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Bulgaria, country in southeastern Europe. Bulgaria lies on the eastern side of the Balkan Peninsula, a historical crossroads between Europe and Asia. To the north of Bulgaria is Romania and to the east is the Black Sea. Greece and Turkey lie to the south, and Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) lie to the west. Sofia is Bulgaria’s capital and largest city.

Bulgaria covers an area approximately the size of the state of Virginia. It is a land of mountains, rivers, and rolling plains. The Balkan Mountains, for which the Balkan Peninsula is named, extend east to west across northern Bulgaria. Bulgarians call them the “Old Mountains” (Stara Planina). The great Danube River, Europe’s second longest, forms much of Bulgaria’s northern border.

Between Sofia in the west and the Black Sea is a low-lying region called the Valley of the Roses. For more than three centuries, farmers in the region have raised Kazanluk roses for their fragrant oil, a prized ingredient in perfumes and a Bulgarian export specialty. To the east, the dramatic Black Sea coast drops from rocky cliffs in the north to sandy beaches in the south, where tourist resorts attract visitors from around the world. Heavy snowfalls in the mountains create a paradise for winter sports.

Bulgaria’s location as a crossroads has made it the center of many struggles for power. An independent kingdom for many centuries, Bulgaria was a major power for long periods during the Middle Ages. At different times its rulers controlled much of the Balkan Peninsula, and its Orthodox Christian religion and culture influenced many Slavic peoples of southern and eastern Europe. Following almost 500 years of rule by the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria regained its independence in 1878.

After World War II (1939-1945), a government backed by the Soviet Union, the occupying power, was established in Bulgaria. During the period of communist rule, Bulgaria’s leaders enforced an industrialization program in an effort to modernize the country’s largely agrarian economy. Bulgaria remained a communist-ruled country until democratizing reforms began in 1989. In 1990 Bulgaria held its first postwar multiparty elections and changed its name from the People’s Republic of Bulgaria to the Republic of Bulgaria.

Bulgaria’s transition toward democracy and a free market economy has not been easy. The fall of communism and the loss of the Soviet market for Bulgarian goods led to a massive contraction of the economy. The standard of living plunged amid rising inflation and unemployment, rampant corruption, and the collapse of the social welfare system. Many Bulgarians emigrated. The Bulgarian government remained committed to reforms undertaken in the late 1990s, however, leading to greater political and economic stability. In 2000 the European Union (EU) opened membership negotiations with Bulgaria; the nation is slated for membership in 2007. Bulgaria joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in March 2004.


For younger readers

Otfinoski, Steven. Bulgaria. Facts on File, 1998. For middle school readers.

Resnick, Abraham. Bulgaria. Children's Press, 1995. For readers in grades 5 to 8.

Rodgers, Mary M., ed. Bulgaria … in Pictures. Lerner, 1994. For readers in grades 4 to 7.


Bousfield, Jonathan. The Rough Guide to Bulgaria. Rough Guides, 1996. Description and background for travelers to Bulgaria.

Crampton, R. J. A Concise History of Bulgaria. Cambridge University Press, 1997. Introduces the complexities of Bulgarian history.

Curtis, Glenn E., ed. Bulgaria: A Country Study. 2nd ed. Library of Congress, 1993. Objective coverage of Bulgaria since 1974.

Kaplan, Robert D. Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History. Vintage, 1994. Past and present politics of the region.

Pettifer, James. Bulgaria. Norton, 1998. Description and background for travelers; part of the Blue Guide series.


Nelson, Daniel M, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of International Studies, Old Dominion University. President of Global Concepts, Inc. Author of After Authoritarianism and other books.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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