Democracy – Bulgaria

Primarily Taken from Wikipedia

Bulgaria ( listen)), officially the Republic of Bulgaria, is a country in the Balkans in south-eastern Europe, which borders five other countries: Romania to the north (mostly along the River Danube), Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. The Black Sea defines the extent of the country to the east.

Bulgaria includes parts of the Roman provinces of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. Old European culture within the territory of present-day[update] Bulgaria started to produce golden artifacts by the fifth millennium BC.

Republic of Bulgaria

Република България


Coat of arms

Motto: Съединението прави силата  (Bulgarian)
Saedinenieto pravi silata”  (transliteration)
“Unity makes strength”1 Anthem: Мила Родино (Bulgarian)
Mila Rodino (transliteration)
Dear Motherland

Location of Bulgaria (dark green) within the European Union

The emergence of a unified Bulgarian national identity and state date back to the early Middle Ages (7th century). All Bulgarian political entities that subsequently emerged preserved the traditions (in ethnic name, language and alphabet) of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/681 – 1018), which at times covered most of the Balkans and spread its alphabet, literature and culture among the Slavic and other peoples of Eastern Europe. Centuries later, with the decline of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 – 1396/1422), Bulgarian kingdoms came under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 led to the re-establishment of a Bulgarian state as a constitutional monarchy in 1878, with the Treaty of San Stefano marking the birth of the Third Bulgarian State. In 1908, with social strife brewing at the core of the Ottoman Empire, the Alexander Malinov government and Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria formally proclaimed the full sovereignty of the Bulgarian state at the ancient capital of Veliko Turnovo.

After World War II, in 1945 Bulgaria became a communist state and part of the Eastern Bloc. Todor Zhivkov dominated Bulgaria politically for 33 years (from 1956 to 1989). In 1990, after the Revolutions of 1989, the Communist Party gave up its monopoly on power and Bulgaria transitioned to democracy and free-market capitalism.

Bulgaria functions as a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic. A member of the European Union, NATO and the World Trade Organization, it has a high Human Development Index of 0.834, ranking 56th in the world in 2006. Freedom House in 2008 listed Bulgaria as “free”, giving it scores of 1 (highest) for political rights and 2 for civil liberties.


Geographically and in terms of climate, Bulgaria features notable diversity with the landscape ranging from the Alpine snow-capped peaks in Rila, Pirin and the Balkan Mountains to the mild and sunny Black Sea coast; from the typically continental Danubian Plain (ancient Moesia) in the north to the strong Mediterranean climatic influence in the valleys of Macedonia and in the lowlands in the southernmost parts of Thrace.

Bulgaria has a temperate climate, with cold winters and hot summers. The barrier effect of the Balkan Mountains has some influence on climate throughout the country: northern Bulgaria experiences colder temperatures and receives more rain than the southern lowlands.

The Trigrad Gorge Lake Mandrensko


The Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari,         Baba Vida fortress in Vidin,

a 3rd century BC tomb built in the 10th century

listed as one of UNESCO‘s World Heritage Sites

Dramaturg Note:  Bulgaria has a deep and rich history dating back to b.c. there is a lot of interesting information regarding Bulgaria’s rise and fall throughout early history.  Wikipedia has a good synopsis on the countries early history for those interested.

Ottoman rule

Painting depicting the

Battle of Nicopolis, 1396

In 1393, the Ottomans captured Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, after a three-month siege. In 1396, the Vidin Tsardom fell after the defeat of a Christian crusade at the Battle of Nicopolis. With this, the Ottomans finally subjugated and occupied Bulgaria. A PolishHungarian crusade commanded by Władysław III of Poland set out to free the Balkans in 1444, but the Turks defeated it in the battle of Varna.

The Ottomans decimated the Bulgarian population, which lost most of its cultural relics. Turkish authorities destroyed most of the medieval Bulgarian fortresses in order to prevent rebellions. Large towns and the areas where Ottoman power predominated remained severely depopulated until the 19th century. Bulgarians were obliged to pay much higher taxes than the Muslim population, and completely lacked judicial equality with them.  Bulgarians who converted to Islam, the Pomaks, retained Bulgarian language, dress and some customs compatible with Islam.

During the last two decades of the 18th and first decades of the 19th centuries the Balkan Peninsula dissolved into virtual anarchy, a period known in Bulgarian as the kurdjaliistvo. Armed bands of Turks, called kurdjalii, plagued the area at this time. In many regions, thousands of peasants fled from the countryside either to local towns or (more probably) to the hills or forests; some even fled beyond the Danube to Moldova, Wallachia or southern Russia.

Shipka memorial (located near Gabrovo) — built in honor of the Battle of Shipka Pass; one of the important symbols of Bulgarian liberation.

Throughout the five centuries of Ottoman rule, the Bulgarian people organized many attempts to re-establish their own state. The National awakening of Bulgaria became one of the key factors in the struggle for liberation. The 19th century saw the creation of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee and the Internal Revolutionary Organisation led by liberal revolutionaries such as Vasil Levski, Hristo Botev, Lyuben Karavelov and many others.

In 1876, the April uprising broke out. This the largest and best-organized Bulgarian rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. Though crushed by the Ottoman authorities, the uprising (together with the 1875 rebellion in Bosnia) prompted the Great Powers to convene the 1876 Conference of Constantinople, which delimited the ethnic Bulgarian territories as of the late 19th century, and elaborated the legal and political arrangements for establishing two autonomous Bulgarian provinces. The Ottoman Government declined to comply with the Great Powers’ decisions. This allowed Russia to seek a solution by force without risking military confrontation with other Great Powers as in the Crimean War of 1854 to 1856.

Kingdom of Bulgaria

In the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878, Russian soldiers together with a Romanian expeditionary force and volunteer Bulgarian troops defeated the Ottoman armies. The Treaty of San Stefano (3 March 1878), set up an autonomous Bulgarian principality. But the Western Great Powers immediately rejected the treaty, fearing that a large Slavic country in the Balkans might serve Russian interests. This led to the Treaty of Berlin (1878) which provided for an autonomous Bulgarian principality comprising Moesia and the region of Sofia. Alexander, Prince of Battenberg, became Bulgaria’s first Prince. Most of Thrace became part of the autonomous region of Eastern Rumelia, whereas the rest of Thrace and all of Macedonia returned to the sovereignty of the Ottomans. After the Serbo-Bulgarian War and unification with Eastern Rumelia in 1885, the Bulgarian principality proclaimed itself a fully independent kingdom on 5 October (22 September O.S.), 1908, during the reign of Ferdinand I of Bulgaria.

Ferdinand, of the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, became the Bulgarian Prince after Alexander von Battenberg abdicated in 1886 following a coup d’état staged by pro-Russian army-officers. (Although the counter-coup coordinated by Stefan Stambolov succeeded, Prince Alexander decided not to remain the Bulgarian ruler without the approval of Alexander III of Russia.) The struggle for liberation of the Bulgarians in the Adrianople Vilayet and in Macedonia continued throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, culminating with the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising organised by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization in 1903.

Additional Information Re: The Uprising

The first Bulgarian periodical was printed in 1844. Its focus was the recapitulation of earlier journals printed outside Bulgaria in Romania and beyond Ottoman censorship. As the nineteenth century progressed, an increasing number of periodicals printed by Bulgarian émigrés and smuggled into Bulgaria fueled beliefs in independence. Soon Bulgarian cultural and charitable organizations operating from Constantinople nurtured the idea of Bulgaria’s freedom when they established the chitalishte (reading room), which served as a center for adult education, social gatherings, lectures, performances, and debates, where Bulgarians could discuss their future. By 1871, 131 reading rooms spread the Bulgarian language and culture among the Bulgars. Dobri Chintulov wrote the first poetry in modern Bulgarian and helped begin a cultural revival among the Bulgars. Western literature, translated into the Bulgarian language, presented Bulgarians with knowledge of the political, social, and economic changes occurring in the rest of Europe.

As the Bulgarian national identity developed, so did the desire of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to be independent of the Greek Patriarch in Constantinople. Decades of petitions and protests brought results. In 1870 the Sultan in Constantinople designated the Bulgarian Church as separate from and outside the control of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople. Bulgarian revolutionaries used the organizational structure of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as the skeletal framework for a future state.

A series of Bulgarian uprisings in 1835, 1841, 1850, and 1851 were brutally suppressed by the Turks. The failure of the revolts led Bulgaria’s independence movements to split, with each one suggesting a different approach to end Turkish domination. Eventually the gradual disintegration of the Ottoman Empire led Great Britain and France to intervene and forced the Turkish government to implement political, economic, and social reforms within the Bulgarian region.

Under the leadership of Georgi Rakovski, Bulgaria launched its first major rebellion against their Turkish overlords in 1862. Serbian betrayal dashed the dream of Bulgarian independence and led to generations of feuding between Serbians and Bulgarians. Fortunately for the Bulgarian people even Rakovski’s death in 1867 did not end the Bulgarian dream of independence. The insurrections of September 1875 and April 1876 on behalf of independence were poorly organized and collapsed under the onslaught of a trained and equipped Ottoman army. However, the deaths of over 30,000 Christian Bulgarians raised European concern about the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. The possibility of Russian military intervention in the Eastern Mediterranean in support of the Bulgars forced the convening of an international conference on the Bulgarian question. Russia took the opportunity to charge the Turks with the slaughter of Christians. Turkish refusal to allow the creation of two semiautonomous Bulgarian states was the excuse Czarist Russia needed to declare war on the Ottoman Empire, with the ulterior motive being Russia’s desire to gain access to and control of the Black Sea.

Russian intervention on Bulgaria’s behalf and with British connivance, witnessed the rapid advance of Russian troops into Bulgaria and on to Constantinople. Through the conference of Berlin in 1876, a smaller Bulgarian state was recognized. Bulgarians in Eastern Rumelia remained under Turkish rule but with a Christian governor. The Treaty of Berlin allowed Bulgaria to adopt a constitution, elect a prince, but continue as a vassal state to the Ottoman Sultan. Europe’s exclusion of Bulgarians living in Macedonia, Thrace, and Eastern Rumelia would remain a contentious issue for the next century and lead to numerous Balkan wars.

In 1879 an assembly of Bulgarians meeting in Turnovo, the medieval capital of an independent Bulgaria, wrote a constitution, elected legislators, and selected a German prince, Prince Alexander of Battenberg, to govern them. The principality of Bulgaria’s politicians quickly divided into competing factions of liberals and conservatives. Each established its own party newspaper: the Nezavisimost for the liberals and the Vitocha for the conservatives. Within a few years Bulgaria had 19 weekly newspapers publishing around the country.

The brief reign of Prince Alexander of Battenberg (1879-1886) was fraught with great difficulties. A nephew of the Russian czar, Alexander II, Prince Alexander initially enjoyed Russian support for a conservative regime in Bulgaria. However, Bulgaria’s conservatives did not have the people’s support. The assassination of Alexander II had a tremendous impact on Bulgaria’s future. The new Russian czar, Alexander III, did not like his Bulgarian cousin, Alexander of Battenberg. Although the cousins were both conservatives, the Russian czar demanded the Bulgarian Parliament institute his changes, which diluted many freedoms and liberal clauses guaranteed in the Constitution. The unpopularity of the conservatives ultimately forced Prince Alexander to restore the liberals and revoke the Russian-imposed constitutional changes. Prince Alexander’s decision to block increasing Russian influence in Bulgaria by denying the permit for the construction of a railroad for Russia in Bulgaria and the increased presence of the Russian army in Bulgaria led to a serious split between the two nations. In 1885 Prince Alexander’s increasing assertions of independence led to the union of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia against the wishes of Russia. Russia retaliated by placing army officers inside Bulgaria who led the 1886 coup, which ousted Alexander of Battenberg.

Russia then imposed a three-man regency council on Bulgaria. The regency quickly rejected Russian interference in Bulgarian affairs. An embittered Russia withdrew from Bulgaria and for a decade only hostility existed between the two nations. Under the leadership of Stefan Stambolov as prime minister, the Bulgarian legislature elected, against Russian advice, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a German Catholic and a cousin of Queen Victoria, as Prince of Bulgaria. Although Ferdinand was Bulgaria’s new ruling prince, the real power remained Stambolov, who moved quickly to limit constitutional freedoms and squelched the press with strict government censorship. Bulgaria’s first national newspaper was the Stambolov creation Svaboda (Freedom). Later when Stambolov was out of office, the former prime minister used Svaboda to criticize Prince Ferdinand. The newspaper was written with a “racy sarcasm” and included articles that were withering attacks on the government and Prince Ferdinand. It was alleged that Stambolov leaked negative stories about the Bulgarian government to the foreign press. The government unsuccessfully tried to convict Stambolov for defamation of Prince Ferdinand’s character in the foreign press. Bulgaria’s courts rejected the government’s argument. Prince Ferdinand responded by allowing government ministers to leak stories to the newspapers that compromised Stambolov’s moral and political integrity.

Europe’s Great Powers did not recognize Prince Ferdinand as the ruler of Bulgaria for a decade. Stambolov ruled as a virtual dictator who suppressed political parties, the press, and extreme nationalists. The prime minister remained in power because he neutralized the army leadership, shifted the national economy into profitable capitalism, and won support from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Stambolov acquired many enemies, and in 1894 Ferdinand had consolidated enough power and support from the various factions within his country to dismiss the prime minister. Stambolov continued to use Svaboda to attack the government, both the new prime minister and Prince Ferdinand. When Stambolov was assassinated in 1895, Svaboda accused Prince Ferdinand of engineering the former prime minister’s death. The ascension of Czar Nicholas II to the throne of Russia in 1896 brought Russian recognition of Ferdinand as Prince of Bulgaria. Prince Ferdinand continued to increase his political powers over the next two decades by maintaining a semblance of parliamentary rule, supporting industrialization, and encouraging Bulgarian nationalism at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. In 1908 Ferdinand felt secure enough to break all ties to the Ottomans and declare himself King of Bulgaria. Numerous small newspapers began circulation in the cities of Sofia, Plovdiv, and Varna. The nation’s new leading print media were the Vetcherna Poschta (Evening Courier) and Dnevnik (Journal). Advertising as a source of revenue increased the number of newspapers to 239 publications in 1911. Ironically Svaboda still published, but as the government’s newspaper.


Bulgaria became a part of NATO and other international political organizations during the second half of the 20th century.


Bulgaria ranks as one of the top world producers of agricultural commodities such as anise (6th in the world), sunflower seed (11th), raspberries (13th), tobacco (15th), chili peppers (18th) and flax fibre (19th).

Industry and mining

“Elatsite” gold and copper mine extracts about 13 million tonnes of ore annually, and produces about 42,000 tonnes of copper, 1.6 tonnes of gold and 5.5 tonnes of silver.

Industry plays a key role in the Bulgarian economy. Although Bulgaria lacks large reserves of oil and gas, it produces significant quantities of minerals, metals and electricity.

Mining, an important source of export earnings, and has become pivotal to the Bulgarian economy. The country ranks as the 19th largest coal producer in the world, 9th largest bismuth producer, 19th largest copper producer, and the 26th largest zinc producer.Ferrous metallurgy also has major importance. Much of the production of steel and pig iron takes place in Kremikovtsi and Pernik, with a third metallurgical base in Debelt. In production of steel and steel products per capita the country heads the Balkans. The largest refineries for lead and zinc operate in Plovdiv (the biggest refinery between Italy and the Ural mountains), Kardzhali and Novi Iskar; for copper in Pirdop and Eliseina (now defunct); for aluminium in Shumen. In production of many metals per capita, such as zinc and iron, Bulgaria ranks first in Eastern Europe.

About 14% of the total industrial production relates to machine building, and 20% of the people work in this field. Its importance has decreased since 1989.


Bulgaria occupies a unique and strategically important geographic location. Since ancient times, the country has served as a major crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa.


Most Bulgarians (82.6%) belong, at least nominally, to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Founded in 870 AD under the Patriarchate of Constantinople (from which it obtained its first primate, its clergy and theological texts), the Orthodox Church had autocephalous status since 927 AD. Other religious denominations include Islam (12.2%), various Protestant denominations (0.8%) and Roman Catholicism (0.5%); with other denominations, atheists and undeclared totalling approximately 4.1%.[95] Bulgaira is officially a secular nation and the Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion but appoints Orthodoxy as an official religion. In the 2001 census, 82.6% of the people declared themselves Orthodox Christians, 12,2% Muslim, 1.2% other Christian denominations, 4% other religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Judaism) and zero percent atheists.

Islam came to the country at the end of the fourteenth century after the conquest of the country by the Ottomans. In the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, missionaries from Rome converted Paulicians from the districts of Plovdiv and Svishtov to Roman Catholicism. Bulgaria’s Jewish community, once one of the largest in Europe, now numbers less than 2,000 people.


Golden mask of Thracian king Teres, discovered near the town of Shipka.

A number of ancient civilizations, most notably the Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Slavs, and Bulgars, have left their mark on the culture, history and heritage of Bulgaria. Thracian artifacts include numerous tombs and golden treasures, while ancient Bulgars have left traces of their heritage in music and early architecture.

The oldest treasure of worked gold in the world, dating back to the 5th millennium BC, comes from the site of the Varna Necropolis.

Bulgaria functioned as the hub of Slavic Europe during much of the Middle Ages, exerting considerable literary and cultural influence over the Eastern Orthodox Slavic world by means of the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools. Cyrillic alphabet, used in many languages in Eastern Europe and Asia, originated in these two schools in the tenth century AD.

Bulgaria’s contribution to humanity continued throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with individuals such as John Atanasoff — a United States citizen of Bulgarian descent, regarded as the father of the digital computer. A number of noted opera-singers (Nicolai Ghiaurov, Boris Christoff, Raina Kabaivanska, Ghena Dimitrova, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Vesselina Kasarova), pianist Alexis Weissenberg, and successful artists (Christo, Pascin, Vladimir Dimitrov) popularized the culture of Bulgaria abroad.

A decorated horse, prepared for a race. Horce races are organized each year to mark Todorovden (St. Theodore’s day).

Bulgaria has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the early medieval large rock relief Madara Rider, two Thracian tombs (in Sveshtari and Kazanlak), the Boyana Church, the Rila Monastery and the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo, Pirin National Park and Sreburna Nature Reserve, as well as the ancient city of Nesebar.

Bulgaria has an long-standing musical tradition, which can be traced back to the early Middle ages. One of the earliest known composers of Medieval Europe, Yoan Kukuzel (ca. 12801360), became famous for his work Polieleion of the Bulgarian Woman. About 90 of his works have survived. Kukuzel also reformed the Byzantine musical writing system, and became known as The Angel-voiced for his singing abilities.

The distinctive sound of Bulgarian folk music comes partly from the asymmetric rhythms, harmony and polyphony, such as the use of close intervals like the major second and the singing of a drone accompaniment underneath the melody, especially common in songs from the Shopi region in Western Bulgaria and the Pirin region.

Regional folk musical styles abound in Bulgaria. Dobrudzha, Sofia, Rodopi, Macedonia, Thrace and the Danube plain all have distinctive sounds. Traditional instruments include gudulka (гъдулка), gaida (гайда) – bagpipe, kaval (кавал), tupan (тъпан) and others.

Bulgaria has a rich heritage in the visual arts, especially in frescoes, murals and icons. The Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak offers fine examples of excellently preserved ancient Thracian art. Tomb art provides one of the most important sources of information about Thracian lifestyle and culture.

The crypt of the Alexander Nevski cathedral features an exhibition of a large collection of medieval icons. The earliest of those dates from around the 9th century AD. The Tarnovo Artistic School, the mainstream of the Bulgarian fine arts and architecture between 13th and 14th centuries, takes its name from the capital and main cultural center of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Tarnovo. Although it shows the influence of some tendencies of the Palaeologan Renaissance in the Byzantine Empire, the Tarnovo painting had its own unique features which makes it a separate artistic school.[98] The works of the Tarnovo school show some degree of realism, portrait individualism and psychology.[99]

Melnik is a major wine production center since 1346.

The unique and realistic portraits in the Boyana Church class as forerunners of the Renaissance. During the period of Ottoman rule (1396-1878) the authorities suppressed Bulgarian art. Many churches suffered destruction, and newly built ones remained somewhat modest. In the end of the 18th century the Islamic Ottoman empire began to decay slowly, thus permitting the Bulgarian National Revival of the 18th and 19th centuries to occur. Bulgaria experienced a cultural revival. Following the Liberation in 1878, fine arts rapidly recovered and came under the influence of European artistic currents such as late Romanticism.

Owing to the relatively warm climate and diverse geography affording excellent growth-conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits, Bulgarian cuisine (българска кухня, bulgarska kuhnya) offers great diversity.

Famous for its rich salads required at every meal, the cuisine also features diverse quality dairy products and a variety of wines and local alcoholic drinks such as rakia (ракия), mastika (мастика) and menta (мента).

Exports of Bulgarian wine go worldwide, and until 1990 the country exported the world’s second-largest total of bottled wine. The rich soil, perfect climate and the millennia old tradition of wine-making, which dates back to the time of the Thracians, contributes to the wide variety of fine Bulgarian wines. As of 2007, Bulgaria produced 200,000 tonnes of wine annually,  ranking 20th in the world.


Bulgaria has had few periods of complete independence. In the Middle Ages Bulgaria was twice briefly free before being absorbed by either the Byzantine or Ottoman Empires. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries more powerful neighbors manipulated the future of the Bulgarian people, most notably the Turks and the Russians. Attempts to unite all Bulgars under one national flag failed because Bulgaria’s neighbors, Greece and Yugoslavia, claimed the same lands. The desire for a Greater Bulgaria, led the nation to make the ultimately disastrous decisions to join both the Central Powers and the Axis in two world wars to achieve the union of all Bulgars.

Independent since 1879, Bulgaria was denied the right to unite all Bulgars under one national flag, and its governments were interfered with and destabilized by more powerful neighbors, particularly Russia under the czars and the Soviet Union under Communism. Throughout Bulgaria’s history, human rights and press freedoms existed for only brief periods. Political instability led to political assassinations and coups. Constitutions were replaced and even though each one guaranteed press, speech, and expression rights, those rights were usually ignored, reduced, or suspended altogether. Within a decade of Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov’s overthrow, Bulgaria has begun a remarkable transformation into becoming a modern democratic state. The paradox of a former king leading his nation as a prime minister out from under the shadows of decades of Communist rule has achieved great attention in Europe and the United States. Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is politically astute, cultured, and is completely dedicated to making Bulgaria a modern nation of the twenty-first century. The change in Bulgaria began in 1997 with the election of the Union of Democratic Forces. The momentum must be continued, and it will be if Bulgaria’s progress is rewarded with membership into the European Union and NATO.

Other Resources

CIA Factbook – Bulgaria –


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