Bulgaria country profile

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


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

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President: Rumen Radev

Image copyright AFP

Rumen Radev became Bulgaria's fifth democratically elected president when he was sworn in for a five-year term in January 2017.

A former air force commander, Mr Radev is a relative newcomer to politics who ran as an independent candidate with the backing of the opposition Socialists.

His victory in the presidential election led to the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and raised the prospect of early parliamentary elections.

Mr Radev has pledged to maintain Bulgaria's position as a member of the European Union and NATO while also improving historically important ties with Russia.

In his inauguration speech, Mr Radev highlighted the need for continuity and pledged to work for a "united society in the name of democracy".

Outgoing prime minister: Boyko Borisov

Image copyright Getty Images

Boyko Borisov resigned as prime minister in November 2016 after his centre-right party's candidate Tsetska Tsacheva suffered a heavy defeat in the presidential election to pro-Russia candidate Rumen Radev.

His resignation, and that of his cabinet, paves the way for the formation of a new government, or failing that, fresh parliamentary elections in March 2017.


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.


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 - First World War. 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 Second World War - 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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