Europe

Bulgaria country profile

  • 20 January 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Bulgaria

Bulgaria, situated in the eastern Balkans, has been undergoing a slow and painful transition to a market economy since the end of Communist rule.

A predominantly Slavonic-speaking, Orthodox Christian country, Bulgaria was the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet, which was created there towards the end of the 9th century AD.

It was long influenced by Byzantine culture then was part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years before gaining its independence in the 19th century.

After World War II it became a satellite of the Soviet Union, but is now a member country of the EU and NATO.

FACTS

Republic of Bulgaria

Capital: Sophia

  • Population 7.4 million

  • Area 110,994 sq km (42,855 sq miles)

  • Major language Bulgarian

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 70 years (men), 77 years (women)

  • Currency lev

Getty Images

LEADERS

President: Rosen Plevneliev

Image copyright Getty Images

Rosen Plevneliev won the presidential elections in a run-off in October 2011, beating Socialist candidate Ivaylo Kalfin.

He took office in January 2012 for a five-year term in a post that carries few real powers.

Before becoming president, Mr Plevneliev was construction minister in the centre-right government of Boyko Borisov. Prior to that, he ran his own building and development company.

Prime Minister: Boyko Borisov

Image copyright Getty Images

Boyko Borisov formed a centre-right coalition government made up of his centre-right GERB party and the Reformist Bloc in November 2014, following snap elections the previous month.

The prime minister said his new government would work to guarantee stability, but warned that hard times lay ahead, highlighting economic stagnation, blocked EU funding, poverty and delayed reforms.

He is hampered by a lack of an overall majority in parliament, where the coalition is dependent on on the support of centre-left and nationalist parties.

Mr Borisov was prime minister between 2009 and February 2013, when he stepped down during mass anti-poverty protests.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images

Global media giants have a stake in Bulgaria's lively broadcasting market. TV is the most popular medium.

International media group CME runs bTV, Bulgaria's most-watched channel. Scandinavian company MTG operates national station Nova TV.

There are several private regional TVs and many private radio stations. Cable and satellite are the main distribution platforms. Media ownership is concentrated among a handful of individuals.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Bulgaria's history:

1018-1185 - Bulgaria is part of Byzantine empire.

1396 - Ottoman Empire completes conquest of Bulgaria. Next five centuries are known as era of the "Turkish yoke".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world

1876 - Nationwide uprising against Ottoman rule is violently suppressed.

1878 - Treaty of San Stefano - signed by Russia and Turkey at the end of their war of 1877-78 - recognises an autonomous Bulgaria.

1908 - Bulgaria declares itself an independent kingdom. Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha assumes title of tsar.

1914-18 - World War I. Bulgaria allies itself with Germany. Some 100,000 Bulgarian troops are killed, the most severe per capita losses of any country involved in the war.

1939-45 World War II - Soviet army invades German-occupied Bulgaria in 1944. Soviet-backed Fatherland Front takes power.

1947 - New constitution along Soviet lines establishes one-party state.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Protests in November 1989 broadened into a general campaign for political reform

1954 - Todor Zhivkov becomes Communist Party general secretary. Bulgaria becomes staunch USSR ally.

1971 - Zhivkov becomes president.

1989 - Reforms in the Soviet Union inspire demands for democratisation. Zhivkov ousted.

1991 New constitution proclaims Bulgaria a parliamentary republic and provides broad range of freedoms.

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