Bulgaria, republic in southeastern Europe, known from 1946 to 1990 as the People's Republic of Bulgaria. Situated in the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria is bounded on the north by Romania, on the east by the Black Sea, on the south by Turkey and Greece, and on the west by Serbia (part of the federation of Serbia and Montenegro) and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Once an independent kingdom, Bulgaria was dominated by the Communist party from 1946 until 1990, when a multiparty system was adopted. During the Communist period, when Bulgaria was under the control of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the once-dominant agricultural sector was overtaken by manufacturing. The capital and largest city is Sofiya. The area of Bulgaria is 110,912 sq km (42,823 sq mi).
Land and Resources
More than half of Bulgaria is hilly or mountainous; the average elevation is about 480 m (about 1575 ft). The Balkan Mountains cross the country from the northwestern corner to the Black Sea and form the watershed between the Danube River and the Aegean Sea. The northern side of the Balkan Mountains slopes gradually to form the northern Bulgarian plateau, which ends at the Danube River. The central portion of the southern side of the range is fringed by a series of narrow plains, notably the Thracian Plain. In the southern part of the country are the broad and irregular Rhodope Mountains, which delineate the boundary with Greece. At the western end of these mountains, in southwestern Bulgaria, are the Rila Mountains, which culminate in Musala Peak (2925 m/9597 ft), the highest point in the Balkans. Several smaller ranges lie along the western boundaries.
The principal river draining Bulgaria is the Danube, which has among its Bulgarian tributaries the Iskùr (about 370 km/about 230 mi long) and the Yantra (about 290 km/about 180 mi long). Other important rivers are the Kamchiya (about 180 km/about 110 mi long), which empties into the Black Sea, and in the southwest, the Struma and Mesta, which flow south to the Aegean Sea.
Most of Bulgaria has a continental climate, with cold winters and hot summers. The climate in general is more severe than in other European areas of the same latitudes, and the average annual temperature range is greater than that of neighboring countries. Severe droughts, frosts, wind, and hail frequently damage crops. A Mediterranean climate, with dry summers and mild, humid winters, prevails in the valley of the southwestern Rhodope Mountains; the northern limit of the climatic zone is the Balkan Mountains.
The average annual temperature is about 12.8° C (about 55° F). The average rainfall is about 635 mm (about 25 in) per year, ranging from a low of 193 mm (7.6 in) in the northeast, to a high of 1905 mm (75 in) in the Rila Mountains. The wettest period is early summer in most of the country and autumn or winter in the southern valleys.
The main resources of Bulgaria are agricultural. The country also has a wealth of metallic and nonmetallic minerals, mainly iron ore and coal. Other mineral reserves are small, but some deposits, particularly those of manganese and petroleum, are valuable.
Plants and Animals
Approximately one-third of Bulgaria is forested, and half this area supports tall trees suitable for timber. About 30 percent of the timber trees are conifers. The Balkan Mountains and their foothills support forests of various trees. Conifers, beech, and oak are found in the timber zone of the Rhodope Mountains and their western extensions. Wild animal life is confined to the mountainous southwestern portion of the country, where bear, wolf, elk, fox, and wildcat are found.
Soil types vary considerably. Some tablelands have fertile black and gray soils, high in humus content and well suited for growing grain. The Thracian Plain contains brown, loamy soils that are fertile and adapted to diversified cultivation. Deforestation and inadequate soil-conservation practices have caused gradual deterioration of several fertile areas.
About 85 percent of the population is classified as ethnic Bulgarian and about 9 percent is Turkish, a group that has suffered serious discrimination. Small groups of Armenians, Gypsies, Greeks, and Macedonian Slavs also inhabit the country. The population of Bulgaria became increasingly urbanized after 1945, and today about 71 percent of the people live in urban areas (1995 estimate).
The population of Bulgaria (1995 estimate) is 8,887,000. The 1985 census population was 8,948,649; the subsequent decrease is partly attributable to the mass emigration of Turks fleeing government persecution in the late 1980s. Bulgaria has a population density of about 80 persons per sq km (about 208 persons per sq mi).
Political Divisions and Principal Cities
Bulgaria's principal political divisions include 8 administrative regions, the city of Sofiya (with 12 districts), and more than 4000 village communes (obshtinas). Sofiya is the largest city, with an estimated population of 1,141,142 in 1990. Other major cities are Plovdiv (379,083), a center for light industry; and Varna (314,913), the principal seaport.
Language and Religion
The official language is Bulgarian, spoken by about 90 percent of the population. See Bulgarian Language; Bulgarian Literature.
For more than 40 years the Bulgarian government promoted atheism, to which an estimated 65 percent of the population subscribed in the early 1980s. The governmental reform of the late 1980s loosened religious restrictions, however, and by the early 1990s almost 90 percent of the population belonged to the Bulgarian Orthodox church (an Eastern Orthodox branch). Other religious groups include Muslims, Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Jews.
Education and Culture
In the Middle Ages (especially in the 10th and 11th centuries), Bulgaria was the center of Slavic culture. Over the centuries Bulgarian culture has been influenced successively by Byzantine, Greek, Russian, and Western cultures.
All schools in Bulgaria are free and state controlled and were modeled after those in the former USSR. A major aim of the Bulgarian educational system is to supply technical and skilled workers to meet the growing demands of industry. Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 16. In the late 1980s approximately 1,091,100 pupils attended elementary schools in Bulgaria, and about 402,800 students were enrolled in secondary, vocational, and teacher-training schools.
The country has about 30 institutions of higher learning, including the University of Sofiya and various specialized professional institutes. Total yearly enrollment in the late 1980s amounted to approximately 116,400 students.
Libraries and Museums
Large libraries in Sofiya include the Central Library of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the library of the University of Sofiya, and the Cyril and Methodius National Library. The Ivan Vazov National Library is located in Plovdiv. In addition, the people of Bulgaria are served by many smaller public libraries.
The country has more than 200 museums. In Sofiya are botanical and zoological museums and gardens; the National Archaeological Museum, with a collection of old coins and finds from many ancient burial mounds; and the National Ethnographical Museum. Other museums in the country are devoted to history, science, and the revolutionary movement.
Art and Architecture
The 13th-century frescoes of the Boyana Church near Sofiya are outstanding examples of the painting of that period. Bulgarian handicrafts include rich folk embroideries and ornaments. Some of the best sculpture, wood carving, etchings, and painting are based on traditional culture and native subjects. Outstanding Bulgarian artists include the etcher Peter Morozov, the painter Vladimir Dimitrov, and the sculptors Ivan Lazarov and Christo. The last-named, an avant-garde artist noted for his technique of wrapping objects and landscape features, now lives in the United States.
The chief architectural monuments of Bulgaria are medieval churches and monasteries. The oldest is the circular Church of Saint George in Sofiya, originally a pagan temple. The Rila Monastery, founded in the 9th century, is striking in its mountainous setting. An important monument of the 11th century is Bachkovo Monastery, south of Plovdiv. A major modern structure is the large, ornate Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofiya.
Traditional Bulgarian music includes folk songs and choral plain chants in the Greek mode for church services. The chief native musical instruments are the gaida (bagpipe) and the kaval (a wooden shepherd's flute). The characteristic folk dances are variations of the hora, a round chain dance, and the ruchenitsa, a lively dance of two couples. Modern Bulgarian orchestral and operatic compositions have occasionally gained recognition in other countries. Among leading composers are Petko Stainov and Pancho Vladigerov.
Until 1947 Bulgaria was predominantly agricultural, with virtually no heavy industry. In Communist Bulgaria following World War II (1939-1945), all industrial enterprises were nationalized and operated under a series of five-year economic plans, modeled after the Soviet system, with financial aid from the USSR. Heavy industry was the government's highest priority. Since the mid-1950s new resorts have been developed along the Black Sea, partly by private individuals, in an attempt to attract foreign visitors. In the early 1990s the national budget included about $8 billion in revenues and $5 billion in expenditures.
Collectivization of agriculture in Bulgaria was begun in the early 1950s; in the late 1980s most farmland was part of the country's collective and state farms. Private holdings were limited to a small size, but accounted for more than one-quarter of total agricultural output. The chief crops are wheat, rye, corn, barley, oats, cotton, tobacco, grapes, tomatoes, sugarbeets, potatoes, and cabbage. In the late 1980s some 4.7 million metric tons of wheat, 1.6 million metric tons of corn, and 117,000 metric tons of tobacco were harvested each year.
The livestock sector of farming has also been socialized. In the late 1980s the livestock population included some 40 million poultry, 8.9 million sheep, 4 million pigs, and 1.6 million cattle.
Forestry and Fishing
The principal Bulgarian timber areas are in the vicinity of the Rila, Rhodope, and Balkan mountains. In the late 1980s about 3.7 million cu m (about 131 million cu ft) of timber were produced each year.
The fishing industry, which began to expand in the 1960s and 1970s, produced a catch of about 110,500 metric tons annually in the late 1980s. Mackerel typically makes up about 65 percent of the total catch. Canning and processing plants are located at Varna and Burgas, on the Black Sea coast.
Coal furnishes the bulk of Bulgaria's mineral production. More than half the total coal production goes to industry, and the annual output (43.9 million metric tons in the late 1980s) has expanded to meet domestic demand. Petroleum was discovered in 1951; in the late 1980s about 2.1 million barrels of crude oil were produced each year. Annual production of iron ore was about 1.85 million metric tons. Copper, zinc, lead, and natural gas are also commercially exploited.
Since the nationalization of the Bulgarian manufacturing industry, many sectors have substantially increased their total output. In 1939 manufacturing and construction together represented about one-fourth of total production; in the late 1980s the two sectors accounted for more than 65 percent of the country's net material product (a Communist gauge of national output that excludes public administration, professional services, and other activities not contributing directly to material production). The metalworking and chemical industries, as well as the food-processing, tobacco-processing, and machinery-manufacturing enterprises, are among the newer, more productive areas. Textiles are the oldest manufacture of Bulgaria and, except for cotton goods, largely use domestic raw materials. The manufacture of building materials, including cement, brick, and glass, is well developed. Leather goods and leather and rubber footwear are well-established manufactures but are not yet equal to demand. Metallurgical and metalwork industries are largely dependent on imports of raw materials. The ores mined domestically, however, are refined and fabricated into manufactures in Bulgaria. Machine building and engineering are being expanded, especially for light electrical equipment. The most famous product of Bulgaria is attar of roses, which is used as a perfume base.
In the late 1980s about 65 percent of Bulgaria's electricity production was generated in thermal plants fired by coal, lignite, and petroleum products. The country's first nuclear power station was opened at Kozloduy in 1974, and within ten years nuclear facilities accounted for almost one-third of electricity output. In the late 1980s Bulgaria had an installed electricity generating capacity of about 10.7 million kilowatts, and annual electricity production was some 43.5 billion kilowatt-hours.
Currency and Banking
The unit of currency in Bulgaria is the lev (29.51 lev equal U.S.$1; 1993). All banks were nationalized in 1947. The National Bank of Bulgaria is the bank of issue and handles government funds and nationalized enterprises. The State Savings Bank has numerous agencies and branches throughout the country.
Commerce and Trade
Most Bulgarian foreign trade is with the republics of the former USSR and other Eastern European countries. In the West, Italy and Germany are the main trade partners. Trade with the United States is negligible.
Annual exports in the late 1980s were valued at about $16.8 billion. The chief exports were machinery, food products, tobacco, nonferrous metals, cast iron, leather products, and textiles. Yearly imports in the same period were valued at about $16.9 billion. The principal imports were petroleum, natural gas, machinery, transportation equipment, steel, cellulose, and timber.
Bulgaria is largely dependent for transport on railroads, with about 4300 km (2670 mi) of track in use. The country is also served by about 37,910 km (23,560 mi) of roads. A major event in the development of transportation in Bulgaria was the opening of the Ruse-Giurgiu rail-and-road bridge over the Danube River in 1954; it is the chief bridge of its type connecting Bulgaria and Romania.
The Danube River is a major artery of commerce. Of the dozen Danube ports, Ruse, Svishtov, Lom, and Vidin have the greatest importance. Much of the Bulgarian freight and passenger traffic with the countries of the former Soviet bloc uses the Danube and the Black Sea. Balkan Bulgarian Airlines, the national airline, serves the major cities of the country as well as many international destinations.
In the late 1980s about 2.1 million telephones were in operation in Bulgaria, and some 2 million radios were in use. Television started on an experimental basis in 1954 and was officially inaugurated in 1959. By the late 1980s, some 20 television stations were in operation, and about 1.7 million television sets were in use.
Until recently, all Bulgarian periodicals were published either by the government or by government-approved organizations, and reflected government policy. In the late 1980s about 17 dailies, with a combined circulation of 2.8 million, were being published. The leading dailies early in 1992 were Workers' Cause, formerly the official organ of the Communist party, and Democracy, both published in Sofiya.
In 1990 sweeping changes occurred in the labor movement in Bulgaria. In February the Central Council of Trade Unions declared its independence from the Communist party and changed its name to the Executive Committee of Independent Trade Unions. In March the National Assembly legalized strikes and the formerly underground labor organization Podkrepa held its founding congress.
From 1946 to 1990, Bulgaria had a Communist form of government with only one legal political party, the Communist party. Early in 1990, however, the Bulgarian constitution was amended to allow a multiparty system, and in July 1991 a new constitution was approved.
Executive and Legislature
The government of Bulgaria is led by the president of the republic, who is directly elected by universal suffrage for a term of five years. The legislature is a unicameral body called the National Assembly, which consists of 240 members. The Assembly elects the Council of Ministers, which is the highest administrative body in the Bulgarian government.
The constitution enacted in 1991 provides for an independent judiciary and for the establishment of a constitutional court. The supreme court sits in Sofiya. Other tribunals in Bulgaria include provincial courts, regional courts, and military courts.
During 1990 and 1991, the period of Communist domination ended and Bulgaria became a multiparty state. More than 60 political parties contested the parliamentary elections of October 1991. The Union of Democratic Forces, which began as a coalition of opposition groups, won a slim majority; the Bulgarian Socialist party (the renamed Communists) came in second.
Prior to 1990, the Communist party exercised political power through its mass organization, the Fatherland Front. The Front was formed in 1943 as a coalition of Communists, Socialists, and other factions. Membership in the Front was about 4.4 million in the late 1980s; the Communist party at that time had some 930,000 regular and candidate members. The Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union, a remnant of what was formerly the largest political party in Bulgaria, was a subordinate part of the Fatherland Front until 1990, when its former political rights were restored.
Health and Welfare
Matters of health and medicine in Bulgaria are under the overall control of the ministry of public health. Health services are provided free to all, although physicians are permitted part-time private practice. In the late 1980s Bulgarians were served by more than 27,000 physicians and 5600 dentists.
A program providing pensions, recreational facilities, and welfare benefits was established in 1958. Funds are contributed by employers, and payments are provided for in the national budget. The state provides monthly allowances to parents with children under the age of 16.
The Bulgarian armed forces have up-to-date equipment that was supplied by the USSR. The army had about 2700 tanks and 97,000 troops in 1990. Air Force personnel numbered 22,000 in that year, and there were about 250 combat aircraft. The navy had a force of 8000 and maintained three major bases on the Black Sea. Paramilitary forces, including border guards and security police, numbered about 175,000.
All regions, municipalities, and communes are administered by popularly elected people's councils. Council members are elected to terms of two and one-half years. The councils are responsible for all economic, cultural, and social problems within the area and supervise all government-owned enterprises.
The region now called Bulgaria was once part of the Roman Empire and comprised parts of the provinces of Thrace and Moesia. It was inhabited by the Thraco-Illyrians. Beginning in the 6th century AD Slavic tribes migrated into the region and either absorbed or drove out the original inhabitants. During the latter part of the 7th century a tribe of Bulgars (people of Turkic stock) migrated from their domain on the east side of the Black Sea, crossed the lower reaches of the Danube River, and subjugated Lower Moesia, then a province of the Byzantine Empire. Imperial armies failed repeatedly to dislodge the invaders during the 8th century. Fewer in number than the Slavic population of Lower Moesia, the Bulgars gradually became Slavicized during this period. By the end of the century they had annexed considerable additional territory and laid the foundations for a strong state under Khan Krum who reigned from 803 to 814. The Krum armies inflicted a devastating defeat on an invading Byzantine force in 811 and, assuming the offensive, nearly succeeded in 813 in taking Constantinople. Bulgarian-Byzantine relations were thereafter relatively peaceful and continued to be so during the first half of the 9th century. The immediate successors of Krum enlarged their dominions, mainly in the region of Serbia and Macedonia. In 860, however, during the reign of Boris I, Bulgaria suffered a severe military setback at the hands of the Serbs. Four years later Boris, responding to pressure from the Byzantine emperor Michael III, made Christianity the official religion of the khanate. Boris accepted the primacy of the papacy in 866, but in 870, following the refusal of Pope Adrian II to make Bulgaria an archbishopric, he shifted his allegiance to the Eastern Orthodox church.
The First Bulgarian Empire
In the late 9th and early 10th centuries, Bulgaria became the strongest nation of Eastern Europe during the reign of Boris's son Simeon. A brilliant administrator and military leader, Simeon introduced Byzantine culture into his realm, encouraged education, obtained new territories, defeated the Magyars (Hungarians), and conducted a series of successful wars against the Byzantine Empire. In 925 Simeon proclaimed himself czar (emperor) of the Greeks and Bulgars. He conquered Serbia in 926 and became the most powerful monarch in contemporary Eastern Europe. Simeon's reign was marked by great cultural advances led by the followers of Saint Cyril and his brother Saint Methodius, the "apostles of the Slavs" (see Cyril (827-869) and Methodius (826?-884), Saints). During this period Old Church Slavonic, the first written Slavic language, and the Cyrillic alphabet were adopted.
Weakened by domestic strife and successive Magyar raids, Bulgarian power declined steadily during the following half-century. In 969 invading Russians seized the capital and captured the royal family. The Byzantine emperor John I Tzimisces, alarmed over the Russian advance into southeastern Europe, intervened (970) in the Russo-Bulgarian conflict. The Russians were compelled to withdraw from Bulgaria in 972, and the eastern part of the country was annexed to the Byzantine Empire. Samuel, the son of a Bulgarian provincial governor, became ruler of western Bulgaria in 976. Samuel's armies were annihilated in 1014 by the Byzantine emperor Basil II, who incorporated the short-lived state into his empire in 1018.
The Second Empire and Turkish Rule
Led by the nobles Ivan Asen and Peter Asen, the Bulgarians revolted against Byzantine rule in 1185 and established a second empire. It consisted initially of the region between the Balkan Mountains and the Danube; by the early 13th century it included extensive neighboring territories, notably sections of Serbia and all of western Macedonia. In 1204, following the Latin occupation of Constantinople, Ivan and Peter's brother, Kaloyan temporarily broke with the Eastern Orthodox church and accepted the primacy of the pope (renouncing it again in 1234). Ivan Asen II, the fifth ruler of the Asen dynasty, added western Thrace, the remainder of Macedonia, and part of Albania to the empire in 1230.
Feudal strife and involvement in foreign wars caused gradual disintegration of the empire after the death of Ivan Asen II. The Bulgarian armies were decisively defeated by the Serbs in 1330, and for the next quarter century the second empire was little more than a dependency of Serbia. Shortly after 1360 the Ottoman Turks began to ravage the Maritsa Valley, completing the subjugation of Bulgaria in 1396. During the next five centuries the political and cultural existence of Bulgaria was almost obliterated. After a century of terrorism and persecution, Turkish administration improved, and the economic condition of the remaining Bulgarians rose to a level higher than it had been under the kingdom, although unsuccessful revolts against Turkish rule occurred from time to time.
With the revival of a Bulgarian literature glorifying the history of the country, in the latter half of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th century, Bulgarian nationalism became a powerful movement. In 1876 the Bulgarians revolted against the Turks, but were quelled; in reprisal, the Turks massacred some 15,000 Bulgarian men, women, and children. In 1877, prompted by the desire to expand toward the Mediterranean Sea and by Pan-Slavic sentiment, Russia declared war on Turkey. As a result of the Russo-Turkish War, in which Turkey was defeated, a part of Bulgaria became an autonomous principality; another part, Eastern Rumelia, was made an autonomous Turkish province.
Elected by a Bulgarian assembly in 1879, the first prince of the new Bulgaria was a German, Alexander of Battenberg, also a prince and a nephew of Emperor Alexander II of Russia. Eastern Rumelia revolted against Turkey in 1885 and was united with Bulgaria. Russia, however, considered the action inopportune and withdrew all officers who had been detailed to train the Bulgarian army. Thereupon, Serbia declared war on Bulgaria but was quickly defeated. In 1886 a group of Russian and Bulgarian conspirators abducted Prince Alexander and established a Russian-dominated government. Within a few days the government was overthrown by the Bulgarian statesman Stepan Stambolov, but the Russians compelled Prince Alexander to abdicate. The new ruler, chosen in 1887, was Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Taking advantage of a revolution in Turkey, in 1908 Ferdinand declared Bulgaria independent and assumed the title of King, or Czar, Ferdinand I; he reigned from 1908 to 1918.
The Balkan Wars and World War I
In the First Balkan War (1912-1913) (see Balkan Wars), Bulgaria, allied with Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece, defeated Turkey. Division of the reconquered Balkan territories, however, resulted in the Second Balkan War, which Bulgaria lost to Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, Turkey, and Romania; as a consequence, Bulgaria lost considerable territory. Bulgaria entered World War I in 1915 on the side of the Central Powers, but was forced to agree on an armistice with the Allies in September 1918. Czar Ferdinand abdicated in October and was succeeded by his son, Boris III. By the Treaty of Neuilly on November 27, 1919, Bulgaria lost most of what it had gained in the Balkan Wars and all of its conquests from World War I. It was also required to abandon conscription, reduce armaments, and pay large reparations.
The Interwar Period and World War II
The Agrarian party government under Aleksandr Stambolisky, who became premier in 1919, attempted to improve the condition of the large peasant class and maintain friendly relations with the other Balkan countries. Stambolisky's dictatorial regime, unpopular with the army and the urban middle class, was overthrown by a coup d'état in 1923; he himself was captured and killed while seeking to escape. Internal dissension continued under the new government, which represented all political parties except the Agrarians, Communists, and Liberals. Bulgaria and Greece again came into conflict in 1925, and the Greek army invaded Bulgaria. The Council of the League of Nations brought the conflict to an end and penalized Greece. In 1934, Czar Boris staged a coup of his own and established a royal dictatorship. In September 1940, Germany compelled Romania to cede southern Dobruja to Bulgaria. In March 1941, under German pressure, Bulgaria joined the Axis powers, agreeing to immediate occupation by German forces. Bulgaria declared war on Greece and Yugoslavia in April, shortly afterward occupying all of Yugoslav Macedonia, Grecian Thrace, eastern Greek Macedonia, and the Greek districts of Florina and Kastoría. Bulgaria signed the Anti-Comintern Pact in November and the following month declared war on the United States and Great Britain. Although allied with Nazi Germany (see National Socialism), Czar Boris and his government resisted German demands for the persecution of Bulgarian Jews, most of whom survived the Holocaust.
When the tide of war turned against the Germans in 1943, German dictator Adolf Hitler attempted to force Bulgaria to declare war on the USSR. In August 1943, after returning from a meeting with Hitler, Czar Boris died under mysterious circumstances and was succeeded by his six-year-old son, Simeon II, and a pro-German government under Dobri Bozhilov. An anti-German resistance movement organized by the Communists and the Agrarians opposed the Bozhilov regime, which fell in May 1944. The succeeding government severed its ties with Germany, but it was too late. The USSR formally declared war on Bulgaria on September 5. No fighting occurred, and the Bulgarian government subsequently asked the USSR for an armistice; Bulgaria, moreover, declared war on Germany on September 7. The armistice was agreed to by the USSR on September 9, and under the protection of Soviet forces a government subservient to the USSR was immediately established. The armistice, signed by the USSR, the United States, and Great Britain in October 1944, provided for the control of Bulgaria, until the signing of final peace treaties, by the Allied Control Commission under the chairmanship of the Soviet representative, who was also the commander of the Soviet occupation forces. The armistice provided also that the Bulgarians evacuate Yugoslav Macedonia and territories they had taken from Greece.
Soviet pressure in the Bulgarian election engaged the attention of Great Britain and the United States in the fall of 1945. National elections originally scheduled for August were postponed because of U.S. protests concerning the nature of Soviet political maneuvers within Bulgaria. The opposition parties boycotted the elections held on November 18, and a single list of candidates of the Communist-dominated Fatherland Front won 85 percent of the vote.
The Communist Regime
By a plebiscite in September 1946, the Bulgarians ousted Czar Simeon and ended the monarchy; a week later Bulgaria was proclaimed a people's republic. The constitution drawn up by the Fatherland Front, which won an overwhelming victory in the elections to the National Assembly, held in October, provided for freedom of the press, assembly, and speech. The National Assembly, which gained full control of state affairs, then elected the premier and also the president. The first president was Vasil Kolarov, a Communist party leader. Georgi Dimitrov, a former key figure in the Communist International, was elected premier in November 1946.
In February 1947, the peace treaty formally ending Bulgarian participation in World War II was signed in Paris. It provided for reparations to be paid to Greece in the amount of $45 million and to Yugoslavia in the amount of $25 million; severe limitation of military strength, with partial demilitarization along the Greek frontier; and the retention of southern Dobruja. (The borders with Greece were returned to their status as of 1941.) In December 1947 the National Assembly adopted a new constitution modeled on that of the USSR; this document replaced the presidency with the presidium, an executive committee. That September, Nikola Dimitrov Petkov, leader of the opposition to the Fatherland Front, had been executed after being convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government.
Under pressure from the USSR, Bulgaria renounced its treaty of friendship with Yugoslavia after the Soviet-Yugoslavian rift in 1948; relations with the country and its successor states have since continued to fluctuate, as have those with neighboring Greece and Turkey. Diplomatic ties with the United States, broken in 1950 but restored in 1959, have frequently been marred by Bulgarian accusations of U.S. espionage activities. The U.S. ministry was raised to the status of an embassy in 1966.
During most of the Communist period, under the leadership of Todor Zhivkovsecretary of the Communist party from 1954, the country's premier from 1964 to 1971, and head of state from 1971 to late 1989Bulgaria was one of the most restrictive societies among the former Soviet satellites. As a member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) and the Warsaw Pact, Bulgaria long remained among the USSR's most dependable allies. During the 1970s the country received substantial financial aid from the USSR, which was used for industrialization.
During the mid-1980s the Zhivkov government launched a campaign to assimilate members of Bulgaria's Turkish minority by forcing them to take Slavic names, prohibiting them from speaking Turkish in public, and subjecting them to other forms of harassment; during 1989 alone, more than 300,000 Bulgarian Turks crossed the border into Turkey to escape persecution. Late in 1989, Zhivkov was ousted from power and expelled from the Communist party; replacing him as general secretary was the foreign minister, Peter T. Mladenov. Under Mladenov's leadership, Bulgaria restored the civil rights of Bulgarian Turks and began to institute a multiparty system. In June 1990 the Communists, running as the Bulgarian Socialist party, won the nation's first free parliamentary elections since World War II. Mladenov, who had become president in April, resigned in July, and with Communist support the opposition leader, Zhelyu Zhelev, was chosen to succeed him. Under a new constitution providing for direct presidential voting, Zhelev won reelection in January 1992. In September, after an 18-month-long trial, Zhivkov was found guilty of corruption while in office and sentenced to seven years in prison.
After the 1991 elections, Bulgaria began to restructure its economy and enacted a plan to return land seized by the Communists to its original owners. The parliament also passed laws allowing foreign investment. However, with the collapse of COMECON, the trade association of the former USSR, Bulgaria lost many of its traditional markets and its economy suffered. By 1992 the economy had improved and the currency had stabilized. In 1993 laws allowing for the privatization of state-owned companies passed in the Bulgarian parliament. As a result, interests in the national airline, Balkan Airlines, as well as in other state-owned companies, were sold to foreign investors. In early 1994 the lev dropped considerably in value, prompting a sharp rise in short-term interest rates.