Low performer with good potential


It long looked as if the country’s population would continue
to grow for ever. Population figures rose from year
to year. The official propaganda celebrated this increase
in the number of Bulgarians as a socialist achievement,
and statisticians were constantly reporting new
records: In 1962 the country passed the eight-million
threshold, in 1985 the figure was 8.7 million, and when,
at the end of 1988, the figure of 8.99 million had been
reached, the plans for the next celebration had already
been drawn up. The plan was to select a newborn child,
with the symbolic number of 9,000,000, to shower the
parents with gifts, and to celebrate the happy family in
all the national media.


But things turned out completely differently. The year
1989 brought the entire former Soviet bloc not only
political but also demographic change: Birth rates plummeted,
and people took advantage of the freedom to
leave their homeland once and for all. As indicated by
the data from a census carried at that time, in December
1992 Bulgaria’s population had again declined to a
figure of less than 8.5 million. Since the fall of the Iron
Curtain annual death rates have far exceeded birth
rates. Some 1.2 million Bulgarians have left their country
since around 1989. In 2007 Bulgaria’s population
was 7.7 million — the same as the figure reported for
1958. The European Commission estimates that in
2050 the figure will be no more than 5.1 million.




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