Bulgaria

Bulgaria ( Bulgarian: България) , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a country in southeastern Europe. Sofia is the capital and largest city.

It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe’s 16th-largest country.

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Bulgaria’s population of 7.4 million people is predominantly urbanised and mainly concentrated in the administrative centres of its 28 provinces.

The majority of the population, or 72.5 percent, reside in urban areas , approximately one-sixth of the total population is concentrated in Sofia. Bulgarians are the main ethnic group and comprise 84.8 percent of the population. Turkish and Roma minorities comprise 8.8 and 4.9 percent, respectively; some 40 smaller minorities comprise 0.7 percent, and 0.8 percent do not self-identify with an ethnic group.

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All ethnic groups speak Bulgarian, either as a first or as a second language. Bulgarian is the only language with official status and native for 85.2 percent of the population. The oldest written Slavic language, Bulgarian is distinguishable from the other languages in this group through certain grammatical peculiarities such as the lack of noun cases and infinitives, and a suffixed definite article.

Government estimates from 2003 put the literacy rate at 98.6 percent, with no significant difference between the sexes. Educational standards have been traditionally high,although still far from European benchmarks and in continuing deterioration for the past decade. Bulgarian students were among the highest-scoring in the world in terms of reading in 2001, performing better than their Canadian and German counterparts.

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The Constitution of Bulgaria defines it as a secular state with guaranteed religious freedom, but designates Orthodoxy as a “traditional” religion. More than three-quarters of Bulgarians subscribe to Eastern Orthodoxy. Sunni Muslims are the second-largest community and constitute 10 percent of the religious makeup, although a majority of them do not pray and find the use of Islamic veils in schools unacceptable.Less than three percent are affiliated with other religions, 11.8 percent do not self-identify with a religion and 21.8 percent refused to state their beliefs.

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The strongest sectors of the economy are heavy industry, power engineering, and agriculture, all of which rely on local natural resources.The country’s current political structure dates to the adoption of a democratic constitution in 1991. Bulgaria is a unitary parliamentary republic with a high degree of political, administrative, and economic centralisation. It is a member of the European Union, NATO, and the Council of Europe; a founding state of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); and has taken a seat at the UN Security Council three times.

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.

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