GEOGRAPHYLocation: Southeastern Europe,
Borders: Romania, the Black Sea, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia.
Area: 110,993 sq. km (42,672 sq. miles)
Terrain: Mostly mountainous with lowlands in the north and southeast. Rila and Pirin are alpine mountains exceeding 2,900 m above sea-level. Stara Planina Mountain, also called the Balkan range and origin of the namesake Balkan Peninsula, is the longest mountain range, dividing the country into Northern and Southern Bulgaria.
Highest peak: Musala (2,925 m/9600 ft), Rila Mountain
POPULATIONPopulation: 7.9 million (2001 est.)
Pop. Growth Rate: -5.1 per 1,000 population (2000)
Capital City: Sofia (1.2 million)
Large Cities: Plovdiv (342,500), Varna (299,800), Bourgas (195,255), and Rousse (166,467)
Ethnic Groups: Bulgarian 82%, Turk 8.7%, and Roma 6.9% (2001 est.)
Religions: Christian Orthodox 83.5%, Muslim 13%, Roman Catholic 1.5%, and Jewish 0.8% (1992)
Adult Literacy Rate: 98.2%
Health: Infant mortality rate - 13.3/1,000. Life expectancy - males 71 years, females 67 years (2000)
GOVERNMENTGovernment Type: Parliamentary democracy
Constitution: Adopted July 12, 1991
National Holiday: Independence Day, March 3 (1878)
Administrative Territorial Arrangement: 28 regions and 262 municipalities
HISTORYBulgaria's history dates back more than 3,000 years and includes periods of Thracian, Roman, and Byzantine influence. The state of Bulgaria has existed for more than 13 centuries. The name "Bulgaria" comes from the Bulgars, a Turkic people that migrated from the steppe north of the Black Sea, conquered the Slavic tribes, and founded the First Bulgarian Kingdom in 681 AD. The Bulgars assimilated into the larger Slavic population, a process facilitated by the adoption of Orthodox Christianity by King Boris I in the 9th Century. The creation of the Cyrillic script in 855 and the establishment of Christianity as a state religion in 864 gave a powerful impetus for the country's cultural development. Under King Simeon I, Bulgaria reached the height of its power, and its capital, Preslav, was said to rival Constantinople in the vigor of its commercial and intellectual life. The First Bulgarian Kingdom fell to the Byzantines in 1018. The Second Bulgarian Kingdom, established in 1185 at Veliko Tarnovo, reinstated the borders and another "golden age" began, during which Bulgaria's territory bordered three seas: the Black Sea, the Adriatic, and the Aegean. In 1396, after a long war and fierce resistance, the country fell under Ottoman rule. The early 18th Century marked the beginning of the Bulgarian Revival period, characterized by the flourishing of the Bulgarian church, literature, and culture. After an unsuccessful revolution in 1876, Bulgaria regained independence in 1878, as a result of the Russian-Turkish Liberation War. Following the Berlin Congress of 1878, the state was divided into three parts. After the successful unification uprising in 1885, the country restored its territorial integrity and started building its state institutions. As an ally to Germany in World War I and the Axis powers in World War II Bulgaria had to bear the hardships of a difficult first half to the 20th century. In 1945 the Communist Party took power and proclaimed Bulgaria a "People's Republic." In 1989, the country underwent a peaceful transition from autocratic communist rule to a democratic system of governance. A new Parliament was elected in June 1990, after the first free democratic elections in 50 years.
BULGARIAN CULTURAL TREASURESRila Monastery, located in the heart of the Rila Mountain, is the largest Bulgarian monastery, it’s founded in the 10th Century and is listed by UNESCO for World Cultural Heritage.
Kazanluk Thracian Cupola Tomb dating from the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd Century BCE, contains unique murals - the only surviving monuments of Hellenic painting, also included in the list of World Cultural Heritage.
Varna's ancient necropolis which revealed evidence of the first European civilization and the world's oldest gold dated 4600-4200 BCE.
St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia is the largest Christian Orthodox cathedral on Balkan Peninsula.
The Rotunda of St. George is the oldest building in Sofia. Three layers of frescoes have been discovered, the earliest dating back to the 10th century.
St. Sofia Church is the oldest Christian Orthodox church in Sofia, built during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 527-565. In the 14th Century, the church gave its name to the city.
Boyana Church -- One of Bulgaria's most significant historical treasures dating back to the 13th Century. It is on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Most remarkable are the murals, painted by an unknown artist, which exhibit a new humanistic tendency in medieval art. A total of 240 realistic figures, depicting realistic figures of typical Bulgarian life at the time, are displayed in biblical scenes on the walls of the church.
FOLKLOREThe extended time technique is perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the Bulgarian folk song (most expressively used in the Rodopi region). Non-existent in the rest of European music, the diverse time combinations based on the extended time make Bulgarian music unique and entrancing.
Unique Bulgarian Musical Instuments:
Typical Bulgarian instruments are the caval (an end-blown flute), the duduk (whistle flute), the kaba gaida (bagpipe); the gadulka (bowed stringed instrument); and the tupan (double-headed cylindrical drum).
Did you know that… Both the Voyager-1 and Voyager-2 spaceships carry a Bulgarian folk song from the Rodopi region as a message to other civilizations.
BULGARIAN FOLK FESTIVALS AND CUSTOMSThe Martenitsa: On March 1st, Bulgarians put on their clothes (or on their wrist) tiny red and white trimmings known as martenitsas, and wish each other health and happiness with "Chestita Baba Marta" ("Happy Grandma March"). Martenitsas are made of twined red and white threads, formed in various figures, and are named after the month of March ("Marta" in Bulgarian). This is an ancient Bulgarian pagan tradition that symbolizes the end of the cold winter and the arrival of the spring. According to an ancient legend, martenitsas bring health, happiness, and longevity. They are worn continuously until the
sight of the first stork, and are then hung on a blossoming tree.
The Festival of Roses: The Festival of Roses is celebrated during the first half of June in the Valley of Roses (in Central Bulgaria around the cities of Kazanluk and Karlovo). It represents a festive folklore gathering, accompanied with mass rose-picking.
Did you know that…
*Rose picking starts before dawn, while roses are still glistening with dew, preserving the precious fragrance.
*2,000 petals are needed for a single gram of rose attar.
*70% of the rose attar on the international market comes from Bulgaria.
Koukeri (The Day of the Mummers): The Koukeri ritual is a prespring holiday held on the first Sunday before Lent. It marks the beginning of the spring calendar with mummer games performed only by men. The koukeri's masks and garments are colorful, covered with beads, ribbons, and woolen tassels. They are sometimes made of hides. The mummers all wear bells around their waists, with wooden swords in hand. The ritual has the characteristics of a theatrical performance or a carnival. An important element is the symbolic plowing and sowing – a token of a rich harvest. The heavy swaying movements of the leading mummer are meant to represent wheat heavy with grain, while the bells tied around the mummers' waists are intended to drive away evil forces and sickness.
BULGARIAN ROLE ON WAR AGAINST TERRORISM:
Bulgarian government has granted access to US aircraft to Bulgaria’s airspace for the purposes of antiterrorist operations. In order to facilitate and speed up the transit procedure required by the Bulgarian Constitution, we have proposed to the US side to conclude a special bilateral Agreement on Transit of US Forces on the same terms as the Agreement on the Transit of NATO Forces, signed between Bulgaria and NATO on 21 March 2001.
Bulgaria took additional measures for tightening arms export control and trade with dual use goods. Special attention is being paid on the risks of deviation of such deliveries to terrorist organizations.
Thorough review and strict appliance of all sanctions against countries on whose territory terrorist related structures and organizations are active was conducted. Bulgaria is party in 13 conventions for fight against terrorism in addition to the UN convention on combat financing of terrorism and the International convention on combating the bomb terrorism.
The Ministry of Finance had undertaken, through its Bureau of Financial Investigation, a number of concrete measures for tracking and cutting all possible financial assets and sources of terrorist groups on Bulgarian territory. Thus, on the basis on the lists of persons involved in terrorist activity provided by the US intelligence agencies, orders had been issued to all Bulgarian commercial banks and financial institutions to check and freeze any possible accounts or assets possessed by persons on the lists. A similar order had been issued to the Customs Agency for tracking and checking on any possible customs records that those persons might have in Bulgaria. Strict measures for tightening border and customs controls had been enforced. Bulgarian border police were instructed to check any possible border crossing record of these individuals and to detain them in the case of an attempt to cross the Bulgarian border.
Direct communication line between US Department of State and Bulgarian Government had been established for exchange of information related to terrorism.
The Government adopted a National Plan to Combat Terrorism, which includes comprehensive measures on national level, implementing UNSC resolutions 1368 and 1373.
BULGARIAN PARTICIPATION IN OIF:On November 7, 2002 the National Assembly approved the Government's decision to support coalition action against Iraq. Bulgarian support included: over-flight rights and the transit of U.S. and coalition forces; basing for up to 18 U.S. aircraft at Sarafovo Airport near Burgas, Bulgaria and the offer to deploy Bulgarian units to the theater of operations.
On May 2003, implementing the decision of the Council of Ministers, approved by the National Assembly a Bulgarian infantry battalion was included in the Multinational Force supporting security in Iraq. In August 2003, 478 Bulgarian troops from the First Bulgarian infantry battalion went to Iraq - 69 officers, 109 non-commissioned officers and 300 professional soldiers, including 13 women. Bulgarian contingent was included in the MND-CS under Polish command with the tasks to maintain the order and assist the restoration of civilian sites in the region of the town of Karbala.
On 22 August 2003, Bulgarian infantry battalion in Iraq with all its personnel, equipment and property, accepted the regions for deployment in the area of dislocation, which was assigned to it in the vicinity of the town of Karbala. Bulgarian officers and non-commissioned officers from the Headquarters of the Polish division in the town of Babil and an officer and non-commissioned officer included in the united command were deployed and began to fulfill their professional duties. September 15th Soldiers from Bulgarian infantry battalion in Iraq started the training of Iraqi citizens who were going to serve in the structures of "Iraqi citizens' protection army". October 31st two more repaired schools and a kindergarten were officially opened. Military Governor LTC Petko Marinov donated school accessories for the children. Projects for improving the security of a number of police departments including that in Al Balda, from where the half of Karbala is being governed, were realized with Bulgarian participation.
For their efforts in supporting everyday life of the local population, the 1st Bulgarian contingent received a positive assessment on the part of the head of the American administration in Iraq, Paul Bremmer. That activity had been covered by the Iraqi mass media, while in "Al Hor" school the local authorities put up memorial bas-reliefs of gratitude for the Bulgarian soldiers. The Iraqi Minister of health wrote a letter of thanks and gratitude to our servicemen. On 30 January 2004, the official ceremony on the Rotation of the First with the Second infantry battalion was conducted.
January 2004. In the course of the past six months, the servicemen of the First infantry battalion passed more than 400 000 km, rendered harmless more that 2 200 combat supplies, established more than 200 control check points, escorted more than 900 echelons, and the patrols were thousands in number. The staff of the first and the second infantry battalion in Iraq continued to fulfill the activities from the rotation plan. The servicemen from the second Bulgarian battalion started to patrol on the streets of Karbala as well as their area of responsibilities. Experienced officers, sergeants and soldiers from the first contingent were assisting them. Alongside with patrolling, escorting and protection Bulgarian battalion in Karbala was carrying out tasks related to providing assistance to the local population. Up to that period, five months upon the decision of the military Commandant of the city Lieutenant Colonel Petko Marinov a total sum of $520,754 granted by the Temporary Coalition Administration had been utilized. It was invested in reconstruction of 40 sites in the area of the city of Karbala and its surroundings in order to improve the electricity and water supplies, education and sport. 14 projects in the area of education, one in the area of electrification, two in the area of the water supply, two for improving security and one in the area of sports had been funded. Among the most important projects were: equipment for the "Al Husein" hospital in Karbala, reconstruction of "Al Hor", "Al Rshad", "Al Bahdja" and "Al Tahadum" schools. The classrooms had been furnished and the "Sumer" kindergarten playground in Karbala was built. The city stadium in Karbala was restored and the electricity supply facility in the town of Al Hindia was refurbished. Two water wells were built in the town of Ain Al Tamur /The spring of the dates/. The wells have a number of pipes and help the population earn their living through growing which is the main source of income. The civil-military projects in the area of Al Hindiya, completed by the Second infantry battalion in Iraq, are the first examples of state assistance for many years. The representatives of the local authorities, as well as religious and party leaders of the region, have marked that fact at a meeting with the battalion commander LtC Petko Lilov. The meeting was conducted on 27 June 2004 in the Town Hall of the town. High assessments about Bulgarian management’s positive effect to the zone of responsibility were given at the meeting. These assessments contributed to earning a special attitude to Bulgarian servicemen. A $ 190,000 project started: renovation of Al Hindiya town center, improvement of the transportation system and strengthening the control over the entrance and exit thoroughfares and through the strategic bridge began.
July 2004. All activities on replacing the second with third infantry battalion of Bulgarian army in Iraq have been completed. All documents and reports by the commanders and officials of the two contingents have been signed. The Chairman of Rotation Commission, brigadier general Stefan Vasilev, has also signed the basic document. A working conference had been conducted, guided by the Chief of General Staff of Bulgarian Armed Forses, General Nikola Kolev. At the conference, the situation in the zone of responsibility of Third infantry battalion in Karbala, as well as the tasks from the beginning of the mission had been discussed. Specific measures to increase the security of personnel of the contingent, camp "Kilo" and the guarded sites, as well as improving the interaction and work with the authorities, local population and the religious leaders had been identified at the meeting. General Staff leaders discussed the initiative to start a donation campaign intended to assist the population and the children in Karbala for the beginning of the new school year. In August 2004 the training of Third infantry battalion in Iraq on utilizing "Hammer" HMMWVs, which Bulgarian contingent received from the American army, had been successfully completed. Officers from the contingent continued the training of Iraqi National Guards battalion. By that time the preparation for acquiring sergeant's positions were completed. In September 2004 a commission, part of the Third infantry battalion, approved the allocation of financial means for the restoration of "Ali Maari" primary school in the town of Al Khairat. These financial means, amounting to $47,000 were used to repair the roof of the school, the windows of the building were changed, and three new rooms for the first grader were built. Bulgarian servicemen made a donation of victuals and one ton of bottled mineral water for two homes for old people in Karbala. The joint effort with Iraqi National Guard battalion continued with the implementation of projects related to improving battalion's transportation and communication assets, as well as improving the conditions in the barracks of Iraqi guards.
In October 2004, the Minister of defense Nikolay Svinarov signed an organizational order for re-dislocation of Bulgarian contingent from Karbala to Diwaniah. He visited Iraq and thanked the troops for their professionalism and adequate reactions in difficult situations. Bulgarian Minister of Defense had meetings with multinational forces in Iraq commander General George Casey and with General Andrei Eckert, commander of the Polish contingent, in which Bulgarian battalion was embedded. Approximately 30 civil-military projects at an approximate value $2,500,000 were utilized with the assistance of Bulgarian servicemen from the First, Second and Third infantry battalion in the province of Karbala. The projects were for restoration of schools, kindergartens, hospitals, and infrastructure sites. The major ones among them are: renovation of the center of the town of Karbala and improvement of the organization of transport in the town with total value of $190,000; restoration of transport thoroughfares and construction of a bridge in the town of Al Hindiah which valued $180,000; repair work on the basic school in the town of Al Hairat for $47,000.
In December 2004 the 4th Bulgarian Infantry Battalion was stationed in Diwanyah. The rotation with the 5th Battalion was in May 2005. 4th and 5th Bulgarian Infantry Battalion successfully fulfilled its mission in Diwanyah. Soldiers patrolled the Tampa highway, organized convoys, escorted people and cargo, and performed tasks related to the mutual activities of the military transition team and 1st battalion of the IA (in engineering and medical responses, and live-fire exercises). Their daily activities guaranteed the security of military personnel. They also protected the checkpoints where people and vehicles passed in and out of the base, checking for — and clearing the Tampa highway of — improvised explosive devices and car bombs. The outcomes were heartening. Doctors from the battalion’s Unified Medical Point were providing medical aid to citizens who sought their assistance. In the Kadisia district, Bulgarian contingents improved civil-military cooperation, leading to better education, health care, security and rehabilitation of the city infrastructure. In Afaq’s Kadisia district, a repaired and refurbished petrol station was opened, a USD $25,000 project which will serve the thousands of people living in the city and province. One of the primary tasks of the Battalion Command was establishing and maintaining contacts with local authorities. Meetings with representatives of the municipal authorities, the media, the Union of Businessmen and the University of Diwanyah were organized on a regular basis. The result was good relations with these institutions that declared Bulgarian soldiers are perceived as friends. Bulgarian Soldiers from Multi-National Division Central-South held a ceremony to commemorate the completion of a school renovation project near Ad Diwaniyah. 24. Soldiers from Bulgaria’s 3rd Battle Group renovated classrooms, electrical wiring and plumbing. Renovations at the school in Al Farazdk, near Afak, also included a new fence for the school.
Only two months after the Bulgarian peacekeeping contingent returned home from Diwania, the National Assembly voted through a new mission to Iraq. Since 1 of April 2006, a Bulgarian Guard Company has been performing the new mission, focuses on security provision for Ashraf refugee camp, Diyala Province. The rotation period of the mission is six months.
BULGARIA'S CURRENT PARTICIPATION IN OIF:Currently Bulgaria participates in OIF with more than 150 military personnel mainly by providing staff and security for Temporary Interview and Processing Facility, Ashraf Camp, Diyala Province.
BULGARIA'S CONTINGENTS IN AFGHANISTAN:
no press releases available at this time
No audio available at this time.