Bulgaria - Culture

Culture

Traditional Bulgarian culture contains mainly Thracian, Slavic and Bulgar heritage, along with Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Persian and Celtic influences. Nine historical and natural objects have been inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Madara Rider, the Thracian tombs in Sveshtari and Kazanlak, the Boyana Church, the Rila Monastery, the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo, Pirin National Park, Sreburna Nature Reserve and the ancient city of Nesebar. Nestinarstvo, a ritual fire-dance of Thracian origin, is included in the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Fire is an essential element of Bulgarian folklore, used to banish evil spirits and diseases. Bulgarian folklore personifies illnesses as witches and has a wide range of creatures, including lamya, samodiva (veela) and karakondzhul. Some of the customs and rituals against these spirits have survived and are still practiced, most notably the kukeri and survakari. Martenitsa is also widely celebrated.

Along with traditional culture, much heritage from other civilisations has been accumulated since Antiquity. Local researchers claim that the number of archaeological sites is the third-largest in Europe after Italy and Greece. The first book written in a Germanic language—the 4th century Wulfila Bible, was created in Nicopolis ad Istrum in a small Gothic community in present-day northern Bulgaria. The first Christian monastery in Europe was established around the same time. Plovdiv is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities, and the oldest golden treasure in the world, consisting of coins, weapons and jewellery dating to 4,600 BC, was discovered near Varna in 1972. The site revealed evidence of the first European civilisation.

Slavic culture was centered in both the First and Second Bulgarian Empires during much of the Middle Ages. The Preslav, Ohrid and Tarnovo literary schools exerted considerable cultural influence over the Eastern Orthodox world. Many languages in Eastern Europe and Asia use Cyrillic script, which originated in the Preslav Literary School around the 9th century. The medieval advancement in the arts and letters ended with the Ottoman conquest when many masterpieces were destroyed, and artistic activities did not re-emerge until the National Revival in the 19th century. After the Liberation, Bulgarian literature quickly adopted European literary styles such as Romanticism and Symbolism. Since the beginning of the 20th century, several Bulgarian authors, such as Ivan Vazov, Pencho Slaveykov, Peyo Yavorov, Yordan Radichkov and Tzvetan Todorov have gained prominence. In 1981 Bulgarian-born writer Elias Canetti was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Bulgarian folk music is by far the most extensive traditional art and has slowly developed throughout the ages as a fusion of Eastern and Western influences. It contains Far Eastern, Oriental, medieval Eastern Orthodox and standard Western European tonalities and modes. The music has a distinctive sound and uses a wide range of traditional instruments, such as gadulka, gaida (bagpipe), kaval and tupan. One of its most distinguishing features is extended rhythmical time, which has no equivalent in the rest of European music. The State Television Female Vocal Choir is the most famous performing folk ensemble, and received a Grammy Award in 1990. Bulgaria's written musical composition can be traced back to the early Middle Ages and the works of Yoan Kukuzel (c. 1280–1360). Classical music, opera and ballet are represented by composers Emanuil Manolov, Pancho Vladigerov and Georgi Atanasov and singers Ghena Dimitrova and Boris Hristov. Bulgarian performers have gained popularity in several other genres like progressive rock (FSB), electropop (Mira Aroyo) and jazz (Milcho Leviev).

The religious visual arts heritage includes frescoes, murals and icons, many produced by the medieval Tarnovo Artistic School. Vladimir Dimitrov, Nikolay Diulgheroff and Christo are some of the most famous modern Bulgarian artists. Film industry remains weak: in 2010, Bulgaria produced three feature films and two documentaries with public funding. Cultural events are advertised in the largest media outlets, including the Bulgarian National Radio, and daily newspapers Dneven Trud and 24 Chasa.

Bulgarian cuisine is similar to those of other Balkan countries and demonstrates a strong Turkish and Greek influence. Yogurt, lukanka, banitsa, shopska salad, lyutenitsa and kozunak are among the best-known local foods. Oriental dishes such as moussaka, gyuvech, and baklava are also present. Meat consumption is lower than the European average, given a notable preference for a large variety of salads. Rakia is a traditional fruit brandy which was consumed in Bulgaria as early as the 14th century. Bulgarian wine is known for its Traminer, Muskat and Mavrud sorts, of which up to 200,000 tonnes are produced annually. Until 1989, Bulgaria was the world's second-largest wine exporter.

Bulgaria performs well in sports such as wrestling, weight-lifting, boxing, gymnastics and tennis. The country fielded one of the leading men's volleyball teams, ranked eighth in the world according to the 2012 FIVB rankings. Football is by far the most popular sport. Some famous players are Fulham forward Dimitar Berbatov and Hristo Stoichkov, winner of the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball and the most successful Bulgarian player of all time. Prominent domestic clubs include PFC CSKA Sofia and PFC Levski Sofia. The best performance of the national team at FIFA World Cup finals came in 1994, when it advanced to the semi-finals by defeating consecutively Greece, Argentina, Mexico and Germany, finishing fourth. Bulgaria has participated in most Olympic competitions since its first appearance at the 1896 games, when it was represented by Charles Champaud. The country has won a total of 218 medals: 52 gold, 86 silver, and 80 bronze, which puts it in 24th place in the all-time ranking.

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