Country Information Bulgaria
at a glance
civilization and culture
AT A GLANCE
110 910 square kilometres
7.2 million (July 2009)
Sofia (1.36 million inhabitants 2009)
Bulgarian (other languages: Turkish 9,6 % and Roma 4,1 %)
Gross national product per capita
US$ 12900 (2008) (PPP)
-0.79 % (2009)
73,1 years (men: 69,5 years, women: 76,9 years) (2009)
17,9 per 1000 live births (2009)
Rate of illiteracy
1.5 % (men 1 %; women 2 %,) (2007)
Long beaches, wooded mountain ranges, and wide fields of maize and wheat are characteristic features of this country on the Black Sea coast. Impressive ancient monuments remain from the Thrace, Greek, Macedonian, Roman and Byzantine cultures, as well as by the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria is a country of beautiful landscapes and architectural diversity. According to UNWTO in the year 2005 approximately 4,8 million guests came into the country and paid 2 billion Euro.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism
Bulgaria is a transit country for people traffickers from the Ukraine, Romania, Russia and Uzbekistan. But Bulgarians are also transported to other European states for sexual exploitation, primarily Gypsy women and girls.
Bulgaria is also a target country for child abusers. According to non-governmental organisations, the victims are mostly girls, and in many cases they are pressed into sex with strangers because of the living conditions in their families.
Bulgaria ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and in February 2002 the optional protocols on child trafficking, child prostitution, and child pornography. Child abuse, that is any sexual act with minors, is subject to prosecution in the country of origin of the perpetrator under the laws of that country, in the event that there are no criminal proceedings in Bulgaria.
HIV / AIDS
According to UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, approximately less than 500 people in Bulgaria were infected with HIV at the end of 2005. But there are no sure informations about that. With the spread of prostitution, there are also fears of an increase in the frequency of HIV and AIDS.
Animus Association / La Strada Bulgaria
Rehabilitation center for women, adolescents and children survivors of violence
85 Ekzarh Yossif St.
1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
Phone: +359 2 9835205
Fax: +359 2 9835305
Society for Neglected Children
(Drujenie Prenebregnati Detza)
Apt 42 Block 302
1309 Sofia, Bulgaria
Phone: +359 2 218 753
Fax: +359 2 832 025
South East European Child Rights Action Network
Metelkova 6, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Phone: +386 1 438 5250
Fax: +386 1 432 3383
CIVILIZATION AND CULTURE
In the 7th century the Bulgars established the first Bulgarian empire, which expanded to cover most of the Balkans. Christianity became the official religion in the 9th century. In the late 14th century Bulgaria fell to the Turks and lost its independence for five hundred years.
Bulgaria sought independence after Russo-Turkish War (1877-78), but this was in part revised by the Berlin Congress, and it finally became formally independent in 1908. Bulgaria allied with Serbia, Greece and Montenegro in the Balkan League and in 1912 began a war against the Ottoman Empire to liberate Macedonia. Disagreements in the aftermath of this led to the 2nd Balkan War, which Bulgaria lost against Serbia and Greece, ceding territory to both and to Turkey in consequence.
In 1915, Bulgaria sided with the Central Powers in the First World War, and with Germany in the Second World War. It fell into the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union and in 1946 a people's republic was declared. The communist leader resigned in 1989 following political unrest and a process of democratisation began. In March 2004 Bulgaria joined NATO.
State and society
Under the constitution of 1991, Bulgaria is a republic with a National Assembly. The president and the head of government are elected directly. The elections of 2001 were won by the newly-founded National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), led by the former monarch Simeon II, who had returned from Spanish exile. The prime goal of the government was to improve the standard of living by increasing wages and reducing taxes.
The majority of the population are ethnic Bulgarian (85%), followed by Turkish (10%), Gypsy (3.4%) and others (1.6%). There are no severe ethnic conflicts, although the Gypsy population are not really integrated in society.
Many people declare no active religious affiliation, but the largest religious group is still the Bulgarian Orthodox church; more than 10% are Muslims.
Although there has been a steady economic improvement over the past decade, this positive development has by no means reached all strata of society. Many people in Bulgaria do not have sufficient income to secure the minimum standard of living – every sixth Bulgarian lives below the poverty limit. Rising prices for electricity, water and district heating have led to falling real incomes for the unemployed, old people, and others dependent on social support. Although the government adopted counter measures, about 1 million people were increasingly disconnected from the economic upswing at the beginning of the 21st century. The situation is particularly difficult for the Gypsies, many of whom live in poverty, with 80% unemployed.
Various non-governmental organisations have expressed grave concerns about the conditions in care homes, particularly those for the mental handicapped.
Over the past eight years the Bulgarian economy has undergone a surprising transformation. Whereas the country found itself in a severe economic and banking crisis in 1996 due to high foreign debts, a range of effective measures have since been adopted, including structural reforms and the privatisation of almost all state-owned enterprises. As a result, inflation could be reduced to 3.8% (2002), with a growth rate of 5.3% (2004). In the same economic year, Bulgaria generated a trading surplus and was able to repay some external debts. However, the situation on the labour market was less positive, with a 12,7% (2004) rate of unemployment.
The positive economic development did not provide benefits for all the population. Sinking real incomes led to a worsening of the position of social groups who were already living near the existence minimum, in particular the elderly, the unemployed and the sick.