Officially Republic of Bulgaria, republic (1994 est. pop. 8,800,000), 42,823 sq mi (110,912 sq km), SE Europe, on the E Balkan Peninsula. It is bordered by the Black Sea (E), Romania (N), Macedonia and Yugoslavia (W), Greece (S), and European Turkey (SE). Sofia is the capital. Central Bulgaria is traversed from east to west by the Balkan Mts.; the Rhodope range, with the country's highest peak, Musala Mt. (9,592 ft/2,923 m), is in the southwest. The principal river is the Danube. Bulgaria has been considerably industrialized since World War II, but agriculture (chiefly wheat, corn, barley, sugar beets, grapes, and livestock) remains the principal occupation. The leading industries are food processing, engineering, metallurgy, and the production of machinery, chemicals, and electronics. Mineral resources include lignite, iron and lead ores, and petroleum and natural gas. The population consists chiefly of Bulgars (86%) and Turks (9%). The Bulgarian Orthodox church is the predominant religion, but most Turks and some ethnic Bulgarians are Muslims. Bulgarian is the official language.
In A.D. 679-80 ancient Thrace and Moesia, site of modern Bulgaria, were conquered by Eastern Bulgars, who gradually merged with earlier Slavic settlers and adopted their language. The first Bulgarian empire was established in 681, introduced to Christianity by Boris I (r.852-89) in 865, at the height of its power under Simeon I (r.893-927), and subjugated by the Byzantines in 1018. The second Bulgarian empire rose in 1186 and reached its apex under Ivan II (r.1218-41). In 1396 it was absorbed by the Ottoman Empire, which ruled it for almost five centuries. Turkey's suppression of a Bulgarian revolt (1876) was one of the reasons for the Russo-turkish War of 1877-78. The Treaty of San Stefano, which created a large, autonomous Bulgaria, was revised by the Congress of Berlin, which divided Bulgaria into three parts. In 1908 Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha proclaimed Bulgarian independence, with himself as czar. The country's borders were changed significantly by the Balkan Wars, and Bulgarian claims in Macedonia prompted Bulgaria to side with Germany in World War I. Under Boris III (r.1918-43) Bulgaria was often in political turmoil, and in 1935 Boris established a personal dictatorship. In World War Ii Bulgaria again allied (1941) with Germany. The Soviet Union occupied the country in 1944, and Communists took over the government. The monarchy was abolished, and a republic proclaimed in 1946. Bulgaria's Communist dictatorship was one of the most repressive in the Soviet bloc and attempted to forcibly assimilate its Turkish minority during the 1980s. In Nov. 1989, Bulgarian president and party boss Todor I. Zhivkov abruptly resigned, and the National Assembly later ended the Communist party's monopoly of political power, though the ruling Socialist (formerly Communist) party was returned to power in June 1990. A new constitution (1991) established a parliamentary republic, and in the subsequent elections the Socialists lost to the Union of Democratic Forces. No party, however, has been able to establish a long-term government, and major economic reforms proved difficult to enact.
Last Modified: 15.04.2002