Bulgarians - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Traditional Subsistence was structured around agriculture and herding. The relative importance of these two activities varied regionally: agriculture dominated the plains; sheep- and goatherding typified the mountain regions; and a more balanced combination of both characterized intermediate zones. These resources were augmented by small-scale commodity production and the sale of excess agricultural products. Commercial agricultural production characterized a few areas, such as the Rose Valley, which is famous for the production of rose oil. Elsewhere, the level of commercial production was inhibited by the small size of holdings, which were often barely sufficient for subsistence purposes and typically widely dispersed.

Reciprocal labor sharing was an important element of the subsistence strategy, and some individuals from agriculturally poorer regions migrated seasonally to work in the plains. The crop base varied regionally but usually combined grain, fruit, and vegetable production.

The agricultural situation changed radically with the collectivization of land in the 1950s. Villagers then started working for the cooperative farm and raising additional crops and animals for their own use on small personal plots granted by the cooperative for subsistence purposes. Since the 1960s the development of industrial enterprises and the possibility of commuting to work in towns has turned many villagers into nonagricultural workers who continue to acquire some Subsistence needs from their personal plots.

Industrial Arts. Bulgarians traditionally practiced many trades, often in addition to agricultural work. Wood-and metalworkers provided villagers with such necessities as building materials, furniture, horse/donkey carts, and wine barrels. Textile crafts were perhaps the most important, Including spinning, weaving, knitting, and sewing. The major products were clothing and household textiles such as bed covers and rugs. Particular designs and colors of clothing distinguished different regions of the country. While all Households were involved in domestic textile production, some regions developed significant woolen and braid industries during the Ottoman period. Today textile industries are again a major component of the national economy. Other major sectors of contemporary industry include machine building, metalworking, and food processing. Chemical and electronic industries are important growth sectors.

Trade. After liberation from Ottoman control Bulgarians began exporting agricultural products—primarily food-stuffs—to Germany, Austria, Great Britain, and other Western European countries. The sale of foodstuffs to Germany increased significantly in the context of World War II. After the war the nature of trade shifted radically. Bulgaria became part of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, and trade—now state-controlled—shifted to the other members of this Communist economic alliance, especially the Soviet Union. With increasing industrialization the profile of exports also shifted to include a balance of agricultural and industrial products. The major imports were fuels, raw materials, and machinery. In the 1970s trade with Western Europe began to develop again on a small scale, and since 1989 there has been a major attempt to establish economic connections with developed capitalist countries.

Division of Labor. In the agricultural subsistence Economy labor was divided on the basis of sex and age. Women took care of most domestic activities, including cooking, cleaning, spinning, and weaving. Sewing was done by both men and women, but outer garments were often made by Village tailors who were men. In the fields women hoed while men plowed and sowed, but everybody helped in the harvest. Both men and women took care of the animals, with men tending to horses and butchering. Children were primarily responsible for pasturing animals and collecting water. In the socialist era both men and women moved increasingly into wage labor. This has softened the rigidity of the sexual division of labor, but many of the same divisions are operative in the personal plot production and domestic activity of villagers.

Land Tenure. In Ottoman times land was held by the sultan, who granted rights to collect tribute or tax to Ottoman lords. After liberation most land was divided up among Bulgarian cultivators, but villages retained some areas of pasture and forest as communal property. Schools and churches also had associated lands for their support. After World War II, the controlling Communist government pursued a policy of collectivization. Villagers retained a small "personal plot" of land for their own subsistence use, but the government took control of most land amenable to an economy of scale through village Cooperatives. Following collectivization, the trend was toward increasing the size of agricultural production units, first by consolidating cooperatives and subsequently by integrating several cooperatives into large administrative units called agroindustrial complexes. This trend began to wane in the mid-1980s, and with the decline of Communist party influence since 1989, there has been strong official support for reprivatization of agricultural production.

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