What follows is the list of the ten most significant contributions and remarkable facts about Bulgaria.
10. Bulgaria is the only country in the world to have dismissed an elected municipal official over playing Farmville. In 2010, Dimitar Kerin, a Plovdiv city councilor, was fired in order to “have more time to tend to his virtual farm”.
9. Due to overwhelming public opposition led by Minister of Justice Dimitar Peshev, the order to deport Bulgaria’s Jewish minority to concentration camps in Poland and Germany was never carried out, resulting in the rescue of Bulgaria’s 48,000-strong Jewish population.
8. Bulgaria is home to many world-class athletes, among them early 20th century wrestler Dan Kolov, high jump record holder Stefka Kostadinova, 90’s soccer legend Hristo Stoichkov and Ivet Lalova, currently the “fastest white woman in the world”. In addition, Bulgaria has fostered the talents of coaches and choreographers such as Neshka Robeva who had a brilliant career in gymnastics as a coach, with her gymnasts earning 293 medals, and has choreographed world-renowned performances with a fusion of Bulgarian folklore and gymnastics:
7. Although it was never a maritime power, Bulgaria is home to Kaliakra, one of the world’s fastest tall ships, and to Doncho Papazov, a record-holding sea voyager who became the first to complete a voyage around the world South of the 40th parallel in 1988.
6. Bulgaria is one of the largest brain-power exporters in the world. Many of the world’s top scientists are Bulgarian or of Bulgarian descent (over 90 are currently working for CERN). Among Bulgaria’s smartest are chess Grand Master Veselin Topalov, co-creator of the digital computer John Atanassoff, physicist Ivan Stranski and Daniela Simidchieva, currently the smartest woman in the world according to MENSA, with an IQ of over 200 (on par with that of Marie Curie).
5. Bulgarian women are known for their courage, talent and beauty. Notable Bulgarian women include Bulgaria’s Audrey Hepburn Nevena Kokanova, long-time minister of culture Lyudmila Zhivkova who pioneered the conservation of Bulgaria’s cultural wealth in the 1970’s, Rayna Knyaginya, who sewed the flag of the April Uprising and Nina Dobrev who currently stars in the Vampire Diaries TV series.
4. Bulgarian musicians and opera singers known around the world include Boris Christoff and Nikolai Gyaurov, two of the greatest basses of the 20th century, and opera divas Gena Dimitrova, Raina Kabaivanska and Anna Tomowa-Sintow. Pancho Vladiguerov, Bulgaria’s most famous classical composer, Emil Dimitrov, an internationally renowned pop singer in the 60’s and Theodosii Spassov, a contemporary jazz musician who plays the traditional wooden flute kaval round out this list. (Read and hear more about Bulgarian music…)
3. Bulgaria is the sixth nation in the world to send a representative into space. The first of its two cosmonauts, Georgi Ivanov flew on the Soviet Soyuz 33 mission as part of the InterCosmos program in April 1979 and was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union after the mission. In addition, Bulgarian song “Izlel e Delyu haidutin”, sung by the inimitable Valya Balkanska, is travelling in space in search of new civilizations alongside pieces by Mozart and Bethoven and representative songs of all of humanity on the Voyager deep space probe’s Golden Record.
2. Bulgaria produces 70% of the world’s rose oil. Rose oil, distilled from a fragrant species of rose, is the most widely used essential oil in cosmetic products, and the Karlovo region of Bulgaria is world renowned for the quality of its oil. In addition, Bulgaria is known for its white cheese (sirene, very similar to Feta), as a distiller of wine and rakia (a strong, flavourful grape brandy) and for being one of the oldest regions to produce yoghurt, with earliest records dating to 3000 BC. There’s even a yoghurt culture named after Bulgaria, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, which is essential to the production of yoghurt.
1. The Cyrillic alphabet, used by 252 million people worldwide, was created by St. Cyril and St. Methodius’s students in Bulgaria under the aegis of Bulgaria’s Knyaz Boris I, enabling the cultural and religious independence of Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, as well as the emergence of Slavic Orthodox Christianity. As of 2007, Cyrillic is the third official script of the European Union after Roman and Greek.