Bulgarians - Orientation

Identification. Bulgaria is identified variously on the basis of geographical, cultural, and political factors as part of Eastern Europe, southeastern Europe, the Balkans, the Slavic countries, the South Slavic countries, and, until recently, the Communist bloc. The most likely origin of the name "Bulgarian" is from the Turkic verb meaning "to mix," reflecting the mixture of various Turkic tribes that invaded the region and established the first Bulgarian polity.

Location. Bulgaria is located on the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula, between 41°14′ and 44°13′ N and 22°21′ and 28°36′ E. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Yugoslavia to the west, Greece to the southwest and south, Turkey to the southeast, and the Black Sea to the east. The country has a varied topography consisting of mountains, foothills, and plains. The major feature is the Balkan mountain chain, which runs across the center of the country in an east-west Direction, turning northward in the west. The Danubian Plain lies to the north of the Balkans; and the upper Thracian Plain, to the south. Bulgaria abuts the Rhodope, Rila, and Pirin massif, located to the south and southwest. The topography has a strong influence on the climate, dividing the country into two climatic zones. In the north the climate is eastern European continental, with hot summers and cold winters. The Balkan range shields the south from cold winter winds, producing a modified Mediterranean climate with milder winters and hot dry summers.

Demography. In 1988 the population of the country was 8,973,600. Approximately 85 percent are ethnically Bulgarian. There is much concern about the low birthrate among Bulgarians, which has dropped from one of the highest in Europe in the 1870s to the current level, which barely exceeds the rate necessary to sustain existing population levels. This dynamic has led to an increase in the average age of the Population. The other major demographic shift has been in the urban component of the population, which has grown from only 20 percent in 1900 to 66 percent in 1988.

Linguistic Affiliation. Bulgarian is classified as a South Slavic language and is written with the Cyrillic alphabet. However, the contemporary grammar and vocabulary show diverse influences, especially Turkish. There are various Regional dialects in the country, with the major difference being between eastern and western variants. Other languages in border regions—such as Serbian in the northwest, Macedonian in the southwest, and Romanian in the north-central area—are increasingly influential. Regional dialects are becoming less pronounced as a result of national standardization in education and the rising importance of national media, especially television.

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