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Subject: soc.culture.bulgaria FAQ (monthly posting) (part 1/10)

This article was archived around: 23 Jun 2001 04:00:42 -0400

All FAQs in Directory: bulgaria-faq
All FAQs posted in: soc.culture.bulgaria
Source: Usenet Version


Last-Modified: July 17, 2000 Posting-Frequency: Monthly Version: 4.11 URL: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~radev/cgi-bin/bgfaq.cgi Archive-Name: bulgaria-faq/part1
=============================================================================== CHAPTER 0: INTRODUCTION ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 0-1 About this FAQ (by Dragomir R. Radev), last updated: 17-Jul-1920 This list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about Bulgaria is a collaborative effort at creating a useful electronic reference document about Bulgaria. * Note (July 17, 2000): The FAQ is being rewritten at this moment. Many * articles may disappear from the future releases while others are * being updated and/or added. If you want to volunteer to help with * the next release, send mail to the maintainer. The FAQ is related to the newsgroup soc.culture.bulgaria (see below). Many of the materials contained herein are derived from postings in soc.culture.bulgaria Please read this FAQ list before posting to soc.culture.bulgaria. The names in parentheses after each question are the contributor's, which is sometimes a different person than the author of the quoted text. The FAQ is a collection of materials, rather than a complete reference. Some of the information may be out of date, so please be careful and take everything with a grain of salt. Unless an article contains explicit information about when it was last updated, it is older than February 1, 1994. The maintainer of this list is Dragomir R. Radev (radev@cs.columbia.edu). Unless explicitly mentioned, I do not assume any responsibility for incorrect information. I cannot and have not tested all materials for accuracy. Any comments, contributions, and corrections are more than welcome. The maintainer reserves all rights to edit or reject submissions. Send submissions to radev@cs.columbia.edu This FAQ can be reposted anywhere under the following restrictions: - Use the most recent version of the FAQ as possible. The most recent version is always available from the Usenet newsgroup soc.answers - Keep all appropriate credits: the name of the contributor(s) and my name. Keep this list of restrictions as well. - Any modifications (other than presentation-related) should be clearly marked as yours. - You should include a pointer to the original version of the FAQ - either one of the Usenet newsgroups soc.culture.bulgaria or soc.answers, or the WWW site listed below. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 0-2 FAQ availability (by Dragomir R. Radev), last updated: 17-Jul-1920 Currently, the FAQ is available via mail server, anonymous FTP, Usenet and WWW. Usenet: The FAQ is posted approximately once monthly on soc.culture.bulgaria WWW: This FAQ is available on the World-Wide Web from http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~radev/cgi-bin/bgfaq.cgi (HTML form) http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~radev/bulgaria/faq (text form) FTP: This FAQ (as well as all other approved FAQ) is available by anonymous ftp from rtfm.mit.edu in either of the following directories: /pub/usenet-by-group/soc.culture.bulgaria OR /pub/usenet-by-hierarchy/soc/culture/bulgaria Mail: This FAQ is also available by mail server. You have to send mail to one of the following: (1) mail-server@cs.ruu.nl (in Europe) the text of the mail should include the following lines: open get /pub/NEWS.ANSWERS/bulgaria-faq/part0 get /pub/NEWS.ANSWERS/bulgaria-faq/part1 get /pub/NEWS.ANSWERS/bulgaria-faq/part2 get /pub/NEWS.ANSWERS/bulgaria-faq/part3 get /pub/NEWS.ANSWERS/bulgaria-faq/part4 get /pub/NEWS.ANSWERS/bulgaria-faq/part5 get /pub/NEWS.ANSWERS/bulgaria-faq/part6 get /pub/NEWS.ANSWERS/bulgaria-faq/part7 get /pub/NEWS.ANSWERS/bulgaria-faq/part8 get /pub/NEWS.ANSWERS/bulgaria-faq/part9 get /pub/NEWS.ANSWERS/bulgaria-faq/part10 quit (2) mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu (in North America) the text of the mail should include the following lines: send usenet/news.answers/bulgaria-faq/part0 send usenet/news.answers/bulgaria-faq/part1 send usenet/news.answers/bulgaria-faq/part2 send usenet/news.answers/bulgaria-faq/part3 send usenet/news.answers/bulgaria-faq/part4 send usenet/news.answers/bulgaria-faq/part5 send usenet/news.answers/bulgaria-faq/part6 send usenet/news.answers/bulgaria-faq/part7 send usenet/news.answers/bulgaria-faq/part8 send usenet/news.answers/bulgaria-faq/part9 send usenet/news.answers/bulgaria-faq/part10 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 0-3 Partial list of contributors (by Dragomir R. Radev), last updated: 17-Jul-1920 Lyubomir Alexandrov henryberry_@_aol.com Henry Berry bell_@_umbc2.umbc.edu John Bell daniel.belovarsky_@_mbox2.swipnet.se Daniel Belovarsky Plamen.Bliznakov_@_ASU.edu Plamen Bliznakov dimitar_@_best.com Dimitar Bojanchev sboyadj_@_indyvax.iupui.edu Simeon Boyadjiev lb_@_bgcict.acad.bg Luben Boyanov Kitty Kagay jcashel_@_eurasia.org Jim Cashel Dimitar Chankov tatiana_@_best.com Tatiana Christy Karen Colburn phyjgc_@_clust.hw.ac.uk Graham Crowder Prashant Dave Teodora Davidova george.demirev_@_itcambridge.com George Demirev Silvana Dimitrov dintchef_@_ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu Barbara Dintcheff DONTCHEV_@_KATK.helsinki.fi Yulian Donchev filipovi_@_SDSU.EDU Bojidar Filipovich Dimitar Ganchev Gregory Gouzev Ken Gray Alex Haralampiev Melissa Harris r.hays_@_auntie.bbcnc.org.uk Rosa Hays henze_@_hrz.uni-kassel.de Rolf Henze izvorski_@_mercury.cis.yale.edu Ivaylo Izvorski Austin Kelly kenderov_@_xlink.net Stoyan Kenderov jivko_@_nntp.ijs.com Jivko Kolchev interpost_@_alteko.pp.fi Alexander Kostadinov koutlev_@_ix.netcom.com Zdravena Maldjieva Vladimir Marangozov maxval_@_mbox.digsys.bg Ivan Marinov veni_@_cit.bg Veni Markovski mac_@_maine.maine.edu Dennis McConnell Nikolay Mehandjiev mmintche_@_gpu.srv.ualberta.ca Martin Mintchev Peter Mitev Dimitar Nikolov nnikolov_@_lamar.colostate.edu Ned Nikolov Kamen Penev Penyo Penev Vassil Peytchev pp861592_@_oak.cats.ohiou.edu Plamen Petkov Ivan Petrov vpetrov_@_bgnet.bgsu.edu Valentin Petrov Roumi Radenska K.R.Hauge_@_easteur-orient.uio.no Kjetil Ra Hauge andrey_@_ix.netcom.com Andrey Savov Plamen Sivov Rick Speer Plamen Stanoev Plamen Stefanov Ernie Scatton Karel Stokkermans talev_@_access.digex.net Iliya Talev Jan Terziyski vtodorov_@_astro.ocis.temple.edu Val Todorov mincho_@_lamar.ColoState.EDU Mincho Tsankov htsa1_@_CFS02.cc.monash.edu.au Harry Tsamaidis Vesselin Velikov Peter Yovchev Konstantin Zahariev Rossen Zlatev n65897_@_ns1.rz.fhtw-berlin.de Holger Zscheyge BSEN069_@_UNLVM.UNL.EDU Veselin Miladinov ron_@_doc.cc.utexas.edu ? CIA World Factbook US Department of Commerce US Department of State Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission =============================================================================== CHAPTER 1: THE SOC.CULTURE.BULGARIA NEWSGROUP ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1-1 How was soc.culture.bulgaria created (by Ivan Petrov), last updated: 31-Dec-1991 The proposal was made on Oct.10 1991 and read as follows: "I am submitting a request for discussion to create a new newsgroup SOC.CULTURE.BULGARIA. Why: The country is being reborn. Politics, economy and culture are rapidly changing. History is being given a fresh look. Free exchange of information and ideas is essential. The input of everyone interested in Bulgarian society and culture is important. Besides: Older waves of emigration were followed by a new one. There is a need to create links between Bulgarians around the world and to sustain the connection with the home country. CHARTER: To promote exchange of information and ideas on all aspects of Bulgarian culture and society. STATUS: Unmoderated The proposal appeared in news.newgroups on Oct.16, opening a 30 days discussion period. Vassil and Luben were the most active participants. Voting took place between Nov. 21 and Dec. 15, 1991 and was processed by Svilen Tzonev and myself. Here is a portion of the announcement of the results: "I am happy to announce that soc.culture.bulgaria received a favorable vote. A total of 270 people voted of which 241 in support and 29 against. The numbers meet the criteria for a successful vote by a wide margin. YES - NO = 212 > 100 and YES >> 2 x NO" ... It is up to us now to make it an interesting and viable group by supplying information, asking questions, answering questions etc..." The group was created on Dec.24, 1991 (rozhdestvo Hristovo i Grupovo) and the first posting appeared on Dec.30, 1991. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1-2 Some statistics on the newsgroup (by Dragomir R. Radev), last updated: 14-Apr-1997 soc.culture.bulgaria FAQ (monthly posting) (part */*) This posting contains Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Bulgaria and their answers. It should be read by anyone who wishes to post to the soc.culture.bulgaria Usenet newsgroup. The FAQ consists of <bulgaria-faq/part1> From: radev@news.cs.columbia.edu (Dragomir R. Radev) Posted: Monthly (26 Oct 1995 10:08:12 -0400) Readers: 15000 (0.2%) {62%} Mesgs per month/day: 1278/43 {72%} Crossposting: 7% {32%} Megs per month/day: 4.2/0.140 {86%} Sites reciving this Group: 63% Cost ratio ($US/month/rdr): 0.16 =============================================================================== CHAPTER 2: GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT BULGARIA ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-1 Bulgaria - Ancient and Young (by Rossen Zlatev), last updated: 31-Dec-1991 Situated in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria boasts an old and rich history. Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs and Bulgarians inhabited this land in their time, leaving behind monuments and enriching the world's treasure-house of culture. Bulgaria occupies 111 000 square km and has a population of 8.8 million. Bulgaria's capital is the city of Sofia with 1.3 million people. Bulgaria is divided into two parts by the Balkan mountain, and also borders Black sea. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-2 Bulgaria - consular information sheet (09/1999) (by US Department of State), last updated: 17-Jul-1920 Bulgaria - Consular Information Sheet September 14, 1999 COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bulgaria is a moderately developed European nation undergoing significant economic changes. Tourist facilities are widely available although conditions vary and some facilities may not up to Western standards. Goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are still not available in many areas of Bulgaria. ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. A visa is not required for U.S. citizen visitors for stays of up to 30 days. Travelers who intend to stay more than 30 days should secure a Bulgarian visa as the fees connected with the extension of their stay in the country are much higher than the visa fees. Visitors should carry their passport with them at all times. For further information concerning entry requirements, travelers should contact the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria at 1621 22nd St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; tel: (202) 483-5885 (main switchboard (202) 387-7969) or the Bulgarian Consulate in New York City. CRIME INFORMATION: Petty street crime, much of which is directed against foreigners or others who appear to have money, continues to be a problem. Pickpocketing and purse snatching are frequent occurrences, especially in crowded markets and on shopping streets. Confidence artists operate on public transportation and in bus and train stations, and travelers should be suspicious of "instant friends" and should also require persons claiming to be officials to show identification. Taxi drivers at Sofia Airport often gouge unwary travelers, and even if they agree to run their meters, the amounts to be paid are much higher than normal. Travelers who pre-negotiate a fare can avoid the more outrageous overcharging. Because incidents of pilferage of checked baggage at Sofia Airport are common, travelers should not include items of value in checked luggage. Automobile theft is also a frequent problem, with four-wheel drive vehicles and late model European sedans the most popular targets. Very few vehicles are recovered. Thieves also sometimes smash vehicle windows to steal valuables left in sight. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov. MEDICAL FACILITIES: Although Bulgarian physicians are trained to a very high standard, most hospitals and clinics are generally not equipped and maintained at U.S. or Western European levels. Basic medical supplies are widely available, but specialized treatment may not be obtainable. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties. Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of States Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000. OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via their Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov. TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions which differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Bulgaria is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Safety of Public Transportation: Fair Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor to Fair Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor The Bulgarian road system is underdeveloped. There are few sections of limited-access divided highway. Some roads are in poor repair and full of potholes. Rockslides and landslides are common on roads in mountain areas. Livestock and animal-drawn carts present road hazards throughout the country. Travel conditions deteriorate during the winter as roads become icy and potholes proliferate. The U.S. Embassy in Sofia advises against night driving because road conditions are more dangerous in the dark. Many roads lack pavement markings and lights, and motorists often drive with dim or missing headlights. Heavy truck traffic along the two-lane routes from the Greek border at Kulata to Sofia and from the Turkish border at Kapitan Andreevo to Plovdiv creates numerous hazards. Motorists should expect long delays at border crossings. A U.S. state driver's license is not considered valid for Bulgaria; only an international driver's license is accepted. Persons operating vehicles with foreign license plates frequently complain of being stopped by police and being fined on the spot for offenses that are not clear. Buses, trams, and trolleys are inexpensive but often crowded and of widely varying quality. Passengers on the busiest lines have reported pickpocketing, purse-slashing, and backside-pinching. For specific information concerning Bulgaria driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Bulgarian National Tourist Organization. AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bulgaria's Civil Aviation Authority as Category One -- in compliance with the international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Bulgarian air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation at 1 (800) 322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 618-256-4801. CUSTOM'S REGULATIONS: Bulgarian customs laws and regulations are in a state of flux. Currently, travelers carrying more than 10,000 United States dollars must declare the amount of cash they are carrying on their customs declaration. Travelers who have less than $10,000 when entering the country, must have documents proving the source of their money if upon departure they have with them more than $10,000. Travelers should also declare jewelry, cameras, computers, and other valuables to avoid difficulties on departure. Contact the Embassy of Bulgaria in Washington or one of Bulgaria's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs regulations. Bulgaria's customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send an e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details. SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Bulgaria is still a largely cash economy. Visitors should exchange cash at banks or Change Bureaus. Some Change Bureaus charge commissions on both cash and travelers' check transactions which are not clearly posted. People on the street who offer high rates of exchange are confidence tricksters intent on swindling the unwary traveler. Old, dirty or very worn denomination bank notes are often not accepted at banks or Change Bureaus. Major branches of the following Bulgarian banks will cash travelers' checks on the spot for Leva, the Bulgarian currency: Bulbank, Bulgarian Postbank, Biochim, First Investment Bank and United Bulgarian Bank (UBB). UBB also serves as a Western Union agent and provides direct transfer of money to travelers in need. ATM cash machines are increasing in numbers in Sofia and other major cities. Most shops, hotels and restaurants, with the exception of the major hotels, still do not accept travelers' checks or credit cards. Due to the potential of fraud and other criminal activity credit cards and ATM's should be used with caution. On July 5, 1999, the Lev was re-denominated at a rate of 1,000 old Leva to one new Lev. For further information see the website of the Bulgarian National Bank at http://www.bnb.bg. CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000. Approximately 150 U.S. families per year adopt Bulgarian orphans. For more information on international adoptions in Bulgaria, please contact the Department of State's Office of Children's Issues, the Consular Section of the Embassy, or the U.S. Embassy website at http://www.usis.bg. REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Bulgaria are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria and obtain updated information on travel and security within Bulgaria. The U.S. Embassy is located in Sofia at 1 Saborna (formerly 1 A. Stamboliyski Boulevard); tel. (359) (2) 980-5241; fax: (359) (2) 981-8977. The Consular Section of the Embassy is located at 1 Kapitan Andreev Street in Sofia; tel. (359) (2) 963-1391; fax (359) (2) 963-2859. The Embassy's website address is http://www.usis.bg. Questions regarding consular services may be directed to bgcons@hotmail.com. ********* This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated May 8, 1998, to update the sections on Country Description, Entry Requirements, Crime Information, Medical Facilities, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Aviation Safety Oversight, and Registration and Embassy Location; to add sections on Medical Insurance, Other Health Information, Customs Regulations, Criminal Penalties, and Children's Issues. Also, to change the section Ground Transportation to Traffic Safety and Road Conditions and the section on Currency Regulations to Special Circumstances. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-3 CIA World Factbook on Bulgaria (by CIA World Factbook, 1996), last updated: 19-Aug-1997 Location: 43 00 N, 25 00 E -- Southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Romania and Turkey Flag Description: three equal horizontal bands of white (top), green, and red; the national emblem formerly on the hoist side of the white stripe has been removed - it contained a rampant lion within a wreath of wheat ears below a red five-pointed star and above a ribbon bearing the dates 681 (first Bulgarian state established) and 1944 (liberation from Nazi control) Geography Location: Southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Romania and Turkey Geographic coordinates: 43 00 N, 25 00 E Map references: Europe Area: total area: 110,910 sq km land area: 110,550 sq km comparative area: slightly larger than Tennessee Land boundaries: total: 1,808 km border countries: Greece 494 km, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 148 km, Romania 608 km, Serbia and Montenegro 318 km (all with Serbia), Turkey 240 km Coastline: 354 km Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 nm exclusive economic zone: 200 nm territorial sea: 12 nm International disputes: none Climate: temperate; cold, damp winters; hot, dry summers Terrain: mostly mountains with lowlands in north and southeast lowest point: Black Sea 0 m highest point: Musala 2,925 m Natural resources: bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, coal, timber, arable land Land use: arable land: 34% permanent crops: 3% meadows and pastures: 18% forest and woodland: 35% other: 10% Irrigated land: 10 sq km (1989 est.) Environment: current issues: air pollution from industrial emissions; rivers polluted from raw sewage, heavy metals, detergents; deforestation; forest damage from air pollution and resulting acid rain; soil contamination from heavy metals from metallurgical plants and industrial wastes natural hazards: earthquakes, landslides international agreements: party to - Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Antarctic Treaty, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands; signed, but not ratified - Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Biodiversity, Law of the Sea Geographic note: strategic location near Turkish Straits; controls key land routes from Europe to Middle East and Asia People Population: 8,612,757 (July 1996 est.) Age structure: 0-14 years: 17% (male 769,025; female 732,119) 15-64 years: 68% (male 2,891,197; female 2,923,440) 65 years and over: 15% (male 561,944; female 735,032) (July 1996 est.) Population growth rate: 0.46% (1996 est.) Birth rate: 8.33 births/1,000 population (1996 est.) Death rate: 13.55 deaths/1,000 population (1996 est.) Net migration rate: 9.81 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1996 est.) Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female all ages: 0.96 male(s)/female (1996 est.) Infant mortality rate: 15.7 deaths/1,000 live births (1996 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71 years male: 67.07 years female: 75.12 years (1996 est.) Total fertility rate: 1.17 children born/woman (1996 est.) Nationality: noun: Bulgarian(s) adjective: Bulgarian Ethnic divisions: Bulgarian 85.3%, Turk 8.5%, Gypsy 2.6%, Macedonian 2.5%, Armenian 0.3%, Russian 0.2%, other 0.6% Religions: Bulgarian Orthodox 85%, Muslim 13%, Jewish 0.8%, Roman Catholic 0.5%, Uniate Catholic 0.2%, Protestant, Gregorian-Armenian, and other 0.5% Languages: Bulgarian, secondary languages closely correspond to ethnic breakdown Literacy: age 15 and over can read and write (1992 est.) total population: 98% male: 99% female: 97% Government Name of country: conventional long form: Republic of Bulgaria conventional short form: Bulgaria Data code: BU Type of government: emerging democracy Capital: Sofia Administrative divisions: 9 provinces (oblasti, singular - oblast); Burgas, Grad Sofiya, Khaskovo, Lovech, Montana, Plovdiv, Ruse, Sofiya, Varna Independence: 22 September 1908 (from Ottoman Empire) National holiday: Independence Day, 3 March (1878) Constitution: adopted 12 July 1991 Legal system: based on civil law system with Soviet law influence; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory Executive branch: chief of state: President Zhelyu Mitev ZHELEV (since 1 August 1990, when he was elected by the National Assembly); president and vice president elected for five-year terms by popular vote; election last held NA January 1992 (next to be held NA 1997); results - Zhelyu ZHELEV elected by popular vote; Vice President (vacant) head of government: Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) Zhan VIDENOV (since 25 January 1995) appointed by the president; Deputy Prime Ministers Doncho KONAKCHIEV (since 25 January 1995), Atanas PAPAKIZOV (since NA), Rumen GECHEV (since 25 January 1995), Svetoslav SHIVAROV (since 25 January 1995) cabinet: Council of Ministers elected by the National Assembly Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (Narodno Sobranie): last held 18 December 1994 (next to be held NA 1997); results - BSP 43.5%, UDF 24.2%, PU 6.5%, MRF 5.4%, BBB 4.7%; seats - (240 total) BSP 125, UDF 69, PU 18, MRF 15, BBB 13 Judicial branch: Supreme Court, chairman appointed for a seven-year term by the president; Constitutional Court, 12 justices appointed or elected for a nine-year term Political parties and leaders: Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Zhan VIDENOV, chairman; Union of Democratic Forces (UDF - an alliance of pro-Democratic parties), Ivan KOSTOV; People's Union (PU), Stefan SAVOV; Movement for Rights and Freedoms (mainly ethnic Turkish party) (MRF), Ahmed DOGAN; Bulgarian Business Bloc (BBB), George GANCHEV Other political or pressure groups: Democratic Alliance for the Republic (DAR); New Union for Democracy (NUD); Ecoglasnost; Podkrepa Labor Confederation; Fatherland Union; Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP); Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (KNSB); Bulgarian Agrarian National Union - United (BZNS); Bulgarian Democratic Center; "Nikola Petkov" Bulgarian Agrarian National Union; Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization - Union of Macedonian Societies (IMRO-UMS); numerous regional, ethnic, and national interest groups with various agendas International organization participation: ACCT, BIS, BSEC, CCC, CE, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, G- 9, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarset, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, NACC, NAM (guest), NSG, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNAVEM III, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMOT, UPU, WEU (associate partner), WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (applicant), ZC Diplomatic representation in US: chief of mission: Ambassador Snezhana Damianova BOTUSHAROVA chancery: 1621 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 telephone: [1] (202) 387-7969 FAX: [1] (202) 234-7973 US diplomatic representation: chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant) embassy: 1 Saborna Street, Sofia mailing address: Unit 1335, APO AE 09213-1335 telephone: [359] (2) 88-48-01 through 05 FAX: [359] (2) 80-19-77 Flag: three equal horizontal bands of white (top), green, and red; the national emblem formerly on the hoist side of the white stripe has been removed - it contained a rampant lion within a wreath of wheat ears below a red five-pointed star and above a ribbon bearing the dates 681 (first Bulgarian state established) and 1944 (liberation from Nazi control) Economy Economic overview: One of the poorest countries of central Europe, Bulgaria has continued the difficult process of moving from its old command economy to a modern, market-oriented economy. GDP rose a moderate 2.4% in 1995; inflation was down sharply; and unemployment fell from an estimated 16% to 12%. Despite this progress, structural reforms necessary to underpin macroeconomic stabilization were not pursued vigorously. Mass privatization of state-owned industry continued to move slowly, although privatization of small-scale industry, particularly in the retail and service sectors, accelerated. The Bulgarian economy will continue to grow in 1996, but economic reforms will remain politically difficult as the population has become weary of the process. GDP: purchasing power parity - $43.2 billion (1995 est.) GDP real growth rate: 2.4% (1995 est.) GDP per capita: $4,920 (1995 est.) GDP composition by sector: agriculture: 12% industry: 36% services: 52% (1994) Inflation rate (consumer prices): 35% (1995) Labor force: 3.1 million by occupation: industry 41%, agriculture 18%, other 41% (1992) Unemployment rate: 11.9% (1995 est.) Budget: revenues: $3.8 billion expenditures: $4.4 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (1994) Industries: machine building and metal working, food processing, chemicals, textiles, construction materials, ferrous and nonferrous metals Industrial production growth rate: 2% (1995) Electricity: capacity: 11,500,000 kW production: 38.1 billion kWh consumption per capita: 4,342 kWh (1994) Agriculture: grain, oilseed, vegetables, fruits, tobacco; livestock Illicit drugs: important transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin and, to a lesser degree, South American cocaine transiting the Balkan route; limited producer of precursor chemicals Exports: $4.2 billion (f.o.b., 1994) commodities: machinery and equipment 12.8%; agriculture and food 21.9%; textiles and apparel 14%; metals and ores 19.7%; chemicals 16.9%; minerals and fuels 9.3% partners: former CEMA countries 35.7%; OECD 46.6% (EU 33.5%); Arab countries 5.1%; other 12.6% Imports: $4 billion (c.i.f., 1994) commodities: fuels, minerals, and raw materials 30.1%; machinery and equipment 23.6%; textiles and apparel 11.6%; agricultural products 10.8%; metals and ores 6.8%; chemicals 12.3%; other 4.8% partners: former CEMA countries 40.3%; OECD 48.3% (EU 34.1%); Arab countries 1.7%; other 9.7% External debt: $10.4 billion (1995) Economic aid: recipient: ODA, $39 million (1993) note: $700 million in balance of payments support from Western nations (1994) Currency: 1 lev (Lv) = 100 stotinki Exchange rates: leva (Lv) per US$1 - 70.5 (December 1995), 54.2 (1994), 27.1 (1993), 23.3 (1992), 18.4 (1991); note - floating exchange rate since February 1991 Fiscal year: calendar year Transportation Railways: total: 4,292 km standard gauge: 4,047 km 1.435-m gauge (2,650 km electrified; 917 double track) other: 245 km 0.760-m gauge (1995) Highways: total: 36,932 km paved: 33,904 km (including 276 km of expressways) unpaved: 3,028 km (1992 est.) Waterways: 470 km (1987) Pipelines: crude oil 193 km; petroleum products 525 km; natural gas 1,400 km (1992) Ports: Burgas, Lom, Nesebur, Ruse, Varna, Vidin Merchant marine: total: 103 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,084,090 GRT/1,596,735 DWT ships by type: bulk 45, cargo 27, chemical tanker 4, container 2, oil tanker 13, passenger-cargo 1, railcar carrier 2, roll-on/roll-off cargo 6, short-sea passenger 2, refrigerated cargo 1 note: Bulgaria owns an additional 7 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 135,016 DWT operating under the registries of Liberia and Malta (1995 est.) Airports: total: 355 with paved runways over 3 047 m: 1 with paved runways 2 438 to 3 047 m: 17 with paved runways 1 524 to 2 437 m: 10 with paved runways under 914 m: 88 with unpaved runways 2 438 to 3 047 m: 2 with unpaved runways 1 524 to 2 437 m: 1 with unpaved runways 914 to 1 523 m: 10 with unpaved runways under 914 m: 226 (1994 est.) Communications Telephones: 2,773,293 (1993 est.) Telephone system: almost two-thirds of the lines are residential; 67% of Sofia households have telephones (November 1988 est.) domestic: extensive but antiquated transmission system of coaxial cable and microwave radio relay; telephone service is available in most villages international: direct dialing to 36 countries; satellite earth stations - 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean Region); Intelsat available through a Greek earth station Radio broadcast stations: AM 20, FM 15, shortwave 0 Radios: NA Television broadcast stations: 29 (Russian repeater in Sofia 1) Televisions: 2.1 million (May 1990 est.) Defense Branches: Army, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces, Border Troops, Internal Troops Manpower availability: males age 15-49: 2,155,332 males fit for military service: 1,797,318 males reach military age (19) annually: 64,568 (1996 est.) Defense expenditures: exchange rate conversion - $352 million, 2.5% of GDP (1995) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-4 Demographic, Social And Economic Features Of Bulgaria (by National Statistics Institute), last updated: 12-Nov-1995 1992 1993 1994 Population as of 31.12\Thousand 8484,8 8459,7 8427,4 Men 6169,1 4251,6 4130,0 Women 4315,7 4308,1 4297,4 Birth rate - % 10,4 10,0 9,4 Death rate - % 12,6 12,9 13,2 Natural increase - % -2,2 -2,9 -3,8 Average life - expectancy\years 70,9 71,2 70,9 Men 67,6 67,7 67,2 Women 74,4 75,0 74,8 Employed in the country\ 3273,3 3221,8 3235,0 ( thousand) 1\ Relative Share of the employed in 17,7 28,3 35,9 the private sector - % Employed on a labour contract in public sector of 2662,7 2667,0 2032,1 Economy\ in Thousand 1\ Average annual wage of the employed on a labour contract in 24568 38776 59525 the public sector of Economy - LV Unemployed persons, registered in the 576,9 626,1 448,4 Bureau of Labour, as of to 31. 12 Unemployment level, as of 31.12 - 2\ 15,3 16,4 12,8 Gross Domestic product - indices on the basis of 92,7 97,6 *101,4 preceding year = 100 Inflation - consumer prices indices for XII 179,5 163,9 221,9 month preceding year = 100 -- 1\ Average annual number 2\ A relative share of the registered unemployed persons in the Bureau of Labour from the total number of employed and unemployed - % * Preliminary data ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-5 State System (by Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission) Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic. According to the Constitution, which was adopted in July 1991, the entire power of the state shall derive from the people and shall be exerted directly and through the bodies established by the Constitution. The Constitution proclaims pluralism of political views and freedom of religion. The supreme legislative body in the country is the National Assembly (Narodno Sqbranie - Bulgarian Parliament), which exercises parliamentary control over the government. The President is the Head of State. He is elected through direct and secret ballot for a five-year term of office, and he personifies the unity of the nation. The Council of Ministers is the supreme executive body for home and foreign affairs. The territory of the Republic of Bulgaria is divided into nine administrative regions and smaller municipalities. The municipality is the primary terri- torial administrative unit, being a legal entity where local self-government is exercised through a municipal council elected by the respective local community population for a for-year term of office. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-6 Human Rights Practices in Bulgaria (by U.S. Department of State), last updated: 07-Mar-1996 Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic ruled by a democratically elected government. President Zhelyu Zhelev, former chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), was elected in 1992 to a 5-year term in the country's first direct presidential elections. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), heir to the Communist Party, and two nominal coalition partners won an absolute majority in preterm elections in December 1994 and formed a government in January. The judiciary is independent but continued to struggle with structural and staffing problems. Most citizens have little confidence in their legal system. Most security services are the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, which controls the police, the National Security Service (civilian intelligence), internal security troops, border guards, and special forces. A number of persons known to be involved in repressive activities during the Communist regime returned to senior-level positions in the security services in 1995. Some members of the police force committed serious human rights abuses. The post-Communist economy remains heavily dependent on state enterprises. Most people are employed in the industrial and service sectors; key industries include food processing, chemical and oil processing, metallurgy, and energy. Principal exports are agricultural products, cigarettes and tobacco, chemicals, and metal products. The transformation of the economy into a market-oriented system has been retarded by continued political and social resistance. Privatization of the large Communist-era state enterprises has been very slow and is the main reason for Bulgaria's economic stagnation. The Government is now developing a mass privatization program which, if successfully implemented, would partially address this problem. The service and consumer goods sectors in private hands continued to be the most vibrant. Although all indicators point to a reviving economy this year, the last several years' decline has affected the employment of people >from ethnic minorities disproportionately. The annual per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $1,300 provides a low standard of living. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, but problems remained in some areas. Constitutional restrictions on political parties formed on ethnic, racial, or religious lines effectively limit participation. There were several reports that police used unwarranted lethal force against suspects and minorities, and security forces beat suspects and inmates. Human rights observers charged that the security forces are not sufficiently accountable to Parliament or to society and that the resultant climate of impunity is a major obstacle to ending police abuses. Prison conditions are harsh, and pretrial detention is often prolonged. Mistreatment of ethnic minorities by the population at large is a serious problem, and both the Government and private citizens continued to obstruct the activities of some non-Eastern Orthodox religious groups. Discrimination and violence against women and Roma are serious problems. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing There were several reports of police officers using unwarranted lethal force against criminal suspects, as well as against members of minority groups whether or not suspected of any crime, resulting in three deaths. On February 11, a Rom was found dead in Gradets, near Sliven. A witness told a human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) that a police officer had beaten the victim in the village center the previous day, and the deceased's family described numerous signs of severe beating. An investigation is in progress. During a March attempt to apprehend a man previously sentenced for committing theft, a police officer in Nova Zagora allegedly beat an 18- year-old Rom, then shot and killed the man's 22-year-old brother when the older brother intervened. Neither of the victims was being sought by the police. The alleged perpetrator, a police sergeant, has been charged with murder resulting from excessive use of force in self- defense. The investigation continues. A 22-year-old male died in April while in police custody, apparently as a result of beating. The deceased, an ethnic Bulgarian, had been arrested for alleged complicity in a burglary. Six policemen were arrested in this widely publicized case; one officer, a police lieutenant, remains under investigation, and the national police director resigned. No progress was made in the case of a detainee who died while in police custody following an August 1994 roundup of suspected criminals in Pazardjik, although the Government's investigation remains open. There was little progress in the September 1994 case of a detainee who died one day after being taken into police custody in Pleven, and there were no developments in the investigation of the 1993 incident in which police allegedly beat three escaped prisoners (two of whom reportedly died) upon recapture. In November Amnesty International (AI) sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior expressing concern about five incidents in which AI said that police officers opened fire on suspects in violation of U.N. basic principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials. Interior Ministry data on serious police violations over the 18 months ending March 31 show 18 deaths due to police negligence, 59 cases of physical injury, more than 60 charges of serious offenses, and 58 convictions of police officers on these and lesser charges during the period. The Minister of Interior publicly acknowledged that police abuses occur and made a commitment to address the problem; a number of cases are under investigation. However, the police have generally refused the requests of human rights groups to make investigative reports available to the public. The climate of impunity that the Government allows to prevail is the single largest obstacle to ending such abuses. b. Disappearance There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The Constitution expressly prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Despite this prohibition, there were a number of credible reports describing police beating of Roma during arrests. In January and February, a riot control unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs shot and wounded at least 3 people and beat more than 10 during an operation in response to illegal felling of trees near Velingrad. All of the victims were Roma. No police officers were charged or investigated. In a Sofia neighborhood in March, police reportedly beat almost 40 Romani teenagers and young men in an incident following several confrontations between Roma and "skinheads." No police officers were investigated, despite numerous victims' accounts and a credible NGO report to law enforcement and other governmental authorities. Conditions in some prisons are harsh, including severe overcrowding, inadequate lavatory facilities, and insufficient heating and ventilation. Credible sources reported cases of brutality committed by prison guards against inmates; in some cases, prisoners who complained were placed in solitary confinement. The process by which prisoners may complain of substandard conditions or of mistreatment does not appear to function. The Government cooperated fully with requests by independent observers to monitor prison conditions. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile The Constitution provides for access to legal counsel from the time of detention. Police normally obtain a warrant prior to apprehending an individual; otherwise, in emergency circumstances judicial authorities must rule on the legality of a detention within 24 hours. Defendants have the right to visits by family members, to examine evidence, and to know the charges against them. Charges may not be made public without the permission of the Chief Prosecutor. Pretrial detention is limited to 2 months under normal circumstances, although this may be extended to 6 months by order of the Chief Prosecutor, who may also restart the process. In practice, persons are often detained for well over 6 months. About one-third of Bulgaria's approximately 9,000 prison inmates are in pretrial detention. In the event of a conviction, time spent in pretrial detention is credited toward the sentence. The Constitution provides for bail, and some detainees have been released under this provision, although bail is not widely used. Neither internal nor external exile is used as a form or punishment. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial Under the Constitution the judiciary is granted independent and coequal status with the legislature and executive branch. However, most observers agreed that the judiciary continued to struggle with problems such as low salaries, understaffing, and a heavy backlog of cases. Partly as a legacy of communism and partly because of the court system's structural and personnel problems, most citizens have little confidence in their judicial system. Human rights groups complain that local prosecutors and magistrates sometimes fail to pursue vigorously crimes committed against minorities. The court system consists of regional courts, district courts, and the Supreme and Constitutional Courts. The Government has not yet carried out several of the reforms provided for in the June 1994 judicial Reform Bill, including the establishment of separate supreme courts of cassation (civil and criminal appeal) and administration. Judges are appointed by a 25-member Supreme Judicial Council and, after serving for 3 years, may not be replaced except under limited, specified circumstances. The 12 justices on the Constitutional Court are chosen for 9-year terms as follows: a third are elected by the National Assembly, a third appointed by the President, and a third elected by judicial authorities. The Constitution stipulates that all courts shall conduct hearings in public unless the proceedings involve state security or state secrets. There were no reported complaints about limited access to courtroom proceedings. Defendants have the right to know the charges against them and are given ample time to prepare a defense. The right of appeal is guaranteed and widely used. Defendants in criminal proceedings have the right to confront witnesses and to have an attorney, provided by the State if necessary, in serious cases. The Constitutional Court is empowered to rescind legislation it considers unconstitutional, settle disputes over the conduct of general elections, and resolve conflicts over the division of powers between the various branches of government. Military courts handle cases involving military personnel and some cases involving national security matters. The Constitutional Court does not have specific jurisdiction in matters of military justice. A number of criminal cases against former leaders for alleged abuses during the Communist period were carried forward. Former dictator Todor Zhivkov is serving a 7-year sentence under house arrest for abuse of power involving personal expense accounts and state privileges. Legal review of his case continues; the most recent step was a Supreme Court hearing on September 15. Although the investigation continues, there was little progress in the case in which 43 former high-level Communists were indicted in 1994 for having given grant aid during the 1980's to then-friendly governments in the developing world such as Cuba, Angola, and Libya. Investigation also continues in a case begun in 1993 involving a charge of embezzlement for giving grant aid to Communist parties in other countries (the "Moscow case"), with no tangible progress. Some human rights observers criticized these and previous indictments, asserting that the activities in question were political and economic in nature, not criminal. One of the primary figures in these cases, former Prime Minister and once senior Communist official Andrei Lukanov, brought a complaint against these proceedings to the European Commission of Human Rights. Acting on his petition in January, the Commission ruled that Lukanov's appeal of the procedure by which he was stripped of parliamentary immunity was admissible before the Commission, but has not yet issued a decision on the merits of the case. Lukanov's appeals under two other articles of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms were not admitted. There was no progress in a case begun in 1993 relating to the forced assimilation and expulsion of ethnic Turks in 1984-85 and 1989, nor in a trial relating to the notorious death camps set up by the Communists after they came to power in 1944. Police authorities concluded their investigation of the 1994 murder of a key witness in the latter case in February without definite result. In one of its first acts, the new Socialist-dominated Parliament repealed a controversial 1992 lustration act ("Law for Additional Requirements Toward Scientific Organizations and the Higher Certifying Commission"), known as the "Panev Law." The law had barred former secretaries and members of Communist party committees from positions as academic council members, university department heads, deans, rectors, and chief editors of science magazines, applying a presumption of guilt that conflicts with international human rights standards. There were no reports of political prisoners. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondence The Constitution provides for the inviolability of the home, for the right to choose one's place of work and residence, and protects the freedom and confidentiality of correspondence. Human rights observers expressed concerns that illegal wiretaps may still persist but provided no tangible evidence. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the Government generally respects this right in practice, although there were signs that it was seeking to increase editorial control over government-owned electronic media. The variety of newspapers published by political parties and other organizations represents the full spectrum of political opinion, but a notable degree of self-censorship exists in the press among journalists who must conform to what are often heavily politicized editorial views of their respective newspapers. National television and radio broadcasting both remain under parliamentary supervision. A September Constitutional Court ruling declared unconstitutional some portions of a "provisional" statute that had placed the electronic media under parliamentary supervision since 1990. In October Parliament passed legislation restoring its right to exercise control over the national electronic media; in December the Constitutional Court again struck down this provision. In November 34 journalists from a national radio station issued a declaration accusing radio management of censoring their work and threatening uncooperative journalists with dismissal. A month later, seven of the journalists were fired, provoking widespread public concern about freedom of speech and the establishment of at least two NGO's to monitor the issue. This ongoing dispute illustrates a growing concern about the lack of balance in the state-controlled news media. Some observers criticized changes in the senior leadership of the national electronic media and editorial control by a newly established board of directors of Bulgarian national radio, charging they were politically motivated. In September the Constitutional Court overturned a provision of the July Local Elections Act which prohibited journalists working for state-owned media and local electronic media from expressing opinions on parties, coalitions, and candidates in the October 29 local elections. There are two state-owned national television channels and a growing number of privately owned regional stations. Two channels broadcast in Bulgarian, while a third broadcasts Russian programming, and a fourth carries a mixture of Cable News Network International and French language programming. Bulgarian national television has been planning Turkish- language programming for at least 2 years, but broadcasts have not yet begun. Foreign government radio programs such as the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Voice of America (VOA) had good access to commercial Bulgarian radio frequencies, although in April the interim council for radio frequencies and television channels turned down a request by Radio Free Europe to add VOA programming on its frequency. After initial government approval in the fall of 1994 of an application to create a privately owned national broadcast television station, further progress has floundered, with no action being taken by the current Government. Television and radio news programs on the state- owned media present opposition views but are generally seen as being biased in favor of the Government. There are no formal restrictions on programming. Some political groups complained that coverage was one- sided, although they acknowledged that their representatives were interviewed regularly. Both television and radio provide a variety of news and public interest programming, including talk and public opinion shows. More than 30 independent radio stations are licensed. Some private stations complained that their licenses unduly restricted the strength of their transmissions in comparison to state-owned stations. Radio transmitter facilities are owned by the Government. Private book publishing remained lively, with hundreds of publishers in business. Respect for academic freedom continued. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The right to peaceful and unarmed assembly is provided for by the Constitution, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The authorities require permits for rallies and assemblies held outdoors, but most legally registered organizations were routinely granted permission to assemble. However, one non-Orthodox religious group reported difficulties obtaining a permit for an outdoor assembly, and several other religious groups also had difficulty renting assembly halls. In most cases, these religious groups had been denied registration by the Council of Ministers (see Section 2.c.). Vigorous political rallies and demonstrations were a common occurrence and took place without government interference. The Government has undertaken to respect the rights of individuals and groups freely to establish their own political parties or other political organizations. However, there are constitutional and statutory restrictions that limit the right of association and meaningful participation in the political process. For example, the Constitution prohibits organizations that threaten the country's territorial integrity or unity, or that incite racial, ethnic, or religious hatred. Some observers considered the Government's refusal since 1990 to register a Macedonian rights group, Umo-Ilinden, on the grounds that it is separatist, to be a restriction of the constitutional rights to express opinions and to associate. The group, which is seeking registration as a Bulgarian-Macedonian friendship society, was allowed to hold an outdoor public meeting in April, but police broke up attempts to hold a second public meeting in July. The Constitution forbids the formation of political parties along religious, ethnic, or racial lines, and prohibits "citizens' associations" from engaging in political activity. Although these restrictions were used in 1991 to challenge the legitimacy of the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), that party is currently represented in Parliament, and its right to compete in the October 29 local elections was not questioned. c. Freedom of Religion The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the Government restricts this right in practice. The ability of a number of religious groups to operate freely continued to come under attack, both as a result of government action and because of public intolerance. The Government requirement that groups whose activities have a religious element register with the Council of Ministers remained an obstacle to the activity of many religious groups. Dozens of articles in a broad range of newspapers depicted lurid and inaccurate pictures of the activities of non-Orthodox religious groups, attributing suicides of teenagers and the breakup of families to their activities. The Government refused visas and residence permits for foreign missionaries, and some came under physical attack in the street and in their homes. Members of the Mormon church reported continued acts of harassment and assault, including some perpetrated by the police themselves. The police response was indifferent despite the expressed concern of the Government about such cases. In February the Supreme Court ruled that a mother and supporter of the nonregistered community of Christ's Warriors be denied parental custody of her 4-year-old son because she had taken the boy to religious meetings of the community. The court grounded its decision on "educational qualities" claiming that "it is obvious that the child's presence at such a public place is harmful to his mind and his health as a whole." At the Department of Theology of Sofia University, all students have been required to present a certificate of baptism from the Orthodox Church, and married couples to provide a marriage certificate from the Orthodox Church, in order to enroll in the Department's classes. Authorities initiated an investigation of the case of the April 1994 shooting death of Yordan Tsolov, an Orthodox priest in Surnitsa, about which charges of police complicity were raised by a human rights organization and the press in 1994. Several religious groups appealed the denials of their registration by the Council of Ministers under a 1994 amendment to the Families and Persons Act. Most of the appeals were denied by the Council of Ministers. Following the Supreme Court's April decision to affirm the Council's denial of registration to the "Word of Life" group, the press reported that the group was banned and that the police would seek out and stop religious gatherings of the group, even if held in private homes. Some observers made credible charges that the police sought to break up meetings of non-Eastern Orthodox religious groups which were denied registration. The Constitution designates Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the "traditional" religion. A number of major religious bodies, including the Muslim and Jewish communities, receive government financial support. There was no evidence that the Government discriminated against members of any religious group in restituting to previous owners properties that were nationalized during the Communist regime. For most religious groups which were able to maintain their registration, there were no restrictions on attendance at religious services or on private religious instruction. A school for imams, a Muslim cultural center, university theological faculties, and religious primary schools operated freely. Bibles and other religious materials in the Bulgarian language were freely imported and printed, and Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish publications were published on a regular basis. However, during compulsory military service most Muslims are placed into labor units where they often perform commercial, military, or maintenance work rather than serve in normal military units. The mainly ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) protested this practice (see Section 5). A significant proportion of Muslims considered the current Government's approval of the statutes of the Muslim faith and its registration of a new Chief Mufti and new head of the Supreme Theological Council, all developed at a November 1994 Islamic conference, to be government interference in the affairs of the community. A rival Chief Mufti, elected at an alternative Islamic conference in March, appealed the Government's actions unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court. The schism which opened in the Orthodox church in 1992 persisted. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation The Constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country and the right to leave it, and these rights are not limited in practice, with the exception of limited border zones off limits both to foreigners and Bulgarians not resident therein. Every citizen has the right to return to Bulgaria, may not be forcibly expatriated, and may not be deprived of citizenship acquired by birth. A number of former political emigrants were granted passports and returned to visit or live. As provided under law, the Chief Prosecutor restricted foreign travel by Lukanov (see Section 1.e.) and also by Ivan Slavkov, son-in-law of Todor Zhivkov, due to outstanding investigations of them. Observers criticized the lack of time limits on such inactive investigations and questioned whether the travel restrictions were not being used punitively. The Government has provisions for granting asylum or refugee status in accordance with the standards of the 1951 U.N. Convention and its 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees. Domestic and international human rights organizations expressed concerns over the Government's handling of asylum claims and reported that there may be cases in which bona fide refugees are forced to return to countries where they fear persecution. The Bureau for Territorial Asylum and Refugees asserts that it gives a fair hearing to all persons seeking asylum or refugee status but admits that there may be cases which do not come to its attention before the applicant is returned to the country from which he or she entered Bulgaria. The Bureau is still seeking to establish registration and reception centers blocked in 1994 by skinheads and local citizens groups and has identified some new sites for the centers. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Citizens have the right to change their government and head of state through the election of the President and of the members of the National Assembly, although the constitutional prohibition of parties formed on ethnic, racial, or religious lines has the effect of circumscribing access to the political process (see Section 2.b.). Suffrage is universal at the age of 18. The most recent parliamentary elections took place in December 1994. President Zhelev was elected in 1992 in the first direct presidential elections. Local elections were held in the fall. With the exception of the mayoral election in Kurdjali, all major political parties accepted the results and agreed that the elections were conducted in a free and orderly manner. In the ethnically mixed city of Kurdjali, in a politically charged atmosphere, the Socialist Party challenged in court the narrow runoff victory of the MRF candidate, questioning the registration of several hundred voters. After lengthy delays the court took up the case, but it has not yet ruled, and the elected mayor has not been allowed to take office. There are no restrictions in law on the participation of women in government. A number of women hold elective and appointive office at high levels, including a cabinet-level post and several key positions in the Parliament. However, women hold only about 14 percent of the seats in the current Parliament. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigations of Alleged Violations of Human Rights Local and international human rights groups operate freely, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. At the initiative of several groups concerned with children's rights, the Government conducted a dialog with them on its compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Government was particularly cooperative in allowing an NGO committee to survey prison conditions. However, the Government is otherwise often reluctant to provide information or active cooperation. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The Constitution provides for individual rights, equality, and protection against discrimination, but in practice discrimination still exists, particularly against Roma and women. Women Domestic abuse is reportedly a serious problem, but there are no figures, official or otherwise, on its occurrence. The courts prosecute rape, although it remains an underreported crime because some stigma still attaches to the victim. The maximum sentence for rape is 8 years; convicted offenders often receive a lesser sentence or early parole. Marital rape is a crime but rarely prosecuted. Courts and prosecutors tend to view domestic abuse as a family rather than criminal problem, and in most cases victims of domestic violence take refuge with family or friends rather than approach the authorities. No government agencies provide shelter or counseling for such persons, although there is a private initiative to address the problem. Many of the approximately 30 women's organizations in Bulgaria are closely associated with political parties or have primarily professional agendas. Of those which exist mainly to defend women's interests, the two largest are the Women's Democratic Union in Bulgaria, heir to the group which existed under the Zhivkov dictatorship, and the Bulgarian Women's Association, which disappeared under communism but has now reemerged and has chapters in a number of cities. The Constitution forbids privileges or restrictions of rights on the basis of sex. However, women face discrimination both in terms of recruitment and the likelihood of layoffs. Official figures show the rate of unemployment for women to be higher than that for men. Women are much more likely than men to be employed in low-wage jobs requiring little education, although statistics show women are equally likely to attend university. Women, in the main, continue to have primary responsibility for child-rearing and housekeeping even if they are employed outside the home. The liberal provisions for paid maternity leave may actually work against employers' willingness to hire and retain women employees, especially in the private sector. Children The Government appears to be committed to protecting children's welfare. It maintains, for example, a sizable network of orphanages throughout the country. However, government efforts in education and health have been constrained by serious budgetary limitations and by outmoded social care structures. Groups that exist to defend the rights of children charge that an increasing number of children are at serious risk as social insurance payments fall further behind inflation and are often disbursed as much as 6 months late. The vast majority of children are free from societal abuse, although skinhead groups have beaten some Romani children; the homeless or abandoned were particularly vulnerable. Some Romani minors were forced into prostitution by family or community members; there was little police effort to address these problems. People with Disabilities Disabled persons receive a range of financial assistance, including free public transportation, reduced prices on modified automobiles, and free equipment such as wheel chairs. However, as in other areas, budgetary constraints mean that such payments have fallen behind. Disabled individuals have access to university training and to housing and employment, although no special programs are in place to allow them to live up to their full employment potential. To date little effort has been made to change building or street layouts to help blind or otherwise physically disabled persons. At the end of the year, Parliament passed legislation requiring the relevant Ministry and local governments to provide a suitable living and architectural environment for the disabled within 3 years. Also, policies of the Communist regime which separated mentally and physically disabled persons, including very young children, from the rest of society have persisted. Religious Minorities Bulgarian Muslims or "Pomaks" constitute a sizable minority, comprising 2 to 3 percent of the population. Bulgarian Muslims are a distinct group of Slavic descent whose ancestors converted from orthodox Christianity to Islam. Most are Muslim, although a number have become atheists or converted to Christianity. Reports continued that some Muslim religious figures refused to perform burial services for Muslims with Slavic names, a practice which some observers saw as an encroachment on religious freedom. There were a series of acts of vandalism directed at Jewish institutions. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities Ethnic Turks comprise about 10 percent of the population. Although estimates of the Romani population vary widely, several experts put it at about 6 percent. These are the country's two largest minorities. There are no restrictions on the speaking of Turkish in public or the use of non-Slavic names. A defense bill before Parliament renewed controversy over the issue of language. The bill declared Bulgarian to be the official language in the armed forces and the language in which military duties were to be carried out. Members of Parliament of the mainly ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to affirm the constitutional right to use the "mother tongue," for example, in personal conversations and correspondence. The motion was rejected, but use of the mother tongue is not prohibited in the military, and Turkish is freely spoken in off- duty situations. Voluntary Turkish-language classes, funded by the Government, continued in areas with significant Turkish-speaking populations, although some observers complained that the Government was restricting the availability of training for teachers and discouraging the optional language classes in areas with large concentrations of Bulgarian Muslims. Some ethnic Turkish leaders, mainly in the MRF, demanded that Turkish-language schooling be made compulsory in ethnic Turkish areas, but the Government resisted this. In the 1992 census approximately 3.4 percent of the population identified itself as Romani. The real figure is probably about twice that high, since many persons of Romani descent tend to identify themselves to the authorities as ethnic Turks or Bulgarians. Romani groups continued to be divided among themselves, although several groups had some success presenting Romani issues to the Government. As individuals and as an ethnic group, Roma faced high levels of discrimination. Attacks by private citizens on Romani communities continued to occur in 1995. The most serious were a series of attacks in two Romani neighborhoods of Stara Zagora in March and April. A group of young men wielding bats and sticks reportedly damaged the property of 11 Romani families in March, and a group of young people wearing masks allegedly beat 2 Romani women on school grounds in April. Police have identified the alleged perpetrators of the March incident, and an investigation is underway. An arson investigation resulting from the February 1994 incident in Dolno Belotintsi was suspended later that year because of the reluctance of the sole witness to testify. A human rights NGO was able to gather new evidence implicating individuals in the crime and has asked the Chief Prosecutor to resume the investigation; no action has yet been taken. Authorities often fail to aggressively investigate cases of assault or other crimes against Romani individuals, although there was some improvement in their responsiveness to inquiries of human rights organizations. Roma encounter difficulties applying for social benefits, and rural Roma are discouraged from claiming land to which they are entitled under the law disbanding agricultural collectives. Many Roma and other observers made credible allegations that the quality of education offered to Romani children is inferior to that afforded most other Bulgarian students. The Government took some steps to address the problems faced by Roma. The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology convened a forum in July to discuss the education of Romani children, during which representatives of the President's office, concerned ministries, and human rights organizations discussed pedagogical issues. The Council of Ministers disbanded the interagency Ethnic Affairs Council established in 1994, replacing it with a National Board on Social and Demographic matters with broader responsibilities. Some observers expressed concern over onerous requirements for admission of NGO's to the board. For example, NGO's must have established branches in more than one-third of Bulgarian municipalities. The Ministry of Education continued its program to introduce Romani- language schoolbooks into schools with Romani populations and issued follow-on textbooks for the program. The program has had mixed success, partly due to a lack of qualified teachers. Workplace discrimination against minorities continued to be a problem, especially for Roma. Employers justify such discrimination on the basis that most Roma have relatively low training and education. Supervisory jobs are generally given to ethnic Bulgarian employees, with ethnic Turks, Bulgarian Muslims, and Roma among the first to be laid off. During compulsory military service most Roma (and Muslims--see Section 2.c.) are shunted into labor units where they often perform commercial, military construction, or maintenance work rather than serve in normal military units. The MRF protested this practice, as did human rights groups and labor observers who cited it as a violation of International Labor Organization (ILO) accords. There are only a few ethnic Turkish and Romani officers in the military. Thousands of Bulgarians, mainly in the southwest, identify themselves as Macedonians, most for historical and geographic reasons. Members of the two organizations which purport to defend the interests of ethnic Macedonians, Umo-Ilinden and Tmo-Ilinden, are believed to number in the hundreds (see Section 2.b.). Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The 1991 Constitution provides for the right of all workers to form or join trade unions of their own choice, and this right was apparently freely exercised. Estimates of the unionized share of the workforce range from 30 to 50 percent. This share is shrinking as large firms lay off workers, and most new positions appear in small, nonunionized businesses. Bulgaria has two large trade union confederations, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB), and Podkrepa. CITUB, the successor to the trade union controlled by the former Communist regime, operates as an independent entity. Podkrepa, an independent confederation created in 1989, was one of the earliest opposition forces but is no longer a member of the Union of Democratic Forces, the main opposition party. In February a third trade union confederation, the Community of Free Union Organizations in Bulgaria (CFUOB), was admitted to the National Tripartite Coordination Council (NTCC), which includes employers and the government (see Section 6.b.). CITUB and Podkrepa filed a joint complaint to the International Labor Organization (ILO) against the Government's selection of CFUOB as the labor delegate to the 1995 ILO conference. The ILO found that the Government had unilaterally imposed rotation of the labor delegate among three trade union organizations without consulting the other two. The 1992 Labor Code recognizes the right to strike when other means of conflict resolution have been exhausted, but "political strikes" are forbidden. Workers in essential services are prohibited from striking. There was no evidence that the Government interfered with the right to strike, and several work stoppages took place. The Labor Code's prohibitions against antiunion discrimination include a 6-month period of protection against dismissal as a form of retribution. While these provisions appear to be within international norms, there is no mechanism other than the courts for resolving complaints, and the burden of proof in such a case rests entirely on the employee. The ILO in 1993 requested further information on lustration proceedings, measures directed at compensating ethnic Turks for abuses under the previous regime, efforts taken to improve the economic situation of minorities, and measures to promote equality between men and women in workplace opportunity. At year's end, the ILO was still reviewing the information provided to it by the Government, including information provided this year on efforts to improve the situation of minorities. The ILO has not yet issued opinions or recommendations on these matters. There are no restrictions on affiliation or contact with international labor organizations, and unions actively exercise this right. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The Labor Code institutes collective bargaining, which was practiced nationally and on a local level. The legal prohibition against striking for key public sector employees weakens their bargaining position; however, these groups were able to influence negotiations by staging protests and engaging in other pressure activities without going on strike. Both CITUB and Podkrepa complained that while the legal structure for collective bargaining was adequate, many employers failed to bargain in good faith or to adhere to concluded agreements. Labor observers viewed the Government's enforcement of labor contracts as inadequate. Only the three labor members of the National Tripartite Cooperation Council are authorized to bargain collectively. This restriction led to complaints by smaller unions, which may in individual workplaces have more members than the NTCC members. Smaller unions also protested their exclusion from the NTCC. There were no instances in which an employer was found guilty of antiunion discrimination and required to reinstate workers fired for union activities. International labor organizations criticized the "national representation" requirement for participation in the National Tripartite Coordination Council as a violation of the right to organize. The same obligation of collective bargaining and adherence to labor standards prevails in the export processing zones, and unions may organize workers in these areas. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor. Many observers agreed that the practice of shunting minority and conscientious-objector military draftees into work units which often carry out commercial construction and maintenance projects is a form of forced labor (Section 5). d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The Labor Code sets the minimum age for employment at 16; the minimum for dangerous work is set at 18. Employers and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) are responsible for enforcing these provisions. Child labor laws are enforced well in the formal sector. Underage employment in the informal and agricultural sectors is increasing as collective farms are broken up and the private sector continues to grow. In addition, children work on family-owned tobacco plantations. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work The national monthly minimum wage was approximately $38 (2,555 leva) at year's end. The minimum wage is not enough to provide a wage earner and family with a decent standard of living. The Constitution stipulates the right to social security and welfare aid assistance for the temporarily unemployed, although in practice such assistance is often either late or not disbursed. The Labor Code provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours with at least one 24-hour rest period per week. The MLSW is responsible for enforcing both the minimum wage and the standard workweek. Enforcement has been generally effective in the state sector, although there are reports that state-run enterprises fall into arrears on salary payments to their employees if the firms incur losses. Enforcement of work conditions is weaker in the emerging private sector. A national labor safety program exists, with standards established by the Labor Code. The Constitution states that employees are entitled to healthy and nonhazardous working conditions. The MLSW is responsible for enforcing these provisions. Under the Labor Code, employees have the right to remove themselves from work situations which present a serious or immediate danger to life or health without jeopardizing their continued employment. In practice, refusal to work in situations with relatively high accident rates or associated chronic health problems would result in loss of employment for many workers. Conditions in many cases are worsening owing to budget stringencies and a growing private sector which labor inspectors do not yet supervise effectively. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-7 Temperatures (by Plamen Bliznakov), last updated: 06-Apr-1994 Bulgaria offers a lot of sunshine. The climate is continental with four seasons and a Mediterranean influence in its southern regions. Although the Black Sea coast has mild winters, there is excellent snow for winter sports in the mountains. The winter temperature varies between -5 deg Celsius and +5 deg Celsius (+20 deg F to +40 deg F). The average summer temperatures are between +20 deg Celsius and +30 deg Celsius (+68 deg F to +86 deg F). Bring warm clothing in winter (especially, if you go to the mountains) and light clothing in summer. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-8 Bulgarian Clothing (by Rossen Zlatev), last updated: 31-Dec-1991 Bulgarian folk clothes are very colorful and nice. Both women and men wear white shirts with an embroidered bodice and skirts, richly ornamented as well. The types of folk clothes vary according the region and some times are very different, as though from different countries. The clothes are so colorful and pretty that it seems they reflect all the colors of nature. It is not possible to describe, it can only be seen. It is not possible to see people wearing traditional clothes in the streets, as with kimonos in Japan. Bulgarians wear modern dress, which are quite the same as anywhere in Europe. But there are a lot of Folklore schools that study and preserve national traditions - dances, clothes and folk music. When speaking about folklore clothes it is not possible not to mention Bulgarian folk dances and music. Mountain Rodopa, known as a birthplace of Orpheus, is one of the numerous regions in which traditional folk music can be heard. On the "Voyager" satellite, sent to another possible civilization, one of the messages included was a song from this mountain. Maybe the variety of the Bulgarian folk is one of the explanations of Bulgarian voice magic. A large number of world's famous opera singers, instrumentalists and choirs have popularized the power and beauty of Bulgarian performing art. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-9 Bulgarian Architecture (by Rossen Zlatev), last updated: 31-Dec-1991 During the Ottoman rule the influence of European architecture was weak. For this reason it is not possible to find big buildings with architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries. Instead of that there are a lot of houses and small towns that keep the original beauty of the Bulgarian National Revival (18-19 centuries). One of the most famous is Plovdiv's Old Town. Behind stone walls and wrought iron gates along the steep cobbled streets are lovely gardens with flowers and symmetrical houses with colorful painted facades, bay and lattice windows. Lovely carved ceilings, murals and exquisite furniture adorn the interiors. Many of these houses are now museums, others are folk-style restaurants, and the remainder are inhabited. Monuments, buildings and archaeological excavations from different times can be found all over the country. Here are some of them: Varna's ancient necropolis which revealed proofs of the first European civilization and the world's oldest gold dated to 4600-4200 B.C.; The Kazanluk Thracian Cupol Tomb dated to the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century B.C., containing unique murals - the only surviving monuments of Hellenic painting, included in the List of World Cultural Heritage.; A Roman Amphitheater from the 2nd century - the biggest one in the Balkan Peninsula outside of Greece; The Rila Monastery founded in 9th century - the biggest monum of Bulgarian Architecture from that time; Kotel and Zeravna - two villages in the Balkan mountain that have saved their original architecture from the National Revival. The spirit of these villages can not be described, it can only be seen and experienced. Apart from the old buildings, there are a large number of modern resorts at the Black Sea's beach and mountains. They have a different modern architecture that provide a good holiday time and refuge from the noise of the 20th century. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-10 Who are the Slavs (by Harry Tsamaidis), last updated: 02-Jul-1996 Slavs are any of several groups of peoples, most of whom live in Eastern Europe. There are about 275 million Slavs. They speak similar languages, called the Slavic or Slavonic Languages. The first Slavs lived over 5,000 years ago in a region that now forms part of the northwestern Ukraine and southeastern Poland. From A.D. 200 to 500, they migrated to other parts of Europe. Some Slavs settled in what are now the western Soviet Union and eastern and central Europe. Other Slavs migrated to the region of southeastern Europe known as the Balkans. During the 800's, the Slavs established the Great Moravian Empire, which united the peoples of central Europe for the first time. In 906, the empire was conquered by the Magyars, the ancestors of the Hungarians. Since then, the Slavs have been ruled by many foreign powers, including the Byzantine Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Germany. In 1918, after World War I ended, the Slavs established such independant states as Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Former Yugoslavia. Germany conquered these Slavic states during World War II (1939-1945). Today, the Soviet Union dominates most of the Slavic peoples. In eastern Europe, only the Slavs of Former Yugoslavia; and Greece are free of Soviet rule. Historians classify the Slavs into three main groups- (1) eastern, (2) western, and (3) southern - based on the regions in which these people live. Eastern Slavs consist of the Byelorussions, or White Russians; the Russians, or Great Russians; and the Ukrainians, or Little Russians. The eastern Slavs were strongly influenced by the culture of the Byzantine Empire. About A.D. 988, the ruler of the Russian Slavs, Grand Prince Vladimir I, married a Byzantine princess and became a Christian. As a result, most of the people under his rule also turned to Christianity. Today, many eastern Slavs belong to Eastern Orthodox Churches. Western Slavs form a group that includes the Czechs; the Slovaks; the Poles; and the Wends, who also are known as Sorbs or Lusatians. The Wends live in East Germany. During the 800's, two Greek monks, named Cyril and Methodius, converted many western Slavs to Christianity. At that time, church services were held in Greek or Latin, which few people could understand. But Cyril and Methodius held services in the language of the Slavs, called Old Church Slavonic. As the western Slavs became involved in the affairs of western Europe, they also became influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. Through the Centuries, the Catholic Church has strongly influenced western European Culture. Today, most western Slavs are Roman Catholics. Southern Slavs are a group composed of the Bulgarians, the Croats, the Macedonians, the Serbs, and the Slovenes. During the 800's, a large number of southern Slavs were converted to Christianity by followers of Cyril and Methodius. However, these Slaves were also strongly influenced by the Byzantine culture. Today, the majority of southern Slavs belong to Eastern Orthodox Churches. Most members of the group live in the Balkans. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-11 Who are the Pomaks (by Roumi Radenska), last updated: 31-Jul-1994 'Pomaks' is the name of pretty large group of people who live mainly in Rhodopi mountains (southern Bulgaria, close to the border with Greece). They have muslim names and speak very ancient bulgarian language (bulgarian belongs to the group of slavic languages). Their ancestors were slavic christian people who accepted muslim religion. This fact took place in 16th and 17th centuries. There were several ways to become muslim that time, when Bulgaria like all Balkan peninsula, was part of the Ottoman empire. But most common paths to islamiztion were: 1. Through marriages. This way was valid for a number of bulgarian women. 2. Voluntary islamization. Main reason for that was escaping a lot of taxes. 3. Forced islamization. The largest amount of 'pomaks' became muslims that way. There are well known several ottoman actions for islamiztion of bulgarians living in Rhodopi mountain during 17th century. Here is coming the question: why ottomans forced the people living in that region only to accept the muslim faith? One of the explanations is: Rhodopi mountains were a huge hunting field for the sultan, his family and large number of his people. They needed to be served during their stay there (some times for months). According to their believes they have to be served only by muslims. That's why ottomans forced the large amount of bulgarian population in Rhodops to accept the islam. How we know about that fact? Ottoman empire had excellent organized tax system. All taxpayers were registered in books, their land or other property described in order to determine the taxes. Naming the taxpayers ottomans used identification on first name of the person and the name of his father. For example: Khasan, son of Ivan. Khasan is muslim name, but Ivan is slavonic, christian name. This is the way we know that 'pomaks' used to be slavic christian people before they became muslims. A lot of books from all 500 years of ottoman rule over Bulgaria containing data about taxes and taxpayers are saved in archives in Sofia, Burgas, Istanbul. 'Pomaks' were pretty isolated from the rest of the bulgarian society for centuries. They saved that old bulgarian language and some old customs which took place before 17th century. About 20 years ago, in the beginning of 1970s, the ethnography professor Ivan Koev from Sofia University lead a student expedition to pomak region called 'Chech'. They did research on language, crafts and customs in that area. I visited the village of Sarnitza entirely populated by pomaks in 1983. My impressions of that visit are still fresh. All the houses were new two stories brick buildings. Many families had cars. A lot of children were playing in the yards dressed with snow white shirts. It was such a peaceful picture and all the past seemed to be forgotten. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2-12 Where to buy Bulgarian Flags (by The Flag Guys), last updated: 17-Sep-1995 We have a 3x5 foot Bulgarian flag. If interested in getting one, email vrla@teleport.com for the info. The Flag Guys 5636 N Delaware, Portland, OR 97217-4206 USA voice (503) 289-7158, fax (503) 286-0236, vrla@teleport.com -- Drago -- Drago