Coordinates: 42°41′N 23°19′E / 42.683°N 23.317°E / 42.683; 23.317
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Republic of Bulgaria
Република България
Republika Bǎlgariya
Motto: Съединението прави силата
Sǎedinenieto pravi silata
Location of Bulgaria (dark green) – in Europe (green & dark grey) – in the European Union (green)  –  [Legend]
Location of Bulgaria (dark green)

– in

Ethnic groups
  • 15.9% no religion
  • 9.8% Islam
  • 0.1% other
  • 9.5% unanswered
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary republic
• President
Rumen Radev
Iliana Iotova
Galab Donev
Rosen Zhelyazkov
Current state form
15 November 1990
• Joined NATO
29 March 2004
1 January 2007
US$203 billion[5] (73rd)
• Per capita
Increase $27,890[5] (55th)
GDP (nominal)2022 estimate
• Total
Increase $86 billion[5] (68th)
• Per capita
Increase $12,340[5] (61st)
Gini (2021)Positive decrease 39.7[6]
HDI (2021)Increase 0.796[7]
high · 68th
CurrencyLev (BGN)
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
• Summer (DST)
Date formatdd.mm.yyyy
Driving sideright
Calling code+359
ISO 3166 codeBG
Internet TLD

Bulgaria (/bʌlˈɡɛəriə, bʊl-/ (listen); Bulgarian: България, romanizedBǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria,[a] is a country in Southeast Europe. It is situated on the eastern flank of the Balkans, and is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. Bulgaria covers a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), and is the sixteenth-largest country in Europe. Sofia is the nation's capital and largest city; other major cities are Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas.

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.


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 is a

European Single Market and is largely based on services, followed by industry—especially machine building and mining—and agriculture. Widespread corruption is a major socioeconomic issue; Bulgaria ranks among the most corrupt countries in the European Union.[8] The country also faces a demographic crisis, with its population slowly shrinking, down from a peak of 9 million in 1989, to roughly 6.4 million today. Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, 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.


The name Bulgaria is derived from the

Proto-Turkic word bulģha ("to mix", "shake", "stir") and its derivative bulgak ("revolt", "disorder").[10] The meaning may be further extended to "rebel", "incite" or "produce a state of disorder", and so, in the derivative, the "disturbers".[11][12][13] 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".[14]


Prehistory and Antiquity

National History Museum

Copper Age Varna culture (fifth millennium BC) is credited with inventing gold metallurgy.[19][20] The associated Varna Necropolis treasure contains the oldest golden jewellery in the world with an approximate age of over 6,000 years.[21][22] The treasure has been valuable for understanding social hierarchy and stratification in the earliest European societies.[23][24][25]


Balkan Peninsula some time before the 12th century BC.[26][27][28] The Thracians excelled in metallurgy and gave the Greeks the Orphean and Dionysian cults, but remained tribal and stateless.[29] 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.[30][31] 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.[29][31][32] It was weakened and vassalised by Philip II of Macedon in 341 BC,[33] attacked by Celts in the 3rd century,[34] and finally became a province of the Roman Empire in AD 45.[35]

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.[41][42][43][44]

First Bulgarian Empire

Not long after the Slavic incursion,

Asparukh.[45] 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.[27] 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.[46]

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

Simeon the Great, who oversaw the largest territorial expansion of the state.[52]

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

Second Bulgarian 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.[59]

the pope and received a royal crown from a papal legate.[60] 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.[60][59] Ivan Asen's rule was also marked by a shift away from Rome in religious matters.[61]

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

the feudal landlords,[62] whose factional conflicts caused the Second Bulgarian Empire to disintegrate into small feudal dominions by the 14th century.[59] 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.[60]

Ottoman rule

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.[63] 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.[64] The Bulgarian nobility was subsequently eliminated and the peasantry was enserfed to Ottoman masters,[63] while much of the educated clergy fled to other countries.[65]

Bulgarians were subjected to heavy taxes (including

Catholic community in the northwest of the country.[71]

As Ottoman power began to wane,

Karposh's Rebellion in 1689.[72] The Russian Empire also asserted itself as a protector of Christians in Ottoman lands with the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in 1774.[72]

The Western European

Bulgarian rebels, particularly during the crucial Battle of Shipka Pass which secured Russian control over the main road to Constantinople.[74][75]

Third Bulgarian state


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.[76][79] This significantly contributed to Bulgaria's militaristic foreign affairs approach during the first half of the 20th century.[80]

The Bulgarian principality won

immigrated to Bulgaria from 1912 to 1929,[86] placing additional strain on the already ruined national economy.[87]

The resulting political unrest led to the establishment of a royal

saved its Jewish population from deportation to concentration camps.[88] 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.[89] The communist-dominated Fatherland Front took power, ended participation in the Axis and joined the Allied side until the war ended.[90] 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.[91]


Stalinist state.[91] By the mid-1950s, standards of living rose significantly and political repression eased.[96][97] The Soviet-style planned economy saw some experimental market-oriented policies emerging under Todor Zhivkov (1954–1989).[98] Compared to wartime levels, national GDP increased five-fold and per capita GDP quadrupled by the 1980s,[99] although severe debt spikes took place in 1960, 1977 and 1980.[100] Zhivkov's daughter Lyudmila bolstered national pride by promoting Bulgarian heritage, culture and arts worldwide.[101] 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.[102] These policies resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 ethnic Turks to Turkey.[103][104]

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.[112] Bulgaria hosted the 2018 Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia.[113]


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.[114] 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.[114]

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.[117][114]


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.[119]

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.[120] 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.).[121]

Climate data for Bulgaria (records from all meteo stations)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 24.8
Record low °C (°F) −38.3
Source: Stringmeteo.com,

February record high : http://eea.government.bg/bg/soer/2016/climate/climate0 November record high : https://m.dir.bg/weather/novini/s-32-4-c-veliko-tarnovo-schupi-95-godishen-natsionalen-rekord

Biodiversity and conservation

The interaction of climatic, hydrological, geological and topographical conditions has produced a relatively wide variety of plant and animal species.[122] Bulgaria's

fungi in Bulgaria by the Institute of Botany identifies more than 1,500 species.[130] More than 35% of the land area is covered by forests.[131]

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.[134]

Bulgaria ranks 30th in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, but scores low on air quality.[135] Particulate levels are the highest in Europe,[136] especially in urban areas affected by automobile traffic and coal-based power stations.[137][138] One of these, the lignite-fired Maritsa Iztok-2 station, is causing the highest damage to health and the environment in the European Union.[139] Pesticide use in agriculture and antiquated industrial sewage systems produce extensive soil and water pollution.[140] 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.[141]


Bulgaria is a

citizens at least 18 years old. The Constitution also provides possibilities of direct democracy, namely petitions and national referendums.[142] 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.[143] 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.[109]

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

presidential veto by a simple majority vote.[109] 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.[144]

Overall, Bulgaria displays a pattern of unstable governments.[145] 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[147] and the perceived failure of the democratic system.[148]
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.[156]

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.[157][158] GERB came out first in the regular April 2021 election, but with its weakest result so far.[159] All other parties refused to form a government,[160] 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.[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.[143] 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 pervasive lack of transparency and corruption.[166][167][168][169][170][excessive citations] Law enforcement is carried out by organisations mainly subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior.[171] The General Directorate of National Police (GDNP) combats general crime and maintains public order.[172] GDNP fields 26,578 police officers in its local and national sections.[173] The bulk of criminal cases are transport-related, followed by theft and drug-related crime; homicide rates are low.[174] 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.[175]

Administrative divisions

Bulgaria is a unitary state.[176] Since the 1880s, the number of territorial management units has varied from seven to 26.[177] 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.[178] 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.[143]

Bulgaria Aministrative Provinces numbered.png

Foreign relations

Bulgaria became a member of the United Nations in 1955 and since 1966 has been a non-permanent member of the Security Council three times, most recently from 2002 to 2003.[179] 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.[180][181] Bulgaria signed the European Union Treaty of Accession on 25 April 2005,[182] and became a full member of the European Union on 1 January 2007.[112] In addition, it has a tripartite economic and diplomatic collaboration with Romania and Greece,[183] good ties with China[184] and Vietnam[185] and a historical relationship with Russia.[186]

Bulgarian MiG-29 fighters in flight

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.[189][190] 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]



SS-21 Scarab short-range ballistic missiles.[195]


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.[199][200] The economy largely recovered during a period of rapid growth several years later,[199] but the average salary of 1,036 leva ($615) per month remains the lowest in the EU.[201] More than a fifth of the labour force work for a minimum wage of $1.16 per hour.[202]


excise duties, corporate and personal income tax are national, whereas real estate, inheritance, and vehicle taxes are levied by local authorities.[208] Strong economic performance in the early 2000s reduced government debt from 79.6% in 1998 to 14.1% in 2008.[203] It has since increased to 28.7% of GDP by 2016, but remains the third lowest in the EU.[209]


GDP per capita (in PPS) and the cost of living in 2019 stood at 53 and 52.8% of the EU average (100%), respectively.[213][214] National PPP GDP was estimated at $143.1 billion in 2016, with a per capita value of $20,116.[215] 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.[216][217] The Bulgarian National Bank issues the national currency, lev, which is pegged to the euro at a rate of 1.95583 levа per euro.[218]

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.[219][220] Positive growth was restored in 2010 but intercompany debt exceeded $59 billion, meaning that 60% of all Bulgarian companies were mutually indebted.[221] By 2012, it had increased to $97 billion, or 227% of GDP.[222] 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.[223]

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;[232] nearly 14 billion ($8.38 billion) were spent on public contracts in 2017 alone.[233] A large share of these contracts are awarded to a few politically connected[234] companies amid widespread irregularities, procedure violations and tailor-made award criteria.[235] Despite repeated criticism from the European Commission,[231] EU institutions refrain from taking measures against Bulgaria because it supports Brussels on a number of issues, unlike Poland or Hungary.[227]

Structure and sectors

Tree map
of Bulgarian exports in 2016

The labour force is 3.36 million people,

petroleum refining are among the major industrial activities.[238][239][240] 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.[241][242] Bulgaria is Europe's fifth-largest coal producer.[242][243] Local deposits of coal, iron, copper and lead are vital for the manufacturing and energy sectors.[244] The main destinations of Bulgarian exports outside the EU are Turkey, China and the United States, while Russia and Turkey are by far the largest import partners. Most of the exports are manufactured goods, machinery, chemicals, fuel products and food.[245] Two-thirds of food and agricultural exports go to OECD countries.[246]

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.[250] Bulgaria is also the largest producer globally of lavender and rose oil, both widely used in fragrances.[24][251][252][253] 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.[254][255] Most visitors are Romanian, Turkish, Greek and German.[256] Tourism is additionally encouraged through the 100 Tourist Sites system.[257]

Science and technology

Spending on

Bloomberg Innovation Index, the highest score being in education (24th) and the lowest in value-added manufacturing (48th).[261] Bulgaria was ranked 35th in the Global Innovation Index in 2021, up from 40th in 2019.[262][263][264][265] Chronic government underinvestment in research since 1990 has forced many professionals in science and engineering to leave Bulgaria.[266]

Despite the lack of funding, research in chemistry,

COMECON computing technology production.[271] 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.[272] 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.[273][274]

Bulgaria has made numerous contributions to

ExoMars TGO.[281] Variants of these instruments have also been fitted on the International Space Station and the Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe.[282][283] Another lunar mission, SpaceIL's Beresheet, was also equipped with a Bulgarian-manufactured imaging payload.[284] Bulgaria's first geostationary communications satelliteBulgariaSat-1—was launched by SpaceX in 2017.[285]


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

Telenor.[287][288] Internet penetration stood at 69.2% of the population aged 16–74 and 78.9% of households in 2020.[289][290]

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.[291] Thermal power plants generate 48.9% of electricity, followed by nuclear power from the Kozloduy reactors (34.8%) and renewable sources (16.3%).[292] Equipment for a second nuclear power station at Belene has been acquired, but the fate of the project remains uncertain.[293] Installed capacity amounts to 12,668 MW, allowing Bulgaria to exceed domestic demand and export energy.[294]

The national road network has a total length of 19,512 kilometres (12,124 mi),[295] 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, [286] with rail links available to Romania, Turkey, Greece, and Serbia, and express trains serving direct routes to Kyiv, Minsk, Moscow and Saint Petersburg.[296] Sofia is the country's air travel hub, while Varna and Burgas are the principal maritime trade ports.[286]


The population of Bulgaria is 6,447,710 people according to the government's official 2022 estimate.

Roma minorities account for 8.8 and 4.9%, respectively; some 40 smaller minorities account for 0.7%, and 0.8% do not self-identify with an ethnic group.[299][300] Former Statistics head Reneta Indzhova has disputed the 2011 census figures, suggesting the actual population is smaller than reported.[301][302] The Roma minority is usually underestimated in census data and may represent up to 11% of the population.[303][304] Population density is 65 per square kilometre, almost half the European Union average.[305]

In 2018, the average total fertility rate (TFR) in Bulgaria was 1.56 children per woman,[306] below the replacement rate of 2.1 and considerably below the historical high of 5.83 children per woman in 1905.[307] Bulgaria thus has one of the oldest populations in the world, with an average age of 43 years.[308]

Bulgaria is in a state of demographic crisis.

death rates are among the highest.[316]

Bulgaria scores high in gender equality, ranking 18th in the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report.[317] Although women's suffrage was enabled relatively late, in 1937, women today have equal political rights, high workforce participation and legally mandated equal pay.[317] In 2021, market research agency Reboot Online ranked Bulgaria as the best European country for women to work.[318] Bulgaria has the highest ratio of female ICT researchers in the EU,[319] 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.[320]

Largest cities

Largest cities or towns in Bulgaria
2021 Census[321]
Province Pop. Rank
Province Pop.
1 Sofia Sofia-Capital 1,221,172 11 Pernik Pernik 70,285
2 Plovdiv Plovdiv 343,070 12 Blagoevgrad Blagoevgrad 67,810
3 Varna Varna 332,686 13 Haskovo Haskovo 67,086
4 Burgas Burgas 198,035 14 Veliko Tarnovo Veliko Tarnovo 65,793
5 Ruse Ruse 133,813 15 Pazardzhik Pazardzhik 65,671
6 Stara Zagora Stara Zagora 124,599 16 Yambol Yambol 63,656
7 Pleven Pleven 89,823 17 Vratsa Vratsa 50,012
8 Sliven Sliven 82,251 18 Gabrovo Gabrovo 48,133
9 Dobrich Dobrich 79,269 19 Asenovgrad Plovdiv 47,815
10 Shumen Shumen 72,342 20 Kardzhali Kardzhali 44,071


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.[325] 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.[326][327] The 2018 Bloomberg Health Care Efficiency Index ranked Bulgaria last out of 56 countries.[328] Average life expectancy is 74.8 years, compared with an EU average of 80.99 and a world average of 72.38.[329][330]


Public expenditures for education are far below the European Union average as well.[331] Educational standards were once high,[332] but have declined significantly since the early 2000s.[331] 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.[333] Average basic literacy stands high at 98.4% with no significant difference between sexes.[334] 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.[332] 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.[335] Bulgaria's highest-ranked higher education institution is Sofia University.[336][337]


definite article.[339] Other significant languages spoken in Bulgaria are Turkish and Romani
, which according to the 2011 census were spoken natively by 9.1% and 4.2% of the population, respectively.


Bulgaria is a

autocephalous status in AD 927,[342][343] and has 12 dioceses and over 2,000 priests.[344]

Muslim prayer or abstaining from drinking alcohol, eating pork, and cohabitation.[345]

Less than 3% of the population are affiliated with other religions and 11.8% are irreligious or do not self-identify with a religion.[341]


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.[350][351]

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.[352] 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.[353]

The establishment of the

Socialist realism novels of Dimitar Dimov and Dimitar Talev.[353] Tzvetan Todorov is a notable contemporary author,[358] while Bulgarian-born Elias Canetti was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981.[359]