Title: The Republic of Bulgaria

Population: 6,919,180

Population Change: -0.74

National Average Age: 45

Urban Percentage: 76

Christian Population: 6,364,000

Christian Percentage: 85

Introduction: Bulgaria is a Balkan nation with diverse terrain encompassing Black Sea coastline a mountainous interior and rivers including the Danube. A cultural melting pot with Greek Slavic Ottoman and Persian influences it has a rich heritage of traditional dance music costumes and crafts. At the foot of domed Vitosha mountain is its capital city Sofia dating to the 5th century B.C.

Overview: The Bulgars a Central Asian Turkic tribe merged with the local Slavic inhabitants in the late 7th century to form the first Bulgarian state. In succeeding centuries Bulgaria struggled with the Byzantine Empire to assert its place in the Balkans but by the end of the 14th century the country was overrun by the Ottoman Turks. Northern Bulgaria attained autonomy in 1878 and all of Bulgaria became independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1908. Having fought on the losing side in both World Wars Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People's Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1990 when Bulgaria held its first multiparty election since World War II and began the contentious process of moving toward political democracy and a market economy while combating inflation unemployment corruption and crime. The country joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.