Official name: Republic of Bulgaria
Location: Bulgaria is situated in Southeastern Europe occupying the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula
Area: 111.000 sq km./42 857 sq. miles
Population: 7,050,034 inhabitants (December 2017 est)
Capital: Sofia (1, 5 million inhabitants)
Landscape: Extremely varied - large plains and lowlands, low and high mountains, valleys and lovely gorges as well as sandy seaside beaches
State Government: Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic
President: Rumen Radev
Official Language: Bulgarian (Southern Slavic language)
Religions: 86.6% of the population is Eastern Orthodox, 13% is Muslim. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is autonomous and headed by a Patriarch
Winter time: UTS +2 hours (October through March)
Summer time: UTS +2 hours (April through September)
Summer temperatures: average 26º to 35ºC
(40 ºC is not uncommon)
Winter temperatures: average -5º to 5ºC
Country dialing code: +359
Measure units: degree Celsius (ºC), meter (m.), gram (gr.), liter (l.)
The territory of present-day Bulgaria was first inhabited by early humans as long as 1.6 million years ago. In the Kozarnika cave (in northwest Bulgaria) scholars have discovered the second-oldest traces of humans and their culture in Europe (after Georgia). In the past 100 years of prehistoric research in Bulgaria, many Paleolithic sites related to Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens have been discovered and studied. Bulgaria (along with the entire Balkan Peninsula) was among the first region in Europe to be settled by migrating Neolithic farmers from Asia Minor, who by the late 7th millennium BC, brought the achievements of the Neolithic revolution to Europe and established vibrant Neolithic societies. In the following Stone-Copper Age, thanks to the dissemination of metal-processing technologies and the ore sources of Southeastern Europe, prehistoric Balkan societies were able to turn metal-processing into an industry, becoming the first metal traders in the world by 4500-4200 BC. Trade with copper and other goods (salt in northeast Bulgaria), advanced agricultural practices, and demographic growth led to increasing wealth
and social stratification within Stone-Copper Age societies. Significant evidence of these processes can be found at the famous necropolis near Varna (4600-4200 BC, Northeast Bulgaria). Excavated graves contained much more gold compared to all gold found in the rest of the world before and during the same age. The end of the Stone-Copper Age was marked by serious climate changes that drastically altered these societies’ natural environment and by nomad invaders from the northeast (presumably Indo-Europeans), who introduced a new metal (bronze) and a new type of animal (the horse) to the Balkans. These invaders conquered the Balkan Peninsula and settled there either replacing or assimilating the indigenous population. The Bronze Age was characterized by transcontinental trade with bronze, copper and other goods, in which Balkan societies played a considerable role. Early Indo-European tribes were the ancestors of the Ancient Greeks, Thracians, Phrygians, Illyrians and other people who shaped the history of Southeastern Europe and Asia Minor in the subsequent Iron Age.
From the 3rd millennium BC until the end of Late Antiquity, the territory of present-day Bulgaria was inhabited by the Thracians. According to Herodotus, the Thracians were the second-largest ethnic group in the ancient world, after the Indians. They occupied vast territories from the Carpathian Mountains to the Aegean Sea. During certain periods, some Thracian tribes dominated others or founded kingdoms - strong and wealthy enough to withstand incursions by the Persians, Greeks, Celts, Scythians and Macedonians. Although they never created a large pan-Thracian state, the Odrysian Kingdom (6th century BC – 45 AD) ranked as the largest and among the strongest states in Southeastern Europe for approximately 150 years (late 6th to early 4th century BC). Thracian culture was created as a result of constant multicultural interactions from the Late Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC) until the end of Late Antiquity. It was influenced by
the Great Greek Colonization which began in the 7th century BC along the Aegean Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea shores; as well as by the Persian civilization in the 6th and 5th centuries BC; by the Scythians; the rise and fall of the Macedonian Kingdom (4th – 2nd century BC); and Celtic invasions (3rd century BC). Visible remnants of the once-flourishing Thracian culture include: monumental temples, heroons (shrines or temples dedicated to a hero) and tombs all over Bulgaria, as well as the world famous Thracian gold and silver treasures exhibited at Bulgarian museums. The Thracians were considered the best horse-breeders and among the bravest soldiers in the ancient world, recognizable by their double spears, swords called akinakos and Phrygian (also called Thracian) helmets. Some of the well-known deities and heroes in the Greek pantheon are actually of Thracian origin: Dionysus, Orpheus, etc.
In the 2nd century BC the Roman Empire gradually started to conquer the Balkan Peninsula. Immediately preceding the colonization, the Thracians were as disunited as ever. Some kingdoms in the south were culturally part of the Hellenistic world, eager to cooperate with the emerging Roman Republic, while kingdoms in the north resisted and fought the Romans. Greek colonies on the Black Sea coast also opposed the Roman expansion (unsuccessfully). The Roman campaign in the Eastern Balkan territories took more than a century. In 15 AD the province of Moesia was established in what is present-day northern Bulgaria, and Thracia (in southern Bulgaria) was established around 45 AD, while Dacia replaced the Dacian Kingdom north of the Danube (in present-day Romania) as late as 106 AD during the rule of Emperor Trajan.
Roman rule brought most of the greatest achievements of the period: new towns were established and old ones were rebuilt by Roman standards; monumental buildings, roads, bridges and aqueducts (water-mains) were constructed, while trade flourished. Along the Danube River, which served as a border, a system of towns and fortresses was built to protect Pax Romana from the Barbarian World.
In the southern Thracian lands, the Greek language and Hellenistic culture mixed with local traditions continued to dominate, even during the Roman Period. In the north, Latin-based culture consequently replaced the former Thracian identity.
The Great Migration of People started in the Balkans when the Visigoths crossed the Danube in 375 AD. Year after year throughout the 5th to the 7th centuries AD, various barbarian tribes – Goths, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars, etc. – managed to break through the Danubian border and to devastate the provinces in the Eastern Balkans. These invasions and the Black Death pandemic in the 6th century AD created a demographic gap and considerably changed the political and ethnic map in the Balkans. In 6th and 7th centuries AD the surviving Roman (Byzantine) population abandoned the land and moved to the largest fortified cities in the southern or coastal parts of the peninsula, to the benefit of numerous Slavic tribes (originally from northern parts of Central Europe). Slavs invaded the Balkans and settled on the deserted Roman territories. A new era began: the Middle Ages.
In 680 AD another ethnic group settled in the northeastern Balkans – the Bulgars (also called Proto-Bulgarians). Their origins are still under dispute in scholarly circles, with various hypotheses claiming they were Iranian, Turko-Mongolian or both. They inhabited the plains between the Caucasus Mountains, the Volga River, and the Caspian and Black Sea, where in 632 AD the Bulgarian Khan Kubrat established a powerful kingdom, known as the Old Great Bulgaria. After his death the kingdom was defeated by the Khazars. However, Bulgars who lived in the western parts of the Old Great Bulgaria (along the Black Sea between the Lower Dnieper and the Danube Delta) maintained their independence. Led by Kubrat’s son Khan Asparuh, they crossed the Danube and invaded the territories to the south, defeating the Byzantine army in 681. As a result, the Byzantine Emperor accepted the status quo of a “Barbaric” state expanding over Roman territories. Some historians consider 632 AD as the date of the establishment of the Bulgarian state; others consider 681 AD as a nation-founding date. In the 7th through the 9th centuries AD, Bulgaria conquered new territories westwards in the Balkans and Central Europe. The Bulgars and local Slavic tribes established an alliance which led to a demographic assimilation of the Bulgars by the more numerous Slavs in the following centuries. Thus, the later Bulgarians are descendents both of Bulgars and Slavs. In 864 AD the Bulgarian Khan Boris I (852-889) accepted Christianity and baptized the Bulgarians. He changed also his pagan title “khan” to “king.”
The first Slavonic alphabet - Glagolitsa, created in 855 AD by St. Cyril and St. Methodius was adopted soon after this conversion, but at the end of the 9th century it was replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet upon the orders of King Boris I. The new alphabet was created by St. Kliment of Ohrid (a high-ranking Bulgarian official and bishop) and named in honour of his teacher, St. Cyril. It is an adapted version of the Greek alphabet, making it far more comprehensible for literate medieval Bulgarian elites. This is how the Cyrillic alphabet was created and introduced into the Slavic world.
The reign of Tsar Simeon (893-927), son of King Boris, is called the Golden Age of the First Bulgarian Empire, due to the development of arts, literature and the economy. As a symbol of the new, Christian era in Bulgarian history, the capital was moved from the former capital Pliska, which was associated with paganism, to the newly built city of Preslav (“the most glorious city”). Simeon was crowned there as tsar (emperor) in 917 AD; however, Byzantium recognized Bulgaria as the first non-Roman empire in Eastern Europe ten years later, in 927 AD. In that same year, the patriarch of Constantinople recognized the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as an independent patriarchate. The late 10th and early 11th centuries in Bulgarian history are marked by consecutive wars against the Russians and the Byzantines, which ended with the downfall of the First Bulgarian Empire and its inclusion in the Byzantine Empire for the next century and a half (1018-1185).
In 1185 AD, the brothers Petar, Asen and Kaloyan – Bulgarian aristocrats and Byzantine vassals – revolted against their suzerain and revived the Bulgarian Empire with Tarnovo as its new capital city. During the reigns of Tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207) and Tsar Ivan Asen II (1218-1241), the Second Bulgarian Empire became the dominant political power in southeastern Europe, with territories stretching from the Adriatic to the Black Sea and from the Aegean Sea to the Carpathian Mountains. Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331-1371) led the Bulgarian Empire into a period of economic growth and cultural renaissance, while the second half of the 14th century was a period of political decentralization and defensive wars against the Ottomans and the Hungarians. In 1396, Bulgaria (technically the Vidin Empire – the last independent part of the decentralized medieval Bulgarian Tsardom) was conquered by the Ottomans and remained part of that empire until 1878.
The Ottoman conquest caused a demographic collapse, destroyed the elite of Bulgarian medieval society and also marginalized the Christian church. It is blamed for slowing Bulgarian development and removing Bulgarian culture from the orbit of European civilization for five centuries. In the 18th century, the Bulgarian National Revival Period started during which Bulgarians achieved new confidence based on economic prosperity and a national identity reconnected with medieval Bulgaria as well as the contemporary European civilization.
As a result of long-lasting political and revolutionary struggles, along with diplomacy, Ottomans in the 19th century made reforms which recognized the cultural, educational and ecclesiastic autonomy of Bulgarians in the Ottoman Empire. In 1878 after the Russo-Turkish Liberation War, the modern Bulgarian state was established as a constitutional monarchy. Bulgaria took part in the First Balkan War (1912-1913) along with its allies Serbia, Greece and Montenegro against the Ottoman Empire.
The Christian alliance won the war and limited the territorial possessions of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans to the region around Istanbul (Eastern Thrace and the Turkish Straits).
As a result of being on the “wrong” side in the Second Balkan war (1913), World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945), Bulgaria lost one-third of the territories (the northern Aegean coast and Macedonia) which were inhabited predominantly with Bulgarians, as well as 200,000 soldiers. Between 1912 and 1940, approximately one million Bulgarian refugees had to leave their homes in what are today northern Greece, northwestern Turkey, Serbia and Romania due to ethnic cleansing and the politics of nationalistic assimilation. A plebiscite held in 1946 abolished the Bulgarian monarchy. Between 1944 and 1989 the country belonged to the Eastern socialist bloc and Warsaw Pact. The process of democratization, as well as the transition to a market economy, was long and hard but ultimately successful. In 2004, the country joined NATO and in January of 2007, it became a full member state of the European Union.
Bulgaria is a Parliamentary Republic and the basic power in the country is the legislative one. The Parliament (The National Assembly) exercises the legislative power, as well as the right to parliamentary control.
The mandate of the National Assembly is a 4 - year one.
The National Assembly consists of 240 MPs. They are elected directly by the voters for a 4 year term, on the basis of the proportional system. So that the parties and the pre-election coalitions enter the National Assembly, they must collect above 4% of the total number of votes at the elections. The MPs of the National Assembly represent not only their election regions, but the whole nation as well. The MPs work in compliance with the Constitution and the legislation, following their conscience and convictions. The National Assembly elects temporary and permanent commissions, where MPs participate. It adopts laws, decisions, declarations and statements. Every member of the National Assembly or the Council of Ministers has the right to introduce a draft of a law. The draft law on the state budget is developed and introduced by the Council of Ministers.
The Government (The Council of Ministers) is the main body of the executive power, headed by the Prime Minister. The Council of Ministers rules and conducts the internal and foreign policy of the state, secures the public order and the national security, exercises control over the public administration and the military forces.
The Prime Minister to be is nominated by the largest parliamentary group, after which the President hands in the mandate to him for forming the government. The proposed Council of Ministers is voted by the National Assembly, which controls directly the activity of the government.
The President is the Head of State and is elected with direct elections once in every five years, for not more that two mandates.
The Vice President is elected at the same time, with the same voting paper, and under the same conditions and procedure, as of the President.
The President is the supreme commander of the military forces of the Republic of Bulgaria. He assigns and discharges the supreme command staff of the military forces and promotes the supreme officers into higher ranks on proposals by the Council of Ministers. The President is the Chairperson of the Consultative Council for national security.
The status and powers of the local executive authorities depend on the territory structure of the country.
The municipality is the main administrative territorial unit for the local government. The policy of every municipality is determined by the Municipality Council and includes the economic development, the environmental policy, the educational, the cultural, etc. activities. The Municipality Council approves the annual budgets and development plans of the corresponding municipality.
Every municipality is ruled by a Mayor. The Mayor is in charge of the whole executive activity of the municipality, of keeping the public order, and organizes the distribution of the municipality budget.
The region is the bigger administrative territorial unit. Through it the governmental local policy is conducted in a decentralized and more effective way. A regional governor, assigned by the Council of Ministers, rules each region.
The judicial power in Bulgaria is independent. It is built up on the basis of a procedure of three instances.
The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC), and the Supreme Cassation Court (SCC) exercise control over the implementation of the law by the courts of lower instances, and take decisions on the legality of the executive power’s acts.
The Constitutional Court determines if the laws and the international agreements are in compliance with the Constitution.
A Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has been established, which organizes the activity of the judiciary.
The acting Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria was adopted in July 1991. It was built on the basic principles of the contemporary constitutionalism.
The Constitution provides a multi- party parliamentary system and free elections, in which all the citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria take part with the right to vote. After the elections, the largest parliamentary group constructs the government. So that the government is approved (The Council of Ministers), as well as for adoption of regular legal acts, general parliament majority is required. Amendments in the Constitution are to be adopted through three quarters of parliament majority.
Schooling is compulsory for children aged between 7 and 6. There is pre-school education, primary, secondary, and higher education in Bulgaria.
School instruction is supported by the Ministry of Education and Science.
One hundred per cent of Bulgarian schools have computer rooms.
The educational system is being modernized with the help of various European programmes and Structural Funds related to the development of education.
National programmes for mainstreaming of children belonging to the minority groups in the country, as well as of children with disabilities, are elaborated.
There are 51 accredited universities in the country, specializing in various fields and recognized abroad.
The St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia, the University of National and World Economy, the American University in Bulgaria, the Institute for Foreign Students and a number of other higher schools tutor young Bulgarians for a fine career.
Fifteen per cent of citizens in Bulgaria have higher education.
Under the Higher Education Act, university education is provided at three levels of tuition, leading to a bachelor's, master's, and doctor's degree.
Bulgarian society has always been associated with sports. According to historical data, competitions were held in the Bulgarian lands back in antiquity. Bulgarians were strong horsemen, athletes and wrestlers.
A number of Bulgarian athletes have won fame for their country during the years. A large part of them set standards in sports, such as the schools of weightlifting, weightlifting, rhythmic gymnastics and gymnastics. Despite the lack of long-standing traditions in some modern sports, Bulgarian competitors excel there, too, such as short track speed skating, aerobic, figure skating. A sample of the best:
Bulgaria's first European champion, Dan Koloff, a 20th century legend. He left for America at age 17, where he began his wrestling career first in fights organized among workers, and later on became the King of the Ketch. Throughout his sports career, he defeated opponents in countries on all five continents, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China. Dan Koloff lost just three of his 1,500 bouts. During all his life, Dan Koloff kept his Bulgarian citizenship and competed as a Bulgarian wrestler.
Neshka Robeva is a noted Bulgarian rhythmic gymnastics competitor and, later, on coach and choreographer. Robeva is the world's only coach who trained several world champions at a series of world championships, using unconventional and new elements in her girls' routines, that propelled them to the top of the victory stand. Robeva invented a new type of gymnastics: not a sport, and not even an art, but a philosophy and a world view. For nearly 25 years of coaching, her charges won 294 models, seven all-around world titles, ten European titles and two silver Olympic medals.
Dimitar Penev is a well-known Bulgarian footballer and coach, who led the national team to a glorious fourth place in the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the US. He has been named Coach of the 20th Century in Bulgaria.
Hristo Stoichkov is a Bulgarian footballer and coach, one of the best known Bulgarians worldwide, a forward. Winner of the prestigious Golden Ball Award in 1994.
Stefka Kostadinova: the Bulgarian Track-and-Field Athletics Queen. She has on her record seven gold medals from indoor and outdoor world and European championships. Olympic champion, Atlanta, 1996. Set the world record in the high jump, 209 cm, in 1997, which remains unbroken to this very day. Currently President of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee.
Evgenia Radanova: a short track speed skaters, who has won seven European champion's title and three Olympic medals: a silver and a bronze in Salt Late City, 2002, and a silver in Turin, 2006. World record holder in the 500 m event.
Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski: world figure skating champions.
Tereza Marinova: European, world and Olympic champion (Sydney 2000) in the triple jump.
Yordan Yovchev is among Bulgaria's most successful gymnasts. Winner of four Olympic medals, twice double champion in the floor exercises and in the rings at the 2001 and 2003 world championships, won two silver medals at the World Championship in Debrecen, 2002, and silver and bronze medals at the Athens Olympics, 2004.
Ekaterina Dafovska: the most successful Bulgarian biathlete. Takes credit for one Olympic and one European title, as well as two bronze medals at world championships.
Vesselin Topalov: Bulgarian chess player, who became the World Chess Champion in 2005. The strongest chess player in this country, who has defeated all famous grand masters in the world and has won a number of international tournaments.
Peter Stoichev: Bulgarian swimmer, seven-times winner of the Marathon Swimming World Cup. On 27 August 2007 set a world record for a cross-Channel swim. Became the first human to cover the distance in less than seven hours.
Armen Nazarian: Armenian-born Bulgarian wrestler, who won a freestyle wrestling gold medal for Bulgaria at the 200 Sydney Olympics.
Tanya Bogomilova won Bulgaria's first Olympic gold in the 100 m breaststroke in the Seoul 1988 Olympics.
Maria Grozdeva: a shooting competitor, winner of numerous European and world titles, and Olympic champion in the women's sport pistol. Holder of an Olympic and European record in the air pistol.
This is a small selection of Bulgarian athletes in whom our country takes pride. They all continue to work for the development and popularization of Bulgarian sports.
Bulgaria has a strategic location in the center of Southeastern Europe and the main roads of Europe to the Middle East and Asia pass through
2013 Economic Snapshot
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Long-term credit ratings:
Moody’s: Baa2 stable
The most important sectors of Bulgaria’s economy in 2016 were industry (23.8 %), wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (22.2 %) and public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (14.1 %).
Intra-EU trade accounts for 68% of Bulgaria’s exports (Germany 14%, Italy 9% and Romania 9%), while outside the EU 8% go to Turkey and 2% to China.
In terms of imports, 67% come from EU countries (Germany 13%, Italy 8% and Romania 7%), while outside the EU 9% come from Russia and 6% from Turkey.
In the Council of the EU, national ministers meet regularly to adopt EU laws and coordinate policies. Council meetings are regularly attended by representatives from the Bulgarian government, depending on the policy area being addressed.
The Council of the EU doesn't have a permanent, single-person president (like e.g. the Commission or Parliament). Instead, its work is led by the country holding the Council presidency, which rotates every 6 months.
During these 6 months, ministers from that country's government chair and help determine the agenda of Council meetings in each policy area, and facilitate dialogue with the other EU institutions.
Dates of Bulgarian presidencies:
The following link is a redirection to an external websiteCurrent presidency of the Council of the EU
The Commissioner nominated by Bulgaria to the European Commission is Mariya Gabriel, who is responsible for Digital Economy and Society.
The Commission is represented in each EU country by a local office, called a "representation".
Bulgaria has 12 representatives on the European Economic and Social Committee. This advisory body – representing employers, workers and other interest groups – is consulted on proposed laws, to get a better idea of the possible changes to work and social situations in member countries.
Bulgaria has 12 representatives on the European Committee of the Regions, the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. This advisory body is consulted on proposed laws, to ensure these laws take account of the perspective from each region of the EU.
Bulgaria also communicates with the EU institutions through its permanent representation in Brussels. As Bulgaria's "embassy to the EU", its main task is to ensure that the country's interests and policies are pursued as effectively as possible in the EU.
Member countries' financial contributions to the EU budget are shared fairly, according to means. The larger your country's economy, the more it pays – and vice versa. The EU budget doesn't aim to redistribute wealth, but rather to focus on the needs of all Europeans as a whole.
Breakdown of Bulgaria’s finances with the EU in 2017:
More figures on the EU budget, revenue and spending:
The money paid into the EU budget by Bulgaria helps fund programmes and projects in all EU countries - like building roads, subsidising researchers and protecting the environment.
Find out more about how Bulgaria benefits from EU funding.