Basic Data


Official Country Name: Republic of Bulgaria
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 7,707,495
Language(s): Bulgarian, secondary languages closely correspond to ethinic breakdown
Literacy rate: 98.0%
Area: 110,910 sq km
GDP: 11,995 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 43
Total Circulation: 1,400,000
Circulation per 1,000: 203
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 114
Total Circulation: 1,750,000
Newspaper Consumption (minutes per day): 16
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 39 (Lev millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 26.40
Magazine Consumption (minutes per day): 15
Number of Television Stations: 96
Number of Television Sets: 3,310,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 429.5


Television Consumption (minutes per day): 78
Number of Cable Subscribers: 1,066,820
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 130.1
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 160,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 20.8
Number of Radio Stations: 119
Number of Radio Receivers: 4,510,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 585.1
Radio Consumption (minutes per day): 40
Number of Individuals with Computers: 361,000
Computers per 1,000: 46.8
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 430,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 55.8
Internet Consumption (minutes per day): 58

Background & General Characteristics

Bulgaria is undergoing a renaissance. In 2001 the Bulgarian people elected exactly half of the members of the national Parliament from a novice political party, the National Movement for Simeon II (NMSII), formed only a few months before the election, supporting Bulgaria's former king, Simeon II. Simeon II created a coalition government with the Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS), representing the Turkish minority to form a working parliamentary majority. His Majesty became His Excellency Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In 2002, in a surprise election upset, President Petar Stoyanov, representing the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), was defeated for reelection by former Communist and Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader, Georgi Purvanov. A president who is a former Communist and a prime minister who was once its king lead Bulgaria in 2002.

Bulgaria's history extends back to the seventh century, when the first Bulgar tribes formed a nation-state created and recognized by the Byzantine Empire in 681. In the ninth century Bulgaria's first kings or czars successfully fought the armies of the Byzantine Empire. Czar Boris I accepted Christianity, the Eastern Orthodox rite, for his people. Bulgaria's first golden age and the first Bulgarian Empire reached its peak during the reign of Czar Simeon I (893-927). The country's first period of independence ended after successive defeats to the Byzantine armies. In 1018 Bulgaria was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire.

The Bulgarian state was reestablished in 1185 under Princes Asen and Peter. A second Bulgarian Empire, created in 1202 under the leadership of Czar Ivan Asen II (1218-1241), saw Bulgarian culture again flourish. After Czar Ivan Asen's death, internal strife, invading Tartars, a militarily more powerful Byzantine Empire, and a peasant revolt fueled by the nobles' excessive taxation, ended Bulgaria's independence, and returned the nation to the rule of Christian Constantinople. A brief national resurgence under Mikhail Shishman and Ivan Aleksandur only postponed Bulgaria's ultimate absorption into the Muslim Empire of the Ottoman Turks (1385). The collapse of the Christian Byzantine Empire in 1453 brought all of Eastern Europe under direct Muslim rule. Attempts at Bulgar insurrections brought swift and brutal retaliation from the Ottoman Turks.

Under centuries of Ottoman control the flame of Bulgarian independence and culture was kept alive by Bulgarian exiles Hristofor Zhefarovich who wrote Stematografía, a seminal work on Bulgaria's history (1741), and Paisi of Hilendar's History of the Bulgars (1762) written in vernacular Bulgarian. Bulgarian money and men supported Serbian and Greek rebellions against Turkish rule in the early 1800s. Bulgarian independence remained an ideal in the cultural and intellectual realm outside the region but not in Bulgaria. In 1824 Dr. Petur Beron published the first educational primer in colloquial Bulgarian. Beron's primer and educational philosophy were gradually adopted in nineteenth-century Bulgaria's schools. The development of an educational system awakened Bulgars to their history and culture, and the realization of the oppressive nature of Ottoman rule. Bulgarians seeking higher education went to Russia and France. European beliefs in constitutional government and the French Revolution's ideas of liberty and equality were carried back to Bulgaria and deposited as the intellectual "seeds of independence."

The first Bulgarian periodical was printed in 1844. Its focus was the recapitulation of earlier journals printed outside Bulgaria in Romania and beyond Ottoman censorship. As the nineteenth century progressed, an increasing number of periodicals printed by Bulgarian émigrés and smuggled into Bulgaria fueled beliefs in independence. Soon Bulgarian cultural and charitable organizations operating from Constantinople nurtured the idea of Bulgaria's freedom when they established the chitalishte (reading room), which served as a center for adult education, social gatherings, lectures, performances, and debates, where Bulgarians could discuss their future. By 1871, 131 reading rooms spread the Bulgarian language and culture among the Bulgars. Dobri Chintulov wrote the first poetry in modern Bulgarian and helped begin a cultural revival among the Bulgars. Western literature, translated into the Bulgarian language, presented Bulgarians with knowledge of the political, social, and economic changes occurring in the rest of Europe.

As the Bulgarian national identity developed, so did the desire of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to be independent of the Greek Patriarch in Constantinople. Decades of petitions and protests brought results. In 1870 the Sultan in Constantinople designated the Bulgarian Church as separate from and outside the control of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople. Bulgarian revolutionaries used the organizational structure of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as the skeletal framework for a future state.

A series of Bulgarian uprisings in 1835, 1841, 1850, and 1851 were brutally suppressed by the Turks. The failure of the revolts led Bulgaria's independence movements to split, with each one suggesting a different approach to end Turkish domination. Eventually the gradual disintegration of the Ottoman Empire led Great Britain and France to intervene and forced the Turkish government to implement political, economic, and social reforms within the Bulgarian region.

Under the leadership of Georgi Rakovski, Bulgaria launched its first major rebellion against their Turkish overlords in 1862. Serbian betrayal dashed the dream of Bulgarian independence and led to generations of feuding between Serbians and Bulgarians. Fortunately for the Bulgarian people even Rakovski's death in 1867 did not end the Bulgarian dream of independence. The insurrections of September 1875 and April 1876 on behalf of independence were poorly organized and collapsed under the onslaught of a trained and equipped Ottoman army. However, the deaths of over 30,000 Christian Bulgarians raised European concern about the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. The possibility of Russian military intervention in the Eastern Mediterranean in support of the Bulgars forced the convening of an international conference on the Bulgarian question. Russia took the opportunity to charge the Turks with the slaughter of Christians. Turkish refusal to allow the creation of two semiautonomous Bulgarian states was the excuse Czarist Russia needed to declare war on the Ottoman Empire, with the ulterior motive being Russia's desire to gain access to and control of the Black Sea.

Russian intervention on Bulgaria's behalf and with British connivance, witnessed the rapid advance of Russian troops into Bulgaria and on to Constantinople. Through the conference of Berlin in 1876, a smaller Bulgarian state was recognized. Bulgarians in Eastern Rumelia remained under Turkish rule but with a Christian governor. The Treaty of Berlin allowed Bulgaria to adopt a constitution, elect a prince, but continue as a vassal state to the Ottoman Sultan. Europe's exclusion of Bulgarians living in Macedonia, Thrace, and Eastern Rumelia would remain a contentious issue for the next century and lead to numerous Balkan wars.

In 1879 an assembly of Bulgarians meeting in Turnovo, the medieval capital of an independent Bulgaria, wrote a constitution, elected legislators, and selected a German prince, Prince Alexander of Battenberg, to govern them. The principality of Bulgaria's politicians quickly divided into competing factions of liberals and conservatives. Each established its own party newspaper: the Nezavisimost for the liberals and the Vitocha for the conservatives. Within a few years Bulgaria had 19 weekly newspapers publishing around the country.

The brief reign of Prince Alexander of Battenberg (1879-1886) was fraught with great difficulties. A nephew of the Russian czar, Alexander II, Prince Alexander initially enjoyed Russian support for a conservative regime in Bulgaria. However, Bulgaria's conservatives did not have the people's support. The assassination of Alexander II had a tremendous impact on Bulgaria's future. The new Russian czar, Alexander III, did not like his Bulgarian cousin, Alexander of Battenberg. Although the cousins were both conservatives, the Russian czar demanded the Bulgarian Parliament institute his changes, which diluted many freedoms and liberal clauses guaranteed in the Constitution. The unpopularity of the conservatives ultimately forced Prince Alexander to restore the liberals and revoke the Russian-imposed constitutional changes. Prince Alexander's decision to block increasing Russian influence in Bulgaria by denying the permit for the construction of a railroad for Russia in Bulgaria and the increased presence of the Russian army in Bulgaria led to a serious split between the two nations. In 1885 Prince Alexander's increasing assertions of independence led to the union of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia against the wishes of Russia. Russia retaliated by placing army officers inside Bulgaria who led the 1886 coup, which ousted Alexander of Battenberg.

Russia then imposed a three-man regency council on Bulgaria. The regency quickly rejected Russian interference in Bulgarian affairs. An embittered Russia withdrew from Bulgaria and for a decade only hostility existed between the two nations. Under the leadership of Stefan Stambolov as prime minister, the Bulgarian legislature elected, against Russian advice, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a German Catholic and a cousin of Queen Victoria, as Prince of Bulgaria. Although Ferdinand was Bulgaria's new ruling prince, the real power remained Stambolov, who moved quickly to limit constitutional freedoms and squelched the press with strict government censorship. Bulgaria's first national newspaper was the Stambolov creation Svaboda (Freedom). Later when Stambolov was out of office, the former prime minister used Svaboda to criticize Prince Ferdinand. The newspaper was written with a "racy sarcasm" and included articles that were withering attacks on the government and Prince Ferdinand. It was alleged that Stambolov leaked negative stories about the Bulgarian government to the foreign press. The government unsuccessfully tried to convict Stambolov for defamation of Prince Ferdinand's character in the foreign press. Bulgaria's courts rejected the government's argument. Prince Ferdinand responded by allowing government ministers to leak stories to the newspapers that compromised Stambolov's moral and political integrity.

Europe's Great Powers did not recognize Prince Ferdinand as the ruler of Bulgaria for a decade. Stambolov ruled as a virtual dictator who suppressed political parties, the press, and extreme nationalists. The prime minister remained in power because he neutralized the army leadership, shifted the national economy into profitable capitalism, and won support from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Stambolov acquired many enemies, and in 1894 Ferdinand had consolidated enough power and support from the various factions within his country to dismiss the prime minister. Stambolov continued to use Svaboda to attack the government, both the new prime minister and Prince Ferdinand. When Stambolov was assassinated in 1895, Svaboda accused Prince Ferdinand of engineering the former prime minister's death. The ascension of Czar Nicholas II to the throne of Russia in 1896 brought Russian recognition of Ferdinand as Prince of Bulgaria. Prince Ferdinand continued to increase his political powers over the next two decades by maintaining a semblance of parliamentary rule, supporting industrialization, and encouraging Bulgarian nationalism at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. In 1908 Ferdinand felt secure enough to break all ties to the Ottomans and declare himself King of Bulgaria. Numerous small newspapers began circulation in the cities of Sofia, Plovdiv, and Varna. The nation's new leading print media were the Vetcherna Poschta (Evening Courier) and Dnevnik (Journal). Advertising as a source of revenue increased the number of newspapers to 239 publications in 1911. Ironically Svaboda still published, but as the government's newspaper.

The press in Bulgaria suffered during World War I because of a shortage of newsprint and strict military censorship. The defeat of the Central Powers and the overthrow of Europe's three emperors in Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, forced the politically astute King Ferdinand to abdicate in favor of his eldest son, Boris, to save the dynasty. Ferdinand opted for permanent exile from Bulgaria and a life of comfortable exile in Coburg, Germany.

The reign of Boris III (1919-1943) was beset by severe crises on all fronts. As a defeated nation, Bulgaria lost territory, was forced to pay war reparations, and suffered from parliamentary instability. Under Agrarian Party leader and prime minister, Alexander Stamboliiski, Bulgaria underwent severe economic reforms. The government took control over the grain monopoly, ended land monopolies, and redistributed land to the nation's poor, passed a progressive income tax, enacted an obligatory labor law, and made secondary education compulsory. Stamboliiski garnered many enemies from among the other political parties and Bulgarian nationalists from Macdeonia. In June 1923 he was assassinated.

The Bulgarian Communist Party, Europe's oldest, attempted to overthrow the new coalition government in 1923 and in 1925 attempted to kill the king by blowing up the Sofia cathedral with the czar in attendance. The Bulgarian press reacted to the nation's political instability, experiencing periods of some freedom to publish, followed by severe repression and censorship when the military ruled Bulgaria in the king's name. Prior to World War II, the press restrictions under the royal dictatorship of King Boris were relaxed. Each of Bulgaria's many political parties published a newspaper but did so with great care, fearing censorship or closure.

World War II brought Bulgaria into the conflict on the Axis side, as it once again sought territory from its neighbors, which Bulgars inhabited. King Boris skillfully navigated a tightrope between Hitler's increasing demands for war contributions and Boris's desire to keep his nation out of the spreading conflict. In 1943, after returning from a stormy meeting with Hitler in Germany, Boris III died under mysterious and still unresolved circumstances. The throne passed to his six-year-old son, Simeon, and power to a Regency Council of three.

The brief reign of Simeon II was affected by the approaching Soviet armies and the increasing power of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The three regents were charged with treason in 1945 and executed. Until September 1946 and the abolishment of the monarchy, Bulgaria rapidly witnessed the closure of the media, suppression of political parties and the execution of their leaders, and the conversion of a capitalistic economy to a Communist one. The 1947 People's Republic of Bulgaria Constitution, known as the Dimitrov Constitution for Prime Minister Georgi Dimitrov, guaranteed all Bulgarian citizens equality before the law, freedom of speech, press, assembly, and the inviolability of person, domicile, and correspondence. All these rights were qualified by a constitutional clause prohibiting such freedoms if they jeopardized the attainments of the Communist revolution of 1944.

During the Communist era Bulgaria was regarded as one of the most loyal of the Soviet Union's allies. Religious, press, and speech freedoms were gone. On Stalin's demand, Bulgarian Communists viewed as sympathetic to Yugoslav Communist maverick, Marshal Tito, were purged from the party. Under Stalin protégé Vulko Chervenkov (1950-1956), Bulgaria faced one of its harshest periods of repression against any who failed to follow party line. Bulgarian nationalism, culture, and the arts all suffered. All farmland was collectivized.

After the death of Stalin and a period of Soviet liberalization under Nikita Khrushchev, Bulgaria adopted some mild reforms. Newspapers and journalists were permitted more latitude in writing news articles. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 again forced further repression within Bulgaria. Attempting to reassure the Soviet Union of Bulgaria's steadfast loyalty, Chervenkov purged the leadership of the Bulgarian Writer's Union, and all liberal journalists and editors were fired. In 1962 Soviet Premier Khrushchev selected Todor Zhivkov as Bulgaria's next prime minister, who served in that position until his overthrow 27 years later (1989). During those three decades Bulgaria had brief periods of improved press-state relations followed by longer periods of repression. Detente in the early 1970s briefly benefited the Bulgarian press. The 1978 murder of exiled Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov, believed ordered by the Bulgarian secret police, harmed the nation's international image and signaled a return to stricter press regulation. Discontent in Communist Poland (1980) could not be reported for fear of encouraging domestic dissent.

Under Communist rule Bulgaria published 13 daily newspapers, 5 in the provinces, and 8 in Sofia, the capital. The leading newspapers were still the Communist Party organs Rabotnichesko Delo and Otechestven Front. A Communist youth newspaper, Narodna Mladezh, was the third most influential newspaper. Thirty-three newspapers published as either weeklies or twice a week. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church printed its own newspaper but with a careful eye to government censorship. During periods of economic crises, the newspapers reduced the number of pages from 6 pages to 4 and the number of days of publication from 7 to 6 or even 5 days. Each newspaper targeted a specific audience within Communist Bulgaria. They were not subject to circulation concerns or worried about advertising revenue. Bulgaria's other major newspapers published during the Zhivkov era were Trud, the trade unions newspaper, agricultural dailies Koopernativno Selo and Zemedelsko Zname, Vecherni Novini, the only newspaper to give considerable space to advertising, and Narodna Armiya, published by the Ministry of Defense. Only 2 provincial newspapers had wide circulation, the Varna newspaper Narodno Delo and Otechestven Glas, published in Plovdiv.

During the 1980s Zhivkov temporarily eased state oppression of Roman Catholics and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The media was permitted to cover and publish more news events. This brief liberalization period was attributed to the influence of Zhivkov's daugher, Liudmilla, who was chairman of the Commission on Science, Culture, and Art. Her death in 1984 witnessed Bulgaria's return to greater repression of basic freedoms. In 1987 Bulgaria had 17 daily newspapers, most of them local. Rabotnichesko delo remained the nation's leading daily and continued as the mouthpiece for the Bulgarian Communist Party. The weakening of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union led to the emergence of dissident Bulgarian groups protesting the lack of human rights and environmental issues. The Bulgarian government's forced assimilation of its Muslim Turkish minority, denying them their culture, religion, and language, met strong internal resistance and international criticism. Public demonstrations across Bulgaria in 1989 denouncing the Communist government led to the dismissal of Zhivkov and the holding of Bulgaria's first multiparty elections in 1990 since the 1930s. Elections led to the adoption of a new constitution.

The Constitution of Bulgaria was adopted July 12, 1991, creating Bulgaria as a republic and a parliamentary democracy. Its chief of state is a president elected by direct popular vote for five-year terms. The head of the government is the prime minister, who serves as the chairman of the Council of Ministers. The prime minister is nominated by the president and normally heads the largest voting block in the legislature. Since July 2001 Bulgaria's prime minister is its former King Simeon II, now Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Bulgaria's legislature ( Narodno Sobranie ) is a unicameral legislature of 240 seats elected by popular vote every four years.

The Ministry of Transport and Communication, under the department of public administration, oversees Bulgarian communications. The Ministry follows public investment policy in communications, prepares projects for international treaties and agreements in communication, and organizes and guides the preparation of communication during crises, maintaining working communications nationwide for the armed forces and security forces. This Ministry designates representatives to international communications organizations, determines the communications budget, participates in the National Communications System, and controls the actions of authorized legal entities, which receive licenses, permits, and certificates from appropriate government personnel.

Article 34 guarantees the freedom and confidentiality of correspondence and all other communications as inviolable, except when the judicial authorities permit investigation to discover or prevent a crime. Article 38 states that no one shall be persecuted or restricted in his rights because of his views, nor shall be obligated or forced to provide information about his own or another person's views. Freedom of expression (Article 39) is guaranteed, entitling everyone to have an opinion and publicize it through words, written or oral, sound, or image, or in any other way. This right shall not be used to the detriment of the rights and reputation of others, or for the incitement of a forcible change of the constitutionally established order, the perpetration of a crime, or the incitement of enmity or violence against anyone. Article 40 governs the press and the media. The press and the mass information media are free and shall not be subjected to censorship. An injunction on or a confiscation of printed matter or another information medium shall be allowed only through an act of the judicial authorities in the case of an encroachment on public decency or incitement of a forcible change of the constitutionally established order, the perpetration of a crime, or the incitement of violence against anyone. An injunction suspension shall lose force if not followed by a confiscation 24 hours. Under Article 41 of the Constitution, the people of Bulgaria are entitled to seek, obtain, and disseminate information. This right shall not be exercised to the detriment of the rights and reputation of others, or to the detriment of national security, public order, public health, and morality. Citizens of Bulgaria are entitled to obtain information from state bodies and agencies on any matter of legitimate interest to them that is not a state or official secret and does not affect the rights of others.

In 1996 Bulgaria had 1,053 newspapers, 635 periodicals, and published 5,100 books. Forty-six newspapers are considered national newspapers with 1,464,000 readers (1995). The major dailies are all morning newspapers. They include: 24 Chasa , Chernomorski FarContinent , Democraciya, published by the Democratic Forces Union, the Socialist Party newspaper Duma , GlassNarodno Delo, Novini , the business newspaper PariStan-dart, TrudZemedelsko Zname, printed by the Agrarian Union, and the Socialist Party Zemya . Additional daily newspapers published in Sofia are Abv, Banker Daily, Chassa Daily, Daily Monitor, Democratsiya, Demokratsia Daily, Dneven Trud, Dnevnik Daily, Duma Daily, Ikonomiceski Zivot, Kkk, Kontinent Daily Newspaper, Mladezhko Zemedelsko, Monitor Daily, Novinar Daily, Pari Daily, Podkrepa, Politika/Bulgaria, Sofia News, Standart Daily, Troud Daily, Trud Daily, Vecerni


Noviny, Vek 21, and WAZ Bulgarian Newspaper. Bulgaria's weekly newspapers are Chassa Weekly, Kapital Weekly, Kultura Weekly, Media and Reklama Magazine, Media Sviat Magazine, and Sofia Echo. Three major dailies are printed outside Sofia, Chernomorski far (Bourgas), Demokraticesko zname (Plovdiv), and Narodno Delo Daily (Varna).

Bulgaria's major general interest periodicals (with 1995 circulations in parentheses) are the weeklies 168 Chasa (65,000), Bulgarska Korona (15,000), Cash (70,000), and the Stolista (15,000). Special interest periodicals are the business weeklies Bulgarski Business (25,000) and Capital Press (15,000). Darzhaven Vestnik, published by the National Assembly, has 30,000 readers. The Ministry of Culture publishes Kultura (8,000).

Lechitel is a health magazine with 90,000 subscribers. A major women's magazine is Nie Zhenite (10,000). Pogled, published by the Journalists Union, has a circulation of 5,000. New periodical publications are Paralleli Magazine, published by the Bulgarian News Agency, Capital Weekly, Century 21, Otechestvo, Sports Plus, Bulgarian Journalist, Debati, Geopolitical Weekly, Literaturen Forum, Radio & TV Center, and Reforma.

Economic Framework

The population of the Republic of Bulgaria is 83 percent Bulgarian, a Slavic ethnic group. The rest of Bulgaria's population is distributed among Turks (8.5 percent), Roma or Gypsy (2.6 percent), and Macedonian, Armenian, Tatar, Gagauz, and Circassian (5.9 percent). The Bulgarian Orthodox Church accounts for 83.5 percent of Bulgarian worshippers followed by Muslim (13 percent), Roman Catholic (1.5 percent), Uniate Catholic (0.2 percent), Jewish (0.8 percent), and the remaining 1 percent divided among Protestant, Gregorian-Armenian, and others.

Bulgaria is a former Communist country establishing a capitalist economy. A severe economic recession in the Balkans in 1996 and 1997 confronted Bulgaria with triple-digit inflation. The governments of Bulgaria since 1997 have stabilized the economy, promoted privatization of state-owned industries, and undertaken major administrative reorganization of the government bureaucracy. Bulgaria is aggressively seeking membership in the European Union and NATO. The labor force in Bulgaria is divided between agriculture (26 percent), industry (31 percent), and the service industry (43 percent). Bulgarian industry produces electricity, gas and water, food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and equipment, base metals, chemical products, coke, refined petroleum, and nuclear fuel. Major exports are clothing, footwear, iron and steel, machinery and equipment, and fuels. Bulgarian agriculture produces vegetables, fruits, tobacco, livestock, wine, wheat, barley, sunflowers, and sugar beets.

Bulgaria began major reforms within the government's bureaucracy, particularly its judicial system, which previously was subject to executive influence, corruption, and structural and staffing problems. A major breakthrough came in 1989 when Bulgaria's Turkish minority was emancipated and given equal rights with the rest of the Bulgarian people. A nationalistic wave threatening Bulgaria's internal peace was avoided when Bulgarian Turks were given the right to run for political office. The political party representing Bulgaria's Turks is part of a governing coalition with the National Movement for Simeon II.

By 1991 Bulgaria had eight national newspapers printing without restriction both national and international news stories. Tainted by decades of association with the Communist era, the newspaper Rabotnichesko delo changed its name to the Duma, adopted more moderate newspaper coverage, and changed the newspaper's format. The leading newspapers in 1991 were the Duma, Demokratsiya (an independent), Trud (a trade uniondaily), and Zemia (a rural daily). Popular weekly newspapers were Pogled, Sturshel (a publication featuring folk humor), and 168 Chasa, which parodied the West's more sophisticated papers.

With the end of Communism the media became more critical of past regimes and demanded public inquiries. Major Bulgarian news stories were about the nation 's Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, Chernobyl, and the 1978 murder of writer Georgi Markov. The new openness in Bulgaria extended to the government's decision to open its files to allow the media to investigate whether or not Bulgaria had a role in the 1981 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. The new press freedom did not eliminate government lawsuits against individual publications for alleged treasonous stories. A 1991 poll conducted by 168 Chasa indicated that 46 percent of the Bulgarian people still believed that the government was trying to regulate and control the media. By 2001 and 2002 the respective Union of Democtratic Forces (UDF) parliamentary and presidential defeats were not based on opposition to government policies, but because privatization of state industry was moving too slowly, there was still considered widespread government corruption, and the economy had not rebounded. The Bulgarian press freely reported these stories with each major political party sponsoring a daily newspaper. The freedom to publish extended to Bulgaria's publishing houses.

Bulgarian book publishers gained international attention in 2001 when Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf was published, and the publication was widely advertised. Press clamor claimed that Bulgaria was anti-Semitic. The truth is closer to the Bulgarian people's desire to read publications long denied them during World War II and the Communist era. Bulgarian King Boris III died under mysterious circumstances after returning from a meeting with Hitler in 1943. Mein Kampf continues to be published in the West without incident. The vast array of book titles published each year in Bulgaria accurately represents a greater freedom to publish.

In 1996 King Simeon II returned to Bulgaria after a 50-year exile. At a Brookings Institute forum in Washington, D.C., in 2002 Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha commented that he was surprised how little had changed in Bulgaria since his 1946 departure outside of industrialization. However, the prime minister noted that in the last five years, Bulgaria had dramatically changed. Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg-Gotha stressed that Bulgaria was always intellectually "European" even if separated by the wall of Communism from the rest of the continent. He preferred to have Bulgaria designated a part of southeastern Europe rather than the Balkans, because the latter term indicates a negative image of backwardness and instability, which Bulgaria is not.

Bulgaria's prime minister stressed the need for further judiciary reform. The Ministry of Justice is reviewing Bulgaria's laws and seeking authority to bring them into compliance with the Western democracies. When this is accomplished, Bulgaria's media will be legally protected to print and broadcast with less fear of legal recrimination from government officials. In 2002 Bulgaria's

media are uncensored, foreign satellites broadcast programming in Bulgaria, and Western journalists have freedom of movement within the nation. More state industry needs to be privatized, which will affect employment. International bids are encouraged. The issue of pre-Communist era land ownership awaits a final resolution. The prime minister actively courts foreign investment.

The Bulgarian people have high expectations. The prime minister wants to see these expectations met, which was why he was on a tour of Europe and the United States to push for Bulgaria's membership in both the European Union and NATO. To reject Bulgarian membership in both organizations could have a devastating impact on the nation. Bulgaria needs a deadline and a commitment for dates of admittance. The prime minister stated that Bulgaria has already accomplished many changes to meet membership requirements, and even if all required changes are not complete, this should not keep Bulgaria from membership. Should membership be denied, Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg-Gotha feared that Bulgaria's relatively new democracy would be harmed, there would be tremendous public disappointment, and the nation could face a major destabilizing effect. However, Bulgaria's support for the United States against world terrorism and offers of assistance in Afghanistan reflect the new maturity of the Bulgarian nation. It is clear that Bulgaria is moving rapidly to adapt, modernize, and be a strong multiparty democracy.


In the decade after the fall of Communism, Bulgaria has moved more rapidly than other nations of southeastern Europe in becoming a Western style democracy. The 1991 Constitution guarantees basic press and speech freedoms. However, obstacles still confront the Bulgarian

government, preventing it from achieving full press freedom.

In January 2000 the Bulgarian Parliament changed the press law, which imposed prison sentences on journalists. Under the new law, public officials must bring libel charges against journalists instead of the government agency bringing legal suit. Government officials must pay their own legal bills and hire their own attorneys. The press law ended the imprisonment of journalists but increased the fines for journalists if found guilty. Bulgaria's president vetoed the measure. The president also vetoed the Electronic Media bill, approved by Parliament in October 1998, because the bill prohibited commercial advertising on television during prime time. Parliament overruled the president. The ban on commercial advertising was ended February 2000.

The Law on Radio and Television and the Law on Telecommunications both regulate Bulgaria's electronic media. The Law on Radio and Television is criticized because the oversight agency, the National Council on Radio and Television, which issues broadcast licenses and reviews possible violations of editorial policies, was not made an independent regulatory agency. The Telecommunications Law assigns broadcast frequencies and determines regulatory rules but is criticized because the complexity of the rules might deter broadcasters with limited resources from operation. A national debate continues on both laws because they fail to conform to European Union standards on the media.

In 2000 the European Union (EU) invited Bulgaria to participate in its Media II Program. The EU's strategy encourages Bulgaria to implement EU policies on economics, science, and culture. The Media II Program is designed to strengthen the audiovisual industry by providing support for the training of film industry personnel, develop audiovisual projects, and encourage transnational distribution of audiovisual projects. Bulgaria has achieved progress in the European Union's Media II Program by adopting a new broadcasting law and its ratification of the EU's Convention and Protocol on Transfrontier Television, but both measures await implementation by the government and Bulgarian media.

News Agencies

Bulgaria has three major news agencies, the Balkan Information Pool, the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, and the Sofia Press Agency. Two recent additions are the Bulgarian News Agency and LEFF Information Agency. The Independent Journalists Union and the Journalists Union are Bulgaria's two major press associations.

Broadcast Media

Broadcasting in Bulgaria is regulated by the state-controlled Bulgarian National Radio and Bulgarian Television agency. There are four national and six regional radio programs. Bulgaria's major radio station is the government-owned Bulgarian Radio. Privately owned radio stations are Daric, Radio FM, and TNN. A radio service is broadcast for tourists from Varna. Bulgaria has two independent television stations, Nova TV (New Television) and 7 Dni (Seven Days). The government-run Bulgarian-TV is considered the nation's leading television station. Bulgaria receives television transmissions from the French satellite channel TV5.

The National Council on Radio and Television (NCRT) regulates the broadcast industry and appoints the directors of Bulgaria's national radio and television systems. NCRT members are appointed on the recommendation of nongovernmental agencies. Parliament selects four from the list of potential appointees, and the president appoints three. The NCRT is criticized for being too influenced by government opinion in the selection of its members. On January 30, 2001, 200 Bulgarian journalists protested to the government that the NCRT was a politicized agency. The dispute stemmed from the NCRT's failure to approve radio directors in a nonpartisan manner.

Since 1991 Bulgaria has licensed 80 radio stations and 18 national and local television stations. There are over 200 local cable stations for both radio and television. Private radio stations are rated as having more professional employees, being financially solvent, and are alleged to number as many as 160 stations because all are not legally licensed. Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) is generally given high marks for its professionalism and generally rated better than Bulgaria's print media. BNR has two national stations, Horizont and Christo Botev, which provide local and regional programming, as well as foreign language broadcasts in Turkish, Greek, Serbo-Croat, French, and Italian. The BBC, Deutsche Welle, Radio Free Europe, and the Voice of America freely broadcast inside Bulgaria.

Private radio stations broadcasting in Bulgaria (with the broadcast site in parentheses) are Agency Balkan (Sofia), Alma Mater (Sofia), Alpha (Varna), Aura (Blagoevgrad), Berkk (Berkovitsa), Bravo FM (Varna), Classic FM (Sofia), Contact Radio (Sofia), Darik (Sofia), Express (Sofia), FM+ (Sofia), Glarus (Bourgas), Iujen Briag (Bourgas), RFI (Sofia), Tangra (Sofia), Valina (Blagoevgrad), and Vitosha (Sofia).

Television networks are fewer in number in Bulgaria because of the high start up costs and limited revenue from advertisers. The Bulgarian National Television (BNT) operates the country's two national television channels, Channel 1, which offers entertainment, westerns, and variety shows, and Efir 2, whose focus is the arts and documentaries. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch was granted the right to convert Efir 2 into a private channel in 1999, leaving Bulgaria with only one government channel. A third television channel was approved for nationwide broadcasting using the frequency formally used by Russian television channel, ORT. The third station will only reach about 55 percent of Bulgarian people but is required to expand coverage gradually to the entire nation. Small television stations offer pirated programming. Cable television is limited by the inability of the people to afford the additional costs and a general lack of advertising revenue. Media frequently judged critical of the government were less likely to get needed advertising revenue during the decade of the nineties. Bulgarian public and private television stations, except for TRI V&X Ltd. in Blagoevgrad, are Sofia based and include 24 Chassa, 7 Dni, BTV, Bulgaria Cable, Bulgarian National Television, Bulgarian Television, Canal 3, MSAT TV, and Nova TV.

Electronic News Media

The Internet has achieved great popularity in Bulgaria with an estimated 150 Internet service providers. The Ministry of Telecommunications lost a 1999 case legally raised by the Internet Society of Bulgaria challenging the law licensing Internet service providers as a direct denial of the public's right to information.

An increasing number of Bulgarian media offer online services. State-run media with Internet services are the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency ( www.bta.bg ) with an English version ( www.bta.bg/indexe.html ), The Bulgarian National Television ( www.bnt.bg ), and Bulgarian National Radio ( www.nationalradio.bg ). Political parties

with Internet service are the National Movement for Simeon II ( www.novotovreme.bg ) and the Union of Democratic Forces ( www.eunet.bg/bgnews/democracy ). Bulgarian television stations online are 7 Days Bulgarian Television Online and Bulgarian Internet Television ( www.bgitv.com ). Bulgarian radio stations with Internet connections are Darrik Radio ( www.netissat.bg/ ), 107.9 FM ( www.hit7.com ), 97.6 FM ( www.radiovitosha.com ), and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty ( www.rferl.org ). Important news services with Internet addresses are News Bulgaria ( www.news.bg.com ), Mediapool, which offers daily updates of Internet information and analysis about Bulgaria ( www.mediapoolbg@mediapoolbg.com ), Bulgaria OnLine ( www.db.online.bg/bg/news.main ), and NI ( www.netinfo.bg ).

Specialized media offering Internet services are Bulgarian Business News (English version), Bankers ( www.banker.bg ), the English weekly Capital ( www.capital.bg/old/weekly/index.html ), and the Daily Chronicle ( http://chronicle.capital.bg ). Major economic publications online are the Bulgarian Financial & Business News Daily, English version ( www.news.pari.bg/cgi-bin/pari-eng.home.cgi ) and the Bulgarian Economic Review, a biweekly publication ( www.pari.bg/doc/BER/berindex.htm ).

Print media with online editions include Bulgaria's three largest publications, Standart News ( www.standartnews.com ), Monitor ( www.zone168.com ), and Sega Daily ( www.segabg.com ). Additional Bulgarian newspapers with Internet editions are the English language The Sofia Independent, Duma, Trud, Sega Weekly, Novinar, Kultura, Bulgar Voice, and The Insider. The Bulgarian Press, Nedelnik Weekly, The Bulgarian-Macedonian

National Education and Cultural Center, The BG-Reporter, and the Bulgarian Room in the Balkan Info Home, The Sofia Echo,7 Sport, and Mmatch offer Internet editions. Vox, an online magazine for literature, was Bulgaria's first independent literary magazine. It was banned by the Communists, but emerged as an underground publication for political journalism and literature in 1989, first called Samizdat and later Vox Glas. News

Education & TRAINING

Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski is Bulgaria's oldest university, founded in 1888 with three academic faculties: History and Philology, Physics and Mathematics, and Law. The school became a university in 1904 with the addition of degree granting programs in medicine, agriculture, forestry, theology, and economics. By 1938 Sofia University contained 9 colleges and 72 institutes and clinics. New higher education programs won government approval from 1947-52: the Higher Institute of Economics, the Medical Academy, the Veterinary-Medical Institute, the Academy of Agriculture, and the Bulgarian Academy of Science.

Sofia University is the major institution of higher learning in Bulgaria for a degree in the media, offering undergraduate and graduate programs in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication. The department specializes in the fields of press and book publishing, communication and public relations, history and theory of journalism, and radio and television. The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication has a working relationship with several major Bulgarian newspapers, Monitor, Capital, Kontinent, Pari Daily, Sega, and Stan-dart. Affiliation with European Union nations allows Bulgarian students in a variety of media fields to study outside Bulgaria at major universities in Western Europe and North America.


Bulgaria has had few periods of complete independence. In the Middle Ages Bulgaria was twice briefly free before being absorbed by either the Byzantine or Ottoman Empires. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries more powerful neighbors manipulated the future of the Bulgarian people, most notably the Turks and the Russians. Attempts to unite all Bulgars under one national flag failed because Bulgaria's neighbors, Greece and Yugoslavia, claimed the same lands. The desire for a Greater Bulgaria, led the nation to make the ultimately disastrous decisions to join both the Central Powers and the Axis in two world wars to achieve the union of all Bulgars.

Independent since 1879, Bulgaria was denied the right to unite all Bulgars under one national flag, and its governments were interfered with and destabilized by more powerful neighbors, particularly Russia under the czars and the Soviet Union under Communism. Throughout Bulgaria's history, human rights and press freedoms existed for only brief periods. Political instability led to political assassinations and coups. Constitutions were replaced and even though each one guaranteed press, speech, and expression rights, those rights were usually ignored, reduced, or suspended altogether. Within a decade of Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov's overthrow, Bulgaria has begun a remarkable transformation into becoming a modern democratic state. The paradox of a former king leading his nation as a prime minister out from under the shadows of decades of Communist rule has achieved great attention in Europe and the United States. Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is politically astute, cultured, and is completely dedicated to making Bulgaria a modern nation of the twenty-first century. The change in Bulgaria began in 1997 with the election of the Union of Democratic Forces. The momentum must be continued, and it will be if Bulgaria's progress is rewarded with membership into the European Union and NATO.

Significant Dates

  • 1997: Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) win the presidency and control of Parliament from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the nation's former Communist Party.
  • 2001: Exiled King Simeon II wins parliamentary elections and becomes prime minister of a coalition government with the Turkish minority party
  • 2002: Bulgarian Socialist Party leader and former Communist, Georgi Purvanov, is elected president.


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Dimitroff, Pashanko. King of Mercy. London: Wexford & Barrow, 1986.

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Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prime Minister Simeon. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute, 24 April 2002.

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Zhelev, Veselin. "Hitler's Autobiography Doing Well in Sofia." AP Worldstream, 11 December 2001.

William A. Paquette

User Contributions:

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May 16, 2006 @ 3:03 am
i think over the past few years,the country has grown to become one the power houses of the world.i suggest that more employment be created for the youths and more provision of loans to the poor..Thank you.if these can be done,u can become greater than Germany and co.

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