Friday, October 14, 2011

Republic of Bulgaria

The Republic of Bulgaria is in South Central Europe, in the Balkans. The country is a little larger than Tennessee and has 7.3 million inhabitants. The capital is Sofia.

Bulgaria has lots of archeological sites because this was home to ancient Thrace. The Bulgars came to Europe in the second century AD from what is today northern Afghanistan and eventually mixed with the Slavs.

In 1396 Bulgaria became part of the Ottoman Empire for over 500 years. The country gained independence in 1908. However, they made a couple of very bad decisions because Bulgaria was on the losing side in both WWI and WWII.

Since Bulgaria was allied with Nazi Germany, in 1941, Jews were striped of their property, livelihood, and civil rights. In 1943, Bulgaria agreed to transfer its Jews to concentration camps in Poland. However, Bulgarian Jews and Roma were not deported. Instead Bulgaria resettled Sofia's 25,000 Jews to rural areas and the Orthodox Church helped 50,000 Jews to survive the war. Bulgaria permitted Jews to freely emigrate to Israel after the war.

From 1944 - 1989 the communists ruled the People's Republic of Bulgaria. It was allied with the Soviet Union as a member of the Warsaw Pact. Eventually free elections were allowed and the country became a parliamentary democracy.

Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and joined the EU in 2007. The country had hoped to join the Schengen zone in 2011 but it looks like that won't happen until at least 2012.

Bulgarians do the craziest thing. They nod their heads up and down to mean "no" while they shake their heads side to side to mean "yes". This is completely backward (at least it's backward to me). Sometimes Bulgarians will switch this when they speak to foreigners but that just makes it even more confusing.

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