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Bulgaria Property - About Bulgaria

The Ancient Bulgarians Back

 

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The original homeland of the ancient Bulgarians (or Proto-Bulgarians) was in Middle Asia, in the mountainous region of Pamir and Hindu Coush and may be described as emerging in Antiquity (1-st century BC) when they formed their first state union (Balhara or Baktria). The Ancient Bulgarians constituted an ethnic community of Indo-European origin, the Indo-Iranian element being increasingly considered to be a determinant one. As a highly developed civilization they had culturally influenced the territories of Central Asia for a continued period of time.

They have left to the World a rich cultural heritage in the field of philosophic understanding of the World as well as in the State administration, social structure, military art, writing, linguistic culture, construction, astronomy and matematics. Eloquent exemple of this is their calendar based on the sun cycles, which is perfect from astronomical and mathematical point of view. UNESCO has recognised it as one of the most accurate ancient calendars known so far.

The European appearance of the ancient Bulgarians dates to 165 AD according to the oldest chronicles of the Bulgarian Kingdom (Khanate). The powerfull State Union of the ancient Bulgarians known as Great Old Bulgaria (632 AD) with khan Kubrat at its head existed on the territories between the Caspian Sea and the northern part of the Black Sea until the middle of the VII-th century AD when it expanded and separated into two Khanates – Volga Bulgaria and Danube Bulgaria. As a sign of honor, the Roman emperor Hyracleus conferred to khan Kubrat, who was Christian, the title of “Patrician”.

 

 

The Danube Bulgaria

 

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In the second half of the 7-th century, a considerable part of Proto-Bulgarians settled in the delta of the Danube and became neighbors of the Byzantine empire. Leading a strong army the Emperor Constantin IV Pogonatus confronted the Bulgarians but his legions were defeated. The Bulgarian Khan Asparuh entered the lands of of present-day Northeastern Bulgaria. In alliance with the local Slav tribes they formed a Bulgarian state, which was formally recognised by Byzantium in 681 AD. Khan Asparuh stood at the head of that state and Pliska was made its capital. The new state established close links with the Bulgarian Khanate of Kuber on its western borders, since its foundation in 685 AD in the than region of Keramissia.


Under the rule of Khan Tervel (700-718 AD), Bulgaria expanded its territory and turned into a major political force and one of the biggest European empires. Under Khan Kroum (803-814 AD) Bulgaria bordered with the Frankish empire of Carl the Great to the west, and to the East the Bulgarian troops reached the walls of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The victory of Khan Kroum over the Bizantine army in the mountainious pass Veregava (811 AD) further affirmed Bulgaria as a regional power.

In 864 AD, during the rule of Prince Boris I Michail (852-889 AD), the Bulgarians adopted Christianity as their official religion. This act further consolidated the Bulgarian State and strengthened its position in Europe. Bulgarians became part of Christian Europe. The Christianization was an important prerequisite for the formation of the Bulgarian nationality.


The Golden Age

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Modern historiography admits that the language of the Ancient Bulgarians was from the Indo-Fergan linguistic group. At the formation of the Danube Bulgaria, the Bulgarians, who gave their name to the new state, were relatively lower in number compared to the Slavs. In the next 100-150 years this led to the gradual establishment of Slavonic (also of Indo-European origin) as a predominant language. Therefore, the modern Bulgarian language belongs to the group of Slavonic languages.
In the second half of the 9-th century the most impressive fact in the cultural history of Bulgaria and the other Slavonic countries was the creation and dissemination of a script and literature of the spoken Slav language. Two monk brothers of Bulgarian origin - Cyril (Constantine the Philosopher) and Methodius - created in Ohrid and disseminated among the Slavs, together with their disciples, the first Slavonic alphabet - Glagolic. For their contribution in spreading the Christianity, Cyril and Methodius were declared Saint Patrons of civilized Europe by the pope John Paul – II. Some of the disciples came to Bulgaria, where they were warmly welcomed and offered good conditions for work. Between 886 and 893 AD one of them – St. Clement of Ochrid created an ameliorated version – the Cyrillic alphabet. Prince Boris I Michail assigned the disciples with the mission to continue with the translation of the Holy Scripture from Greec and to educate thousands of priests to preach in Bulgarian language in local churches. These activities were concentrated mainly in the region of Pliska and in the region of Kutmichevitsa (Devol and Ochrid). From Bulgaria the Cyrillic script spread to other Slavic lands as well - present-day Serbia and Montenegro, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Republic of Macedonia and others.

The creation of the new alphabet provoked a severe reaction both from the German clergy and from Rome, which deemed that the Holy Scripture could be preached only in “the three holy languages” – Jewish, Greek and Latin. Cyril and Methidius successfully advocated before Rome the right of the Slavs to have a script and to perform religious services in their own mother tongue. Finally, Rome recognized the new language. Soon afterwards Bulgarian became the language of church, literature and official administration, and laid the foundation for the rich Medieval Bulgarian culture.

The conversion to Christianity and the creation of the Slavonic alphabet and literature accelerated the process of consolidation of the Bulgarian nation on vast geographical regions of the Balkan Peninsula – Moesia, Dobroudja, Thrace, the Rhodope Mountain and Macedonia.

The cities of Ochrid and Pliska, and subsequently the new capital city Veliki Preslav, became centres of Bulgarian culture, integral part of the Slav culture as a whole.

During the reign of King Simeon I the Great (893-927 AD) the Bulgarian State reached the peak of its political grandeur and power. It marked the "Golden Age of Bulgarian Culture". The country achieved significant territorial enlargement, its borders reached the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. In the summer of 917 near the river Aheloy (North-Eastern Bulgaria) the Bizantine army was crushed during a spectacular military operation led by King Simeon I the Great. He proclaimed himself as a Roman Emperor. Hence, in the first half of 10th century Europe was deivided among the Christian Empires of the Bulgarians, Franks and Byzantines.

During the reign of Simeon's successors, Bulgaria was weakened by internal struggles. The Bizantine Empire took advantage of this weakness and in 871 AD invaded the Eastern part of Bulgaria, including the capital of Veliki Preslav. For this reason, the Bulgarian king Samuil (987 - 1014), son of the governor of of the Macedonian provinces of Bulgaria, mouved the capital to Ohrid (on the banks of the lake Ochrid).

In 1018, after prolonged wars, Bulgaria was conquered by the Byzantine Empire. From the very first years under Byzantine rule, the Bulgarians started fighting for their freedom. In 1186, the uprising led by two noble brothers - Assen and Peter, overthrew the domination of the Byzantine Empire. The Second Bulgarian Kingdom was founded, and Turnovo became the new capital. After 1186, Bulgaria was initially ruled by Assen, and after that by Peter.


The Second Bulgarian Kingdom top of the page

 

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The previous might of Bulgaria was restored during the reign of their youngest brother, Kaloyan (1197-1207), and during the reign of King Ivan Assen II (1218 -1241) the Second Bulgarian Kingdom reached its greatest upsurge: the territory of the country spread to the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea, the economy and culture florished. This period was called “The Second Golden Age”. It coincided with important developments in the region – in 1204 during the 4-th crusade the Bizantine Empire were conquered and the Latin Empire emerged. The territorial aspirations of the Emperor Balduin I led to an open confrontation with Bulgaria. In April 1205 near Odrin the knights were defeated by the army of king Kaloyan and the emperor was captured and eventually executed. After the invasion of Constantinople by the crusaders, Bulgaria’s capital Turnovo became the center of the Eastern Orthodox Christian culture and attracted eminent artists, clerics and other spiritual leaders.

During the reign of Ivan Alexander (1331 - 1371) Bulgaria reached a new peak, which lasted until the end of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1186-1396). The schools of literature and the arts in Turnovo developed the traditions in Bulgarian culture, which is evidenced by the frescoes in the famous Boyana Church near Sofia, the churches in Turnovo, in the Zemen Monastery, the churches hewn into the rocks near Ivanovo, the miniatures in the Gospel that belonged to King Ivan Alexander, kept at the British Museum in London, and Manassiy's Chronicle. In 1235, the Head of the Bulgarian Church was given the title of Patriarch. The Bulgarian art and culture from that period were akin to the pre-Renaissance in Western Europe.

A special attention in this regard should be payed to the Boyana church - an antique of exceptional historical and artistic significance. It is located at the foot of the Vitosha Mountain near Sofia. The oldest part of the church dates back to the early 11th century. The most interesting part of the monument is the murals done in 1259. The frescoes are realisric and rich in tone, the artist skillfully combines the requirements of iconografical canones with real life. 89 scenes are depicted, containing 240 individualised human images - a real art gallery of 13th century. The portrait of the founder of the church patron Kaloyan and his wife Desislava and of Prince Konstantin and his wife Irina are the supreme peak of the skill of the artist. The frescoes of the Boyana church have been compared to the best Renaissance models, though actually preceding them with a century and a half. Due to its magnificence the Boyana church was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.

The strife among the Boyars (Nobility) resulted in the division of Bulgaria into two kingdoms: the kingdoms of Vidin and Turnovo. This weakened the country and it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1396.

The Ottoman Domination top of the page

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When Bulgaria fell under the domination of the Ottoman Turks the Bulgarian political, religious and cultural elite was destroyed. Official and religious documents and many Orthodox Christian sanctuaries were demolished or turned into Muslim shrines.The policies of forced islamisation and discrimination of local populations pursued by the Ottoman Empire made its domination the most dreadful time of Bulgaria’s history.During nearly five centuries of Ottoman domination the Bulgarian people never ceased to fight for their freedom and defended its etnicity, religion, language and traditions. The Bulgaria’s sacrifice and constant insurrections barred the further Ottoman expansion westward. An expression of the Bulgarian spirit for liberty and aspiration to independence were over 400 mutinies and uprisings. Later the appearance of the clandestine fighters, the “haydouts”, who protected the Orthdox Christian population, made the emergence of a well-organised national liberation movement possible. The eminent Bulgarian writer Ivan Vazov - the father of the modern Bulgarian literature - described the struggle for national liberation in its famous novel “Under the Yoke”.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church played a major role in preserving cultural heritage and ethnic identity of the Bulgarian people and promoted the ideas of Bulgarian Revival and national liberation. The Bulgarian Renaissance period began in the middle of the 18-th century. The struggle for an independent autocephalous church, for open religious practices and for publishing books and periodicals in Bulgarian language characterized this initial demand for statehood (after the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans the Greec Patriarchy was recognized by the Turks as the only representative of the Christian population. Bulgarian priests were substituted by Greec ones, who preached in Greec). In 1762 a monk form the Chiliandary monastery (one of the Bulgarian monasteries at Mt. Athos), Father Paissiy Hilendarski, wrote a manuscript “A Slavic- Bulgarian History” designed to increase the awareness of the Bulgarians of their glorious past and of their potential to develop as a free nation in an independent state of their own. The ideas of national liberation led to the establishing of an autonomous Bulgarian national Church in 1870 and to the flourishing of education and culture. Many schools were created and sponsored by the Bulgarian Orthodox church. Some of the key figures during the Bulgarian National Revival were Zachary Zograph, Nikolay Pavlovich, Stanislav Dospevski, brothers Miladinov who compiled and published the antology “Bulgarian national songs” (1861) and many others. The Ecclesiastical and National Liberation Mouvements forced the Ottoman Empire to grant the Bulgarians the status of a self-determined nation. In the first half of 19th century the national liberation movement on the Balkans (Serbia and Greece gained independance) forced the Ottoman Empire to make some concessions. In 1839 and in 1856 the Sultan issued decrees proclaiming equal status for all its subjects, but to a large extent the declared rights and freedoms remained on paper only.

The Struggle for National Liberation top of the page

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The start of the organised revolutionary movement for liberation from Ottoman domination is associated with the work of Georgi Sava Rakovski (1821-1867) - writer and journalist, founder and ideologist of the national liberation movement. In 1869 in Bucharest, Romania, the expatriate Bulgarian community created a Central revolutionary committee, wich was to organize an uprising in Bulgaria.

The main figures in the national liberation movement were Vassil Levski (1837-1873) - strategist and ideologist of the movement and national hero; Lyuben Karavelov (1834-1879) - writer and journalist, leader and ideologist of the movement; Hristo Botev (1848-1876) - poet and journalist, revolutionary, democrat, national hero, Petko Kaloyanov (Kapitan Petko Voyvoda) and many other Bulgarians. The revolutionary activity of Vassil Levski made him a national hero, called by the people “Apostle of Freedom”. Characteristic features of the Bulgarian National Liberation Mouvement were the fact that it was conceived as a part of the struggle of all the oppressed Balkan peoples against the Ottoman Empire (many Bulgarians participated in the uprisings in Serbia - 1804, in Greece - 1821, in Crete - 1866), and the belief that Russia is the staunchest ally of the Christian population in this struggle.

In 1876 the April Uprising broke out - the most significant attempt at liberation from Ottoman domination and a crucial point in the emerging national liberation movement. The uprising was brutally crushed and drowned in blood, but eventually it drew the attention of Russia, Western Europe and the United States and gave rise to the “Bulgarian issue”. Two Americans – the diplomat Eugene Schuyler and the journalist Januarius MacGahan were the first to report to the World in mid 1876 of the despicable atrocities, committed against the Bulgarian civilians. More than 30 000 of them were massacred, thousands of towns, villages and Christian shrines were looted and destroyed. In Batak alone 3000 women, men and children – practically the whole population - were slaughtered. The uprising further deepened the political crisis in the Ottoman Empire (called the “Ill man” of Europe) and generated large public support in Europe, especially in Russia, for the liberation of the Balkan Christian populations. An international commission was created to inquire into the exactions against the Bulgarian population. Russia and Great Britain initiated the convening of the Istambul Diplomatic Conference 1876-77 aimed at resolving the issue of the Bulgarian and other suffering Balkan peoples under the Ottoman Empire. The conference established specific geographical borders of the regions with a predominant ethnic Bulgarian population, based on the territory of the Bulgarian Ecsarchie under the Empire’s official legal act (ferman) of 1870. The failure of this diplomatic effort precipitated the outburst of the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878). After heavy and epic battles at the Shipka pass, at Pleven, Stara Zagora and other cities, in wich Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Roumanian and Finland soldiers fought together, the Turkish army was defeated. The Bulgarian volunteers under Russian commandement (more than 10,000) with their bravery and self-sacrifice contributed a lot to the final victory and after the war constituted the core of the Bulgarian Army.

On 3 March 1878 at San Stefano near Istanbul was signed the peace treaty recognizing the defeat of the Turkish army. The treaty put an end to the Ottoman Empire’s domination in the Balkans. It re-established the Bulgarian state along its ethnic boundaries, close to those defined by the 1876 Istambul Diplomatic Conference thus creating the prerequisites for the independent development of the Bulgarian nation-state. For that reason the 3 March was proclaimed a National Holiday of Bulgaria. Under the treaty provisions, Roumania, Serbia and Montenegro were granted full independence. Only several months later, however, the San Stefano Peace Treaty, which was a preliminary one, was revised by the then Great Powers - Germany, Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary and Russia. This took place at the Berlin Congress. The artificial division of the newly liberated territories decided upon by the Congress served temporary political interests.The revision created the “knot” of complications which made the Balkans the “powder-keg” of Europe and resulted in subsequent rivelry, disputes and eventually wars in the region. Exactly here lie the roots of the process which in later times became internationally known as “Balkanization”. Therefore, the notorious “Balkanization” was not produced by the specific mentality or characteristics of the Balkan peoples, it was rather a result of the Great Powers’ arbitrary acts.

According to the resolutions of the Berlin Congress, the newly liberated Bulgarian territories were divided into three: the Principality of Bulgaria was proclaimed (the lands between the Danube river and Stara planina mountain) - with Prince Alexander Battemberg at its head, Eastern Rumelia (Southern Bulgaria)- with a Christian Governor appointed by the Sultan, while Thrace and Macedonia were reverted to the Ottoman Empire. The decisions of the Berlin Congress provoked discontent and frustration among the Bulgarians, who expressed their protests and started to mobilize their efforts for the re-unification of the homeland. Only a few months after the Berlin Congress, in October 1878 the Bulgarian population in the region of Kresna and Razlog (South-Eastern Bulgaria) rised against the Empire.The Bulgarian people openly challenged the unjust decisions of the Berlin congress and in September 1885 the re-unification of Principality of Bulgaria with Eastern Roumelia was announced. This patriotic act unanimously supported by the Bulgarian people was so convincing and unequivocal that the Great Powers had to accept it. The re-unification of Bulgaria provoked Serbia to wage a war against Bulgaria. After a short military campaign the young Bulgarian army defeated the experienced army of Serbia.

Meanwhile, the situation of the population in Macedonia and Thrace under the Ottoman Empire worsened significantly. Applying the principle “divide and conquer”, it encouraged nationalist incitement and rivalry among the different ethnic groups favoring those, aimed at weakening the positions of the predominant Bulgarian population. In 1893 – 1895 the Internal Revolutiary Organisation of Macedonia and Odrin (Edirne) region was created and started to spread its influence rapidly. The proclaimed goal was the liberation from the Ottoman Empire. The Elinden-Preobrazhenie uprising erupted in August 1903 in which over 20 000 individuals participated. Once again people’s resistance was brutally put down by the Turks. Trying to escape from the repression, tens of thousands of Bulgarians from Macedonia immigrated to Bulgaria (nearly half of the 70 000 refugees), United States and other countries.

The Modern Bulgarian State top of the page

 

This period commenced with one significant act – the convening of the Great National Assembly in February 1879 in medieval Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo which proclaimed Bulgaria Constitutional Monarchy and adopted a liberal Constitution. After 1878, the first cultural and educational institutions in the Principality began to emerge. The St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library was built in 1878, the St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia opened its doors in 1888, the Accademy of Arts - in 1895 and the “Ivan Vazov” National Theatre - in 1904. The first film was shown in Rousse in 1897.


The late 19th and the early 20th century were characterised by remarkable achievements in all fine arts. This period was marked by the works of the Bulgarian poets and writers Ivan Vazov, Aleko Konstantinov, Dimcho Debelyanov, Pencho Slaveykov - the only Bulgarian nominated for Nobel Prize, Peyo Yavorov and many others. The artists Anton Mitov, Ivan Angelov, Ivan Mrkvicka, Yaroslav Veshin, B. Schatz and others created some of the most remarkable works of art during that time. The late 19th century also marked the beginning of Bulgarian professional musical culture. The first Bulgarian composers were Emanouil Manolov, Dimiter Christov and Georgi Atanassov-Maestro.

Ferdinand Saxe Coburg Gotha, Bulgarian Prince since 1887, proclaimed Bulgaria's independence from Turkey in 1908 and became King of Bulgaria. In alliance with Serbia, Greece and Montenegro Bulgaria took part in the Balkan War (1912) against the Ottoman Empire for the liberation of Thrace and Macedonia in which Turkey was vanquished. In May 1913 the London Peace Treaty formalized the liberation of the lands westward of the line Midia-Enos from Ottoman domination. The victorious march of the allied armies was admired in Europe and in United States, especially the taking over by the Bulgarian army of Odrin (March 1913) considered to be an unseizable military stronghold of the Ottoman Empire. The president of the United States sent a letter of congratulations to the Bulgarian Government on the occasion of this victory.

Discords among the allies as to the allocation of the newly liberated territories escalated into an armed conflict between them. Shortly after the signing of the London Peace Treaty Serbia and Greece violated their previous arrangements with Bulgaria and concluded a military agreement against it. On its side, Bulgaria overestimated its chances to win a war against Serbia, Montenegro and Greece and opted for the military solution. The so called “Inter-Allies War” begun. Roumania and Turkey took advantage of the difficult situation of the Bulgarian army and occupied vast territories in Northern and Southern part of the country respectively. The Bucharest and the Istanbul peace treaties imposed harsh conditions on Bulgaria. Under the Bucharest peace treaty provisions Serbia, Montenegro and Greece acquired large territories of the former Ottoman Empire, inhabited by ethnic Bulgarians.The three countries partitioned among themselves Macedonia, Southern Dobrudja was ceded to Roumania. Eastern Thrace was returned to Turkey. Charles Vopica, the American representative to the Bucharest peace conference, objected the unnecessary dictate on Bulgaria and refused to sign the Peace Treaty.

In 1913 the International Foundation for Peace, financed by the American philanthropist Andrew Carnegi, sponsored the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of Balkan Wars (1912 - 1913) – the famous Carnegie Commission. The Commission, which included well-known politicians, diplomats, journalist and researchers from United Kingdom, France, Russia, United States determined on site the behavior of the belligerants. In the spring of 1914 the 420-pages report of the Commission was published in New York. It contained plenty of fotographic materials, facsimiles of original documents, statistics and eyewitness testimonies. The report described the practices of ethnic cleansing, assimilation and brutal repression of the Bulgarian population on the territory of Macedonia and Thrace. As a result, tens of thousands of reffugees were expelled from their homes and were forced to escape in Bulgaria or to imigrate in other countries.The issue of Bulgarian refugees’ land and property arised.

Although aimed at national re-unification, the intervention of Bulgaria in World War I on the side of the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) ended with a national catastrophe. In 1918, King Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his son Boris III. The Neuilly Peace Treaty of 1919 imposed severe provisions on Bulgaria: it lost its outlet on the Aegean Sea, Western Thrace became a part of Greece, Southern Dobroudja was annexed to Romania, and the territories around Strumica, Bosilegrad, Zaribrod and villages around Kula were given to the Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian Kingdom. (Southern Dobroudja was restored to Bulgaria in 1940 by the Bulgarian-Romanian Treaty of Kraiova). In 1919 King Ferdinant abdicated in favor of his son Boris. The Government of the Bulgarian Agrarian Union’s leader Alexander Stamboliiski came to power until June 1923 when it was overthrowned and killed in a right-wing military coup. Stamboliiski passed some reforms and stabilized the national economy and army. Twice – in 1923 and in 1934 - the democratically elected governments were remouved and authoritarian regimes were established. The military and political failiures and the economic crisis after the war triggered the appearance of leftist and communist mouvements. The period until the end of World War II was marked by increasing political and armed opposition led by the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) against the internal and foreign policy of the official regimes.

The 1920s and 1930s were characterised with a growing economic stabilization and further development of Bulgarian culture. During that period Vladimir Dimitrov-Maistora, Zlatyu Boyadjiev, Dechko Uzunov and many other artists created remarkable works. The State Musical Academy was founded in 1921. The first steps of the art of Bulgarian ballet were made in 1928. Among the most prominent composers of that period were Pancho Vladigerov, Lyubomir Pipkov and Philip Koutev. Under the Old Sky, The Cairn and Graves without Crosses were among the best Bulgarian films in the 1920s and 1930s. The literary works of Elin Pelin, Yordan Yovkov, Geo Milev, Hristo Smirnenski, Elisaveta Bagryana, Assen Raztsvetnikov, Nikola Fournadjiev, Nikola Vaptsarov, and others, are brilliant examples of Bulgarian poetry and prose during that period.

In the early 1940s, Bulgaria led a policy in the interest of Germany and the Axis powers. However, during the World War II Bulgarian army remained stationary and no troops were sent to fight to the East front in support of the German army. Bulgaria was rather used as a rest and recuperation base. The large public opposition, involving the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, members of Parliament and other activists was supported by King Boris III who did not allow the deportation of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews to the concentration camps. A large scale partisan movement emerged against the pro-German orientation of the government. In the final stages of WW II (1944 - 1945) however Bulgaria joined the anti-nazi coalition forces and contributed for the liberation of Europe.

In August 1943 King Boris III died and the regency of the young King Simeon II took over the governing of the country. On 5 September 1944, the Soviet Army entered Bulgaria and on 9 September the Fatherland Front Government, headed by Kimon Georgiev, came into power. In 1946, after a referendum, Bulgaria was proclaimed a People's Republic. The Queen-Mother, King Simeon ?? and Princess Maria-Louisa left Bulgaria for Egypt via Turkey (The royal familly was living in exile until the end of 1990’s). According to the pre-arranged agreements between the Great Allied forces by the end of WW II, Bulgaria remained within the zone of strong Soviet dominance.The Bulgarian Communist Party came into power. The political parties outside the communist dominated Fatherland Front were banned, the economic entities, the real estate and the banks were expropriated and then nationalised, the arable land was coercively re-organised into cooperatives. Many dissidents, including members of the BCP, and leaders of the former political parties were executed, imprisoned or displaced during the years of repression under the communist rule. The governing of the state went successively into the hands of communist party leaders like Georgi Dimitrov, Vassil Kolarov, Vulko Chervenkov, Anton Yougov and Todor Zhivkov.

One of the most repugnant crimes of the Stalin-type communist dictatorship on the Balkans after World War II was the brutal repression against ethnic Bulgarians in the newly created Tito’s Yugoslavia. Continuing the old policy of ethnic cleansing, in December 1944, 1000 soldiers and 70 officers were executed in Skopie by the Yugoslav army, because of being Bulgarians. Executions and other repressions of those who determined themselves Bulgarians were carried out at that time in many towns and villages in Macedonia, which became a part of Yugoslavia. For instance, near Veles in the fall of 1944, 53 eminent city intellectuals of Bulgarian origin were slaughtered by the Yugoslav military in one night. According to different sources, the number of the casualties of such atrocities reaches 20 000. Other tens of thousands Macedonian citizens of Bulgarian origin were put in prisons or camps for many years.

In 1955 Bulgaria became a member of the United Nations. Although under a totalitarian regime, after the WW II, especially in 1960’s and 1970’s, Bulgaria experienced significant economic and social development, compared to the pre-war levels. The most salient features were the industrialization and the related development of the energy sector, the expansion of the infrastructure and social services – medical care and education. Significant achievements were made in the fields of culture and science. Bulgaria became a member of the Warsaw Pact and COMECON. Nevertheless, by the middle of the 1980’s the potential of the state-run socialist economy was exhausted and the economic situation started to deteriorate. This further spured public discontent and strengthened the people’s aspiration to democracy and political change. Bulgaria was an example of peacefull transition from the totalitarian rule to democracy and market economy.

 

Bulgaria – a Democratic State top of the page

 

The date 10 November 1989 marked the beginning of the democratic changes in Bulgaria. A new Constitution was adopted (1991), the multy-party political system was restored, economic reform, privatisation and restitution of the land and real estate expropriated after 1947 started. A new political force emerged - the Union of Democratic Forces, which won the parliamentary elections in 1991. In 1990 D-r Zhelyu Zhelev became the first democratically elected President of Bulgaria.


Bulgaria joined the World Trade Organization in 1996. In July 1998, Bulgaria became a full member of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA).

The key priorities in Bulgaria's foreign policy became the membership in the European Union and NATO. As a result of the country's considerable progress towards meeting the criteria for EU membership, Bulgaria received on 10 December 1999 the invitation to start the pre-accession negotiations. The negotiations started in Brussels on 15 February 2000. On 1 December 2000, the Council of Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs of the European Union decided to remove Bulgaria from the negative visa list and to allow its citizens to travel freely in the countries of the EU.

On April 6th, 2001 Simeon Saxe Coburg Gotha in a public address declared his return to the political scene. The National Movement Simeon the Second (NMSS) was founded. In June 2001, in a coalition with two other parties, NMSS won the elections for the 39-th National Assembly. The Mouvement acquired 120 seats in the National Assembly and Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was appointed Prime Minister. The key priorities of the Government are stable macroeconomic situation, rapid economic growth and employment.

Bulgaria in 2002-2003 served a 2-year term as a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council. Bulgaria has taken part in peace-keeping operations in Kambodge, Bosna and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bulgaria officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March 29, 2004 after depositing its instruments of treaty ratification in Washington, DC. Bulgaria has completed its EU accession negotiations at the end of 2004 and is set to sign the Accession Agreement on 25 April 2005, its full membership in the EU starting on 1 January 2007.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria D-r Solomon Passy was Chairman-In-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for 2004.



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