Bulgaria

Coordinates: 42°41′51″N 23°19′21″E / 42.69750°N 23.32250°E / 42.69750; 23.32250 (Largo)
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Republic of Bulgaria
Република България
Republika Bŭlgariya
Motto: Съединението прави силата
Sŭedinenieto pravi silata
("
Ethnic groups
(2021)[2]
Religion
(2021 census)[2]
  • 15.9% no religion
  • 9.8% Islam
  • 0.1% other
  • 9.5% unanswered
Demonym(s)
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary republic
• President
Rumen Radev
Iliana Iotova
Dimitar Glavchev
Raya Nazaryan
LegislatureNational Assembly
Establishment history
681–1018
1185–1396
3 March 1878
5 October 1908
• Monarchy abolished
15 September 1946
Area
• Total
110,993.6[3] km2 (42,854.9 sq mi) (103rd)
• Water (%)
2.16[4]
Population
• 2023 estimate
Neutral decrease 6,385,500 (109th)
• Density
63/km2 (163.2/sq mi) (154th)
GDP (PPP)2023 estimate
• Total
Increase $216.499 billion[5] (73rd)
• Per capita
Increase $33,780[5] (55th)
GDP (nominal)2023 estimate
• Total
Increase $103.099 billion[5] (69th)
• Per capita
Increase $16,086[5] (60th)
Gini (2023)Positive decrease 37.2[6]
medium
HDI (2022)Increase 0.799[7]
high (70th)
CurrencyLev (BGN)
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+3 (EEST)
Calling code+359
ISO 3166 codeBG
Internet TLD

Bulgaria,[a] officially the Republic of Bulgaria,[b] is a country in Southeast Europe. Located west of the Black Sea and south of the Danube river, Bulgaria is bordered by Greece and Turkey to the south, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, and Romania to the north. It covers a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi) and is the 16th largest country in Europe. Sofia is the nation's capital and largest city; other major cities include Burgas, Plovdiv, and Varna.

One of the earliest societies in the lands of modern-day Bulgaria was the

Ivan Asen II (1218–1241). After numerous exhausting wars and feudal strife, the empire disintegrated and in 1396 fell under Ottoman
rule for nearly five centuries.

The

irredentist sentiments that led to several conflicts with its neighbours and alliances with Germany in both world wars. In 1946, Bulgaria came under the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc and became a socialist state. The ruling Communist Party gave up its monopoly on power after the revolutions of 1989 and allowed multiparty elections. Bulgaria then transitioned into a democracy and a market-based economy. Since adopting a democratic constitution in 1991, Bulgaria has been a unitary parliamentary republic
composed of 28 provinces, with a high degree of political, administrative, and economic centralisation.

Bulgaria has a

European Single Market and is largely based on services, followed by industry—especially machine building and mining—and agriculture. The country faces a demographic crisis; its population peaked at 9 million in 1989, and has since decreased to under 6.4 million as of 2024. Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, the Schengen Area, NATO, and the Council of Europe. It is also a founding member of the OSCE and has taken a seat on the United Nations Security Council
three times.

Etymology

The name Bulgaria is derived from the

Proto-Turkic word bulģha ("to mix", "shake", "stir") and its derivative bulgak ("revolt", "disorder").[9] The meaning may be further extended to "rebel", "incite" or "produce a state of disorder", and so, in the derivative, the "disturbers".[10][11][12] Tribal groups in Inner Asia with phonologically close names were frequently described in similar terms, as the Buluoji, a component of the "Five Barbarian" groups, which during the 4th century were portrayed as both: a "mixed race" and "troublemakers".[13]

History

Prehistory and Antiquity

National History Museum

Copper Age Varna culture (fifth millennium BC) is credited with inventing gold metallurgy.[18][19] The associated Varna Necropolis treasure contains the oldest golden jewellery in the world with an approximate age of over 6,000 years.[20][21] The treasure has been valuable for understanding social hierarchy and stratification in the earliest European societies.[22][23][24]

The

Balkan Peninsula some time before the 12th century BC.[25][26][27] The Thracians excelled in metallurgy and gave the Greeks the Orphean and Dionysian cults, but remained tribal and stateless.[28] The Persian Achaemenid Empire conquered parts of present-day Bulgaria (in particular eastern Bulgaria) in the 6th century BC and retained control over the region until 479 BC.[29][30] The invasion became a catalyst for Thracian unity, and the bulk of their tribes united under king Teres to form the Odrysian kingdom in the 470s BC.[28][30][31] It was weakened and vassalised by Philip II of Macedon in 341 BC,[32] attacked by Celts in the 3rd century,[33] and finally became a province of the Roman Empire in AD 45.[34]

By the end of the 1st century AD, Roman governance was established over the entire Balkan Peninsula and

Romanised, and Gothicised Thracians in the rural areas.[40][41][42][43]

First Bulgarian Empire

Alfons Mucha

Not long after the Slavic incursion,

Asparukh.[44] Their horde was a remnant of Old Great Bulgaria, an extinct tribal confederacy situated north of the Black Sea in what is now Ukraine and southern Russia. Asparukh attacked Byzantine territories in Moesia and conquered the Slavic tribes there in 680.[26] A peace treaty with the Byzantine Empire was signed in 681, marking the foundation of the First Bulgarian Empire. The minority Bulgars formed a close-knit ruling caste.[45]

Succeeding rulers strengthened the Bulgarian state throughout the 8th and 9th centuries.

Simeon the Great, who oversaw the largest territorial expansion of the state.[51]

After Simeon's death, Bulgaria was weakened by wars with

Second Bulgarian Empire

A view of the walls of Tsarevets fortress in Tarnovo
The walls of Tsarevets fortress in Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of the second empire

Byzantine domestic policies changed after Basil's death and a series of unsuccessful rebellions broke out,

Peter IV organised a major uprising and succeeded in re-establishing the Bulgarian state. Ivan Asen and Peter laid the foundations of the Second Bulgarian Empire with its capital at Tarnovo.[58]

the pope and received a royal crown from a papal legate.[59] The empire reached its zenith under Ivan Asen II (1218–1241), when its borders expanded as far as the coast of Albania, Serbia and Epirus, while commerce and culture flourished.[59][58] Ivan Asen's rule was also marked by a shift away from Rome in religious matters.[60]

The Asen dynasty became extinct in 1257. Internal conflicts and incessant Byzantine and Hungarian attacks followed, enabling the

the feudal landlords,[61] whose factional conflicts caused the Second Bulgarian Empire to disintegrate into small feudal dominions by the 14th century.[58] These fragmented rump states—two tsardoms at Vidin and Tarnovo and the Despotate of Dobrudzha—became easy prey for a new threat arriving from the Southeast: the Ottoman Turks.[59]

Ottoman rule

The Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 marked the end of medieval Bulgarian statehood.

The Ottomans were employed as mercenaries by the Byzantines in the 1340s, but later became invaders in their own right.

Adrianople from the Byzantines in 1362; Sofia fell in 1382, followed by Shumen in 1388.[62] The Ottomans completed their conquest of Bulgarian lands in 1393 when Tarnovo was sacked after a three-month siege and the Battle of Nicopolis which brought about the fall of the Vidin Tsardom in 1396. Sozopol was the last Bulgarian settlement to fall, in 1453.[63] The Bulgarian nobility was subsequently eliminated and the peasantry was enserfed to Ottoman masters,[62] while much of the educated clergy fled to other countries.[64]

Bulgarians were subjected to heavy taxes (including

Rum Millet, which governed all Orthodox Christians regardless of their ethnicity.[66] Most of the local population then gradually lost its distinct national consciousness, identifying only by its faith.[67][68] The clergy remaining in some isolated monasteries kept their ethnic identity alive, enabling its survival in remote rural areas,[69] and in the militant Catholic community in the northwest of the country.[70]

As Ottoman power began to wane,

Chiprovtsi Uprising in 1688 and finally Karposh's rebellion in 1689.[71] The Russian Empire also asserted itself as a protector of Christians in Ottoman lands with the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in 1774.[71]

The Defence of the Eagle's Nest, painting by Alexey Popov from 1893, depicting the Defence of Shipka Pass
The Russo-Bulgarian defence of Shipka Pass in 1877

The Western European

Bulgarian rebels, particularly during the crucial Battle of Shipka Pass which secured Russian control over the main road to Constantinople.[73][74]

Third Bulgarian state

Map of Bulgaria according to the Treaty of San Stefano
Borders of Bulgaria according to the preliminary Treaty of San Stefano

The

Treaty of Berlin, signed on 13 July. It provided for a much smaller state, the Principality of Bulgaria, only comprising Moesia and the region of Sofia, and leaving large populations of ethnic Bulgarians outside the new country.[75][78] This significantly contributed to Bulgaria's militaristic foreign affairs approach during the first half of the 20th century.[79]

The Bulgarian principality won

immigrated to Bulgaria from 1912 to 1929,[85] placing additional strain on the already ruined national economy.[86]

Between 19 October 1925 and 29 October 1925, the Incident at Petrich, nicknamed "the War of the Stray Dog" occurred, which was a minor armed conflict. Greece invaded Bulgaria, after the killing of a Greek captain and sentry by Bulgarian soldiers. The conflict was settled by the League of Nations, and resulted in a Bulgarian diplomatic victory. The League ordered a ceasefire, Greek troops to withdraw from Bulgaria and Greece to pay £45,000 to Bulgaria.

A portrait of Tsar Boris III
Tsar Boris III

The resulting political unrest led to the establishment of a royal

saved its Jewish population from deportation to concentration camps.[87] The sudden death of Boris III in mid-1943 pushed the country into political turmoil as the war turned against Germany, and the communist guerrilla movement gained momentum. The government of Bogdan Filov subsequently failed to achieve peace with the Allies. Bulgaria did not comply with Soviet demands to expel German forces from its territory, resulting in a declaration of war and an invasion by the USSR in September 1944.[88] The communist-dominated Fatherland Front took power, ended participation in the Axis and joined the Allied side until the war ended.[89] Bulgaria suffered little war damage and the Soviet Union demanded no reparations. But all wartime territorial gains, with the notable exception of Southern Dobrudzha, were lost.[90]

Georgi Dimitrov, leader of the Bulgarian Communist Party from 1946 to 1949

The

Stalinist state.[90] By the mid-1950s, standards of living rose significantly and political repression eased.[95][96] The Soviet-style planned economy saw some experimental market-oriented policies emerging under Todor Zhivkov (1954–1989).[97] Compared to wartime levels, national GDP increased five-fold and per capita GDP quadrupled by the 1980s,[98] although severe debt spikes took place in 1960, 1977 and 1980.[99] Zhivkov's daughter Lyudmila bolstered national pride by promoting Bulgarian heritage, culture and arts worldwide.[100] Facing declining birth rates among the ethnic Bulgarian majority, Zhivkov's government in 1984 forced the minority ethnic Turks to adopt Slavic names in an attempt to erase their identity and assimilate them.[101] These policies resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 ethnic Turks to Turkey.[102][103]

The Communist Party was forced to give up its political monopoly on 10 November 1989 under the influence of the

single market in 2007, despite EU concerns over government corruption.[111] Bulgaria hosted the 2018 Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia.[112]

Geography

Topographic map of Bulgaria
Topography of Bulgaria
Rila, the highest mountain range in the Balkans and Southeast Europe

Bulgaria is a middle-sized country situated in Southeastern Europe, in the east of the Balkans. Its territory covers an area of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), while land borders with its five neighbouring countries run a total length of 1,808 kilometres (1,123 mi), and its coastline is 354 kilometres (220 mi) long.

Thracian Plain, and the Rila-Rhodope massif.[113] The southern edge of the Danubian Plain slopes upward into the foothills of the Balkans, while the Danube defines the border with Romania. The Thracian Plain is roughly triangular, beginning southeast of Sofia and broadening as it reaches the Black Sea coast.[113]

The Balkan mountains run laterally through the middle of the country from west to east. The mountainous southwest has two distinct

Struma and the Maritsa are two major rivers in the south.[116][113]

Climate

Bulgaria has a varied and changeable climate, which results from being positioned at the meeting point of the

Dobrudja to more than 2,500 millimetres (98.4 in) in the mountains. Continental air masses bring significant amounts of snowfall during winter.[118]

Köppen climate types of Bulgaria
Köppen climate types of Bulgaria

Considering its relatively small area, Bulgaria has variable and complex climate. The country occupies the southernmost part of the continental climatic zone, with small areas in the south falling within the Mediterranean climatic zone.[119] The continental zone is predominant, because continental air masses flow easily into the unobstructed Danubian Plain. The continental influence, stronger during the winter, produces abundant snowfall; the Mediterranean influence increases during the second half of summer and produces hot and dry weather. Bulgaria is subdivided into five climatic zones: continental zone (Danubian Plain, Pre-Balkan and the higher valleys of the Transitional geomorphological region); transitional zone (Upper Thracian Plain, most of the Struma and Mesta valleys, the lower Sub-Balkan valleys); continental-Mediterranean zone (the southernmost areas of the Struma and Mesta valleys, the eastern Rhodope Mountains, Sakar and Strandzha); Black Sea zone along the coastline with an average length of 30–40 km inland; and alpine zone in the mountains above 1000 m altitude (central Balkan Mountains, Rila, Pirin, Vitosha, western Rhodope Mountains, etc.).[120]

Biodiversity and conservation

Belogradchik Rocks
Belogradchik Rocks are among Bulgaria's numerous protected areas

The interaction of climatic, hydrological, geological and topographical conditions has produced a relatively wide variety of plant and animal species.[121] Bulgaria's

fungi in Bulgaria by the Institute of Botany identifies more than 1,500 species.[129] More than 35% of the land area is covered by forests.[130]

In 1998, the Bulgarian government adopted the National Biological Diversity Conservation Strategy, a comprehensive programme seeking the preservation of local ecosystems, protection of endangered species and conservation of genetic resources.

carbon dioxide emissions by 30% from 1990 to 2009.[133]

Bulgaria ranks 30th in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, but scores low on air quality.[134] Particulate levels are the highest in Europe,[135] especially in urban areas affected by automobile traffic and coal-based power stations.[136][137] One of these, the lignite-fired Maritsa Iztok-2 station, is causing the highest damage to health and the environment in the European Union.[138] Pesticide use in agriculture and antiquated industrial sewage systems produce extensive soil and water pollution.[139] Water quality began to improve in 1998 and has maintained a trend of moderate improvement. Over 75% of surface rivers meet European standards for good quality.[140]

Politics

The National Assembly building in Sofia
Independence Square in Sofia: The headquarters of the Presidency (right), the National Assembly (centre) and the Council of Ministers (left).

Bulgaria is a

citizens at least 18 years old. The Constitution also provides possibilities of direct democracy, namely petitions and national referendums.[141] Elections are supervised by an independent Central Election Commission that includes members from all major political parties. Parties must register with the commission prior to participating in a national election.[142] Normally, the prime minister-elect is the leader of the party receiving the most votes in parliamentary elections, although this is not always the case.[108]

Unlike the prime minister, presidential domestic power is more limited. The directly elected

presidential veto by a simple majority vote.[108] Political parties gather in the National Assembly, a body of 240 deputies elected to four-year terms by direct popular vote. The National Assembly has the power to enact laws, approve the budget, schedule presidential elections, select and dismiss the prime minister and other ministers, declare war, deploy troops abroad, and ratify international treaties and agreements.[143]

Overall, Bulgaria displays a pattern of unstable governments.[144] Boyko Borisov, the leader of the centre-right, pro-EU party GERB, served three terms as prime minister between 2009 and 2021. It won

nationwide protests over the low living standards, corruption[146] and the perceived failure of the democratic system.[147]
The subsequent The
March 2017 snap election was again won by GERB, but with 95 seats in Parliament. They formed a coalition with the far-right United Patriots, who held 27 seats.[155]

Borisov's last cabinet saw a dramatic decrease in freedom of the press, and a number of corruption revelations that triggered yet another wave of mass protests in 2020.[156][157] GERB came out first in the regular April 2021 election, but with its weakest result so far.[158] All other parties refused to form a government,[159] and after a brief deadlock, another election was called for July 2021. It too failed to break the stalemate, as no political party was able to form a coalition government.[160]

In April 2023, because of the political deadlock, Bulgaria held its fifth parliamentary election since April 2021. GERB was the biggest, winning 69 seats. The bloc led by We Continue the Change won 64 seats in the 240-seat parliament. In June 2023, Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov formed a new coalition between We Continue The Change and GERB. According to the coalition agreement, Denkov will lead the government for the first nine months. He will be succeeded by former European Commissioner, Mariya Gabriel, of the GERB party. She will take over as prime minister after nine months.[161]

Democracy Index defines it as a "Flawed democracy".[163] A 2018 survey by the Institute for Economics and Peace reported that less than 15% of respondents considered elections to be fair.[164]

Legal system

Bulgaria has a civil law legal system.[165] The judiciary is overseen by the Ministry of Justice. The Supreme Administrative Court and the Supreme Court of Cassation are the highest courts of appeal and oversee the application of laws in subordinate courts.[142] The Supreme Judicial Council manages the system and appoints judges. The legal system is regarded by both domestic and international observers as one of Europe's most inefficient due to a pervasive lack of transparency and corruption.[166][167][168][169][excessive citations] Law enforcement is carried out by organisations mainly subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior.[170] The General Directorate of National Police (GDNP) combats general crime and maintains public order.[171] GDNP fields 26,578 police officers in its local and national sections.[172] The bulk of criminal cases are transport-related, followed by theft and drug-related crime; homicide rates are low.[173] The Ministry of the Interior also heads the Border Police Service and the National Gendarmerie—a specialised branch for anti-terrorist activity, crisis management and riot control. Counterintelligence and national security are the responsibility of the State Agency for National Security.[174]

Administrative divisions

Bulgaria is a unitary state.[175] Since the 1880s, the number of territorial management units has varied from seven to 26.[176] Between 1987 and 1999, the administrative structure consisted of nine provinces (oblasti, singular oblast). A new administrative structure was adopted in parallel with the decentralisation of the economic system.[177] It includes 27 provinces and a metropolitan capital province (Sofia-Grad). All areas take their names from their respective capital cities. The provinces are subdivided into 265 municipalities. Municipalities are run by mayors, who are elected to four-year terms, and by directly elected municipal councils. Bulgaria is a highly centralised state where the Council of Ministers directly appoints regional governors and all provinces and municipalities are heavily dependent on it for funding.[142]

Foreign relations

Bulgarian MiG-29 fighters in flight
Mikoyan MiG-29 jet fighters of the Bulgarian Air Force

Bulgaria became a member of the United Nations in 1955. Since 1966, it has been a non-permanent member of the Security Council three times, most recently from 2002 to 2003.[178] It was also among the founding nations of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 1975. Euro-Atlantic integration has been a priority since the fall of communism, although the communist leadership also had aspirations of leaving the Warsaw Pact and joining the European Communities by 1987.[179][180] Bulgaria signed the European Union Treaty of Accession on 25 April 2005,[181] and became a full member of the European Union on 1 January 2007.[111] In addition, it has a tripartite economic and diplomatic collaboration with Romania and Greece,[182] good ties with China[183] and Vietnam[184] and a historical relationship with Russia.[185]

Bulgaria deployed significant numbers of both civilian and military advisors in Soviet-allied countries like

joint military training facilities cooperatively used by the United States and Bulgarian militaries.[188][189] Despite its active international defence collaborations, Bulgaria ranks as among the most peaceful countries globally, tying 6th alongside Iceland regarding domestic and international conflicts, and 26th on average in the Global Peace Index.[164]

Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bulgaria took the decision to assist Ukraine;[190] in 2023, after Gazprom illegally stopped exporting gas to Bulgaria, the country in turn stopped importing Russian oil and gas.[191]

Military

The

SS-21 Scarab short-range ballistic missiles.[196] Bulgaria's Armed Forces are modernizing with F-16 Block 70 fighter jets, new Multi-Purpose corvettes and other modern NATO-standard equipment. Bulgaria is in the process of buying new US built Stryker vehicles, new 155 mm Self-propelled howitzers,new 3D Early-warning radars, new Surface-to-air missiles and more.[197]

Economy

Graph showing GDP and unemployment
Economic growth (green) and unemployment (blue) statistics since 2001

Bulgaria has an open,

COMECON markets in 1990 and the subsequent "shock therapy" of the planned system caused a steep decline in industrial and agricultural production, ultimately followed by an economic collapse in 1997.[201][202] The economy largely recovered during a period of rapid growth several years later,[201] but the average salary of 2,072 leva ($1,142) per month remains the lowest in the EU.[203]

A

excise duties, corporate and personal income tax are national, whereas real estate, inheritance, and vehicle taxes are levied by local authorities.[209] Strong economic performance in the early 2000s reduced government debt from 79.6% in 1998 to 14.1% in 2008.[204] It has since increased to 22.6% of GDP by 2022, but remains the second lowest in the EU.[210]

A business park in Sofia, the nation's largest economic hub
An electronics factory in Trakia Economic Zone near Plovdiv

The

GDP per capita (in PPS) and the cost of living in 2019 stood at 53 and 52.8% of the EU average (100%), respectively.[214][215] National PPP GDP was estimated at $143.1 billion in 2016, with a per capita value of $20,116.[216] Economic growth statistics take into account illegal transactions from the informal economy, which is the largest in the EU as a percentage of economic output.[217][218] The Bulgarian National Bank issues the national currency, lev, which is pegged to the euro at a rate of 1.95583 levа per euro.[219]

After several consecutive years of high growth, repercussions of the

financial crisis of 2007–2008 resulted in a 3.6% contraction of GDP in 2009 and increased unemployment.[220][221] Positive growth was restored in 2010 but intercompany debt exceeded $59 billion, meaning that 60% of all Bulgarian companies were mutually indebted.[222] By 2012, it had increased to $97 billion, or 227% of GDP.[223] The government implemented strict austerity measures with IMF and EU encouragement to some positive fiscal results, but the social consequences of these measures, such as increased income inequality and accelerated outward migration, have been "catastrophic" according to the International Trade Union Confederation.[224]

Siphoning of public funds to the families and relatives of politicians from incumbent parties has resulted in fiscal and welfare losses to society.

European cohesion funds are spent on public tenders each year;[234] nearly 14 billion ($8.38 billion) were spent on public contracts in 2017 alone.[235] A large share of these contracts are awarded to a few politically connected[236] companies amid widespread irregularities, procedure violations and tailor-made award criteria.[237] Despite repeated criticism from the European Commission,[232] EU institutions refrain from taking measures against Bulgaria because it supports Brussels on a number of issues, unlike Poland or Hungary.[228]

Structure and sectors

The labour force is 3.36 million people,

petroleum refining are among the major industrial activities.[240][241][242] Mining alone employs 24,000 people and generates about 5% of the country's GDP; the number of employed in all mining-related industries is 120,000.[243][244] Bulgaria is Europe's fifth-largest coal producer.[244][245] Local deposits of coal, iron, copper and lead are vital for the manufacturing and energy sectors.[246] The main destinations of Bulgarian exports outside the EU are Turkey, China and Serbia, while Russia, Turkey and China are by far the largest import partners. Most of the exports are manufactured goods, machinery, chemicals, fuel products and food.[247] Two-thirds of food and agricultural exports go to OECD countries.[248]

Although cereal and vegetable output dropped by 40% between 1990 and 2008,

oats and rice are also grown. Quality Oriental tobacco is a significant industrial crop.[252] Bulgaria is also the largest producer globally of lavender and rose oil, both widely used in fragrances.[23][253][254][255] Within the services sector, tourism is a significant contributor to economic growth. Sofia, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, coastal resorts Albena, Golden Sands and Sunny Beach and winter resorts Bansko, Pamporovo and Borovets are some of the locations most visited by tourists.[256][257] Most visitors are Romanian, Turkish, Greek and German.[258] Tourism is additionally encouraged through the 100 Tourist Sites system.[259]

Science and technology

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching BulgariaSat-1 in June 2017
The launch of BulgariaSat-1 by SpaceX

Spending on

Bloomberg Innovation Index, the highest score being in education (24th) and the lowest in value-added manufacturing (48th).[263] Bulgaria was ranked 38th in the Global Innovation Index in 2023.[264] Chronic government underinvestment in research since 1990 has forced many professionals in science and engineering to leave Bulgaria.[265]

Despite the lack of funding, research in chemistry,

COMECON computing technology production.[270] A concerted effort by the communist government to teach computing and IT skills in schools also indirectly made Bulgaria a major source of computer viruses in the 1980s and 90s.[271] The country is a regional leader in high performance computing: it operates Avitohol, the most powerful supercomputer in Southeast Europe, and will host one of the eight petascale EuroHPC supercomputers.[272][273]

Bulgaria has made numerous contributions to

ExoMars TGO.[280] Variants of these instruments have also been fitted on the International Space Station and the Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe.[281][282] Another lunar mission, SpaceIL's Beresheet, was also equipped with a Bulgarian-manufactured imaging payload.[283] Bulgaria's first geostationary communications satelliteBulgariaSat-1—was launched by SpaceX in 2017.[284]

Infrastructure

Trakiya motorway, one of the main national motorways
Trakia motorway

Telephone services are widely available, and a central digital trunk line connects most regions.

Telenor.[286][287] Internet penetration stood at 69.2% of the population aged 16–74 and 78.9% of households in 2020.[288][289]

Bulgaria's strategic geographic location and well-developed energy sector make it a key European energy centre despite its lack of significant fossil fuel deposits.[290] Thermal power plants generate 48.9% of electricity, followed by nuclear power from the Kozloduy reactors (34.8%) and renewable sources (16.3%).[291] Equipment for a second nuclear power station at Belene has been acquired, but the fate of the project remains uncertain.[292] Installed capacity amounts to 12,668 MW, allowing Bulgaria to exceed domestic demand and export energy.[293]

The national road network has a total length of 19,512 kilometres (12,124 mi),[294] of which 19,235 kilometres (11,952 mi) are paved. Railroads are a major mode of freight transportation, although highways carry a progressively larger share of freight. Bulgaria has 6,238 kilometres (3,876 mi) of railway track, [285] with rail links available to Romania, Turkey, Greece, and Serbia, and express trains serving direct routes to Kyiv, Minsk, Moscow and Saint Petersburg.[295] Sofia is the country's air travel hub, while Varna and Burgas are the principal maritime trade ports.[285]

Demographics

Ethnic groups in Bulgaria (2021 census)[296][297]

  Bulgarians (84.57%)
  Bulgarian Turks (8.40%)
  Romani (4.41%)
  Other (1.31%)
  Undeclared (1.31%)

According to the government's official 2022 estimate, the population of Bulgaria consists of 6,447,710 people, down from 6,519,789 according to the last official census in 2021.

Roma minorities account for 8.4 and 4.4%, respectively; some 40 smaller minorities account for 1.3%, and 1.3% do not self-identify with an ethnic group.[296][297] The Roma minority is usually underestimated in census data and may represent up to 11% of the population.[300][301] Population density is 55-60 per square kilometre (ultimo 2023), almost half the European Union average.[302]

Bulgaria is in a state of demographic crisis.

death rates are among the highest.[314]

Bulgaria scores high in gender equality, ranking 18th in the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report.[315] Although women's suffrage was enabled relatively late, in 1937, women today have equal political rights, high workforce participation and legally mandated equal pay.[315] In 2021, market research agency Reboot Online ranked Bulgaria as the best European country for women to work.[316] Bulgaria has the highest ratio of female ICT researchers in the EU,[317] as well as the second-highest ratio of females in the technology sector at 44.6% of the workforce. High levels of female participation are a legacy of the Socialist era.[318]

Largest cities

 
Largest cities or towns in Bulgaria
2021 Census[319]
Rank
Name
Province Pop. Rank
Name
Province Pop.
1 Sofia Sofia-Capital 1,190,256 11 Pernik Pernik 66,991
2 Plovdiv Plovdiv 321,824 12 Haskovo Haskovo 64,564
3 Varna Varna 311,093 13 Blagoevgrad Blagoevgrad 62,810
4 Burgas Burgas 188,242 14 Yambol Yambol 60,641
5 Ruse Ruse 123,134 15 Veliko Tarnovo Veliko Tarnovo 59,166
6 Stara Zagora Stara Zagora 121,582 16 Pazardzhik Pazardzhik 55,220
7 Pleven Pleven 90,209 17 Vratsa Vratsa 49,569
8 Sliven Sliven 79,362 18 Asenovgrad Plovdiv 45,474
9 Dobrich Dobrich 71,947 19 Gabrovo Gabrovo 44,786
10 Shumen Shumen 67,300 20 Kazanlak Kazanlak 41,768

Health

High death rates result from a combination of an ageing population, high numbers of people at risk of poverty, and a weak

out-of-pocket expenses account for nearly half of all healthcare spending, significantly limiting access to medical care.[323] Other problems disrupting care provision are the emigration of doctors due to low wages, understaffed and under-equipped regional hospitals, supply shortages and frequent changes to the basic service package for those insured.[324][325] The 2018 Bloomberg Health Care Efficiency Index ranked Bulgaria last out of 56 countries.[326] Average life expectancy is 74.8 years, compared with an EU average of 80.99 and a world average of 72.38.[327][328]

Education

Sofia University building
The Rectorate of Sofia University

Public expenditures for education are far below the European Union average as well.[329] Educational standards were once high,[330] but have declined significantly since the early 2000s.[329] Bulgarian students were among the highest-scoring in the world in terms of reading in 2001, performing better than their Canadian and German counterparts; by 2006, scores in reading, math and science had dropped. By 2018, Programme for International Student Assessment studies found 47% of pupils in the 9th grade to be functionally illiterate in reading and natural sciences.[331] Average basic literacy stands high at 98.4% with no significant difference between sexes.[332] The Ministry of Education and Science partially funds public schools, colleges and universities, sets criteria for textbooks and oversees the publishing process. Education in primary and secondary public schools is free and compulsory.[330] The process spans 12 grades, in which grades one through eight are primary and nine through twelve are secondary level. Higher education consists of a 4-year bachelor degree and a 1-year master's degree.[333] Bulgaria's highest-ranked higher education institution is Sofia University.[334][335]

Language

definite article.[337]

Religion

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

Bulgaria is a

autocephalous status in 927 AD.[339][340] The Bulgarian Patriarchate has 12 dioceses and over 2,000 priests.[341]

Other important religions include Roman Catholicism and Judaism, whose history in Bulgaria dates back to the early Middle Ages, the Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as various Protestant denominations, all of which stand for around 2% of Bulgaria's population. An ever increasing number of Bulgarians are either irreligious or unaffiliated with any religion, a percentage that has been growing rapidly over the past 20 years, from 3.9% in 2001, through 9.3% in 2011 and all the way to 15.9% in 2021.[297][343][344][345]

According to the most recent census of 2021 the religious denominations of the population are, as follows:

Christian (71.5%), Islam (10.8%), other religions (0.1%). Further 12.4% were unaffiliated or did not respond.[346][347][297]

Culture

Roman theatre, Plovdic
The Roman theatre of Plovdiv, European Capital of Culture in 2019
Rila Monastery
Rila Monastery, an important spiritual centre for the Bulgarians
Bulgarian Kuker
Kuker in Lesichovo

Contemporary Bulgarian culture blends the formal culture that helped forge a national consciousness towards the end of Ottoman rule with millennia-old folk traditions.

Nestinarstvo, a ritual fire-dance of Thracian origin, is included in the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.[352][353]

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Pirin National Park, Sreburna Nature Reserve, the Madara Rider, the Thracian tombs in Sveshtari and Kazanlak, the Rila Monastery, the Boyana Church, the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo and the ancient city of Nesebar.[354] The Rila Monastery was established by Saint John of Rila, Bulgaria's patron saint, whose life has been the subject of numerous literary accounts since Medieval times.[355]

The establishment of the

Socialist realism novels of Dimitar Dimov and Dimitar Talev.[355] Tzvetan Todorov is a notable contemporary author,[360] while Bulgarian-born Elias Canetti was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981.[361]

А religious visual arts heritage includes

Christo is the most famous Bulgarian artist of the 21st century, known for his outdoor installations.[348]

Folk music is by far the most extensive traditional art and has slowly developed throughout the ages as a fusion of Far Eastern, Oriental, medieval Eastern Orthodox and standard Western European tonalities and modes.

Yoan Kukuzel (c. 1280–1360),[365] but modern classical music began with Emanuil Manolov, who composed the first Bulgarian opera in 1890.[348] Pancho Vladigerov and Petko Staynov further enriched symphony, ballet and opera, which singers Ghena Dimitrova, Boris Christoff, Ljuba Welitsch and Nicolai Ghiaurov elevated to a world-class level.[348][366][367][368][369][370][371][excessive citations
]

Bulgarian performers have gained acclaim in other genres like electropop (Mira Aroyo), jazz (Milcho Leviev) and blends of jazz and folk (Ivo Papazov).[348]

The

Bulgarian media were described as generally unbiased in their reporting in the early 2000s and print media had no legal restrictions.[373] Since then, freedom of the press has deteriorated to the point where Bulgaria scores 111th globally in the World Press Freedom Index, lower than all European Union members and membership candidate states. The government has diverted EU funds to sympathetic media outlets and bribed others to be less critical on problematic topics, while attacks against individual journalists have increased.[374][375] Collusion between politicians, oligarchs and the media is widespread.[374]

kozunak are among the best-known local foods. Meat consumption is lower than the European average, given a cultural preference for a large variety of salads.[376] Bulgaria was the world's second-largest wine exporter until 1989, but has since lost that position.[377][378] The 2016 harvest yielded 128 million litres of wine, of which 62 million was exported mainly to Romania, Poland and Russia.[379] Mavrud, Rubin, Shiroka melnishka, Dimiat and Cherven Misket are the typical grapes used in Bulgarian wine.[380] Rakia is a traditional fruit brandy that was consumed in Bulgaria as early as the 14th century.[381]

Sports

Grigor Dimitrov in 2017
Grigor Dimitrov at the 2015 Italian Open

Bulgaria appeared at the

Ivan Abadzhiev developed innovative training practices that have produced many Bulgarian world and Olympic champions in weight-lifting since the 1980s.[384] Bulgarian athletes have also excelled in wrestling, boxing, gymnastics, volleyball and tennis.[384] Stefka Kostadinova is the reigning world record holder in the women's high jump at 2.09 metres (6 feet 10 inches), achieved during the 1987 World Championships.[385] Grigor Dimitrov is the first Bulgarian tennis player in the Top 3 ATP rankings.[386]

Football is the most popular sport in the country by a substantial margin. The national football team's best performance was a semi-final at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, when the squad was spearheaded by forward Hristo Stoichkov.[384] Stoichkov is the most successful Bulgarian player of all time; he was awarded the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball and was considered one of the best in the world while playing for FC Barcelona in the 1990s.[387][388] CSKA and Levski, both based in Sofia,[384] are the most successful clubs domestically and long-standing rivals.[389] Ludogorets is remarkable for having advanced from the local fourth division to the 2014–15 UEFA Champions League group stage in a mere nine years.[390] Placed 39th in 2018, it is Bulgaria's highest-ranked club in UEFA.[391]

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ /bʌlˈɡɛəriə, bʊl-/ ; Bulgarian: България, romanizedBŭlgariya
  2. ^ Bulgarian: Република България, romanized: Republika Bǎlgariya, IPA: [rɛˈpublikɐ bɐɫˈɡarijɐ])
  1. ^ The official number of Romani citizens may be lower than the actual number. See Demographics.

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Bibliography

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