- Area: 110,879 km2
- Population: 7,101,859
- Infant mortality: 8.4 deaths/1,000 live births
- Life expectancy: 74.5 years
- Urbanisation: 74.6% of total population
- Literacy: 98.6%
The Bulgars, a Central Asian Turkic tribe, merged with the local Slavic inhabitants in the late 7th century to form the first Bulgarian state. In succeeding centuries, Bulgaria struggled with the Byzantine Empire to assert its place in the Balkans, but by the end of the 14th century the country was overrun by the Ottoman Turks. Northern Bulgaria attained autonomy in 1878 and all of Bulgaria became independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1908. Having fought on the losing side in both World Wars, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People's Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1990, when Bulgaria held its first multiparty election since World War II and began the contentious process of moving toward political democracy and a market economy while combating inflation, unemployment, corruption, and crime. The country joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.
Bulgaria occupies a portion of the eastern Balkan peninsula, bordering five countries—Greece and Turkey to the south, Macedonia and Serbia to the west, and Romania to the north. The land borders have a total length of 1,808 kilometres (1,123 mi), and the coastline has a length of 354 kilometres (220 mi). Its total area of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi) ranks it as the world's 105th-largest country. Bulgaria's geographic coordinates are 43° N 25° E. The most notable topographical features are the Danubian Plain, the Balkan Mountains, the Thracian Plain, and the Rhodope Mountains. The southern edge of the Danubian Plain slopes upward into the foothills of the Balkans, while the Danube defines the border with Romania. The Thracian Plain is roughly triangular, beginning southeast of Sofia and broadening as it reaches the Black Sea coast. The Balkan mountains run laterally through the middle of the country. The mountainous southwest of the country has two alpine ranges—Rila and Pirin, which border the lower but more extensive Rhodope Mountains to the east. Bulgaria is home to the highest point of the Balkan peninsula, Musala, at 2,925 metres (9,596 ft) and its lowest point is sea level. Plains occupy about one-third of the territory, while plateaus and hills occupy 41 per cent. The country has a dense network of about 540 rivers, most of which are relatively small and with low water levels. The longest river located solely in Bulgarian territory, the Iskar, has a length of 368 kilometres (229 mi). Other major rivers include the Struma and the Maritsa in the south. Bulgaria has a dynamic climate, which results from its being positioned at the meeting point of Mediterranean and continental air masses and the barrier effect of its mountains. Northern Bulgaria averages 1 °C (1.8 °F) cooler and registers 200 millimetres (7.9 in) more precipitation annually than the regions south of the Balkan mountains. Temperature amplitudes vary significantly in different areas. The lowest recorded temperature is −38.3 °C (−36.9 °F), while the highest is 45.2 °C (113.4 °F). Precipitation averages about 630 millimetres (24.8 in) per year, and varies from 500 millimetres (19.7 in) in Dobrudja to more than 2,500 millimetres (98.4 in) in the mountains. Continental air masses bring significant amounts of snowfall during winter. Bulgaria adopted the Kyoto Protocol and achieved the protocol's objectives by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 to 2009 by 30 percent. However, pollution from factories and metallurgy works and severe deforestation continue to cause major problems to the health and welfare of the population. In 2013, air pollution in Bulgaria was more severe than any other European country. Urban areas are particularly affected by energy production from coal-based powerplants and automobile traffic, while pesticide usage in the agriculture and antiquated industrial sewage systems produce extensive soil and water pollution with chemicals and detergents. Bulgaria is home to Maritsa Iztok-2, a lignite-fired power station causing the highest damage costs to health and the environment in the entire European Union according to the European Environment Agency. It is the only EU member which does not recycle municipal waste, although an electronic waste recycling plant opened in June 2010. The situation has improved in recent years, and several government-funded programs have been put into place in an attempt to reduce pollution levels. According to Yale University's 2012 Environmental Performance Index, Bulgaria is a "modest performer" in protecting the environment. Over 75% of surface rivers meet the standards for good quality. An improvement of water quality began in 1998 and has maintained a sustainable trend of moderate improvement.
Bulgaria has an emerging market economy in the upper middle income range, where the private sector accounts for more than 80 per cent of GDP. From a largely agricultural country with a predominantly rural population in 1948, by the 1980s Bulgaria had transformed into an industrial economy with scientific and technological research at the top of its budgetary expenditure priorities. The loss of COMECON markets in 1990 and the subsequent "shock therapy" of the planned system caused a steep decline in industrial and agricultural production, ultimately followed by an economic collapse in 1997. The economy largely recovered during a period of rapid growth several years later, but the average salary remains one of the lowest in the EU at 1,036 leva (€529) per month in March 2017. More than a fifth of the labour force are employed on a minimum wage of €1 per hour. Wages, however, account for only half of the total household income, owing to the substantial informal economy which amounts to almost 32% of GDP. Bulgarian PPS GDP per capita stood at 47 per cent of the EU average in 2015 according to Eurostat data, while at the same time the cost of living in the country was 47 per cent of the EU average as well. The currency is the lev, which is pegged to the euro at a rate of 1.95583 levа for 1 euro. Bulgaria is not yet part of the eurozone but is showing progress. The labour force is 2.45 million people, of whom 7.1 per cent are employed in agriculture, 35.2 per cent are employed in industry and 57.7 per cent are employed in the services sector. Extraction of metals and minerals, production of chemicals, machinery and vehicle components, petroleum refining and steel are among the major industrial activities. Mining and its related industries employ a total of 120,000 people and generate about five per cent of the country's GDP. Bulgaria is Europe's sixth-largest coal producer. Local deposits of coal, iron, copper and lead are vital for the manufacturing and energy sectors. Almost all top export items of Bulgaria are industrial commodities such as oil products, copper products and pharmaceuticals. Bulgaria is also a net exporter of agricultural and food products, of which two-thirds go to OECD countries. It is the largest global producer of perfumery essential oils such as lavender and rose oil. Agriculture has declined significantly in the past two decades. Production in 2008 amounted to only 66 per cent of that between 1999 and 2001, while cereal and vegetable yields have dropped by nearly 40 per cent since 1990. Of the services sector, tourism is the most significant contributor to economic growth. In recent years, Bulgaria has emerged as a travelling destination with its inexpensive resorts and beaches outside the reach of the tourist industry. Lonely Planet ranked it among its top 10 destinations for 2011. Most of the visitors are British, Romanian, German and Russian. The capital Sofia, the medieval capital Veliko Tarnovo, coastal resorts Golden Sands and Sunny Beach and winter resorts Bansko, Pamporovo and Borovets are some of the locations most visited by tourists.