Introduction The Bulgars, a Central Asian Turkic tribe, merged with the local Slavic inhabitants in the late 7th century to form the first Bulgarian state. In succeeding centuries, Bulgaria struggled with the Byzantine Empire to assert its place in the Balkans, but by the end of the 14th century the country was overrun by the Ottoman Turks. Northern Bulgaria attained autonomy in 1878 and all of Bulgaria became independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1908. Having fought on the losing side in both World Wars, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People's Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1990, when Bulgaria held its first multiparty election since World War II and began the contentious process of moving toward political democracy and a market economy while combating inflation, unemployment, corruption, and crime. The country joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.


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


The Thracians, the earliest known identifiable people to inhabit the present-day territory of Bulgaria, have left traceable marks among all the Balkan region despite its tumultuous history of many conquests.[6][7] The Panagyuriste treasure ranks as one of the most splendid achievements of the Thracian culture.

The Thracians lived divided into numerous separate tribes until King Teres united most of them around 500 BC in the Odrysian kingdom, which peaked under the kings Sitalces and Cotys I (383-359 BC). In 188 BC the Romans invaded Thrace, but the wars with them continued to 45 AD until Rome finally conquered them. The conquerors quickly romanized the region. By the time the Slavs arrived, the Thracians had already lost their indigenous identity. Furthermore, their numbers were substantially reduced by seemingly endless invasions.

Early Middle Ages

The Slavs emerged from their original homeland (most commonly thought to have been in Eastern Europe) in the early 6th century, and spread to most of the eastern Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, thus forming three main branches - the West Slavs, the East Slavs and the South Slavs. The eastern South Slavs became part of the ancestors of the modern Bulgarians. They assimilated what was left from the Thracians, hence modern Bulgarians derive their culture, language and self-determination from these early immigrants.

Old Great Bulgaria

In 632, the Bulgars, a seminomadic Turkic people, originally from Central Asia, led by Khan Kubrat, formed an independent state called Great Bulgaria, situated between the lower course of the Danube[citation needed] to the west, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea to the south, the Kuban River to the east, and the Donets River to the north.

Pressure from the Khazars led to the subjugation of Great Bulgaria in the second half of the seventh century. Some of the Bulgars from that territory later migrated to the northeast to form a new state called Volga Bulgaria (around the confluence of the Volga and Kama Rivers), which lasted until the thirteenth century.

First Bulgarian Empire

Kubrat’s successor, Khan Asparuh, migrated with some of the Bulgar tribes to the lower courses of the rivers Danube, Dniester and Dniepr (known as Ongal), and conquered Moesia and Scythia Minor (Dobrudzha) from the Byzantine Empire, expanding this new state further into the Balkan Peninsula.[9] The peace-treaty with Byzantium in 681 and the establishment of the Bulgar capital of Pliska south of the Danube mark the beginning of the First Bulgarian Empire. At the same time one of Asparuh's brothers, Kuber, settled with another Bulgar group in present-day Macedonia.

In 718, the Bulgars raised the Arab siege of Constantinople, killing some 40,000 to 60,000 Arab soldiers.[10]

The influence and territorial expansion of Bulgaria increased further during the rule of Khan Krum,[11] who in 811 won a decisive victory against the Byzantine army led by Nicephorus I in the Battle of Pliska.[12]

The ktitors of the Boyana Church sevastokrator Kaloyan and his wife Desislava.

In 864, Bulgaria accepted Eastern Orthodox Christianity.[13]

Bulgaria became a major European power in the ninth and the tenth centuries, while fighting with the Byzantine Empire for the control of the Balkans. This happened under the rule (852–889) of Boris I. During his reign, the Cyrillic alphabet originated in Preslav and Ohrid,[14] adapted from the Glagolitic alphabet invented by the monks Saints Cyril and Methodius.[15]

The Cyrillic alphabet became the basis for further cultural development. Centuries later, this alphabet, along with the Old Bulgarian language, fostered the intellectual written language (lingua franca) for Eastern Europe, known as Church Slavonic. The greatest territorial extension of the Bulgarian Empire — covering most of the Balkans — occurred under Simeon I, the first Bulgarian Tsar (Emperor), son of Boris I.[16]

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

The Bulgarian Empire c. 927

Following a decline in the mid-tenth century (worn out by wars with Croatia, by frequent Serbian rebellions sponsored by Byzantine gold, and by disastrous Magyar and Pecheneg invasions,[17]) Bulgaria collapsed in the face of an assault of the Rus' in 969-971.[18]

The Byzantines then began campaigns to conquer Bulgaria. In 971, they seized the capital Preslav and captured Emperor Boris II.[19] Resistance continued under Tsar Samuil in the western Bulgarian lands for nearly half a century. The country managed to recover and defeated the Byzantines in several major battles taking the control of the most of the Balkans and in 991 invaded the Serbian state.[20] However, the Byzantines led by Basil II (Basil the Bulgar-Slayer) destroyed the Bulgarian state in 1018 after their victory at Kleidion.[21]

Byzantine Bulgaria

In the first decade after the establishment of Byzantine rule, no evidence remains of any major attempt at resistance or any uprising of the Bulgarian population or nobility. Given the existence of such irreconcilable opponents to Byzantium as Krakra, Nikulitsa, Dragash and others, such apparent passivity seems difficult to explain. Some historians[22] explain this fact by concessions that Basil II granted the Bulgarian nobility in order to gain their obedience. In the first place, Basil II guaranteed the indivisibility of Bulgaria in its former geographic borders and did not abolish officially the local rule of the Bulgarian nobility that now became part of Byzantine aristocracy as archons or strategs. Second, special charters (royal decrees) of Basil II recognised the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid and set up its boundaries, dioceses, property and other privileges.

The people of Bulgaria challenged Byzantine rule several times in the 11th and then again later in the early 12th century. The biggest uprising occurred under the leadership of Peter II Delyan, (proclaimed Emperor of Bulgaria in Belgrade in 1040). In the mid to late 11th century, the Normans, fresh from their recent conquests in southern Italy and Sicily, landed in the Balkans and began advancing against the Byzantine Empire. It took the Byzantines until 1185 before the Normans were driven out but until then they posed a constant threat to Byzantine Bulgaria. In 1091 another invasion came in the form of the Pechenegs. However, these too were crushed at Levounion and again in c. 1120 by the Byzantine Empire. After that, the Hungarians made an attempt to increase their influence beyond the Danube river; John Comnenus' campaigns along the Danube eventually drove back the Hungarians as well by c.1140. It would be another 45 years before Bulgaria would attain independence. Until that time, Bulgarian nobles ruled the province in the name of the Byzantine Empire until a rebellion by Ivan Asen I and Peter IV of Bulgaria led to the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

Second Bulgarian Empire

From 1185, the Second Bulgarian Empire once again established Bulgaria as an important power in the Balkans for two more centuries. With its capital based in Veliko Turnovo and under the Asen dynasty, this empire fought for dominance in the region against the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and Hungary, reaching its zenith under Ivan Asen II (1218–1241). Аs a result of the Tatar invasions (beginning in the later 13th century), of internal conflicts and of the constant attacks from the Byzantines and the Hungarians, the power of the country declined until the end of the 13th century. From 1300, under Emperor Theodore Svetoslav Bulgaria regained its strength, but by the end of the fourteenth century the country had disintegrated into several feudal principalities, which the Ottoman Empire eventually conquered. A Polish-Hungarian crusade under the rule of Władysław III of Poland to free the Balkans was crushed in 1444 in the battle of Varna.

During the 13th and 14th centuries, Bulgarian culture flourished. The architecture of the Tarnovo Artistic School and the painting of the Tarnovo Artistic School produced some splendid achievements. Emperor Ivan Alexander won a reputation as a great maecenas and patron of culture.

Ottoman rule

In the mid 13th century, the Second Bulgarian Empire dominated the Balkan Peninsula. By the end of the following century factional divisions between Bulgarian feudal landlords (boyars) had gravely weakened the cohesion of the Empire which therefore collapsed before the invading Ottoman armies in the 1390s. The Bulgarians, most of whom lived in the quadrilateral contained by the lower Danube, the Aegean coast of Thrace, the Black Sea and the valley of the Vardar in the west, now entered upon five hundred years of Ottoman domination.

During the second half of the 14th century Bulgaria became an Ottoman vassalage. Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I annexed Bulgaria following his victory against a crusade at the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 .[23][24][25] According to some historians the five centuries of Ottoman rule featured violence and oppression. The Ottomans decimated the Bulgarian population, which lost most of its cultural relics. Turkish authorities destroyed most of the medieval Bulgarian fortresses in order to prevent rebellions. Large towns and the areas where Ottoman power predominated remained severely depopulated until the nineteenth century.[26]

The new authorities dismantled Bulgarian institutions at anything above the village or communal level, and merged the separate Bulgarian Church into the Orthodox Patriarchate in Constantinople (Istanbul), although a small, semi-independent Bulgarian Church did survive until 1767. The conquerors also assumed virtual ownership of the land, though they vested legal ownership in Allah’s representative on earth, the Sultan. The new system of land-tenure imposed by the Turks functioned to provide the Ottoman army with cavalry troops: the sipahi or landlord had to provide a number of men proportionate to the amount of land he held, while maintained economically by his tenants, or rayahs. For the Bulgarian peasant the new system offered greater security than the old Bulgarian Empire had provided and exceptional privileges accrued to peasants living on vakif land — land with its income permanently entailed for the upkeep of a religious or charitable institution.[27][28] All tenants, Christian or Muslim, who lived on vakif land had the right to such privileges, but in general the Christian subjects of the Sultan had to endure a number of disabilities; they usually paid more taxes than Moslems, they lacked legal equality with Moslems, they could not carry arms, their clothes could not rival those of Moslems in color, nor could their churches tower as high as mosques. The new rulers made few attempts to enforce conversion to Islam and relatively few Bulgarians felt attracted to the new ruling faith by the legal privileges its adherents enjoyed. Those who did convert, the Pomaks, retained their native language, dress and customs, and lived primarily in the Rhodope mountains.[29][30]

The Ottoman system at its height did much to protect the rayah, but by the 17th century the system had started to decline, and at the end of the 18th had all but collapsed. Central government weakened over the decades, and this had allowed a number of local adventurers and freebooters to establish personal ascendancy over separate regions. These local ayans employed armed retainers and having established their authority frequently imposed new and far more arduous tenancies on the peasantry under their control. During the last two decades of the 18th and first decades of the 19th centuries the Balkan Peninsula dissolved into virtual anarchy, a period known in Bulgarian as the kurdjaliistvo after the armed bands or kurdjalii who plagued the area at this time. In many regions thousands of peasants fled from the countryside either to local towns or more probably to the hills or forests; some even fled beyond the Danube to Moldova, Wallachia or Southern Russia.[31][32]

In the 18th and especially during the 19th century, conditions improved in certain areas. Some towns such as Gabrovo, Tryavna, Karlovo, Lovech, Skopie prospered. The Bulgarian peasants actually possessed their land, although it officially belonged to the sultan. The nineteenth century also brought improved communications, transportation and trade. The first factory in the Bulgarian lands opened in Sliven in 1834, and the first railway system started running (between Ruse and Varna) in 1865.

Throughout the five Ottoman centuries Bulgarian people organized many attempts to re-establish their own state. The National awakening of Bulgaria became one of the key factors in the struggle for liberation. In the 19th century, there came into existence the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee and the Internal Revolutionary Organisation led by liberal revolutionaries such as Vasil Levski, Hristo Botev, Lyuben Karavelov and many others. In 1876, the April uprising broke out: the largest and best-organized Bulgarian rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. This rebellion, however, did not receive the expected support from the Bulgarian masses.

The Kingdom of Bulgaria

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

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

The Balkan Wars and World War I

In 1912 and 1913, Bulgaria became involved in the Balkan Wars, first entering into conflict alongside Greece, Serbia and Montenegro against the Ottoman Empire. The First Balkan War (1912-1913) proved a success for the Bulgarian army, but a conflict over the division of Macedonia arose amongst the victorious allies. The Second Balkan War (1913) pitted Bulgaria against Greece and Serbia, joined by Romania and Turkey. After its defeat in the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria lost considerable territory conquered in the first war, as well as Southern Dobrudzha and parts of the region of Macedonia.

During World War I, Bulgaria found itself fighting on the losing side as a result of its alliance with the Central Powers. Defeat in 1918 led to new territorial losses (the Western Outlands to Serbia, Western Thrace to Greece and the re-conquered Southern Dobrudzha to Romania). The Balkan Wars and World War I led to the influx of over 250,000 Bulgarian refugees from Macedonia, Eastern and Western Thrace and Southern Dobrudzha. These numbers increased in the 1930s following Serbia's state-sponsored aggression against its native Bulgarian population.[citation needed]

The interwar years

In September 1918, Tsar Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his son Boris III in order to head off revolutionary tendencies. Under the Treaty of Neuilly (November 1919), Bulgaria ceded its Aegean coastline to Greece, recognized the existence of Yugoslavia, ceded nearly all of its Macedonian territory to that new state, and had to give Dobrudzha back to the Romanians. The country had to reduce its army to 20,000 men, and to pay reparations exceeding $400 million. Bulgarians generally refer to the results of the treaty as the "Second National Catastrophe".

Elections in March 1920 gave the Agrarians a large majority, and Aleksandar Stamboliyski formed Bulgaria's first peasant government. He faced huge social problems, but succeeded in carrying out many reforms, although opposition from the middle and upper classes, the landlords and the officers of the army remained powerful. In March 1923 Stamboliyski signed an agreement with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia recognising the new border and agreeing to suppress Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO), which favoured a war to regain Macedonia from Bulgaria. This triggered a nationalist reaction, and the Bulgarian coup d'état of June 9 1923 eventually resulted in Stamboliykski's assassination. A right-wing government under Aleksandar Tsankov took power, backed by the army and the VMRO, which waged a White terror against the Agrarians and the Communists. In 1926 the Tsar persuaded Tsankov to resign, a more moderate government under Andrey Lyapchev took office and an amnesty was proclaimed, although the Communists remained banned. A popular alliance including the re-organised Agrarians won elections in 1931 under the name Popular Bloc.

In May 1934 another coup took place, removing the Popular Bloc from power and establishing an authoritarian military régime headed by Kimon Georgiev. A year later Tsar Boris managed to remove the military régime from power, restoring a form of parliamentary rule (without the re-establishment of the political parties) and under his own strict control. The Tsar's regime proclaimed neutrality, but gradually Bulgaria gravitated into alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

World War II

After regaining control over Southern Dobrudzha in 1940, Bulgaria became allied with the Axis Powers, although no Bulgarian soldiers participated in the war against the USSR. During World War II Nazi Germany allowed Bulgaria to occupy parts of Greece and of Yugoslavia. Bulgaria became one of only three countries (along with Finland and Denmark) that saved its entire Jewish population (around 50,000 people) from the Nazi camps by refusing to comply with a 31 August 1943 resolution. The Bulgarian authorities did however send Jews in territories newly-acquired (from Greece and Yugoslavia) to death-camps in response to a direct request from Germany.

In September 1944, the Soviet army entered Bulgaria, enabling the Bulgarian Communists (the Bulgarian Workers Party) to seize power and establish a communist state. In 1944, Bulgaria's forces turned against the country's former ally, Germany. The 450,000-man army in 1944 dwindled to 130,000 by 1945.

The People's Republic of Bulgaria

After World War II, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence. It became a People's Republic in 1946 and one of the USSR's staunchest allies. In the late 1970s, it began normalizing relations with Greece, and in the 1990s with Turkey. The People's Republic ended in 1989 as many Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, as well as the Soviet Union itself, began to collapse. Opposition forces removed the Bulgarian Communist leader Todor Zhivkov and his right-hand man Milko Balev from power on 10 November 1989.

The Republic of Bulgaria

In February 1990, the Communist Party voluntarily gave up its monopoly on power, and in June 1990 the first free elections since 1931 took place, won by the moderate wing of the Communist Party (renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party — BSP). In July 1991, the country adopted a new constitution which provided for a relatively weak elected President and for a Prime Minister accountable to the legislature.

The anti-Communist Union of Democratic Forces took office, and between 1992 and 1994 carried through the privatization of land and industry, but faced massive unemployment and economic difficulties. The reaction against economic reform allowed BSP to take office again in 1995, but by 1996 the BSP government had also encountered difficulties, and in the presidential elections of that year the UDF's Petar Stoyanov was elected. In 1997, the BSP government collapsed and the UDF came to power. Unemployment, however, remained high and the electorate became increasingly dissatisfied with both parties.

On June 17, 2001, Simeon II, the son of Tsar Boris III and the former Head of state (as Tsar of Bulgaria from 1943 to 1946), won a narrow victory in democratic elections. The king's party — National Movement Simeon II ("NMSII") — won 120 out of 240 seats in Parliament and overturned the two pre-existing political parties. Simeon's popularity declined during his four-year rule as Prime Minister, and the BSP won the elections in 2005, but could not form a single-party government and had to seek a coalition.

Since 1989, Bulgaria has held multi-party elections and privatized its economy, but economic difficulties and a tide of corruption have led over 800,000 Bulgarians, most of them qualified professionals, to emigrate. Since a reform package inroduced in 1997, the economy has returned to growth. Bulgaria became a member of NATO in 2004 and of the European Union in 2007.

Geography Location: Southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Romania and Turkey
Geographic coordinates: 43 00 N, 25 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 110,910 sq km
land: 110,550 sq km
water: 360 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than Tennessee
Land boundaries: total: 1,808 km
border countries: Greece 494 km, Macedonia 148 km, Romania 608 km, Serbia 318 km, Turkey 240 km
Coastline: 354 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: temperate; cold, damp winters; hot, dry summers
Terrain: mostly mountains with lowlands in north and southeast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Black Sea 0 m
highest point: Musala 2,925 m
Natural resources: bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, coal, timber, arable land
Land use: arable land: 29.94%
permanent crops: 1.9%
other: 68.16% (2005)
Irrigated land: 5,880 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 19.4 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 6.92 cu km/yr (3%/78%/19%)
per capita: 895 cu m/yr (2003)
Natural hazards: earthquakes, landslides
Environment - current issues: air pollution from industrial emissions; rivers polluted from raw sewage, heavy metals, detergents; deforestation; forest damage from air pollution and resulting acid rain; soil contamination from heavy metals from metallurgical plants and industrial wastes
Environment - international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: strategic location near Turkish Straits; controls key land routes from Europe to Middle East and Asia

Bulgaria joined NATO on March 29, 2004 and signed the European Union Treaty of Accession on 25 April 2005. It became a full member of the European Union on 1 January 2007. The country had joined the United Nations in 1955, and became a founding member of OSCE in 1995. As a Consultative Party to the Antarctic Treaty, Bulgaria takes part in the governing of the territories situated south of 60° south latitude.[citation needed]

Georgi Parvanov, the President of Bulgaria since 22 January 2002, won re-election on 29 October 2006 and began his second term in office in January 2007. (Bulgarian voters directly elect their presidents for a five-year term with the right to one re-election.) The president serves as the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He also chairs the Consultative Council for National Security. While unable to initiate legislation other than Constitutional amendments, the President can return a bill for further debate, although the parliament can override the President's veto by vote of a majority of all MPs.

Since 17 August 2005 Sergey Stanishev as Prime Minister has chaired the Council of Ministers, the principal body of the executive branch, which presently consists of 20 ministers. The Prime Minister — usually nominated by the largest parliamentary group — receives the mandate of the President to form a cabinet.

The current governmental coalition comprises the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (representing mainly the Turkish minority).

The Bulgarian unicameral parliament, the National Assembly or Narodno Sabranie (Народно събрание), consists of 240 deputies, each elected for four-year terms by popular vote. The votes go to parties or to coalition-lists of candidates for each of the 28 administrative divisions. A party or coalition must win a minimum of 4% of the vote in order to enter parliament. Parliament has the responsibility for enactment of laws, approval of the budget, scheduling of presidential elections, selection and dismissal of the Prime Minister and other ministers, declaration of war, deployment of troops outside of Bulgaria, and ratification of international treaties and agreements.

The most recent elections took place in June 2005. The next scheduled elections should take place in summer 2009.

The Bulgarian judicial system consists of regional, district and appeal courts, as well as a Supreme Court of Cassation. In addition, Bulgaria has a Supreme Administrative Court and a system of military courts. A qualified majority of two-thirds of the membership of the Supreme Judicial Council elects the Presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation and of the Supreme Administrative Court, as well as the Prosecutor General, from among its members; the President of the Republic then appoints those elected. The Supreme Judicial Council has charge of the self-administration and organization of the Judiciary.

The Constitutional Court supervises the review of the constitutionality of laws and statutes brought before it, as well as the compliance of these laws with international treaties that the Government has signed. Parliament elects the twelve members of the Constitutional Court by a two-thirds majority: the members serve for a nine-year term.

The territory of the Republic of Bulgaria subdivides into provinces and municipalities. In all, Bulgaria has 28 provinces, each headed by a provincial governor appointed by the government. In addition, the country includes 263 municipalities.

People Population: 7,322,858 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.9% (male 521,117/female 496,022)
15-64 years: 68.7% (male 2,472,424/female 2,556,102)
65 years and over: 17.4% (male 523,660/female 753,533) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 40.9 years
male: 38.8 years
female: 43.1 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.837% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 9.62 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 14.28 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.71 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.051 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.967 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.695 male(s)/female
total population: 0.924 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 19.16 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 22.75 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 15.37 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.57 years
male: 68.95 years
female: 76.4 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.39 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 346 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 100 (2001 est.)
Nationality: noun: Bulgarian(s)
adjective: Bulgarian
Ethnic groups: Bulgarian 83.9%, Turk 9.4%, Roma 4.7%, other 2% (including Macedonian, Armenian, Tatar, Circassian) (2001 census)
Religions: Bulgarian Orthodox 82.6%, Muslim 12.2%, other Christian 1.2%, other 4% (2001 census)
Languages: Bulgarian 84.5%, Turkish 9.6%, Roma 4.1%, other and unspecified 1.8% (2001 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98.2%
male: 98.7%
female: 97.7% (2001 census)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Bulgaria
conventional short form: Bulgaria
local long form: Republika Balgariya
local short form: Balgariya
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: name: Sofia
geographic coordinates: 42 41 N, 23 19 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions: 28 provinces (oblasti, singular - oblast); Blagoevgrad, Burgas, Dobrich, Gabrovo, Khaskovo, Kurdzhali, Kyustendil, Lovech, Montana, Pazardzhik, Pernik, Pleven, Plovdiv, Razgrad, Ruse, Shumen, Silistra, Sliven, Smolyan, Sofiya, Sofiya-Grad, Stara Zagora, Turgovishte, Varna, Veliko Turnovo, Vidin, Vratsa, Yambol
Independence: 3 March 1878 (as an autonomous principality within the Ottoman Empire); 22 September 1908 (complete independence from the Ottoman Empire)
National holiday: Liberation Day, 3 March (1878)
Constitution: adopted 12 July 1991
Legal system: civil law and criminal law based on Roman law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Georgi PARVANOV (since 22 January 2002); Vice President Angel MARIN (since 22 January 2002)
head of government: Prime Minister Sergei STANISHEV (since 16 August 2005); Deputy Prime Ministers Ivaylo KALFIN, Daniel VULCHEV, and Emel ETEM (since 16 August 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers nominated by the prime minister and elected by the National Assembly
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 22 and 29 October 2006 (next to be held in 2011); chairman of the Council of Ministers (prime minister) nominated by the president and elected by the National Assembly; deputy prime ministers nominated by the prime minister and elected by the National Assembly
election results: Georgi PARVANOV reelected president; percent of vote - Georgi PARVANOV 77.3%, Volen SIDEROV 22.7%; Sergei STANISHEV elected prime minister, result of legislative vote - 168 to 67
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Narodno Sobranie (240 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 25 June 2005 (next to be held in June 2009)
election results: percent of vote by party - CfB 31.1%, NMS2 19.9%, MRF 12.7%, ATAKA 8.2%, UDF 7.7%, DSB 6.5%, BPU 5.2%, other 8.7%; seats by party - CfB 83, NMS2 53, MRF 33, UDF 20, ATAKA 17, DSB 17, BPU 13, independents 4; note - seats by party as of January 2008 - CfB 82, NMS2 36, MRF 34, UDF 16, DSB 16, Bulgarian New Democracy 16, BPU 13, ATAKA 11, independents 16
Judicial branch: Supreme Administrative Court; Supreme Court of Cassation; Constitutional Court (12 justices appointed or elected for nine-year terms); Supreme Judicial Council (consists of the chairmen of the two Supreme Courts, the Chief Prosecutor, and 22 other members; responsible for appointing the justices, prosecutors, and investigating magistrates in the justice system; members of the Supreme Judicial Council elected for five-year terms, 11 elected by the National Assembly and 11 by bodies of the judiciary)
Political parties and leaders: ATAKA (Attack Coalition) (coalition of parties headed by the Attack National Union); Attack National Union [Volen SIDEROV]; Bulgarian Agrarian National Union-People's Union or BANU [Anastasia MOZER]; Bulgarian New Democracy [Borislav RALCHEV]; Bulgarian People's Union or BPU (coalition of UFD, IMRO, and BANU); Bulgarian Socialist Party or BSP [Sergei STANISHEV]; Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria or GERB [Boyko BORISOV]; Coalition for Bulgaria or CfB (coalition of parties dominated by BSP) [Sergei STANISHEV]; Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria or DSB [Ivan KOSTOV]; Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization or IMRO [Krasimir KARAKACHANOV]; Movement for Rights and Freedoms or MRF [Ahmed DOGAN]; National Movement for Stability and Progress or NDSV [Simeon SAXE-COBURG-GOTHA]; New Time [Emil KOSHLUKOV]; Union of Democratic Forces or UDF [Petar STOYANOV]; Union of Free Democrats or UFD [Stefan SOFIYANSKI]; United Democratic Forces or UtDF (a coalition of center-right parties dominated by UDF)
Political pressure groups and leaders: Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria or CITUB; Podkrepa Labor Confederation; numerous regional, ethnic, and national interest groups with various agendas
International organization participation: ACCT, Australia Group, BIS, BSEC, CE, CEI, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EU (new member), FAO, G- 9, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NAM (guest), NATO, NSG, OAS (observer), OIF, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, SECI, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMEE, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WEU (associate affiliate), WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Elena B. POPTODOROVA
chancery: 1621 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 387-0174
FAX: [1] (202) 234-7973
consulate(s) general: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador John Ross BEYRLE
embassy: 16 Kozyak Street, Sofia 1407
mailing address: American Embassy Sofia, US Department of State, 5740 Sofia Place, Washington, DC 20521-5740
telephone: [359] (2) 937-5100
FAX: [359] (2) 937-5320
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of white (top), green, and red
note: the national emblem, formerly on the hoist side of the white stripe, has been removed

A country often described as lying at the crossroads linking the East and West, Bulgaria functioned as the hub of Slavic Europe during much of the Middle Ages, exerting considerable literary and cultural influence over the Eastern Orthodox Slavic world by means of the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools. Bulgaria also gave the world the Cyrillic alphabet, the second most-widely used alphabet in the world, which originated in these two schools in the tenth century AD.

Bulgaria has a reputation for rich folklore, distinctive traditional music, rituals and tales.

A number of ancient civilizations, most notably the Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Slavs, and Bulgars, have left their mark on the culture, history and heritage of Bulgaria. The country has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
The early medieval large rock relief Madara Rider.
two Thracian tombs (one in Sveshtari and one in Kazanlak)
three monuments of medieval Bulgarian culture (the Boyana Church, the Rila Monastery and the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo)
two examples of natural beauty: the Pirin National Park and the Srebarna Nature Reserve
the ancient city of Nesebar, a unique combination of European cultural interaction, as well as, historically, one of the most important centres of sea-borne trade in the Black Sea

Note also the Varna Necropolis, a 3500-3200 BC burial-site, purportedly containing the oldest examples of worked gold in the world.

Bulgaria's contribution to humanity continued in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with individuals such as John Atanasoff — born in the U.S. with Bulgarian origins, regarded as the father of the digital computer. A number of noted opera-singers (Nicolai Ghiaurov, Boris Christoff, Raina Kabaivanska, Ghena Dimitrova), Anna Veleva, and successful artists (Christo Yavashev, Pascin, Vladimir Dimitrov) popularized the culture of Bulgaria abroad.

One of the best internationally-known artists, Valya Balkanska sang the song Izlel e Delyu Haydutin, part of the Voyager Golden Record selection of music included in the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir also known as Mystery of Bulgarian voices has also achieved fame.

Economy Economy - overview: Bulgaria, a former communist country that entered the EU on 1 January 2007, has experienced strong growth since a major economic downturn in 1996. Successive governments have demonstrated commitment to economic reforms and responsible fiscal planning, but have failed so far to rein in rising inflation and large current account deficits. Bulgaria has averaged more than 6% growth since 2004, attracting significant amounts of foreign direct investment, but corruption in the public administration, a weak judiciary, and the presence of organized crime remain significant challenges.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $86.73 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $39.07 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 6.1% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $11,800 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 8.1%
industry: 31.3%
services: 60.7% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 3.44 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 8.5%
industry: 33.6%
services: 57.9% (2nd qtr. 2006 est.)
Unemployment rate: 8% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: 14.1% (2003 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.9%
highest 10%: 25.4% (2005)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 31.6 (2005)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 7.8% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 27.6% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $16.62 billion
expenditures: $15.18 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 18.2% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: vegetables, fruits, tobacco, wine, wheat, barley, sunflowers, sugar beets; livestock
Industries: electricity, gas, water; food, beverages, tobacco; machinery and equipment, base metals, chemical products, coke, refined petroleum, nuclear fuel
Industrial production growth rate: 5.5% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 45.7 billion kWh (2006)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 47.8%
hydro: 8.1%
nuclear: 44.1%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 37.4 billion kWh (2006)
Electricity - exports: 7.8 billion kWh (2006)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2006)
Oil - production: 3,661 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 108,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 51,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - imports: 138,800 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - proved reserves: 15 million bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 407,000 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 5.179 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 5.179 billion cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 5.703 billion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$7.189 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $19.77 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: clothing, footwear, iron and steel, machinery and equipment, fuels
Exports - partners: Turkey 12%, Italy 10.4%, Germany 10%, Greece 8.2%, Belgium 6.8%, France 4.3% (2006)
Imports: $28.79 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment; metals and ores; chemicals and plastics; fuels, minerals, and raw materials
Imports - partners: Germany 15%, Italy 10.6%, Turkey 7.2%, Greece 6.3%, China 5%, France 4.9%, Romania 4.5% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $742 million (2005-06 est.)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $13.8 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $29.29 billion (30 June 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $20.86 billion (2006 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $345.8 million (2006 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $10.32 billion (2006)
Currency (code): lev (BGL)
Currency code: BGN
Exchange rates: leva per US dollar - 1.4366 (2007), 1.5576 (2006), 1.5741 (2005), 1.5751 (2004), 1.7327 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 2.399 million (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 8.253 million (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: an extensive but antiquated telecommunications network inherited from the Soviet era; quality has improved; the Bulgaria Telecommunications Company's fixed-line monopoly terminated in 2005 when alternative fixed-line operators were given access to its network; a drop in fixed-line connections in recent years has been offset by a sharp increase in mobile-cellular telephone use fostered by multiple service providers
domestic: a fairly modern digital cable trunk line now connects switching centers in most of the regions; the others are connected by digital microwave radio relay
international: country code - 359; submarine cable provides connectivity to Ukraine and Russia; a combination submarine cable and land fiber-optic system provides connectivity to Italy, Albania, and Macedonia; satellite earth stations - 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); 2 Intelsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions) (2007)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 31, FM 63, shortwave 2 (2001)
Radios: 4.51 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 39 (plus 1,242 repeaters) (2001)
Televisions: 3.31 million (1997)
Internet country code: .bg
Internet hosts: 298,781 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 200 (2001)
Internet users: 1.87 million (2006)
Transportation Airports: 214 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 131
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 18
1,524 to 2,437 m: 15
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 95 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 83
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 72 (2007)
Heliports: 4 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 2,500 km; oil 339 km; refined products 156 km (2007)
Railways: total: 4,294 km
standard gauge: 4,049 km 1.435-m gauge (2,710 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 245 km 0.760-m gauge (2006)
Roadways: total: 44,033 km
paved: 43,593 km (includes 333 km of expressways)
unpaved: 440 km (2004)
Waterways: 470 km (2007)
Merchant marine: total: 71 ships (1000 GRT or over) 833,153 GRT/1,194,660 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 37, cargo 14, chemical tanker 4, container 6, liquefied gas 1, passenger/cargo 2, petroleum tanker 3, roll on/roll off 4
foreign-owned: 3 (Germany 1, Ireland 1, Russia 1)
registered in other countries: 39 (Comoros 1, Malta 15, Mongolia 2, Panama 1, Slovakia 7, St Vincent and The Grenadines 13) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Burgas, Varna
Military Military branches: Bulgarian Armed Forces: Ground Forces, Naval Forces, Bulgarian Air Forces (Bulgarski Voennovazdyshni Sily, BVVS) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18-27 years of age for voluntary military service; conscript service obligation - 9 months; as of May 2006, 67% of the Bulgarian Army comprised of professional soldiers; conscription ended as of 1 January 2008; Air and Air Defense Forces and Naval Forces became fully professional at the end of 2006 (2008)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 1,661,211
females age 18-49: 1,660,982 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 1,302,037
females age 18-49: 1,365,126 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 51,023
females age 18-49: 48,651 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2.6% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: none
Illicit drugs: major European transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin and, to a lesser degree, South American cocaine for the European market; limited producer of precursor chemicals; some money laundering of drug-related proceeds through financial institutions