Republic of Bulgaria
Republic of Bulgaria, a state in Southeastern Europe, borders five other countries; Romania to the north (mostly along the Danube), Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. It is bordered by the Black Sea on the east.
Bulgaria comprises the classical regions of Thrace, Moesia, and Macedonia. The country sees itself as the heir of a powerful European medieval empire, the First Bulgarian Empire, which at times covered most of the Balkans and spread its culture and literature among the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe. Centuries later, during the decline of the Second Bulgarian Empire, the country fell under five centuries of Ottoman rule. Diplomacy re-established Bulgaria as a constitutional monarchy in 1878, marking the birth of the Third Bulgarian Kingdom. After World War II, Bulgaria became a communist state and part of the Eastern Bloc.
Today, Bulgaria functions as a democratic, unitary, constitutional republic, a member of the European Union and of NATO. It has a population of approximately 7.7 million, with Sofia as its capital and largest city.
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 weather of the 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.
The Bulgarian unicameral parliament, the National Assembly, 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 is responsible 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.
A country often described as lying at the crossroads linking the East and West, Bulgaria functioned as the centre 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.
Bulgaria has a reputation for rich folklore, distinctive traditional music, rituals and tales; but the country's contribution to humanity also continued in the nineteenth and twentieth century, when individuals such as John Atanasoff - born in USA with Bulgarian origin, regarded as the father of the digital computer, a number of noted opera singers and successful artists popularized the culture of Bulgaria abroad.
A number of ancient civilizations, most notably the Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Slavs and Bulgars, have left their mark on the culture, history and heritage of Bulgaria. The country has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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 are popular all over the year. Bulgaria is becoming an attractive 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, Russia, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The ski-resorts are a favourite destination for British and Irish tourists.
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%.
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 is the independent national church of Bulgaria like the other national branches of Eastern Orthodoxy and is considered 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.