Religious freedom prevails and the churches must be separate from the state. At the same time, the constitution defines the Orthodox faith as the “traditional religion” of the country, and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church based in Sofia is the country’s largest community.
Bulgaria was a Christian already in the 20th century, Christianized in the 500s by invading slaves, but was again Christianized in 865 when Prince Boris was baptized by missionaries from Constantinople. However, the Christians were persecuted during the long Ottoman occupation (1396-1878).
At the 2011 census, almost 60 percent counted as Orthodox Christians and 570,000 claimed to be Muslims. Every tenth resident said he was not religious. Twenty percent refrained from answering the question of religious affiliation.
Alongside the Orthodox Church are other Christian communities. The largest of them is the Roman Catholic Church. A minority of its members are uni (Catholics who practice Orthodox religious order). The Christian communities also include the Armenian Church as well as various Protestant communities and revival movements such as Pentecostal and Baptist churches. Other religions that count themselves as Christians are Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.
The Bulgarian Turks, the Pomaks (see Population and Languages) and about half of the Romans profess Islam (the other Romans are Christians). The vast majority belong to the main focus of Islam Sunni.
The communist regime exercised strict control over the religious communities. Few church leaders objected to anti-religious politics. Equally passive were the Muslim leaders. After the fall of the regime in 1989, a faction within the Orthodox Church broke out of the mother church in protest against allowing the religious leader, the patriarch, appointed by the Communists, to remain. For a number of years the church was divided into two, but the parts were reunited in 2010. A parliamentary report in 2012 showed that most of the Orthodox church bishops cooperated with the intelligence service during the communist era.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Bulgaria, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
Since the fall of communism, religiosity has had a marked upswing. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has grown, but it has not had the same political influence as Orthodox churches in other countries.
All communities must register to operate. This gives the authorities transparency in operations.
New gas import pipeline
A project to link Bulgaria’s gas network with Greece is set in motion after major delays. Bulgaria has long wanted to reduce its dependence on gas from Russia via Ukraine and instead connect it to the grid used by Greece, Serbia and Romania. The 18 km long pipeline between Bulgarian Dimitrovgrad and Komitini in Greece is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
Gerb tops EU elections
Despite the scandals of recent months, the Gerb government has managed to maintain its position in the elections to the European Parliament. Gerb gets just over 31 percent of the vote, that is, slightly more than in the last EU election but slightly less than in the 2017 parliamentary elections. Gerb thus retains his 6 seats. The Socialist Party comes in second place with just over 24 percent of the vote. This is 6 percentage points more than the coalition led by the Socialist Party received in the 2014 elections, but just over 4 percentage points less than the result in the parliamentary elections in 2017. The Rights and Freedoms (DPS) movement comes in third but loses somewhat and loses a mandate. The party receives 3 seats. The Bulgarian National Movement (VMRO), which is part of the Patriotic Front and thus in the government, comes in fourth place with 7.4 percent of the vote, giving 1 mandate. The last mandate goes to the relatively newly formed Alliance of Democratic Bulgaria, which wins just over 6 percent of the vote. (Read more about the parties inPolitical system). The turnout is 33 percent.
Jail for murder of journalist
A 21-year-old man is sentenced to 30 years in prison for rape and murder of TV journalist Viktoria Marinova. The assault took place in October in October 2018 and the man was arrested shortly thereafter. According to prosecutors, the 21-year-old acted on the basis of sexual motives and they rule out that the attack had something to do with Marinova’s profession. Marinova led a program aimed at revealing serious cases of corruption. The organization Reporters Without Borders accuses the Bulgarian authorities of having intervened in the investigation in order to sweep the case under the rug.
Minister is charged with cheating with EU money
Deputy Finance Minister Alexander Manolev resigns after media reports that he has used EU funds for his own gain. One week later, on April 25, Manolev is charged with “violation of EU financial interests”. According to prosecutors, Manolev has used EU money intended for rural development to build a holiday home near the town of Sandanski, but the project has not at all favored local tourism since the luxury villa is used exclusively by Manolev and his family. The unveiling causes a screaming outcry among poor Bulgarians, especially as it comes shortly after another scandal involving high-ranking people being allowed to buy luxury apartments at underpriced prices (see March 27, 2019).
Apartment scandal forces Gerb peaks to resign
Governing Gerb’s group leader in parliament, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, resigns after media revealed that he had been able to buy a luxury apartment at well below market price. Tsvetanov is the fourth party member to leave within a week due to the scandal. The country’s Minister of Justice Tsetska Tsatjeva and two deputy ministers have also submitted their farewell applications. Tsvetanov says that he has become a “victim” of the scandal and he cannot believe that he was offered a good price when he bought his apartment. The scandal has undermined Gerb’s position ahead of the EU elections in May. The party now lies alongside the largest opposition party Socialist Party in opinion polls. The head of the country’s anti-corruption unit, Plamen Georgiev, belongs to those who have been allowed to buy luxury apartments at budget price.