Bulgaria Country Overview Part 2
Flora and fauna
Coniferous forests cover a third of Bulgarian territory, especially in mountainous areas, while steppe vegetation, similar to the Russian one, characterizes the Danube plain. The government maintains a reforestation program to compensate for losses caused by wars and crop rotation.
The Bulgarian fauna is made up of animals from the different biogeographical zones of central Europe. Bears, deer, wolves, leopards etc. are in the wild in nature reserves.
According to GETZIPCODES, about 85% of the population is Bulgarian, with an important Turkish minority (8%) and Macedonian, Jewish, Gypsy, Armenian, Greek and Romanian groups. The official language is Bulgarian, from the southern Slavic group, introduced by the populations that settled in the region in the 6th century. In the ethnic composition, the Slavic group predominates, partially mixed with the pre-existing Thracian elements and with populations brought by the Turkish domain. The population is distributed in a very irregular way, being scarce in mountainous areas and dense in plains and valleys. In the second half of the 20th century, population growth was moderate, but there was an exodus from the countryside to the cities.
Plovdiv is the capital of Thrace, and there are numerous metallurgical, textile and canning industries. Varna and Burgas are important industrial and port centers on the Black Sea coast. Veliko Turnovo, in the north of the Balkans, is one of the country’s historic capitals, while Ruse is an important river port and the center of communications for Bulgaria with northern and eastern Europe. Sofia, the country’s capital, is also a crossroads of communications and the largest commercial and industrial center in the country.
After decades of communist rule, the constitution enacted in 1991 defined Bulgaria as a “democratic, constitutional and social state”, with the president elected every five years. Candidates were expected to reside in the country for at least five years (this provision blocked any attempt to apply for the exiled Tsar Simeon II). Legislative power was in the hands of the Grand National Assembly, and the executive was now represented by the council of ministers.
Despite its slow economic development, Bulgaria has a relatively effective educational and pension system. Bulgarians’ incomes and consumption levels, however, are low in relation to those of the inhabitants of other industrialized countries with similar economic history, such as the Czech Republic and Hungary.
As in other Balkan countries, the presence of major minorities has historically been a factor of social instability. After the Second World War, many Turks and Jews left Bulgaria. In addition, many Bulgarians live in neighboring states.
The traditional religion of the Bulgarians is the Orthodox Christian. The Bulgarian church is autocephalous, with patriarchal headquarters in Sofia. There is also a Muslim minority.
Bulgarian was the first Slavic language to have national written literature. The disciples of the missionaries Cyril and Methodius, based in Preslav, capital of the first Bulgarian empire, carried out an intense work of evangelization. Many religious works have been translated into the Slavic language or written in it directly, thanks to the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet, based on the Greek. The Turkish conquest gave rise to a chain of exiles, and extended the written expression to other Slavic peoples, such as the Serbs and the Russians. In the 18th century, there was a revival of literature written in Bulgarian, which began with the History of Bulgarian Slavs, published in 1762 by a Bulgarian monk from Mount Athos, Paissii Hilendarski. In the middle of the 19th century, many didactic publications and nationalist content, as well as poetry, came to light.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a new generation of writers attracted by Western culture was formed, who sought to break the rigorous nationalist models of previous generations: Pentcho Slavekhov, Perio Khavorov and Petko Todorov. From the first world war onwards, with the diversification of schools and the multiplication of authors, revolutionary ideology was emphasized, both in poetry and in prose. The advent of socialist realism was, therefore, not as traumatic in Bulgaria as in other Eastern European countries.
Despite the existence of artistic traces of the ancient Thracians, Greeks and Romans, it is fair to say that Bulgarian art itself has its roots in the first Bulgarian state, from the end of the seventh century. The main constructions of the time were churches, with a basilical or cruciform structure. The Byzantine influence appears in mosaics and in various decorative elements. The monastery of Rila, rebuilt in the 19th century, represents well the artistic trends that have followed in the country for centuries.
Although it followed the Byzantine model, Bulgarian painting managed to overcome its rigidity in the school of Turnovo, which flourished under the second empire. Turkish rule interrupted creativity in the fine arts for centuries. In the 19th century, painting developed under the increasing influence of Western schools, as some painters studied in Vienna, Paris or Moscow. In the second half of the twentieth century, socialist realism prevailed, but the traditional taste for bright colors and rich ornamentation nevertheless failed to show itself.