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BULGARIA is a southeast European republic located on the east of the Balkan Peninsula with a coast on the Black Sea to the east. It is bounded to the north by Romania, to the west by Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the south by Greece and Turkey.
Hills or mountains cover about half of Bulgaria’s land area. The center of Bulgaria is crossed from west to east by the Balkan Mountains. In the south, the Rhodopi Mountains straddle the border with Greece, and, in the western central region of the country, the Rila mountain chain contains the country’s highest peak, Musala (2,925 meters or 9,597 feet).
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The main river in Bulgaria is the Danube (Dunav), which flows along the Bulgaria/Romania border, and about a third of the country is covered with forests that provide commercially valuable timber. The south of the country has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters. Further north, the temperatures become more extreme, and rainfall is higher in summer. Bulgaria was almost entirely an agricultural country until the end of the 1940s. However, during the 1950s, the collectivization of farms and the use of more machinery, fertilizers, and irrigation led to great output increases.
Farming remains highly important and is responsible for about 16 percent of the country’s national wealth. Wheat, barley, rice, maize, cotton, grapes (for wine), tobacco, sugar beet, vegetables, and fruits are among the crops grown, cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry reared. Increased mechanization led to more of the workforce being available to work in mines and industry. The result is that manufacturing and industrial processes are now the largest contributors to the Bulgarian economy. Chemicals, petrochemicals, textiles, leather goods, footwear and clothing, glass, cement, machine building (especially forklift trucks and bulk carriers), tobacco processing, and glass-making are among the industrial activities. Coal mining and the production of iron ore and other minerals are also important.
Fishing, forestry, and tourism are other significant contributors to the economy. However, the country suffered very high inflation and unemployment rates in the early 1990s after the breakup of the former Soviet Union, with whom Bulgaria had very close trade links. Industrial pollution affects its rivers, soils, and the Black Sea coastline, a critical area for tourism, with over 10,000,000 people visiting the Black Sea resorts annually.
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Bulgaria occupies a relatively small area but is nevertheless a land of unusual scenic beauty. It has picturesque mountains, wooded hills, sheltered valleys, grain-producing plains, and a seacoast along the Black Sea with rocky cliffs and long sandy beaches. In the north of the country is the Danubian Plain. The country’s central portion houses the Balkan Mountains, and south of them is the Maritsa River. The Rhodope Mountains are found in the south and southwest areas of the country. Located on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate, Bulgaria is crossed by fault lines that cause frequent earthquakes.
Bulgaria has an eastern coastline on the Black Sea, an inland water body between Europe and Asia. The waters of the Black Sea are calm and free of tides or dangerous marine life. Called the “Hospitable Sea” by the ancient Greeks, the Black Sea is half as salty as the Mediterranean Sea and has gentle sandy slopes, making it ideal for swimming.
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The Balkan Peninsula, the southernmost peninsula of Europe, borders the Adriatic and Ionian Seas to the west, the Black and Aegean Seas to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The countries within this region are collectively called the Balkan States. These nations include Albania, Bulgaria, continental Greece, southeast Romania, European Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, Macedonia.
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