Most of Bulgaria's people live in cities. Many work in such industries as food processing and production of metal goods. Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. Bulgaria came under Communist rule in 1946. The Bulgarian Communist Party took control of the government. Political parties that opposed the Communist Party were outlawed. The party and government together gained almost total control over the economy. In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union, which was then the world's most powerful Communist country, made reforms resulting in more freedom for its people. In December 1989, Communists who favored reforms gained control of Bulgaria's Communist Party and the government. They began taking steps to end the complete control of the government. Opposition parties were allowed to operate. The Communist Party changed its name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party. The National Assembly is Bulgaria's legislative body. Its 240 members are elected by the people to a four-year term. After the Communist Party came to power the government discouraged religion and supervised religious practice. But in 1989, the reform government affirmed the rights to all citizens to practice their religion. About ninety percent of the people are members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, one of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Other religious groups include Muslims, Protestants, and Roman Catholics. Bulgaria began printing stamps of Mary in 1942.
A people called the Thracians established the first civilization in what is now Bulgaria about three thousand years ago. The region became part of the Roman Empire in the A.D. 40s. Slavs from what are now southeastern Poland and northwestern Ukraine settled in the territory during the 500s. In the 600s, nomadic Bulgar tribes from central Asia migrated to the region. In time, the Bulgars blended with the Slavic people. The first Bulgarian kingdom was established in 681. It gradually became the most powerful state in the Balkans. The second Bulgarian kingdom was founded in 1186, after Bulgaria regained its independence from Byzantine rule. Ottoman rule of Bulgaria lasted more than five hundred years. The Ottomans forced their culture on Bulgarian society. They seized Bulgarian lands and other property and heavily taxed the people.
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