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Bulgaria

 

Bulgaria

  
 110,910 sq km
Capital - Sofia

Pop - 7,262,675 (july o8)       
Religion
Orthodox 82.2%
Muslim     12.2%
Christian    1.2%
Other           4.0%
 

 

 

Bulgaria is a country in Southeast Europe. Bulgaria borders five other countries: Romania to the north (mostly along the 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.

 

History

Asparukh, heir of Old Great Bulgaria's khan Kubrat, migrated with several Bulgar tribes to the lower courses of the rivers Danube, Dniester and Dniepr (known as Ongal) after his father's state was subjugated by the Khazars. He conquered Moesia and Scythia Minor (Dobrudzha) from the Byzantine Empire, expanding his new kingdom further into the Balkan Peninsula. A peace treaty with Byzantium in 681 and the establishment of the Bulgarian capital of Pliska south of the Danube mark the beginning of the First Bulgarian Empire, an state established by the Bulgars, uniting with the local seven South Slavic tribes.

Succeeding rulers strengthened the Bulgarian state—Tervel (700/701–718/721), stabilized the borders and established Bulgaria as a major military power by defeating a 26,000-strong Arab army in 717, thereby eliminating the threat of a full-scale Arab invasion of Eastern and Central Europe.

 

Geography

Bulgaria lies between latitudes 41° and 45° N, and longitudes 22° and 29° E.

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.

 

Economy

Bulgaria has an industrialized, open free-market economy, with a large, moderately advanced private sector and a number of strategic state-owned enterprises. The World Bank classifies it as an "upper-middle-income economy". Bulgaria has experienced rapid economic growth in recent years, even though its income level remains one of the lowest within the EU. According to Eurostat data, Bulgarian PPS GDP per capita stood at 43 per cent of the EU average in 2008. The Bulgarian lev is the country's national currency. The lev is pegged to the euro at a rate of 1.95583 leva for 1 euro.

In 2008, GDP (PPP) was estimated at $95.2 billion, with a per capita value of $13,100. The economy relies primarily on industry, although the services sector increasingly contributes to GDP growth. Bulgaria produces a significant amount of manufactures and raw materials such as iron, copper, gold, bismuth, coal, electronics, refined petroleum fuels, vehicle components, firearms and construction materials. The total labor force amounts to 3.2 million people. Since a hyperinflation crisis in 1996/1997, inflation and unemployment rates have fallen to 7.2% and 6.3%, respectively, in 2008. Corruption in the public administration and a weak judiciary have also hampered Bulgaria's economic development.

 

Tourism

In 2008 Bulgaria was visited by a total of 8,900,000 people, with Greeks, Romanians and Germans accounting for more than 40% of all visitors. Significant numbers of British, Russian, Dutch, Serbian, Polish and Danish tourists also visit Bulgaria. In 2010, Lonely Planet placed it under 5th place on its top 10 list of travel destinations for 2011.

Main destinations include the capital Sofia, coastal resorts Albena, Sozopol, Nesebar, Golden Sands and Sunny Beach and winter resorts such as Pamporovo, Chepelare, Borovetz and Bansko. The rural tourist destinations of Arbanasi and Bozhentsi offer well-preserved ethnographic traditions. Other popular attractions include the 10th-century Rila Monastery and the 19th-century Euxinograd château.

 

Culture

Traditional Bulgarian culture contains mainly Thracian, Slavic and Bulgar heritage, along with Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Celtic influences. Thracian artifacts include numerous tombs and golden treasures. The country's territory includes parts of the Roman provinces of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia, and many of the archaeological discoveries date back to Roman times, while ancient Bulgars have also left traces of their heritage in music and in early architecture. Both the First and the Second Bulgarian empires functioned as the hub of Slavic culture 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. The Cyrillic alphabet, used as a writing system to many languages in Eastern Europe and Asia, originated in the former around the 9th century AD. 

A historical artifact of major importance is the oldest treasure of worked gold in the world, dating back to the 5th millennium BC, coming from the site of the Varna Necropolis.

 

Cuisine

Yogurt (кисело мляко kiselo mlyako), lukanka (луканка), banitsa (баница), shopska salad (шопска салата), lyutenitsa (лютеница), sirene (сирене) and kozunak (козунак) give Bulgaria a distinctive cuisine. Owing to the relatively warm climate and complex geography affording excellent growth conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits, Bulgarian cuisine is diverse. Most dishes are oven baked, steamed, or in the form of stew. Deep-frying is uncommon, but grilling—especially different kinds of meats—is widely practiced. Pork is the most common meat, followed by chicken and lamb. Oriental dishes such as moussaka, gyuvech, and baklava are widely consumed. Bulgarian cuisine is also noted for the quality of dairy products and salads, as well as the variety of wines and local alcoholic drinks such as rakiya, mastika and menta.

Exports of Bulgarian wine go worldwide, and until 1990 the country exported the world's second-largest total of bottled wine. As of 2007, 200,000 tonnes of wine were produced annually, the 20th-largest total in the world. Among the more prominent local sorts are Dimiat and Mavrud.