De Donau-Bolgaren, een Turkse stam uit Centraal-AziŽ en de lokale Slavische bevolking vormden in de 7e eeuw het Eerste Bulgaarse Rijk. In de 14e eeuw werd het land veroverd door het Ottomaanse Rijk. Tussen 1762 en de onafhankelijkheid in 1878 was er sprake van de Bulgaarse Renaissance. Op 3 maart 1878 herkreeg Bulgarije zijn zelfbestuur als zelfstandig koninkrijk van het Ottomaanse Rijk, en op 22 september 1908 werd het een volledig onafhankelijk koninkrijk. Het won en verloor gebied gedurende de Balkanoorlogen en de Eerste Wereldoorlog. Na de Tweede Wereldoorlog kwam Bulgarije in de invloedssfeer van de Sovjet-Unie en werd een communistische volksrepubliek. Op 10.11.1989 eindigde de communistische overheersing en werd Bulgarije een meerpartijenstaat. In de maanden daarna kwam Bulgarije flinke tekorten aan goederen van de eerste voedselnood, zoals: zout, olie, suiker, vlees, kaas, melk, brood etc. Er werd een couponsysteem ingevoerd en zodoende werd de hongersnood in bedwang gehouden. [bewerk] Bestuurlijke indeling Zie Bestuurlijke indeling van Bulgarije voor het hoofdartikel over dit onderwerp. Sinds 1999 bestaat Bulgarije uit 28 oblasten, nadat het was onderverdeeld in 9 grotere oblasten sinds 1987. Alle oblasten zijn vernoemd naar de regionale hoofdstad. De nationale hoofdstad, Sofia, vormt een eigen district. [bewerk] Demografie [bewerk] Bevolking De bevolking bestaat voornamelijk uit Bulgaren. Er is een aanzienlijke minderheid van Turken en kleinere groepen zigeuners en MacedoniŽrs. Bulgarije, met zijn historische claims in MacedoniŽ, weigert de MacedoniŽrs te erkennen als een aparte bevolkingsgroep, evenmin als het erg aan het Bulgaars verwante Macedonisch. bevolkingsgroepen: Bulgaren 83.9%, Turken 9.4%, Roma 4.7%, Russen 0.2%, ArmeniŽrs 0.1%, MacedoniŽrs 0.05% [bewerk] Taal De taal in Bulgarije is Bulgaars (officiŽle taal), Turks, Romani schrift: Cyrillisch alfabet [bewerk] Religie Het grootste deel van de bevolking behoort tot de Bulgaarse Orthodoxe Kerk. In 1953 werd het Bulgaarse patriarchaat, dat in 1946 was ontbonden, opnieuw ingesteld. Er is ook een aanzienlijke moslimminderheid. [bewerk] Geografie Satellietfoto RoemeniŽ en Bulgarije in de sneeuwCentraal Bulgarije wordt van oost naar west overgestoken door waaiers van het Balkangebergte. Een vruchtbaar plateau ligt in het noorden van de Balkan aan de rivier de Donau. Deze rivier vormt het grootste deel van de noordelijke grens. In het zuiden liggen de Rodopen. Verder is er het Rilagebergte, waar het hoogste punt van Bulgarije (en het Balkanschiereiland) ligt, de berg Moesala (2925 m), en het Piringebergte met de hoogste berg Vichren (2920 m). Ten zuiden van de Balkan en ten noorden van Rodopen is het land vlak. Dit gebied wordt ThraciŽ genoemd, naar de volkeren uit de oudheid die er woonden, de ThraciŽrs. De Donau, Iskur, Maritsa en Stroema zijn de belangrijkste rivieren. [bewerk] Kerngegevens kustlijn: 378 km (aan de Zwarte Zee) buurlanden: RoemeniŽ 608km, ServiŽ 318 km, MacedoniŽ 148 km, Griekenland 494 km, Turkije 240 km. hoogste punt: Moesala (2925 meter) rivieren: Donau (grens met RoemeniŽ), Stroema, Maritsa inwoneraantal: 7,5 miljoen (2003) (67,6 per km≤) religie: Oosters Orthodox 84%, Islam 13%, Rooms Katholicisme 2%, Jodendom 1%, overige 1% [bewerk] Steden De hoofdstad is Sofia (?????) met ca. 1,1 miljoen inwoners. Enkele andere grote steden zijn: Varna (?????) (375.000) Plovdiv (???????) (360.000) Boergas (??????) (193.000) Roese (????) (162.000) Verder zijn ook Asenovgrad, Chaskovo, Kurdzjali, Nessebar, Obzor, Pazardzjik (stad), Perushtitsa, Pleven, Vidin nog vermeldenswaard. [bewerk] Bezienswaardigheden Boyanakerk Ridder van Madara Rotskerken van Ivanovo Thracisch graf van Kazanlak Oude centrum van Nessebar Natuurreservaat Srebarna Nationaal park Pirin Rilaklooster Thracisch graf van Sveshtari [bewerk] Economie Traditionele Bulgaarse straat Mineraalmijn in BulgarijeTot 1989 had Bulgarije een economie in de sovjetstijl waarin bijna alle landbouw en industriŽle ondernemingen door de staat beheerd werden. Een stagnerende economie, tekort aan voedsel, energie, en consumptiegoederen, een enorme buitenlandse schuld, en verouderde en inefficiŽnte industriŽle complexen spoorden pogingen aan tot marktgerichte hervorming in de jaren '90. De economie van Bulgarije zakte sterk in na 1989 door het uiteenvallen van de Sovjet-Unie. De levensstandaard zakte 40%. Traditioneel is Bulgarije een landbouwland. Sinds de Tweede Wereldoorlog is het land echter aanzienlijk geÔndustrialiseerd. De belangrijke industrieŽn zijn de machinebouw, metaalbewerking, voedselverwerking, techniek en de productie van chemische producten, textiel en elektronica. De belangrijkste mineralen van Bulgarije zijn bauxiet, koper, lood, zink, steenkool, bruinkool, ijzererts, olie en aardgas. De landbouw vertegenwoordigt meer dan 20% van het bruto nationaal product en stelt hetzelfde percentage van het aantal arbeidskrachten tewerk. De belangrijkste gewassen zijn tarwe, oliezaad, graan, gerst, groenten en tabak. Druiven en ander fruit, evenals rozen, worden ook gekweekt, en de productie van wijn en brandewijn is belangrijk voor de economie. Meer dan 80% van de handel van Bulgarije vindt plaats met de vroegere landen van de Sovjet-Unie. Munteenheid: Lev (???), koers 1 Lv. (??.) = ? 0,52 (De Lev is gekoppeld aan de Euro, en was daarvoor 1:1 uitwisselbaar tegen de D-mark, vandaar dezelfde wisselkoers) BNP (2000): 12,4 miljard US$ (1520$ per inwoner) Inflatie: 4,8% (2001) Werkloosheid: 13,5% (2002) Landbouwproducten: granen, maÔs, wijn, aardappelen, tabak Industrie: voedingsmiddelen, metaalbewerking, chemische industrie, machines Grondstoffen: aardolie, steenkool, ijzer, koper, mangaan, lood, zink Export: 4,825 miljard US$ (2001) Exportproducten: halffabrikaten, machines, industrieproducten Exportlanden: ItaliŽ (14%), Duitsland (10%), Griekenland (9%) Import: 6 miljard US$ (2001) Importproducten: brandstof, halffabrikaten, machines Importlanden: Rusland (20%), Duitsland (15%), ItaliŽ 8% Zie ook: Todor Zjivkov, Georgi Dimitrov, Vassil Kolarov, Petar Mladenov, Alexander van Bulgarije, Ferdinand van Bulgarije, Boris III van Bulgarije, Simeon II van Bulgarije en Vulko Tsjervenkov [bewerk] Cultuur De Bulgaarse muziek is onder liefhebbers van wereldmuziek of volksmuziek zeer geliefd vanwege het voorkomen van zeer onregelmatige maatsoorten. De Bulgaarse muziek heeft al heel veel moderne muziekstijlen beÔnvloed. [bewerk] Onderwijs De instellingen van hoger onderwijs zijn de universiteiten van Sofia, Plovdiv, Veliko Turnovo en Varna. [bewerk] Politiek In 2001 boekte de partij van Simeon Sakskoburggotski, die vůůr de communistische tijd als Simeon II koning van Bulgarije was, een grote overwinning bij de parlementsverkiezingen. (Zijn naam is een verbulgaarsing van Saksen-Coburg-Gotha). Samen met de partij van de Turkse minderheid vormde hij een regering. Met voortvarendheid werd een 800-dagen plan voor economische wederopbouw aangepakt, maar dit had niet het beoogde resultaat, en het volgende jaar won ex-communist Georgi Parvanov de presidentsverkiezingen van de door Sakskoburggotski gesteunde zittende president Petar Stojanov. Bulgarije werd op 29 maart 2004 officieel lid van de NAVO en ambieert lidmaatschap van de Europese Unie, doch deelname aan de uitbreiding van de EU in 2004 werd Bulgarije geweigerd. Voorlopig is nu 1 januari 2007 als streefdatum voor de Bulgaarse toetreding vastgesteld. Het associatieverdrag werd op 25 april 2005 ondertekend. Bij de parlementsverkiezingen van juni 2005 werd de partij van Simeon Sakskoburggotski opnieuw gestraft voor de niet waargemaakte beloften. De economie was weliswaar gegroeid maar de burger had er bitter weinig van gewerkt. De BSP, de Bulgaarse socialistische partij die voort is gekomen uit de oude communistische partij, had de verkiezingen gewonnen. Deze overwinning was echter niet groot genoeg om alleen verder te regeren. Voor het eerst sinds de democratische omwenteling was er een grote coalitie ontstaan tussen de NDSV van Simeon, de BSP van Sergej Stanisjev en de DPS, een kleine liberale partij gedomineerd door de Turkse minderheid. De coalitie staat nu voor de uitdaging om het land op tijd, dat wil zeggen in 2007, volwaardig lid te maken van de EU. Eťnkamerparlement, 240 leden, elke 4 jaar gekozen Staatshoofd: president, elke 5 jaar direct gekozen President: Georgi Parvanov (sinds januari 2002) Premier: Sergej Stanisjev (sinds augustus 2005) [bewerk] Verkeer en vervoer [bewerk] Openbaar vervoer Bus (avtobus) Lokaal: Het busvervoer is in onafhankelijke stadsmaatschappijen ingedeeld; een kaartje van de ene stad is elders niet geldig. In Sofia koopt een toerist best de kaartjes per 5 aan een stand bij de bushalte. Hier meer info. De minibus (marsjroetno taxi) is iets duurder en rijdt ook een vaste route, maar het is mogelijk op ieder punt van de route in of uit te stappen. Interlokaal: reserveren voor bijv. de volgende dag is aanbevolen. De taxi is het duurste vervoermiddel, maar dan nog zijn het heel zachte prijzen. De trein is erg goedkoop, maar erg traag en er rijden niet veel treinen. [bewerk] Klimaat Bulgarije heeft een Midden-Europese landklimaat met warme zomers en koude winters. Ten zuiden van het Balkan-gebergte, is een zachter klimaat met mediterrane trekjes. De gemiddelde dagtemperaturen liggen in het binnenland rond de 24įC en juli en augustus is de warmste periode van het jaar. Het is dan gemiddeld circa 27įC en langs de Zwarte Zeekust lopen de temperaturen dan tegen de 30įC. De neerslag bedraagt gemiddeld 600 mm per jaar, maar in de bergen valt vaak meer dan 1000 mm per jaar, vaak in de vorm van sneeuw. De hoofdregentijd is de zomer, in het zuiden de herfst.
The Thracians were an ancient people who inhabited what is now Bulgaria. They were divided in numerous tribes until king Teres united most of them in a single state around 500 BC. This kingdom was called the Odrysian state and reached its peak under the kings Sitalkes and Cotys I (383-359 BC). In 341 BC it was destroyed by the Macedonian state but rose from its ashes at the end of the 4th century BC under Seuthes III. In 188 BC the Romans invaded Thrace and the wars with them continued to AD 45, when it became a Roman Province. The Thracians did not have writing and now their legacy survives mainly in the numerous treasures and tombs they left. It is believed that the oldest golden treasure - the one of Varna, which is 6,500 years old, is Thracian-made. One of the most talented ancient commanders, Spartacus, was a Thracian born in the Rhodope Mountains. In the late 7th century a branch of the Bulgars led by Khan Asparuh migrated into the northern Balkans, where they merged with the local Slavic and Thracian population to form the First Bulgarian Empire in AD 681. In 717 the Bulgarians helped relieve the Arab siege of Constantinople, killing some 40,000-60,000 soldiers. Their khan Tervel was called by his contemporaries The Saviour of Europe. In 864 Bulgaria accepted the Orthodox Faith and became a major European power in the 9th and the 10th century, while fighting with the Byzantine Empire for the control of the Balkans. The greatest territorial extension was reached under Simeon I, the first Tsar, covering much of the Balkans and modern-day Romania. Following a decline in the middle of the 10th century the Bulgarian state was crushed by an assault by the Rus' in 969. The Byzantines then began campaigns to conquer Bulgaria. In 971 they seized the capital Preslav and captured emperor Boris II. The resistance continued in the western Bulgarian lands for nearly half a century until the state was completely destroyed by the Byzantines led by Basil II in 1018. Simeon I (893-927), first emperor of BulgariaIn 1185 the Bulgarian Empire was reestabilished under the Asenevtsi Dynasty and continued to be an important power in Europe for two more centuries, while fighting for dominance in the region with the Byzantine Empire, the Crusader states and Hungary, reaching its zenith under Ivan Asen II (1218-1241). By the end of the 14th century the country had disintegrated into several feudal principalities and was eventually conquered by the Ottoman Empire. A Polish-Hungarian crusade under the rule of W?adys?aw III of Poland to free the Balkans was crushed in 1444 in the battle of Varna. The 5-century period of Ottoman rule was characterized by great violence and oppression. The Bulgarian population was decimated and most of its cultural relics were lost. Large towns and the areas where Ottoman power was strong were severely depopulated until the 19th century. Following the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78 and the Treaty of San Stefano of March 3, 1878, an autonomous Bulgarian principality was proclaimed. The treaty was immediately rejected by the Great Powers for fear that a large Slavic country on the Balkans would 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. The first Bulgarian prince was Alexander Battenberg. Most of Thrace was included in the autonomous region of Eastern Rumelia, whereas the rest of Thrace along with the whole of Macedonia was returned under the sovereignty of the Ottomans. After uniting with Eastern Rumelia in 1885 (following the Serbo-Bulgarian War), the principality was proclaimed a fully independent kingdom in 1908. This happened during the reign of Ferdinand I of Bulgaria. Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1393)He became the Bulgarian prince after Alexander Battenberg abdicated in 1886 following a coup d'etat staged by pro-Russian army officers. (Although the counter coup d'etat coordinated by Stefan Stambolov was successful, Alexander Battenberg could not remain Bulgarian prince without the approval of the Russian emperor Alexander III.) The struggle for liberation of the Bulgarians in the Adrianople Vilayet and Macedonia continued throughout the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century culminating with the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising organised by the IMARO in 1903. In 1912 and 1913 Bulgaria became involved in the Balkan Wars, entering into conflict with Greece and Serbia against the Ottoman Empire and then against its former Balkan allies in desperate effort to achieve its national unity. After being defeated in the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria lost most of the territory conquered in the first war, as well as Southern Dobruja. During World War I, Bulgaria found itself fighting on the losing side after its alliance with the Central Powers. The defeat led to new territorial losses (the Western Outlands to Serbia, Western Thrace to Greece and the re-conquered Southern Dobruja 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 Dobruja. Euxinograd, once a summer palace of the Bulgarian tsarsThese numbers increased in the 1930s following Serbian state-sponsored aggression against its native Bulgarian population. After regaining control over Southern Dobruja in 1940, Bulgaria allied with the Axis Powers in World War II, although no Bulgarian soldiers participated in the war against the USSR. During this time the country occupied parts of Greece and Yugoslavia inhabited mostly by Bulgarians. Bulgaria was the one of two countries (another one being Finland) that saved its entire Jewish population (around 50,000) from the Nazi camps by refusing to comply with a 31 August 1943 resolution. However, Jews in newly acquired territories from Greece and Yugoslavia were sent to death camps by the Bulgarian authorities on German request. In September the Soviet army entered into Bulgaria which later enabled the Bulgarian Communists to seize power and establish a Communist dictatorship. Bulgaria had to fight against Germany (initially with a 450 000 strong army in 1944, reduced to 130 000 in 1945). More than 30,000 Bulgarian soldiers and officers were killed in the war. Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence after World War II, became a People's Republic in 1946 and one of the USSR's staunchest allies. In the late 1970s it began normalizing its relations with Greece and in the 1990s with Turkey. The People's Republic ended in 1989 as many Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, as well as the Soviet Union itself, began to collapse (the Bulgarian Communist leader Todor Zhivkov was removed from power on 10 November 1989). Bulgaria again held multiparty elections and privatized its economy, but economic difficulties and a tide of corruption led over 800,000 Bulgarians, most of them qualified professionals, to emigrate. Bulgaria joined NATO on 29 March 2004 and is set to join the European Union on 1 January 2007 after signing the Treaty of Accession on 25 April 2005. Politics Main articles on politics and government of Bulgaria can be found at the Politics and government of Bulgaria series. Central Sofia with the National Assembly of Bulgaria edifice in the middleThe president of Bulgaria (Georgi Parvanov since 22 January 2002 was re-elected for a second mandate on 29 October 2006 and will enter on his duties in January 2007 for the next five years) is directly elected for a 5-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. The president is the head of the Consultative Council for National Security and while unable to initiate legislation, the President can return a bill for further debate, though parliament can overturn the president's veto with a simple majority vote. The Council of Ministers is chaired by the PM (Sergey Stanishev since 18 August 2005), and is the principal body of the Executive Branch and presently consists of 20 ministers. The Prime Minister is nominated by the largest parliamentary group and is given a mandate by the President to form a cabinet. The current governmental coalition is made of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), National Movement Simeon II (NMS) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (representing mainly the Turkish minority). The Bulgarian unicameral parliament, the National Assembly or Narodno Sabranie, consists of 240 deputies who are elected for 4-year-terms by popular vote. The votes are for party or coalition lists of candidates for each of the twenty-eight administrative divisions. A party or coalition must garner 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. The last elections took place on June 2005. The next elections are planned for summer 2009. The Bulgarian judicial system consists of regional, district and appeal courts, as well as a Supreme Court of Cassation. In addition, there is a Supreme Administrative Court and a system of military courts. The Presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Supreme Administrative Court and the Prosecutor General are elected by a qualified majority of two-thirds from all the members of the Supreme Judicial Council and are appointed by the President of the Republic. The Supreme Judicial Council is in charge of the self-administration and organisation of the Judiciary. The Constitutional Court is in charge of reviewing 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 12 members of the Constitutional Court by a two-thirds majority, the members serve a nine-year term. The territory of the Republic of Bulgaria is divided into provinces and municipalities. In all Bulgaria has 28 provinces, each headed by a provincial governor appointed by the government. In addition, there are 263 municipalities. Administrative divisions Main article: Provinces of Bulgaria ??????????????????SOFIA???????? BlagoevgradBurgasDobrichGabrovoHaskovoKardzhaliKyustendilLovechMontanaPazardzhikPernikPlevenPlovdivRazgradRuseShumenSilistraSlivenSmolyanSofiaStara ZagoraTargovishteVarnaVeliko TarnovoVidinVratsaYambolBlack SeaDanubeF.Y.R.O.M.GreeceRomaniaSerbiaTurkeySince 1999 Bulgaria consists of 28 provinces (oblasti, singular - oblast), after having been subdivided into 9 provinces since 1987. All are named after the provincial capital, with the national capital itself forming a separate province: Blagoevgrad Burgas Dobrich Gabrovo Haskovo Kardzhali Kyustendil Lovech Montana Pazardzhik Pernik Pleven Plovdiv Razgrad Ruse Shumen Silistra Sliven Smolyan Sofia Sofia Province Stara Zagora Targovishte Varna Veliko Tarnovo Vidin Vratsa Yambol Geography Main article: Geography of Bulgaria Map of Bulgaria The Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria The Bulgarian Black Sea Coast at SinemoretsBulgaria comprises portions of the classical regions of Thrace, Moesia, and Macedonia. The southwest of the country is mountainous with two alpine ranges - Rila and Pirin and further east are the lower but more extensive Rhodope Mountains. Rila mountain includes the highest peak of the Balkan Peninsula, peak Musala at 2925 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 are found in the southeast, along the Black Sea coast in the east, and along Bulgaria's main river, the Danube in the north. Other major rivers include the Struma and the Maritsa river in the south. The Bulgarian climate is temperate, with cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers, and Mediterranean along the Black Sea coast The Balkan peninsula derives its name from the Balkan or Stara Planina mountain range which runs through the center of Bulgaria into eastern Serbia. The largest cities in the country are Sofia (1,246,791), Plovdiv (376,918), Varna (345,522), Burgas (259,985), Rousse (177,538), Stara Zagora (163,193), Pleven (121,700), Dobrich (115,861), Sliven (100,300). Bulgaria has its own scientific base on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. See also: List of cities in Bulgaria Rivers of Bulgaria Reservoirs and dams in Bulgaria Economy Main article: Economy of Bulgaria Bulgaria's economy contracted dramatically after 1989 with the loss of the market of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) member states, to which the Bulgarian economy had been closely tied. The standard of living fell by about 40%, but it regained pre-1990 levels in June 2004. In addition, UN 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 1996, however, 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 EU membership set for 2007. Mall of Sofia Tourism has always been a big industry in the country, and still booming: one of the 130 hotels in Slanchev Bryag, one of the most popular resorts in Eastern EuropeThe former government, elected in 2001, pledged to maintain the fundamental economic policy objectives adopted by its predecessor in 1997, i.e., retaining the Currency Board, practicing sound financial policies, accelerating privatisation, and pursuing structural reforms. Economic forecasts for 2005 and 2006 predict continued growth in the Bulgarian economy. The annual year-on-year GDP growth for 2005 and 2006 is expected to total 5.3% and 6.0%, respectively. Industrial output for 2005 is forecast to rise by 11.9% year-on-year, and for 2006 ? by 15.2% year-on-year. Unemployment for 2005 is projected at 11.5% and for 2006 ? at under 10%. As of 2006 the GDP structure is: agriculture- 8,0%; industry-26,1%; services- 65,9%. Agricultural output has decreased since 1989 but production is growing in the recent years. Farming is more important than stock-breeding. The prevalence of mechanisation is higher than most other Eastern European countries but there is lack of modern equipment. There are more than 150,000 tractors, 10,000 combines, alongside aeroplanes and other equipment. Production of the most important crops is: wheat-4,120,000 t; sunflower- 1,080,000 t; maize- 2,120,000 t; grapes- 500,000 t; tobacco- 79,000 t; tomatoes- 530,000 t; barley- 1,180,000 t; potatoes- 650,000 t; peppers- 213,000 t; cucumbers- 110,000 t; cherries- 75,000 ; watermelons- 420,000 t; cabbage- 340,000 t; apples- 150,000 t; plums-150,000 t; strawberries- 52,000 t. Industry is of great importance for the economy. Although Bulgaria is not very rich in reserves of coal, oil, and gas, the country is a major producer of electricity and the most important exporter in the whole region due to the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant with a total capacity of 3,760 MW. A second plant, the Belene Nuclear Power Plant with a capacity of 2,000 MW is under construction. There is a $1,400,000,000 project for construction of an additional 670 MW for the 500 MW Maritza Iztok 1 TPP (see Energy in Bulgaria). The production of steel and pig iron is concentrated in Kremikovtsi and Pernik. There is also a third metallurgical base in Debelt. In production of steel and steel products per capita the country is first in the Balkans. Ferrous metallurgy is very important. The largest refineries for lead and zinc are in Plovdiv (the biggest refinery between Italy and the Ural mountains), Kurdzhali and Novi Iskar; for copper in Pirdop and Eliseina; for aluminium in Shumen. In production of many metals per capita, Bulgaria is first in South Eastern Europe and among the first in Europe and the world. About 14% of the total industrial production is related to machine building and 24% of the people are employed in this field. Its importance decreased since 1989 but is growing again now. Electronics and electrical equipment production is very well developed. The largest centres are Sofia, Plovdiv and the area around, Botevgrad, Stara Zagora, Varna and many others. These plants produce household appliances, computers, CDs, telephones, medical and scientific equipment. Many of the factories producing transportation equipment do not work with full capacity. There are plants producing trains (Burgas, Dryanovo), trams (Sofia), trolleys (Dupnitsa), buses (Botevgrad), trucks (Shumen), motocars, automotive assembly plant in Lovech. The main centre of agricultural machinery is Ruse. Shipbuilding is concentrated in Varna, Burgas and Ruse. Arms production is mainly developed in central Bulgaria (Kazanlak, Sopot, Karlovo). Science, technology and telecommunications Bulgaria offers excellent conditions for high-tech and telecommunication industries and services with its strategic location, highly-qualified workforce, macroeconomic stability, growing domestic market and good education. This is why some multinational companies choose Bulgaria to build their regional offices and headquarters even before the joining to the EU. The most notable of these is Hewlett-Packard, which built its Global Service Centre for Europe, the Near East and Africa in the capital. Telecommunications is perhaps the fastest growing industry in the country. There are currently three mobile operators:Globul, Mtel and Vivatel which provide almost 100% coverage. They have hundreds of service centres throughout the country which are constantly growing and improving. More than 5,500,000 Bulgarians own mobile cellular phones. Every town and many villages have fast Internet connection. There are around 100,000 Internet hosts. The country has good traditions and perfect opportunities in science. The inventor of the earliest known electronic computer John Atanasoff is of Bulgarian descent. Bulgaria used to be a major supplier of scientific and research instruments for the Soviet space programmes, it was one of the first states to develop serial computer production, it has great experience in pharmaceutical research and development. The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences is the leading institution with most of the researchers working for its numerous branches. There are two major astronomic observatories: the Rozhen Observatory, which is the biggest in South Eastern Europe and the Belogradchik Observatory with three telescopes. Transport Railroad transport in BulgariaBulgaria occupies a unique and strategically important geographic location. Since ancient times, the country has been a major crossroad between Europe, Asia and Africa. Five of the ten Transeuropean corridors run through its territory. The total length of the roads is 102,016 km of which 93,855 km are paved. There are 416 km of motorways. There are several motorways which are planned, under construction and partially built: Trakiya motorway, Hemus motorway, Cherno More motorway, Struma motorway, Maritza motorway and Lyulin motorway. There other motorways which are planned but their final track is yet to be decided. They include a link between the capital Sofia and Vidin, a link between the Struma and Trakiya motorways south of the Rila mountain, a link between Rousse and Veliko Tarnovo, and the Sofia ringroad. Many roads have been recently reconstructed. The length of the railways is 6,500 km. of which more than 60% are electrified. There is a ?360,000,000 project for the modernization and electrification of the Plovdiv-Kapitan Andreevo railway. Air transportation is relatively well developed. There are four international airports at Sofia, Burgas, Varna and Plovdiv. Massive investment is planned for the first three. There are important domestic airports in Vidin, Pleven, Gorna Oryahovitsa, Rousse, 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 in the country. 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 Danube ports are Rousse and Lom which serves the capital. There is well organised public transport in the cities and in many smaller towns. There are buses, trolleys (in about 20 cities) and trams (in Sofia). The Sofia Metro in the capital is going to have 3 lines with total length of about 48km and 52 stations. Only a section of one of these is currently completed. Demographics Main article: Demographics of Bulgaria The Rila Monastery is one of Bulgaria's most important cultural and historical monumentsAccording to the 2001 census, Bulgaria's population is mainly ethnic Bulgarian (83.9%), with two sizable minorities, Turks (9.4%) and Roma (4.7%). Of the remaining 2.0%, 0.9% are distributed among some forty smaller minorities, the most numerous of which are the Russians, Armenians, Vlachs (Romanians in the North and Aromanians in the South), Jews, Crimean Tatars and Karakachans. The people who have not declared their ethnicity are 1.1% of the total population. Bulgarian is the mother-tongue of 84.8% of the population; it is a member of the Slavic languages. Bulgarian is the only official language, but other languages such as Turkish and Romany, are spoken corresponding closely to ethnic breakdown. Most Bulgarians (82.6%) are, at least nominally, members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the national Eastern Orthodox church. Other religious denominations include Islam (12.2%), various Protestant denominations (0.7%), Roman Catholicism (0.5%), with other denominations, atheists and undeclared numbering ca. 4.1%. Bulgaria has had the slowest population growth of any country in the world since 1950, with the exception of St. Kitts & Nevis (due to their high emigration rate). In fact, population growth has been negative since the early 1990s, due to the economic collapse and high emigration rate. Now Bulgaria suffers a heavy demographic crisis. In 1988 the population of Bulgaria was 8,859,000 people (after a census), and a 2001-census shows a 7,950,000 population. Culture Main article: Culture of Bulgaria The Roman theatre in Plovdiv Stoyan Bachvarov Dramatic Theatre, VarnaA country often described to lie at the crossroads linking the East and West, Bulgaria was 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 is also the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet, the second most widely used alphabet in the world, which was developed in these two schools in the 10th century. Bulgaria is well-known for its rich folklore, distinctive traditional music, rituals and tales, but the country's contribution to humanity also continued in the 19th and 20th 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 (Nicolai Ghiaurov, Boris Christoff, Raina Kabaivanska, Ghena Dimitrova) and successful artists (Christo Javacheff, Pascin, Vladimir Dimitrov) popularized the culture of Bulgaria abroad. A number of ancient civilizations, most notably the Thracians, Greeks, Romans and Bulgars have left their mark on the culture, history and heritage of Bulgaria. The country has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Of these, two are Thracian tombs (one in Sveshtari and one in Kazanlak, three are monuments of medieval Bulgarian culture (the Boyana Church, the Rila Monastery and the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo), while the Pirin National Park and the Srebarna Nature Reserve represent the country's natural beauty, and the ancient city of Nesebar is a unique combination of European cultural interaction, as well as, historically, one of the most important centres of naval trade in the Black Sea. In addition, the Varna Necropolis, a 3200-3000 BC burial site, contains what are believed to be the oldest examples of worked gold in the world. List of famous Bulgarians Bulgarian customs Music of Bulgaria Bulgarian artists Bulgarian dances Bulgarian cuisine Tourism Main article: Tourism in Bulgaria In winter, Borovets, Bansko and Pamporovo are ski resorts. There are summer resorts on the Black Sea at Sozopol, Nessebur, Golden Sands, Sunny Beach, Sveti Vlas, Albena, St. St. Constantine & 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 are popular with tourists from Germany, Russia, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. The ski resorts are a favorite destination for English tourists. Sports The Vasil Levski National StadiumFootball is by far the most popular sport in the country. Many Bulgarian fans follow closely the Bulgarian Football League, as well as the leagues of other European countries, such as those of Spain, England, Italy and Germany. The greatest success of the Bulgarian National Team is the fourth place at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the USA. The most famous Bulgarian footballer is Hristo Stoichkov, who was widely regarded as the world's best football player at the peak of his career between 1992 and 1994, while also playing for FC Barcelona. CSKA Sofia and Levski Sofia are the two most successful Bulgarian football clubs. Bulgaria boasts great achievements in other sport areas, too. Maria Gigova has four world titles in gymnastics, which is still unmatched by anyone in the world. Some other famous gymnasts include Simona Peycheva, Neshka Robeva and Jordan Jovtchev. Bulgarians are also dominant in Weightlifting with around 1,000 gold medals in different competitions; Stefan Botev, Nickolai Peshalov, Demir Demirev and Yoto Yotov are among the most distinguished weightlifters. Wrestling, volleyball, and chess are also popular. Religion Main article: Religion in Bulgaria The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia is one of the biggest Orthodox cathedrals in Europe Church of Christ Pantocrator, NesebarMost citizens of Bulgaria are associated ? at least nominally ? to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. It was founded in 870 AD under the Patriarchate of Constantinople from which it obtained its first primate, its clergy and theological texts. It has been autocephalous since 927. The Bulgarian Patriarchate was established in Sofia after the creation 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 Greek Orthodox Church, 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 14th century after the conquest of the country by the Ottomans. It gradually gained ground throughout the 15th and 16th centuries by the introduction of Turkish colonists and the conversion of native Bulgarians. At the time of Liberation (1878) no less than 40% of the population was Muslim, but emigration was a key factor in reducing this percentage. In 2001, there were 967,000 Muslims in Bulgaria, accounting for 12.2% of the total population. In the 16th and the 17th century 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 stands at 44,000 in 2001. Protestantism was introduced in Bulgaria by missionaries from the United States in 1857. Missionary work continued throughout the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. In 2001, there were some 42,000 Protestants in Bulgaria. According to the most recent Eurostat "Eurobarometer" poll, in 2005 , only 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. See also: Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Islam in Bulgaria, Roman Catholicism in Bulgaria, and Protestantism in Bulgaria National parks Bulgaria has more than ten major national parks and many reservation areas. The best known and most popular of these are listed below. Central Balkan National Park Pirin National Park Rhodope National Park Rila National Park Stara Planina (Balkan Mountains) Strandja National Park Vitosha National Park Miscellaneous data The oldest golden treasure in the world was discovered in Bulgaria (the Varna Necropolis) - it is 6,500 years old. Founded in 680, Bulgaria is the oldest contemporary country in Europe. The second most used alphabet in the world, the Cyrillic was developed in Bulgaria. The Bulgarians were the first to use airplanes in military action in the battle of Odrin, 1913. In its modern history Bulgaria never lost a flag, captured by its enemies' armies. The country produces half of the rose oil in the world. In many agricultural productions per capita, the country is among the top 10 in the world (tomatoes, peppers, tobacco, sunflower seed, levander, strawberries and others) Notes ^ Bulgarian government website:  ^ Bulgaria Illustrated History, Bojidar Dimitrov, PhD., Author, BORIANA Publishing House 2002 ^ National Statistical Institute of Bulgaria, retrieved July 31st, 2006 ^ Eurobarometer, social values, science and technology, June 2005 http://europa.eu.int/comm/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_225_report_en.pdf Gallery The Belogradchik Rocks Bulgarian National Revival (18th-19th century) architecture in Plovdiv's old town part The Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral in Varna Shipka Pass, Stara Planina in winter A Black Sea beach near Dyuni The capital city of Sofia Typical architecture and natural surroundings of Melnik The inner yard of the Bachkovo Monastery Baroque architecture in Rousse Tsarevets, Veliko Tarnovo, the main stronghold of the medieval Second Bulgarian Empire The Roman amphitheatre in Stara Zagora The Danube between Belene and Belene Island High Resolution Images from Bulgaria See also Bulgaria Portal Topics related to Bulgaria History First Bulgarian Empire, Second Bulgarian Empire, Early Ottoman Bulgaria, National awakening, Independent Bulgaria, Communist Bulgaria, Bulgaria since 1989 Geography and Provinces Rhodope Mountains, Balkan Peninsula, Rila, Pirin, Cities, Rivers, Reservoirs and dams, Blagoevgrad, Burgas, Dobrich, Gabrovo, Haskovo, Kardzhali, Kyustendil, Lovech, Montana, Pazardzhik, Pernik, Pleven, Plovdiv, Razgrad, Ruse, Shumen, Silistra, Sliven, Smolyan, Sofia Province, Stara Zagora, Targovishte, Varna, Veliko Tarnovo, Vidin, Vratsa, Yambol Politics and Economy President of Bulgaria, Prime Minister of Bulgaria, National Assembly, Supreme Administrative Court, Supreme Court of Cassation, Bulgarian political parties, European Union, lev, Transportation, Tourism Demographics and Culture Bulgarians, Bulgarian language, Slavic languages, Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Customs, Cuisine, Music, Sports Categories Buildings and structures, Communications, Conservation, Bulgaria stubs, Economy, People, Culture, Geography, Government, Science and technology, Law, Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Bulgaria in Antarctica Further reading A Concise History of Bulgaria RJ Crampton Beyond Hitler's Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews Michael Bar-Zohar Blue Guide: Bulgaria James Pettifer Crown of Thorns : The Reign of King Boris III of Bulgaria, 1918-1943 Stephane Groueff The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria's Jews Survived the Holocaust Tzvetan Todorov Lonely Planet World Guide: Bulgaria Paul Greenway Music of Bulgaria Timothy Rice The Rough Guide To Bulgaria Jonathan Bousfield Voices from the Gulag: Life and Death in Communist Bulgaria Tzvetan Todorov The Iron Fist-inside the Bulgarian secret archives Alexenia Dimitrov