Bulgaria, situated in the eastern Balkans, has been undergoing a slow and painful transition to a market economy since the end of Communist rule.
A predominantly Slavonic-speaking, Orthodox Christian country, Bulgaria was the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet, which was created there towards the end of the 9th century AD.
It was long influenced by Byzantine culture then was part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years before gaining its independence in the 19th century.
After the Second World War it became a satellite of the Soviet Union, but is now a member country of the EU and NATO.
- Republic of Bulgaria
- Capital: Sophia
- Population 7.4 million
- Area 110,994 sq km (42,855 sq miles)
- Major language Bulgarian
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 70 years (men), 77 years (women)
- Currency lev