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Posted by sonny 04/02/2009 @ 06:09

Tags : bulgaria, europe, world

News headlines
Thousands rally over economic crisis in Bulgaria - Reuters
By Irina Ivanova SOFIA, June 16 (Reuters) - Thousands of Bulgarian workers rallied in central Sofia on Tuesday to protest against the Socialist-led government's failure to protect jobs and its credit-fuelled economic boom from the global financial...
Bulgaria opposition eyes IMF deal after elections - guardian.co.uk
By Tsvetelia Ilieva SOFIA, June 17 (Reuters) - Bulgaria's rightist opposition GERB party, tipped to win a July 5 parliamentary election, said on Wednesday that if it comes to power it would start immediate financial aid talks with the International...
PRESS DIGEST - Bulgaria - June 17 - Reuters
SOFIA, June 17 (Reuters) - These are some of the main stories in Bulgarian newspapers on Wednesday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. - Plamen Galev and his business partner Angel Hristov, both charged with...
British ambassador attacked for supporting gay march in Bulgaria - Telegraph.co.uk
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent Steve Williams, the ambassador to Bulgaria, sent a message of support for a Rainbow Friendship Rally in Sofia this coming Sunday. The same event last year in the Bulgarian capital ended in a bloody riot...
Bulgaria's Chimimport raises $141 mln in cap hike - Reuters
SOFIA, June 16 (Reuters) - Bulgarian industrial conglomerate Chimimport CHIM.BB has raised 199 million levs ($141 million) in a capital increase by placing preferential convertible shares, it said on Tuesday. The company has said it will use the...
Bulgaria's Mr Basketball Takev dies at 89 - guardian.co.uk
SOFIA, June 17 (Reuters) - Bozhidar Takev, Bulgaria's Mr Basketball, has died at the age of 89, the Bulgarian Basketball Federation (BBF) said on Wednesday. Sir Bo, as Takev was known in Bulgaria, enjoyed his greatest success as coach of Academic Sofia...
Bulgarian mafia bosses set free for election - Southeast European Times
SOFIA, Bulgaria -- On Tuesday (June 16th) a court in the town of Kyustendil released alleged mafia bosses Plamen Galev and Angel Hristov, known as the Galevi brothers. They were in custody on charges of organised crime, blackmail, assault,...
A few flaws should not stain Bulgaria, President tells EU ambassadors - Sofia Echo
A limited number of flaws should not be the reason why everyone must suffer, President Georgi Purvanov told European Union ambassadors on June 17 2009, referring to the upcoming European Commission report on Bulgaria's progress in justice and home...
Retailer Mercator to open two stores in Bulgaria this year. - ISI - Emerging Markets
Slovenia's largest retail chain Mercator is to open two stores in the country by year-end and five more in the next two years. The retailer plans to capture 3% of the local market by 2012. In line with earlier information, its first store with trade...
abinbev CEE assets attract new interest-sources - Reuters
UL] in expressing interest for the 11 breweries, which span Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia and include the prized Staropramen brand, sources said. abinbev is to conduct management presentations on the...


Flag of Bulgaria

Bulgaria (help·info) (Bulgarian: България, transliterated: Balgariya, pronounced IPA: ), international transliteration Bălgarija, officially the Republic of Bulgaria (Република България, Republika Balgariya, pronounced IPA: ) is a country in the Balkans in south-eastern Europe. It borders five other countries: Romania to the north (mostly along the River 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.

Bulgaria includes parts of the Roman provinces of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. Old European culture within the territory of present-day Bulgaria started to produce golden artifacts by the fifth millennium BC.

The first Bulgarian kingdoms on European soil date back to the early Middle Ages (VIIth century). All Bulgarian political entities that subsequently emerged preserved the traditions (in ethnic name, language and alphabet) of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/681 – 1018), which at times covered most of the Balkans and spread its alphabet, literature and culture among the Slavic and other peoples of Eastern Europe. Centuries later, with the decline of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 – 1396/1422), Bulgarian kingdoms came under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 led to the re-establishment of a Bulgarian state as a constitutional monarchy in 1878, with the Treaty of San Stefano marking the birth of the Third Bulgarian State. In 1908 while social strife was brewing at the core of the Ottoman Empire, the Alexander Malinov government and Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria formally proclaimed the full sovereignty of the state at the ancient capital of Veliko Turnovo. After World War II, in 1945 Bulgaria became a communist state and part of the Eastern Bloc. Todor Zhivkov dominated Bulgaria politically for 33 years (from 1956 to 1989). In 1990, after the Revolutions of 1989, the Communist party gave up its monopoly on power and Bulgaria transitioned to democracy and free-market capitalism.

Currently Bulgaria functions as a parliamentary democracy under a unitary constitutional republic. A member of the European Union since 2007 and of NATO since 2004, it has a population of approximately 7.6 million. Bulgaria has a high HDI.

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.

Phytogeographically, Bulgaria straddles the Illyrian and Euxinian provinces of the Circumboreal region within the Boreal kingdom. According to the WWF and to the European Environment Agency's Digital Map of European Ecological Regions, the territory of Bulgaria subdivides into two main ecoregions: the Balkan mixed forests and Rhodope montane mixed forests. Small parts of four other ecoregions also occur on Bulgarian territory.

The Balkan Peninsula derives its name from the Balkan or Stara Planina mountain-range, which runs through the centre of Bulgaria and extends into eastern Serbia.

Bulgaria comprises portions of the regions known in classical times as Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia. The mountainous southwest of the country has two alpine ranges — Rila and Pirin — and further east stand the lower but more extensive Rhodope Mountains. The Rila range includes the highest peak of the Balkan Peninsula, Musala, at 2,925 meters (9,596 ft); the long range of the Balkan mountains runs west-east through the middle of the country, north of the famous Rose Valley. Hilly country and plains lie to the southeast, along the Black Sea coast in the east, and along Bulgaria's main river, the Danube in the north.

The country possesses relatively rich mineral-resources, including vast reserves of lignite and anthracite coal; non-ferrous ores such as copper, lead, zinc and gold. It has large deposits of manganese ore in the north-east. Smaller deposits exist of iron, silver, chromite, nickel and others. Bulgaria has abundant non-metalliferous minerals such as rock-salt, gypsum, kaolin and marble.

Bulgaria has a dense network of about 540 rivers, but with the notable exception of the Danube, most have short lengths and low water-levels.

Most rivers flow through mountainous areas; fewer in the Danubian Plain, Upper Thracian Plain and especially Dobrudzha. Two catchment basins exist: the Black Sea (57% of the territory and 42% of the rivers) and the Aegean Sea (43% of the territory and 58% of the rivers) basins. The longest river located solely in Bulgarian territory, the Iskar, has a length of 368 km. Other major rivers include the Struma and the Maritsa River in the south.

Rila and Pirin feature around 260 glacial lakes; the country also has several large lakes on the Black Sea coast and more than 2,200 dam lakes. Many mineral springs exist, located mainly in the south-western and central parts of the country along the faults between the mountains.

The Bulgarian word for spa, баня, transliterated as banya, appears in some of the names of more than 50 spa towns and resorts including Sapareva Banya, Hisarya, Sandanski, Bankya, Varshets, Pavel Banya, Devin, Velingrad and many others.

Bulgaria has a temperate climate, with cold winters (with considerable snowfall) and hot summers (rainy at first and dry during the second half). The Black Sea coast has a milder climate than rest of the country, but strong winds and violent local storms occur frequently during the winter. The barrier effect of the Balkan Mountains has some influence on climate throughout the country: northern Bulgaria gets colder and receives more rain than the southern regions. The Northern Thracian Plain (middle-south Bulgaria) has a climate resembling that of the Corn Belt in the United States. Precipitation in Bulgaria averages about 630 millimetres per year. Drier areas include Dobrudja and the northern coastal strip, while the higher parts of the Rila, Pirin and Stara Planina (Balkan) Mountains receive the highest levels of precipitation. In summer, temperatures in the southest Bulgaria often exceed 40 degrees Celsius, but remain cooler by the coast. The town of Sadovo, near Plovdiv, has recorded the highest known temperature: 45.2 degrees Celsius. The recorded absolute minimum temperature of -39.3 degrees celsius occurred west of Sofia, near the town of Trun. The usual temperature around the Stara Planina region averages 10 to 15 degrees celsius.

The highest Bulgarian mountains (over 900 or 1000 meters above sea-level) have an alpine climate. The lowest parts of the Struma and Maritza valleys have a subtropical (Mediterranean) influences, as do the Eastern Rhodope or Low Rhodope mountains.

Bulgaria operates a scientific station, the St. Kliment Ohridski Base, on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands off the coast of Antarctica.

Prehistoric cultures in the Bulgarian lands include the Neolithic Hamangia culture and Vinča culture (6th to 3rd millennia BC), the eneolithic Varna culture (5th millennium BC; see also Varna Necropolis), and the Bronze Age Ezero culture. The Karanovo chronology serves as a gauge for the prehistory of the wider Balkans region.

The Thracians, the earliest known identifiable people to inhabit the present-day territory of Bulgaria, have left traceable marks among all the Balkan region despite its tumultuous history of many conquests. Cultural historians rank the Panagyuriste treasure as one of the most splendid achievements of the Thracian culture.

The Thracians lived divided into numerous separate tribes until King Teres united most of them around 500 BC in the Odrysian kingdom, which peaked under the kings Sitalces and Cotys I (383-359 BC). In 188 BC the Romans invaded Thrace, and warfare continued until 45 AD when Rome finally conquered the region. The conquerors quickly Romanised the population. By the time the Slavs arrived, the Thracians had already lost their indigenous identity and had dwindled in number following frequent invasions.

The Slavs emerged from their original homeland (location not definitively established: see Slavic peoples) in the early 6th century and spread to most of the eastern Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, forming in the process three main branches: the West Slavs, the East Slavs and the South Slavs. Some eastern South Slavs became ancestors of the modern Bulgarians. They assimilated what remained of the Thracians. Modern Bulgarians derive much of their culture, language and self-determination from these early immigrants.

In 632, the Bulgars, a seminomadic people, probably of Turkic descent, originally from Central Asia, formed under the leadership of Khan Kubrat an independent state called Great Bulgaria, situated between the lower course of the Danube to the west, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea to the south, the Kuban River to the east, and the Donets River to the north.

Pressure from the Khazars led to the subjugation of Great Bulgaria in the second half of the 7th century. Some of the Bulgars from that territory later migrated to the northeast to form a new state called Volga Bulgaria (around the confluence of the Volga and Kama Rivers), which lasted until the 13th century.

Kubrat’s successor, Khan Asparuh, migrated with some of the Bulgar tribes to the lower courses of the rivers Danube, Dniester and Dniepr (known as Ongal), and conquered Moesia and Scythia Minor (Dobrudzha) from the Byzantine Empire, expanding his new khanate further into the Balkan Peninsula. A peace treaty with Byzantium in 681 and the establishment of the Bulgar capital of Pliska south of the Danube mark the beginning of the First Bulgarian Empire. At the same time one of Asparuh's brothers, Kuber, settled with another Bulgar group in present-day Macedonia.

During the siege of Constantinople in 717-718 the Bulgars honoured their treaty with the Byzantines by sending troops to help the populace of the imperial city. According to the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes, in the decisive battle the Bulgarians killed 22,000 Arabs.

The influence and territorial expansion of Bulgaria increased further during the rule of Khan Krum, who in 811 won a decisive victory against the Byzantine army led by Nicephorus I in the Battle of Pliska.

In 864, Bulgaria accepted Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Bulgaria became a major European power in the ninth and the tenth centuries, while fighting with the Byzantine Empire for the control of the Balkans. This happened under the rule (852–889) of Boris I. During his reign, the Cyrillic alphabet originated in Preslav and Ohrid, adapted from the Glagolitic alphabet invented by the monks Saints Cyril and Methodius.

The Cyrillic alphabet became the basis for further cultural development. Centuries later, this alphabet, along with the Old Bulgarian language, fostered the intellectual written language (lingua franca) for Eastern Europe, known as Church Slavonic. The greatest territorial extension of the Bulgarian Empire — covering most of the Balkans — occurred under Simeon I, the first Bulgarian Tsar (Emperor), son of Boris I.

However, Simeon's greatest achievement consisted of Bulgaria developing a rich, unique Christian Slavonic culture, which became an example for the other Slavonic peoples in Eastern Europe and ensured the continued existence of the Bulgarian nation regardless of the centrifugal forces that threatened to tear it into pieces throughout its long and war-ridden history.

Following a decline in the mid-tenth century (worn out by wars with Croatia, by frequent Serbian rebellions sponsored by Byzantine gold, and by disastrous Magyar and Pecheneg invasions), Bulgaria collapsed in the face of an assault of the Rus' in 969-971.

The Byzantines then began campaigns to conquer Bulgaria. In 971, they seized the capital Preslav and captured Emperor Boris II. Resistance continued under Tsar Samuil in the western Bulgarian lands for nearly half a century. The country managed to recover and defeated the Byzantines in several major battles taking the control of the most of the Balkans and in 991 invaded the Serbian state. However, the Byzantines led by Basil II (Basil the Bulgar-Slayer) destroyed the Bulgarian state in 1018 after their victory at Kleidion.

In the first decade after the establishment of Byzantine rule, no evidence remains of any major attempt at resistance or any uprising of the Bulgarian population or nobility. Given the existence of such irreconcilable opponents to Byzantium as Krakra, Nikulitsa, Dragash and others, such apparent passivity seems difficult to explain. Some historians explain this fact by concessions that Basil II granted the Bulgarian nobility in order to gain their obedience. In the first place, Basil II guaranteed the indivisibility of Bulgaria in its former geographic borders and did not abolish officially the local rule of the Bulgarian nobility that now became part of Byzantine aristocracy as archons or strategoi. Second, special charters (royal decrees) of Basil II recognised the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid and set up its boundaries, securing the continuation of the dioceses already existing under Samuel, their property and other privileges.

The people of Bulgaria challenged Byzantine rule several times in the 11th and then again later in the early 12th century. The biggest uprising occurred under the leadership of Peter II Delyan, (proclaimed Emperor of Bulgaria in Belgrade in 1040). In the mid to late 11th century, the Normans, fresh from their recent conquests in southern Italy and Sicily, landed in the Balkans and began advancing against the Byzantine Empire. It took the Byzantines until 1185 before the Normans were driven out but until then they posed a constant threat to Byzantine Bulgaria. In 1091 another invasion came in the form of the Pechenegs. However, these too were crushed at Levounion and again in c. 1120 by the Byzantine Empire. After that, the Hungarians made an attempt to increase their influence beyond the Danube river; John Comnenus' campaigns along the Danube eventually drove back the Hungarians as well by c.1140. It would be another 45 years before Bulgaria would attain independence. Until that time, Bulgarian nobles ruled the province in the name of the Byzantine Empire until a rebellion by Ivan Asen I and Peter IV of Bulgaria led to the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

From 1185, the Second Bulgarian Empire once again established Bulgaria as an important power in the Balkans for two more centuries with its capital based in Veliko Turnovo and under the Asen dynasty. Kaloyan, the third of the Asen monarchs, extended his dominions to Belgrade, Nish and Skopie (Uskub); he acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the pope, and received the royal crown from a papal legate. The Bulgarian ruler from 1218 to 1241, Ivan Asen II extended his rule over Albania, Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace. During his reign the state saw a period of cultural growth, with important artistic achievements of the Tarnovo artistic school. The dynasty of the Asens became extinct in 1257, and as a result of the Tatar invasions (beginning in the later 13th century), of internal conflicts and of the constant attacks from the Byzantines and the Hungarians, the power of the country declined until the end of the 13th century. From 1300, under Emperor Theodore Svetoslav Bulgaria regained its strength, but by the end of the fourteenth century the country had disintegrated into several feudal principalities, which the Ottoman Empire eventually conquered.

By the end of the 14th century factional divisions between Bulgarian feudal landlords (boyars) had gravely weakened the cohesion of the Second Bulgarian Empire. It split into three small Tsardoms and several semi-independent principalities which fought among themselves, and also with Byzantines, Hungarians, Serbs, Venetians, and Genoese. In these battles they often allied with the Ottoman Turks. Similar situations of internecine quarrel and infighting existed also in Byzantium and Serbia. In the period 1365-1370 the Ottomans conquered most of the Bulgarian towns and fortresses south of the Balkan Mountains.

In 1393 the Ottoman Turks captured Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, after a three-month siege. With the fall of the Vidin Tsardom following the defeat of a Christian crusade at the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396, the Ottomans finally subjugated and occupied Bulgaria. When a Polish-Hungarian crusade under the command of Władysław III of Poland set out to free the Balkans in 1444, the Turks defeated it in the battle of Varna.

Some accounts of the five centuries of Ottoman rule highlight its violence and oppression. The Ottomans decimated the Bulgarian population, which lost most of its cultural relics. Turkish authorities destroyed most of the medieval Bulgarian fortresses in order to prevent rebellions. Large towns and the areas where Ottoman power predominated remained severely depopulated until the nineteenth century.

The new authorities dismantled Bulgarian institutions at anything above the village or communal level, and merged the separate Bulgarian Church into the Orthodox Patriarchate in Constantinople (Istanbul) (although a small, semi-independent Bulgarian Church did survive until 1767).

Bulgarians in the Ottoman empire had to endure a number of disabilities; they paid more taxes than Moslems, they lacked legal equality with Moslems, they could not carry arms, their clothes could not rival those of Moslems in color, nor could their churches tower as high as mosques. Those who did convert, the Pomaks, retained Bulgarian language, dress and some customs compatible with Islam.

The Ottoman system started to decline by the 17th century, and at the end of the 18th had all but collapsed. Central government weakened over the decades, and this had allowed a number of local Ottoman holders of large estates to establish personal ascendancy over separate regions. During the last two decades of the 18th and first decades of the 19th centuries the Balkan Peninsula dissolved into virtual anarchy, a period known in Bulgarian as the kurdjaliistvo after the armed bands of Turks or kurdjalii who plagued the area at this time. In many regions thousands of peasants fled from the countryside either to local towns or (more probably) to the hills or forests; some even fled beyond the Danube to Moldova, Wallachia or southern Russia.

In the 18th and especially during the 19th century, conditions improved in certain areas. Some towns — such as Gabrovo, Tryavna, Karlovo, Koprivshtitsa, Lovech, Skopie — prospered. The Bulgarian peasants actually possessed their land, although it officially belonged to the sultan. The 19th century also brought improved communications, transportation and trade. The first factory in the Bulgarian lands opened in Sliven in 1834, and the first railway system started running (between Rousse and Varna) in 1865.

Throughout the five Ottoman centuries Bulgarian people organized many attempts to re-establish their own state. The National awakening of Bulgaria became one of the key factors in the struggle for liberation. In the 19th century there came into existence the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee and the Internal Revolutionary Organisation led by liberal revolutionaries such as Vasil Levski, Hristo Botev, Lyuben Karavelov and many others.

In 1876, the April uprising broke out: the largest and best-organized Bulgarian rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. Though crushed by the Ottoman authorities, the uprising (together with the 1875 rebellion in Bosnia) prompted the Great Powers to convene the 1876 Conference of Constantinople, which delimited the ethnic Bulgarian territories as of the late 19th century, and elaborated the legal and political arrangements for establishing two autonomous Bulgarian provinces. The Ottoman Government declined to comply with the Great Powers’ decisions, making it possible for Russia to seek a solution by force without risking military confrontation with other Great Powers as in the Crimean War of 1854 to 1856..

Following the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878 (when Russian soldiers together with a Romanian expeditionary force and volunteer Bulgarian troops defeated the Ottoman armies), the Treaty of San Stefano (3 March 1878), set up an autonomous Bulgarian principality. The Western Great Powers immediately rejected the treaty: they became aware that a large Slavic country in the Balkans might serve Russian interests. This led to the Treaty of Berlin (1878) which provided for an autonomous Bulgarian principality comprising Moesia and the region of Sofia. Alexander, Prince of Battenberg, took up the position of Bulgaria's first Prince. Most of Thrace became part of the autonomous region of Eastern Rumelia, whereas the rest of Thrace and all of Macedonia returned to the sovereignty of the Ottomans. After the Serbo-Bulgarian War and unification with Eastern Rumelia in 1885, the Bulgarian principality proclaimed itself a fully independent kingdom on 5 October (22 September O.S.), 1908, during the reign of Ferdinand I of Bulgaria.

Ferdinand, a prince from the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, became the Bulgarian Prince after Alexander von Battenberg abdicated in 1886 following a coup d'état staged by pro-Russian army-officers. (Although the counter-coup coordinated by Stefan Stambolov succeeded, Prince Alexander decided not to remain the Bulgarian ruler without the approval of Alexander III of Russia.) The struggle for liberation of the Bulgarians in the Adrianople Vilayet and in Macedonia continued throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, culminating with the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising organised by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization in 1903.

In 1912 and 1913, Bulgaria became involved in the Balkan Wars, first entering into conflict alongside Greece, Serbia and Montenegro against the Ottoman Empire. The First Balkan War (1912-1913) proved a success for the Bulgarian army, but a conflict over the division of Macedonia arose amongst the victorious allies. The Second Balkan War (1913) pitted Bulgaria against Greece and Serbia, joined by Romania and Turkey. After its defeat in the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria lost considerable territory conquered in the first war, as well as Southern Dobrudzha and parts of the region of Macedonia.

During World War I, Bulgaria found itself fighting again on the losing side as a result of its alliance with the Central Powers. Defeat in 1918 led to new territorial losses (the Western Outlands to Serbia, Western Thrace to Greece and the re-conquered Southern Dobrudzha to Romania). The Balkan Wars and World War I led to the influx of over 250,000 Bulgarian refugees from Macedonia, Eastern and Western Thrace and Southern Dobrudzha.

In September 1918, Tsar Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his son Boris III in order to head off revolutionary tendencies. Under the Treaty of Neuilly (November 1919), Bulgaria ceded its Aegean coastline to Greece, recognized the existence of Yugoslavia, ceded nearly all of its Macedonian territory to that new state, and had to give Dobrudzha back to the Romanians. The country had to reduce its army to 20,000 men, and to pay reparations exceeding $400 million. Bulgarians generally refer to the results of the treaty as the "Second National Catastrophe".

Elections in March 1920 gave the Agrarians a large majority, and Aleksandar Stamboliyski formed Bulgaria's first peasant government. He faced huge social problems, but succeeded in carrying out many reforms, although opposition from the middle and upper classes, the landlords and the officers of the army remained powerful. In March 1923 Stamboliyski signed an agreement with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia recognising the new border and agreeing to suppress Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO), which favoured a war to regain Macedonia from Bulgaria. This triggered a nationalist reaction, and the Bulgarian coup d'état of 9 June 1923 eventually resulted in Stamboliykski's assassination. A right-wing government under Aleksandar Tsankov took power, backed by the army and the VMRO, which waged a White terror against the Agrarians and the Communists. In 1926 the Tsar persuaded Tsankov to resign, a more moderate government under Andrey Lyapchev took office and an amnesty was proclaimed, although the Communists remained banned. A popular alliance including the re-organised Agrarians won elections in 1931 under the name Popular Bloc.

In May 1934 another coup took place, removing the Popular Bloc from power and establishing an authoritarian military régime headed by Kimon Georgiev. A year later Tsar Boris managed to remove the military régime from power, restoring a form of parliamentary rule (without the re-establishment of the political parties) and under his own strict control. The Tsar's regime proclaimed neutrality, but gradually Bulgaria gravitated into alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

After occuping Southern Dobrudzha in 1940, Bulgaria became allied with the Axis Powers, although it never declared war on the USSR and declined to participate in Operation Barbarossa. During World War II Nazi Germany allowed Bulgaria to occupy parts of Greece and of Yugoslavia. Bulgaria became one of only three countries (along with Finland and Denmark) that saved its entire Jewish population (around 50,000 people) from the Nazi camps by refusing to comply with a 31 August 1943 resolution.

In early September 1944, the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria and invaded the country, meeting no resistance. This enabled the Bulgarian Communists (the Bulgarian Workers' Party) to seize power and establish a communist state. The new régime turned Bulgaria's forces against Germany. The 450,000-man army of 1944 dwindled to 130,000 by 1945. However, the authorities deported almost the entire Jewish population of the Bulgarian-occupied Yugoslav and Greek territories to the Treblinka death camp in Poland.

In World War II Bulgaria had again allied itself with Germany following the promise of the return of Macedonia. On September 8, 1944 the USSR declared war on Bulgaria and crossed the Danube. Bulgarian army officers and partisan brigades joined forces with the Soviets and Sofia fell. On the next day the invading forces took the rest of Bulgaria. (9 September became known as "Liberation Day".) The Fatherland Front took over the government and the Communist party increased its membership from 15,000 to 250,000 during the following six months.

After World War II, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence. It became a People's Republic in 1946 and one of the USSR's staunchest allies. Bulgaria and Nigeria established diplomatic relations on March 10, 1964. Since 1970, Bulgaria has an honorary consulate in Abuja. Nigeria is represented in Bulgaria through it embassy in Athens (Greece). In the late 1970s, it began normalizing relations with Greece. The People's Republic ended in 1989 as many Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, as well as the Soviet Union itself, began to collapse. Opposition forces removed the Bulgarian Communist leader Todor Zhivkov and his right-hand man Milko Balev from power on 10 November 1989.

In February 1990, the Communist Party voluntarily gave up its monopoly on power, and in June 1990 free elections took place, won by the moderate wing of the Communist Party (renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party — BSP). In July 1991, the country adopted a new constitution which provided for a relatively weak elected President and for a Prime Minister accountable to the legislature.

The anti-Communist Union of Democratic Forces took office, and between 1992 and 1994 carried through the privatization of land and industry, but faced massive unemployment and economic difficulties. The reaction against economic reform allowed BSP to take office again in 1995, but by 1996 the BSP government had also encountered difficulties, and in the presidential elections of that year the UDF's Petar Stoyanov was elected. In 1997, the BSP government collapsed and the UDF came to power. Unemployment, however, remained high and the electorate became increasingly dissatisfied with both parties.

Relations with Turkey began to normalise in the 1990s.

On 17 June 2001, Simeon II, the son of Tsar Boris III and the former Head of state (as Tsar of Bulgaria from 1943 to 1946), won a narrow victory in democratic elections. The king's party — National Movement Simeon II ("NMSII") — won 120 out of 240 seats in Parliament and overturned the two pre-existing political parties. Simeon's popularity declined during his four-year rule as Prime Minister, and the BSP won the elections in 2005, but could not form a single-party government and had to seek a coalition.

Since 1989, Bulgaria has held multi-party elections and privatized its economy, but economic difficulties and a tide of corruption have led over 800,000 Bulgarians, including many qualified professionals, to emigrate in a "brain drain". The reform package introduced in 1997 restored positive economic growth, but led to rising social inequality. Bulgaria became a member of NATO in 2004 and of the European Union in 2007.

Bulgaria joined NATO on 29 March 2004 and signed the European Union Treaty of Accession on 25 April 2005. It became a full member of the European Union on 1 January 2007. The country had joined the United Nations in 1955, and became a founding member of OSCE in 1995. As a Consultative Party to the Antarctic Treaty, Bulgaria takes part in the administration of the territories situated south of 60° south latitude.

Georgi Parvanov, the President of Bulgaria since 22 January 2002, won re-election on 29 October 2006 and began his second term in office in January 2007. (Bulgarian voters directly elect their presidents for a five-year term with the right to one re-election.) The president serves as the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He also chairs the Consultative Council for National Security. While unable to initiate legislation other than Constitutional amendments, the President can return a bill for further debate, although the parliament can override the President's veto by vote of a majority of all MPs.

Since 17 August 2005 Sergei Stanishev as Prime Minister has chaired the Council of Ministers, the principal body of the executive branch, which presently consists of 20 ministers. The Prime Minister — usually nominated by the largest parliamentary group — receives the mandate of the President to form a cabinet.

The current governmental coalition comprises the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (representing mainly the Turkish minority).

The Bulgarian unicameral parliament, the National Assembly or Narodno Sabranie (Народно събрание), consists of 240 deputies, each elected for four-year terms by popular vote. The votes go to parties or to coalition-lists of candidates for each of the 28 administrative divisions. A party or coalition must win a minimum of 4% of the vote in order to enter parliament. Parliament has the responsibility for enactment of laws, approval of the budget, scheduling of presidential elections, selection and dismissal of the Prime Minister and other ministers, declaration of war, deployment of troops outside of Bulgaria, and ratification of international treaties and agreements.

The most recent elections took place in June 2005. The next scheduled elections should take place in summer 2009.

The Bulgarian judicial system consists of regional, district and appeal courts, as well as a Supreme Court of Cassation. In addition, Bulgaria has a Supreme Administrative Court and a system of military courts.

A qualified majority of two-thirds of the membership of the Supreme Judicial Council elects the Presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation and of the Supreme Administrative Court, as well as the Prosecutor General, from among its members; the President of the Republic then appoints those elected.

The Supreme Judicial Council has charge of the self-administration and organization of the Judiciary.

The Constitutional Court supervises the review of the constitutionality of laws and statutes brought before it, as well as the compliance of these laws with international treaties that the Government has signed. Parliament elects the twelve members of the Constitutional Court by a two-thirds majority: the members serve for a nine-year term. The territory of the Republic of Bulgaria subdivides into provinces and municipalities. In all, Bulgaria has 28 provinces, each headed by a provincial governor appointed by the government. In addition, the country includes 263 municipalities.

In June 2007, the then president of the USA George W. Bush visited Bulgaria for several hours, thus strengthening the relations between the countries.

The armed forces have as their patron saint Sveti Georgi (St. George), and Bulgarians celebrate his feast day (6 May) nationally as Valour and Army Day. Despite active participation in all major European wars since the end of the nineteenth century, Bulgarian forces have never lost a flag.

Bulgaria first became a major military power in Europe under Khan Krum and Tsar Simeon I, in a series of wars with the Byzantine Empire for control of the Balkan Peninsula, in the late ninth century. By the use of approximately 12,000 heavy cavalry in tactics resembling those of feudal knights, Simeon I's forces reached as far as the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, in AD 896 . A formal peace treaty lasted until 912, when both sides became engaged in a war which ended with several major defeats of the Byzantines, including one of the bloodiest battles in the Middle Ages at Anchialus in AD 917.

Bulgaria again became a significant military power under the rule of the Asen dynasty in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. During the rule of Tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207) Bulgaria became the first European country to defeat the Crusader knights.

After declaring total independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1908, Bulgaria has functioned as a minor European power, frequently included in plans and wars of the Great Powers. In 1912, the Bulgarian forces invented the world's first aircraft-dropped bombs and soon after became the first military in the world to utilize aviation bombardment, in the siege of Odrin. Thus the Bulgarian Air Force, inheritor of one of the oldest traditions of powered aircraft combat in the world, became an early innovator in aviation military technology and in air-to-surface attack strategies/tactics.

Following a series of reductions beginning in 1989, the active troops of Bulgaria's army number 45,000 today. Reserve forces include 303,000 soldiers and officers. "PLAN 2004", an effort to modernize Bulgaria's armed forces, aims to better meet the perceived military needs of NATO and the European Union.

Bulgarian military personnel have participated in international missions in Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Starting in 2008, Bulgaria completely abolished compulsory military service. Bulgaria's naval and air forces became fully professional in 2006, and the land forces followed suit at the end of 2008. Bulgaria's Special Forces have conducted missions with the SAS, Delta Force, KSK, and the Spetsnaz of Russia.

In April 2006 Bulgaria and the United States of America signed a defence-cooperation agreement providing for the development of the Bulgarian air bases at Bezmer (near Yambol) and Graf Ignatievo (near Plovdiv), the Novo Selo training-range (near Sliven), and a logistics centre in Aytos as joint US-Bulgarian military facilities. Bulgaria's navy comprises mainly Soviet-era ships, and three submarines. With 354 kilometres (220 mi) of coastline, Bulgaria does not regard assault by sea as a major risk. In the course of recent modernization efforts, Bulgaria purchased a new frigate from Belgium, and the navy seems likely to acquire four Gowind corvettes from the French company DCN. Bulgaria's air forces also use a large amount of Soviet equipment. Plans to acquire transport and attack helicopters are underway, in addition to a major overhaul on old Soviet weapon systems. Military spending accounts for nearly 2.6% of Bulgaria's GDP.

The provinces subdivide into 264 municipalities.

Bulgaria became a member of the European Union in 2007. The World Bank classifies it as an "upper-middle-income economy". Bulgaria has experienced rapid economic growth in recent years. The country continues to rank as the second-poorest member state of the EU, but standards of living have allegedly risen.

Due to high-profile allegations of corruption, and an apparent lack of willingness to tackle high-level corruption, the European Union has partly frozen EU funds of about €450 million and may freeze more if Bulgarian authorities do not show solid progress in fighting corruption and in speeding up reforms.

Bulgaria has tamed its inflation since the deep economic crisis in 1996-1997, but latest figures show an increase in the inflation-rate to 12.5% for 2007. Unemployment declined from more than 17% in the mid 1990s to nearly 7% in 2007, but the unemployment-rate in some rural areas continues in high double-digits. Bulgaria's inflation means that the country's adoption of the euro might not take place until the year 2013-2014.

Bulgaria's economy contracted dramatically after 1987 with the dissolution of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), with which the Bulgarian economy had integrated closely. The standard-of-living fell by about 40%, but it regained pre-1990 levels in June 2004. United Nations sanctions against Yugoslavia and Iraq took a heavy toll on the Bulgarian economy. The first signs of recovery emerged in 1994 when the GDP grew and inflation fell. During the government of Zhan Videnov's cabinet in 1996, the economy collapsed due to lack of international economic support and an unstable banking system. Since 1997, the country has been on the path to recovery, with GDP growing at a 4%–5% rate, increasing FDI, macroeconomic stability and European Union membership.

Agricultural output has decreased overall since 1989, but production has grown in recent years, and together with related industries like food-processing it still plays a key role in the Bulgarian economy. Arable farming predominates over stock-breeding. The country has a lack of modern equipment. Alongside aeroplanes and other equipment, Bulgarian agriculture has over 150,000 tractors and 10,000 combine harvesters.

Production of the most important crops (according to the FAO) in 2006 (in '000 tons) amounted to: wheat 3301.9; sunflower 1196.6; maize 1587.8; grapes 266.2; tobacco 42.0; tomatoes 213.0; barley 546.3; potatoes 386.1; peppers 156.7; cucumbers 61.5; cherries 18.2; watermelons 136.0; cabbage 72.7; apples 26.1; plums 18.0; strawberries 8.8.

Industry plays a key role in the Bulgarian economy. Although Bulgaria lacks large reserves of oil and gas, it produces significant quantities of electricity. Bulgaria formerly ranked as the most important exporter of electricity in the region due to the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, which has a total capacity of 2,000 MW, but after the closure of its first four blocks, exports of electricity declined and the country lost its leading position as an energy-supplier for the Balkans. However, the two most modern blocks of the power plant, blocks 5 and 6, continue to run and to provide power. Construction has started on a second plant, the Belene Nuclear Power Plant with a projected capacity of 2,000 MW. Plans exist for a $1.4bn project for construction of an additional 670 MW for the 500 MW Maritza Iztok 1 Thermal Power Plant (see Energy in Bulgaria).

Ferrous metallurgy has major importance. Much of the production of steel and pig iron takes place in Kremikovtsi and Pernik, with a third metallurgical base in Debelt. In production of steel and steel products per capita the country heads the Balkans. Recently the fate of Kremikovtsi steel factories has come under debate, because of serious pollution of the capital, Sofia.

The largest refineries for lead and zinc operate in Plovdiv (the biggest refinery between Italy and the Ural mountains), Kardzhali and Novi Iskar; for copper in Pirdop and Eliseina; for aluminium in Shumen. In production of many metals per capita, Bulgaria ranks first in South Eastern Europe.

About 14% of the total industrial production relates to machine-building, and 24% of the people work in this field. Its importance has decreased since 1989.

Electronics and electric equipment-production have developed to a high degree. The largest centres include Sofia, Plovdiv and the surrounding area, Botevgrad, Stara Zagora, Varna, Pravets and many other cities. These plants produce household appliances, computers, CDs, telephones, medical and scientific equipment.

Many factories producing transportation equipment currently do not operate at full capacity. Plants produce trains (Burgas, Dryanovo), trams (Sofia), trolleys (Dupnitsa), buses (Botevgrad), trucks (Shumen), motor trucks (Plovdiv, Lom, Sofia, Lovech). Lovech has an automotive assembly plant. Rousse serves as the main centre for agricultural machinery. Most Bulgarian shipbuilding takes place in Varna, Burgas and Rousse. Bulgarian arms production mainly operates in central Bulgaria (Kazanlak, Sopot, Karlovo).

Foreigners seeking additional homes have recently boosted the Bulgarian properties market. Buyers come from across Europe, but mostly from the United Kingdom, encouraged by relatively cheap property-prices and the country's easy accessibility via air-travel.

Some multinational companies have set up regional offices and headquarters in Bulgaria, most notably Hewlett-Packard, which built its Global Service Centre for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in Sofia.

Telecommunications has become one of the growing industries in the country. Three GSM mobile-telephone operators — Globul, Mtel and Vivatel — provide almost 100% coverage each. They have a network of service-centers throughout the country. Bulgarians made use of some 10 million cellular phones as of 2006. Mobikom provides the only NMT 450 mobile-phone service. Bulgarians in towns can access the Internet, and recently most villages have acquired fast connectivity and VoIP; BTK offers DSL connection in larger cities. Bulgaria had about 298,781 Internet hosts as of 2007.

Bulgaria supplied many scientific and research instruments for the Soviet space-program, and also sent two men into space: Georgi Ivanov on Soyuz 33 (1979) and Alexander Alexandrov on Soyuz TM-5 (1988). The country participates in India's lunar exploration satellite, Chandrayaan-1. Bulgaria became one of the first European countries to develop serial production of personal computers (Pravetz series 8) in the beginning of the 1980s, and has experience in pharmaceutical research and development.

John Vincent Atanasoff (1903-1995), an American physicist of Bulgarian heritage, invented the first electronic digital computer, a special-purpose machine that became known as the Atanasoff–Berry Computer.

Asen Yordanov (1896-1967), the founder of aeronautical engineering in Bulgaria, worked as an aviator, engineer and inventor; he also contributed to the development of aviation in the United States. He played a significant role in U.S. aircraft development and took part in many other projects.

The Bulgarian-American inventor and scientist Peter Petroff became best known for his work in NASA. Petroff also invented the first digital watch (1970).

U.S. chemist Carl Djerassi, who developed the first oral contraceptive pill (OCP), has Bulgarian ancestry.

The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the leading scientific institution in the country, employs most of Bulgaria's researchers working in its numerous branches.

Bulgaria hosts two major astronomical observatories: the Rozhen Observatory, the largest in Southeastern Europe, and the Belogradchik Observatory with three telescopes; as well as several "public astronomical observatories" with planetaria, focused on educational and outreach activities.

Bulgaria occupies a unique and strategically important geographic location. Since ancient times, the country has served as a major crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa. Five of the ten Trans-European corridors run through its territory. Bulgaria's roads have a total length of 102,016 km (63,390 mi), 93,855 km (58,319 mi) of them paved and 441 km (274 mi) of them motorways. The country has several motorways in planning, under construction, or partially built: Trakiya motorway, Hemus motorway, Cherno More motorway, Struma motorway, Maritza motorway and Lyulin motorway.

Other planned motorways await finalisation of their routes. They include a link between the capital Sofia and Vidin, a link between the Struma and Trakiya motorways south of Rila Mountain, a link between Rousse and Veliko Tarnovo, and the Sofia ringroad. Many roads have recently undergone reconstruction. As of 2009 Bulgaria has 6,500 km (4,000 mi) of railway track, more than 60% electrified. A €360,000,000 project exists for the modernisation and electrification of the Plovdiv-Kapitan Andreevo railway. The only high-speed railway in the region, between Sofia and Vidin, will operate by 2017, at a cost of €3 000 000 000. Air transportation has developed relatively comprehensively. Bulgaria has five official international airports — at Sofia, Burgas, Varna, Plovdiv and Gorna Oryahovitsa. Massive investment plans exist for the first three. Important domestic airports include those of Vidin, Pleven, Silistra, Targovishte, Stara Zagora, Kardzhali, Haskovo and Sliven. After the fall of communism in 1989, most of them are not used as the importance of domestic flights declined. There are many military airports and agricultural airfields. 128 of the 213 airports in Bulgaria are paved. The ports of Varna and Burgas are by far the most important and have the largest turnover. Other than Burgas, Sozopol, Nesebar and Pomorie are big fishing ports. The largest ports on the Danube River are Rousse and Lom which serves the capital. The cities and many smaller towns have well-organised public transport systems, using buses, trolleys (in about 20 cities) and trams (in Sofia). The Sofia Metro in the capital has three planned lines with total length of about 48 km (30 mi) and 52 stations, but much currently remains uncompleted.

According to the 2001 census, Bulgaria's population consists mainly of ethnic Bulgarian (83.9%), with two sizable minorities, Turks (9.4%) and Roma (4.7%). Of the remaining 2.0%, 0.9% comprises some 40 smaller minorities, most prominently in numbers the Russians, Armenians, Vlachs, Jews, Crimean Tatars and Sarakatsani (historically known also as Karakachans). 1.1% of the population did not declare their ethnicity in the latest census in 2001.

The 2001 Bulgarian census defines an ethnic group as a "community of people, related to each other by origin and language, and close to each other by mode of life and culture"; and one's mother tongue as "the language which a person speaks best and which is usually used for communication in the family (household)".

Most Bulgarians (82.6%) belong, at least nominally, to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the national Eastern Orthodox Church. Other religious denominations include Islam (12.2%), various Protestant denominations (0.8%) and Roman Catholicism (0.5%); with other denominations, atheists and undeclared totalling approximately 4.1%.

In recent years Bulgaria has had one of the slowest population growth-rates in the world. Negative population growth has occurred since the early 1990s, due to economic collapse and high emigration. In 1989 the population comprised 9,009,018 people, in 2001 7,950,000 and in 2009 7,606,000. Now Bulgaria faces a severe demographic crisis: the population has a fertility-rate of 1.48 children per woman as of 2008, with a predicted rate of 1.7 by the end of 2050. The fertility-rate will need to reach 2.2 to restore natural growth in population.

Bulgaria functioned as the hub of Slavic Europe 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. Bulgaria also gave the world the Cyrillic alphabet, the second most-widely used alphabet in the world, which originated in these two schools in the tenth century AD.

Note also the Varna Necropolis, a 3500-3200BC burial-site, purportedly containing the oldest examples of worked gold in the world.

Bulgaria's contribution to humanity continued throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with individuals such as John Atanasoff — a United States citizen of Bulgarian descent, regarded as the father of the digital computer. A number of noted opera-singers (Nicolai Ghiaurov, Boris Christoff, Raina Kabaivanska, Ghena Dimitrova, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Vesselina Kasarova), pianist Alexis Weissenberg, and successful artists (Christo Yavashev, Pascin, Vladimir Dimitrov) popularized the culture of Bulgaria abroad.

One of the best internationally-known artists, Valya Balkanska sang the song Izlel e Delyu Haydutin, part of the Voyager Golden Record selection of music included in the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir also known as Mystery of Bulgarian voices has also attained a considerable degree of fame.

A characteristic custom called nestinarstvo distinguishes the Strandzha region. The custom involves dancing into fire or over live embers.

Regional musical styles abound in Bulgaria. Dobrudzha, Sofia, Rodopi, Macedonia, Thrace and the Danube shore all have distinctive sounds. Folk music revolved around holidays like Christmas, New Year's Day, midsummer, and the Feast of St. Lazarus, as well as the Strandzha region's unusual Nestinarstvo rites, in which villagers fell into a trance and danced on hot coals as part of the joint feast of Saints Konstantin and Elena on May 21. Music also formed a part of more personal celebrations such as weddings. Singing has a long tradition for both men and women. Women often sang songs at work parties such as the sedenka (often attended by young men and women in search of partners to court), betrothal ceremonies, and just for fun. Women had an extensive repertoire of songs that they sang while working in the fields. Young women eligible for marriage played a particularly important role at the dancing in the village square (which not too long ago represented the major form of "entertainment" in the village and formed a very important social scene). The dancing — every Sunday and for three days on major holidays like Easter — began not with instrumental music, but with two groups of young women singing, one leading each end of the dance line. Later on, instrumental musicians might arrive and the singers would no longer act as the dance leaders. Singers performed laments not only at funerals but also upon the departure of young men for military service.

The distinctive sounds of women's choirs in Bulgarian folk music come partly from their unique rhythms, harmony and polyphony, such as the use of close intervals like the major second and the singing of a drone accompaniment underneath the melody, especially common in songs from the Shope region around the Bulgarian capital Sofia and the Pirin region. In addition to Koutev, who pioneered many of the harmonies, and composed several songs which other groups (especially Tedora) covered, various women's vocal groups gained popularity, including Trio Bulgarka, consisting of Yanka Roupkina, Eva Georgieva, and Stoyanka Boneva, some of whom appeared in the "Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices" tours.

Owing to the relatively warm climate and diverse geography affording excellent growth conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits, Bulgarian cuisine (Bulgarian: българска кухня, bulgarska kuhnya) offers great diversity.

Famous for its rich salads required at every meal, Bulgarian cuisine also features diverse quality dairy products and a variety of wines and local alcoholic drinks such as rakia, mastika and menta. Bulgarian cuisine features also a variety of hot and cold soups, for example tarator. Many different Bulgarian pastries exist as well, such as banitsa, a traditional pastry prepared by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of sirene (Bulgarian Feta cheese) between filo pastry and then baking it in an oven.

Traditionally, Bulgarian cooks put lucky charms into their pastry on certain occasions, particularly on Christmas Eve, the first day of Christmas, or New Year's Eve. Such charms may include coins or small symbolic objects (such as a small piece of a dogwood branch with a bud, symbolizing health or longevity). More recently, people have started writing happy wishes on small pieces of paper and wrapping them in tin foil. Wishes may include happiness, health, or success throughout the new year.

Bulgarians eat banitsa — hot or cold — for breakfast with plain yogurt, ayran, or boza. Some varieties include banitsa with spinach (spanachena banitsa) or the sweet version, banitsa with milk (mlechna banitsa) or pumpkin (tikvenik). Certain entries, salads, soups and dishes go well with alcoholic beverages, especially Bulgarian wine.

In the northern-hemisphere winter, Samokov, Borovets, Bansko and Pamporovo become well-attended ski-resorts. Summer resorts exist on the Black Sea at Sozopol, Nessebur, Golden Sands, Sunny Beach, Sveti Vlas, Albena, Saints Constantine and Helena and many others. Spa resorts such as Bankya, Hisarya, Sandanski, Velingrad, Varshets and many others attract visitors throughout the year. Bulgaria has started to become an attractive tourist destination because of the quality of the resorts and prices below those found in Western Europe.

Bulgaria has enjoyed a substantial growth in income from international tourism over the past decade. Beach-resorts attract tourists from Germany, Romania, Russia, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The ski-resorts have become a favourite destination for British and Irish tourists.

As a country with a historical and cultural heritage, and attractive natural landscapes, Bulgaria has become one of the most visited tourist destinations in Europe. Tourism, as an industry, has proved an important source of economic growth. In 2007 5.2 million tourists visited, measured as outlined by the World Tourism Organization. Tourists from the top three countries of origin — Greece, Romania and Germany — account for 40% of all visitors. In 2008 the Bulgarian Tourism Agency expected to welcome an estimated 6 million visitors.

The country has historical cities and towns, summer beaches, and mountain ski resorts. New types of tourism, including cultural, architectural and historic tours, eco-tourism, and adventure tours, expand the range of services available to visitors. Winter tourist centres, such as Borovetz, Bansko, Pamporovo and Vitosha provide picturesque and popular ski resorts. The Bulgarian summer resorts along the Black Sea coast include destinations such as the summer resorts: Sozopol, Nessebur, Golden Sands, Sunny Beach, Sveti Vlas, Albena and St. St. Constantine & Helena. Some guests, such as the Germans, Russians or Scandinavians, favour the summer beach resorts, while winter tourism, and the ski resorts, have become the favorites of the British.

Emerging types of tourist activities, such as "ethno-tourism" and "architectural-cultural" tourism, increasingly gain ground, catering to specialized tastes. These new types of tours involve interaction with and living amongst the local people in small mountain villages.

For the more adventurous, active recreation, involving mountain hiking and bike tourism, provides a close connection with nature. Climbers scale the granite mountains of Rila, Pirin and the Balkan. Hikers enjoy the mountains of Vitosha and the Rhodopes - the latter the mythical birthplace of Orpheus. Mountain biking and bicycle racing also feature. Bulgaria , like only six other countries, annually hosts the official 1,200 km Randonnees — ultra-marathon bicycle rides patterned after Paris-Brest-Paris.

Situated at the crossroads of the East and West, Bulgarian territory has hosted many civilizations - Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs, Proto-Bulgarians, and Ottomans. Although Bulgaria has many historical artifacts, many of the museums and monasteries still lack proper advertising and maintenance, and tourists may find some of the most interesting heritage sites somewhat inaccessible, due to poor infrastructure. Yet some visitors regard such "underdevelopment" as desirable - those who prefer to experience history first-hand rather than look at artefacts behind glass.

Bulgaria now attracts close to 7 million visitors yearly. Tourism in Bulgaria makes a major contribution towards the country's annual economic growth of 6% to 6.5%.

Football has become by far the most popular sport in Bulgaria. Many Bulgarian fans closely follow the top Bulgarian league, the Bulgarian "A" Professional Football Group; as well as the leagues of other European countries. The Bulgaria national football team achieved its greatest success with a fourth-place finish at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States.

Stiliyan Petrov currently ranks as the most popular Bulgarian footballer. Georgi Asparuhov-Gundi (1943-1971), also became extremely popular at home and abroad, having had offers from clubs in Italy and Portugal, and having won the Bulgarian football player №1 award for the twentieth century. Hristo Stoichkov has arguably become the best-known Bulgarian footballer of all time. His career peaked between 1992 and 1995, while he played for FC Barcelona, winning the Ballon d'Or in 1994. Additionally, he featured in the FIFA 100 rankings. Three Bulgarians have won the European top scorers' Golden Boot award: Stoichkov,Georgi Slavkov and Petar Jekov.

PFC CSKA Sofia (champion of Bulgaria 31 times (As of 2008), National cup holder 13 times, European Cup semi-finalist 2 times, Cup Winners' Cup semi-finalist), PFC Levski Sofia (25 times champion of Bulgaria and 26 times National Cup holder), PFC Slavia Sofia (officially the oldest football- and sports-club in Bulgaria, 8 times football champion of Bulgaria and 12 times holder of the National Cup, Cup Winners' Cup semi-finalist) have become the most successful Bulgarian football-clubs. Other popular clubs include PFC Lokomotiv Sofia, PFC Litex Lovech, PFC Cherno More Varna and PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv. PFC Levski Sofia became the first Bulgarian team to participate in the modern UEFA Champions League group stage, having achieved this by qualifying for the 2006/2007 competition.

Apart from football, Bulgaria boasts great achievements in a great variety of other sports. Maria Gigova and Maria Petrova have each held a record of three world-titles in rhythmic gymnastics. Other famous gymnasts include Simona Peycheva and Neshka Robeva (a highly successful coach as well). Yordan Yovtchev ranks as the most famous Bulgarian competitor in Artistic Gymnastics. Bulgarians also dominate in weightlifting, with around 1,000 gold medals in different competitions, although cases of doping have occurred among Bulgarian weightlifters, which led to the expulsion of the entire Bulgarian team from the 2000 Summer Olympics, and their voluntary withdrawal from the 1988 Summer Olympics. Stefan Botev, Nickolai Peshalov, Demir Demirev and Yoto Yotov figure among the most distinguished weightlifters. In wrestling, Boyan Radev, Serafim Barzakov, Armen Nazarian, Plamen Slavov, Kiril Sirakov and Sergey Moreyko rank as world-class wrestlers. Dan Kolov became a wrestling legend in the early 20th century after leaving for United States.

Bulgarians have made many significant achievements in athletics. Stefka Kostadinova, who still holds the women's high jump world record, jumped 209 centimetres at the 1987 World Championships in Athletics in Rome to clinch the coveted title. Presently, Bulgaria takes pride in its sprinters, especially Ivet Lalova and Tezdzhan Naimova.

Volleyball recently experienced a big resurgence. The Bulgarian national volleyball team, one of the strongest teams in Europe, currently ranks fourth in the FIVB ranklist. At the 2006 Volleyball World Championship this team won the bronze medal.

Chess has achieved great popularity. One of the top chess-masters and a former world champion, Veselin Topalov, plays for Bulgaria. At the end of 2005, both men's and women's world chess-champions came from Bulgaria, as well as the junior world champion.

Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski have won the ISU world figure skating championships twice in a row (2006 and 2007) for ice-dance.

Bulgarians have also achieved major successes in tennis. The Maleeva sisters: Katerina, Manuela and Magdalena, have each reached the top ten in world rankings, and became the only set of three sisters ranked in the top ten at the same time. Bulgaria has other well-known tennis players such as Tsvetana Pironkova, Sesil Karatancheva and Grigor Dimitrov, who in 2008 became the Wimbledon junior champion and US Open junior chamion.

Bulgaria also has strengths in shooting sports. Maria Grozdeva and Tanyu Kiriakov have won Olympic gold medals, and Ekaterina Dafovska won the Olympic gold in biathlon in the 1998 Winter Olympic Games.

Petar Stoychev set a new swimming world record for crossing the English Channel in 2007.

The country has strong traditions in amateur boxing and in martial-arts competitions. Bulgaria has achieved major success with its judo and karate teams in European and World championships. Kaloyan Stefanov Mahlyanov, best known as Kotoōshū Katsunori, has become well-known worldwide for his sumo prowess.

Most citizens of Bulgaria have associations — at least nominally — with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Founded in 870 AD under the Patriarchate of Constantinople (from which it obtained its first primate, its clergy and theological texts), the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has had autocephalous status since 927. The Orthodox Church re-established the Bulgarian Patriarchate in Sofia in the 1950s after the promulgation of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1870. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, as the independent national church of Bulgaria (like the other national branches of Eastern Orthodoxy in their respective countries) plays a role as an inseparable element of Bulgarian national consciousness. The Church became subordinate within the Patriarchate of Constantinople, twice during the periods of Byzantine (1018 – 1185) and Ottoman (1396 – 1878) domination but has been revived every time as a symbol of Bulgarian statehood without breaking away from the Orthodox dogma. In 2001, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had 6,552,000 members in Bulgaria (82.6% of the population). However, many people raised during the 45 years of communist rule are not religious, even though they may formally be members of the Church.

Despite the dominant position of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Bulgarian cultural life, a number of Bulgarian citizens belong to other religious denominations, most notably Islam, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.

Islam came to Bulgaria at the end of the fourteenth century after the conquest of the country by the Ottomans. It gradually gained ground throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries through the introduction of Turkish colonists and the conversion of native Bulgarians. One Islamic sect, Ahmadiyya, faces problems in Bulgaria. Some officials have moved against Ahmadis on the grounds that other countries - such as Pakistan - also attack the religious rights of Ahmadis, whom many Muslims regard as heretical.

In the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, missionaries from Rome converted Bulgarian Paulicians in the districts of Plovdiv and Svishtov to Roman Catholicism. Today their descendants form the bulk of Bulgarian Catholics, whose number stood at 44,000 in 2001.

Missionaries from the United States introduced Protestantism into Bulgarian territory in 1857. Missionary work continued throughout the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. In 2001 Bulgaria had some 42,000 Protestants.

According to the most recent Eurostat "Eurobarometer" poll, in 2005, 40% of Bulgarian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 40% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force", 13% that "they do not believe there is a God, spirit, nor life force", and 6% did not answer.

1 Has part of its territory outside Europe.  2 Entirely in West Asia but having socio-political connections with Europe.  3 Has dependencies or similar territories outside Europe. 4 Name disputed by Greece; see Macedonia naming dispute. 5 Declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008 and is recognised by 56 United Nations member states.

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Turks in Bulgaria

Turks in Bulgaria

Turks in Bulgaria constituted 9.4% of the total population in 2001 and are the largest minority group in Bulgaria. The Turks in Bulgaria are descendants of the early Turkic settlers who came from Anatolia across the narrows of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus following the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans during late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. It has also been suggested that some Turks living today in Bulgaria may be direct ethnic descendants of earlier medieval Pecheneg, Oğuz, and Cuman Turkic tribes. The Turkish community was formed as an ethnic minority after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. This community is of Turkish ethnic consciousness and differs from the majority Bulgarian nationality and the rest of the Bulgarian nation by its own language, religion, culture, customs, and traditions.

Today, the Turks of Bulgaria are concentrated in two rural areas, in the Northeast (Ludogorie/Deliorman) and the Southeast (the Eastern Rhodopes). They form the absolute majority in the province of Kardzhali and relative majority in the province of Razgrad.

Turks settled in the territory of modern Bulgaria during and after the Ottoman counquest of the Balkans in the late XIV and early XV centuries. Being the dominant group in the Ottoman Empire for the next 5 centuries, they played an important part in the economic and cultural life of the land. The Turks lived predominantly in some of the big towns in Bulgaria - Felibe, Varna, Shumlu and etc. The decline of Turkish population relatively to that of the other large ethnic groups in the region (Bulgarians, Greeks) started with the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 17'th century. After the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878, because of their status as former rulers, the Turks had a stormy relationship with Bulgaria. The estimates of the number of Turks in Bulgaria prior to the Russo-Turkish war of 1878 vary from between a third to being the majority of the total population. Turks began emigrating during and after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8. The movement continued, with some interruptions, through the late 1980s.

The biggest wave of Turkish emigration occurred in 1989, however, when 310,000 Turks left Bulgaria as a result of the communist Zhivkov regime's assimilation campaign. That program, which began in 1984, forced all Turks and other Muslims in Bulgaria to adopt Bulgarian names and renounce all Muslim customs. The motivation of the 1984 assimilation campaign was unclear; however, many experts believed that the disproportion between the birth rates of the Turks and the Bulgarians was a major factor. During the name-changing phase of the campaign, Turkish towns and villages were surrounded by army units. Citizens were issued new identity cards with Bulgarian names. Failure to present a new card meant forfeiture of salary, pension payments, and bank withdrawals. Birth or marriage certificates would be issued only in Bulgarian names. Traditional Turkish costumes were banned; homes were searched and all signs of Turkish identity removed. Mosques were closed. According to estimates, 500 to 1,500 people were killed when they resisted assimilation measures, and thousands of others went to labor camps or were forcibly resettled. The fall of communism in Bulgaria led to a reversal of the state's policy towards its citizens of Turkish ethnical origin. After the fall of Zhivkov in 1989, the National Assembly of Bulgaria attempted to restore cultural rights to the Turkish population. In 1991 a new law gave anyone affected by the name-changing campaign three years to officially restore original names and the names of children born after the name change. In January 1991, Turkish-language lessons were reintroduced for four hours per week in parts of the country with a substantial Turkish population, such as the former Kurdzhali and Razgrad districts. According to the 2001 census, there are 746,664 ethnic Turks in Bulgaria. The number of Bulgarian citizens from Turkish descent residing in Turkey is put at 326,000. During the 2005 Bulgarian parliamentary elections an estimate of 120,000 of them voted either in Bulgaria or polling stations set up in Turkey.

Turks, although today numerically small –a little over 1 million people (about 2 percent of the total Balkan population) - have played a role in shaping the history of the Balkans far beyond their numbers. Although there is earlier evidence of Turkic peoples, such as those whose large-wheeled wagons led the Chinese to dub them the "High Carts," the first state to bear the name Turk was founded in 552 C.E. In terms of the history of Europe the two main groups Seljuks and the Ottoman Turks (both members of the Oghuz confederations) are regarded as most significant. However, earlier Turkic peoples such as the Huns, Avars, Bulgars, Kabars, Pechenegs, pagan Oghuz, Cumans, and Tatars have also played important roles in the territory of present day Bulgaria.

According to early Ottoman historical compilations and translations of Ibn Bibi’s History of the Seljuq Sultanate of Rum a well founded account is presented of Turkish immigration from Anatolia to Dobruja. Ibn Bibi’s historical memoirs cover the period 1192-1281 well before Ottoman rule over the Balkans. The work of Ibn Bibi finished in 1281 and was written in Persian for one of the last Rum Seljuk Sultans Kaykhusraw III. In his Turkish translation called the Oghuzname Yazicioğlu Ali describes how Turkish Seljuk troops joined their Sultan 'Izz al-Din Kayka'us II (Kaykaus II) to help the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos in his military campaigns. As these campaigns were fought in Europe the Turks and their nomadic kin had to be settled into a Byzantine province and for that Dobruja (Dobruja-eli) was given to the Seljuks.

The conquest of the Balkans by the Ottomans set in motion important population movements, which modified the ethnic and religious composition of the conquered territories. This demographic restructuring was accomplished through colonization of strategic areas of the Balkans with Turks brought over from Anatolia and Asia Minor, establishing a firm Turkish Muslim base for further conquests in Europe. Ottoman Empire used colonization as a very effective method to consolidate their position and power in the Balkans. The colonizers that were brought to the Balkans consisted of diverse elements, including soldiers, nomads, farmers, artisans and merchants, dervishes, preachers and other religious functionaries, and administrative personnel. Among the earliest arrivals were large numbers of pastoral peoples such as the Yürüks, Turcomans (Oghuz Turks), Tatars from Anatolia and Crimean Tatars (Qaraei or Kara Tatar) led by their chieftain Aktav. As the Ottomans expanded their conquests in the Balkans, they brought nomads from Anatolia and settled them along the main highways and in the surrounding mountain regions. Densely populated Turkish colonies were established in the frontier regions of Thrace, the Maritsa and the Tundzha valleys. The colonization policies already begun under Orhan were continued by his successors Murat I (1360-84) and Bayezit I (1389-1402). Additional colonists, mostly nomads again, were established along key transportation and communication routes in Thrace, Macedonia, and Thessaly. The Ottoman authorities maintained these nomads in their tribal organization through the sixteenth century and began to settle them only during the seventeenth century.

In addition to voluntary migrations, the Ottoman authorities used mass deportations (sürgün) as a method of control over potentially rebellious elements in the Balkans and in Asia Minor and Anatolia. Far away form their home bases, the potential threat of such elements was considerably reduced as in the case of the followers of the rebellious Karamanoğlu Pir Ahmet. Tribal resistance was followed by large-scale transfers of Karamanoğlu Türkmen nomads to Rumelia. Deportations in both directions occurred throughout the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries.

After the defeat of Bayezid I at the battle of Ankara by the forces of Tamerlane in 1402, the Ottomans abandoned their Anatolian domains for a while and considered the Balkans their real home, making Adrianople (Edirne) their new capital. The Timurid invasions and other upheavals in Anatolia and Asia Minor brought additional Turkish settlers into the Balkans. Numerous Turkish colonists were settled as farmers in new villages. Vakıf deeds and regısters of the fifteenth century show that there was a wide movement of colonization, with western Anatolian peasantry settling in Thrace and the eastern Balkans and founding hundreds of new villages. Some other settlers came in search of military and administrative service, and still others to establish Islamic religious institutions. Muslims were settled densely along the two great historical routes of the Peninsula, one going though Thrace and Macedonia to the Adriatic and the other passing through the Maritsa and Tundja valleys to the Danube. The Yürüks were settled mostly in the mountainous parts of the area. By the early sixteenth century the Muslims constituted about a quarter of the Balkan population.

The greatest impact of Ottoman colonization in the Balkans, however, was felt in the urban centers. Many towns became major centers for Turkish control and administration, with most Christians gradually withdrawing to the mountains. Historical evidence shows that the Ottomans embarked on a systematic policy of creating new towns and repopulating older towns that had suffered significant population decline and economic dislocation during the two centuries of incessant wars preceding the Ottoman conquest, as well as the ravages of the Ottoman conquest itself. Often re-colonization of old towns and the establishment of new towns were accompanied by bodily transplanting settlers from other areas of the Empire or with Muslim refugees from other lands. Records show that by the end of the 14th century Muslim Turks formed the absolute majority in large urban towns in Upper Thrace such as Filibe (Plovdiv) and Tatar Pazarcik (Pazardzhik).

Ottoman architecture has shaped and left visible marks on the Balkan urban landscape. Two distinct crafts are evident in Ottoman urban culture that of the architect and that of the master builder (maistores in Macedonia and Epirus, kalfa in Anatolia and sometimes in Bulgaria) who shared the responsibilities and tasks for the design and construction of all sorts of building projects. During Mimar Sinan's period as a chief imperial architect until the second half of the 16th century between forty and seventy architects produced designs for a very large labour force, controlled the construction of military and civil facilities, water and road infrastructure from Budapest to Cairo. The centralized has or hassa (sultan's property and service) system had allowed a small number of architects to control all significant imperial and most vakif building sites over the vast territories of the empire. In the 18th century the empire was opened to Western influence. By the late eighteenth century a growing number of Ottoman Christians were recruited. Until the very end of the Ottoman state the master builders maintained a cultural equilibrium between the Ottoman spirit and architectural innovation both in the Balkans and Anatolia. Turkish, Slavic, and Greek masters combining Western styles with Ottoman views extended the architectural landscape with one of the best examples being the Filibe-Plovdiv symmetrical house. Innovations were derived from the Ottoman house and market (çarşı) buildings in Anatolia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria.

The estimates of the number of Turks in Bulgaria prior to the Russo-Turkish war of 1878 vary from between a third to being the majority of the total population. As Russian forces pushed south in January 1878, the troops, the Bulgarian volunteers, and the emboldened local Bulgarian villagers inflicted a welter of atrocities on the local Muslim population.NYT 23.11.1877 Some 260,000 Muslims perished in the war's carnage, and over 500,000 refugees fled with the retreating Ottoman forces.

During the War many Turks, including large and small landowners, left their lands. Though many returned after the signing of the treaty of Berlin they were soon to find the atmosphere of the lands they had left behind uncongenial and large numbers emigrated once again to the more familiar cultural and political atmosphere of the Ottoman Empire. The decline in the Turkish-speaking population of Bulgaria in the period of 1880-1910 does not include these people and therefore give an absolutely accurate picture of the Turkish emigration for many Turks left before the first census was taken.

Bulgarian population increased from two and a half million in 1892 to three and a half million in 1910, and stood at over four and three-quarter million in 1920. This increase took place while a large number of Bulgaria's Turkish speaking inhabitants were emigrating. In 1881 the Turks represented almost a quarter of the population of Bulgaria and Rumelia, yet by 1892 the proportion was 17.21 percent and in 1910 11.63%; in the same years the Bulgarian speaking elements were 67.84%, 75.67% and 81.63% of the total.

During the Balkan Wars in August 1913 the majority Turkish and Muslim population of Western Thrace (including the regions of the Southern Rhodope Mountains and the Kircaali/Kurdzhali region) established the Turkish Republic of Western Thrace. The short-lived Turkish Republic had a population of over 230 000 of which app. 80% were Turks and Pomaks.Western Thrace was left to Bulgaria with the Istanbul agreement signed on 29 September 1913 which guaranteed the rights of Turks living in the region. The region stayed under Bulgarian control until 1919. Since Bulgarians comprised only a fraction of the population of Western Thrace ceding the territory to Bulgaria was seen as an unacceptable option for both the population of Western Thrace and Turkey at that time. Having lost the territory in 1913 the Ottoman State intended to keep the area mainly Turkish populated with hopes of one day regaining Western Thrace.

The Turkish press in Bulgaria established its self almost simultaneously with the foundation of the Bulgarian Principality in 1878. Under the new/”foreign” Bulgarian administration the Turkish intellectuals felt the need to communicate the new laws and regulations to the Turkish population by first providing translations of the Bulgarian State Gazette. During the years the number of Turkish newspapers and publications published in the Principality of Bulgaria rose to 90.

The Turkish Press in Bulgaria was faced with many difficulties and a significant amount of newspapers operated in the verge of being banned and their journalists being expelled from the country. Turkish journalists and teachers organised by establishing the Islamic Teachers Community in Bulgaria (Bulgaristan Muallimi Islâmiye Cemiyeti) and the Union of Turan Communities in Bulgaria (Turan Cemiyetleri Birliği) which was a youth organisation. The leaders of these organisations met during National Congresses held each year in different locations in Bulgaria. The largest National Congress was held in Sofia in 1929 with over 1000 participants.

GAYRET: The newspaper was founded in Plovdiv in 1895 and printed by Filibeli Rıza Paşa. In 1896 the famous Turkish thinker and intellectual Übeydullah Efendi wrote columns in Gayret and in a later stage became the newspaper’s head columnist.

MUVAZENE: The weekly newspaper was first published in 20.8.1897 in Plovdiv by the graduates of the Mektebi Mülkiye Ulumu Siyasie and printed by Filibeli Rıza Paşa. The newspaper’s operations temporarily moved to Varna before returning to back to Plovdiv. One of the most known writers in Muvazene was Ali Fefhmi Bey who promoted the unionisation of the Turkish teachers in Bulgaria and was the instigator of the first Turkish teacher’s congress in Shumen. During the congress the Islamic Teachers Community in Bulgaria (Bulgaristan Muallimi Islâmiye Cemiyeti) was founded.

RUMELI – BALKAN: Founded in 1904 by Etem Ruhi Balkan. After the first three editions the newspaper’s name was changed to Balkan. Daily editions were published until the eruption of the Balkan Wars in 1912. The newspaper was also printed by Maullimi Mehmet Mahri and Halil Zeki Bey. Since Etem Ruhi was often imprisoned the management of the newspaper shifted to Hüsnü Mahmut in 1912 and 1917 Halil Ibrahim became the head editor. The newspaper ended its publications in 1920.

UHUVVET: Founded by unknown group of journalists in 24.5.1904 the weekly newspaper was printed in Rousse and focused on politics and daily events. In 1905 Mehmet Teftiş became the manager of the newspaper.

TUNA: Founded in 1.9.1905 by Mehmet Teftiş, Tuna was a daily newspaper printed in Rousse. After 415 editions the newspaper ended its operations, however on 13.10.1908 the publications of Tuna resumed after a group of intellectual Turks established a separate company designated to meet the needs for a Turkish daily newspaper in the region. The main contributors in the new Tuna newspaper were Tahir Lütfi Bey, Hafız Abdullah Meçik and Kizanlikli Ali Haydar.

TERBIYE OCAĞI: Established in 1921 by the Islamic Teachers Community in Bulgaria (Bulgaristan Muallimi Islâmiye Cemiyeti) and printed in Varna between 1923 – 1925. Known contributors in Terbiye Ocaği were Osman Nuri Peremeci, Hafız Abdullah Meçik, Hasip Ahmet Aytuna, Mustafa Şerif Alyanak, Mehmet Mahsum, Osmanpazarli Ibrahim Hakki Oğuz, Ali Avni, Ebuşinasi Hasan Sabri, Hüseyin Edip and Tayyarzade Cemil Bey.

YOLDAŞ: Founded in 1921 by Hafız Abdullah Meçik and published every second week in Shumen. Yoldaş was one of the first Turkish children’s publications in Bulgaria.

DELIORMAN: Owned by Mahmut Necmettin Deliorman the newspaper started its publications in 21.10.1922 in Razgrad with Ahmet Ihsan as its head editor. Between 1923 – 1915 Mustafa Şerif Alyanak took on the job of head editor with weekly editions. Deliorman also functioned as a main publication for the Turkish Union of Sport’s Clubs in Bulgaria. Turkish columnists such as Hasip Saffeti, Ahmet Aytuna, Hafiz Ismail Hakki, Yahya Hayati, Hüsmen Celal, Çetin Ebuşinasi and Hasan Sabri were household names in Deliorman.

TURAN: Founded on 6.5.1928 in Vidin, Turan was a channel for the Union of Turkish Youth Communities in Bulgaria. The newspaper was also printed in Kardzhali and Varna until it was closed in 1934.

TEBLIGAT: Founded in 1929 and published by the office of the Grand Mufti and Islamic Foundations in Sofia.

RODOP: Founded in April 1929 in Kardzhali by Lütfi Takanoğlu. Rodop focused on the rights, freedoms and national matters of the Turkish population in Bulgaria. Most known writers in Rodop were Mustafa Şerif Alyanak and Ömer Kaşif Nalbandoğlu. As many other Turkish newspapers in Bulgaria Rodop was forced to stop its operations during 1934 and its writers were either expelled or forced to seek refuge in Turkey.

With the right-wing coup d'état of 1934, Turkish-language press was suppressed. Only in the course of the first year, ten of the newspapers were closed down (including Deliorman and Turan), and by 1939, a single newspaper Havadis ("The News") survived, only to be closed down in turn in 1941. The explanation cited was that the newspapers were disseminating Kemalist (Turkish nationalist propaganda.

The transfer of land from Turkish to Bulgarian ownership which was the most important effect of Turkish emigration was a complex process. Such transfers had taken place before 1878 and in the Tatar Pazardzhik district, for example, where Bulgarian landowners had been unknown in 1840, some two thousand plots had been bought by them between 1872 and 1875. In 1877 and in the following years the process of transfer took place on an immensely grater scale, both here and elsewhere.

With the outbreak of war some Turks sold their property, mostly to wealthy local Bulgarians. Other Turks rented their lands, usually to dependable local Bulgarians, on the understanding that it would be handed back if and when the owners returned. Most departing Turks, however, simply abandoned their land and fled, the fall of Pleven had made it clear that the Russians were to win the War. As the Turks fled many Bulgarians left the hills and forests and seized some of the land now made vacant. The incidence of seizure varied regionally. In the north-east the Turks were numerous and, feeling safety in numbers, few of them had left and those remaining were therefore strong enough to discourage seizures by Bulgarians. In the north and south-west on the other hand almost all Turks had fled and their lands were immediately taken over by local Bulgarians who often divided up the large estates found in these areas. In the remainder of northern Bulgaria transfers, often under the cloak of renting, took place in approximately one third of the communities. In the Turnovo province, for example, there were seventy-seven Turkish mixed Turkish-Bulgarian villages of which twenty-four (31.0%) were seized by Bulgarians, twenty two (28.5%) were later repossessed by returning Turkish refugees, and another twenty-two remained unaffected; the fate of the remaining nine is unknown. In the south-west there was much more tension and violence. Here there was no provisions about renting and there were cases of Bulgarian peasants not only seizing land but also destroying buildings.

In vast majority of the cases it was local Bulgarians who seized the vacant land but Bulgarians from other parts of Bulgaria where there had been little Turkish emigration, and Bulgarian refugees from Ottoman repressions in Macedonia and Western Thrace also took part in the seizures. In later months the publication of the terms of the Treaty of Berlin naturally intensified the flow of refugees from these areas and they were reported by the prefect of Burgas province as helping themselves to émigré land “in a most arbitrary fashion”.

In Burgas and the rest of Eastern Rumelia the Treaty of Berlin intensified the land struggle by making Bulgarians more determined to seize sufficient land before Ottoman sovereignty was restored. It also encouraged the former Turkish owners to return. With these problems the Russian Provisional Administration had to contend.

The Provisional Administration did not have the power, even if it had had the will, to prevent so popular a movement as the seizure of vacant Turkish land, but not could the Administration allow this movement to go completely unchecked for this would give the Turks and the British the excuse to interfere in the internal affairs of the liberated territories. Given these dangers the Russians handled the agrarian problem with considerable skill. In the summer of 1877 Bulgarian refugees from Macedonia, Thrace and Ottoman Rumelia had been allowed to harvest the crops left by Turkish émigrés and in September all Bulgarians, the incoming refugees and the indigenous, were allowed to sow vacant Turkish land, though it was insisted that this did not in any way signify a transfer of ownership. With the mass exodus of Turks after the Treaty of San Stefano the Provisional Administration had little choice but to allow the Bulgarians to work the vacant land with rent, set at half the value of the harvest, to be paid to the legal owner. In many cases the Bulgarians simply refused to pay this rent and the Russians were not over-zealous in collecting such monies.

When the Treaty of Berlin guaranteed Turkish property rights and restored southern Bulgaria to the Sultan's sovereignty at least 80,000 of the 150,000 Turkish émigrés had returned by September 1878. This caused enormous problems including housing the returning Turks whose property had been taken over by Bulgarians or destroyed. In September local authorities ordered that any houses taken over by Bulgarians were to be restored to their former owners on the latter's demand, whilst other returning Turks were given Tatar or Circassian land.

These problems were insignificant compared to those raised when the returning Turks demanded the restitution of their lost lands.

In July 1878 the Russian Provisional Administration had come to an agreement with the Porte by which Turkish refugees were allowed to return under military escort, if necessary, and were to have their lands back on condition that they surrendered all their weapons. In August 1878 it was decreed that those returning would not be immune from prosecution and anyone against whom any charges were substantiated would be deprived of his lands. This decree did more than anything else to discourage the return of more Turks and from the date of this enactment the flow of returning refugees began gradually to diminish. There were, however, many claims still to be dealt with and in November 1878 mixed Turkish and Bulgarian commissions were established in all provinces to examine these claims. The decisions were to be made in accordance with rules drawn up by the Russian embassy in Constantinople in consultation with the Porte, and under them Bulgarian could secure the legal right to a piece of land if they could produce the authentic title-deeds, tapii, and thereby prove that the land at dispute had originally been taken from them forcibly or fraudulently.

After the departure of the Russians in the spring of 1879 the administration in Plovdiv ordered to enforce court decisions returning land to the Turks. Only half of the courts had recorded such decisions. Other actions were even less emotive and in 1880 the position of the Bulgarians in Eastern Rumelia had improved. The Plovdiv government introduced new methods for authenticating claims, allowing local courts to issue new title deeds if they were satisfied that existing documentation proved ownership, or if local communal councils had issued certificates attesting ownership. Most local councils were entirely Bulgarian or were dominated by Bulgarians and decided in favour of their co-nationals far more often than did the mixed commissions with whom the prerogative of adjunction had previously rested. In many instances, too, Bulgarians refused to relinquish land they had seized and as late as 1884 there were still Turkish landlords demanding the implementation of court orders restoring their property.

The Bulgarians in Rumelia were also helped from 1880 onwards because the Turks began to drift once more into exile. This was very much the result of disappointed hopes for a full restoration of Turkish power south of the Balkan range. By 1880 the Bulgarians had become the majority and had established political ascendancy in the province and to this many Turks, and particularly the richer and previously more influential ones, could not adapt. The Turks had seldom persecuted the Christians, that had been the intermittent past time of Pomak (Bulgarian Muslim), Circassian and Tatar, but the Turks have never allowed the Bulgarians social or legal equality. Now they were forced to concede their superiority and for many Turks this was too much to bear and they gratefully accepted offers of land from the Sultan and returned to the more familiar atmosphere of the Ottoman Empire.

The Turks were also encouraged to emigrate from Bulgaria by regulations against the cultivation of rice - which was originally introduced to the region by the Turks. This was part of a project to eradicate malaria that included also draining of swamps in the Tundzha, Arda, and Maritsa Basins. The project succeeded in eradicating malaria, however, it also exacerbated droughts in those regions. Rice was a staple crop for the Turks and in its prohibition many of them saw yet another sign of unacceptable Bulgarian domination. An even more important impulse to Turkish emigration was the Bulgarian land tax of 1882. By Moslem law all land was owned by God but after the abolition of feudalism in the 1830s use of that land conferred temporary wardship upon the user, and thus the tithe which had been the main levy on land until 1882 conformed to traditional Moslem codes of thought and practice. The land tax did not. Furthermore land tax applied to all land in a man's possession not, as under the tithe, merely to that part which had been cultivated. This hit the Turks hard for they customarily left large proportion, in many cases as much as half, of their land fallow. Taxation now fell on the fallow land too but production and earnings could not be increased by the same proportion and as a result many of the remaining Turkish owners of large estates left Rumelia. Significantly 1882 was the peak year for the sale of larger Turkish properties in Rumelia, though the sale of such properties continued steadily throughout the first half of the 1880s. From the end of the war to the summer of 1880 only six large Turkish chifliks in Eastern Rumelia had been sold but the five years before union with the Principality of Bulgaria in 1885 saw the sale of about a hundred. That most of the larger Turkish owners and many smaller ones left Rumelia was undoubtedly an important factor in the easy attainment of Bulgarian supremacy in Rumelia during the early 1880s.

In Principality of Bulgaria as in Rumelia the chaos of war had allowed a number of seizures to go unrecorded meaning that the new occupiers were to be left in untroubled possession of their land. The Constituent Assembly had considered a proposal to legislate such illegal transfers but no action had been taken as Karavelov had easily persuaded the Assembly that it was pointless to legislate about so widespread a phenomenon. The Bulgarians in the Principality could afford such bold stance as there was little danger of direct Ottoman intervention over the land question. There was a constant stream of emigration by Turks from Bulgaria and by the early 1890s so many Turks had left the former Turkish stronghold of north-eastern Bulgaria that the government in Sofia began to fear that the area would be seriously under-populated. In 1891 the Minister of Finance reported to the Subranie that there were 26,315 vacant plots in the country, many of them in the north-east and most of them under twenty dekars in extent.

In Bulgaria the government also took possession of Turkish land which had been vacant for three years. A number of returning Turkish refugees who demanded restitution of or compensation for their lands were denied both on the grounds that they had without duress left their property unworked for three years.

Bulgaria's constitution and various international treaties required it to grant minorities, including the Turkish population, equal treatment before law (however, the Tarnovo constitution also required, discriminatorily, direct government control over all minority religious communities). This was pursued inconsistently. All in all, Turks and other Muslims were able to freely maintain their own cultural life during most of the time until WWII, but with periods of gross human rights violations, including a major onslaught during the right-wing authoritarian regime in the last decade of that period. Other abuses included denied access to public service and refusal of tax relief and agricultural loans as a way to encourage emigration, as well as state appointment of Muslim muftis.

The condition of Turks and Bulgarian Muslims worsened gravely after the 1934 coup d'état and the establishment of Boris III's quasi-dictatorship and remained so until the Communist takeover. Muslim minority teachers were deprived of pensions and the participation of the Muslim community in political and cultural life was minimized. As mentioned above, there was an immediate assault on Turkish-language press and by 1941 all Turkish-language newspapers were banned. This was justified with the claim that it promoted Kemalist ideas. In general, pro-Kemalist organizations were systematically dissolved, as Kemalism was regarded as a form of pan-Turkism that turned the Bulgarian Turks into a fifth column of Turkey. Ironically, emigration to Turkey was nevertheless banned during this until the early 1940s, when the government decided to issue emigration permits en masse in order to get rid of the "fifth column". Turkey, on the other hand, was very reluctant to admit any huge immigration from Bulgaria. At the same time, the overall conditions worsened even more, as the pro-Nazi regime closed all Muslim minority schools as well as schools with a significant number of Muslim or Turkish members, shut down mosques and even medical centres in predominantly Muslim areas, and systematically distributed smaller wartime foodstuff portions to Turks and Muslims than to ethnic Bulgarians.

The Turks were not targets of violent assimilation attempts during most of this period, although Bulgarian-speaking Muslims (Pomaks) were targeted in two such state-organized campaigns - once during the Balkan wars (which was later revoked by the Liberal Party government elected also with Pomak votes), and once in 1942, by the notorious “Bulgarian-Mohammedan Cultural-Educational and Charitable Association - Rodina”. This also involved a ban on Pomak-Turkish intermarriage and coercive replacement of the Pomaks' Muslim names with Christian ones.

After the Communist takeover in 1944, the new regime declared itself in favour of all minorities and inter-ethnic equality and fraternity (in accordance with the classic doctrine of proletarian internationalism) and annulled all the "fascist" anti-Muslim decisions of the previous government. This included restoring the Pomaks' Muslim names, banning the "Rodina" organization, re-establishing the closed Turkish minority schools and founding new ones. The new constitution had many provisions regarding minority protection and in particular guaranteed the right to mother tongue education and free development of culture for all national minorities. Further legislation required new Turkish minority textbooks to be issued and allocation of air time for radio broadcasts in Turkish. For the first time since the ban by the previous regime, Turkish-language newspapers and magazines and Turkish-language editions of Bulgarian press were launched, starting in 1945, including Vatan ("Fatherland"), Isik ("Light"), Halk Gencligi, Yeni Isik and Yeni Hayat ("New Life"). In 1947, even an "affirmative action"-like policy was implemented, as Turkish minority members were accepted to higher education institutions without an entrance examination; such practices would continue in later years, as special efforts were made to further the active involvement of Muslims in the Communist Party and in the political life of the country; but this special treatment may have been motivated also by the hope that such integration could encourage their cultural assimilation as well. However, the emigration of Turks and Pomaks to Turkey was periodically banned starting in 1949; Turkey also obstructed immigration from Bulgaria with tough requirements. Also, Turks and other minorities were not admitted into military service for some time, and even after the official decision to allow it in 1952, their admission would still require them to meet certain undefined political criteria.

Starting in 1956, the regime gradually began to embark on a long-term assimilation policy towards Muslims and/or Turks in Bulgaria, which was routinely pursued with more or less intensity until the end of Communist rule and culminated in two periods of intensive campaigns, each lasting several years. The most wide-ranging and public one, directed against the Turks, took place in 1984-1985 and was officially called "the Revival Process" (a term also used, though more rarely, for the other large campaign, which was organized against the Pomak identity in 1971-1974). One of the main aspects of these campaigns were the forced name-changing episodes of the country’s Muslim population, as well as efforts to obliterate traditional clothing, prohibit Muslim customs and deny the use of Turkish language. Apart from these violent episodes, the long-term policy was expressed in various other facts: for example, Turkish-language publications were closed down one by one, and by 1981 only a single newspaper (Yeni Isik) survived, until it ceased to be published in 1985. Significantly, the new "Zhivkov constitution" of 1971 replaced the term "national minorities" with "nationals of non-Bulgarian origin".

The assimilation policy targeted first the Bulgarian speaking Muslim population the Pomaks, continuing the practice of the pre-Communist regime. Some of the methods used by “Rodina” where adopted by the Communist regime and the Pomaks were systematically targeted mainly in 1964 and 1970-1974. There are numerous examples of the brutality employed during these forced assimilation operations such as the events in March 1972 in the village of Barutin (Барутин) where police and state security forces violently crushed a demonstration against the assimilation policies of the regime by the majority Muslim population killing 2 civilians and inflicting gunshot wounds on scores of others. In March 1973 in the village of Kornitsa (Корница) situated in the mountainous region of South-West Bulgaria the local Muslim population resisted the forced name changing and attempted to demonstrate against the government’s suppressive actions. As a response the Bulgarian security forces killed 5 villagers and wounded scores of civilians. By 1974, 500 of the 1,300 inmates of the notorious Belene labour camp were Pomaks who had resisted pressure to change their names.

The assimilation attempts culminated between 1984-1989 when the target became Bulgaria’s Turkish community. The zero percent annual increase in birth rate among Christian Bulgarians is the primary reason which caused the Bulgarian government to force 900,000 people, 10 percent of the country's population, to change their names. The people affected were all ethnic Turks. By 1984 the Roma and the Pomaks had already been forced to give up their Turkish or Muslim names for Bulgarian names. The government had been encouraging the educated Turks to voluntarily adopt Bulgarian names.

In June 1984, the Politbureau voted a policy named “For the further unification and inclusion of Bulgarian Turks into the cause of socialism and the policies of the Bulgarian Communist Party". The plan was to re-name all Islamic minorities with Slavic names, ban the wearing of distinctive Turkish clothing, to forbid the use of the Turkish language and close down the mosques. The assimilation campaign was sold to the ethnic Bulgarian majority as an attempt for national “revival” and was called by the authorities the “The Revival Process”. The ideology behind the term, originally used for the less publicized attempts at assimilation of the Pomaks in the early 1970s, was that the targeted minority had "originally" been Bulgarian before its conversion or assimilation during the period of Ottoman rule. Thus, the assimilation was supposedly justified by its being a restoration of the population's original, "real" identity.

As it was later to turn out the regime was misled by its own agents among the Turkish minority and taken aback when the Turkish minority refused to submit to the aims of the assimilation campaign. The regime found its self in a position where they had to use violence.

It usually happened in the middle of the night. The number of army half-tracks and the blinding glare of searchlights would disturb the sleep of an ethnic Turkish village. Militiamen would then burst into every home and thrust a photocopied form in front of the man of the house, in which he was to write the new Bulgarian names of every member of his family. Those who refused or hesitated, watched as their wives or daughters were raped by the militiamen. According to Amnesty International and Western diplomats, the militiamen beat up thousands and executed hundreds. Thousands more were imprisoned or driven into internal exile.

On December 24 1984 Bulgarian police and security forces fired the first shots against the Turkish community in the village of Mlechino. While Mlechino was held under siege by Bulgarian security forces some 200 Turkish villagers from the smaller near by towns attempted to break the siege and protest for the return of their passports and reinstatement of their Muslim names. This pattern repeated in many areas in Bulgaria populated with Turks. People from smaller towns and villages attempted to march and enter larger towns and villages to find a government official with greater jurisdiction who would be able to explain why were the Turks being targeted and when would they be able to reinstate their Muslim names and receive back their original identification documents. Often these larger towns of central administration were unreachable since they were besieged by Bulgarian security forces.

On 25 December 1984, close to the town of Benkovski, some 3000 Turkish protesters from the near by smaller villages confronted Bulgarian security forces and demanded to have their original identification papers back. The Bulgarian security forces managed to disperse the crowd claiming that they have no idea where their identification papers were and urged them to go back to their villages and inquire from the local mayors. The large police presence was explained with undergoing security forces “exercise manoeuvres”. After returning to their towns and discovering that the local municipality didn't have their passports and ID documentation the crowd headed back, this time more decisively, towards the town of Benkovski on the next day (26th of December 1984). The Bulgarian police and security forces were prepared and awaiting with some 500 armed men in positions. When the crowd of 2000 Turkish villagers approached the Bulgarian security forces opened fire with automatic weapons wounding 8 people of which 3 women and killing 4. One of the killed was a 17-month old baby Türken. The killed were from the villages of Kayaloba, Kitna and Mogiljane. Judging from the wounds of the dead and wounded the police and security force had been aiming at the mid-section of the bodies. The captured demonstrators were faced down on the snow for 2 hours and blasted with cold water coming from the fire fighting trucks. In a report by Atanas Kadirev the head of the Ministry of Interior Forces (МВР) in Kardzhali it is stated “It was interesting that they were able to absorb all the water from the fire fighting trucks in a standing position”. The temperature that day was minus 15 degrees Celsius.

One of the most notable confrontations between the ethnic Turk population and the Bulgarian State Security apparatus and army was in the village of Yablanovo during January 1985 where the Turkish population resisted the tanks of the 3rd Bulgarian Army for 3 days. When the village was overrun by the Bulgarian Army the town hall was made a temporary Command Centre and became the scene of terrifying acts of brutality in the name of “Bulgarisation”. The torture and violation of the captured resisting Turks was later continued in the underground cellars of the Ministry of Interior (МВР) in the city of Sliven. The interrogation methods applied on the captured villagers were depicted with the torture of “Jesus Christ before his crucifixion”. Over 30 people are reported killed during the events in Yablanovo.

The regime’s violence did achieve its immediate aims. All Turks had been registered with Slavic names, Turkish was forbidden in public and the mosques abandoned. This however was not the end of the matter but the beginning of the revival of the Turkish identity where the oppressed minority strongly re-defined itself as Muslim and distinct. Bulgarians came to be seen as occupiers and oppressors and protest demonstrations took place in some of the bigger villages in the southern and northern Turk enclaves. Moreover, the Turkish community received the solidarity of Bulgarian intellectuals and opponents of the regime.

As a response to the Bulgarian government policies, several terrorist attacks were committed by an underground Turkish organisation (TNFM, a Turkish National Liberation Movement). The first attack was on August 30 1984, when one bomb exploded on Plovdiv's railway station and another one in the Varna airport on a date when Todor Zhivkov was scheduled to visit the two towns. One woman was killed and 41 were wounded. On March 9 1985, an explosive device was planted on the Sofia-Burgas train and exploded on Bunovo station in a car that was specifically designated for mothers with children, killing seven people (two children) and wounding nine. The perpetrators, three Turkish men from the Burgas region, were arrested, sentenced to death and executed in 1988. Certain publicists, such as Bulgarian politician and lawyer Yanko Yankov, have suggested that the three men were actually associates of the Bulgarian State Security Service, drawing the conclusion that the terrorist acts were provocations, organized by the regime.

Apart from these acts, the ethnic Turks in Bulgaria used nonviolent ways to resist the regime's oppression. Notably, intellectuals founded the movement later called the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). It used civil disobedience and focused on providing information to the outside world of the physical persecution and suppression suffered by the Turks in Bulgaria. The activities of the MRF consisted of peaceful demonstrations and hunger strikes with the goal of restoring civil liberties and basic human rights.

In May 1989 there were disturbances in regions inhabited by members of the Turkish minority. In the so called “May events” of 1989 emotions reached the boiling point and tens of thousands Turkish demonstrators took to the streets in the north-eastern and south-eastern provinces. The demonstrations were violently suppressed by police and the military forces.On the 6th of May members of the Turkish community initiated mass hungers strikes and demanded the restitution of the their Muslim names and civil liberties in accordance with the country’s constitution and international treaties signed by Bulgaria. The participants were member of the “Democratic League” and the “Independent Association”. The regime responded with mass detentions and the deportation of activists to foreign countries such as Austria and Turkey. Individuals were driven to the Yugoslav, Romanian or Turkish borders presented with a tourist passport and extradited without even having a chance of contacting their families first. The mass demonstration in major cities and the regions like Razgrad, Shumen, Kardzhali and Silistra continued systematically all through May 1989. It is estimated that up to 50 people were killed during the clashes with Bulgarian security forces. The Bulgarian government has put the death toll only at 7. On 10 May 1989 travel restrictions to foreign countries were partly lifted. Todor Zhivkov gave a speech on 29 May 1989, in which he demanded that Turkey open its borders in order to receive all "Bulgarian Muslims", who wanted to live there. There followed an exodus of over 300,000 Turks to Turkey, which became known as "The Big Excursion". In fact the mass exodus was planned by the regime already in the mid 80’s. The Bulgarian Communist Party leadership estimated that by conducting the assimilation campaign and then opening the border to Turkey they could reduce the Turkish population in Bulgaria by 60%. In order to initiate the exodus towards Turkey 1989 the first wave of refugees was forcefully extradited from Bulgaria. These first deportees consisted of the prisoners of the Belene labour camp their families and other Turkish activists. People were given 24 hours to gather their luggage before being driven to the border with Turkey in special convoys. Under psychological pressures and fear these were followed by hundreds of thousands. During the protests in May the Turkish population effectively abandoned their workplaces in the industrial and agricultural sector. The loss of hundreds of thousands of workers had severe consequences on the production cycle and the whole Bulgarian economy..

On November 10, 1989 Bulgaria's Communist regime was overthrown. On December 29 a decision was made on the governmental level and later on, on March 1990 a law was ratified on allowing the Turks of Bulgaria to re-adopt their Turkish surnames. Until the first of March of the coming year for about 600 thousand applications were received on the above mentioned issue. In the same year the institutition of the Spiritual leader of the Turks of Bulgaria, the Mufti was founded. In 1991 the new Constitution was adopted granting the citizens of non-Bulgarian origin a wide range of rights, lifting the legislative ban of teaching in Turkish. In January of the same year another law was adopted allowing the Turks to change their names or «strike out» their Slavonic endings like «ov», «ova», «ev», «eva» within three years.

As in other parts of Eastern Europe, the repeal of single-party rule in Bulgaria exposed the long-standing grievances of an ethnic minority. The urban intelligentsia that participated in the 1990 reform movement pushed the post-Zhivkov governments toward restoring constitutionally guaranteed human rights to the Turks. But abrogation of Zhivkov's assimilation program soon after his fall brought massive protests by ethnic Bulgarians, even in Sofia.

In January 1990, the Social Council of Citizens, a national body representing all political and ethnic groups, reached a compromise that guaranteed the Turks freedom of religion, choice of names, and unimpeded practice of cultural traditions and use of Turkish within the community. In turn the Bulgarian nationalists were promised that Bulgarian would remain the official language and that no movement for autonomy or separatism would be tolerated. Especially in areas where Turks outnumbered Bulgarians, the latter feared progressive "Islamification" or even invasion and annexation by Turkey--a fear that had been fed consciously by the Zhivkov assimilation campaign and was revived by politicians in post-Communist Bulgaria. Because radical elements of the Turkish population did advocate separatism, however, the non-annexation provision of the compromise was vital.

The Bulgarian governments that followed Zhivkov tried to realize the conditions of the compromise as quickly as possible. In the multiparty election of 1990, the Turks won representation in the National Assembly by twenty-three candidates of the predominantly Turkish MRF (The Movement for Rights and Freedoms). At that point, ethnic Bulgarians, many remaining from the Zhivkov regime, still held nearly all top jobs in government and industry, even in the predominantly Turkish Kurdzhali Province. Nevertheless, parts of Bulgarian society felt threatened by the rise of the MRF. In 1990 that faction collided with a hard-line Bulgarian group, the National Committee for Defense of National Interests--an organization containing many former communists instrumental in the Zhivkov assimilation program. In November 1990, Bulgarian nationalists agitated about establishing the Razgrad Bulgarian Republic in a heavily Turkish region to protest the government's program of restoring rights to the Turks. In the first half of 1991, intermittent violence and demonstrations were directed at both Turks and Bulgarians in Razgrad.

These conditions forced the government to find a balance between Turkish demands and demonstrations for full recognition of their culture and language, and Bulgarian nationalist complaints against preferential treatment for the ethnic minority. In 1991 the most important issue of the controversy was restoring Turkish language teaching in the schools of Turkish ethnic districts. In 1991 the Popov government took initial steps in this direction, but long delays brought massive Turkish protests, especially in Kurdzhali. In mid-1991 continuing strikes and protests on both sides of the issue had brought no new discussions of compromise. Frustration with unmet promises encouraged Turkish separatists in both Bulgaria and Turkey, which in turn fueled the ethnocentric fears of the Bulgarian majority-- and the entire issue diverted valuable energy from the national reform effort.

Some developments noted by the US Department of State 2000 report include the fact that Turkish-language classes funded by the government continued, and that on 2 October 2000 Bulgarian national television launched Turkish-language newscasts.

Since 1992, the Turkish language teachers of Bulgaria have been trained in Turkey. At the initial stage only textbooks published in Turkey were used for teaching Turkish, later on, in 1996, Bulgaria's Ministry of Education and Science began publishing the manuals of the Turkish language. A number of newspapers and magazines are published: the «Müslümanlar» («Muslims»), «Hak ve Özgürlük» («Right and freedom»), «Güven» («Trust»), «Jır-Jır» («Cricket», a magazine for children), «Islam kültürü» («Islamic culture»), «Balon», «Filiz». In Turkey summer holidays for the Turkish children living in Bulgaria are organized. During the holidays the children are taught the Koran, Turkish literature, Turkish history and language .

With 120,000 members, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) was the fourth largest political organization in Bulgaria in 1991, but it occupied a special place in the political process. The leader of the movement, Ahmed Dogan, was imprisoned in 1986 for opposition to the Zhivkov policy of assimilating ethnic Turks. Founded in 1990 to represent the interests of the Turkish ethnic minority, the MRF gained twenty three seats in the first parliamentary election that year, giving it the fourth-largest parliamentary voting bloc. Its agenda precluded mass media coverage or building coalitions with other parties, because of the strong anti-Turkish element in Bulgaria's political culture. By mid-1991, the UDF had held only one joint demonstration with the MRF; their failure to reconcile differences was considered a major weakness in the opposition to the majority BSP. In early 1990, the MRF protested vigorously but unsuccessfully its exclusion from national round table discussions among the major Bulgarian parties.

In 1991 the MRF broadened its platform to embrace all issues of civil rights in Bulgaria, aiming "to contribute to the unity of the Bulgarian people and to the full and unequivocal compliance with the rights and freedoms of mankind and of all ethnic, religious, and cultural communities in Bulgaria." The MRF took this step partly to avoid the constitutional prohibition of political parties based on ethnic or religious groups. The group's specific goals were ensuring that the new constitution protect ethnic minorities adequately; introducing Turkish as an optional school subject; and bringing to trial the leaders of the assimilation campaign in the 1980s. To calm Bulgarian nationalist resentment, the MRF categorically renounced Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, and ambitions for autonomy within Bulgaria. Political overtures were made regularly to the UDF, and some local cooperation occurred in 1991. Although the MRF remained the fastest growing party in Bulgaria, however, the sensitivity of the Turkish issue caused official UDF policy to keep the MRF in isolation.

The Bulgarian Turks take part in the country's political life. Back in the end of 1984 an underground organization called «National Liberation Movement of the Turks in Bulgaria» was formed in Bulgaria which headed the Turkish community's antigovernmental movement. On January 4, 1990 the activists of the movement registered an organization with the legal name «Movement for Rights and Freedom» (MRF) (in Bulgarian: Движение за права и свободи: in Turkish: Hak ve Özgürlükler Hareketi) in the Bulgarian city of Varna. At the moment of registration it had 33 members, at present, according to the organization's website, 68 thousand members plus 24 thousand in the organization's youth wing . As a result of elections held in 2001 and 2005, the MRF was included in the coalition government. At the parliamentary elections held on June 17, 2001, the MRF got 21 deputy mandates by 7.45% of votes. In the parliament, there was also an independent Turkish deputy, Osman Ahmed Oktay. The Turkish party formed a coalition government in a non-Turkic country. Mehmet Dikmen, Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment represented the MRF. Filiz Huseynova, presently working at the European Parliament, held the post of the State Minister for minorities. Earlier she was the Deputy Mayor on humanitarian issues in her native town Silistra; she was appointed Minister on July 17, 2003. On June 25, 2005 the parliamentary elections were held. The party's success was very impressive: it won 14.07% of the votes, 34 MRF members entered the parliament; two of them were Bulgarians. A new coalition was formed which at this time consisted of three parties: the Bulgarian Socialist Party, «National Movement of Simeon II» and the MRF. In the budget of 2008, MRF directed a large parts of the subsidies for agriculture to tobacco growers (which are predominantly Turks, Pomaks, and Romani) leaving staple crops, like wheat, without subsidies for buying the seed for sowing. This evoked protests by farmers in the regions of Vratsa, Knezha, and Dobrudzha. During the May 2007 Bulgarian European Parliament elections the Movement for Rights and Freedom (MRF) gained 20,26% of the vote and currently has 3 MEPs in the European Parliament. Another political party founded in 1998 and representing a smaller fraction of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria is the «National Movement for Rights and Freedoms» (NMRF) (offshoot from MRF). The party is headed by Güner Tahir and has on several occasions formed an alliance with the MRF during nationwide local elections. During the 1999 local elections the NMRF gained some 80 000 votes.

Over 3200 locations in Bulgaria are currently identifiable by their Turkish names alongside their official Bulgarian designation.

There are two main dialects; the first one is spoken in every area in south-east Bulgaria and is also used in the neighbouring countries (Greece and Turkey). It can be identified from the second one by looking at the "present continuous time"; it has the suffix forms -yirin, -yisin, -yiri. In formal Turkish they are -yorum, -yorsun, -yor. In the second dialect, used near Kurdzhali, the forms are; -værin, -væsin, -væri.

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History of Bulgaria

Coat of Arms of Bulgaria

The History of Bulgaria as a separate country began in 681 AD. After Old Great Bulgaria disintegrating due to Khazar expansion from the east, one of the Bulgar leaders Asparuh crossed south of the Danube, into the territory of present-day Bulgaria, and defeated the armies of the Byzantine Empire. In 680/681, the East Roman Emperor was forced to sign a peace treaty recognizing the First Bulgarian Empire as an independent state situated on the conquered Byzantine lands with their local Slavic populations.

A country in the middle of the ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria has seen many twists and turns in its long history and has been a prospering empire stretching to the coastlines of the Black, Aegean and Adriatic Seas. The First and Second Bulgarian Empires served as cultural centres of Slavic Europe, but the land was also dominated by foreign states twice in its history, once by the Byzantine Empire (1018 - 1185) and once by the Ottoman Empire (1396 - 1878).

Prehistoric cultures include the neolithic Hamangia culture and Vinča culture (6th to 3rd millennia BC), the eneolithic Varna culture (5th millennium BC, Varna Necropolis), and the Bronze Age Ezero culture. The Karanovo chronology serves as a gauge for the prehistory of the wider Balkans region.

Indo-European tribes Thracian and Daco-Getic population, lived on the territory of modern Bulgaria before the Slavic invasion. Their ancient languages had already gone extinct before the arrival of the Slavs, and their cultural influence was highly reduced due to the repeated barbaric invasions on the Balkans during the early Middle Ages by Huns, Goths, Celts and Sarmatians, accompanied by persistent hellenization, romanisation and later slavicisation.

The Slavs emerged from their original homeland (most commonly thought to have been in Eastern Europe) in the early 6th century, and spread to most of the eastern Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, thus forming three main branches - the West Slavs, the East Slavs and the South Slavs. The easternmost South Slavs settled on the territory of modern Bulgaria during the 6th Century.

The Bulgars (also Bolgars or proto-Bulgarians) were a seminomadic people, probably of Turkic descent, originally from Central Asia, who from the 2nd century onwards dwelled in the steppes north of the Caucasus and around the banks of river Volga (then Itil). A branch of them gave rise to the First Bulgarian Empire. The Bulgars were governed by hereditary khans. There were several aristocratic families whose members, bearing military titles, formed a governing class. Bulgars were monotheistic, worshipping their supreme deity Tangra.

In the 632, the Bulgars, led by Khan(also Han and Kan) Kubrat formed an independent state, often called Great Bulgaria (also known as Onoguria), between the lower course of the Danube river to the west, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea to the south, the Kuban river to the east, and the Donets river to the north. The capital was Phanagoria, on the Azov.

One Bulgar tribe, led by Khan Asparuh, the successor of Khan Kubrat, moved west, occupying today’s southern Bessarabia. Another Bulgar horde, led by Asparuh's brother Kuber came from Ukraine to settle in Syrmia and Pannonia. After a successful war with Byzantium in 680, Asparuh’s khanate conquered east part of Moesia and Dobrudzha and was recognised as an independent state under the subsequent treaty signed with the Byzantine Empire in 681. That year is usually regarded as the year of the establishment of present-day Bulgaria and Asparuh is regarded as the first Bulgarian ruler.

During the late Roman Empire, several Roman provinces covered the territory that comprises present-day Bulgaria: Scythia (Scythia Minor), Moesia (Upper and Lower), Thrace, Macedonia (First and Second), Dacia (Coastal and Inner, both south of Danube), Dardania, Rhodope and Haemismontus, and had a mixed population of Byzantine Greeks, Thracians and Dacians, most of whom spoke either Greek or variants of Vulgar Latin. Several consecutive waves of Slavic migration throughout the 6th and the early 7th centuries led to a dramatic change of the demographics of the region and its almost complete Slavicisation.

Under the warrior Khan Krum (802-814), Bulgaria expanded northwest and south, occupying the lands between the middle Danube and Moldova rivers, all of present-day Romania, Sofia in 809 and Adrianople in 813, and threatening Constantinople itself. Krum implemented law reform intending to reduce poverty and strengthen social ties in his vastly enlarged state.

During the reign of Khan Omurtag (814-831), the northwestern boundaries with the Frankish Empire were firmly settled along the middle Danube. A magnificent palace, pagan temples, ruler's residence, fortress, citadel, water-main and bath were built in the Bulgarian capital Pliska, mainly of stone and brick.

Under Boris I, Bulgarians became Christians, and the Ecumenical Patriarch agreed to allow an autonomous Bulgarian Archbishop at Pliska. Missionaries from Constantinople, Cyril and Methodius, devised the Glagolitic alphabet, which was adopted in the Bulgarian Empire around 886. The alphabet and the Old Bulgarian language that evolved from Slavonic gave rise to a rich literary and cultural activity centered around the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools, established by order of Boris I in 886.

In the early 10th century, a new alphabet — the Cyrillic alphabet — was developed at the Preslav Literary School, based on the Greek and the Glagolitic cursive. An alternative theory is that the alphabet was devised at the Ohrid Literary School by Saint Climent of Ohrid, a Bulgarian scholar and disciple of Cyril and Methodius.

By the late 9th and early 10th centuries, Bulgaria extended to Epirus and Thessaly in the south, Bosnia in the west and controlled all of present-day Romania and eastern Hungary to the north. A Serbian state came into existence as a dependency of the Bulgarian Empire. Under Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria (Simeon the Great), who was educated in Constantinople, Bulgaria became again a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire. Simeon hoped to take Constantinople and become emperor of both Bulgarians and Greeks, and fought a series of wars with the Byzantines through his long reign (893-927). The war boundary towards the end of his rule reached the Peloponnese in the south. Simeon proclaimed himself "Tsar (Caesar) of the Bulgarians and the Romans", a title which was recognised by the Pope, but not of course by the Byzantine Emperor.

Byzantium ruled Bulgaria from 1018 to 1185, subordinating the independent Bulgarian Orthodox Church to the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople but otherwise interfering little in Bulgarian local affairs.

After the death of the soldier-emperor Basil II, the empire entered into a period of instability. There were rebellions against Byzantine rule in 1040-41 at the wars with the Normans and the 1070s and the 1080s, at the time of the wars with the Seljuk Turks. After that the Komnenos dynasty came into succession and reversed the decline of the empire. During this time the empire experienced a century of stability and progress, though it was the time of the Crusades.

In 1180 the last of the capable Komnenoi, Manuel I Komnenos, died, and was replaced by the relatively incompetent Angeloi dynasty, allowing Bulgarians to regain their freedom.

In 1185 Peter and Asen, leading nobles of supposed and contested Bulgarian, Cuman, Vlach or mixed origin, led a revolt against Byzantine rule and Peter declared himself Tsar Peter II (also known as Theodore Peter). The following year the Byzantines were forced to recognize Bulgaria's independence. Peter styled himself "Tsar of the Bulgars, Greeks and Vlachs".

Resurrected Bulgaria occupied the territory between the Black Sea, the Danube and Stara Planina, including a part of eastern Macedonia and the valley of the Morava. It also exercised control over Wallachia and Moldova. Tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207) entered a union with the Papacy, thereby securing the recognition of his title of "Rex" although he desired to be recognized as "Emperor" or "Tsar". He waged wars on the Byzantine Empire and (after 1204) on the Knights of the Fourth Crusade, conquering large parts of Thrace, the Rhodopes, as well as the whole of Macedonia. The power of the Hungarians and to some extent the Serbs prevented significant expansion to the west and northwest. Under Ivan Asen II (1218-1241), Bulgaria once again became a regional power, occupying Belgrade and Albania. In an inscription from Turnovo in 1230 he entitled himself "In Christ the Lord faithful Tsar and autocrat of the Bulgarians, son of the old Asen". The Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarchate was restored in 1235 with approval of all eastern Patriarchates, thus putting an end to the union with the Papacy. Ivan Asen II had a reputation as a wise and humane ruler, and opened relations with the Catholic west, especially Venice and Genoa, to reduce the influence of the Byzantines over his country.

However, weakened 14th-century Bulgaria was no match for a new threat from the south, the Ottoman Turks, who crossed into Europe in 1354. In 1362 they captured Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and in 1382 they took Sofia. The Ottomans then turned their attentions to the Serbs, whom they routed at Kosovo Polje in 1389. In 1393 the Ottomans occupied Turnovo after a three-month siege. It is thought that the south gate was opened from inside and so the Ottomans managed to enter the fortress. In 1396 the Kingdom (Tsardom) of Vidin was also occupied, bringing the Second Bulgarian Empire and Bulgarian independence to an end.

The Ottomans reorganised the Bulgarian territories as the Beyerlik of Rumili, ruled by a Beylerbey at Sofia. This territory, which included Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia, was divided into several sanjaks, each ruled by a Sanjakbey accountable to the Beylerbey. Significant part of the conquered land was parcelled out to the Sultan's followers, who held it as feudal fiefs (small timars, medium ziyamet and large hases) directly from him. That category of land could not be sold or inherited, but reverted to the Sultan when the fiefholder died. The rest of the lands were organized as private possessions of the Sultan or Ottoman nobility, called "mülk", and also as economic base for religious foundations, called "vakιf". Bulgarians gave multiple regularly paid taxes as a tithe ("yushur"), a capitation tax ("dzhizie"), a land tax ("ispench"), a levy on commerce and so on and also various group of irregularly collected taxes, products and corvees ("avariz").

The Ottomans did not normally require the Christians to become Muslims. Nevertheless, there were many cases of individual or mass forced islamization, especially in the Rhodopes. Non-Muslims did not serve in the Sultan's army. The exception to this were some groups of the population with specific statute, usually used for auxiliary or rear services, and the famous "tribute of children" (or blood tax), also known as the "devsirme", whereby every fifth young boy was taken to be trained as a warrior of the Empire. These boys went through harsh religious and military training that turned them into an elite corps subservient to the Sultan. They made up the corps of Janissaries (yenicheri or "new force"), an elite unit of the Ottoman army.

Bulgarian nationalism emerged in the early 19th century under the influence of western ideas such as liberalism and nationalism, which trickled into the country after the French Revolution, mostly via Greece. The Greek revolt against the Ottomans which began in 1821 (see History of Ottoman Greece), also influenced the small Bulgarian educated class. But Greek influence was limited by the general Bulgarian resentment of Greek control of the Bulgarian Church, and it was the struggle to revive an independent Bulgarian Church which first roused Bulgarian nationalist sentiment. In 1870 a Bulgarian Exarchate was created by a Sultan edict, and the first Bulgarian Exarch (Antim I) became the natural leader of the emerging nation. The Constantinople Patriarch reacted by excommunicating the Bulgarian Exarchate, which reinforced their will for independence.

In April 1876 the Bulgarians revolted in the so-called April Uprising. The revolt was poorly organized and started before the planned date. It was largely confined to the region of Plovdiv, though certain districts in northern Bulgaria, in Macedonia and in the area of Sliven also took part in it. The uprising was crushed with cruelty by the Ottomans who also brought irregular Ottoman troops (bashi-bazouks) from outside the area. Countless villages were pillaged and tens of thousands of people were massacred, the majority of them in the insurgents towns of Batak, Perushtitsa and Bratsigovo in the area of Plovdiv. The massacres aroused a broad public reaction led by liberal Europeans such as William Gladstone, who launched a campaign against the "Bulgarian Horrors". The campaign was supported by a number of European intellectuals and public figures. The strongest reaction, however, came from Russia. The enormous public outcry which the April Uprising had caused in Europe gave the Russians a long-waited chance to realise their long-term objectives with regard to the Ottoman Empire.

Having its reputation at stake, Russia had no other choice but to declare war on the Ottomans in April 1877. The Bulgarians also fought alongside the advancing Russians. The Coalition was able to inflict a decisive defeat on the Ottomans at the Battle of Shipka Pass and at Pleven, and, by January 1878 they had liberated much of the Bulgarian lands.

The Treaty of San Stefano of March 3, 1878 provided for an independent Bulgarian state, which spanned over the geographical regions of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. However, trying to preserve the balance of power in Europe and fearing the establishment of a large Russian client state on the Balkans, the other Great Powers were reluctant to agree to the treaty.

As a result, the Treaty of Berlin (1878), under the supervision of Otto von Bismarck of Germany and Benjamin Disraeli of Britain, revised the earlier treaty, and scaled back the proposed Bulgarian state. An autonomous Principality of Bulgaria was created, between the Danube and the Stara Planina range, with its seat at the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Turnovo, and including Sofia. This state was to be under nominal Ottoman sovereignty but was to be ruled by a prince elected by a congress of Bulgarian notables and approved by the Powers. They insisted that the Prince could not be a Russian, but in a compromise Prince Alexander of Battenberg, a nephew of Tsar Alexander II, was chosen. An autonomous Ottoman province under the name of Eastern Rumelia was created south of the Stara Planina range. The Bulgarians in Macedonia and Eastern Thrace were left under the rule of the Sultan. Some Bulgarian territories were also given to Serbia and Romania.

Bulgaria sustained the heaviest casualties of any of the allies, and so felt entitled to the largest share of the spoils. The Serbs in particular did not agree, and refused to vacate any of the territory they had seized in northern Macedonia (that is, the territory roughly corresponding to the modern Republic of Macedonia), saying that the Bulgarian army had failed to accomplish its pre-war goals at Adrianople (to capture it without Serbian help) and that the pre-war agreement on the division of Macedonia had to be revised. Some circles in Bulgaria inclined toward going to war with Serbia and Greece on this issue.

In June 1913 Serbia and Greece formed a new alliance against Bulgaria. The Serbian Prime Minister, Nikola Pasic, told Greece it could have Thrace if Greece helped Serbia keep Bulgaria out of Serbian part of Macedonia, and the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos agreed. Seeing this as a violation of the pre-war agreements, and discretely encouraged by Germany and Austria-Hungary, Tsar Ferdinand declared war on Serbia and Greece and the Bulgarian army attacked on June 29. The Serbian and the Greek forces were initially on the retreat on the western border, but soon took the upper hand and forced Bulgaria to retreat. The fighting was very harsh, with many casualties, especially during the key Battle of Bregalnitsa. Soon Romania entered the war and attacked Bulgaria from the north. The Ottoman Empire also attacked from the south-east.

The war was now definitely lost for Bulgaria, which had to abandon most of its claims of Macedonia to Serbia and Greece, while the revived Ottomans retook Adrianople. Romania took southern Dobruja.

In the aftermath of the Balkan Wars, Bulgarian opinion turned against Russia and the western powers, whom the Bulgarians felt had done nothing to help them. The government of Vasil Radoslavov aligned Bulgaria with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary, even though this meant becoming an ally of the Ottomans, Bulgaria's traditional enemy. But Bulgaria now had no claims against the Ottomans, whereas Serbia, Greece and Romania (allies of Britain and France) held lands perceived in Bulgaria as Bulgarian.

Bulgaria sat out the first year of World War I, recuperating from the Balkan Wars. But when Germany promised to restore the boundaries of the Treaty of San Stefano, Bulgaria, which had the largest army in the Balkans, declared war on Serbia in October 1915. Britain, France and Italy then declared war on Bulgaria.

In alliance with Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans, Bulgaria won military victories against Serbia and Romania, occupying much of Macedonia (taking Skopje in October), advancing into Greek Macedonia, and taking Dobruja from Romania in September 1916.

But the war soon became unpopular with most Bulgarians, who suffered great economic hardship and also disliked fighting their fellow Orthodox Christians in alliance with the Muslim Ottomans. The Agrarian Party leader, Aleksandur Stamboliyski, was imprisoned for his opposition to the war. The Russian Revolution of February 1917 had a great effect in Bulgaria, spreading antiwar and anti-monarchist sentiment among the troops and in the cities. In June Radoslavov's government resigned. Mutinies broke out in the army, Stamboliyski was released and a republic was proclaimed.

Upon the outbreak of World War II, the government of the Kingdom of Bulgaria under Bogdan Filov declared a position of neutrality, being determined to observe it until the end of the war, but hoping for bloodless territorial gains, especially in the lands with a significant Bulgarian population occupied by neighbouring countries after the Second Balkan War and World War I. But it was clear that the central geopolitical position of Bulgaria in the Balkans would inevitably lead to strong external pressure by both sides of World War II. Turkey had a non-aggression pact with Bulgaria.

Bulgaria succeeded in negotiating a recovery of Southern Dobruja, part of Romania since 1913, in the Axis-sponsored Treaty of Craiova on 7 September 1940, which reinforced Bulgarian hopes for solving territorial problems without direct involvement in the war.

But Bulgaria was forced to join the Axis powers in 1941, when German troops who were preparing to invade Greece from Romania reached the Bulgarian borders and demanded permission to pass through Bulgarian territory. Threatened by direct military confrontation, Tsar Boris III had no choice but to join the fascist bloc, which officially happened on 1 March 1941. There was little popular opposition, since the Soviet Union was in a non-aggression pact with Germany.

The current king however refused the handing over of Jews to the Nazis, saving some 50,000 lives.

During this time (1944-1989), the country was known as the "People's Republic of Bulgaria" (PRB) and was ruled by the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP). The BCP transformed itself in 1990, changing its name to "Bulgarian Socialist Party", and is currently part of the governing coalition government.

Although Dimitrov had been in exile, mostly in the Soviet Union, since 1923, he was far from being a Soviet puppet. He had shown great courage in Nazi Germany during the Reichstag Fire trial of 1933, and had later headed the Comintern during the period of the Popular Front. He was also close to the Yugoslav Communist leader Tito, and believed that Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, as closely related South Slav peoples, should form a federation. This idea was not favoured by Stalin, and there have long been suspicions that Dimitrov's sudden death in July 1949 was not accidental, although this has never been proven. It coincided with Stalin's expulsion of Tito from the Cominform, and was followed by a "Titoist" witchhunt in Bulgaria. This culminated in the show trial and execution of the Deputy Prime Minister, Traicho Kostov. The elderly Kolarov died in 1950, and power then passed to an extreme Stalinist, Vulko Chervenkov.

Bulgaria's Stalinist phase lasted less than five years. Agriculture was collectivised and peasant rebellions crushed. Labor camps were set up and at the height of the repression housed about 100,000 people. The Orthodox Patriarch was confined to a monastery and the Church placed under state control. In 1950 diplomatic relations with the U.S. were broken off. The Turkish minority was persecuted, and border disputes with Greece and Yugoslavia revived. The country lived in a state of fear and isolation. But Chervenkov's support base even in the Communist Party was too narrow for him to survive long once his patron, Stalin, was gone. Stalin died in March 1953, and in March 1954 Chervenkov was deposed as Party Secretary with the approval of the new leadership in Moscow and replaced by Todor Zhivkov. Chervenkov stayed on as Prime Minister until April 1956, when he was finally dismissed and replaced by Anton Yugov.

By the time the impact of Mikhail Gorbachev's reform program in the Soviet Union was felt in Bulgaria in the late 1980s, the Communists, like their leader, had grown too feeble to resist the demand for change for long. In November 1989 demonstrations on ecological issues were staged in Sofia, and these soon broadened into a general campaign for political reform. The Communists reacted by deposing the decrepit Zhivkov and replacing him with Petar Mladenov, but this gained them only a short respite. In February 1990 the Party voluntarily gave up its claim on power and in June 1990 the first free elections since 1931 were held, won by the moderate wing of the Communist Party, renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party. In July 1991 a new Constitution was adopted, in which there was a weak elected President and a Prime Minister accountable to the legislature.

Like the other post-Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria found the transition to capitalism more painful than expected. The anti-Communist Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) took office and between 1992 and 1994 carried through the privatisation of land and industry through the issue of shares in government enterprises to all citizens, but these were accompanied by massive unemployment as uncompetitive industries failed and the backward state of Bulgaria's industry and infrastructure were revealed. The Socialists portrayed themselves as the defender of the poor against the excesses of the free market. The reaction against economic reform allowed Zhan Videnov of the BSP to take office in 1995. But by 1996 the BSP government was also in difficulties, and in the presidential elections of that year the UDF's Petar Stoyanov was elected. In 1997 the BSP government collapsed and the UDF came to power. Unemployment, however, remained high and the electorate became increasingly dissatisfied with both parties.

A number of prominent personalities in Bulgarian history are commemorated by having their names given to geographical features in Antarctica.

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Source : Wikipedia