Population in Bulgaria: extinct undisturbed

Et was a historical figure, but nobody could have guessed that at the time. In 1950, 182,571 people were born in Bulgaria. Thereafter, so many were never born in the same year in the Balkan country, even if the country’s population continued to grow for several decades. In the mid-1980s, 8.95 million people lived in Bulgaria, the highest population the country had ever reached. At the time, communist propaganda was spreading the slogan that the Bulgarians would soon be nine million people.

Michael Martens

Correspondent for Southeast European countries based in Vienna.

But there never were that many. In 1989 there was no growth for the first time, since then the population has fallen from almost nine million to 6.5 million. So few people lived in Bulgaria since the end of World War II. And of those who now live in the country, many will still experience that in Bulgaria’s population statistics there is a five before the decimal point – as it was last in the 1930s.

In no other country in Europe has the population shrunk faster in the past three decades. At first glance, these are devastating numbers, which have been confirmed by the recently published preliminary results of the 2021 census.

Two “killer factors” minimize the population

The reason for this is the interaction of two “killer factors”, as a Bulgarian demographic scientist once put it: a low birth rate combined with high emigration. Women in Bulgaria have about as many children as women in Germany, around 1.6 on average. The so-called fertility rate – the average number of children that a woman gives birth to in her lifetime – is thus also in Bulgaria well below the statistical value of 2.1, which would be necessary in developed countries to keep the population constant without immigration.


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