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May 2012



On May 22, there was a 5.6 magnitude earthquake in Bulgaria (9km/6mi NNW of Pernik). Bulgaria is located in Southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Romania and Turkey. Slightly larger than Tennessee; it has a total area of: 110,879 sq km. The Mediterranean region is seismically active due to the northward convergence of the African plate with respect to the Eurasian plate.

The terrain of Bulgaria is varied, containing large mountainous areas, fertile valleys, plains and a coastline along the Black Sea. Its climate is Continental - mild summers and cold, snowy winters. Bulgaria's resources include: bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, coal, timber, and arable land; natural hazards facing the country are: earthquakes and landslides.

The capital of Bulgaria, Sofia, lies in the western region of the country. Ethnic groups include Bulgarian, Turkish, Roma, and others. The first Bulgarian state was established in 635 A.D., located along the north coast of the Black Sea. In 681 A.D. the first Bulgarian state on the territory of modern Bulgaria was founded. This state consisted of a mixture of Slav and Bulgar peoples. In 864, Bulgaria adopted Orthodox Christianity. The First Bulgarian Kingdom, considered to be Bulgaria's "Golden Age," emerged under Tsar Simeon I in 893-927. During this time, Bulgarian art and literature flourished. In 1018, the Byzantine Empire conquered Bulgaria. In 1185 the Bulgarians broke free of Byzantine rule and established the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.

In 1396 Bulgaria became part of the Ottoman Empire. During the 5 centuries of Ottoman rule. Several Bulgarian uprisings were brutally suppressed and a great many people fled abroad. The April uprising of 1876, the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78), and the Treaty of San Stefano, began Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman Empire, but complete independence was not recognized until 1908. During the first half of the 20th century, Bulgaria was marred by social and political unrest. Bulgaria participated in the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912 and 1913) and sided with the Central Powers, and later the Axis Powers, during the two World Wars. Bulgaria never declared war on the Soviet Union and never sent troops abroad to fight under Nazi command. Near the end of World War II, Bulgaria changed sides to fight the German army.

King Simeon II assumed control of the throne in 1943 at the age of six, following the death of his father Boris III. With the entry of Soviet troops into Bulgaria in September 1944 and the defeat of the Axis Powers in World War II, communism emerged as the dominant political force within Bulgaria. Simeon, who later returned and served as Prime Minister, was forced into exile in 1946. By 1946, Bulgaria had become a satellite of the Soviet Union, remaining so throughout the Cold War period. As Bulgaria emerged from the throes of communism, it experienced a period of social and economic turmoil that culminated in a severe economic and financial crisis in late 1996-early 1997.

Bulgaria became a member of NATO on March 29, 2004. In 2008, Bulgaria made the transition to an all-volunteer force. Bulgaria has had over 700 troops serving abroad in support of NATO, EU, and UN missions and currently has around 600 troops in Afghanistan. Bulgaria became a member of the European Union on January 1, 2007. On September 22, 2009, UNESCO’s Executive Board nominated Bulgarian diplomat Irina Bokova to become its next Director General; she took office in November 2009.

To find out more about the earthquake, visit the USGS site for Earthquake Hazards Program site.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; U.S. Geological Survey, 5/2012; 1/2012; 5/2012