A branch of the Slavs merged with the Bulgars, a Turkic tribe, in the late 7th century to form the first Bulgarian state in the Balkans.
In succeeding centuries, Bulgarian and the Byzantine Empires dominated South-East Europe, but by the end of the 14th century the region was overrun by the Ottoman Turks. Bulgaria regained its independence in 1878 largely due to the intervention of Russia, who clipped the wings of the declining Ottoman Empire in Bulgaria and elsewhere, and installed a minor German prince as a ruler of the newly independent country. The country's iconic heroes were all freedom fighters to a man: whether Rakovsky Раковски, who mixed revolution and literature, Vassil Levski Васил Левски - the Apostle of Freedom, or Hristo Botev Христо Ботев, poet and fighter.
After a series of bloody and brutal Balkan wars, Bulgaria had the further misfortune to be an ally to the losing side in both World Wars, and was occupied by the Soviet Union and became a People's Republic in 1946. Communist domination was brought to a swift, but for many people illusory end in 1989; though Bulgaria went on to hold its first multi-party election since World War II, essentially socialist policies were pursued until hyperinflation and economic meltdown drove the old guard out of power in 1997. Today, reforms and democratization have brought Bulgaria into the NATO fold, with EU accession celebrated in 2007.
During Communist times, the Black Sea was a favorite destination for travellers behind the Iron Curtain. Now, increasing numbers of western Europeans travel throughout the country and many have bought vacation houses near the Black Sea or in picturesque villages. During the 2008 global financial crisis, Bulgaria marked a decline in its economy of 5.5% in 2009, but quickly restored positive growth levels, in contrast to other Balkan countries. That said, the Bulgarians have the distinction of boasting the strongest and most stable currency in Eastern Europe.
Despite significant economic advances, the country is the poorest member of the European Union. The Issues facing the country are a weak judiciary system, a moderate level of corruption in the local government, a poor road infrastructure, and a somewhat high unemployment rate. The unemployment has continually lingered near the double digits, an issue has historically faced. Another serious problem is the sight of over-development in the country.