Introduction To Bulgaria

Bulgaria was founded in the year 681, but now is not the time to discuss its Medieval history. Later we will also speak of the ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman civilizations which each left their mark on these Bulgarian lands. At this moment, we must concern ourselves with understanding the nature of Bulgaria today and will quickly summarize key events of more recent times.

The Turkish Yoke

In the 14th century Bulgaria was captured and brutally ruled by the Ottoman Empire. For 500 years, the Turks made a determined effort to destroy Bulgarian Christianity and the Bulgarian language. In 1876 a rebellion broke out – the famous April Uprising. The subsequent reprisals of the Turks (famous as the “Bulgarian atrocities”) provided a reason for Tsar Alexander of Russia to liberate his neighbours.

The result of the Turko-Russian War was an immense increase of hopes for Bulgaria. Becoming independent, it stepped into the civilized Europe it truly belonged to. The peace put a stop to the ceaseless, grinding, bloody tyranny that had desolated the Balkans for so many centuries. After the restoration of the national state in 1878, Bulgaria became a constitutional monarchy with a democratic governmental system and a rapidly growing economy.


Fascism began to develop in Bulgaria, as in the rest of the Balkans, during the 1930s. King Boris III's movement toward the Nazis was primarily a reflection of Germany's power rather than a commitment to Fascism. The King was forced to assume executive authority, as Fascism grew in power. Boris tried to keep Bulgaria out of World War II, but with the German Army on the border, he was forced to declare war on Britain and America and to provide war materials.

Despite intense German pressure, he refused to declare war on the Soviet Union or to turn over Bulgaria's Jews to the Nazis. King Boris died mysteriously in 1943 after a stormy meeting with Hitler. His death was possibly by heart attack or by assassination. His 6-year old son, Simeon II, succeeded under a regency to deal with the Germans and advancing Soviet Army.

Although Bulgaria had a modern history filled with calm and peacefulness, its land and wealth was surrendered to the communists as the consequence of an agreement signed between President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Generalissimo Stalin at Yalta, Crimea, USSR (known as the Yalta Conference), on February 11, 1945, leaving Bulgaria in a blind trust to Joseph Stalin.

Stalin moved quickly, and the legitimate government of Simeon II von Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was overthrown by Stalin's proxies in 1946. At the age of nine, Simeon II was forced into exile. As part of the campaign to legitimise their rule and eradicate any opposition, the Communists paid close attention to systematically destroying the institutions of monarchy, demonising the exiled king and reinterpreting his reign as something out of the Dark Ages.

During the Communist era, Bulgaria acquired the reputation of being the most loyal ally of the Soviet Union. A small agricultural country, here was the Soviet's "bread basket" and Bulgaria's hard-working, dedicated people managed to regularly send food to the approximately 280 million people of the Soviet Union, which consisted of 15 republics and covered 8.5 million square miles.

With its centralized resources, Bulgaria was able to solve the problems of industrialization, education and social welfare. In the course of several decades the country became one of the main economic partners of the former Soviet Union. Bulgarian commodities were sold on markets stretching from the Baltic region to the Pacific. This large-scale growth, compared to the country's size, took place to the detriment of citizen's rights and freedoms. In the mid-1980s, a “Bulgarization” campaign was launched against the nearly 800,000 ethnic Turks, who were forced to adopt Bulgarian names, and Turkish-language broadcasts and publications were halted. For 45 years Bulgaria was a communist state. In 1989 the Bulgarian people mounted a "velvet revolution" and demanded freedom and democracy

The Bulgarian Democracy

In August 1990, the first non-Communist political leader in 40 years, Zheliu Zhelev, was elected president. Economic reforms were introduced and a new constitution (1991) created a parliamentary democracy in the country. No party, however, was able to establish a long-term government, and major economic reforms proved difficult to enact. In 1994, the Socialist party (formerly the Communists) and its allies won a parliamentary majority at the polls, and Zhan Videnov, a Socialist, became premier early in 1995. A period of hyperinflation and economic stagnation followed, and charges of corruption were widespread.

Petar Stoyanov, of the Union of Democratic Forces, was elected president in 1996, and his party won parliamentary elections held in 1997; Ivan Kostov became premier. The UN dealt a serious economic blow when it imposed economic sanctions during the 1990s on neighboring Yugoslavia. The impact upon Bulgaria was one of severe economic depression; and as NATO and the allies attacked Yugoslavia, this little country of 8-million people, still reeling from the collapse of its huge trading market with the Soviet Union, saw the devastation of one of its few remaining valuable trading partners. No serious effort was made to assist Bulgaria past this loss.

In the parliamentary elections of 2001, the National Movement for Bulgaria, a party sponsored by the former king, captured 43% of the vote and half the seats, and the former king, Simeon II, became premier. In the presidential elections later in the year, Socialist Georgi Parvanov won the post after a runoff, defeating the incumbent, Stoyanov.

Bulgaria is now a candidate for membership in the European Union and NATO; the rights and property of the old parties have been restored. Private property, taken away in the nationalization and collectivization, has been returned too. Bulgarian ethnic Turks have the same rights enjoyed by the rest of Bulgaria's citizens.