Bulgaria

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The Republic of Bulgaria (Bulgarian: Република България), or Bulgaria, is a country in the southeast of Europe. It borders the Black Sea to the east, Greece and Turkey to the south, Serbia and Montenegro and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, and Romania to the north along the river Danube.

Contents

History

Main article: History of Bulgaria

60px-Bulgaria
First Bulgarian Empire
Second Bulgarian Empire
Ottoman Bulgaria
Independent Bulgaria
Communist Bulgaria
Democratic Bulgaria

In the late 7th century a branch of the Bulgars led by Khan Asparuh migrated into the northern Balkans, where they merged with the local Slavic populaton and possibly remnants of the Thracian population to form the first Bulgarian state in 681 AD. This was the first Slavic nation-state in history. The Bulgarian empire was a significant European power in the 9th and the 10th century, while fighting with the Byzantine Empire for the control of the Balkans. The Bulgarian state was crushed by an assault by the Rus in 969 and completely subdued by a determined Byzantine assault under Basil II in 1018.

It was re-established in 1185 and continued to be an important power in the European south-east for two more centuries by fighting to assert its place in the region with the Byzantine Empire, crushing the Crusader states in Greece, as well as Hungary. By the end of the 14th century the country was overrun by the Ottoman Empire. A liberation attempt by the Polish-Hungarian forces under the rule of Wladislaus III of Poland was clashed in 1444 in the battle of Varna.

An autonomous Bulgarian principality comprising Moesia and the region of Sofia was established in 1878 following the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78. After uniting with Eastern Rumelia in 1885, the principality was proclaimed a fully independent kingdom in 1908.

During 1912 and 1913 it became involved in the Balkan Wars, a series of conflicts with its neighbours, during which Bulgarian territory varied in size. During World War I and later World War II, Bulgaria found itself fighting on the losing side. Despite that fact, Bulgaria saved the lives of its own 50,000 Jews from the Nazi death camps by refusing to comply with a 31 August 1943 resolution, which demanded their deportation to Auschwitz.

Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence after World War II and became a People's Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1989, when Bulgaria again held multiparty elections.

Bulgaria joined NATO on 29 March, 2004 and is set to join the European Union on 1 January, 2007 after signing the Treaty of Accession on 25 April 2005.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Bulgaria

Executive

File:Parlament1.jpg
The Parliament in downtown Sofia.

The president of Bulgaria (Georgi Purvanov since 22 January 2002) is directly elected for a 5-year term with the right to one re-election. The president serves as the head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. The president is the head of the Consultative Council for National Security and while unable to initiate legislation, the President can return a bill for further debate, though parliament can overturn the president's veto with a simple majority vote.

The Council of Ministers is chaired by the Prime Minister (Sergey Stanishev since 17 August 2005), and is the principal body of the Executive Branch and presently consists of 20 ministers. The Prime Minister is nominated by the largest parliamentary group and is given a mandate by the President to form a cabinet.

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

Legislative

The Bulgarian unicameral parliament, the National Assembly or Narodno Sabranie, consists of 240 deputies who are elected for 4-year-term stretches by popular vote. The votes are for party or coalition lists of candidates for each of the twenty-eight administrative divisions. A party or coalition must garner a minimum of 4% of the vote in order to enter parliament. Parliament is responsible for enactment of laws, approval of the budget, scheduling of presidential elections, selection and dismissal of the prime minister and other ministers, declaration of war, deployment of troops outside of Bulgaria, and ratification of international treaties and agreements.

The last elections took place on June 2005. The next elections are planned for summer 2009.

Judiciary

The Bulgarian judicial system consists of regional, district and appeal courts, as well as a Supreme Court of Cassation. In addition, there is a Supreme Administrative Court and a system of military courts. The Presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Supreme Administrative Court and the Prosecutor General are elected by a qualified majority of two thirds from all the members of the Supreme Judicial Council and are appointed by the President of the Republic. The Supreme Juicial Council is in charge of the self-administration and organisation of the Judiciary.

The Constitutional Court is in charge of reviewing the constitutionality of laws and statutes brought before it, as well as the compliance of these laws with international treaties that the Government has signed. Parliament elects the 12 members of the Constitutional Court by a two-thirds majority, the members serve a nine-year term.

Regional and local government

The territory of the Republic of Bulgaria is divided into regions and municipalities. In all Bulgaria has 28 regions, each headed by a regional governor appointed by the government. In addition, there are 263 municipalties.

Regions

Main article: Regions of Bulgaria

Since 1999 Bulgaria consists of 28 regions (oblasti, singular - oblast), after having been subdivided into 9 provinces since 1987. All are named after the regional capital, with the national capital itself forming a separate region:

Geography

Main article: Geography of Bulgaria

Bulgaria is comprised of portions of the classical regions of Thrace, Moesia, and Macedonia. The southwest of the country is mountainous, containing the highest point of the Balkan Peninsula, peak Musala at 2,925 m, and the range of the Balkan mountains runs west-east through the middle of the country, north of the famous Rose Valley. Hilly country and plains are found in the southeast, along the Black Sea coast in the east, and along Bulgaria's main river, the Danube in the north. Other major rivers include the Struma and the Maritsa river in the south.

The Bulgarian climate is temperate, with cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers.

The Balkan peninsula derives its name from the Balkan or Stara Planina mountain range which runs through the center of Bulgaria into eastern Serbia.

See also:

Economy

Main article: Economy of Bulgaria

Bulgaria's economy contracted dramatically after 1989 with the loss of the market of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) member states, to which the Bulgarian economy had been closely tied. The standard of living fell by about 40%, but it regained pre-1990 levels in June 2004. In addition, UN sanctions against Yugoslavia and Iraq took a heavy toll on the Bulgarian economy. The first signs of recovery emerged in 1994 when the GDP grew and inflation fell. During 1996, however, the economy collapsed due to lack of international economic support and an unstable banking system. Since 1997 the country has been on the path to recovery, with GDP growing at a 4-5% rate, increasing FDI, macroeconomic stability and EU membership set for 2007.

The former government, elected in 2001, pledged to maintain the fundamental economic policy objectives adopted by its predecessor in 1997, i.e., retaining the Currency Board, practicing sound financial policies, accelerating privatisation, and pursuing structural reforms. Economic forecasts for 2005 and 2006 predict continued growth in the Bulgarian economy. The annual year-on-year GDP growth for 2005 and 2006 is expected to total 5,3% and 6,0%, respectively. Industrial output for 2005 is forecast to rise by 11,9% year-on-year, and for 2006 - by 15,2% year-on-year. Unemployment for 2005 is projected at 11,5% and for 2006 - at under 10%.

On April 25, 2005 Bulgaria signed the Treaty of Accession with the European Union and is set to join the bloc in 2007.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Bulgaria

According to the 2001 census, Bulgaria's population is mainly ethnic Bulgarian (83.9%), with two sizable minorities in the form of Turks (9.4%) and Roma (4.7%). Of the remaining 2.0%, 0.9% are distributed among some forty smaller minorities, the most numerous of which are the Armenians, Russians, Vlachs, Crimean Tatars, Karakachans, Macedonian Slavs and Jews; the people who have not declared their ethnicity are 1.1% of the total population. 84.8% of the Bulgarian population speak Bulgarian, a member of the Slavic languages, as mother-language. Bulgarian is the only official language, but other languages are spoken, corresponding closely to ethnic breakdown.

Most Bulgarians (82.6%) are at least nominally a member of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the national Eastern Orthodox church. Other religious denominations include Islam (12.2%), Roman Catholicism (0.6%), various Protestant denominations (0.5%), with other denominations, atheists and undeclared numbering ca. 4.1%.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Bulgaria

Religion

Most citizens of Bulgaria are at least nominally members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church founded in 870 AD (autocephalous since 927). The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is the independent national church of Bulgaria like the other national branches of Eastern Orthodoxy and is considered an inseparable element of Bulgarian national consciousness. The church has been abolished, or rather reduced to a subordinate position within the Greek Orthodox Church, twice during the periods of Byzantine (1018-1185) and Ottoman (1396-1878) domination but has been revived every time as a symbol of Bulgarian statehood. In 2001, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had a total of 6,552,000 members in Bulgaria (82.6% of the population). However many younger people raised during the 45 years of communist rule are not religious even though they formally may be members of the church.

File:SofiaCathedral.jpg
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia is one of the biggest Orthodox cathedrals in Europe.

Despite the dominant position of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Bulgarian cultural life, a number of Bulgarian citizens belong to other religious denominations, most notably Islam, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Islam came to Bulgaria at the end of the 14th century after the conquest of the country by the Ottomans. It gradually gained ascendancy throughout the 15th and 16th centuries by introduction of Turkish colonists and (usually forceful) conversion of Bulgarians and at the time of the Liberation (1878) not less than 40% of the population of the country was Muslim. The percentage has been greatly reduced since then, mostly due to emigration. In 2001, there were 967,000 Muslims in Bulgaria (12.2% of the population).

In the 16th and the 17th century missionaries from Rome converted the Bulgarian Paulicians in the districts of Plovdiv and Svishtov to Roman Catholicism. Their descendants form nowadays the bulk of Bulgarian Catholics whose number stood at 44,000 in 2001. Protestantism was introduced in Bulgaria by missionaries from the United States in 1857. Missionary work continued throughout the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. In 2001, there were some 42,000 Protestants in Bulgaria.

National parks

Bulgaria has over 10 major national parks and many reservation areas.

Additional Resources

Miscellaneous topics

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Much of the material in these articles comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.

Further reading

  • A Concise History of Bulgaria RJ Crampton
  • Beyond Hitler's Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews Michael Bar-Zohar
  • Blue Guide: Bulgaria James Pettifer
  • Crown of Thorns : The Reign of King Boris III of Bulgaria, 1918-1943 Stephane Groueff
  • The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria's Jews Survived the Holocaust Tzvetan Todorov
  • Lonely Planet World Guide: Bulgaria Paul Greenway
  • Music of Bulgaria Timothy Rice
  • The Rough Guide To Bulgaria Jonathan Bousfield
  • Voices from the Gulag: Life and Death in Communist Bulgaria Tzvetan Todorov
  • The Iron Fist-inside the Bulgarian secret archives Alexenia Dimitrova

External links

Official

English language Bulgarian media

Other

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