(Bulgarian: България), officially the Republic of Bulgaria (Bulgarian: Република България), a state in Southeastern Europe, borders five other countries: Romania to the north (mostly along Danube river), Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. It is bordered by the Black Sea to the east.
Bulgaria comprises the classical regions of Thrace, Moesia, and Macedonia and has a civilized history spanning more than 6600 years. It is the sovereign successor of a powerful European medieval empire, the First Bulgarian Empire, which at times covered most of the Balkans and spread its culture and literature among the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe. Centuries later, during the decline of the Second Bulgarian Empire, the country fell under five centuries of Ottoman rule. Bulgaria was re-established as a constitutional monarchy in 1878, also known as the birth of the Third Bulgarian Empire. After World War II, Bulgaria became a communist state and part of the Eastern Bloc.
Today, Bulgaria functions as a democratic, unitary, constitutional republic, a member of the European Union and of NATO. It has a population of approximately 7 700 000 people, with Sofia as its capital and largest city.
Geographically and in terms of climate, Bulgaria features notable diversity, with the landscape ranging from the Alpine snow-capped peaks in Rila, Pirin and the Balkan Mountains to the mild and sunny weather of the Black Sea coast, from the typically continental Danubian Plain (ancient Moesia) in the north to the strong Mediterranean climatic influence in the valleys of Macedonia and the lowlands in the southernmost parts of Thrace.
Bulgaria comprises portions of the regions known in Classical Greece as Thrace, Moesia, and Macedonia. The mountainous southwest of the country has two alpine ranges - Rila and Pirin - and further east stand the lower but more extensive Rhodope Mountains. Rila mountain includes the highest peak of the Balkan Peninsula, peak Musala at 2 925 meters (9 596 ft); the long range of the Balkan mountains runs west-east through the middle of the country, north of the famous Rose Valley. Hilly country and plains lie in the southeast, along the Black Sea coast in the east, and along Bulgaria’s main river, the Danube in the north. Other major rivers include the Struma and the Maritsa river in the south. There are around 260 glacial lakes situated in Rila and Pirin, several large lakes on the Black Sea coast and more than 2 200 dam lakes. Mineral springs are in great abundance located mainly in the south-western and central parts of the country along the faults between the mountains.
Bulgaria has a temperate climate, with cool and damp winters, very hot and dry summers, and Mediterranean influence along the Black Sea coast. The barrier effect of the Balkan Mountains influences climate throughout the country: northern Bulgaria gets slightly cooler and receives more rain than the southern regions. Average precipitation in Bulgaria is about 630 millimetres per year. The driest areas are Dobrudzha and the northern coastal strip, while the higher parts of the mountains Rila and Stara Planina receive the highest levels of precipitation. In summer, temperatures in the south of Bulgaria often exceed 40°C, but remain cooler by the coast. The highest recorded temperature is 46.7°C near Plovdiv.
The country possesses relatively rich mineral resources, including vast reserves of lignite and anthracite coal; non-ferrous ores such as copper, lead, zinc and gold. It has large deposits of manganese ore in the north-east. Smaller deposits exist of iron, silver, chromite, nickel and others. Bulgaria has abundant non-metalliferous minerals such as rock-salt, gypsum, kaolin, marble.
The Balkan peninsula derives its name from the Balkan or Stara Planina mountain-range, which runs through the centre of Bulgaria and extends into eastern Serbia.
Bulgaria’s larger cities include:
- Sofia (1 380 406 inhabitants)
- Plovdiv (376 918)
- Varna (346 944)
- Burgas (209 985)
- Rousse (176 118)
- Stara Zagora (163 193)
- Pleven (121 700)
- Dobrich (115 861)
- Sliven (106 434)
- Shumen (103 016)
Bulgaria operates a scientific base on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands off Antarctica.