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A Look at Bulgaria’s Modern History

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Learning a little more about the country’s modern history can enhance your experiences while on a Bulgaria tour. Detailed, complicated, and ever-changing, Bulgaria’s future is just as exciting as its past.

Following an unsuccessful revolution in 1876, Bulgaria finally won its freedom in the Russian-Turkish Liberation War (1877-1878). The Berlin Conference in 1878 separated the state into three parts. Under Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria's leader from 1954 to 1989, the country thrived and became one of the most prosperous in Eastern Europe. Industrial growth in particular flourished, eventually contributing to over half the gross national product.

Bulgaria peacefully transitioned from autocratic communist rule to a democratic system in 1989. This change was unprecedented, and after the first free election in 50 years, a new Parliament was elected in 1990. Elected President, Zhelyu Zhelev, led this new Parliament in making a new constitution. This constitution is said to be one of the most democratic in Europe, and the first among former socialist countries. The two primary concerns of Bulgaria's foreign policy became the membership in NATO and the European Union. Pre-accession negotiations started on February 15, 2000 in Brussels. On December 1, 2000, the Council of Ministers of Justice, and Home Affairs of the European Union decided to remove Bulgaria from the negative visa list.

The Bulgarian monarchy made an extraordinary comeback in June 2001, when former King Simeon II was elected prime minister. The country's Turkish minority was represented in this election for the first time following the President’s encouragement for Bulgarians to be more tolerant of Turkish-Bulgarians. Those on a tour of Bulgaria may observe that the state is currently experiencing some challenges such as inflation and high unemployment. Progress, however, continues under President Georgi Parvanov. The country is in the line-up for entry into the EU in 2007, and membership of NATO was granted in 2004.

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