Bulgaria is a country of Europe
with a surface area of 110,944 km² (density of 66.38 inhab./km²). The population of Bulgaria is 7,364,570 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of Bulgaria is the city of Sofia which has 1,201,448 inhabitants. The President of the Republic is Rossen Plevneliev.
"The Unity is the strength"
Bulgaria or the Republic of Bulgaria is a country in Southeastern Europe that shares borders with Greece, Turkey, Romania, Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia and opens to the Black Sea.
It is a member of the European Union and NATO.
Bulgaria at a glance
Administrative divisions: 28 oblasti (regions)
Population: more than 7 million inhabitants
Main language: Bulgarian
Main religion: Bulgarian orthodoxy
Current President: Roumen Radev
Current Prime Minister: Boïko Borissov
Currency: lev (1 lev = 100 stotinki)
Conversion into euro: 100 lev = 51.1 euros
Tourism: no special restrictions
Between Danube and Balkans
Bulgaria is a land of varied landforms with plains, hills and mountain ranges forming part of the Balkan Range.
The whole of the northern part of the country is occupied by the Danube plain, a long strip of land extending for more than 500 kilometers along the Romanian frontier. The banks of the river are frequently flooded, allowing the sediment to settle and fertilize the soil, particularly in the north-east of the country.
The coastline stretches 378 kilometers along the Black Sea separated from the Sea of Azov by the Kerch Strait and the Marmara Sea by the Bosphorus. The Sea of Marmara is itself separated from the Mediterranean by the Straits of the Dardanelles.
Until the end of the Palaeolithic, the Black Sea was a freshwater lake situated below the sea level and closed by the Bosphorus, which was then an isthmus, a narrow strip of land forming a bridge between Europe and Europe, Asia. The isthmus then collapsed to become a strait between the lake and the Sea of Marmara and thus transform the lake of fresh water into sea salt water probably by the successive discharges.
The Bulgarian coastline and its many beautiful golden sandy beaches benefit from a humid continental climate known as "pontic" (this adjective is used to qualify everything related to the Black Sea and refers to its ancient Hellenic name, Bridge -Euxin). Certain portions of the coast corresponding to the eastern extremities of the different mountain ranges which cross the country are characterized by cliffs and rocks descending into the sea.
The Danube plains and the flat coastal strip offer a striking contrast with the mountainous part of the country. The highest summit of Bulgaria, Mount Moussala, culminates at 2,925 meters above sea level and is located in the Rila massif.
However, this vast mountainous region is not uniform. It is divided into several mountain areas oriented along an east/west axis. The center of the country is thus cut in two by the chain of Stara Planina, more commonly called Balkan, separated from the plain of the Danube by a region of low and medium volcanic mountains, Pre-Balkan. The rugged terrain, the presence of wild animals and the frequent and sudden changes in the weather recorded in the Stara Planina amply justify its reputation as a dangerous mountain.
The highest mountains, the Rila, Pirin and Rhodope Mountains, are however located in southern Bulgaria. Most of these areas are integrated into protected nature reserves because of their biodiversity. There are bears, wolves, jackals and sometimes lynxes that have reappeared after deserting these lands for several decades.
These often abrupt mountains form a vast network of gorges, caves and canyons that offer unforgettable landscapes to experienced hikers. Some of these caves were inhabited during prehistoric times, including the Magurata cave in the Balkan and classified by UNESCO.
Finally, a massif of low mountains located on the Turkish border, the Strandja-Sakar massif, sets out to meet the Black Sea.
The mountainous part of Bulgaria is also characterized by the presence of enclosed plains, immense valleys nestled between two mountain ranges. The Valley of the Roses located in the Balkan is renowned to shelter the secular cultures of roses used to make oil. Bulgaria is the largest producer of rose oil in the world. The valley of the Thrace Superior measuring 180 km by 50 is the largest of these valleys. The capital Sofia is situated in a high field, the field of Sofia, at the foot of the Balkan and the massif of Vitocha.
Bulgaria is also a country of mountain and plain lakes and rivers that crisscross the whole country. They form large protected wetlands, the home to many species of plants and birds. Lastly, there are numerous dams forming water bodies, which are often landscaped, a paradise for fishermen and water sports enthusiasts.
Like its relief, the climate of Bulgaria is varied with always 4 distinct seasons, sunny and rainy spring, hot summers or even torrid and high humidity of the air, mild and sunny autumns with a drop of temperature from November onwards, and finally, the severe and the snowy winters with nocturnal temperatures down to -20 ° C. If the coastline takes advantage of the pontic (humid continental) climate, the part of the country north of the Balkan has a temperate continental climate and the southern part has a continental to Mediterranean climate.
The settlement of the Danube Valley
The settlement of Bulgaria probably began during the lower Paleolithic period as confirmed by the discovery of the Kozarnika cave inhabited 1.6 million years ago. Remains of habitats dating from the Middle Palaeolithic were discovered in the Danube valley, along the coast and in the Rhodope mountains, which confirmed the presence of tribes who subsisted mainly from the hunting. The occupation of several sites in the Balkan and in the north of the country during the Upper Palaeolithic has also been confirmed.
After the last glaciation, the hunters settled down and turned to farming and livestock to make up for the disappearance of the large animals that had hitherto been their menu. This new way of life from Asia reached the Balkans during the 7th millennium BCE. It was also at this time that men left the natural shelters to make their own wooden and straw dwellings. Their society is structured, the cultures are diversified and the tooling evolves thanks to the technique of polished stone. Men learn to treat animal skins to dress or improve their habitat.
The civilization of Karanovo
In the center of the country, the neolithic culture of Karanovo developed around 6.200 BC. Excavations of the different strata of the site determined that the occupation was continuous until the Bronze Age. The material found on the funeral site of Karanovo is of exceptional quality and gives a good insight into the everyday life and funeral rites of men at that time. Two tumuli were discovered there, the first dates from the Neolithic period and the second covers the tomb of a noble Thrace dead in the 1st century BC. The second burial mound housed an exceptional two-wheeled chariot adorned with engraved bronze drawn by two horses, the ashes of the deceased as well as his arms, jewels, silver coins and various glass and pottery containers, a major discovery for the Bulgarian archeology.
A civilization is also established on the shore of the Black Sea. The discovery of a necropolis of more than 250 graves of great wealth in Varna proves that the area is inhabited from the Bronze Age until the 7th century AD. The numerous gold and copper objects (the oldest in Europe) testify to the great skill of a culture ahead of its time in comparison with other European countries.
There are, as at Karanovo, the Thracian tombs which confirm that they were already settled in Bulgaria. Although their origin remains unclear, many historians believe that the Thracians are merely the direct descendants of the Neolithic tribes and that their culture has evolved gradually over the centuries, which could explain in particular the presence of the tumuli of Karanovo. Others claim that the Thracians came from the steppes of Ukraine.
Nevertheless, the Thracians were split into more than a hundred tribes strongly hierarchized and governed by the kings who were also the religious leaders. The aristocracy was composed of formidable cavalier warriors. It is difficult to know which language was used because the Thracians do not know writing but it is likely that the tribes had a common language that evolved into different dialects.
In the 5th century BC, King Térès 1st unified the country and founded the Kingdom of the Odrysians, the first Thracian kingdom at the head of several tribes sharing the same policy. The state of the Odryses will extend over the whole eastern part of the Balkans and over all the regions, from the Danube to the Aegean. Its economy is flourishing thanks to trade with the Greeks, the Scythians and the Celts. It is this opulence which is at the origin of the richness of the burials found all over Bulgaria.
The kingdom will again be divided and gradually shared between the Macedonians and the Romans.
The Roman era
Finally, Thrace was completely romanized by the end of the second century AD after a conquest that spread over more than 200 years and the inhabitants were either enslaved, enrolled in the army or displaced. The Romans deploy their troops in the country to protect the empire against the Germanic and Celtic peoples who take advantage of the winter and the frost of the Danube to make the incursions on this side of the river.
As in all their provinces, the Romans built a vast road network punctuated by towns with traditional monuments such as the theaters, the thermal baths and the forums and the watchtowers.
The country then enjoys a period of peace and the inhabitants benefit from a favorable economic situation. But the golden age was jeopardized in the 3rd century when the Goths waged the continual assaults against the Roman defenses in the Danube valley on the ancient lands of the Thracians of the north.
The foundation of Bulgaria
The Romans, however, maintained their frontier to the south of the Danube, while the inhabitants gradually converted to Christianity. They will eventually have to give up their possessions in the Balkans, which coincides with the creation of Greater Bulgaria, a state founded in 630 by a Bulgarian khan and comprising Ukraine and a part of Russia which did not resist for a long time. Turkish people of the Khazars originating in Central Asia. The Bulgarians then migrated, some northwards to the Volga and the others led by the Khan Doulo to the west, to the Danube delta, where they meet the Thracians but also the Slavs. The Byzantine Empire did not react immediately to this migration, but the understanding between the Slavs and the Bulgarians would worry the emperor who sent his army to dislodge them. This expedition was a failure and led to the founding of the first Kingdom of Bulgaria in 681.
The Khans who became Tsars remained in power until the beginning of the 11th century. During this long period, the Bulgarians adopted Slavon as their national language and Christianity as religion, they greatly enlarge their territory, which disturbs Byzantium.
The wealth of the Tsars and their courtiers contrasts with the poverty of the people who crumble under the taxes, which provoked a popular uprising at the end of the 10th century. The Empire also weakened by the wars is coveted Basil II who will attack the Bulgarians and recover a large part of the kingdom by defeating Tsar Samuel at the price of fierce battles that lasted more than two decades.
Bulgaria was finally defeated in 1018 and the Byzantine emperor divides the country in two, Bulgaria in the west and the Paristrion in the east. It grants rights and privileges to the nobility and the religious authorities, thus avoiding possible movements of revolt.
But the situation changed in the 12th century when Byzantium weakened by a civil war and Norman incursions decides to raise the level of Bulgarian taxes. Supported first by the Walachians who occupied the other bank of the Danube and later allied with the Cumans, the Bulgarians led by the Assen and Petar brothers from the nobility managed to restore the state and inflict heavy defeats on the army Byzantine.
After the very short reigns of the two brothers who are eventually murdered by relatives, it is the youngest of brothers, Kaloyan who becomes tsar of the second Bulgarian empire. He signed a peace treaty with Byzantium and later with the pope.
After the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders and the fragmentation of the Byzantine Empire, Baldwin VI of Hainaut refused all peace with the Bulgarians. The Thracian fortresses and the Bulgarian army will unite to fight the Fourth Crusade and Kaloyan is about to attack Thessaloniki when he is assassinated.
His successors will relax the relations of the country with his neighbors through the play of marriages and successions. Bulgaria is regaining its power thanks to its openings on the Black, Aegean and Adriatic seas.
The Ottoman era
However, in 1241, a struggle for succession combined with an invasion of the Tatars caused the decline of the kingdom. It was during this period that the first Ottoman incursions upset the situation. The Bulgarian fortresses fall one after the other and the whole country is in the hands of the Ottomans at the end of the 14th century.
Bulgaria remained a Turkish province until 1877, despite new internal tensions, the attempts at rebellion and the frequent raids by the Mongols. The people, especially the peasants, appreciate the end of wars, but now have to submit to a feudal government. A large part of the population is converted to Islam. The churches are shaved while minarets and mosques rise. The Ottomans are nevertheless quite tolerant and the country enjoys the relative peace. However, as early as the mid-18th century, the nationalist movements began to emerge among Bulgarians who wanted to oppose the disappearance of their culture. It is in this context that the Crimean War broke out between the Ottoman Empire (in decline) and its allies in Russia (rapidly expanding), followed by another Russian-Turkish war in 1877 after the bloody repression of a Bulgarian insurrection by the Ottomans and their mercenaries, the Bashi-bouzouks.
The World Wars and the Independence
This war culminated in the signing of the Treaty of San Stefano and the Treaty of Berlin, which stipulates, inter alia, that Bulgaria must be occupied militarily by Russia for two years. Northern Bulgaria thus got the status of autonomous principality in 1878. The part situated to the south of the Balkans called Eastern Rumelia remains Ottoman. This situation gave rise to new conflicts which led to the capture of eastern Roumelia by the Bulgarian troops of Prince Alexander I of Bulgaria, who was later dismissed by a coup supported by Russia and replaced by Ferdinand I. The Saxe-Coburg dynasty.
He was proclaimed the King of Bulgaria, which became an independent kingdom in 1908. The new king was to play the opportunists, coming closer to the great powers. During the First World War, the country took the side of the Germans. This choice will entail serious consequences since the Treaty of Neuilly signed in 1919 obliges it to cede territories to neighboring countries causing it to lose in particular its access to the Aegean Sea. Bulgaria must also reduce its armed forces and pay war damage to Allied forces which will ruin its economy. Tsar Ferdinand I abdicated in favor of his son who will succeed in circumventing the clauses of the treaty and in particular to give back to the country an air force and to counter the numerous movements of revolt by establishing an authoritarian monarchy.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Bulgaria once again ranked on the side of Germany and declared war on the United States and the United Kingdom without participating in the invasion of the Soviet Union. Thus the forces of the axis can settle in the country and from there attack Greece and Yugoslavia. The Bulgarian army intervenes mainly in Serbia and, in the early years of the war, Bulgaria extended its territory and annexed almost all of that country.
In 1944, the Soviet Union declared the war on Bulgaria and crossed the Danube, while the resistance fighters, the members of the Patriotic Front opposed to the pro-German dictatorship, succeeded in a coup, turned against the Axis and signed an armistice with the USSR.
At the end of the war, the Communists, who were the majority in the Patriotic Front, came to power and founded the People's Republic of Bulgaria putting an end to the monarchy.
A communist regime
The young republic ruled by the Bulgarian Communist Party remains very close to the USSR, adopting its political, authoritarian and repressive regime. Gulags, the secret police, the collectivization of land, the compulsory purchase of state supplies, the people, and mainly the landowners, lived in terror until the 1960s. From 1964 the labor camps are abolished and political prisoners are amnestied. Despite this period of relaxation, Bulgaria is still experiencing episodes of repression and especially a severe economic crisis. The government will try to bring the dissatisfied people together by forcing the Muslims of the country to "bulgarize" their names and by banning the use of Turkish in public places while many mosques are destroyed. The Turks massively leave the country and this exodus still contributes to ruin the economy.
This situation leads the country to the brink of implosion and an ecological catastrophe (a major chlorine pollution) will set fire to the powders in November 1989. Different movements call for social and economic reforms on the model of the Soviet Perestroika of Gorbachev. The fall of the Berlin Wall will precipitate the situation, and in 1990 the communist regime was replaced temporarily by the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
Nevertheless, the tensions have not subsided, and for seven years governments have followed one another, marked by numerous accusations of corruption.
The come back to democracy
This situation is improving in 1997 with the arrival of the Union of Democratic Forces in power. The country regains economic and political stability, which favors its accession to the European Union and NATO. However, Bulgaria is not part of the euro area.
Bulgaria is a multi-party Republic with a parliamentary regime. The president (currently Roumen Radev) is elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term renewable once. He is the head of state, the head of the armed forces and the head of the National Security Advisory Council. The government is entrusted to the Prime Minister (now Boyko Borissov) elected by Parliament.
The executive power is assured by the President of the Republic, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister.
The legislative power is assured by a unicameral parliament, the National Assembly.
The judiciary is a body independent of the other powers provided by the Supreme Court. A Constitutional Court has the task of validating laws and treaties with foreign nations.
A poor country but an economy that is recovering
Catastrophic under the former communist regime, Bulgaria's economy recovered by becoming a liberal market economy, enabling it to return to the EU in 2007.
The country is experiencing a good growth rate thanks to the diversification of its resources, mainly in the energy sector.
Despite these efforts and following sanctions against the European Community for the fraudulent use of European aid funds and which provoked investor mistrust, Bulgaria is still the poorest country in the EU.
The agriculture that had been collectivized and nationalized under the communists was privatized in the 2000s, which allowed it to modernize. However, this sector is declining and represents only 5% of GDP. The main crops are the cereals, the tobacco, the beets and the sunflowers.
In addition to the renewable energy sector, Bulgaria is a major producer of copper, zinc, steel and coal. In total, the industry accounts for nearly 40% of its GDP.
Finally, the tertiary sector provides approximately 55% of resources. Although its rail network is particularly well developed, it is not the case for roads that are often degraded. In contrast, the communications (telephony and Internet) are the most efficient in Eastern Europe.
Since the stabilization of the country, tourists have discovered the charm of Bulgaria which offers both seaside resorts in summer and ski resorts in winter. This sector is booming and is becoming one of the main economic resources of the country.
A country of tradition
The total population of Bulgaria exceeds 7,100,000 inhabitants but its natural increase is negative because of a precarious living standard combined with a very low birth rate and a high mortality rate.
The great majority of the population (85%) is of Bulgarian origin. The other most representative communities are Turks, Roma and Russians.
Similarly, Bulgarian is the main and official language of the country but 17 other languages are recognized including Turkish and Balkan Romani. The Bulgarian is written in Cyrillic alphabet related to Russian despite differences in pronunciation. Note that the Cyrillic alphabet was created in the 9th century. This is an evolution of the Glagolitic alphabet, the oldest Slavic alphabet used by the "apostles" Saints Cyril and Methodius.
60% of Bulgarians are Orthodox and 8% are Muslim. It is also estimated that 13% of the population are Alevis (members of heterodox Islam).
The Orthodox Church of Bulgaria is headed by a patriarch (now Neophyte of Sofia) since the 10th century and consists of twelve bishoprics in the country (plus two established abroad, in Berlin and New York).
Bulgaria is a country with strong traditions, influenced by its turbulent history. The numerous festivals are held throughout the country such as the Koukeri festival, a ritual celebration that goes back to the days of the Thracians, the festivals of the rose, the pagan feasts of Dionysus, the feast of wine or the Orthodox Easter.
Bulgarians are also proud of their cultural heritage as the production of yogurt or traditional crafts.
Bulgarian cuisine is typical of the Balkans despite Russian, Greek and Italian influences. Very diverse, it offers the salads, the soups, the cold meats, the stews with the meat and the vegetables as well as the sweet pastries. The yoghurt is omnipresent and is used in many recipes.
As regards beverages, Bulgaria produces the wines, the sparkling wines (iskra) and the local beers, as well as spirits, liqueurs and ouzo.
Boza (fermented cereals), sweet or savory yoghurt-based aïran and mineral water are the preferred non-alcoholic beverages of the Bulgarians.
Since the return of political stability in the country, Bulgaria is opening up to tourism. However, some precautions must be taken (do not venture into the isolated areas at night, be vigilant in drawing money from distributors).
The tourists traveling by car have to face two disadvantages, the poor road conditions and a high number of vehicle thefts.
To accommodate tourists all year round, the hotel infrastructures have been built in the ski resorts and the resorts. The country is full of archaeological sites and historical monuments on UNESCO's World Heritage List, the witnesses of the country's long history. It also attracts the hiking enthusiasts.
The most luxurious seaside resort is the Golden Sands, but many tourists prefer the architectural heritage of Varna, the pearl of the Black Sea, the mineral springs of Saint Constantin or the charm of Albena, a resort more Modest but nestled in a green setting.
Bulgaria has three important ski resorts, Pamporovo in the Rhodope Mountains, Borovets in the Rila Mountains and Bansko at the foot of the Pirin. All offer a high standard hotel infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities. Bansko, its traditional architecture and its convivial atmosphere attracts mostly the families. The other two stations have been created for the tourism and their architecture is contemporary but the facilities are impeccable and the activities proposed are extremely diverse.
Bulgaria is also a privileged land for the lovers of history and the tourist sites are not lacking. The caves occupied during prehistory to the sumptuous architecture of Sofia through the Roman and Thracian ruins of Plovdiv, the monasteries of Rila or Troïan, Nessebar, the city of the 40 churches, Melnik the medieval, Bulgaria offers us its most Beautiful pages of history.