(Republika Bălgarija). State of South Eastern Europe (sup. 111,002 km²). Capital: Sofia. Administrative division: districts (28). Population: 7,932,984 (2009 estimate). Language: Bulgarian (official), Armenian, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian and Turkish. Religion: Orthodox 72%, Muslims 12.2%, other Christians 11.7%, others 4.1%. Monetary unit: new lev (100 stotinki). Human Development Index: 0.840%, ranked 61st. Borders: Romania (N), Serbia and Montenegro and Republic of Macedonia (W), Turkey and Greece (S), Black Sea (AND). Member of: Council of Europe, EBRD, NATO, UN, OSCE, associated with EU and WTO.
With no real geographical unity, the Bulgarian territory has its main structural element in the Balkan chain (in Bulgarian Stara Planina, Old Mountain) which, extending from W to E up to the Black Sea, divides the country entirely. However, it is not very difficult to overcome: the highest peaks are around 2000 m (maximum peak is the Botev, with 2376 m) while the main passes are at 1000 meters. The northern slope declines directly to the Danube with a series of plateaus and hilly undulations; towards the S, on the other hand, the Balkans descend sharply and are preceded by a parallel chain, the Sredna Gora (or Antibalcani), just over 1000 meters high. Between the two chains opens a tectonic depression, partly crossed by the Tundža river; the Antibalcani dominate another depression to the S, that of the Marica river, which is in turn bounded to the S by the massifs of the Rodopi, Pirin and Rila. Geologically these are reliefs of Cenozoic origin, however, which emerged substantially not as a result of corrugations, but as a result of vertical dislocations suffered from pre-existing Paleozoic reliefs. This rejuvenation, which took place in conjunction with the great adjustments caused by the orogenesisAlpine-Dinaric, produced fractures and sinking of entire plates, including the formation of the depression of the Marica and that between the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora. The result is the non-harsh morphology of the Bulgarian mountains, which have rounded profiles and not excessively high altitudes: the highest peaks are Musala, with 2925 m, in the Rila massif, and Vihren, with 2915 m, in Pirin. In relation to their origin, therefore, the paleozoic formations (schists, granites) predominate in the higher sections of the reliefs, subjected on the slopes to Mesozoic strips; in particular, a single Mesozoic cover extends on the slope that slopes down towards the Danube: Cretaceous soils prevail, which in the most depressed part along the river are dominated by layers of Pleistocene clays of wind sedimentation, clearly visible in the escarpment that forms the Danube bank. The Marica valley is also covered by Mesozoic and Cenozoic formations, but they are obliterated under recent alluvial soils.
According to 800zipcodes, the Balkan chain also plays a decisive role in hydrography, dividing the Danube basin from that of the Marica and the other tributaries of the Aegean Sea. The Danube, which marks for approx. 400 km the northern border of the country receives numerous tributaries from the Balkans, including the Vit and the Jantra, which flow in deep valleys; the most important, however, the Iskǎr, originates from the Rila massif and then cuts the entire Balkan chain. The Marica basin extends over a fifth of the entire Bulgarian territory, which it crosses for over 300 km; the river originates in the Musala and is then fed by numerous tributaries that descend from the Rhodopes and the Balkans, the largest of which is the Tundža. Like all Bulgarian rivers, the Marica also has an irregular seasonal regime, but it is a precious river because it allows the irrigation of the plain it crosses; crossed Thrace, it reaches the Aegean Sea on the border between Greece and Turkey. The other major rivers are those that drain the southern slopes of the Rhodopes and Pirin; among them are the Struma (Strymoń) and the Mesta (Néstos), both tributaries of the Aegean Sea.
The effects of the different climatic conditions affecting the country are observed in the vegetation cover (which in its natural aspects has however been profoundly altered by agriculture with its industrial crops, except in protected areas); we recognize a Mediterranean area in the S and a steppe-Balkan area in the Danube valley. On the hills, the forest is still quite rich, including broad-leaved trees (oaks and, above 1800 m, beeches) and conifers, among which spruce prevails. The fauna is quite rich and in the protected areas includes brown bears, wolves, lynxes, chamois, deer, as well as a very high number of bat species.. In the country there are three state national parks and a dozen protected areas of significant importance: in total the protected area represents 9.5% of the territory. On the other hand, the environmental protection measures are very modest; atmospheric pollution is considerable in major cities and industrial districts, as well as that of groundwater and land, produced above all by uncontrolled industrial discharges.