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Bulgaria Country Information
Bulgaria is the site of one of the world's oldest civilizations, and the oldest known writing system (the Gradeshnitsa Tablets which date to at least 4000 BC).
In early classical times the territory of Bulgaria was inhabited by the Thracians. The Thracians were divided into various tribes, but eventually united as the Odrysian kingdom under King Teres in the 5th century BC. The region was invaded by the Romans in 188 BC, and wars continued until 45 AD when Thrace became a Roman province.
Beginning in the 2nd century AD, a semi-nomadic people, the Bulgars, began to migrate towards the West from Central Asia. By the 4th century, the Bulgars had settled in the lands to the North of the Black Sea, around the Sea of Azov, and by the 7th century had established a state known as "Great Bulgaria" or "Onoghuria" in the region. Later in the 7th century, one tribe of Bulgars moved West, defeated the Byzantine empire in a war, and were recognized in the subsequent peace treaty with the Byzantines as an independent state in 681.
The First Bulgarian Empire was established under the warrior Khan Krum (802 to 814) who conquered a number of lands in the Balkans. The empire eventually encompassed all of present day Romania, as well as parts of Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Greece. It was during this period the Cyrillic alphabet was adopted, and Christianity was introduced to the Bulgarians.
The Byzantine Empire ruled Bulgaria from 1018 to 1185, but after a revolt in 1185, a Second Bulgarian Empire was established. However, this Empire was relatively short lived. In 1354 the Ottoman Turks crossed into Europe, and by 1396 had conquered the whole of Bulgaria.
After hundreds of years of Ottoman rule, Bulgaria began to experience a national revival inspired by western ideas from the enlightment, and the Greek revolt against Ottoman rule. In 1870, a Bulgarian Church ("Exarchate") was established, and in 1876 Bulgarians revolted against Ottoman rule in the April Uprising. Russia declared war on the Ottomans in 1877, and by 1878, most of Bulgaria was liberated from the Ottomans. Additional Ottoman territories in Europe were liberated in the First Balkan War (1912 to 1913), however Bulgaria was then defeated by the combinaton of Serbia, Greece, Romania and the Ottoman Empire in the Second Balkan War (1913) and lost a significant amount of territory as a result.
During World War I, Bulgaria was allied with Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, and was for a while successful in making territorial gains. However, the war gradually became increasingly unpopular because of economic hardships, and because the population did not wish to fight in alliance with the Muslim Ottoman Empire against the Orthodox Christians of Serbia and Greece. As a result, mutinies broke out in the army, the government resigned, and a republic was proclaimed.
During World War II, Bulgaria attempted to avoid involvement in the war, and even managed to peacefully regain the territory of Southern Dobruja from Romania as a result of the 1940 Treaty of Craiova. Ultimately however, in 1941, Bulgaria had no choice but to join the Axis when German troops passed through the country in order to invade Greece.
After World War II, Bulgaria became officially known was the People's Republic of Bulgaria, and was ruled by the Bulgarian Communist Party. Communist rule ended in 1990, when the Communists voluntarily gave up power and held the first free elections since 1931. The transition from communism to capitalism has not been easy for Bulgaria; living standards fell dramatically and the country even experienced a sharp decline in population. However, since 1997, the economy has been growing steadily, and in 2007, Bulgaria joined the European Union.
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