The Republic of Bulgaria is one of the oldest states in Europe. It is in the eastern portion of the Balkan Peninsula. Its neighbors are Romania to the north, Serbia and Northern Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. Its capital is Sofia, the largest city in Bulgaria. Sofia is located near the geographic center of the Balkan region. Bulgaria’s economy is primarily a free market, with a large private sector.
According to the World Bank, Bulgaria is an industrialized upper-middle-income country. It is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). Its strongest economic sectors are energy, mining, metallurgy, agriculture, tourism, and machine building.
Bulgaria is also part of the European Union. However, it has not fully adopted the euro. Instead, Bulgaria still uses the lev as its currency. Lev is an archaic Bulgarian word for lion. The lev is the strongest and most stable currency in Eastern Europe. It was adopted as the national currency of Bulgaria in 1880. One lev is equivalent to one hundred stotinki. Stotinki is derived from sto, the archaic Bulgarian word for hundred. The lev was introduced as equivalent to one French franc, following the Latin Monetary Union specifications.
The Bulgarian National Bank was established on June 6, 1879. The Bulgarian National Bank was granted the exclusive privilege to issue banknotes in 1885. Early Bulgarian lev banknotes were used as silver and gold certificates. These notes used the Orlov printing method, which used intricate design patterns and many colors, as an anti-counterfeiting measure. In 1922, the Bulgarian National Bank issued the first lev banknotes that were not silver and gold certificates. The 1922 series highlighted different aspects of Bulgarian culture. In 1924, the first lev note to feature an authority figure—the 5,000 lev note—was introduced. These authority figures were Tsar Boris III and Hristo Botev, a poet and revolutionary.
In 1944, Bulgaria was invaded by the Soviet Union, who abolished the monarchy and installed a communist regime. The State Printing House produced banknotes that bore the Soviet-style coat of arms and highlighted various Bulgarian trades and workers. In 1952, the Bulgarian National Bank issued new lev notes that featured Georgi Dimitrov, the first communist leader of Bulgaria. After the fall of the communist regime in 1990, the National Bank issued new banknotes that showcased prominent Bulgarian figures and their works.