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Capital : Sofia

Size: 43 000 sq m Popn: 8 963 000


This area near the Black Sea was on the edge of the Classical Greek world when it incorporated Thrace and Moesia. Thrace was considered an uncivilized country even by the neighbouring Macedonians who were seen as barbarians by the civilized Greeks. It was plundered and partially settled by the Celts up to 200 BC and was conquered by Rome to become the provinces of Thracia and Moesia Inferior by AD 46. After the fall of Rome, it was fought over by the Huns under Attila and the Visigoths. Slavs occupied it from the C6th AD and the modern Bulgarian language is derived from theirs. The Bulgars arrived from Asia in the C7th and the Bulgarian Empire was established to the north. Khan Boris was converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity in 865 and the Bulgaria became a leading power under his son, Simeon, (893-927).

It was ruled the Byzantine or East Roman Empire from the C11th and although a second Bulgarian Empire was founded in the C14th, it became part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the C15th. The northern area became a principality in 1878 and independent in 1908, gaining Eastern Rumelia to the south in 1885 and parts of Greece and Thrace in 1913. Bulgaria allied itself with Germany in WWI. After the war, the leftist Agrarian Party government brought in land reforms but was overthrown by a fascist coup in 1923. Greece regained Western Thrace in 1919 and the two countries were in conflict over Macedonia in 1925. In 1934, King Boris III established a fascist dictatorship.

Bulgaria allied itself with Germany again during WWII, becoming an Axis satellite under Hitler's Reich. It was occupied by the USSR in 1944 and abolished the monarchy in 1946. The Fatherland front, an alliance with communist leanings led by Georgi Dimitrov, proclaimed a republic and Bulgaria reverted to almost the same frontiers as it had in 1919. In 1947, it adopted a Soviet-style constitution, introducing nationalized industries and co-operative farming. From 1950-4, Dimitrov's brother-in-law, Vulko Chervenkov, was the dominant political figure, introducing a Stalinist regime. Under his more moderate successor, Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria became one of the most loyal satellites of the USSR.

The economy ran into problems during the 1980s, mostly because of the rising costs of energy imports. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev encouraged administrative and economic reforms from 1985-9 but these were not enough to satisfy reformists either inside or outside the Bulgarian Communist Party. In November 1989, as democratization movements swept Eastern Europe, foreign secretary Petar Mladenov ousted Zhivkov with army and USSR backing. He became leader of the BCP and president of the state council and began to promote political pluralism. Legislation was passed in December 1989 to end the BCP's 'leading role' in the state and allow political parties and trade unions. Political prisoners were released and the secret police abolished.

During 1989, a programme of 'Bulgarianisation' had led to worsening relations with neighbouring Turkey. Turks in Bulgaria were resettled and forced to adopt Bulgarian names and 300 000 Turkish refugees fled to Turkey. When Mladenov's new government announced the ending of the assimilation policy, there were protests by anti-Turk nationalists but most of the refugees returned and relations with Turkey improved. The reformer Alexander Lilov was elected party chief in 1990 and Andrei Lukanov became prime minister. Zhivkov was imprisoned on charges of corruption and abuse of power. In February, a decree made private farming legal and the lifting of price controls as a drive towards a market economy began in April, resulting in huge price rises and food shortages. The BCP renamed itself the Bulgarian Socialist Party. Mladenov resigned in July and opposition leader Dr Zhelyu Zhelov was elected president in August. Lukanov's government resigned in November 1990 after mass demonstrations in Sofia, a general strike and a boycott of parliament by opposition deputies. He was replaced in December by a caretaker coalition government under Dimitur Popov, a non-party politician and the strikes ended.

In July 1991, a new constitution defined Bulgaria as s parliamentary republic with a 'democratic, constitutional and welfare state' but by October prices had risen by ten times and unemployment increased. The general election that month resulted in a hung parliament and in November, a minority government was formed by the right-of-centre Union of Democratic Forces under Filip Dimitrov. It was the first entirely non-communist government for 46 years and Western aid increased significantly. Zhan Videnov replaced Lilov as leader of the BSP in December 1991 and in January 1992, Zhelev became Bulgaria's first directly elected president with 53% of the vote. An associate agreement with the EC was made in 1992.

Bulgarian Rulers

Name Reign Family
Krum -814  
Omortag 814-  
Boris I c 864  
Vladimir -893 Son of Boris
Symeon/Simeon 893-927 brother of Vladimir
Peter c 927 son of Symeon
Boris II -973 abd  
Samuel c 997  
Asen I 1185-96  
Tsar Theodore/Peter 1196-7 brother of Asen
Kalojan 1197-1207 brother of Peter
Boril 1207-18 dep nephew of Kalojan
John Asen II 1218-41 son of Asen I
Koloman 1241-6 infant son of Asen II
Michael Asen 1246-  
John Asen III 1279-80 dep  
George I Terter 1280-  
Michael Sisman -1330  
John Alexander 1330-61  
2 sons    
Turkish Rule C15th on  
Alexander I 1879-86 abd Battenberg
Ferdinand I -1918 Coburg
Boris III 1918-43 Son of Ferdinand I
Simeon II 1943-6 dep Son of Boris III

Bulgarian Names

The country has a Christian and Muslim (sometimes called Pomak) population and names are taken from both religions. Slavonic borrowings are also used.


Alexander Alibrahim Andrei
Andrey Angelar Aspanuch
Boleslav Boris Bulchru
Christo Closimir Daniel
Dimitar Dimiter Dimitur
Emil Filip Galin
Gavril Gedeon Georgi
Georgiu Gorazd Grisha
Halid Hassan Henrim
Hikmet Hristo Ilian
Illan Ivaylo Jivko
Kosta Krasimir Krassimir
Kristo Krum Luboslav
Manouch Mehmet Milko
Nikolay Pencho Pentcho
Petar Petko Rimvidas
Sabas Sali Sava
Simeon Symeon Tervel
Timotei Todor Trifon
Tzanko Vlado Vulko
Yany Zhan Zhelyu


Alekko Dessislava Ekaterina
Eliza Ilyana Inessa
Iurka Iva Lillia
Manuella Maria Mila
Monika Nora Penka
Petia Petya Rahil
Roumiana Rumiana Svetla
Tereza Venelina Zlatka

Bulgarian Surnames

These follow the Slavic pattern of using the endings -ov and -ev for males and -ova and -eva for females.

Angelova Antoaneta Arnaut
Bacheva Balakov Balev
Batchev Billius Blagoev
Bojilov Borev Borimirov
Botev Bukhalov Chernozemski
Chervenkov Choroleeva Christova
Dachev Dafovska Dimitrof
Dimitrov Dimitrova Dimov
Dimova Dinev Ditschec
Doritsch Dotchev Dounev
Filipov Gachevska Gatchevska
Georghiev Georgieva Gergieva
Ginchev Golakov Grubo
Gruev Guentchev Gueorgiev
Guintcehv Hinova Hlutev
Hristov Hubchev Ignatieva
Iliev Ivanov(a) Jordanov
Jovtvev Karavelov Kirilova
Kiryakov Kishishev Kjucukov
Kostov Kounev Krumova
Krupova Kubadinski Lechkov
Levski Liapchev Lilov
Lom Lukanov Lunchev
Maleeva Marinova Markhov
Michacoff Mihailov Mitkova
Mladenov Nankov Paisi
Paskalev Penchev Pendareva
Penev Pentcheva Petkov
Petrova Popov Prandjeva
Prandzheva Raev Rakovski
Rangelov Romanov Russinov
Ryzhenkov Sarac Sirakov
Slovensky Stambolieva Stamboliski
Stancioff Stanoytchev Stoichkov
Stoickkov Stojanov Stoyanov
Stoyanova Strashilova Svetkova
Svetozar Todorov Todorova
Tontchev Tsankov Tsvetanov
Tzvetanov Veneva Videnov
Vranchev Vulchanova Yankov
Yordanov Yordanyotov Yotov
Zdravkov Zhelov Zhivko
Zhivkov Zoravkov Zukanov


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