The Eastern European nation of Bulgaria’s modern identity is reminiscent of past glories lost. Formed in the 7th century AD, Bulgaria has experienced long periods of foreign domination. The nation was subjugated for five hundred years under Ottoman rule, and in 1946 it fell under communist rule as a soviet satellite state until a new democracy was established in 1989. The term “Bulgarian” most likely comes from the Turkic verb which means “to mix,” and describes the ancestral mixing of the Bulgar and Slavic peoples to form the modern Bulgarian people group. Home to many other ethnic groups such as Macedonian, Millet, Turkic, and Roma, Bulgaria is known for having strained inter-ethnic relations.
Despite rapid industrialization under communist rule, Bulgaria experienced great economic hardships after the fall of the socialist government. Economic reforms in 1997 helped to stabilize the economy, but high unemployment and mass emigration have persisted. With well-managed fiscal planning and low corporate taxes, Bulgaria should appear inviting to foreign investment, yet corruption, a weak judiciary, and organized crime hinder economic growth. The Bulgarian society is broken: high poverty, divorce, abortion (which outnumbers live births), emigration of youth, and the discrimination of minorities continue.
After the fall of the socialist government, the atheist population declined, and the Christian population grew. Today the great majority of Bulgarians belong to the Orthodox Church. Yet most do not practice their faith, and for many it is only a sign of identity. Both Islam and Christianity in Bulgaria have incorporated some pagan beliefs and traditions, and both are subject to nominalism. In the 1990s a large influx of foreign funding created dependency among churches and a general perception that evangelicals “buy” converts. The many ethnic minorities are in need of Christian ministry and discipleship. Cross-cultural missions are also increasing, with Bulgarians serving throughout Europe and Asia, with an increase in short-term missions