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Sunday, March 07, 2021

About Bulgaria

General Information

Bulgaria is one of the oldest European States with 20-century-old history and traditions. Modern Bulgaria is situated in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkan Peninsula – a busy crossroad of ancient cultures.
For centuries, the roads passing through the territory of the country have been connecting Europe with Asia and Africa. Four common European transport corridors, connecting West and North Europe with the eastern and southern part of the continent, cross their roads here.
Bulgaria is also known for its picturesque nature and rich cultural heritage. According to the statistics, the country ranks third in Europe only after Greece and Italy for the number of its valuable archeological monuments.
On this page, you will find general information about the country: history, state structure, economy and the national symbols.

Public Holidays

January 1 – New Year’s Day

March 3 – Liberation Day, celebrating liberation from Ottoman rule – national holiday of the Republic of Bulgaria

May 1 – Labour Day and international day of workers’ solidarity;

May 6 – St George’s Day, Day of the Bulgarian Army;

May 24 – Bulgarian Education and Culture Day and Day of Slavonic Letters;

September 6 – Unification Day

September 22 – Bulgarian Independence Day

November 1 – Enlightenment Leaders’ Day – a holiday for all educational institutions;

December 24, 25, 26  - Christmas

Easter – four days (from Good Friday to Easter Monday)


The acting Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria was adopted in July 1991. It was built on the basic principles of the contemporary constitutionalism.

The Constitution provides a multi- party parliamentary system and free elections, in which all the citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria take part with the right to vote. After the elections, the largest parliamentary group constructs the government. So that the government is approved (The Council of Ministers), as well as for adoption of regular legal acts, general parliament majority is required. Amendments in the Constitution are to be adopted through three quarters of parliament majority.

Bulgaria is a Parliamentary Republic and the basic power in the country is the legislative one. The Parliament (The National Assembly) exercises the legislative power, as well as the right to parliamentary control.

The mandate of the National Assembly is a 4 - year one.

The National Assembly consists of 240 MPs. They are elected directly by the voters for a 4 year term, on the basis of the proportional system. So that the parties and the pre-election coalitions enter the National Assembly, they must collect above 4% of the total number of votes at the elections. The MPs of the National Assembly represent not only their election regions, but the whole nation as well. The MPs work in compliance with the Constitution and the legislation, following their conscience and convictions. The National Assembly elects temporary and permanent commissions, where MPs participate. It adopts laws, decisions, declarations and statements. Every member of the National Assembly or the Council of Ministers has the right to introduce a draft of a law. The draft law on the state budget is developed and introduced by the Council of Ministers.

The Government (The Council of Ministers) is the main body of the executive power, headed by the Prime Minister. The Council of Ministers rules and conducts the internal and foreign policy of the state, secures the public order and the national security, exercises control over the public administration and the military forces.

The Prime Minister to be is nominated by the largest parliamentary group, after which the President hands in the mandate to him for forming the government. The proposed Council of Ministers is voted by the National Assembly, which controls directly the activity of the government. 
The President is the Head of State and is elected with direct elections once in every five years, for not more that two mandates.

The Vice President is elected at the same time, with the same voting paper, and under the same conditions and procedure, as of the President.

The President is the supreme commander of the military forces of the Republic of Bulgaria. He assigns and discharges the supreme command staff of the military forces and promotes the supreme officers into higher ranks on proposals by the Council of Ministers. The President is the Chairperson of the Consultative Council for national security.
Local Government Executive Authorities
The status and powers of the local executive authorities depend on the territory structure of the country.

The municipality is the main administrative territorial unit for the local government. The policy of every municipality is determined by the Municipality Council and includes the economic development, the environmental policy, the educational, the cultural, etc. activities. The Municipality Council approves the annual budgets and development plans of the corresponding municipality.

Every municipality is ruled by a Mayor. The Mayor is in charge of the whole executive activity of the municipality, of keeping the public order, and organizes the distribution of the municipality budget.

The region is the bigger administrative territorial unit. Through it the governmental local policy is conducted in a decentralized and more effective way. A regional governor, assigned by the Council of Ministers, rules each region.
Judiciary Bodies
The judicial power in Bulgaria is independent. It is built up on the basis of a procedure of three instances.

The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC), and the Supreme Cassation Court (SCC) exercise control over the implementation of the law by the courts of lower instances, and take decisions on the legality of the executive power’s acts.

The Constitutional Court determines if the laws and the international agreements are in compliance with the Constitution.
A Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has been established, which organizes the activity of the judiciary.

History and Geography

bulgaria’s territory has been inhabited since earliest historic times – the Stone Age and the Copper Stone Age. Archaeological evidence from that time has been found near Karlovo, in the area of Nova Zagora, Veliko Tarnovo, Vidin, Sofia, Teteven, Troyan and the Rhodope Mountain. The oldest gold treasure in the world discovered near Varna also dates from that period.

In the Bronze Age the Thracians, mentioned for the first time by Homer, settled here. They were farmers and stock-breeders and have left evidence of a rich culture (like the Vulchetrun treasure). The first Thracian state organizations emerged in 11th – 6th century B.C., and their heyday was in 7th -6th century B.C. In 1st century B.C. their lands were conquered by the Roman Empire, and after 5th century they were included within Byzantium. The Thracians were gradually assimilated by the Slavs who settled on the Balkan peninsula in 6th century A.D.

In the second half of 7th century A.D. the proto-Bulgarians – people of Turkic origin, settled on the territory of today’s North-East Bulgaria. In an alliance with the Slavs they founded the Bulgarian state, which was recognized by Byzantium in 681. Khan Asparuh, the leader of the proto-Bulgarians, headed the state, and Pliska was declared to the capital of the state.

Under the rule of khan Tervel (700-718) Bulgaria expanded its territory and became a great political power. At the time of khan Krum (803-814) Bulgaria bordered the empire of Charles the Great to the west, and to the east the Bulgarian army reached the walls of Byzantium’s capital Constantinople.

In 864 during the reign of knyaz Boris I Mihail (852-889) the Bulgarians converted to Christianity which became official religion. That smoothed out the ethnic differences between proto-Bulgarians and Slavs and commenced the establishing of a united Bulgarian nationality.

In the end of 9th century the brothers Cyril (Constantine the Philosopher) and Methodius devised and disseminated the Slavonic alphabet. Their disciples Kliment and Naum came to Bulgaria, where they were warmly welcomed and found good conditions for work. They engaged in valuable educational and literary activities. From Bulgaria the Slavonic alphabet spread also to other Slavonic countries like Serbia and Russia. Ohrid and Pliska, and later also the new capital of Veliki Preslav became centres of Bulgarian culture and of Slavonic culture in general.

The rule of Tsar Simeon (893-927) is considered to be the peak of “the Golden age of Bulgarian culture”, and the country bordered the Black Sea, The White Sea and the Aegean Sea.

In 1018 after continued wars Bulgaria was subjugated by Byzantium. The Bulgarians started fighting for their freedom as early as the first years under Byzantine domination. In 1186 the uprising lead by the boyar brothers Asen and Peter threw off the power of Byzantium. The Second Bulgarian Kingdom was founded with capital Tarnovo. After 1186 the country was first ruled by Asen, and then by Peter.

Bulgaria’s former power was restored during the reign of their youngest brother Kaloyan (1197-1207), and during the time of Tsar Ivan Asen II (1218-1241) the Second Bulgarian Kingdom reached its greatest prosperity – it established its political hegemony in south-eastern Europe, expanded its territory to the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea, economy and culture developed. Bulgaria reached another zenith, and that lasted until the end of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1186-1396).

Dissensions among some of the boyars lead to dividing the country into two kingdoms – the Vidin kingdom and the Tarnovo kingdom. That weakened the state and in 1396 it was conquered by the Turkish Empire. For nearly five centuries Bulgaria was under Turkish domination. The first years are characterised by sporadic and unorganised attempts to win freedom. Later rebels called haiduks appeared, and that enabled a better organised national liberation movement to start.

The formation of the Bulgarian nation and Bulgarian enlightenment started in the beginning of 18th century. An impulse for that was the work of the monk Paisiy Hilendarski “Slav-Bulgarian History”, written in 1762. The ideas of national liberation lead to the establishing of an independent national church and the development of education and culture. The beginning of organised revolutionary movement for liberation from Turkish domination is connected with the activities of Georgi Sava Rakovski (1821-1867) – a writer and a publicist, founder and ideologist of the national liberation movement.

The main figures of the liberation movement are Vasil Levski, Lyuben Karavelov, Hristo Botev as well as many other Bulgarians.

The April uprising burst out in 1876, and it was the first large-scale organised attempt to liberate the country from the Ottoman domination. The uprising was cruelly crushed and drowned in blood, but it drew the European countries’ attention to the Bulgarian national issues. In 1878 as a result of the Russian-Turkish liberation war (1877-1878) the Bulgarian state was restored but national unification was not achieved. The former Bulgarian territory was divided into three: Principality Bulgaria was proclaimed headed by prince (knyaz) Alexander of Battenberg; the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia was headed by a Christian Governor appointed by the sultan, and Thrace and Macedonia remained under the jurisdiction of the Ottoman Empire.

The end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century are characterized by remarkable achievements in all fine arts. This is the time when the following Bulgarian poets and writers created their works: Ivan Vazov, Aleko Konstantinov, Dimcho Debelyanov, Pencho Slaveykov (the only Bulgarian nominated for a Nobel prize laureate), and Peyo Yavorov. The artists An. Mitov, Ivan Angelov, Ivan Murkvichka, Yaroslav Veshin, B. Shats created some of the most remarkable works of that period. The foundations of professional Bulgarian musical culture were laid in the end of 19th century. The first Bulgarian composers are E. Manolov, D. Hristov, G. Atanasov – Maestro.

The decision of partitioning Bulgaria taken at the Congress of Berlin (1878) was never accepted by the people. The Kresna-Razlog uprising (1878-1879) broke out as a result of the decisions in 1878, and in 1885 brought to the unification of Principality Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia. The Ilinden-Preobrazhenie prising also burst out (1903).

Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Bulgarian prince since 1887, proclaimed Bulgarian independence from Turkey and in 1908 became the tsar of the Bulgarian people. Bulgaria took part in the Balkan War (1912) and together with Serbia and Greece fought for the freedom of Thrace and Macedonia. Bulgaria won that war, but in the Second Balkan (Inter-Ally)War (1913) that followed it was defeated by Romania, Turkey and its former allies, which detached from Bulgaria territories inhabited by Bulgarians.

Bulgaria’s participation in World War I on the side of the Central Powers ended in a national catastrophe. In 1918 Tsar Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his son Boris III. The 1919 Peace Treaty of Neuilly imposed severe terms on Bulgaria – it was deprived of an outlet to the Aegean, western Thrace became part of Greece, south Dobrudzha was joined to Romania, and the regions round Strumitsa, Bosilegrad, Tsaribrod and villages in the region of Kula were given to the Serbian-Croation-Slovenian kingdom. (South Dobrudzha was reinstated to Bulgaria in 1940 by a treaty between Bulgaria and Romania).

In the early 40-ies Bulgaria pursued policy in the interest of Germany and the Axis Powers. Later the involvement of Bulgarian cavalry platoons at the Eastern Front was terminated. Tsar Boris III stood by public pressures and did not allow deportation of about 50,000 Bulgarian Jews.

In August 1943 Tsar Boris III died and the regency of the young Tsar Simeon II was declared to be the country’s government. The Soviet Army entered Bulgaria on 5 September 1944, and on 9 September a government of the Fatherland Front was established headed by Kimion Georgiev. In 1946 Bulgaria was proclaimed a people’s republic. The mother-queen, Tsar Simeon II and princess Maria Louise left the country through Turkey for Egypt. The Bulgarian communist party came to power. The political parties not participating in the Fatherland Front were banned, the economic enterprises and banks were nationalized, the arable land was forcibly organized in cooperatives. Georgi Dimitrov, Vasil Kolarov, Vulko Chervenkov, Anton Yugov and Todor Jivkov were consecutively heads of government.

The democratic changes in Bulgaria started on 10 November 1989. A new Constitution was adopted, the political parties were restored, the property that had been taken away in 1947 was reinstated, privatisation and restoring land to its previous owners started. In 1990 Jelio Jelev became President of Bulgaria, and he was the first one democratically elected at that post.

EU and NATO membership became main priorities in Bulgaria’s foreign policy. On 10 December 1999 as a result of the country’s considerable progress in meeting membership criteria Bulgaria was invited to start accession negotiations.

The negotiations were launched on 15 February 2000 in Brussels. On 1 December 2000 the Justice and Home Affairs Council of EU took the decision to unconditionally take Bulgaria out of the negative visa list.

Republic of Bulgaria joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on 29 March 2004 together with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. That fully corresponds to the national interests and goals of Bulgaria, which considers NATO enlargement process to be above all things an efficient means to deal with the complex challenges to global security.

At the EU Summit on 12-13 December 2004 the leaders of the 25 member states decided that Bulgaria joins EU on 1 January 2007. The European leaders agreed to sign the Treaty of Accession with Sofia and Bucharest in April 2005.

On 1 January 2007, having achieved the membership criteria, Bulgaria became a full member of the European Union.

Black Sea Resorts

The seaside resorts near the two cities on the Black Sea – Varna and Burgas – traditionally offer the best conditions for summer holidays. These are the resort towns or settlements Sozopol, Nesebar, Sunny Beach, Golden Sands, Albena, Dyuni and others. Apart from opportunities to swim and dive, the seaside resorts in Bulgaria offer excellent conditions for sailing, water skiing and other sports, notably tennis, horse riding, shooting with bows and arrows, beach volleyball, etc.

Sozopol and Nesebar are famous for their historical value, architectural sights and traditions. Nesebar is attractive with the ancient part of the town on the Nesebar Peninsula, which is separated and protruding far into the sea. It is charming with its narrow cobbled streets, the two-storey wooden houses, the typical Bulgarian shopping street – charshiya – and the churches, art galleries, the wind mill and the ancient necropolis dating back to the 3rd-4th century AD. There are two beach strips, one of which links the town of Nesebar with the Sunny Beach resort to form a small bay, together with yet another resort: Sveti Vlas.

Sozopol is located in the Burgas Bay on the Southern Black Sea coast. It offers a combination of various architectural styles and has preserved the spirit of ancient Greece. Today the town takes pride in its typical Bulgarian wooden houses and its charming romantic spirit that has attracted poets and artists over the centuries. The smaller of the two beach strips is flanked by a picturesque rocky shore that is suitable for strolls under the fig trees bent with fruit.

Sozopol traditionally hosts the annual Apollonia Festival of Arts. The Golden Sands resort is also a venue for different festivals, competitions and seminars.

The Golden Sands resort is less than 20 km north of the city of Varna. Its guests enjoy a beach strip that is more than 3 km long. The best time for a holiday there is between the beginning of June and the end of September. The resort offers a unique combination of calm sea, mixed forests that descend to the soft fine sand, and mineral spas. This combination provides excellent conditions for rest and recreation, for sports and spa treatment.

Major Cities

Sofia is the administrative capital and the cultural centre of Bulgaria and the biggest town in the country. The foundations of the city have been laid about 7,000 years ago in the foot of the Vitosha Mountain. Nowadays Sofia is a cosmopolitan city with a population of more than 1 mln. people. The capital is a centre of the political life of Bulgaria, it has a well-developed cultural life and favourable business climate. It offers conditions for holding international conferences, symposia, seminars or fairs. There exist a lot of museums and art galleries, theatres, concert halls and cinemas, opera and operetta theatres.

Plovdiv is the second biggest city in Bulgaria. It is located in the Upper Thracian Valley, along the coasts of the Maritsa River. Founded by Philip II of Macedonia with the name of Philipopolis in 4 B.C. over the former Thracian settlement of Pulpudeva. Later the city was invaded by the Romans and called Trimontium. In the documents of the Ottoman Empire it is known as Filibe. It became the capital of Eastern Rumelia after the Liberation of the Principality of Bulgaria in 1878.

The old part of Plovdiv is declared an architectural and historical reserve. The houses of the late Revival can be outlined in architectural aspect. The city is famous with the holding of the Plovdiv International Fair twice a year, as well as with the recognition won by the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra at the International and Bulgarian stage.

Varna is the third largest city in Bulgaria. It is situated at the Black Sea coast, at the Varna Gulf, near the resort complex of Zlatni Pyasatsi (Golden Sands). In ancient times it used to be a Greek colony – Odessos, and in 15th century it joined Vladislav III Varnenchik’s Christian army it its battle against the Ottoman troops. Archaeological and architectural monuments from the Eneolith, Antiquity and Middle Ages have been preserved – a basilica and churches.


Rila is the highest Bulgarian mountain and with its 2,925 m. the Musala Peak is the highest on the Balkan Peninsula. 200 high-mountain lakes can be found in Rila, as well as 2,000 plant species and rich animal world.

The mountain is famous with the majestic Rila Monastery and with the oldest ski resort in Bulgaria – Borovets.

Borovets is situated on the Northern slopes of the Rila Mountain among century-old pine forests. The resort offers to the Bulgarian and foreign tourists the opportunity to choose among the variety of options for winter sports during the snow season and to relish the greenery and peace of the mountain slopes during the summer.

Pirin is the second highest mountain in Bulgaria and a nature reserve, too. Its highest peak is Vihren (2,914 m). There are more than 170 lakes in the mountain and about 100 species of rare plants, including edelweiss.

The well-known balneologic centre of Sandanski and the most modern winter resort of Bansko are located in the Pirin Mountains.

The town of Bansko is an attractive centre not only with its modern ski equipment but also with its more than 120 cultural monuments and museum-houses, as well as with the national cuisine and folklore traditions.

Stara Planina (Balkan Range) is the longest mountain range in Bulgaria with the highest peak of Botev (2,376 m). The Balkan, which has given its name to the whole peninsula, offers opportunities for long mountain passages, rock climbing, etc. It attracts with its broken terrain and numerous caves. There many picturesque mountain towns which have preserved the spirit of the Revival age and now offer excellent conditions for ecotourism – Kotel, Zheravna, Tryavna, Arbanasi, Bozhentsi, Etara.

Rodopi Mountain are connected with the legend of the mythic singer Orpheus. Buried in greenery, the mountain attracts with its unique folklore traditions, mild climate, picturesque scenery and hospitable population. One of the biggest Bulgarian ski resorts – Pamporovo is situated in Rhodope Mountain, as well as one of the best developed centres for ecotourism – Momchilovtsi.

Pamporovo is situated under the Snezhanka Peak and less than 100 km. from the second biggest city of Plovdiv. The resort offers opportunities for ski and other winter sports and also very good conditions for recreation or family outing.


The most remarkable monument of the period of the Bulgarian Revival is the Rila Monastery situated in the Rila Mountain, only 120 km. from the capital city of Sofia. Some of the valuable historical and architectural landmarks are the Hrelyova Tower in the monastery court which dates from the 14th century and the original monastery kitchen, preserved from the 19th century. A rich collection of museum exponents is kept at this spiritual cloister – manuscripts, documents and icons. An ethnographic exhibition of woven fabrics and carpets, jewellery and products of wrought iron is also shown. The monastery has a library with a fund of more than 16,000 books.

A few kilometres from Veliko Tarnovo in the Village of Arbanasi two monasteries can be found which have preserved the spirit of the epoch of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. The men’s figures and the scenes of Jesus Christ’s life are impressing, painted in daring hues and wide range of colours, as well as the variety of the architectural decoration.

The Bachkovo Monastery is one of the oldest ones in Bulgaria. It rises above a picturesque river valley to the South of the city of Plovdiv. The monastery attracts with its original architectural solutions, rich collection of icons and adornments and some of Zachari Zograf’s first works.

Situated in the Pirin Mountain, only a few kilometres from the picturesque town of Melnik, the Rozhen Monastery is the only one restored at the beginning of the Ottoman rule and survived unchanged until present times.

The monastery was built around 12th – 13th century by the ruler of Melnik, Despot Slav and it is famous mainly with its wood iconostasis and works of the calligraphic art.

Travelling in Bulgaria

The Bulgarian contribution to the world cultural heritage consists of seven Bulgarian cultural monuments and two wonders of nature. They are protected by UNESCO, along with about 300 more world landmarks.
These pearls in the crown of the Bulgarian tourist sites are:
• Rila Monastery

• Town of Nesebar
In 1983 Nesebar was listed in the UNESCO List of World Cultural Monuments. With the help of through archaeological excavations, supporting activities and restoration the material historical testimony has been preserved.

• The Kazanlak Tomb
The Kazanlak Tomb is situated in the romantic Rose Valley and it was built in 4 B.C. for the rich Thracian rulers.

• The Tomb in the Village of Sveshtari
The Tomb of Sveshtari dates back to 2300 years ago. It is located in a region pronounced for an archaeological reserve, near the town of Razgrad. The monument impresses with the abundance of sculpture ornaments and stylised figures and represents a true monument of Thracian art.

• The Madara Rider
23 m. above the ground in the Balkan massif a figure of a rider is carved who symbolises the might and grandeur of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. The Madara Rider bears the mark of the early Middle Ages and is the only one of its kind in Europe.

• The Boyana Church
The Boyana Church is situated in the foot of the Vitosha Mountain, in the outskirts of the capital city of Sofia. The church is remarkable for its numerous images of saints and martyrs, the work of an anonymous artist. On the walls of the Boyana Church the images of the founders Kaloyan and Desislava have been immortalised, as well as of the Tsar couple – Tsar Konstantin and Tsaritsa Irina. These masterpieces of pictorial arts of the 13th century mark a peculiar pinnacle in the development of the Eastern Orthodox painting.

• Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo
Situated at the background of picturesque scenery in a river valley near the city of Ruse at the Danube River, the rock monasteries are built by monks in the period 11th – 14th century with aim of making closer the ling with God. Talented artists have painted them with realistic frescos, thus turning them into peculiar treasury of the Bulgarian Medieval pictorial art.

• Pirin National Park

• Srebarna Lake
Srebarna Lake is situated just by the Danube River, 16 km to the West of the town of Silistra. It stretches over an area of 600 ha and is declared a reserve. About 100 species of birds nest in the surrounding area, some of them are threatened with extinction.


The Bulgarian cuisine is distinguished with its strong taste, numerous condiments and spices and variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, carefully prepared main dishes and desserts. Among the traditional Bulgarian specialties are banitsa, musaka with minced meat and potatoes, banska kapama, Thracian katma, cabbage or vine-leaf sarma, lukanka, sudzhuk, pastarma, shopska salad, Bulgarian white brine cheese and home-made yoghurt.

Along with France, Spain, Italy and Greece Bulgaria is one of the biggest producers of wine in the world. The experienced connoisseurs distinguish the Bulgarian red wine sorts of Gamza, Pamid, Mavrud, Cabernet and Merlot and the white sorts of Muskat and Misket.

The traditional Bulgarian aperitif is the rakia – grape or plum which goes with vegetable salad.

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