coins were issued and the exchange rate was fixed at 1 lev to 1 German mark).

Under IMF conditions for strict financial discipline, the government was pledged to close loss-making enterprises and speed privatization, bank reform, and restructuring. It issued an isolation list of loss-making state enterprises, that is, companies denied access to commercial

Exchange rates: Bulgaria
leva (Lv) per US$1
Jan 2001 2.0848
2000 2.1233
1999 1.8364
1998 1,760.36
1997 1,681.88
1996 177.89
Note: On July 5, 1999, the lev was redenominated; the post-July 5, 1999lev is equal to 1,000 of the pre-July 5, 1999 lev.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

credit unless they privatize. These accounted for half of the public sector, but by 1999 the government succeeded in privatizing, or beginning liquidation of, all such companies. In the early 1990s, there were 30-40 virtually unregulated stock markets in Bulgaria, most of whose listed firms turned out to be dealing in pyramid schemes . A national stock exchange opened in October 1997, but daily turnover has seldom been more than $200,000, and rarely exceeded $1 million, even in 1998.


Before 1989, Bulgaria was arguably a land of economic equality. Almost no private initiative was allowed, but the vast majority of the population was employed by the state, and large government funds were allocated to free health care, free higher education, maternity and disability benefits, and pensions. Most Bulgarians owned their houses, and many had small country "villas" and motor cars. Traditionally, even the poorest Bulgarians, the ethnic Roma, held jobs, received social security payments, and enjoyed a decent standard of living, particularly in rural areas. The only exceptions to this modest yet guaranteed standard of living were the nomenklatura and the informal economy players, whose privileges inflamed discontent among the population.

The market reforms of the 1990s created both new poverty and new wealth. Unemployment, hitherto almost unknown, skyrocketed, inflation all but wiped out most social benefits, and the cooperative farms that were the livelihood of many formerly landless villagers were disbanded. Many entrepreneurs, corrupt politicians and officials, and mobsters amassed spectacular fortunes, which most people resented. Restitution of urban real estate, and particularly of farmland and woodland, was controversial and failed to generate much wealth. Mass privatization also failed in this respect.

For all its problems, Bulgaria was in 1995 still more egalitarian than neighboring Greece or the wealthy United States. The poorest 20 percent were responsible for 8.5 percent of the nation's consumption (compared to 7.5 percent in Greece and 5.2 percent in the United

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Bulgaria N/A 1,329 1,553 1,716 1,372
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Russia 2,555 3,654 3,463 3,668 2,138
Romania 1,201 1,643 1,872 1,576 1,310
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Bulgaria
Lowest 10% 3.4
Lowest 20% 8.5
Second 20% 13.8
Third 20% 17.9
Fourth 20% 22.7
Highest 20% 37.0
Highest 10% 22.5
Survey year: 1995
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

States), while the wealthiest 20 percent consumed 37 percent (40.3 percent in Greece, 46.4 percent in the United States). Bulgaria's Gini index which rates a country's level of equality with 1 representing perfect equality and 100 representing perfect inequalitywas 28.3 in 1995, while Greece's was 32.7, and the United States' was 40.8. Polarization increased between 1995 and 2000, but it is believed that economic growth over the next decade and the accession to the EU will gradually increase living standards for all Bulgarians.

By 2001 most of the population was enduring hardship. The growth of wages and pensions lagged behind the index of consumer prices and unemployment is officially estimated at 15 percent, although it is believed to be much higher. The prospects for many small businesses seem bleak, due to the unavailability of loans, weak demand, crime, and corruption. Agriculture is struggling to provide a sustainable livelihood for small farmers. While many professionals and business owners make a good living, thousands of Bulgarians can afford only the bare necessities. Numerous chronically ill people suffer from an inadequate supply of life-supporting medicines, and many children, particularly those of Roma families, are unable to attend school because of the growing cost of textbooks and clothing. Many people who live in small towns and villages with high unemployment rates, as well as single parents, pensioners , persons in state social homes, disabled people, and others face considerable personal distress.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bulgaria is currently behind Hungary and Poland, but ahead of neighboring Turkey and Romania, in terms of its human development index. In 1998, Bulgaria still had a smaller population per physician and per hospital bed than the EU average, but health-care spending per head was much lower. Food constituted 33.1 percent of household spending (but was believed to be rising), while the EU average was 14.1 percent. Cars in use per 1,000 population were 219.9 for Bulgaria and 399.7 for the EU. Houses with piped water constituted 83.4 percent of households in Bulgaria and 99 percent in the EU, and houses with flush toilets were 57.7 percent in Bulgaria against 96.3 percent in the EU.


Bulgaria is a party to all relevant major universal as well as regional legal instruments, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is also a signatory to treaties on the right to equal compensation and collective bargaining and against employment discrimination. Market reforms, though, made Bulgarians aware of unemployment and job insecurity problems. Before 1989, the economy was plagued by the sustained labor deficit for blue-collar workers, but labor disputes were virtually non-existent since the Communist Party supervised trade unions. Nevertheless, over the decades after World War II, working conditions improved in both urban and rural areas with the introduction of new technology and progressive legislation and the development of health-care and social-security systems. At the same time, safety at work and environmental protection, particularly in the mining, energy, and chemical industries, were often inadequate.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Bulgaria 30 6 17 8 11 5 23
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Russia 28 11 16 7 15 8 16
Romania 36 7 9 3 20 9 16
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Bulgaria did not develop independent labor unions as such before democratic reforms took root. The only exception was the Podkrepa Labor Confederacy, now one of the major national unions. Along with the Confederacy of Independent Syndicates of Bulgaria and other groups, the Podkrepa participates in collective bargaining, and the unions' role is growing as many Bulgarians face unemployment and deteriorating working conditions. Conditions are notably bad in clothing sweatshops set up by foreign investors in rural areas severely afflicted by unemployment. Women have traditionally participated on an equal footing in the economy but are now suffering heavily from unemployment, job-related stress, and unsafe labor conditions. Over the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of educated young Bulgarians left the country, and it is expected that the forthcoming waiver of visa requirements for most EU countries will encourage others to seek short-term employment. EU membership is likely to intensify the mobility of workers between countries until a balance is reached.


550 A.D. Slavs settle into present-day Bulgarian (then Byzantine) lands, comprising the ancient Roman provinces of Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia.

681. Khan Asparuh founds the first Bulgarian state as a union between Slavs and newcomer Bulgars, militant people from the steppes of the northern Caucasus. They are to be assimilated by the Slavs but leave their name and statehood tradition to the nation.

863. Bulgaria converts to Christianity under Prince Boris I and embraces Byzantine civilization as a feudal agrarian economy takes root.

893. The Cyrillic alphabet and Old Bulgarian (Slavonic) are adopted as the official language (instead of Greek).

893-927. The territory expands under Prince (later Tsar) Simeon. A rich medieval culture spreads its influence to other Slavs in Serbia, Walachia, Kievan Rus, and later Muscovy.

927. Bulgarian rulers recognize the title of tsar (emperor); Bulgarian Orthodox Church is elevated to patriarchy.

1018. The First Bulgarian Empire is violently subdued by Byzantium.

1185. The brothers, Asen and Peter, take over an uprising to liberate the Bulgarian lands and restore the state known as the Second Bulgarian Empire.

1230. There is territorial and commercial expansion under Tsar Ivan Asen II. Bulgaria becomes a major grain supplier to Byzantium, actively trading with Venice, Genoa, and Ragusa (Dubrovnik).

1371. Commercial and cultural development accompanies political crisis under Tsar Ivan Alexander. Bulgaria is divided into several lesser kingdoms and principalities.

1396. Bulgaria is violently conquered by the rising Ottoman Empire and remains under its rule for nearly 500 years.

1762-1876. A national revival develops new Bulgarian culture and pride. Agriculture and home industries thrive, benefitting from large Ottoman markets. Merchants and industrialists emerge and benefit the economy. The national liberation movement gains momentum.

1871. An independent Bulgarian church is restored.

1876. There are mass uprisings against Ottoman rule.

1878. Bulgaria is liberated from Ottoman rule as an outcome of the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish war.

1879. The first Bulgarian constitution establishes a democracy, modeled after the Belgian constitution.

1885. North and South Bulgaria unite after being separated since 1878 by the European powers. A sizable ethnic Bulgarian population remains under the Ottoman Empire.

1887-12. Democratic statehood develops as well as a market economy that remains largely agrarian and a national culture.

1903. There are mass uprisings of Bulgarians in the Ottoman lands (Macedonia and Adrianople area).

1912-18. Bulgaria participates in the Balkan Wars and World War I, which is aimed at liberating ethnic Bulgarians outside Bulgaria's borders. The war ends in defeat and brings an influx of refugees.

1923-41. Political life is troubled by violence as democracy gives way to bitter partisanship and is finally supplanted by a pro-Nazi Germany regime. The economy grows with the influence of German investors.

1944-56. Communist rule takes over. Central economic planning is introduced, focusing on heavy industries, and farms are collectivized. Economic cooperation with the Socialist bloc develops.

1946. Bulgaria is proclaimed a people's republic.

1955. Bulgaria joins the United Nations.

1956-80. Bulgaria exhausts the extensive socialist growth model and reaches stagnation.

1985-89. Economic and political crisis occurs as perestroika unfolds in the Soviet Union. The Bulgarian regime desperately seeks methods of market reform, while cracking down on dissenters and the Turkish minority.

1989. Communist leader Todor Zhivkov resigns as the transition to multiparty democracy and a market economy begins. Bulgaria shifts its loyalties to the EU and NATO.

1991. A new democratic constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria is adopted, and elections bring the reformist Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) to power.

1995. Bulgaria is admitted as an associate member of the EU and applies for full membership.

1997. IMF-sponsored program for financial stabilization is implemented by the second UDF government.

1998. Effective IMF membership is established.

1999. Negotiations for full membership of the EU get underway.


Bulgaria's economic policy after 2000 will be determined by the success of its preparations for EU membership. The EU opinion on its progress is favorable, but negotiations will become more difficult as they move from administrative to economic issues, such as the restructuring of the energy sector and agriculture. Bulgaria's market economy and its competitiveness within the single European market still require significant further improvement. Public expenditure will focus on investment in roads, natural gas, electricity, agriculture, and the environment. The government claims investment of some $9 billion is enough to fuel growth over the next years, but, all too optimistically, it relies on the private sector to provide most of the funds.

With Bulgarian privatization completed by the end of 2001, the IMF envisages strong annual growth of 4 percent to 5 percent over the next several years and single-digit inflation. However, slow and allegedly corrupt privatization processes are a potential obstacle to economic transformation, and corruption charges combined with insufficient growth, unemployment, poverty, and deteriorating health care and education, could bring about a change of government in 2001. This outcome would not mean any long-term changes in policy.

The end of Slobodan Milosevic's government in Serbia could prove beneficial by decreasing the risk of war on Bulgaria's borders. The reopening of land routes and river traffic on the Danube will facilitate trade with the EU, Bulgaria's largest export market, whose growth will have a positive impact on the economy.


Bulgaria has no territories or colonies.


Crampton, R. J. A Concise History of Bulgaria. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Bulgaria. London: 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Bulgaria. <>. Accessed December 2000.

Valentin Hadjiyski




Lev (plural Leva). One lev equals 100 stotinki. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 stotinki.


Machinery and equipment; metals, minerals, and fuels; chemicals and plastics; food, tobacco, and clothing.


Fuels, minerals, and raw materials; machinery and equipment; metals and ores; chemicals and plastics; food and textiles.


US$48 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$4.8 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.). Imports: US$5.9 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.).

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Bulgaria (bŭlgâr´ēə), Bulgarian Balgarija, officially Republic of Bulgaria, republic (2011 pop. 7,364,570), 42,823 sq mi (110,912 sq km), SE Europe, on the E Balkan Peninsula. It is bounded by the Black Sea on the east, by Romania on the north, by Serbia and Macedonia on the west, by Greece on the south, and by European Turkey on the southeast. Sofia is the capital. Other important cities are Varna and Burgas (the main Black Sea ports of Bulgaria), Plovdiv and Ruse.

Land and People

Central Bulgaria is traversed from east to west by ranges of the Balkan Mts. (Stara Planina, or "Old Mountains" in Bulgarian). A fertile plateau runs north of the Balkans to the Danube River, which forms most of the northern border. In the southwest is the Rhodope range, which includes Bulgaria's highest point, Musala Mt. (9,592 ft/2,923 m). The Thracian plain lies south of the Balkans and east of the Rhodope. The Danube, the Iskŭr, the Maritsa, and the Struma are the principal rivers.

About 85% of the people are Bulgars. Turks make up almost 10% of the population, and about 5% are Romani (Gypsies). There are also smaller groups of Macedonians and Armenians; however, Bulgaria, with its historic claim to Macedonia, refuses to recognize Macedonians as distinct from Bulgars. Bulgarian is the predominant language. Most of the population belongs to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church; in 1953 the Bulgarian patriarchate, which had been disbanded in 1946, was reestablished. There is also a substantial Muslim minority.


Until 1989, Bulgaria had a Soviet-style economy in which nearly all agricultural and industrial enterprises were state-controlled. A stagnant economy, shortages of food, energy, and consumer goods, an enormous foreign debt, and an obsolete and inefficient industrial complex instigated attempts at market-oriented reform in the 1990s. Long a largely agricultural country, Bulgaria's principal crops are vegetables, tobacco, wheat, barley, sunflower seeds, and sugar beets. Grapes and other fruit, as well as roses, are grown, and wine and brandy production is important. The country has been considerably industrialized since World War II. The leading industries are agricultural processing, petroleum refining, and the production of machinery and equipment, base metals, chemicals, coke, and nuclear fuel. Bulgaria's chief mineral resources include bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, coal, lignite, iron ore, and oil and natural gas. There are many mineral springs. Clothing, footwear, iron and steel, machinery, and fuel are exported. Imports include machinery and equipment, metals and ores, chemicals, plastics, fuels, minerals, and raw materials. Germany, Italy, Turkey, and Greece are Bulgaria's main trading partners.


Bulgaria is governed under the constitution of 1991. The president, who is the head of state, is popularly elected for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The premier, who is the head of government, is elected by the legislature, as is the cabinet. The 240 members of the unicameral National Assembly are popularly elected for four-year terms. Administratively, Bulgaria is divided into 28 provinces.


Early History

The earliest evidence of human settlement, a prehistoric walled town near Provadia in E Bulgaria, dates to the 5th millenium BC Ancient Thrace and Moesia, which modern Bulgaria occupies, were settled (6th cent. AD) by Slavic tribes. In 679–80, Bulgar tribes from the banks of the Volga (see Bulgars, Eastern) crossed the Danube, subjugated the Slavs, and settled permanently in the territory of Bulgaria. The language and culture remained Slavic, and by the 9th cent. the Bulgars had fully merged with the Slavs. The first Bulgarian empire (681–1018), established by Khan Asparuhk, or Isperikh (ruled 680–701), and his successor, Terrel (ruled 701–718), soon emerged as a significant Balkan power and a threat to Byzantium. In 809 Khan Krum (ruled 803–814) captured Sofia from the Byzantines, defeated (811) Emperor Nicephorus I, besieged Constantinople, and withdrew only after obtaining yearly tribute.

In the 9th cent. Bulgaria became the arena of political and cultural rivalry between Constantinople and Rome. In 865, Boris I adopted Christianity, and in 870 Constantinople recognized the independence of the Bulgarian church. Bulgaria received Byzantine culture through the Slavic literary language developed by St. Cyril and St. Methodius in Moravia and brought to the Balkans by their disciples. The first Bulgarian empire reached its height under Simeon I (893–927), who took the title of czar. After his death the country was rent by the heresy of the Bogomils.

Bulgaria crumbled under the attacks of a reinvigorated Byzantium in the 10th cent., and in 1018 it was annexed by Emperor Basil II. Byzantine domination was weakened by the invasions of the Pechenegs and Cumans and by internal disorders at Constantinople. The second Bulgarian empire (1186–1396) rose in 1186 when Ivan Asen (Ivan I) was crowned czar at Veliko Tŭrnovo. His son, Kaloyan, crowned in 1204 with the approval of the pope, defeated (1205) Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople. The height of Bulgar power was reached under Ivan II (Ivan Asen), whose rule (1218–1241) extended over nearly the whole Balkan Peninsula except Greece. His successors could not maintain his empire.

Bulgaria under the Turks

In 1330, Macedonian Bulgaria was conquered by Serbia. After the battles of Kosovo Field (1389) and Nikopol (1396) Bulgaria was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. Turkish rule was often oppressive, and rebellions were frequent. By recognizing the authority of the Orthodox Eastern Church in Constantinople over all Christians in their empire, the Turks undermined the basis of Bulgarian culture. A determined effort was made to destroy Bulgarian Christianity and the Bulgarian language. The role of the Phanariots (see Phanar) was particularly resented.

Although the administration (1864–69) of Midhat Pasha made Bulgaria briefly a model province, by then Bulgarian nationalism was strong. The Mount Athos monastery had continued to use Bulgarian; there, in 1762, a monk had written a history, the first modern literary work in Bulgarian. Bulgarian schools were allowed to open in 1835. In 1870 the Bulgarian Church was reestablished. In 1876 a rebellion, led by Stefan Stambulov, broke out. The subsequent Turkish reprisals (famous as the "Bulgarian atrocities" ) provided a reason for the Russians to liberate (1877–78) their neighbors (see Russo-Turkish Wars).

The Treaty of San Stefano created a large autonomous Bulgaria within the Ottoman Empire—a Bulgaria that Russia expected to dominate. In order to avert the expansion of Russian influence in the Balkans, a European congress was called to revise the treaty (see Berlin, Congress of). By the new terms Bulgaria was reduced to the territory between the Danube and the Balkans. Present-day southern Bulgaria—then called Eastern Rumelia—became a separate autonomous province, and Macedonia remained under direct Turkish rule. Alexander (Alexander of Battenberg), first prince of Bulgaria, annexed Eastern Rumelia in 1885 and repulsed a consequent Serbian attack.

Independence and After

Alexander's successor, Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, profiting from the revolution of the Young Turks in the Ottoman Empire in 1908, proclaimed Bulgaria independent with himself as czar. Bulgaria was victorious against Turkey in the first (1911–12) of the Balkan Wars, but claims to Macedonia involved it in the Second Balkan War with its former allies Greece and Serbia, and it was soon defeated. By the Treaty of Bucharest (1913), Bulgaria lost S Dobruja and a large part of Macedonia.

The Macedonian issue was largely responsible for the entry in 1915 of Bulgaria into World War I on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary. There was much domestic opposition to the war, and when Bulgaria's military position crumbled, Ferdinand fled and Boris III succeeded (1918). In the peace (see Neuilly, Treaty of) Bulgaria was forced to pay reparations and lost its outlet to the Aegean Sea to Greece and some territory to the former Yugoslavia; S Dobruja was confirmed in Romanian possession.

The Agrarian party cabinet established (1919) by Stambuliski held power until overthrown (1923) in a bloody coup. An era of political confusion ensued, dominated by the violent activities of an irredentist Macedonian terrorist group. The world economic crisis of 1929 had a disastrous impact on impoverished Bulgaria as markets for agricultural exports shrunk. In 1934, Kimon Georgiev became premier with the help of the army and ended constitutional government, but he was ousted in 1935 by Boris III, who established his personal dictatorship.

In World War II, Bulgaria saw an alliance with Germany as an opportunity to satisfy its territorial claims. In 1940, Germany forced Romania to restore to Bulgaria S Dobruja. In 1941, Bulgaria occupied parts of Yugoslavia and Greece (including Macedonia), and declared war on Great Britain and the United States—but not the Soviet Union, because the populace was pro-Russian. The child Simeon II succeeded when Boris died mysteriously (1943). In 1944 the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria, and Soviet troops entered the country (Sept.). Pro-Allied political forces (Communists, Agrarians, and the pro-Soviet army officers), headed by Georgiev, seized power immediately. Bulgaria declared war on Germany, and an armistice with the USSR followed (Oct.).

Postwar Bulgaria

After a short period of coalition rule, the Communists succeeded in taking over the government. The monarchy was abolished, and in 1946 Bulgaria was proclaimed a republic with Georgi Dimitrov as premier. The peace treaty with the Allies (1947) allowed Bulgaria to keep S Dobruja, but no gains were made in Macedonia. Dimitrov proceeded to eliminate possible opponents; Agrarian leader Nikola Petrov was executed in 1947. A new constitution was enacted, and Bulgaria became a one-party state. Industry was nationalized and farms collectivized.

Bulgaria closely followed the Soviet Union in its domestic and foreign policies; after the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Cominform in 1948, Bulgaria sided with the USSR. Dimitrov's successor, Vulko Chervenkov, massively purged the Communist party (1950). In 1951–52, Bulgaria deported to Turkey some 160,000 citizens of Turkish origin. Relations with Greece and Turkey improved somewhat after 1954. Bulgaria joined (1949) the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and in 1955 became a member of the Warsaw Treaty Organization and the United Nations.

In the mid-1950s the government loosened its grip somewhat. Stalinists fell from power and purge victims were rehabilitated (posthumously in some cases). In 1965 army officers and party officials unsuccessfully attempted a coup. Bulgaria aided the USSR in the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. In 1971, Todor Zhivkov, who had been premier since 1962, became president. In the mid-1980s, a "Bulgarization" campaign was launched against the ethnic Turks. Turks were forced to adopt Bulgarian names, and Turkish-language broadcasts and publications were halted. In 1986, Zhivkov experimented with limited economic reforms such as a "self-management" program for industrial workers. Im mid-1989, after ethnic Turkish rights groups mounted protests in May against the government, some 370,000 ethnic Turks left for Turkey in a forced exodus, though many later returned. Zhivkov's ouster in Nov., 1989, set off a year of social and political turmoil.

In Aug., 1990, the first non-Communist political leader in 40 years, Zhelyu Zhelev, was elected president. Economic reforms were introduced and a new constitution (1991) created a parliamentary democracy in the country. No party, however, was able to establish a long-term government, and major economic reforms proved difficult to enact. In 1994, the Socialist party (formerly the Communists) and its allies won a parliamentary majority at the polls, and Zhan Videnov, a Socialist, became premier early in 1995. A period of hyperinflation and economic stagnation followed, and charges of corruption were widespread.

Petar Stoyanov, of the Union of Democratic Forces, was elected president in 1996, and his party won parliamentary elections held in 1997; Ivan Kostov became premier. UN economic sanctions imposed during the 1990s on neighboring Yugoslavia (since dissolved into the nations of Serbia and Montenegro), a major trade partner, had serious negative effects on Bulgaria's economy. In the parlimentary elections of 2001, the National Movement for Simeon II (NMS), a party sponsored by the former king, captured 43% of the vote and half the seats, and Simeon became premier. In the presidential election later in the year, Socialist Georgy Parvanov won the post after a runoff, defeating the incumbent, Stoyanov. Bulgaria became a member of NATO in Mar., 2004, and a little more than a year later the country signed an accession treaty with the European Union (EU).

Parliamentary elections in June, 2005, resulted in a victory for the Socialists, but they did not win a majority and were initially unable to form a coalition, and subsequently NMS also failed to do so. In August, however, the Socialists, NMS, and the largely Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) agreed to form a coalition government. Socialist Sergei Stanishev became premier. President Parvanov was reelected in Oct., 2006.

On Jan. 1, 2007, Bulgaria became a member of the EU, but EU concerns over Bulgarian corruption led the EU in 2008 to suspend more than €500 million in aid to Bulgaria; roughly two fifths of that aid subsequently was denied to Bulgaria. Corruption and judicial concerns also delayed the nation's joining the EU's borderless Schengen Area. Elections in July, 2009, gave the anticorruption Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), led by Sofia Mayor Boiko Borisov, a near majority of the seats in parliament and some 40% of the vote, and Borisov subsequently became prime minister of a minority government. Rosen Plevneliev, the GERB candidate, was elected president in Oct., 2011. The effects of the adoption of austerity measures in the wake of recession, the rising cost of life, and persistent government corruption led in early 2013 to mass protests that resulted in bloody clashes with police. Borisov's government subsequently resigned (Feb., 2013). New elections were scheduled for May, and an interim government headed by Marin Raikov, a career diplomat and former deputy foreign minister, was appointed.

GERB won a plurality but proved unable to form a government; the Socialists and MRF subsequently supported a techocratic minority government led by former finance minister Plamen Oresharski. The appointment (soon reversed) of a media magnate with no security experience as as head of the national security agency led to weeks of anticorruption protests in mid-2013. The country had a banking crisis in June, 2014, when there were runs on two of its largest banks, leading to the failure of one. In July, Oresharski's government resigned; it had lost support after the Socialists did poorly in the May EU elections. Georgi Bliznashki, a law professor and former Socialist legislator, was named interim prime minister in August. In the October elections GERB won a plurality of the seats (but only slightly more than a third of them) and formed a government in November with the support of a number of smaller parties; Borisov became prime minister.


See S. Runciman, A History of the First Bulgarian Empire (1930); M. MacDermott, A History of Bulgaria, 1393–1885 (1962); J. F. Brown, Bulgaria under Communist Rule (1970); F. Schevill, A History of the Balkan Peninsula (1922, repr. 1971); J. D. Bell, The Bulgarian Communist Party from Blagoev to Zhivkov (1985); J. R. Lampe, The Bulgarian Economy in the Twentieth Century (1986).

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LOCATION: Bulgaria

POPULATION: 8.8 million (of whom 85 percent are ethnic Bulgarians)

LANGUAGE: Bulgarian

RELIGION: Eastern Orthodox; Islam; Protestant and Catholic minorities


The first Bulgarian state (country with a government) was formed in ad 681. Over the following centuries, Bulgaria was ruled by three different royal families. In 1396, the Bulgarians were conquered by the Ottoman Turks, a Muslim people. They were ruled by the Turks for nearly five hundred years. Bulgaria finally became independent from the Turks near the end of the nineteenth century.

In 1944, troops from the Soviet Union entered the country and a Communist government was set up. Bulgaria was headed by a single leaderTodor Zhivkovthrough nearly all of the communist era (194491). In 1991, Bulgaria elected its first non-Communist government.

Since 1991, Bulgaria has gone through a difficult period of political and economic change. But Bulgarians have not fought among themselves while adjusting to the changes. This is probably because most Bulgarians (about 85 percent) belong to a single ethnic group.


Bulgaria is located in the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Balkan means "mountain" in Turkish. The Balkan Peninsula includes Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, (Serbia and Montenegro), Bosnia and Herzegovina, and part of Turkey. Mountain ranges, including the Balkan Mountains, cover much of the peninsula. More than half of Bulgaria is covered by the Balkan Mountains. North of the Balkans is a plain leading to the Danube River. The Black Sea lies to the east.

Approximately 85 percent (7.5 million) of Bulgaria's 8.8 million people are ethnic Bulgarians. Ethnic Turks account for about 10 percent of the total and Gypsies, a little more than 5 percent.


Bulgarian is the official language of Bulgaria and is spoken by everyone. Bulgarian is a South Slavic language. It is written with the Cyrillic alphabet, which is also used for Russian. There are regional dialects, or variations, throughout the country.

Some common Bulgarian words are:

hello dobur den DOH-bur den
goodbye dovizhdane doh-VEEZH-dan-eh
yes da dah
no ne neh

Basic number names are as follows:

one edno ED-noh
two dve dvey
three tri tree
four chetiri cheh-TEH-rey
five pet pet
six shtest shest
seven sedem SEH-dehm
eight osem OH-sem
nine devet deh-VEHT
ten deset deh-SEHT


A favorite character of Bulgarian folktales for hundreds of years has been Sly Peter. He is known for outwitting others.

The hajduks (HIGH-dukes) are legendary freedom fighters, similar to the English folk hero Robin Hood.

Here are some Bulgarian proverbs that illustrate the practical side of the Bulgarian spirit:

A dog barks to guard itself, not the village. Work left for later is finished by the Devil.


The Bulgarians are not strongly religious people. Religious observance is often a matter of tradition, rather than deeply held personal belief. The major organized religion in Bulgaria is Eastern Orthodox Christianity.


Official holidays include New Year (January 1 and 2); Liberation Day (March 3), which commemorates Bulgarian independence from the Ottoman Empire; Easter Monday (in March or April); Labor Day (May 1); Day of Letters (May 24), in honor of Bulgarian education and culture; and Christmas (December 25 and 26).

Many Bulgarians also observe the holy days of the Eastern Orthodox calendar, including a number of saints' days.


Religious ceremonies marking important life events include christening, marriage, the blessing of a new house, and the funeral service. By tradition, people usually avoid singing, dancing, or music-making for at least six months after the death of a relative or close friend.

It is customary for flower bouquets to have an odd number of flowers for all occasions except funerals. Funeral bouquets have an even number of blooms.


Bulgarians greet each other by shaking hands. Close female friends may kiss one another on the cheek. The most common formal greetings are Kak ste? ("How are you?") and Zdraveite ("Hello"). The more informal forms, used with friends, relatives, and coworkers, are Kak si? and Zdrasti or Zdrave.

When talking, Bulgarians tend to stand or sit closer together than Westerners. They speak in louder voices and touch each other more often.

The Bulgarian gestures for "yes" and "no" often confuse people from other countries. For "Yes," one shakes one's head from side to side. "No" is signaled by one or two nods up and down (often accompanied by clicking the tongue).


Over 75 percent of Bulgarians own their own homes. Traditionally, Bulgarians lived in single-story houses made of wood, mud bricks, or stone and plaster. Most of these have been replaced by two-story brick houses with a plaster finish. In the cities, most people live in apartments rather than houses.

As protection against the cold winters in the North, some houses are built mostly underground. Only the roof shows above ground level.


The three-generation extended family is common in rural areas. In cities, the nuclear family (just parents and their children) is usual. Single adults are expected to live with their parents until they marry. In addition, many young married couples live with one set of parents until they can afford their own home. Elderly parents are often cared for by their children.

Families in the cities usually have no more than two children each. Those in the country are often somewhat larger. Children are very close to their grandparents, who often provide child care so parents can work.

Bulgarian women have always had much freedom and responsibility. By the late 1990s, women made up almost half of the Bulgarian labor force. They held the same types of jobs as men.


Bulgarians wear modern Western-style clothing. They dress with care, even for informal occasions. Parents choose their children's outfits with great care. They seem to like imported and hand-knitted clothing. Many women knit sweaters for their families.

Traditional Bulgarian costumes are worn only at festivals and for dance performances. They are colorful, with embroidered white shirts or blouses and fancy embroidered vests. Red is used in almost all costumes, either as a background color or in the embroidery. Black is also used in many costumes.


Meatespecially pork or lambis an important ingredient in many Bulgarian dishes. Favorites include kufteta, a fried patty of meat and bread crumbs; moussaka, a casserole of pork or lamb with potatoes, tomatoes, and yogurt; sarmi, peppers or cabbage stuffed with pork and rice; and shopska salata, a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and feta cheese, which is called sirene in Bulgaria).:

Yogurt is a staple of the diet served at almost every meal. Bulgarians begin eating yogurt at the age of three months. Yogurt with water and ice cubes is a favorite summer drink.

Another important staple is bread, which is usually bought fresh every day. A popular snack is a slice of warm bread topped with feta cheese and tomato slices. A favorite dessert is baklava (flaky pastry dough with nuts soaked in sweet syrup). Bulgarians like to drink strong espresso and Turkish coffee.


Bulgarian Als-Ankara


  • Fruit juice (preferably a thick juice)
  • Vanilla ice cream or fruit sherbet
  • Fresh mint leaves


  1. Place a small scoop of ice cream or sherbet into each glass.
  2. Pour fruit juice over the ice cream or sherbet.
  3. Decorate each glass with a sprig of mint and serve.


Students are required by law to attend school, which is free, until age fifteen. After the seventh or eighth grade, students decide which type of high school they want to attend. They must take an examination to get into the school of their choice. Most students finish high school.

Bulgaria has a number of universities. Students at public (government-run) universities traditionally did not have to pay tuition. However, in the 1990s tuition fees were charged in some cases. As of the late 1990s, several private colleges had been founded in Bulgaria, and these charged tuition.


Bulgarian culture was reborn when Ottoman rule ended in the 1800s. The leading writers include poets Hristo Botev (184876), Dimcho Debelyanov (18871916), and Geo Milev (18951925). All three died violent deaths at a young age, either in battle or at the hands of the police.

Bulgaria's lively, rhythmic folk music is popular with folk dancers the world over. It is played on instruments that include the gaida (bagpipes), kaval (seven-hole reed pipe), gadulka (pear-shaped fiddle), tambura (fretted lute), and tupan (cylindrical drum).

The best-known Bulgarian folk dance is the horo, a fast, swirling circle dance. Another favorite is the ruchenitza, which is often performed in dance contests.


In the 1990s, Bulgaria suffered from a "brain drain," as skilled, educated workers left the country because of its economic problems. Over 450,000 Bulgarians left for Germany, France, Canada, the United States, and other countries. In addition, Bulgaria cannot provide jobs for many of the people left in the country. Unemployment in the mid-1990s was over ten percent. Nearly twenty-five percent of Bulgarians work in agriculture. Thirty-three percent hold jobs in industry.


The mountains of Bulgaria make skiing a very popular sport. Soccer and basketball are also important. Basketball is popular especially among young people in the cities. Volleyball, track, rowing, wrestling, and weight lifting are other favorite sports.

The resort city of Albena, on the Black Sea, hosts chess and volleyball tournaments.


Bulgarians like to spend their leisure time in practical ways. Women often sew or knit while they socialize. Bulgarian men spend some of their free time in making wine.

Gardening is another very popular hobby. Each year there is a rose festival in early June. Roses are also grown as a business in Bulgaria. It produces over seventy percent of the rose oil made in the world. Bulgarians are more likely to spend their time reading, or socializing in a coffee house, than watching television.


The skills of many fine Bulgarian artisans can be seen in icons (religious paintings) and other church art. In most cases, the names of the individual artists are not known. Craftspeople of today weave intricately patterned cloth and carpets with complex designs.


There are some tensions between ethnic Bulgarians and the minority groups, Turks and Gypsies. Gypsies live mostly in poorly constructed housing on the edges of cities. Gypsies have very high unemployment rates. They live fewer years than average.

In the 1990s, the Bulgarians have struggled to adapt to lower living standards and an unpredictable political situation. These have developed since the end of the Communist era.


Crampton, R. J. A Short History of Modern Bulgaria. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Resnick, Abraham. Bulgaria, Enchantment of the World. Chicago: Children's Press, 1995.

Stavreva, Kirilka. Bulgaria, Cultures of the World. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1997.


Embassy of Bulgaria, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available, 1998.

European Travel Commission. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide. [Online] Available, 1998.

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Official name : Republic of Bulgaria

Area: 110,910 square kilometers (42,811 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Musala (2,925 meters/9,596 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 2 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 330 kilometers (205 miles) from north to south; 520 kilometers (323 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: 1,808 kilometers (1,343 miles) total boundary length; The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia), 148 kilometers (92 miles); Greece, 494 kilometers (307 miles); Romania, 608 kilometers (378 miles); Turkey, 240 kilometers (149 miles); Serbia and Montenegro (formerly part of Yugoslavia), 318 kilometers (197 miles)

Coastline: 354 kilometers (214 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Bulgaria is part of the Balkan Peninsula (peninsula surrounded by, from west to east, the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean, and Black Seas) in southeastern Europe. It has an eastern coastline on the Black Sea and shares borders with Romania, Turkey, Greece, the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia (Macedonia) and Serbia and Montenegro (formerly part of Yugoslavia). With an area of about 110,910 square kilometers (42,811 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. Bulgaria is divided into twenty-eight provinces.


Bulgaria claims no territories or dependencies.


Overall, Bulgaria's climate is temperate, with cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. There is, however, a modified Mediterranean climate in the Thacian Plain, because of the protection offered by the Balkan Mountains.

Rainfall is generally light in the plateaus, averaging about 65 centimeters (25 inches) per year, and higher in the mountain ranges, where it can reach up to 152 centimeters (60 inches). Most rainfall occurs during the winter months.

Season Months Average Temperature °Celsius (°Fahrenheit)
Summer May to September 22 to 24°C (72 to 75°F)
Winter November to February 0 to 2°C (32 to 36°F)


Bulgaria occupies a relatively small area, but is nevertheless a land of unusual scenic beauty. It has picturesque mountains, wooded hills, sheltered valleys, grain-producing plains, and a seacoast along the Black Sea that has both rocky cliffs and long sandy beaches.

In the north of the country is the Danubian Plain. The central portion of the country houses the Balkan Mountains and south of them is the Maritsa River. The Rhodope Mountains are found in the south and southwest areas of the country. Located on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate, Bulgaria is crossed by fault lines that cause frequent earthquakes.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Bulgaria has an eastern coastline on the Black Sea, an inland body of water between Europe and Asia. The waters of the Black Sea are calm and free of tides or dangerous marine life. Called the "Hospitable Sea" by the ancient Greeks, the Black Sea is half as salty as the Mediterranean Sea and has gentle sandy slopes, making it ideal for swimming.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Burgaski Zaliv is a bay that indents the coast deeply in the south. Cape Emine extends eastward in the north.

Coastal Features

Bulgaria's coast on the Black Sea is curved, providing for many beaches along its 354 kilometers (214 miles) of shoreline. Many of the country's beaches have received awards from the European Union for their environmental excellence. The coastline is varied, with coves, rugged shores, wooded hills, orchards, and fishing villages dotting the expansive area.


Most of the estimated 280 glacial lakes are situated in the Rila and Pirin Mountains, at altitudes of 2,200 to 2,400 meters (7,216 to 7,872 feet). The highest of these, Ledenika Lake in the Rila Mountains, lies at an altitude of 2,715 meters (8,905 feet). Located in the Pirin Mountains, Popovo Lake, also known as the "Pirin Sea," is the largest lake in the country. It covers an area of 12.4 hectares (30.7 acres) and is 480 meters (1,575 feet) long and 336 meters (1,102 feet) wide.


The Danube (Dunav) River, which forms the majority of Bulgaria's border with Romania, is by far the longest river in the country and is the second-longest waterway in Europe. With a total length of 2,850 kilometers (1,770 miles), it is deep and wide enough to be navigable by ocean vessels throughout Bulgaria. Most of the northern part of the country drains into the Black Sea via the Danube and its tributaries. Many of these tributaries, including the Yantra and the Osum, rise in the Balkan Mountains. One notable exception is the Iskur, which rises in the Rila Mountains and flows northward, passing through Sofia's eastern suburbs before it cuts a valley through the Balkan Mountains.

South of the Balkan Mountains, most rivers flow south into the Aegean Sea. Most notable among these rivers are the Mesta, the Struma, and the Maritsa, and the Maritsa's tributaries, the Tundzha and Arda. Together, these waterways provide drainage for most of the Thracian Plain. The Kamchiya River in the northeast is the only large river to flow directly into the Black Sea. In the southeast, the Ropotamo River is the center of a large habitat for birds.


There are no desert regions in Bulgaria.


The Thracian Plain and Danubian Plain, both of which exist on large plateaus, have great varieties of vegetation. They are both densely populated and cultivated.

The north-flowing rivers have cut deep valleys through the Balkan Mountains and the Danubian Plain.

The famous Valley of Roses lies between the Balkan and Sredna Mountains. In this valley, hundreds of thousands of roses are in bloom during the months of May and June. At least 80 percent of the world's attar of roses (the fragrant oil used in perfumes) is produced here.


The Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina) comprise the biggest and longest mountain chain. As an extension of the Carpathian Mountains, the Balkans cover 700 kilometers (435 miles) across the central portion of the entire country, declining in altitude towards the east. The range's highest peak is Botev at 2,376 meters (7,793 feet). Just to the south of the central part of this range are the Sredna Mountains (Sredna Gora), a 160-kilometer (100-mile) long ridge that runs almost directly from east to west at an average height of 1,600 meters (5,249 feet).

The other major mountain range is the Rhodope. These mountains mark the southern and southwestern borders of Bulgaria and include the Vitosha, Rila, and Pirin Mountains. These last two ranges are largely volcanic in origin and are the highest mountains on the Balkan Peninsula. Musala in the Rila Mountains is the tallest peak in the country at 2,925 meters (9,596 feet).

The densest forests in the country are in the mountainous regions. Broadleaf forests blanket the low areas of both the Balkan and Rho-dope ranges, while conifers thrive at the higher elevations. In general, broadleaf forests are the predominant forest throughout the country.


Tirgard Gorge is located in the West Rhodope Mountains, near the town of Devin. The gorge is about 500 meters (1,640 feet) long with cliffs above 300 meters (984 feet) high. The path to the gorge consists of an 80-meter (262 feet) rock tunnel.

Novi Iskur Gorge, surrounding the Iskara River, is located between the towns of Novi Iskur and Chomakovtsi. This gorge stretches for a length of about 156 kilometers (97 miles) and features a variety of rock formations.


The Balkan Peninsula, the southernmost peninsula of Europe, borders the Adriatic and Ionian Seas to the west, the Black and Aegean Seas to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The countries within this region are collectively called the Balkan States. These nations include Albania, Bulgaria, continental Greece, southeast Romania, European Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia.

More than two thousand caves are scattered amidst the limestone layers of the Pirin and the Balkan Mountains. The most notable of these caves are Bacho Kiro, Ledenika, Magura, Snezhanka, and Jamova Dupka.


The Danubian Plain extends from the Serbia and Montenegro border to the Black Sea. The plateau rises from cliffs along the Danube River and extends south to the Balkan Mountains at elevations as high as 457 meters (1,500 feet). On the southern side of the Balkan Mountains is another plateau, the Thracian Plain, which is drained by the Maritsa River. Both plateaus are fertile regions of hills and plains, gradually declining in elevation as they approach the Black Sea.

The Melnik Pyramids are natural rock formations found in the southwestern slopes of the Pirin Mountains. These amazing monolithic sculptures come in a variety of shapes, including some that look like Egyptian pyramids and Gothic temples.


The Ivanovo Rock Monasteries, located in the Roussenski Lom River valley in northeast Bulgaria, have been designated as a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site.

Hermit monks built the monastery during the twelfth century, carving the cells and chapels of the structure into the rocks. Two hundred years after the construction, the walls of most of the rooms were covered with exquisite fresco paintings.



Cary, William. Bulgaria Today: The Land and the People, a Voyage of Discovery. New York: ExpositionPress, 1965.

Detrez, Raymond. Historical Dictionary of Bulgaria. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1997.

Hoddinott, Ralph F. Bulgaria in Antiquity: An Archaeological Introduction. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975.

Pettifer, James. Bulgaria. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.

Web Sites

Bulgarian Travel Guide: Explore Bulgaria. (accessed May 2, 2003).

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110,910sq km (42,822sq mi)



capital (population):

Sofia (1,096,389)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Bulgarian 86%, Turkish 10%, Romany 3%, Macedonian, Armenian, Romanian, Greek


Bulgarian (official)


Christianity (Eastern Orthodox 87%), Islam 13%


Lev = 100 stotinki

Balkan republic in se Europe. Northern Bulgaria consists of a plateau falling to the valley of the River Danube, which forms most of Bulgaria's n border with Romania. The heart of Bulgaria is mountainous and the main ranges include the Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina) in the centre and the Rhodope Mountains in the s. The capital, Sofia, lies close to Bulgaria's highest point, Mount Musala at 2925m (9600ft). Between these ranges lies the valley of the River Maritsa, which forms an ew route between the Black Sea coast and the interior.

Climate and Vegetation

Bulgaria has hot summers and cold winters. Rainfall is moderate. The e has drier and warmer summers than the w, and the Black Sea coast is a popular resort area. More than half of Bulgaria is given over to crops or pasture, while forests cover c.35% of the land. Trees swathe the mountain slopes, with meadows and Alpine plants above the tree line. In the Balkan mountains are the rosefields of Kazanluk, from where attar of roses is exported.

History and Politics

In the late 7th century, Bulgar tribes crossed the Danube and subjugated the Slavs. The first Bulgarian Empire (681–1018) quickly became a major Balkan power. In 870, Constantinople recognized the independence of the Bulgarian Christian Church. The Empire was at its height in the early 10th century, but in 1018 it was annexed to the Byzantine Empire by Basil II. A second Bulgarian Empire (1186–1396) encompassed the whole of the Balkan peninsula, before it was subsumed into the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman attempts to undermine Bulgarian religion and language created national resentment.

The brutal crushing of a native rebellion (1876) brought Russian assistance, and Bulgaria gained autonomy in 1879. Prince Ferdinand declared full independence in 1908. Bulgaria was victorious in the first of the Balkan Wars (1912–13), but fell out with its allies in the second. Defeat in World War I led to the abdication of Ferdinand (1918). His successor, Boris III, established a dictatorship in 1935, and allied with Germany in World War II. In 1944, Soviet troops invaded. Todor Zhivkov led a coup against the monarchy and declared war on Germany.

In 1946, Bulgaria became a one-party republic. Industry was nationalized and agriculture collectivized. In 1949, Bulgaria joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) and was a founder member of the Warsaw Pact (1955). In the early 1950s, the Stalinist regime purged the Communist Party and deported many Turks. In the 1980s, ‘Bulgarization’ of Turks intensified. With the collapse of Soviet communism, Zhivkov's presidency (1971–89) came to an end. The Bulgarian Communist Party was renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).

In 1990 Zhelyu Zhelev became the first non-communist president for 40 years. The BSP won the 1994 elections, but economic collapse and mass protests led the government to resign in 1996, and Petur Stoyanov replaced Zhelev as president. The Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) won elections in 1997, and Ivan Kostov became premier. Also in 1997, the lev was pegged to the German mark. In 2001, former King Simeon II became premier and Georgi Parvanov of the BSP became president.


Bulgaria is a lower-middle income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$6200), faced with a difficult transition to a market economy. Since 1989, Bulgaria's major trading partner has been the European Union (EU). Inflation (2000, 10%), unemployment (2000, 18%) and public debt remain major economic and social obstacles. Manufacturing is the leading economic activity, but faces problems arising from outdated technology. The main products are chemicals, metals, machinery, and textiles. Mineral reserves include molybdenum. Wheat and corn are the main crops. The warm valleys of the Maritsa are ideal for viniculture. Tourism is a rapidly growing sector (1999, more than two million visitors).

Political map

Physical map


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The Bulgarians, or Bulgars, belonged to the Turco-Altaic language group and originated from western Siberia, along the valley of the Irtish River. During the first and second centuries c.e. they migrated in the direction of eastern Europe and settled in the region north of the Caucasus. There, the proto-Bulgarians mingled with local native tribes of Iranian origin, whose cultural achievements and social hierarchy had a substantial impact on their further development. The proto-Bulgarians were called Bulgars for the first time by a Roman chronographer in 354. During the seventh century, they merged with the Slavic tribes inhabiting the territory bordering the Black Sea, between Romania and Turkey, in southeastern Europe, which is present-day Bulgaria.

The Bulgarians took over the newcomers' Slavic language. The Turkish conquest of Bulgaria in 1396 hampered the development of the Bulgarian language for several centuries, but after the Bulgarians achieved independence in 1878, a modern literary language based on the vernacular emerged. Modern Bulgarian, which is generally said to date from the sixteenth century, borrowed words from Greek, Turkish, Russian, French, and German. Although it resembles Slavic languages, Bulgarian has a definite article and has almost completely dropped the numerous case forms of the noun. It uses position and prepositions (like English) to indicate grammatical relationships in a sentence instead of using cases (like Russian).

Once an independent kingdom, Bulgaria was dominated by the communist Party from 1946 until 1990, when a multiparty system was adopted. During the communist period, when Bulgaria was under the control of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the once dominant agricultural sector was overtaken by manufacturing. After World War II, all industrial enterprises were nationalized and operated under a series of five-year economic plans, modeled after the Soviet system, with financial aid from the USSR. Bulgaria enjoyed one of the most prosperous economies of the Soviet bloc. The transition from the old command economy to a democratic, market-oriented economy, initiated after the collapse of the communist regime, has been slow. Mass privatization of state-owned industry was sluggish, although privatization of small-scale industry, particularly in the retail and service sectors, accelerated. Under communism, Bulgarians became accustomed to free health services, but Bulgaria's post-communist governments have not had the financial resources to maintain these services. In 2003, 52 percent of the population was employed in services, 36 percent in industry, and 12 percent in agriculture. Most Bulgarians (85%) are Bulgarian Orthodox, while 13 percent are Muslim, 0.8 percent are Jewish, 0.5 percent are Roman Catholic, and 0.2 percent are Uniate Catholic. The remainder, about 0.5 percent, are of Protestant, Gregorian-Armenian, and other faiths.

See also: altai; bulgaria, relations with; nationalities policies, soviet; nationalities policies, tsarist; tatarstan and tatars


Bell, John D. (1998). Bulgaria in Transition: Politics, Economics, Society, and Culture after Communism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Bristow, John A. (1996). The Bulgarian Economy in Transition: Studies of Communism in Transition. Brookfield, VT: Edward Elgar.

Crampton, R. J. (1997). A Concise History of Bulgaria. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Dimitrov, Georgi, and Banac, Ivo. (2003). The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, 19331949. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Johanna Granville

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Culture Name


Alternative Names

Bulgar, from the Bulgarian bu'lgar (Bulgarian person). In English, "Bulgar" is usually used only for the central Asian ancestors of the modern Bulgarians.


Identification. The names "Bulgar", and "Bulgarian" most likely derive from a Turkic verb meaning "to mix." Ethnic Bulgarians trace their ancestry to the merging of Bulgars (or Proto-Bulgarians), a central Asian Turkic people, and Slavs, a central European people, beginning in the seventh century c.e. in what is now northeastern Bulgaria. Besides ethnic Bulgarians, there are several ethnic minorities, the most numerous being Turks and Gypsies, with smaller numbers of Armenians, Jews, and others.

The dominant national culture is that of the ethnic Bulgarians, and there is little sense of shared national culture among the three main ethnic groups. Turks usually do not self-identify as Bulgarians, whereas Gypsies often do. Both groups are generally considered outsiders by ethnic Bulgarians, in contrast to the more assimilated minorities such as Jews and Armenians. Nevertheless, since all citizens participate in the national economy and polity, a shared national bureaucratic-political culture does exist, both shaped by and shaping the cultural practices of the constituent ethnic groups.

Location and Geography. Bulgaria is located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. It is bordered on the east by the Black Sea, on the north by Romania and the Danube River, on the south by Greece and Turkey, and on the west by Macedonia and Serbia. The landscape consists of mountains, foothills, and plains. One-third of the territory is forested, and one-third is more than 2,000 feet (600 meters) above sea level. Major mountain ranges include Rila, Pirin, Balkan (Stara Planina), and Rhodope. For geographic reasons, Sofia was named the capital in 1879, after Bulgaria gained independence. Situated in an upland basin near the western border, Sofia was on the crossroads of major trade routes between the Aegean Sea and the Danube and between Turkey and central Europe. It also offered easy access to Macedonian lands, which were not part of the new Bulgarian state. Regional cultural variation sometimes reflects occupational specialization associated with local environmental conditions (e.g., fishing, animal husbandry), along with the influence of other cultural groups.

Demography. Bulgaria's population was 8,230,371 on December 31, 1998. The population increased gradually for most of the twentieth century, but has decreased by more than 700,000 people since 1988. This decline stems from out-migration and falling birthrates during the uncertain postsocialist period. About 68 percent of Bulgaria's population lives in urban areas, compared to 25 percent in 1946. In 1992, 86 percent of the population self-identified as ethnically Bulgarian, 9 percent as Turkish, and 4 percent as Roma (Gypsy). Smaller groups include Russians, Armenians, Vlachs, Karakachans, Greeks, Tatars, and Jews. The 1992 census did not include a category for Pomaks (Bulgarian Muslims), who are often identified as one of Bulgaria's four main ethnic groups and constitute an estimated 3 percent of the population. Through emigration, ethnic Turks have decreased as a share of the population since Bulgaria's 1878 independence. During the socialist period, ethnicity data were not made public, and there were efforts to assimilate Muslim minorities. This makes discussion of historical trends difficult, and some people may have self-identified on the census differently than they might in other contexts.

Linguistic Affiliation. The national language is Bulgarian, a South Slavic language of the Indo-European language family, which uses the Cyrillic script. Bulgarian is very closely related to Macedonian, the two languages being largely mutually intelligible, and to Serbo-Croatian. Much vocabulary has been borrowed from Russian, Greek, and Turkish, and the latter two have had a strong influence on Bulgarian grammar. Bulgarian has two main dialectal variants, eastern and western, and also local dialects. National education and media are fostering homogenization of the language, particularly in urban settings.

The Turkish minorities speak Turkish, a Turko-Altaic language. Gypsies speak Romany, an Indic language of the Indo-European language family. Many Gypsies also speak Turkish, and some speak Romanian. Bulgarian is necessary for interaction with the authorities and in commerce, and is the medium of instruction in schools, though minorities are entitled to be taught their mother tongue. The national media use Bulgarian, while some radio broadcasts and print media are available in Turkish.

Symbolism. The Bulgarian nation is symbolized in the coat of arms, which has at its center a crowned lion, a symbol of independence dating to the medieval Bulgarian state. During the state socialist period, the crown (a symbol of monarchy) was replaced by a star. After the fall of state socialism in 1989 the crown was replaced following a seven-year debate. The flag, a tricolor of horizontal stripes (from top: white, green, red), while a visible national emblem, is not so vested with specific meaning.

Among the most potent symbols of Bulgarian national identity are several key historical events: the founding of the Bulgarian states in 681 and 1878; the partition of Bulgaria in the Treaty of Berlin (1878); the union with Eastern Rumelia (an autonomous Ottoman province created by the partition) in 1885; the successful defense against Serbian encroachment in 1885; and territorial gains, losses, and humiliation in the Balkan wars (19121913) and World War I (19141918). Symbols of incompleteness and loss serve as powerful rallying points for national unity.

Images of the peasant, the merchant, the craftsman and entrepreneur, the teacher, and the nationalist revolutionary vie with each other in literature and folklore as icons of the true Bulgarian spirit, which incorporates qualities ranging from honesty and industry to resourcefulness and cunning.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. In the fifth century c.e., Slavs began to settle the Thracian-occupied eastern Danubian plains. In the seventh century, they joined with invading Bulgars to gain control of a sizable territory, which they defended against Byzantium in 681, gaining recognition as the first Bulgarian state. The Slav and Bulgar elements are then understood to have merged into one ethnic-cultural group, particularly after the official adoption of Byzantinerite Christianity in 864 unified them around a common religion. With Christianity soon came vernacular literacy, and the development of a Slavic writing system by the Bulgaro-Macedonian Saints Cyril and Methodius. The local Slavic language became the language of liturgy and state administration, diminishing the ecclesiastical and cultural influence of Byzantium. In the tenth century Bulgaria was counted among the three most powerful empires in Europe.

The Ottomans invaded in the fourteenth century and ruled the Bulgarian lands for five centuries. The last century of Ottoman rule witnessed the reflowering of Bulgarian culture in the "National Revival." Bulgarian schools and cultural centers were established. In 1870 the Bulgarian church regained independence from Greek domination. The outside world took note in April 1876 when a Bulgarian uprising met bloody Ottoman reprisals. Russia defeated the Ottomans in 1878, leading to the reestablishment of a Bulgarian state. Hopes for a large Bulgaria were dashed in the Treaty of Berlin (1878), which left large numbers of ethnic Bulgarians in adjacent states. This partitioning of Bulgaria has been the cause of much conflict in the Balkans.

Following World War II (19391945), a socialist government was instituted under Soviet tutelage. The ouster of communist leader Todor Zhivkov on 10 November 1989 precipitated a reform process culminating in the dismantling of state socialism in 1990 and the establishment of a more democratic form of government.

National Identity. Bulgarian national identity is premised on the understanding that the Bulgarian nation (people) was formed with a distinctive ethnic identity during the Middle Ages (from a mix of Slavic, Bulgar, and other ethnicities). This identity, preserved throughout Ottoman rule, formed the basis for an independent nation-state. The history of the struggle for a Bulgarian state provides key symbols of national identity. Another premise is that ethnic and territorial boundaries should overlap. This has led at times to territorial conflicts with neighboring states. Moreover, this renders ambivalent the status of minorities, since they do not share the same ethnic and historical ties to the Bulgarian lands and state.

Ethnic Relations. Bulgaria officially espouses cordial relations with neighboring states. Relations with Macedonia, however, are complicated since many Bulgarians see Macedonia as historically a Bulgarian territory. The liberation of Macedonia was a central element in the nineteenth-century Bulgarian liberation movement and in early twentieth-century nationalism. Ottoman Macedonia was divided among Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia in 1913. Bulgarian claims to the contrary, most Macedonians sought an independent Macedonian state, realized only after World War II within Yugoslav Macedonia. Bulgaria was quick to recognize Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, but does not acknowledge a distinct Macedonian culture. Since 1997 the Bulgarian government has acknowledged Macedonian as a separate language. Many Bulgarians, however, continue to consider Macedonians as Bulgarians, and the existence of a Macedonian minority within Bulgaria is generally denied.

There is both official and popular concern regarding the human rights (especially the right to ethnic self-determination) of Bulgarians living in neighboring states, particularly Serbia and Macedonia.

The relations among the various ethnic groups within Bulgaria are somewhat strained, partly as a legacy of brutal assimilation policies under state socialism, and partly out of fear on the part of ethnic Bulgarians that minority self-determination would threaten the integrity of the nation-state. Generally, in mixed settlements, relations with members of other ethnic groups are amicable, though much depends upon personal acquaintance.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Until World War II, Bulgaria's economy was largely agricultural. State socialism brought rapid industrialization and the collectivization of agriculture, leading to a significant population shift to the towns and cities. Soviet-style concrete apartment buildings and industrial developments ring towns and cities, with older-style homes and apartment buildings closer in. Educational and administrative facilities are dispersed in the major cities. Streets are wide, and often cobbled, and public parks, gardens, and playgrounds abound. Economic collapse in the 1990s has adversely affected the infrastructure and the maintenance of public spaces.

Commercial districts are by and large centrally located, and trips to central produce markets are essential for urban household survival. Residence and work are usually spatially separate, with most people relying on public transportation, which is extensive, but crowded.

Traditional houses in villages and towns are archetypally wooden, surrounded by high fences and with latticed windows. National Revival period houses are brightly painted with second floors projecting out over the street. Interiors often include carved wooden ceilings. Dwellings, whether apartments or traditional houses, are very much private spaces, with interiors hidden from public view and often decorated in highly individual manners.

Churches are prominent, many dating from the National Revival, and many Revival-era cultural centers (chitalishta ) are preserved. Many mosques were destroyed following liberation and also during the state socialist period. Mosque restoration and rebuilding began after 1989 in Muslim areas.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The everyday diet is based largely on local, in-season products. Bread, an important staple, is often purchased rather than home baked. Dairy products are widely consumed, particularly yogurt and white-brined cheese. Home-cooked lunches and dinners often include soups, salads, stews, grilled meats, or stuffed vegetables, while meals away from home may consist of foods such as bread, cheese, sausage, and vegetables. Banitsa is a popular pastry filled with cheese and eggs, pumpkin, rice, spinach, or leeks. For snacks and breakfast, it is accompanied by a grain-based drink, boza, or yogurt-based airan. Popular alcoholic beverages include rakiya, a potent fruit-based brandy, and wine. Many people can fruits and vegetables and make sauerkraut for winter when fresh produce is unavailable or unaffordable. Regional culinary variation reflects local environmental conditions, for example, fish along the sea, vegetables in the plains, and dairy products in mountain areas. Some observant Muslims avoid eating pork. In response to postsocialist conditions, meat and dairy product consumption has declined relative to the less-expensive bread. Typical restaurant offerings are more limited than home cooking, with menus based around salads, soups, grilled meats, and perhaps a meatless offering. Coffee bars, pubs, and sweet shops are popular meeting places for a drink, coffee, or snack.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Some Orthodox Christians observe a Lenten fast before Easter, and observant Muslims avoid eating and drinking during daylight hours during Ramadan. Within Islamic tradition, numerous dishes are served and sweets are exchanged on Ramazan (Ramadan) Bairam, and a ram or calf is ritually slaughtered for Kurban Bairam. Kurban means sacrifice and also refers to a boiled meat dish prepared for ceremonial occasions. Another popular celebration dish is spit-roasted sheep or goat. The Christmas Eve table includes numerous, predominantly meatless dishes, including stuffed cabbage leaves, beans, lentils, boiled wheat, dried fruit, and nuts. For Christmas or New Year's, fortunes in the form of coins, cornel cherry twigs, or slips of paper are inserted in banitsa or bread. Special holiday breads include Easter's braided kozunak, which is sometimes decorated with dyed eggs.

Basic Economy. Bulgaria's economy has experienced considerable disruption since communism's fall in 1989. Industrial and agricultural production have declined, unemployment has increased, and the purchasing power of pensions and wages has fallen. In 1986, agriculture made up 16 percent of the economy (measured as a share of gross value added); industry, 60 percent; and services, 24 percent. The figures for 1996 were 15 percent for agriculture, 30 percent for industry, and 55 percent for services. Private-sector activity, more prominent in agriculture and services than in industry, increased from 17 percent of the economy in 1991 to one-half in 1996. In principle, Bulgaria is self-sufficient in food production; however, periodic shortages of key crops, such as wheat, have been caused both by poor weather and by declines in agricultural production following liquidation of cooperative farms. With economic changes during the 1990s, household subsistence food production has increased substantially.

Land Tenure and Property. Significant changes in property ownership followed communism's collapse. Bulgaria's constitution declares as state property underground resources, coastal beaches, public roadways, waters, forests and parks of national significance, nature preserves, and archaeological sites. Ownership of agricultural land and forests is legally restricted to Bulgarian citizens, government entities, and organizations; foreigners, however, are permitted use rights. Private property rights to most agricultural land have been restored to their former (precollectivization) owners or their heirs, and the parliament passed legislation in 1997 to restore to their former owners forests that were privately owned before forest nationalization in 1947. Most precollectivization landholdings were small, and this pattern continues. About 19 percent of forests were privately owned before nationalization, and churches, mosques, cooperatives, schools, and municipalities owned or managed some of the remainder. Some forests and pastures were communally managed before collectivization; it is unclear, however, the extent to which communal land management will reemerge.

Major Industries. Before World War II, Bulgaria's economy was based primarily on agriculture along with light manufacturing enterprises, such as food processing and textile production, which processed the resulting products. Rapid industrialization occurred during the socialist era, particularly in heavy industry such as machinery production, mining and metallurgy, and chemical and oil processing, and these sectors continued to dominate Bulgarian industry at the end of the twentieth century. Manufacture of food, beverages, and tobacco products also continues to be important.

Trade. Much of Bulgaria's socialist-era trade was with other socialist countries through their trading organization, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. In the last decade, trade with European Union countries has grown relative to that with former socialist bloc countries. Bulgaria's largest trading partners in 1997 were Germany, Greece, Italy, and the Russian Federation. Major export categories include chemical and petroleum products, machinery, electronics, mining and metallurgy, textiles and clothing, and processed food, beverages, and tobacco.

Division of Labor. Labor specialization increased during the socialist era, and many young people received vocational training preparing them for particular professions. Yet, many rural households have returned to private agricultural production in the postsocialist period, and people may be unable to find jobs for which they were trained.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. During the socialist period, senior party officials, managers of state enterprises, and their kin formed an elite, the former bourgeois elite having had their property and means of wealth confiscated and nationalized. Since 1989, despite the restitution of much confiscated property, it is largely the socialist-era elite and those close to them who have managed to acquire the wealth that now defines status, mostly through illegal transfers of control of state-owned assets and the private exploitation of formerly state-controlled trade relationships. Much of the new private wealth is also derived from criminal activity, particularly organized crime.

Symbols of Social Stratification. During the state socialist period, elite status depended upon the maintenance of the right relationships and entailed privileges of accessto better housing, the best schooling, scarce (often imported) commodities, and foreign travel. Following the fall of state socialism, status began to be measured more in terms of monetary wealth, while the gap between the rich and the ordinary citizens grew sharply. Despite a general aversion to it, conspicuous consumption by the elite has become considerably more visible in the form of imposing dwellings and imported luxury goods and motor vehicles.

Political Life

Government. Bulgaria's 1991 constitution, which established a parliamentary republic, provides for a multiparty parliamentary system and free elections with universal adult suffrage. Bulgaria's chief of state is an elected president, and the head of government is a prime minister selected by the largest parliamentary group. To enter the National Assembly, parties and electoral coalitions must receive at least 4 percent of the popular vote. The Council of Ministers, chaired by the prime minister, is the main body of the executive branch of government. Mayors and councilors of local municipalities are elected, while regional governors are appointed by the Council of Ministers. There is also an independent judiciary.

Leadership and Political Officials. Bulgaria experienced considerable political disruption during the 1990s. Postsocialist governments have changed frequently, and two parliaments failed to survive their four-year mandates. Growing disillusionment with government and its inability to effect postsocialist economic restructuring is seen in the decline in voter participation from 83 percent of eligible voters during the 1991 parliamentary election to 59 percent in 1997. More than thirty-five political parties and coalitions registered for parliamentary elections during the 1990s, yet only a handful gained enough votes to enter parliament. Politics are dominated by the Union of Democratic Forces, an anticommunist coalition that became a party in 1997, and the Bulgarian Socialist Party, successor to the Bulgarian Communist Party. The other party to play a major role in parliamentary politics is the Movement for Rights and Freedom, which is commonly identified with Bulgaria's Turkish minority. Despite the disillusionment, many Bulgarians continue to look to the government to solve problems and provide servicesas it did during the socialist era.

Social Problems and Control. Formal systems for addressing crime include laws, police, and the courts. In the postsocialist period, crime is seen to be out of control, and the police are viewed as ineffective at best and involved in rapidly escalating crime rates at worst. The most common reported crimes are property and car theft, while allegations of corruption are widespread. Another common perception is that certain economic sectors are controlled by so-called mafia groups operating outside the law. Ordinary people often feel helpless to do anything about these situations. In some rural communities, less formal systems of social control continue to operate for addressing problems such as crop damage from livestock trespass, and local authorities may mediate disputes.

Military Activity. All Bulgarian men must perform military service, although Bulgaria has had little direct involvement in military conflicts since World War II. In the 1990s, the length of service was reduced, partly due to cost considerations, and movement began toward a voluntary military. Military spending fell from 4.6 percent of gross domestic product in 1988 to 1.8 percent in 1996.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Bulgaria's socialist-era social safety net included pensions, health care, maternity leave, and guaranteed employment. Some services had ideological goals, such as day care, which helped facilitate women's entrance into the workforce. The economic status of many households has fallen significantly in the postsocialist period because of unemployment and the declining purchasing power of wages and pensions. Meanwhile, the government's poor financial condition has made maintaining earlier services difficult. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as the Bulgarian Red Cross, are involved in activities such as supporting orphanages and feeding homeless children. Others promote civil rights or ethnic and religious tolerance. Yet, NGO activities are limited by their economic circumstances and reliance on foreign funding. Some foreign support for NGOs results from their perceived status as democratic institutions that are part of civil society, which was seen as lacking during the socialist era and thus needing support.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Few independent organizations existed in socialist Bulgaria. Previously established groups were incorporated into state structures or disappeared. Newly formed environmental organizations such as Ecoglasnost played a role in the 1989 political changes, and NGO numbers increased considerably following the collapse of the state socialist regime. These organizations address such concerns as environmental protection, economic development, human rights, social welfare, health care, the arts, and education. Most NGOs rely on financial support from non-Bulgarian sources interested in their activities or in the organizations themselves as democratic institutions. Many NGOs have been created by urban professionals, although some groups exist in rural areas. The mass mobilization around environmental issues seen in 1989 has decreased as many people struggle to survive the difficult economic situation. More generally, NGO impact on people's lives is limited by their small sizes, financial constraints, and the limited recognition of NGOs in some circles. Other organizations include trade unions and professional associations.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Many women entered paid employment during the socialist era, when an ideology of gender equality was promoted, and they made up nearly half the workforce in the late twentieth century. Women are frequently employed as teachers, nurses, pharmacists, sales clerks, and laborers, and less often involved in management, administration, and technical sciences. Women are also largely responsible for household taskschild care, cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Agricultural labor is divided according to gender, with men working with animals and machinery and women doing more hand labor in crop production, although flexibility exists in response to specific situations.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. While Bulgaria is often described as a patriarchal society, women may have substantial authority in household budgeting or agricultural decision making. Both men and women have the right to vote and own property. Women lag behind men only slightly in educational achievement. Despite the socialist ideology of gender equality, women are often employed in lower paying jobs, remain responsible for most household chores, and represent more than half the registered unemployed. They also occupy leadership positions less frequently than men. Fewer than 14 percent of postsocialist parliamentary representatives have been women, and only one in five municipal councilors were women in 1996.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Bulgarians typically marry by individual choice, although families may exert pressure on the choice of spouse. Some groups, such as Pomaks and Gypsies, previously arranged marriages and may occasionally do so now. Only civil ceremonies are legally recognized, although couples may also have a religious ceremony. Marriages are monogamous, close relatives are not considered appropriate marriage partners, and spouses are usually from the same ethnic and religious group. Nearly all adults marry, typically in their early to mid-twenties. Divorce was rare in the past, but is less stigmatized today. Marriage rates declined in the 1990s in response to postsocialist uncertainty.

Domestic Unit. Historical accounts of Balkan family structure often discuss the zadruga, an extended, joint-family household said to have disappeared by the early twentieth century. Contemporary households commonly consist of a married couple or couple with children, but they may include three generationsfor example, a nuclear family with a grandparent or a married couple, their son and daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. Most couples have only one or two children, although birthrates are higher for Bulgaria's ethnic minorities. Households are the primary units of social and biological reproduction, and economic activity, especially in the case of agricultural production. Two wage earners are often required to support urban households. Since most women work, grandparents often care for grandchildren in three-generation households, and a grandmother may shop and cook. Other factors contributing to such households are housing shortages and the need to generate income through both wage labor and subsistence production. After marriage, patrilocal residencewith the new couple moving in with the husband's parentsis more likely than matrilocal residence, although couples may establish independent households if they have sufficient resources.

Inheritance. In principle, both men and women own property such as land, buildings, and animals, and inheritance is partible (i.e., property is divided among all heirs rather than going to a single heir). In practice, some heirs may be disinherited or may receive more land than their siblings, and daughters may inherit less land than sons. The latter is sometimes explained in terms of the often large dowries of household goods and sometimes land or livestock that women take into marriage. Houses are often inherited by youngest sons, who bring their wives to live in the family home.

Kin Groups. Bulgarians count as kin relatives by blood and marriage on both the male and female sides. Rather than formal structures, kindreds tend to be informal networks of relatives. One's inner circle of close kin, friends, and neighbors is referred to as blizki, or close people. The importance of more distant relatives depends on factors such as proximity and frequency of interaction. With the socialist era's rapid urbanization, relatives can be dispersed between rural and urban settings, although it is not uncommon to find clusters of kin in rural communities. In rural settings, kin and other blizki often cooperate in agricultural activities. Connections through rural and urban networks of kin and blizki are often mobilized to accomplish such objectives as obtaining scarce goods, accessing information, or gaining employment.


Infant Care. Early infant care is usually provided by the mother. Working mothers receive at least four months maternity leave on full pay, enabling them to care full time for young infants. The government in theory provides income supplements to families with children, but the economic collapse of the 1990s made the amounts mere tokens (when they were paid at all).

Child Rearing and Education. Ethnic Bulgarians tend towards single-child families. They are thus able to devote considerable resources and attention to their children's well-being and education. Children aged three to six may attend state-run kindergartens, where available. Otherwise, their care often falls to grandparents, who are increasingly visible as caregivers in the economically insecure postsocialist era. Heavy-handed discipline is uncommon, but children are brought up to defer to parental authority.

Schooling is free and compulsory for children aged seven to sixteen (four years elementary; six to eight secondary). Ethnic Bulgarians value education, and children are encouraged to do well, with many parents paying for private tutoring to ensure that their children pass entrance examinations for the better secondary schools and universities or even resorting to bribery of officials. Since 1989, many private schools have been established, offering an educational alternative for the wealthy and often catering to those not accepted into elite state schools.

Turks and Gypsies have notably higher birth-rates and tend to be lower on the socioeconomic scale, as well as culturally and linguistically disadvantaged. Levels of educational achievement are generally lower than among ethnic Bulgarians.

Higher Education. Bulgaria has an extensive system of higher education, with state universities, technical institutes, and teacher's colleges in a number of cities. There is also a private American university in the city of Blagoevgrad. Competition for places in the state universities is rigorous. Most students receive subsidized housing and many receive scholarships to offset the costs of education. Fees are not high, but under the depressed economic conditions they are significant.


In Bulgaria, gestures for indicating "yes" and "no" are essentially opposite from those common in most of the rest of Europe. A sideways shaking of the head indicates "Yes," and a short upward and downward movement (nod) of the head indicates "No."

Bulgarians generally pride themselves on their hospitality and neighborliness. An uninvited visitor will first be greeted with a handshake or verbal greeting at the outermost doorway or gateway, and will be invited further into the private domestic space depending on the nature of the visit. At mealtimes, a guest will be offered food and drink, and at other times a drink (often homemade rakiya); it is impolite not to accept this hospitality. The obligation to accept a host's offer extends to situations outside of the home, such as when invited for a meal or a drink in a restaurant or other establishment. When visiting someone's home, it is customary to bring flowers or sweets.

On the street or in other public places, strangers will usually avoid making eye contact. In public transportation, it is expected that younger people will give up a seat to an older woman or to a parent with a young child. Failure to do so invites public censure from other passengers.

In ethnically-mixed areas, it is considered polite to greet a neighbor or acquaintance in that person's own language.


Religious Beliefs. Most ethnic Bulgarians belong to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, though there are small numbers of Muslims (Pomaks), Protestants, and Roman Catholics. Most Turks and many Gypsies are Muslim, while some (especially Gypsies) are Christian. In Bulgaria, both Orthodox Christianity and Islam incorporate some pagan beliefs and rituals. Among the Pomaks and Gypsies, Christian and Islamic beliefs and practices often coexist. Other religions include Judaism, Armenian Orthodox Christianity, and a variety of Protestant churches and sects.

Orthodox Christianity is enshrined in the constitution as the traditional religion in Bulgaria, and the church has a legacy of ties to nationalist groups. State regulation of religious affairs has diminished since the fall of state socialism. Nevertheless, political interference remains a factor in religious affairs, and schisms in the Orthodox and Muslim communities in the 1990s (over challenges to the legitimacy of leaderships installed under state socialism) were dominated by partisan political interests. Proselytizing by foreign-based churches and sects is considered a threat to national identity.

Most Orthodox Bulgarians and Muslims are not observant, and many are atheists, partly a result of the state socialist government's attempts to discredit religion. Despite some resurgence of interest in religious observance since the fall of state socialism, religious practices have become largely markers of cultural identity.

Religious Practitioners. The Orthodox Church is headed by a patriarch, presiding over the Holy Synod (or Church Council), with a hierarchy of regional archbishops, bishops, and priests. There are also monasteries where monks and nuns practice a life of religious devotion and scholarship. The Muslim community is governed by the Supreme Muslim Council under the Chief Mufti (religious judge), with a hierarchy of regional muftis, imams (clergy), and religious teachers.

Rituals and Holy Places. For both Christians and Muslims, the most significant rituals are those associated with the passage of life: birth, marriage, and death, as well as christening (for Christians) and circumcision (for Muslims). Christian holidays include Christmas, Easter, Lent, and saints' days. Services are held on Sundays and often daily, and people often visit churches to pray to saints, burning candles in honor of loved ones. Muslim holidays include the month-long fast of Ramadan and the Festival of Sacrifice (Kurban Bairam). The observant attend mosques on Fridays and may observe daily prayers.

Churches and especially monasteries are considered sacred, not only to the Orthodox Church but also to the nation, as they played a significant role in the national emancipation.

Death and the Afterlife. Both Orthodox Christians and Muslims believe in an afterlife. For both, proper observance of death and burial-related rituals is considered crucial to the soul's proper passage into the afterlife.

Medicine and Health Care

Bulgaria has an extensive health-care system based around community polyclinics, with a network of general and specialized hospitals. This system is largely a legacy of the state socialist period, when universal healthcare was provided free of charge. Following health care reforms in 2000, consumers must now choose their own family doctor and pay for heath insurance. Health-care professionals may also operate private practices.

Bulgarians have long valued herbal remedies, and economic hardship in the 1990s led to increased reliance on herbs, with Western medicine becoming for many a last resort. Bulgarians on the whole are very concerned with their health, and are knowledgeable about treating minor ailments with both Western and herbal medicines. Yet, consumption of tobacco and alcohol are extremely high, and the rate of strokes is among the highest in the developed world.

Secular Celebrations

Efforts were made during the socialist era to replace religious holidays and life-cycle rituals with secular onesfor example, civil ceremonies replaced church weddings and Grandfather Frost delivered presents on 1 January instead of Grandfather Christmas on 25 December. With communism's fall, government-recognized holidays include Easter and Christmas, and some socialist holidays such as 9 September, marking the beginning of the socialist era, have disappeared.

New Year's is celebrated on 1 January with holiday foods and traditions designed to bring luck and health in the coming year. Baba Marta (Grandmother March), on 1 March, is a pre-Christian holiday welcoming spring, on which people exchange martinitsas, good luck charms made from red and white threads. Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman Empire is celebrated on 3 March, International Women's Day on 8 March, Labor Day on 1 May, and Bulgarian education and culture on 24 May, a day associated with Saints Cyril and Methodius, founders of the Cyrillic alphabet. Other celebrationsoften associated with the agricultural calendar, the Orthodox Christian calendar, or both include the day of the vintner on 14 February; Saint George's Day on 6 May, in honor of the patron saint of shepherds and the army; and festivals of masked kukeri (mummers) marking the beginning of spring and the agricultural season (dates vary). Important life-cycle celebrations mark births, high school graduations, send-offs to military service, weddings, and deaths. The latter are commemorated at specified intervals following death (e.g., nine days, forty days, six months, one year).

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. During the state socialist period, the arts were state funded (and regulated). State-sponsored folk ensembles were charged not only with preserving heritage, but also with the task of transforming folk art forms to the level of high culture. State sponsorship allowed the arts to flourish, and ideological limits did not necessarily compromise artistry. Puppet theater, for instance, developed to a high standard of excellence. Since the fall of state socialism in 1989, state funding has evaporated, and entrepreneurship on the part of individuals and ensembles has become necessary for survival, where before salaries and programming emanated largely from the Ministry of Culture. This has been a tough transition for many practitioners of the arts. What state funding remains is granted subject to open competition.

Literature. Bulgarian literature begins with the advent of literacy in Old Church Slavonic (Old Bulgarian) in the late-ninth century c.e. The earliest writings were religious in nature. In the late-eighteenth century, secular writings began to be written using a more accessible modern vernacular Bulgarian. Several important writings on the history of the Bulgarian nation date from this period. In the early nineteenth century, the modern standard language developed through the promotion of literacy in the schools.

Literature and journalism flourished around the theme of national emancipation. Ethnologists began to collect and publish folklore, another vehicle for the development of national consciousness. Bulgarian Revival and early modern literature continues to form the core of literature studies within the Bulgarian education system. Several Bulgarian authors and poets have achieved international fame.

Graphic Arts. Bulgaria's graphic art traditions have their roots in Orthodox Christian icon and fresco painting, and some Bulgarian medieval works are world famous and significant in the history of world art, particularly the frescos in the Boyana church near Sofia. Folk arts and crafts thrive, and distinctive and beautiful traditions exist in wood carving, ceramics, and weaving and other textile arts.

Performance Arts. Bulgaria boasts a rich palette of music, dance, and theater, ranging from folk music and dance to classical and modern opera, jazz, and Western-style popular music. Of particular note here are the varieties of folk and folk-influenced musics, many of which have become well-known in the outside world since the mid-1980s, achieving status as virtual icons of Bulgarian national culture. Particularly prominent are women's vocal (choral) music and wedding band music. Traditionally, folk musicians are often gypsies, the music is sensuous, and performances involve a high degree of spontaneity, particularly at events such as weddings. In theater, opera, and ballet, the repertoire of Bulgarian artists includes a range of international and local productions. Bulgarian cinema had its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s under state sponsorship, but now produces only between five and ten films annually.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

During the socialist era, the government supported the physical and social sciences; increased higher education opportunities resulted in the training of a cadre of scientists in such fields as linguistics, economics, history, philosophy, sociology, folklore, ethnography, physics, chemistry, biology, botany, geography, geology, forestry, agronomy, and medicine. Many scientists were employed in research institutes of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences or at universities. Under postsocialist economic constraints, government support for these activities has fallen substantially. Some scientists have left the country as a result, while others have changed jobs or sought support for their activities through nongovernmental organizations.


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Barbara A. Cellarius and Tim Pilbrow

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The people of Bulgaria are called Bulgarians. About 85 percent of the people trace their ancestry to Bulgaria. Turks account for about 10 percent of the total and Gypsies (Roma), a little more than 5 percent. To learn more about the Turks, see the chapter on Turkey in Volume 9; about the Gypsies, see the article on Roma in the chapter on Romania in Volume 7.

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Bulgaria (order Helotiales) A genus of fungi which form gelatinous apothecia within which the unicellular brown and/or colourless ascospores are produced. B. inquinans (‘Pope's buttons’) is a common species, with black, globular to cup-shaped, rubbery fruit bodies, each 2–4 cm across, which grow in clusters on logs, especially those of oak.

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Bulgariabarrier, carrier, farrier, harrier, tarrier •Calabria, Cantabria •Andrea • Kshatriya • Bactria •Amu Darya, aria, Zaria •Alexandria •Ferrier, terrier •destrier •aquaria, area, armamentaria, Bavaria, Bulgaria, caldaria, cineraria, columbaria, filaria, frigidaria, Gran Canaria, herbaria, honoraria, malaria, pulmonaria, rosaria, sacraria, Samaria, solaria, tepidaria, terraria •atria, gematria •Assyria, Illyria, Styria, SyriaLaurier, warrior •hypochondria, mitochondria •Austria •auditoria, ciboria, conservatoria, crematoria, emporia, euphoria, Gloria, moratoria, phantasmagoria, Pretoria, sanatoria, scriptoria, sudatoria, victoria, Vitoria, vomitoria •Maurya •courier, Fourier •currier, furrier, spurrier, worrier •Cumbria, Northumbria, Umbria •Algeria, anterior, bacteria, Bashkiria, cafeteria, criteria, cryptomeria, diphtheria, exterior, hysteria, Iberia, inferior, interior, Liberia, listeria, Nigeria, posterior, Siberia, superior, ulterior, wisteria •Etruria, Liguria, Manchuria, Surya

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