Bulgaria applies for international recognition

Iana Vladimirova

Iana Vladimirova

As soon as I open my mouth to say “How are you?” everybody notices my accent. Then comes the question, “Where are you from?” I used to be very assertive in explaining about my motherland, Bulgaria, and from the way people looked at me and nodded, I was sure my country was well known to them. Then I met a girl who asked me, “Iana, I know that the question is stupid, but is Bulgaria the capital of Germany?”

I have decided it is better just to answer that I am from Europe. Right now, however, I do need to introduce Bulgaria as a separate country, because it is exactly Bulgaria’s distinctive features that saved the Bulgarian Jews during World War II. And so I submit this resumé in order that Bulgaria may apply for the position of world recognition and understanding.

Area: 110,993 square kilometers of the Balkan Peninsula

Population: 8 million. The Bulgarian ethnic group represents 85.8 percent of the population. Other major ethnic groups are Turks, 9.7 percent; and Roma (gypsies), 3.4 percent. 85 percent of Bulgarians are Christian Orthodox; 13 percent are Muslim.

Capital City: Sofia

Other Major Cities: Plovdiv, Varna

Unit of Currency: Lev (BGL) $1 = 1.92 BGL (August 2002)

Borders: To the North — Romania and the Danube River

To the East — the Black Sea

To the South — Turkey and Greece

To the West — Macedonia and Serbia

System of Government: Parliamentary Republic

Climate: Moderate continental climate with Mediterranean influence in the southern parts of the country

Landscape: Highly diverse. The lowlands of the Danube plains dominate the North, and in the South there are beautiful mountains (the Balkan, Rila, Pirin, the Rhodopes). Along the Black Sea there are approximately 130 km of beaches, most of which contain exotic resorts.

History: Founded in 681, Bulgaria is one of the oldest European states. The present-day Bulgarian lands were populated as early as the Paleolithic period, so Bulgaria has a rich historical heritage. It boasts nine cultural monuments and natural reserves featured in the UNESCO list.

The Thracians, who occupied Bulgarian territory from the sixth century BC until the sixth century AD, were reported by Herodotus to be second only to the Indians in numbers. They provided classical antiquity with gods and goddesses like Dionysus, Hephaestus, Artemis and Ares. The famous musicians Orpheus and Spartacus are Thracians. Thracians fought in the Trojan War on the side of the Achaeans. There is no doubt that Thracian culture is part of the foundation of modern civilization. Numerous Thracian tombs and artifacts are still being discovered in Bulgaria today.

In the seventh-sixth centuries BC, the Hellenic colonization of the Bulgarian lands began. Most of the present-day seaboard towns were founded by Hellenic merchants. In the fourth century BC, a large part of the territory was conquered by the Macedonian, Philip II, and his son, Alexander the Great. As part of Alexander’s army, the Thracian detachments reached Egypt, Persia and India.

In the first century AD, the time of the Roman Caesars and their legions came. The major highways of contemporary Bulgaria often follow the beds of the roads then constructed by the Romans. It was the Romans who laid the foundations of many new towns.

During the Great Migration of Peoples, dozens of tribes crossed the Balkan Peninsula, each one leaving its traces. Many of these went to the West and were involved in the formation of contemporary European nations. Of all these migrations, the Slavic invasion was the most significant for Bulgaria. The area surrounding the Danube delta was also invaded by the Proto-Bulgarians — a people of Turk origin. Making an alliance with the Slav tribes, they founded a new state, named after them — Bulgaria. Thus the First Bulgarian Kingdom was established. During that period, two important events took place: the conversion to Christianity and the creation of a Slavonic alphabet, which marked the beginning of the so-called Golden Age.

Bulgaria was converted to Christianity in 865, and the first translations of the Holy Scriptures from Greek into Slavonic were made in Old Bulgarian, which became the language of church, literature and administration in a number of Slavonic and non-Slavic countries. The two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, created the Old Bulgarian alphabet, known as the Cyrillic script, which is still used in Bulgaria, Russia, Serbia, Belarus, the Ukraine, etc.

In 1018, Bulgaria was conquered by the Byzantine Empire.

The Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185-1396) was initiated after a successful uprising of the Bulgarian aristocracy. The city of Turnovo was chosen to become the capital. This kingdom was fated by history to play an important part in the period of the Ottoman Muslim invasion. At the price of its independence, Bulgaria blocked the Sultan’s expansion to Europe. For virtually five centuries, Bulgaria was a province in the Ottoman Empire.

The Third Bulgarian Kingdom originated from the San Stephano Peace Treaty signed on March 3, 1878. Only several months later, it was revised at the Congress of Berlin by the then Great Powers — Germany, Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary and Russia. The new agreement harmed, in varying degrees, the interests of all the Balkan nations.

Bulgaria was divided into three parts. South Bulgaria was proclaimed to be an autonomous province named Eastern Rumelia. Macedonia remained within the confines of the Ottoman Empire, and was later divided between Greece and Serbia. The unrealized ideal of national unification predetermined Bulgaria’s joining the Central Powers in World War I and Germany in World War II.

After World War II, in consequence of the agreements between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt, Bulgaria fell under the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union. Forty-two years of heavy-handed Communist totalitarian rule followed. All democratic opposition was crushed, agriculture and industry were nationalized, and the country became one of the main economic partners of the former Soviet Union. Since 1990, Bulgaria has been a pluralistic, multi-party state and a parliamentary republic.

Interesting Facts

* 10 percent of the world’s rose oil comes from Bulgarian roses.

* Winston Churchill’s favorite wine was the rich red wine from Melnik, Bulgaria.

* Music from “The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices” was included in a time capsule placed in the Voyager 2 space shuttle.

* The Bulgarian Yogurt culture, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, cultivates the richest and healthiest yogurt worldwide, and can only be grown in Bulgaria.

* Bulgaria is the third largest exporter of herbs in the world.

* John Atanasov, an American of Bulgarian decent, is credited with inventing the modern computer.