Bulgaria History, Tradition & People

Bulgarian History

As you travel through the rich Bulgaria history, seeing spectacular views of natural beauty, it becomes easily apparent why centuries of invaders attempted to conquer this beautiful land.

The proud Bulgarians have called this their home for thirteen centuries. The scenic landscape in Bulgaria takes on many forms; you have the choice of snow skiing down white-capped mountains or sun bathing beside the coast of the Black Sea.

Don’t be taken in by the name, Black Sea, the beaches are sandy white and the water clear blue. The Black Sea has been theorized to be the site of Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood.

Age-old tombs are riddled through Bulgarian history to be explored. The Varna Necropolis, a 3500-3200 BC burial site, which holds the oldest example of worked gold lies in Bulgaria.

The saying goes in every country, don’t bring up sensitive subjects pertaining to religion, the weather or politics. Here’s a bit of a history lesson to understand where this nation draws its strength-

Conquests of Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires engraved their history into the countryside of Bulgaria. Displayed in the magnificent architecture, the conquerors left their mark on ancient monasteries, churches, and cathedrals. Bulgaria also invented the Cyrillic alphabet, second most widely used alphabet in the world.

The history of Bulgaria can be traced back to about 3500 B.C. The country gets its name and politics from the Bulgars, a tribe who crossed the Danube River in 679 and took over. Bulgaria formed their language and culture from the Slavs who migrated from the north in the sixth century.

Bulgaria was invaded by the Turks in 1396 and endured the Ottoman rule for nearly five hundred years. Russia liberated Bulgaria in 1878 but their independence from Turkey was short lived. They would go to war again with their enemy, fighting over the country of Macedonia, which would be lost.

Russia declared war on Bulgaria in 1944 and the Communist Coalition gained control. The political party, Union of Democratic Forces formed in 1991, ending the Bulgaria history of Communist government regime of almost 50 years. 1996 saw King Simeon II elected, after fifty years in exile. Bulgaria became a member of NATO in 2004.

Bulgaria Roman Stadium

Bulgaria Roman Stadium

The tumultuous Bulgaria history in politics changed hands once again in 2005 when a coalition government was formed. Regardless of the power shifts, Bulgaria has stayed strong. It has managed to survive and keep its original name since AD 681. Most of the Bulgarians alive today can claim the first wave of Bulgars who invaded as their ancestors.

In 2007, the estimated population of Bulgaria was 7.3 million. Bulgarians remain the majority race and Bulgarian is the major language. Today, the country isn’t over run with warring Khans but vegetables, fruits, wheat, wine, sugar, and sunflowers.

Their industries include electricity, gas, water, food, beverages, tobacco and machinery. The value of the Bulgarian Lev is linked to the Euro and the economy reportedly grew a healthy percentage in 2005. As inflation decreased into the single digits, Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007.

The many wonders discovered in Bulgaria history are not only in gold but the preservation of its own cultural heritage through continuous invasions from other countries. That is the real testimonial Bulgaria history offers, the lasting treasure of its hearty and hard working people

Useful Key Facts About Bulgaria

  • Facts on Bulgaria: Glance into the Ancient Past
  • The Varna Necropolis, a 3500-3200 BC burial site, located on the Black Sea, holds the oldest example of gold jewelry in the world.
  • Bulgaria has survived invasions of Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Old Great Bulgaria was founded in 632 AD.
  • Most of the Bulgarians alive today can claim the first invaders, the Bulgar tribe, as their ancestors.
  • The country took its name from the Bulgars, who crossed the Danube River in 679 and gained control.
  • Bulgaria has kept its original name since AD 681.
  • Bulgaria was invaded by the Turks in 1396 and endured the severe Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries.
  • Facts on Bulgaria: The Beautiful Land and Mighty People
  • The Black Sea, on the coast of Bulgaria, has been suggested as a possible site of Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood.
  • Bulgaria has picturesque parks, natural reserves, and over 4000 mapped caves for the nature lovers to explore. Bulgaria is one of least populated nations in Eastern Europe.
  • Bulgaria invented the Cyrillic alphabet, the second most widely used alphabet in the world.
  • Bulgaria’s snow ski and Black Sea beach resorts are some the most popular destinations with East Europeans.
  • River Danube which flows along the Bulgarian/Romanian border is the second longest river in Europe.
  • The Alexander Nevski Cathedral is thought to be one of the finest architectural pieces in the Balkans. The monument is dedicated to the Russians who liberated Bulgaria from the tyrannical Ottoman rule.
  • Facts on Bulgaria: The Political Struggles
  • Russia declared war on Bulgaria in 1944 and the Communist Coalition gained control. The Communist government regime lasted almost fifty years.
  • The Union of Democratic Forces was formed in 1991.
  • Bulgaria’s former king, Simeon II, served as prime minister 2001-2005, bringing about important market reforms.
  • Bulgaria became a member of NATO in 2004.
  • President Georgi Parvanov won a second five-year term by a landslide in 2006.
  • Facts on Bulgaria: The Bright Future Forecast
  • In 2007, the estimated population of Bulgaria was 7.3 million.
  • Sofia, the capital city, is also the largest city with a population of 1.2 million residents.
  • The country produces fruits, vegetables, wheat, wine, sugar, and sunflowers. There has been a noticeable increase in the export of wine. Bulgaria produces half of the rose oil in the world, a main ingredient in perfume.
  • Bulgaria industries include electricity, gas, water, food, beverages, tobacco and machinery. Bulgaria has the lowest corporation tax in Europe at 10%.
  • Telecommunications is Bulgaria’s fastest growing industry. Microsoft, Google, and Hewlett-Packard, computer giants, already have a solid base in Bulgaria. Every town and many villages report a fast internet connection.
  • The economy gained great strides in 2005. Bulgaria’s GDP increased 5.5% over the previous year. Annual real GDP growth was off the charts- 5.8% in 2006. Unemployment fell and inflation decreased into the single digits. Bulgaria’s cost of living is the lowest in Europe.
  • Bulgaria’s Travel and Tourism industry created 400,000 new jobs in 2006. The airline, Easy Jet has scheduled a direct flight from London-Gatwick to Sofia, Bulgaria- 3 times a week.
  • European Commission reported Bulgaria had improved measures for child protection in 2007. Progress had been made toward the support of minorities. Environment awareness has heighten since the Communist era.
  • Bulgaria joined the European Union- January, 2007. Bulgaria ranked #1 out of 10 newest EU members for the amount of foreign investment attracted.

How Should You Behave Around Bulgarian People?

Did you know that Bulgarian people nod their heads to mean no and shake them to mean yes? That’s the first thing to remember when you’re meeting them. That, and the fact that you should shake hands politely rather than kiss them on the cheeks.


These aspects aside, it’s actually quite difficult to make too many generalisations about Bulgarian people and their customs.

The term Bulgarians, you see, covers a wide range of ethnic groups within the country, all of whom have the right to reproduce their original identities.

Of the approximately seven and a half million people – it was a million more a decade ago but many young, skilled workers have left for EU countries, Turkey and the USA – most are Slavonic speaking Christians but there are a significant number of Muslim Turks, Gypsies, Jews, Russians and a wide variety of other backgrounds within the country.

The traditions of the people are, consequently, mainly Slavonic but there are also many Balkan connections derived from their Greek, Rumanian and Turkish neighbours which have influenced their culture, customs and cuisine.

As in many countries of this area, there are significant differences between the more ‘modern’ lifestyles to be found in the cities, with most people living in apartments, and those in the countryside where people can still be seen working the land in more or less the same way as they did generations ago.

Globalisation hasn’t really reached rural Bulgaria – which is one of its undoubted charms – although nowadays many houses in villages are second homes, for professionals from the cities as well as foreign purchasers.

But the important thing is to have a little knowledge of Bulgarian etiquette before you meet the Bulgarian people themselves – this should help you to avoid those social gaffes which can cause considerable embarrassment and even scupper business deals.

Well, that shaking and nodding thing will take you a little while to get used to, for a start.

Bulgarian people are usually, especially the older generation, very formal with strangers, they will want to use – Mr or Mrs rather than first names – that’s Gospodin and Gospozha. They are, however, very proud of their hospitality so don’t be surprised to be invited to their homes. If that does happen, it’s customary to take a small gift with you – nothing too elaborate; perhaps flowers, wine or some such thing.

Evening visits usually begin around 8 pm – and go on till quite late – and it’s common to take your shoes off inside the house; you might well be offered a pair of slippers to wear. You’ll almost certainly be given a glass or two of rakiya and perhaps a piece of pumpkin banitsa (layered pastry) or baklava (a very thin pastry with a nutty, syrupy filling).

Should you be invited to a wedding whilst you’re there – unlikely I know but it’s a good story – you’ll see the newly weds have a ‘tug o’ war’ with a loaf of bread – the one who rips off the largest section of the loaf is the head of the House!

The country of Bulgaria is sport crazy so you will be able to talk about football, basketball and skiing – or at least you will with the younger generations, who are beginning to learn English now, instead of the Russian which was necessary for their parents and grandparents.

Don’t be too surprised, either, to meet some older people who feel that the country’s ‘going to the dogs’ with its new ideas and freedoms and tell you life was so much better in the old communist days when you knew where you were and everybody was together.

Bulgarian people have come a long way in a comparatively few years but they remain a friendly, hospitable, family-centered nation.

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