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The names "Bulgar", and "Bulgarian" most likely derive from a Turkic verb meaning "to mix." Ethnic Bulgarians trace their ancestry to the merging of Bulgars (or Proto-Bulgarians), a central Asian Turkic people, and Slavs, a central European people, beginning in the seventh century in what is now northeastern Bulgaria.Besides ethnic Bulgarians, there are several ethnic minorities, the most numerous being Turks and Gypsies, with smaller numbers of Armenians, Jews, and others.

Both groups are generally considered outsiders by ethnic Bulgarians, in contrast to the more assimilated minorities such as Jews and Armenians.

Nevertheless, since all citizens participate in the national economy and polity, a shared national bureaucratic-political culture does exist, both shaped by and shaping the cultural practices of the constituent ethnic groups. Bulgaria is located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe.

It is bordered on the east by the Black Sea, on the north by Romania and the Danube River, on the south by Greece and Turkey, and on the west by Macedonia and Serbia.

The landscape consists of mountains, foothills, and plains.

One-third of the territory is forested, and one-third is more than 2,000 feet (600 meters) above sea level.

Major mountain ranges include Rila, Pirin, Balkan (Stara Planina), and Rhodope.For geographic reasons, Sofia was named the capital in 1879, after Bulgaria gained independence.Situated in an upland basin near the western border, Sofia was on the crossroads of major trade routes between the Aegean Sea and the Danube and between Turkey and central Europe.It also offered easy access to Macedonian lands, which were not part of the new Bulgarian state.Regional cultural variation sometimes reflects occupational specialization associated with local environmental conditions (e.g., fishing, animal husbandry), along with the influence of other cultural groups. Bulgaria's population was 8,230,371 on December 31, 1998.The population increased gradually for most of the twentieth century, but has decreased by more than 700,000 people since 1988.This decline stems from out-migration and falling birthrates during the uncertain postsocialist period.About 68 percent of Bulgaria's population lives in urban areas, compared to 25 percent in 1946.In 1992, 86 percent of the population self-identified as ethnically Bulgarian, 9 percent as Turkish, and 4 percent as Roma (Gypsy).Smaller groups include Russians, Armenians, Vlachs, Karakachans, Greeks, Tatars, and Jews.The 1992 census did not include a category for Pomaks (Bulgarian Muslims), who are often identified as one of Bulgaria's four main ethnic groups and constitute an estimated 3 percent of the population.

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