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The Republic of Bulgaria, generally called simply Bulgaria, is situated in southeastern Europe. The Black Sea is to the east of Bulgaria, Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. The capital is Sofia, which is also the largest city in the country, and the official language is Bulgarian. The Constitution of Bulgaria sets forth the fact that the traditional religion of the country is Orthodox Christianity, though it does guarantee the free exercise of religion. The religious communities in the nation have not experienced violent confrontation between them. Rather, they coexist peacefully. The Square of Religious Tolerance, an area in the capital city of Sofia which houses the Roman Catholic St. Joseph Cathedral, Eastern Orthodox Nedelya Church, Sofia Synagogue, and Banya Bashi Mosque which is the only functioning mosque in the capital and largest city in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria was founded in the seventh century but even before that, the ancestral groups of modern-day Bulgarians, the Thracians, were first noted during the Iron Age. The Persian conquered the majority of what is now Bulgaria in the late 6th century BC and hung on to it until 479 BC. They were subsequently bested by Alexander the Roy and by the Romans in 45 AD.

The first Bulgarian Empire existed in the medieval era, and that empire lasted from 681 until 1018.The Bulgar tribes moved into the northeastern Balkans. They crossed the Danube into what was, in name, imperial territory. Constantine IV led his men in a combined sea and land operation against them, attacking the Bulgars' fortified camp. The Bulgars defeated the Byzantine army which was led by Constantine IV. Constantine had no choice but to acknowledge the Bulgar state of Moesia and to pay them tribute in order to prevent further movement into the imperial territory.

Bulgaria was very divided, religiously, until the 9th century, when, under Boris I, the empire was "Christianized." Along with alliances with the Byzantine Empire, Boris had a diplomatic relationship with the Pope. Both entities were in a competition to lead the Christianization which would integrate the Slavs in Central and Southern Europe. In 870, he adopted Christianity from Constantinople.

Simeon I the Great ruled the Bulgarian Empire from 893 until 927, leading campaigns against the Byzantines, the Magyars, and the Serbs, leading Bulgaria into its greatest expansion of its history. He led his army in battle for Anchialus (917) and Constantinople (923 and 924). But Basil II, later known as the Bulgar Slayer, crushed the Bulgars in the 1014 Battle of Kleion, and in 1018, the last of the Bulgarian strongholds wad surrendered to the Byzantine army. The first Bulgarian Empire no longer existed. But it was soon replaced by the Second Bulgarian Empire in 1185.

The Second Bulgarian Empire lasted from 1185 through 1396, when the Ottoman Empire took Bulgaria over. During Ottoman rule, the Bulgarians were Islamized. In 1875, a nationwide uprising was planned, but it did not happen. In the spring of 1876, however, the Bulgarians did participate in an uprising in south central Bulgaria, even though there were a number of Turkish military personnel in that region. Turkey ordered its regular troops (Nisam) as well as the irregular troops (Bashi-bazouk or Redif) to fight the Bulgarians who were revolting. The Redif were mostly Muslims recruited from Bulgaria, the Caucasus, and Crimea, among others. The Turkish army suppressed the rebellion and killed 30,000 Bulgarians as they did so. They went on to massacre the majority of the population in both Batak and in Perushtitsa. Modern historians estimate the number of Bulgarians killed during this time to be as high as 100,000.

After five centuries, the Ottoman Empire ended its control over Bulgaria in 1878 after the Russo-Turkish War, which raged from 1877 to 1878. The treaty of San Stefano ended the war and recognized an autonomous Bulgaria, and in 1908, the country declared itself an independent kingdom with Ferdinand as their tsar.

In 1946, the monarchy was abolished in referendum. The turnout was nearly 92% and 96% of those who voted, voted in favor of a change to a people's republic. The Communist Party won the election, and Georgi Dimitrov was elected prime minister.

By the end of 1947, the new constitution set the government up in Soviet-style. Todor Zhivkov, head of the Communist Party for more than 35 years, was declared President. In 1989, Zhivkov was ousted and a multi-party system was instated. In 1991, the new constitution declared Bulgaria a parliamentary republic and expanded basic freedoms. One year later, former dissident Zhelyu Zhelev was elected Bulgaria's first directly-elected president the same year that saw former president Zhivkov was sentenced to seven years in prison for corruption in office.

 

 

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