Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Population: demographic situation, languages and religions


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.3Population: demographic situation, languages and religions

Last update: 27 November 2023

Demographic situation

In 1985 the population of Bulgaria reached its historical peak of 8,948,649.

According to the latest official census in 2011, the population of Bulgaria was 7,364,570. According to the National Statistical Institute’s information, the permanent population of Republic of Bulgaria at the moment is 7,364,570 and in the last two decades it has seen a steady downward trend. In the last ten years, as a result of the negative natural growth and migration processes, the population of Bulgaria has decreased by nearly 56,433 people per year (0.7%), i.e. in the last ten years the population has decreased by over 564 000 people which is equivalent to 7,1% of the total population of the country. Reduction of the population as a lasting trend was established after 1990. The most significant is the reduction of population in the age group 0-24 years.

The aging process in Bulgaria is more evidently seen in women than men. The share of women at the age of 65 and older is 21.4%, and of men – 15,5%. This difference is due to the higher mortality rate among men.

The aging process among people can be characterized by the rise of the average age of the population. Data shows that from 40.4 years in 2001, the average age has increased to 41.7 at the end of 2008, and in 2018 it reached 43.8 years. The aging of the population is more intense in rural than in urban areas. Average age of the population in the rural areas (45.5 years) is by 5.2 years higher than in urban areas (40.3 years).

Parallel with the population aging migration processes are ongoing in the country combined with depopulation of small settlements. In early 2011 the following relation between urban and rural population has been established: 5,339,001 people (72.5%) of the population in the country live in towns and 2,162,496 people (28.6%) live in villages. Here we have to take into consideration that the migration process (from village to town) does not lead to growth of the population in towns as a whole and only to the largest among them.

Around 18% of the population live in the capital – city of Sofia. The ten largest cities and towns are: Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Ruse, Stara Zagora, Pleven, Sliven, Dobrich, and Shumen. They account for over 40% of the population in Bulgaria i.e. 2,919,812 people. Plovdiv and Varna alone have over 300 thousand inhabitants while Sofia exceeds a 1 250 000 inhabitants.

By this moment the demographic situation in the country is characterized by: population decline slowed down; some growth in the birthrate is observed; average life expectancy increases and the impact of the external migration on the number of the permanent population decreases. Despite of the above mentioned positive trends, such problems like high mortality rate, ongoing process of population aging, decrease of the share of population at school age and negative balance of external migration processes still remain unsolved.

According to the report of the United Nations Organization (UN) “Aging of the world population 2009”, Bulgaria ranks among the top ten countries with most aging population in the world. Our country takes 5th place of percentage share of adult population within the framework of the total population – 24.2% of the citizens of Republic of Bulgaria are over 60 years of age. Despite the fact that the birth rate has been rising in the recent years, population aging remains as a lasting trend. This is a process with profound implications for the economy as a whole as well as for its separate elements: labor market and the system of social, retirement and health services. All this affects both the economic development of the country and the social life in it.

Main ethnic groups

Main ethnic groups of the population in Bulgaria are: Bulgarians, Turks and Romi (Gypsies). Ethnic Bulgarians in Republic of Bulgaria make up 84.8% of the population and the remaining part is represented by the minority groups: Turks 8.8% and Gypsies 4.9%. There are also some 1,4% which include representatives of other minority groups like: Armenians, Russians, Romanians, Ukrainians, Greeks, Karakachans, Jews, etc.


In Republic of Bulgaria, 85.2% of the population speaks Bulgarian as a mother tongue and native language which is also the official language of the state and respectively the language of instruction. Other than Bulgarian, other spoken languages include:

  • Turkish language – 9.1% of the population
  • Gypsy language – 4.2% of the population
  • Other - 1.3% of the population.

Modern Bulgarian language belongs to the Slavonic group of languages and is one of the 23 official languages of the European Union.


The largest religious belief in Republic of Bulgaria is Eastern Orthodox Christianity which covers 4,374,135 people, or 82.6% of the population of the country. In the entire century-long period of independent development of the Third Bulgarian State the share of the individuals who belong to the Eastern Orthodox Christianity varies in a narrow range – between 80.7% in 1900 and 85.7% in 1992. This fact is the basis of Article 13 in the latest Constitution of Republic of Bulgaria from 1991, under which Orthodox religion is traditional in the country.

By February 1st, 2011 the second place is occupied by the population with Muslim religion – 577,139 people, or 10%. The share of the individuals who had declared that they belonged to this religion was the highest in the early XX century, when 17.2% of the total population of Bulgaria belonged to it. With the growth of the total population in the country, the share of the Muslims has begun to decline and has reached its lowest level in 2011. For the last ten years the number of Muslims has decreased by 389,839 people or approximately 12,9%.

Third place in 2011 is occupied by individuals who belong to Protestantism. By the time of the census 64,476 people, or 1.1%, have declared themselves Protestants. Тhe number of individuals who declare themselves Protestant is on the rise. Their number in early last century was only 4,524 people, or 0.1%. It has almost doubled in 1934 – 8,371 people, however, their share remained the same – 0.1%. At the end of 1992 21,878 individuals (0.3%) declared themselves Protestant by faith, and in 2001 – 42,308. In the last 10 years their number has increased by 50%.

Fourth place is occupied by individuals who belong to Catholicism. By the time of census 48,945 people, or 0.9%, have declared themselves Catholics. Their number was larger in 1992 approximately by 4 thousand people, and throughout the XXth century their number has varied between 32 and 53 thousand people.