National Character

The character of the Bulgarians presents a singular contrast to that of the neighbouring nations. Less quick-witted than the Greeks, less prone to idealism than the Servians, less apt to assimilate the externals of civilization than the Rumanians, they possess in a remarkable degree the qualities of patience, perseverance and endurance, with the capacity for laborious effort peculiar to an agricultural race. The tenacity and determination with which they pursue their national aims may eventually enable them to vanquish their more brilliant competitors in the struggle for hegemony in the Peninsula. Unlike most southern races, the Bulgarians are reserved, taciturn, phlegmatic, unresponsive, and extremely suspicious of foreigners. The peasants are industrious, peaceable and orderly; the vendetta, as it exists in Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia, and the use of the knife in quarrels, so common in southern Europe, are alike unknown. The tranquillity of rural life has, unfortunately, been invaded by the intrigues of political agitators, and bloodshed is not uncommon at elections. All classes practise thrift bordering on parsimony, and any display of wealth is generally resented.

The standard of sexual morality is high, especially in the rural districts; the unfaithful wife is an object of public contempt, and in former times was punished with death. Marriage ceremonies are elaborate and protracted, as is the case in most primitive communities; elopements are frequent, but usually take place with the consent of the parents on both sides, in order to avoid the expense of a regular wedding. The principal amusement on Sundays and holidays is the choró (χορός), which is danced on the village green to the strains of the gaida or bagpipe, and the gûsla, a rudimentary fiddle. The Bulgarians are religious in a simple way, but not fanatical, and the influence of the priesthood is limited. Many ancient superstitions linger among the peasantry, such as the belief in the vampire and the evil eye; witches and necromancers are numerous and are much consulted.


Bulgaria is a constitutional monarchy; by Art. iii. of the Berlin Treaty it was declared hereditary in the family of a prince "freely elected by the population and confirmed by the Sublime Porte with the assent of the powers." According to the constitution of Trnovo, voted by the Assembly of Notables on the 29th of April 1879, revised by the Grand Sobranye on the 27th of May 1893, and modified by the proclamation of a Bulgarian kingdom on the 5th of October 1908, the royal dignity descends in the direct male line. The king must profess the Orthodox faith, only the first elected sovereign and his immediate heir being released from this obligation. The legislative power is vested in the king in conjunction with the national assembly; he is supreme head of the army, supervises the executive power, and represents the country in its foreign relations. In case of a minority or an interregnum, a regency of three persons is appointed. The national representation is embodied in the Sobranye, or ordinary assembly (Bulgarian, Sŭbranïe, the Russian form Sobranye being usually employed by foreign writers), and the Grand Sobranye, which is convoked in extraordinary circumstances.

The Sobranye is elected by manhood suffrage, in the proportion of 1 to 20,000 of the population, for a term of five years. Every Bulgarian citizen who can read and write and has completed his thirtieth year is eligible as a deputy. Annual sessions are held from the 27th of October to the 27th of December. All legislative and financial measures must first be discussed and voted by the Sobranye and then sanctioned and promulgated by the king. The government is responsible to the Sobranye, and the ministers, whether deputies or not, attend its sittings. The Grand Sobranye, which is elected in the proportion of 2 to every 20,000 inhabitants, is convoked to elect a new king, to appoint a regency, to sanction a change in the constitution, or to ratify an alteration in the boundaries of the kingdom. The executive is entrusted to a cabinet of eight members - the ministers of foreign affairs and religion, finance, justice, public works, the interior, commerce and agriculture, education and war. Local administration, which is organized on the Belgian model, is under the control of the minister of the interior.

The country is divided into twenty-two departments (okrŭg, pl. okrŭzi), each administered by a prefect (uprávitel), assisted by a departmental council, and eighty-four sub-prefectures (okolía), each under a sub-prefect (okoliiski natchálnik). The number of these functionaries is excessive. The four principal towns have each in addition a prefect of police (gradonatchalnik) and one or more commissaries (pristav). The gendarmery numbers about 4000 men, or 1 to 825 of the inhabitants. The prefects and sub-prefects have replaced the Turkish mutessarifs and kaimakams; but the system of municipal government, left untouched by the Turks, descends from primitive times. Every commune (obshtina), urban or rural, has its kmet, or mayor, and council; the commune is bound to maintain its primary schools, a public library or reading-room, etc.; the kmet possesses certain magisterial powers, and in the rural districts he collects the taxes. Each village, as a rule, forms a separate commune, but occasionally two or more villages are grouped together.