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Its land area is approximately 42, square miles, or , square kilometers, making it slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. It boasts a varied topography, with flatlands in the north the Danubian Plateau and center the Thracian Plain and two large mountain ranges spanning the country from west to east—the Balkans across the center and the Rhodopes across the south.

Bulgaria shares its western border with Serbia and Macedonia and its southern border with Greece and Turkey. The Black Sea coastline bounds the country to the east. Two-thirds of the populace is urban, with over one million people living in the capital city, Sofia. In , ethnic Bulgarians accounted for About 85 percent of the population belongs to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Smaller numbers are Muslim 13 percent , Jewish 0. Since the country cast off Soviet-sponsored Communism in late , Bulgarians have increasingly turned to public worship, and religious observance has been on the upswing.

The official state language is Bulgarian. Turkish has survived several waves of repression during Communist rule and is the primary language of about eight percent of citizens. The Bulgarian flag is composed of three horizontal stripes, white, green, and red in color. For much of the first millennium B. When the attenuated Roman Empire divided itself into two parts, Thrace fell under the administration of the eastern, or Byzantine, empire. By the sixth century A.

Almost two centuries later, the Bulgars, a Turkic tribe from central Asia, began their conquest of the region. They, too, assimilated into the larger Slavic population; over time the culture of the warlike, nomadic Bulgar conquerors fused with the ways of the Christianized, agricultural Slav. What evolved was a unified kingdom whose cultural and military achievement, at its height, rivalled that of Byzantium.

The First Bulgarian Kingdom arose in the early ninth century. Aggressive warfare against Byzantium had pushed the borders of Bulgaria to the Carpathian Mountains in the north and to the Aegean Sea in the south.

In , Bulgarian czar Boris I, perhaps seeking to stabilize relations with Byzantium, made Eastern Orthodox Christianity the official state religion. Shortly after, Bulgaria established its own patriarchate, independent of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople. A handful of monasteries still bear frescoes dating from this period.

It was plagued by constant warfare against the Byzantines, the Magyars, and the Kievan Russians and by internal disarray. In , the Bulgarian czar Samuel lost a decisive battle to the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, who ordered the mass blinding of 14, Bulgarian prisoners. By , the whole of Bulgaria had fallen once more under the sway of Byzantine rule.

The Second Bulgarian Empire began in , when the brothers Asen and Peter forced the weakening Byzantine Empire to recognize an independent Bulgarian state. The brothers made Turnovo their capital. With the ascension of Asen II , medieval Bulgaria reached its zenith in cultural development and in territorial growth. The kingdom extended from the Adriatic to the Black Sea, touching the Aegean at its southern frontier and enveloping Belgrade in the north.

Trade flourished, as did learning, religion, and the arts. Bulgaria entered a second and more brilliant "golden age," and Turnovo was the seat of Slavic culture.

This period of relative tranquility ended around , when Tartar invaders were cutting a swath through Europe. The Tartars were driven out in , and there followed another period of expansion and prosperity.

But as the fourteenth century neared its end, a new threat stood poised at the southern frontier of the Bulgarian kingdom—the armies of the Ottoman Empire, which had already gained a foothold on the European shores of the Aegean. In Sofia became the first major Bulgarian city to fall to the Ottoman Empire. The turning point in the half-century-long Ottoman offensive in the Balkans was the defeat of the powerful Serbian army at the battle of Kosovo Polje in With this victory, the Turks were able to gain control of the Balkan Peninsula.

They wasted no time in crushing what remained of Bulgarian resistance and imposed a five-century-long rule over Bulgaria. Turkish colonization had profound short- and long-term effects on the development of the Bulgarian nation. While looting Orthodox monasteries, Turkish troops destroyed great masterpieces of Bulgarian culture, including scores of paintings, frescoes, and manuscripts from the golden ages. Stripped of its independence as well as its riches, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was made a subpatriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church for four centuries.

Many Bulgarians were enslaved, forced to convert to Islam, or exiled to other parts of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks replaced the existing social structure with a more oppressive form of feudalism, rewarding Turkish landlords and converts to Islam with the most fertile land, while burdening Bulgarian peasants with heavy local and state taxes. However, Turkish subjugation was not absolute.

Bulgarians were permitted a limited form of local self-government. They spoke their native tongue among themselves without restriction. The Bulgarian artisan and merchant classes prospered as they sold food and cloth to the rest of the Ottoman Empire. As a result, the villages were able to preserve Bulgarian culture, while the monasteries served as a refuge for literature and religious learning.

From the monasteries, a wave of nationalist feeling fanned out to the rest of the country in the s. At the same time the Ottoman Empire, increasingly plagued by corruption and misrule, was sliding ever closer to its eventual disintegration. One monk in particular, Father Paisii of Hilendar, is credited with stoking the flames of the Bulgarian "National Revival.

In , worn down by revolts and European enemies, the Ottoman sultan conceded the autonomy of the Bulgarian church and mandated the creation of the Bulgarian Exarchate. Meanwhile, Bulgarian expatriates in Serbia and Romania, dissatisfied by the slow pace of Turkish reform, were forming armed, revolutionary groups that sought the violent overthrow of the Turks.

The major European powers tried to secure reforms from the sultan through diplomacy. Negotiations foundered, however, on the question of autonomous Bulgarian provinces, and Czar Alexander II of Russia declared war on Turkey in April The eight-month War of Liberation ended in Turkish defeat.

In July , the Congress of Berlin reduced the size of Bulgaria by two-thirds and confined the new nation to the area between the Danube River and the Balkan Mountains. The new treaty also gave the Ottoman state the right to invade Bulgaria in times of civil unrest. Uprisings persisted in Macedonia, in particular, where a large portion of the populace spoke a Bulgarian dialect and adhered to the Bulgarian Orthodox faith. Covetous of its lost territories, Bulgaria joined Serbia and Greece in in a successful offensive against Turkey.

Then, when Greece and Serbia each claimed large portions of Macedonia, Bulgaria turned on its erstwhile allies, only to lose to them in Although forced to yield some land, Bulgaria finished the wars with a net gain in territory.

The Soviet army invaded Bulgaria in September , only hours after the Soviet Union declared war on the Balkan country. Shortly afterward, a coalition of Bulgarian resistance groups, dominated by the Communists, seized control of the government.

A new constitution, modelled on the Soviet constitution, was drafted in Soviet troops withdrew from Bulgarian soil that same year. Evidence indicates that the Bulgarian state security police, the Durzhavna Sigurnost, often acted in lieu of the KGB, accepting assignments from which Moscow wanted to distance itself. As the s drew to a close, the shock waves of Soviet perestroika reverberated across eastern Europe.

Bulgarians articulated their unhappiness with the regime through public protests and increasingly visible dissident activity. On November 10, , one day after the fall of the Berlin Wall, reformers within the Communist party forced the resignation of Zhivkov. A soaring crime rate and economic crisis have led some to call for the restoration of the monarchy and others to call for a return to Communism. The earliest documented Bulgarian immigrants were converts to Protestantism, who arrived around the middle of the nineteenth century to pursue higher education in America, as Nikolay G.

Their passages were funded by American Protestant groups intent on grooming talented natives for missionary work back in Bulgaria. Although some Bulgarian students did return home to spread the gospel, others chose to remain in the States, settling in their adopted country with their families.

Early Bulgarian Americans included Ilya S. Iovchev, who arrived in and became a journalist, and Hristo Balabanov, who came to the States in , earned an M. Every unsuccessful revolt against the Turks in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was accompanied by mass migrations of Bulgarians to Russia, the Ukraine, Moldavia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and other Balkan nations. Expatriate Bulgarian communities formed and thrived in some of those countries.

Bulgarians first started immigrating to the United States in large numbers between and During this period, approximately 50, Bulgarians from Turkish-occupied Macedonia and from Bulgaria proper, or "the kingdom," arrived in the United States. Economic opportunity was the primary attraction for Bulgarians from "the kingdom," who were escaping overpopulation and unemployment in their native regions. Macedonian-Bulgarians had an additional impetus to emigrate; the unsuccessful St.

Some , homeless Macedonians fled to Bulgaria. Within months, the largest wave of Bulgarian and Macedonian Bulgarian emigration had begun. After , political developments continued to influence the ebb and flow of emigration from Bulgaria.

Their arrival strained the already limited economic resources of the country and led many Bulgarians, in turn, to seek work abroad. For the typical Bulgarian immigrant of the early twentieth century, passage to the United States was not obstacle-free. With little of value to his name, a peasant would sell his land and livestock, mortgage his farm, or take a high-interest loan from a steamship agent in order to fund his transatlantic trip. Such a costly outlay meant there was no turning back.

Some immigrants began their journeys at Danube River ports, traveling to Vienna and continuing overland by train to any number of European port cities Hamburg, Le Havre, Trieste , where they spent up to a week or more in detention camps before boarding a ship to New York.

Others embarked from the Greek ports of Piraeus or Salonika. Although their points of departure varied, most immigrants spent the month-long ocean voyage in steerage, in the hold of the ship, where crowded, unsanitary conditions and poor food encouraged the spread of disease. Many Bulgarians sought to avoid stringent entrance exams at Ellis Island, the immigration station in New York City, by entering the country illegally, through Canada or Mexico.

Bulgarian immigration never boomed the way immigration from other southern or eastern European countries did, and in , the National Origins Immigration Act limited the number of Bulgarians who could enter the United States to a mere a year.

From until the lifting of the national origins quota restrictions in , only 7, Bulgarians were officially admitted to the United States. Historians believe thousands more made America their home during this period, entering illegally via Canada or Mexico or with non-Bulgarian passports issued by the country of their last residence rather than the country of their birth.

At one point, U. For these reasons, the actual number of people of Bulgarian ancestry living in the United States is believed to be significantly higher than the U.

Sources. Frazee, Charles A. () []. Catholics and Sultans: The Church and the Ottoman Empire Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bulgarian for foreigners, Learning Bulgarian on-line, Bulgarian lessons on Skype, Bulgarian grammar for beginners, Textbook in Bulgarian language, Conversational Bulgarian, Learn Bulgarian from scratch, Colloquial Bulgarian courses, Rural property in Bulgaria, Holiday lessons, Bulgarian interpreter, Video lessons.

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