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Republic of Bulgaria

Република България  (Bulgarian)
Republika Balgaria
Motto: 
Anthem: Мила Родино  (Bulgarian)
Mila Rodino  (transliteration)
Dear Motherland
Location of Bulgaria (dark green) – in Europe (green & dark grey) – in the European Union (green)  –  [Legend]
Location of Bulgaria (dark green)

– in Europe (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (green)  –  [Legend]

Capital
and largest city
Sofia
42°41′N 23°19′E / 42.683°N 23.317°E / 42.683; 23.317Coordinates: 42°41′N 23°19′E / 42.683°N 23.317°E / 42.683; 23.317
Official languagesBulgarian[1]
Official scriptCyrillic
Ethnic groups
(2011)
[note 1]

– in Europe (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (green)  –  [Legend]

Capital
and largest city
Sofia
42°41′N 23°19′E / 42.683°N 23.317°E / 42.683; 23.317Coordinates: 42°41′N 23°19′E / 42.683°N 23.317°E / 42.683; 23.317
Official languagesBulgarian[1]
Official scriptCyrillic
Ethnic groups
(2011)
[note 1]
Demonym(s)
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary
republic
• President
Rumen Radev
Boyko Borisov
LegislatureNational Assembly
Establishment history
681–1018
1185–1396
3 March 1878
5 October 1908
15 November 1990
Area
• Total
110,993.6[2] km2 (42,854.9 sq mi) (103rd)
• Water (%)Bulgaria (/bʌlˈɡɛəriə, bʊl-/ (About this soundlisten); Bulgarian: България, romanizedBalgaria), officially the Republic of Bulgaria (Bulgarian: Република България, romanized: Republika Balgaria, IPA: [rɛˈpublikɐ bɐɫˈɡarijɐ]), is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. The capital and largest city is Sofia; other major cities are Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe's sixteenth-largest country.

One of the earliest societies in the lands of modern-day Bulgaria was the Neolithic Karanovo culture, which dates back to 6,500 BC. In the 6th to 3rd century BC the region was a battleground for ancient Thracians, Persians, Celts and Macedonians; stability came when the Roman Empire conquered the region in AD 45. The Eastern Roman Empire lost some of these territories to the numerous early Slavs. They were invaded by small number of warlike Bulgars in the late 7th century who subdued the Slavs and founded there the First Bulgarian Empire in AD 681. It dominated most of the Balkans and significantly influenced Slavic cultures by developing the Cyrillic script. This state lasted until the early 11th century, when Byzantine emperor Basil II conquered and dismantled it. A successful Bulgarian revolt in 1185 established a Second Bulgarian Empire, which reached its apex under Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria (1218–1241). After numerous exhausting wars and feudal strife, the empire disintegrated in 1396 and fell under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 resulted in the formation of the third and current Bulgarian state. Many ethnic Bulgarians were left outside the new nation's borders, which stoked irredentist sentiments that led to several conflicts with its neighbours and alliances with Germany in both world wars. In 1946 Bulgaria came under the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc and became a one-party socialist state. The ruling Communist Party gave up its monopoly on power after the revolutions of 1989 and allowed multiparty elections. Bulgaria then transitioned into a democracy and a market-based economy. Since adopting a democratic constitution in 1991, Bulgaria has been a unitary parliamentary republic composed of 28 provinces, with a high degree of political, administrative, and economic centralisation.

Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, NATO, and the Council of Europe; it is a founding state of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and has taken a seat on the United Nations Security Council three times. Its market economy is part of the European Single Market and mostly relies on services, followed by industry—especially machine building and mining—and agriculture. Bulgaria is a developing country with an upper-middle-income economy, very high Human Development Index; although it has the lowest GDP per capita and joint-lowest Human Development Index in the European Union. Widespread corruption is a major socioeconomic issue; Bulgaria ranked as the most corrupt country in the European Union in 2018.[8] The country also faces a demographic crisis, with its population shrinking annually since the late 1980s; it currently numbers roughly seven million, down from a peak of nearly nine million in 1988.

Etymology

The name Bulgaria is derived from the Bulgars, a tribe of Turkic origin that founded the country. Their name is not completely understood and is difficult to trace back earlier than the 4th century AD,[9] but it is possibly derived from the Proto-Turkic word bulģha ("to mix", "shake", "stir") and its derivative bulgak ("revolt", "disorder").[10] The meaning may be further extended to "rebel", "incite" or "produce a state of disorder", and so, in the derivative, the "disturbers".[11][12][13] Ethnic groups in Inner Asia with phonologically similar names were frequently described in similar terms: during the 4th century, the Buluoji, a component of the "Five Barbarian" groups in ancient China, were portrayed as both a "mixed race" and "troublemakers".[14]

History

Prehistory and antiquity

Thracian golden wreath exhibited in the National Historical Museum
Odrysian golden wreath in the National History Museum

Neanderthal remains dating to around 150,000 years ago, or the Middle Paleolithic, are some of the earliest traces of human activity in the lands of modern Bulgaria.[15] Remains from Homo sapiens found there are dated c. 47,000 years BP. This result represents the earliest arrival of modern humans in Europe.Neolithic Karanovo culture, which dates back to 6,500 BC. In the 6th to 3rd century BC the region was a battleground for ancient Thracians, Persians, Celts and Macedonians; stability came when the Roman Empire conquered the region in AD 45. The Eastern Roman Empire lost some of these territories to the numerous early Slavs. They were invaded by small number of warlike Bulgars in the late 7th century who subdued the Slavs and founded there the First Bulgarian Empire in AD 681. It dominated most of the Balkans and significantly influenced Slavic cultures by developing the Cyrillic script. This state lasted until the early 11th century, when Byzantine emperor Basil II conquered and dismantled it. A successful Bulgarian revolt in 1185 established a Second Bulgarian Empire, which reached its apex under Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria (1218–1241). After numerous exhausting wars and feudal strife, the empire disintegrated in 1396 and fell under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 resulted in the formation of the third and current Bulgarian state. Many ethnic Bulgarians were left outside the new nation's borders, which stoked irredentist sentiments that led to several conflicts with its neighbours and alliances with Germany in both world wars. In 1946 Bulgaria came under the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc and became a one-party socialist state. The ruling Communist Party gave up its monopoly on power after the revolutions of 1989 and allowed multiparty elections. Bulgaria then transitioned into a democracy and a market-based economy. Since adopting a democratic constitution in 1991, Bulgaria has been a unitary parliamentary republic composed of 28 provinces, with a high degree of political, administrative, and economic centralisation.

Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, NATO, and the Council of Europe; it is a founding state of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and has taken a seat on the United Nations Security Council three times. Its market economy is part of the European Single Market and mostly relies on services, followed by industry—especially machine building and mining—and agriculture. Bulgaria is a developing country with an upper-middle-income economy, very high Human Development Index; although it has the lowest GDP per capita and joint-lowest Human Development Index in the European Union. Widespread corruption is a major socioeconomic issue; Bulgaria ranked as the most corrupt country in the European Union in 2018.[8] The country also faces a demographic crisis, with its population shrinking annually since the late 1980s; it currently numbers roughly seven million, down from a peak of nearly nine million in 1988.

The name Bulgaria is derived from the Bulgars, a tribe of Turkic origin that founded the country. Their name is not completely understood and is difficult to trace back earlier than the 4th century AD,[9] but it is possibly derived from the Proto-Turkic word bulģha ("to mix", "shake", "stir") and its derivative bulgak ("revolt", "disorder").[10] The meaning may be further extended to "rebel", "incite" or "produce a state of disorder", and so, in the derivative, the "disturbers".[11][12][13] Ethnic groups in Inner Asia with phonologically similar names were frequently described in similar terms: during the 4th century, the Buluoji, a component of the "Five Barbarian" groups in ancient China, were portrayed as both a "mixed race" and "troublemakers".[14]

History

Prehistory and antiquity

Thracian golden wreath exhibited in the National Historical Museum
Odrysian golden wreath in the National History Museum

Neanderthal remains dating to around 150,000 years ago, or the Middle Paleolithic, are some of the earliest traces of human activity in the lands of modern Bulgaria.[15] Remains from Homo sapiens found there are dated c. 47,000 years BP. This result represents the earliest arrival of modern humans in Europe.[16][17] The Karanovo culture arose circa 6,500 BC and was one of several Neolithic societies in the region that thrived on agriculture.[18] The Copper Age Varna culture (fifth millennium BC) is credited with inventing gold metallurgy.[19][20] The associated Varna Necropolis treasure contains the oldest golden jewellery in the world with an approximate age of over 6,000 years.[21][22] The treasure has been valuable for understanding social hierarchy and stratification in the earliest European societies.[23][24][25]

The Thracians, one of the three primary ancestral groups of modern BulgariansNeanderthal remains dating to around 150,000 years ago, or the Middle Paleolithic, are some of the earliest traces of human activity in the lands of modern Bulgaria.[15] Remains from Homo sapiens found there are dated c. 47,000 years BP. This result represents the earliest arrival of modern humans in Europe.[16][17] The Karanovo culture arose circa 6,500 BC and was one of several Neolithic societies in the region that thrived on agriculture.[18] The Copper Age Varna culture (fifth millennium BC) is credited with inventing gold metallurgy.[19][20] The associated Varna Necropolis treasure contains the oldest golden jewellery in the world with an approximate age of over 6,000 years.[21][22] The treasure has been valuable for understanding social hierarchy and stratification in the earliest European societies.[23][24][25]

The Thracians, one of the three primary ancestral groups of modern Bulgarians, appeared on the Balkan Peninsula some time before the 12th century BC.[26][27][28] The Thracians excelled in metallurgy and gave the Greeks the Orphean and Dionysian cults, but remained tribal and stateless.[29] The Persian Achaemenid Empire conquered most of present-day Bulgaria in the 6th century BC and retained control over the region until 479 BC.[30][31] The invasion became a catalyst for Thracian unity, and the bulk of their tribes united under king Teres to form the Odrysian kingdom in the 470s BC.[29]Thracians, one of the three primary ancestral groups of modern Bulgarians, appeared on the Balkan Peninsula some time before the 12th century BC.[26][27][28] The Thracians excelled in metallurgy and gave the Greeks the Orphean and Dionysian cults, but remained tribal and stateless.[29] The Persian Achaemenid Empire conquered most of present-day Bulgaria in the 6th century BC and retained control over the region until 479 BC.[30][31] The invasion became a catalyst for Thracian unity, and the bulk of their tribes united under king Teres to form the Odrysian kingdom in the 470s BC.[29][31][32] It was weakened and vassalized by Philip II of Macedon in 341 BC,[33] attacked by Celts in the 3rd century,[34] and finally became a province of the Roman Empire in AD 45.[35]

By the end of the 1st century AD, Roman governance was established over the entire Balkan Peninsula and Christianity began spreading in the region around the 4th century.[29] The Gothic Bible—the first Germanic language book—was created by Gothic bishop Ulfilas in what is today northern Bulgaria around 381.[36] The region came under Byzantine control after the fall of Rome in 476. The Byzantines were engaged in prolonged warfare against Persia and could not defend their Balkan territories from barbarian incursions.[37] This enabled the Slavs to enter the Balkan Peninsula as marauders, primarily through an area between the Danube River and the Balkan Mountains known as Moesia.[38] Gradually, the interior of the peninsula became a country of the South Slavs, who lived under a democracy.[39][40] The Slavs assimilated the partially Hellenized, Romanized, and Gothicized Thracians in the rural areas.[41][42][43][44]

Not long after the Slavic incursion, Moesia was once again invaded, this time by the Bulgars under Khan Asparukh.[45] Their horde was a remnant of Old Great Bulgaria, an extinct tribal confederacy situated north of the Black Sea in what is now Ukraine and southern Russia. Asparukh attacked Byzantine territories in Moesia and conquered the Slavic tribes there in 680.[27] A peace treaty with the Byzantine Empire was signed in 681, marking the foundation of the First Bulgarian Empire. The minority Bulgars formed a close-knit ruling caste.[46]

Succeeding rulers strengthened the Bulgarian state throughout the 8th and 9th centuries. Krum introduced a written code of law[47] and checked a major Byzantine incursion at the Battle of Pliska, in which Byzantine emperor Nicephorus I was killed.[48] Boris I abolished paganism in favour of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in 864. The conversion was followed by a Byzantine recognition of the Succeeding rulers strengthened the Bulgarian state throughout the 8th and 9th centuries. Krum introduced a written code of law[47] and checked a major Byzantine incursion at the Battle of Pliska, in which Byzantine emperor Nicephorus I was killed.[48] Boris I abolished paganism in favour of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in 864. The conversion was followed by a Byzantine recognition of the Bulgarian church[49] and the adoption of the Cyrillic alphabet, developed in the capital, Preslav.[50] The common language, religion and script strengthened central authority and gradually fused the Slavs and Bulgars into a unified people speaking a single Slavic language.[51][50] A golden age began during the 34-year rule of Simeon the Great, who oversaw the largest territorial expansion of the state.[52]

After Simeon's death, Bulgaria was weakened by wars with Magyars and Pechenegs and the spread of the Bogomil heresy.[51][53] Preslav was seized by the Byzantine army in 971 after consecutive Rus' and Byzantine invasions.[51] The empire briefly recovered from the attacks under Samuil,[54] but this ended when Byzantine emperor Basil II defeated the Bulgarian army at Klyuch in 1014. Samuil died shortly after the battle,[55] and by 1018 the Byzantines had conquered the First Bulgarian Empire.[56] After the conquest, Basil II prevented revolts by retaining the rule of local nobility, integrating them in Byzantine bureaucracy and aristocracy, and relieving their lands of the obligation to pay taxes in gold, allowing tax in kind instead.[57][58] The Bulgarian Patriarchate was reduced to an archbishopric, but retained its autocephalous status and its dioceses.[58][57]

Byzantine domestic policies changed after Basil's death and a series of unsuccessful rebellions broke out, the largest being led by Peter Delyan. The empire's authority declined after a catastrophic military defeat at Manzikert against Seljuk invaders, and was further disturbed by the Crusades. This prevented Byzantine attempts at Hellenisation and created fertile ground for further revolt. In 1185 Asen dynasty nobles Ivan Asen I and Peter IV organized a major uprising and succeeded in re-establishing the Bulgarian state. Ivan Asen and Peter laid the foundations of the Second Bulgarian Empire with its capital at Tarnovo.[59]

Kaloyan, the third of the Asen monarchs, extended his dominion to Belgrade and Ohrid. He acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the pope and received a royal crown from a papal legate.[60] The empire reached its zenith under Ivan Asen II (1218–1241), when its borders expanded as far as the coast of Albania, Serbia and Epirus, while commerce and culture flourished.[60][59] Ivan Asen's rule was also marked by a shift away from Rome in religious matters.[61]

The Asen dynasty became extinct in

Kaloyan, the third of the Asen monarchs, extended his dominion to Belgrade and Ohrid. He acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the pope and received a royal crown from a papal legate.[60] The empire reached its zenith under Ivan Asen II (1218–1241), when its borders expanded as far as the coast of Albania, Serbia and Epirus, while commerce and culture flourished.[60][59] Ivan Asen's rule was also marked by a shift away from Rome in religious matters.[61]

The Asen dynasty became extinct in 1257. Internal conflicts and incessant Byzantine and Hungarian attacks followed, enabling the Mongols to establish suzerainty over the weakened Bulgarian state.[60][61] In 1277, swineherd Ivaylo led a great peasant revolt that expelled the Mongols from Bulgaria and briefly made him emperor.[62][59] He was overthrown in 1280 by the feudal landlords,[62] whose factional conflicts caused the Second Bulgarian Empire to disintegrate into small feudal dominions by the 14th century.[59] These fragmented rump states—two tsardoms at Vidin and Tarnovo and the Despotate of Dobrudzha—became easy prey for a new threat arriving from the Southeast: the Ottoman Turks.[60]

The Ottomans were employed as mercenaries by the Byzantines in the 1340s but later became invaders in their own right.[63] Sultan Murad I took Adrianople from the Byzantines in 1362; Sofia fell in 1382, followed by Shumen in 1388.[63] The Ottomans completed their conquest of Bulgarian lands in 1393 when Tarnovo was sacked after a three-month siege and the Battle of Nicopolis which brought about the fall of the Vidin Tsardom in 1396. Sozopol was the last Bulgarian settlement to fall, in 1453.[64] The Bulgarian nobility was subsequently eliminated and the peasantry was enserfed to Ottoman masters,[63] while much of the educated clergy fled to other countries.[65]

Bulgarians were subjected to heavy taxes (including devshirme, or blood tax), their culture was suppressed,[65] and they experienced partial Islamisation.[66] Ottoman authorities established a religious administrative community called the Rum Millet, which governed all Orthodox Christians regardless of their ethnicity.[67] Most of the local population then gradually lost its distinct national consciousness, identifying only by its faith.[68][69] The clergy remaining in some isolated monasteries kept their ethnic identity alive, enabling its survival in remote rural areas,[70] and in the militant Catholic community in the northwest of the country.[71]

As Ottoman power began to wane, Habsburg Aust

Bulgarians were subjected to heavy taxes (including devshirme, or blood tax), their culture was suppressed,[65] and they experienced partial Islamisation.[66] Ottoman authorities established a religious administrative community called the Rum Millet, which governed all Orthodox Christians regardless of their ethnicity.[67] Most of the local population then gradually lost its distinct national consciousness, identifying only by its faith.[68][69] The clergy remaining in some isolated monasteries kept their ethnic identity alive, enabling its survival in remote rural areas,[70] and in the militant Catholic community in the northwest of the country.[71]

As Ottoman power began to wane, Habsburg Austria and Russia saw Bulgarian Christians as potential allies. The Austrians first backed an uprising in Tarnovo in 1598, then a second one in 1686, the Chiprovtsi Uprising in 1688 and finally Karposh's Rebellion in 1689.[72] The Russian Empire also asserted itself as a protector of Christians in Ottoman lands with the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in 1774.[72]

The Western European Enlightenment in the 18th century influenced the initiation of a national awakening of Bulgaria.[63] It restored national consciousness and provided an ideological basis for the liberation struggle, resulting in the 1876 April Uprising. Up to 30,000 Bulgarians were killed as Ottoman authorities put down the rebellion. The massacres prompted the Great Powers to take action.[73] They convened the Constantinople Conference in 1876, but their decisions were rejected by the Ottomans. This allowed the Russian Empire to seek a military solution without risking confrontation with other Great Powers, as had happened in the Crimean War.[73] In 1877 Russia declared war on the Ottomans and defeated them with the help of Bulgarian rebels, particularly during the crucial Battle of Shipka Pass which secured Russian control over the main road to Constantinople.[74][75]

Third Bulgarian state

The Treaty of San Stefano was signed on 3 March 1878 by Russia and the Ottoman Empire. It was to set up an autonomous Bulgarian principality spanning Moesia, Macedonia and Thrace, roughly on the territories of the Second Bulgaria

The Treaty of San Stefano was signed on 3 March 1878 by Russia and the Ottoman Empire. It was to set up an autonomous Bulgarian principality spanning Moesia, Macedonia and Thrace, roughly on the territories of the Second Bulgarian Empire,[76][77] and this day is now a public holiday called National Liberation Day.[78] The other Great Powers immediately rejected the treaty out of fear that such a large country in the Balkans might threaten their interests. It was superseded by the Treaty of Berlin, signed on 13 July. It provided for a much smaller state, the Principality of Bulgaria, only comprising Moesia and the region of Sofia, and leaving large populations of ethnic Bulgarians outside the new country.[76][79] This significantly contributed to Bulgaria's militaristic foreign affairs approach during the first half of the 20th century.[80]

Map of Bulgaria according to the Treaty of San Stefanoa war against Serbia and incorporated the semi-autonomous Ottoman territory of Eastern Rumelia in 1885, proclaiming itself an independent state on 5 October 1908.[81] In the years following independence, Bulgaria increasingly militarized and was often referred to as "the Balkan Prussia".[82] It became involved in three consecutive conflicts between 1912 and 1918—two Balkan Wars and World War I. After a disastrous defeat in the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria again found itself fighting on the losing side as a result of its alliance with the Central Powers in World War I. Despite fielding more than a quarter of its population in a 1,200,000-strong army[83][84] and achieving several decisive victories at Doiran and Monastir, the country capitulated in 1918. The war resulted in significant territorial losses and a total of 87,500 soldiers killed.[85] More than 253,000 refugees from the lost territories immigrated to Bulgaria from 1912 to 1929,[86] placing additional strain on the already ruined national economy.[87]

A portrait of Tsar Boris III
Tsar Boris III

The resulting political unrest led to the establishment of a royal authori

The resulting political unrest led to the establishment of a royal authoritarian dictatorship by Tsar Boris III (1918–1943). Bulgaria entered World War II in 1941 as a member of the Axis but declined to participate in Operation Barbarossa and saved its Jewish population from deportation to concentration camps.[88] The sudden death of Boris III in mid-1943 pushed the country into political turmoil as the war turned against Germany, and the communist guerrilla movement gained momentum. The government of Bogdan Filov subsequently failed to achieve peace with the Allies. Bulgaria did not comply with Soviet demands to expel German forces from its territory, resulting in a declaration of war and an invasion by the USSR in September 1944.[89] The communist-dominated Fatherland Front took power, ended participation in the Axis and joined the Allied side until the war ended.[90] Bulgaria suffered little war damage and the Soviet Union demanded no reparations. But all wartime territorial gains, with the notable exception of Southern Dobrudzha, were lost.[91]

Georgi Dimitrov, leader of the Bulgarian Communist Party from 1946–1949

The left-wing coup d'état of 9 September 1944 led to the abolition of the monarchy and left-wing coup d'état of 9 September 1944 led to the abolition of the monarchy and the executions of some 1,000–3,000 dissidents, war criminals, and members of the former royal elite.[92][93][94] But it was not until 1946 that a one-party people's republic was instituted following a referendum.[95] It fell into the Soviet sphere of influence under the leadership of Georgi Dimitrov (1946–1949), who established a repressive, rapidly industrializing Stalinist state.[91] By the mid-1950s standards of living rose significantly and political repressions eased.[96][97] The Soviet-style planned economy saw some experimental market-oriented policies emerging under Todor Zhivkov (1954–1989).[98] Compared to wartime levels, national GDP increased five-fold and per capita GDP quadrupled by the 1980s,[99] although severe debt spikes took place in 1960, 1977 and 1980.[100] Zhivkov's daughter, Lyudmila, bolstered national pride by promoting Bulgarian heritage, culture and arts worldwide.[101] Facing declining birth rates among the ethnic Bulgarian majority, in 1984 Zhivkov's government forced the minority ethnic Turks to adopt Slavic names in an attempt to erase their identity and assimilate them.[102] These policies resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 ethnic Turks to Turkey.[103][104]

The Communist Party was forced to give up its political monopoly on 10 November 1989 under the influence of the Revolutions of 1989. Zhivkov resigned and Bulgaria embarked on a transition to a parliamentary democracy.[105] The first free elections in June 1990 were won by the Communist Party, now rebranded as the Bulgarian Socialist Party.[106] A Revolutions of 1989. Zhivkov resigned and Bulgaria embarked on a transition to a parliamentary democracy.[105] The first free elections in June 1990 were won by the Communist Party, now rebranded as the Bulgarian Socialist Party.[106] A new constitution that provided for a relatively weak elected president and for a prime minister accountable to the legislature was adopted in July 1991.[107] The new system initially failed to improve living standards or create economic growth—the average quality of life and economic performance remained lower than under communism well into the early 2000s.[108] After 2001 economic, political and geopolitical conditions improved greatly,[109] and Bulgaria achieved high Human Development status in 2003.[110] It became a member of NATO in 2004[111] and participated in the War in Afghanistan. After several years of reforms it joined the European Union and single market in 2007 despite Brussels' concerns about government corruption.[112] Bulgaria hosted the 2018 Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia.[113] The 2020 Bulgarian protests were triggered on 9 July 2020 when the Presidency of Bulgaria was raided by police and prosecutors as a result of a long-lasting conflict between the prime minister Boyko Borisov and the president Rumen Radev.[114]

Bulgaria occupies a portion of the eastern Balkan peninsula, bordering five countries—Greece and Turkey to the south, North Macedonia and Serbia to the west, and Romania to the north. The land borders have a total length of 1,808 kilometres (1,123 mi), and the coastline has a length of 354 kilometres (220 mi).[115] Its total area of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi) ranks it as the world's 105th-largest country.[2][116] Bulgaria's geographic coordinates are 43° N 25° E.[117] The most notable topographical features are the Danubian Plain, the Balkan Mountains, the Thracian Plain, and the Rila-Rhodope massif.[115] The southern edge of the Danubian Plain slopes upward into the foothills of the Balkans, while the Danube defines the border with Romania. The Thracian Plain is roughly triangular, beginning southeast of Sofia and broadening as it reaches the Black Sea coast.[115]

The Balkan mountains run laterally through the middle of the country from west to east. The mountainous southwest has two distinct alpine type ranges - Rila and Pirin, which border the lower but more extensive Rhodope Mountains to the east, and various medium altitude mountains to west, northwest and south, like Vitosha, Osogovo and Belasitsa.[115] Musala, at 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), is the highest point in both Bulgaria and the Balkan peninsula. The Black Sea coast is the country's lowest point.The Balkan mountains run laterally through the middle of the country from west to east. The mountainous southwest has two distinct alpine type ranges - Rila and Pirin, which border the lower but more extensive Rhodope Mountains to the east, and various medium altitude mountains to west, northwest and south, like Vitosha, Osogovo and Belasitsa.[115] Musala, at 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), is the highest point in both Bulgaria and the Balkan peninsula. The Black Sea coast is the country's lowest point.[117] Plains occupy about one third of the territory, while plateaux and hills occupy 41%.[118] Most rivers are short and with low water levels. The longest river located solely in Bulgarian territory, the Iskar, has a length of 368 kilometres (229 mi). The Struma and the Maritsa are two major rivers in the south.[119][115]

Bulgaria has a varied and changeable climate, which results from being positioned at the meeting point of the Mediterranean, Oceanic and Continental air masses combined with the barrier effect of its mountains.[115] Northern Bulgaria averages 1 °C (1.8 °F) cooler, and registers 200 millimetres (7.9 in) more precipitation, than the regions south of the Balkan mountains. Temperature amplitudes vary significantly in different areas. The lowest recorded temperature is −38.3 °C (−36.9 °F), while the highest is 45.2 °C (113.4 °F).[120] Precipitation averages about 630 millimetres (24.8 in) per year, and varies from 500 millimetres (19.7 in) in Dobrudja to more than 2,500 millimetres (98.4 in) in the mountains. Continental air masses bring significant amounts of snowfall during winter.[121]

Biodiversity and environment

A Lacerta viridis, or European green lizard, on a tree stump in the Ropotamo reserve[122] Bulgaria's biodiversity, one of the richest in Europe,[123] is conserved in three national parks, 11 nature parks, 10 biosphere reserves and 565 protected areas.[124][125][126] Ninety-three of the 233 mammal species of Europe are found in Bulgaria, along with 49% of butterfly and 30% of vascular plant species.[127] Overall, 41,493 plant and animal species are present.[127] Larger mammals with sizable populations include deer (106,323 individuals), wild boars (88,948), jackals (47,293) and foxes (32,326). Partridges number some 328,000 individuals, making them the most widespread gamebird.[128] A third of all nesting birds in Bulgaria can be found in Rila National Park, which also hosts Arctic and alpine species at high altitudes.[129] Flora includes more than 3,800 vascular plant species of which 170 are endemic and 150 are considered endangered.[122] A checklist of larger fungi in Bulgaria by the Institute of Botany identifies more than 1,500 species.[130] More than 35% of the land area is covered by forests.[131]

In 1998, the Bulgarian government adopted the National Biological Diversity Conservation Strategy, a comprehensive programme seeking the preservation of local ecosystems, protection of endangered species and conservation of genetic resources.[132] Bulgaria has some of the largest Natura 2000 areas in Europe covering 33.8% of its territory.[133] It also achieved its Kyoto Protocol objective of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30% from 1990 to 2009.[134]

Bulgaria ranks 30th in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, but scores low on air quality.[135] Particulate levels are the highest in Europe,[136] especially in urban areas affected by automobile traffic and coal-based power stations.[137][132] Bulgaria has some of the largest Natura 2000 areas in Europe covering 33.8% of its territory.[133] It also achieved its Kyoto Protocol objective of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30% from 1990 to 2009.[134]

Bulgaria ranks 30th in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, but scores low on air quality.[135] Particulate levels are the highest in Europe,[136] especially in urban areas affected by automobile traffic and coal-based power stations.[137][138] One of these, the lignite-fired Maritsa Iztok-2 station, is causing the highest damage to health and the environment in the European Union.[139] Pesticide use in agriculture and antiquated industrial sewage systems produce extensive soil and water pollution.[140] Water quality began to improve in 1998 and has maintained a trend of moderate improvement. Over 75% of surface rivers meet European standards for good quality.[141]

Bulgaria is a parliamentary democracy where the prime minister is the head of government and the most powerful executive position.[109] The political system has three branches—legislative, executive and judicial, with universal suffrage for citizens at least 18 years old. The Constitution also provides possibilities of direct democracy, namely petitions and national referenda.[142] Elections are supervised by an independent Central Election Commission that includes members from all major political parties. Parties must register with the commission prior to participating in a national election.[143] Normally, the prime minister-elect is the leader of the party receiving the most votes in parliamentary elections, although this is not always the case.[109]

Unlike the prime minister, presidential domestic power is more limited. The directly elected president serves as head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and has the authority to return a bill for further debate, although the parliament can override the presidential veto by a simple majority vote.[109] Political parties gather in the National Assembly, a body of 240 deputies elected to four-year terms by direct popular vote. The National Assembly has the power to enact laws, approve the budget, schedule presidential elections, select and dismiss the prime minister and other ministers, declare war, deploy troops abroad, and ratify international treaties and agreements.president serves as head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and has the authority to return a bill for further debate, although the parliament can override the presidential veto by a simple majority vote.[109] Political parties gather in the National Assembly, a body of 240 deputies elected to four-year terms by direct popular vote. The National Assembly has the power to enact laws, approve the budget, schedule presidential elections, select and dismiss the prime minister and other ministers, declare war, deploy troops abroad, and ratify international treaties and agreements.[144]

Overall, Bulgaria displays a pattern of unstable governments.[145] Boyko Borisov is serving his third term as prime minister since 2009,[146] when his centre-right, pro-EU party GERB won the general election and ruled as a minority government with 117 seats in the National Assembly.[147] His first government resigned on 20 February 2013 after nationwide protests caused by high costs of utilities, low living standards, corruption[148] and the perceived failure of the democratic system. The protest wave was notable for self-immolations, spontaneous demonstrations and a strong sentiment against political parties.[149]

The subsequent snap elections in May resulted in a narrow win for GERB,[150] but the Bulgarian Socialist Party eventually formed a government led by Plamen Oresharski after Borisov failed to secure parliamentary support.[151][152] The Oresharski government resigned in July 2014 amid continuing large-scale protests.[153][154][155] A caretaker government took over[156] and called the October 2014 elections[157] which resulted in a third GERB victory, but a total of eight parties entered parliament.[158] Borisov formed a coalition[159] with several right-wing parties, but resigned again after the candidate backed by his party failed to win the 2016 Presidential election. The March 2017 snap election was again won by GERB, but with 95 seats in Parliament. They formed a coalition with the far-right United Patriots, who hold 27 seats.[146]

Freedom House has reported a continuing deterioration of democratic governance after 2009, citing reduced media independence, stalled reforms, abuse of authority at the highest level and increased dependence of local administrations on the central government.The subsequent snap elections in May resulted in a narrow win for GERB,[150] but the Bulgarian Socialist Party eventually formed a government led by Plamen Oresharski after Borisov failed to secure parliamentary support.[151][152] The Oresharski government resigned in July 2014 amid continuing large-scale protests.[153][154][155] A caretaker government took over[156] and called the October 2014 elections[157] which resulted in a third GERB victory, but a total of eight parties entered parliament.[158] Borisov formed a coalition[159] with several right-wing parties, but resigned again after the candidate backed by his party failed to win the 2016 Presidential election. The March 2017 snap election was again won by GERB, but with 95 seats in Parliament. They formed a coalition with the far-right United Patriots, who hold 27 seats.[146]

Freedom House has reported a continuing deterioration of democratic governance after 2009, citing reduced media independence, stalled reforms, abuse of authority at the highest level and increased dependence of local administrations on the central government.[160] Bulgaria is still listed as "Free", with a political system designated as a semi-consolidated democracy, albeit with deteriorating scores.[160] The Democracy Index defines it as a "Flawed democracy".[161] A 2018 survey by the Institute for Economics and Peace reported that less than 15% of respondents considered elections to be fair.[162]

Bulgaria has a civil law legal system.[163] The judiciary is overseen by the Ministry of Justice. The Supreme Administrative Court and the Supreme Court of Cassation are the highest courts of appeal and oversee the application of laws in subordinate courts.[143] The Supreme Judicial Council manages the system and appoints judges. The legal system is regarded by both domestic and international observers as one of Europe's most inefficient due to pervasive lack of transparency and corruption.[164][165][166][167][168] Law enforcement is carried out by organisations mainly subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior.[169] The General Directorate of National Police (GDNP) combats general crime and maintains public order.[170] GDNP fields 26,578 police officers in its local and national sections.[171] The bulk of criminal cases are transport-related, followed by theft and drug-related crime; homicide rates are low.[172] The Ministry of the Interior also heads the Border Police Service and the National Gendarmerie—a specialized branch for anti-terrorist activity, crisis management and riot control. Counterintelligence and national security are the responsibility of the State Agency for National Security.[173]

Administrativ

Bulgaria is a unitary state.[174] Since the 1880s, the number of territorial management units has varied from seven to 26.[175] Between 1987 and 1999 the administrative structure consisted of nine provinces (oblasti, singular oblast). A new administrative structure was adopted in parallel with the decentralization of the economic system.[176] It includes 27 provinces and a metropolitan capital province (Sofia-Grad). All areas take their names from their respective capital cities. The provinces are subdivided into 265 municipalities. Municipalities are run by mayors, who are elected to four-year terms, and by directly elected municipal councils. Bulgaria is a highly centralized state where the Council of Ministers directly appoints regional governors and all provinces and municipalities are heavily dependent on it for funding.[143]