Welcome to Bulgaria
Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria, is a country in southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe's 16th-largest country.
Organised prehistoric cultures began developing on current Bulgarian lands during the Neolithic period. Its ancient history saw the presence of the Thracians, Greeks, Persians, Celts, Romans, Goths, Alans and Huns. The emergence of a unified Bulgarian state dates back to the establishment of the First Bulgarian Empire in 681 AD, which dominated most of the Balkans and functioned as a cultural hub for Slavs during the Middle Ages. With the downfall of the Second Bulgarian Empire in 1396, its territories came under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 led to the formation of the Third Bulgarian State. The following years saw several conflicts with its neighbours, which prompted Bulgaria to align with Germany in both world wars. In 1946 it became a one-party socialist state as part of the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. In December 1989 the ruling Communist Party allowed multi-party elections, which subsequently led to Bulgaria's transition into a democracy and a market-based economy.
Bulgaria's population of 7.2 million people is predominantly urbanised and mainly concentrated in the administrative centres of its 28 provinces. Most commercial and cultural activities are centred on the capital and largest city, Sofia. The strongest sectors of the economy are heavy industry, power engineering, and agriculture, all of which rely on local natural resources.
The country's current political structure dates to the adoption of a democratic constitution in 1991. Bulgaria is a unitary parliamentary republic with a high degree of political, administrative, and economic centralisation. It is a member of the European Union, NATO, and the Council of Europe; a founding state of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); and has taken a seat at the UN Security Council three times..
The population of Bulgaria is 7,364,570 people according to the 2011 national census. The majority of the population, or 72.5 percent, reside in urban areas; approximately one-sixth of the total population is concentrated in Sofia. Bulgarians are the main ethnic group and comprise 84.8 percent of the population. Turkish and Roma minorities comprise 8.8 and 4.9 percent, respectively; some 40 smaller minorities comprise 0.7 percent, and 0.8 percent do not self-identify with an ethnic group.
All ethnic groups speak Bulgarian, either as a first or as a second language. Bulgarian is the only language with official status and native for 85.2 percent of the population. The oldest written Slavic language, Bulgarian is distinguishable from the other languages in this group through certain grammatical peculiarities such as the lack of noun cases and infinitives, and a suffixed definite article.
Literacy and education
Government estimates from 2003 put the literacy rate at 98.6 percent, with no significant difference between the sexes. Educational standards have been traditionally high although still far from European benchmarks and in continuing deterioration for the past decade. Bulgarian students were among the highest-scoring in the world in terms of reading in 2001, performing better than their Canadian and German counterparts; by 2006, scores in reading, math and science had deteriorated. State expenditures for education are far below the European Union average. The PISA study of 2015 found 41.5% of pupils in the 9th grade to be functionally illiterate in reading, maths and science. Bulgaria ranked 45th out of 72 countries surveyed. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Science partially funds public schools, colleges and universities, sets criteria for textbooks and oversees the publishing process. The State provides free education in primary and secondary public schools. The educational process spans through 12 grades, where grades one through eight are primary and nine through twelve are secondary level. High schools can be technical, vocational, general or specialised in a certain discipline, while higher education consists of a 4-year bachelor degree and a 1-year master's degree.
The Constitution of Bulgaria defines it as a secular state with guaranteed religious freedom, but designates Orthodoxy as a "traditional" religion. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church gained autocephalous status in 927 AD, and currently has 12 dioceses and over 2,000 priests.] More than three-quarters of Bulgarians subscribe to Eastern Orthodoxy. Sunni Muslims are the second-largest community and constitute 10 percent of the religious makeup, although a majority of whom are not observant and find the use of Islamic veils in schools unacceptable. Less than three percent are affiliated with other religions, 11.8 percent do not self-identify with a religion and 21.8 percent refused to state their beliefs.
Bulgaria has a universal healthcare system financed by taxes and contributions. The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) pays a gradually increasing portion of the costs of primary healthcare. Projected healthcare expenditures for 2013 amount to 4.1 percent of GDP. The number of doctors is above the EU average with 181 physicians per 100,000 people, but distribution by fields of practice is uneven, there is a severe shortage of nurses and other medical personnel, and the quality of most medical facilities is poor.Personnel shortages in some fields are so severe that patients resort to seeking treatment in neighboring countries. Bulgaria ranks 121st globally by average life expectancy, which stands at 74.5 years for both genders. The primary causes of death are similar to those in other industrialised countries, mainly cardiovascular diseases, neoplasms and respiratory diseases.
Population growth and birthrates
Bulgaria is in a state of demographic crisis. It has had negative population growth since the early 1990s, when the economic collapse caused a long-lasting emigration wave.[ Some 937,000 to 1,200,000 people—mostly young adults—left the country by 2005. The total fertility rate (TFR) was estimated in 2013 at 1.43 children born/woman, which is below the replacement rate of 2.1. A third of all households consist of only one person and 75.5 percent of families do not have children under the age of 16. Consequently, population growth and birth rates are among the lowest in the world while death rates are among the highest. The majority of children are born to unmarried women (of all births 57.4 percent were outside marriage in 2012).