Bulgaria

History

The country of Bulgaria has one of the oldest history in the world. This history is a rich one, filled with political struggles and glorious victories.

Bulgaria is situated in the southeastern corner of the Balkan Peninsula. To the north it has a border with Romania, to the west with Yuogoslavia, to the south with Greece and Turkey, and to the east lies the Black Sea.

Map of Bulgaria

For thousands of years the territory that is now Bulgaria has been attacked annexed or absorbed into some of the greatest civilizations of Central and Southern Europe.

Ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman civilizations have each left their mark on the Bulgarian lands, but the story of the modern Bulgarian people began with the Slavic migrations into the Balkan Peninsula in the 6th and 7th centuries. The name "Bulgaria" comes from the Bulgars, a Turkic people who migrated from the steppe north of the Black Sea, conquered the Slavic tribes and founded the First Bulgarian Kingdom in 681 AD. The Bulgars were absorbed in the larger Slavic population, a process that was facilitated by the adoption of Orthodox Christianity by Boris I in the 9th century. Under Boris's son, Tsar Simeon I, the kingdom reached the height of its power, and its capital, Preslav, was said to rival Constantinople in the vigor of its commercial and intellectual life.

Bulgaria declined under Simeon's successors, and in 1014 the Byzantine emperor Basil II won a battle over the Bulgarian army after which he ordered 14,000 prisoners to be blinded. For this Basil II took the title "Bulgaroktonus," or Bulgar slayer, and Bulgaria was ruled by Byzantium until 1185. In that year the brothers Ivan and Peter Asen launched a successful revolt that led to the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom with its capital at Turnovo. Under Tsar Ivan Asen II. Bulgaria again dominated most of the Balkans, but by the end of the century the state was weakened by peasant revolt and attacks from Mongols, Serbs, and finally succumbed to the invasion of the Ottoman Turks.

During the nearly 500 years of the "Ottoman Yoke," Bulgaria's national customs and values were preserved in the monasteries and in mountain villages isolated from Turkish influence. In the 18th century Paissy, a Bulgarian monk of the Khilendar Monastery on Mt Athos, used medieval texts to prepare a history of his people, calling on them to remember their past and former greatness. Paissy's history is regarded as the beginning of the National Revival that was marked by the rapid expansion of Bulgarian schools and by the achievement of an independent Bulgarian Orthodox Exarchate in 1870.

Six years later Bulgarian revolutionaries launched the April Uprising, whose brutal suppression created outrage in Europe and helped to provoke the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. The war ended with the Treaty of San Stefano that created a large Bulgarian state, whose borders were based on those of the Exarchate. The Western Powers, however, feared that Bulgaria would be a satellite of Russia and insisted on a revision of the treaty. At the Congress of Berlin in 1879 only the part of the country between the Balkan range and the Danube was allowed to become an autonomous principality. The lands south of the Balkan Range were given the name "Eastern Rumelia" under a Christian governor appointed by the Porte. And Macedonia was returned entirely to Ottoman administration. A convention held in Turnovo adopted a constitution for the new state and chose Alexander Battenberg as its first prince.

In 1885, when the Bulgarians of Eastern Rumelia declared their union with the north, Serbia attacked. Prince Alexander led the Bulgarian forces to victory, but abdicated because he had lost the good will of Russia. Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was elected to the throne in 1887. In 1908, Ferdinand took the title of Tsar, and his desire to regain all the lands of the San Stefano Treaty led to the formation of an alliance with Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece. In the First Balkan War (1912) the allies forced Turkey to relinquish its remaining Balkan territories. However, they fell out among themselves and fought the Second Balkan War (1913), which Bulgaria lost. Bulgaria was also on the losing side in World War I, and had to give up territory to Serbia and Greece. Ferdinand was forced to abdicate, and the throne passed to his son Boris III. The government was then in the hands of Alexander Stamboliski, leader of the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union, who launched a dramatic series of reforms before he was overthrown and murdered in 1923. Gradually, Tsar Boris III with the support of the army established his personal control over the country.

During World War II, Boris was a reluctant ally of Germany. Bulgaria declared "symbolic war" on Great Britain and the United States, but did not send its forces into combat and declined to deport its Jewish population to the death camps in Poland. In September 1944 the Soviet Union suddenly declared war on Bulgaria and quickly occupied it. In conjunction with the Soviet invasion, a Communist-led coalition, called the Fatherland Front, seized power in Sofia. Under Georgi Dimitrov the Communists consolidated their power, and by the end of 1947 completely eliminated their opponents.

During the Communist era, Bulgaria acquired the reputation of being the most loyal ally of the Soviet Union, imitating Soviet collectivization and industrialization policies. The removal from office of longtime leader Todor Zhivkov on 10 November 1989 began the current era of political and economic transition.

Statistics


Geography:

Location: Southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Romania and Turkey

Map references:

Ethnic Groups in Eastern Europe, Europe

Area:

total area: 110,910 sq km
land area: 110,550 sq km
comparative area: slightly larger than Tennessee

Land boundaries:

total 1,808 km, Greece 494 km, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 148 km, Romania 608 km, Serbia and Montenegro 318 km (all with Serbia), Turkey 240 km

Coastline:

354 km

Maritime claims:

contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

International disputes:

none

Climate:

temperate; cold, damp winters; hot, dry summers

Terrain:

mostly mountains with lowlands in north and southeast

Natural resources:

bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, coal, timber, arable land

Land use:

arable land: 34%
permanent crops: 3%
meadows and pastures: 18%
forest and woodland: 35%
other: 10%

Irrigated land:

10 sq km (1989 est.)

Environment:

current issues: air pollution from industrial emissions; rivers polluted from raw sewage, heavy metals, detergents; deforestation; forest damage from air pollution and resulting acid rain; soil contamination from heavy metals
from metallurgical plants and industrial wastes natural hazards: earthquakes, landslides international agreements: party to - Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Antarctic Treaty, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands; signed, but not ratified - Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Law of the Sea

Note: strategic location near Turkish Straits; controls key land routes from Europe to Middle East and Asia

Population:

8,775,198 (July 1995 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 19% (female 800,413; male 841,697)
15-64 years: 66% (female 2,927,880; male 2,910,133)
65 years and over: 15% (female 735,706; male 559,369) (July 1995 est.)

Population growth rate:

-0.25% (1995 est.)

Birth rate:

11.75 births/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Death rate:

11.31 deaths/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Net migration rate:

-2.91 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

11.4 deaths/1,000 live births (1995 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 73.68 years
male: 70.43 years
female: 77.1 years (1995 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.71 children born/woman (1995 est.)

Nationality:

noun: Bulgarian(s)
adjective: Bulgarian

Ethnic divisions:

Bulgarian 85.3%, Turk 8.5%, Gypsy 2.6%, Macedonian 2.5%, Armenian 0.3%, Russian 0.2%, other 0.6%

Religions:

Bulgarian Orthodox 85%, Muslim 13%, Jewish 0.8%, Roman Catholic 0.5%, Uniate Catholic 0.2%, Protestant, Gregorian-Armenian, and other 0.5%

Languages:

Bulgarian; secondary languages closely correspond to ethnic breakdown

Literacy:

age 15 and over can read and write (1992)
total population: 98%
male: 99%
female: 97%

Labor force:

4.3 million by occupation: industry 33%, agriculture 20%, other 47% (1987)

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