The Allure of Bulgaria as a Beacon of Freedom
written by A. L. Hart Havens on September 15, 2021
The southeastern European country of Bulgaria has undoubtedly been overshadowed by Hungary as the preferred place of refuge among western Europeans who seek to leave behind the economic socialism, unbridled immigration, rising crime, and outrageous left-wing governance of their now-estranged native countries but also wish to utilize the convenience of remaining within the European Union.
And although Hungary’s appeal as the guardian of western civilization and Christian values is certainly warranted, a case can certainly be made for Bulgaria being the EU’s top jurisdiction for conservative-minded Germans, Swedes, Italians, and other western Europeans. This essay will briefly explore Bulgaria’s importance in 20th Century world history before explaining the benefits and lifestyle perks of relocating to this often-overlooked hidden gem.
Liberated Services’ very own managing director is a German citizen who lives and works in Bulgaria and proudly calls the country his home. He is extremely well-versed in the ins and outs of everyday life in the country as well as the specifics of Bulgarian residency permits, personal and company taxation, home ownership, banking, cryptocurrency solutions, and offshore company setups.
Bulgaria’s Pivotal Role in Recent World History
After fully achieving national independence in 1908 following 500 years of Ottoman domination, Bulgaria soon landed on the bad side of Britain and the United States with its entry into World War I on the side of the Central Powers alongside the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires, and suffered considerable territorial losses at the war’s completion in 1918.
A few decades later in the early stages of World War II, Bulgaria joined the Axis Powers alongside Germany, Japan, and Italy in March 1941 and declared war on the United States and Britain in December of the same year following Pearl Harbor. In addition to Bulgaria, the Axis Powers’ other minor signatories were Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, Finland, and Thailand.
Astonishingly, the June 5, 1942 declarations of war on Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania by the United States Congress marked the last time that the US government has ever formally declared war, a truly incredible fact given the countless conflicts in which the US military has been involved across the world over the past 80 years.
Following Germany’s rapid conquest and occupation of France two years earlier, high-level negotiations with the Soviet Union regarding the USSR’s potential accession to the Tripartite Pact (and thus to the Axis Powers) began, which culminated in a three-day visit to Berlin by Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov in November 1940.
The meeting, which built upon the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact brokered in Moscow, focused on demarcating the boundaries of the future German, Japanese, Italian, and Soviet spheres of influence that would encompass the entire Old World stretching from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge eastward to the International Dateline.
One could imagine in 1940 – with France surrendering and the United States largely on the sidelines – the pivotal impact that the striking of a deal on the seemingly insignificant country of Bulgaria could have had on the course of world history, as World War II from 1941 onward would likely have pitted the four major Axis Powers – Germany, Japan, Italy, and the Soviet Union – against a faded British Empire and a war-torn China for control of the Eastern Hemisphere, with the United States consolidating power across the Western Hemisphere.
The actual course of history was a different one, as we know. While the talks had made significant progress, German and Soviet negotiators simply could not agree on the sphere of influence to which the strategically important country of Bulgaria would be allocated, with each side taking very firm stances that were irreconcilable with one another.
This led to a period of gradually souring relations that eventually saw the opening of the Eastern Front in June 1941 and the Soviet Union joining the war on the side of the Allies. And although Bulgaria was not the sole point of contention that led to the breakdown of the Soviet-Axis talks, many historians regard it to have been the predominant dealbreaker.
The Red Army’s late-war westward advance, fueled by the massive financial and materiel support received from the United States through the Roosevelt Administration’s Lend-Lease program, reached the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia in September 1944.
Bulgaria’s capture by the Soviet Union ushered in a near half-century of communism that forced its people to endure immense hardship but oddly shielded Bulgarians from the moral and cultural degeneracy forced onto the populations of the free world during this time.
And like most of the Cold War’s Eastern Bloc countries, Bulgaria has emerged from communism with a strong work ethic, conservative attitudes toward family and religion, and a healthy distrust of government and media that is severely lacking in western countries.
Geography, Weather, Crime, and Language
Situated on the eastern half of the Balkan Peninsula extending to the Black Sea’s western shores, Bulgaria shares land borders with Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey and has approximately the same land area as the US state of Tennessee. The country has a population just shy of 7 million, of which 1.7 million reside in the Sofia metropolitan area. Other major cities include Plovdiv, Varna, and Burgas.
Bulgaria has several different climate zones, which is remarkable given the country’s relatively modest size. While much of the interior and western regions feature mountainous terrain and continental climates with harsh winters, Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast in the country’s far east has a warm temperate climate characterized by hot, humid summers and mild winters.
The Bulgarian Riviera, the name by which this coastline is widely known due to its nice weather and numerous white and golden sandy beaches, certainly stands in stark contrast to the stereotypical notion of the cold and dreary backdrop that may come to mind when envisioning Eastern Europe.
Liberated Services’ trusted contacts in Bulgaria have shared that they perceive a much higher degree of physical safety in Bulgaria than in their native Western European countries. And this perception is substantiated by crime statistics showing (among other things) a murder rate lower than that of Canada and Belgium and nearly four times below that of the United States.
Property crimes and thefts can be an issue in certain regions of the country with a larger presence of the Romani people, who are colloquially known as gypsies and should not be confused with the Romanian people (although there is a significant Romani population in Romania). In spite of this, theft is not a major concern in the Black Sea coastal areas that are most popular among tourists, expats, and digital entrepreneurs.
With regard to the important issue of language comprehension, it should be noted that the Bulgarian language belongs to the Slavic language family and that Bulgaria is one of only a small handful of countries, of which Russia is the most significant, that use Cyrillic as the standard script. Bulgaria is the only EU country that uses the Cyrillic script and the only EU country other than Greece that does not use the Latin alphabet.
While the Bulgarian language is not considered to be particularly easy to learn, mastering the Cyrillic script is not difficult at all and doing so can be quite helpful in deciphering road signs and other proper names. Expats relocating to Bulgaria will not experience any significant communication difficulties in larger cities or in the Black Sea coastal towns, which are accustomed to receiving a steady stream of Western European tourists. There, monolingual speakers of English – and to a lesser extent German – will have little trouble getting by with no working knowledge of the Bulgarian language.
The aforementioned healthy distrust of government and media can be seen in Bulgaria’s deep-seated skepticism of the experimental injections, with western mainstream media frequently criticizing the extremely low demand for the available covid vaccines across Bulgaria and the resulting need to discard large numbers of expiring vials.
A mere 23% of Bulgarian adults have received a covid shot as of September 11, 2021, marking the lowest percentage by far of any country in the European Union. And the real rate may be even lower, as the reportedly widespread skepticism among Bulgarian doctors toward the covid vaccines has aroused speculation that some vaccinated Bulgarians haven’t actually received an injection.
The much-lamented east-west divide within the European Union is readily apparent here, with some western European countries like Ireland, France, and Portugal boasting adult vaccination rates of over 90%. Interestingly, this divide is also discernible within Germany, with the former East German states exhibiting noticeably lower vaccination rates than the former West German states.
Bulgaria also scores extremely well against the other Eastern European EU countries like Romania, which has the bloc’s second-lowest adult vaccination rate of 33%. By contrast, 68% of Hungarians have received a covid shot, marking a rate that is surprisingly high for a formerly communist country – although still well below the EU-wide average of 78%.
One factor to be considered here is that Hungary administers and honors the Russian-developed Sputnik V and Chinese-developed Sinopharm vaccines. Incidentally, this has created some friction with other EU and NATO countries, which have frowned upon the unwillingness of the Hungarian government to restrict its vaccine authorizations to those developed by American and Western European pharmaceutical giants.
The availability of the Russian and Chinese jabs, which were created using more traditional vaccine-development methods and do not contain mRNA, may have prompted some Hungarians to get vaccinated who otherwise would not have and in turn boosted Hungary’s vaccination rate by a fair amount. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán received a dose of the Sinopharm vaccine in February of this year.
It is notable that Slovakia temporarily offered the Sputnik V vaccine for several months before eventually buckling under western political pressure, which involved a questionable course of events that ended with the removal of the Sputnik V vaccine’s authorization throughout Slovakia effective September 1, 2021.
In any case, Bulgaria’s vaccination rate is so far below the rest that the country is truly in a league of its own within the European Union, and the Bulgarian prime minister Stefan Yanev has been very clear in stating that Bulgaria will refrain from imposing any vaccine mandates.
Bulgaria’s Further-Reaching Benefits
Aside from the pleasant weather and the down-to-earth conservative mindset of the local population, Bulgaria offers a plethora of financial benefits that are particularly discernible in the country’s low taxes and low cost of living.
This comes in addition to Bulgaria’s standing as an excellent venue to incorporate a company, which is a result of the government’s consistent efforts to make the country a business-friendly jurisdiction via the elimination of burdensome regulations.
Bulgaria has also made a name for itself as a crypto-friendly jurisdiction, which has attracted a growing community of digital entrepreneurs. Bulgarian government also offers a number of different paths to Bulgarian citizenship, making the country quite unique in this regard within the European Union.
Additionally, the Bulgarian government does not place any restrictions on dual citizenship for naturalized Bulgarians as long as the original citizenship is that of an EU member country (or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein).
With this in mind, Bulgarian citizenship can be viewed as an extremely appealing option for some Western European citizens such as Germans, who are forbidden by the German government from acquiring another citizenship in adulthood – unless the other country of citizenship is in the European Union.
A German who acquires a non-EU citizenship without first obtaining permission from the German government (Beibehaltungsgenehmigung) could be stripped of his German citizenship, a policy that is unpopular in Germany but has nonetheless seen strict government enforcement. However, as Bulgaria is part of the European Union, a German qualifying for Bulgarian citizenship would be free to do so in good conscience.
While Bulgarian residency offers tremendous benefits for citizens of all western countries, it should be emphasized that citizens of EU countries (plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) will have a much easier time meeting the requirements to establish residency in Bulgaria than will other nationalities like Americans, Canadians, and Australians.
Furthermore, Americans, Canadians, and Australians who eventually qualify for Bulgarian citizenship would be required in most cases to renounce their original citizenship upon naturalizing as a Bulgarian, whereas Belgians, Danes, and Finns would not be required to do so.
In light of this, non-EU citizens seeking to gain a foothold in an appealing jurisdiction abroad may wish to instead consider the Caucasian country of Armenia, which features perks similar to those of Bulgaria but offers easier residency options for non-EU citizens.