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It also offered easy access to Macedonian lands, which were not part of the new Bulgarian state.

Regional cultural variation sometimes reflects occupational specialization associated with local environmental conditions (e.g., fishing, animal husbandry), along with the influence of other cultural groups. Bulgaria's population was 8,230,371 on December 31, 1998.

For geographic reasons, Sofia was named the capital in 1879, after Bulgaria gained independence.

Situated in an upland basin near the western border, Sofia was on the crossroads of major trade routes between the Aegean Sea and the Danube and between Turkey and central Europe.

The population increased gradually for most of the twentieth century, but has decreased by more than 700,000 people since 1988.

The national media use Bulgarian, while some radio broadcasts and print media are available in Turkish. The Bulgarian nation is symbolized in the coat of arms, which has at its center a crowned lion, a symbol of independence dating to the medieval Bulgarian state.

The names "Bulgar", and "Bulgarian" most likely derive from a Turkic verb meaning "to mix." Ethnic Bulgarians trace their ancestry to the merging of Bulgars (or Proto-Bulgarians), a central Asian Turkic people, and Slavs, a central European people, beginning in the seventh century in what is now northeastern Bulgaria.

Besides ethnic Bulgarians, there are several ethnic minorities, the most numerous being Turks and Gypsies, with smaller numbers of Armenians, Jews, and others.

This makes discussion of historical trends difficult, and some people may have self-identified on the census differently than they might in other contexts. The national language is Bulgarian, a South Slavic language of the Indo-European language family, which uses the Cyrillic script.

Bulgarian is very closely related to Macedonian, the two languages being largely mutually intelligible, and to Serbo-Croatian.

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Gypsies speak Romany, an Indic language of the Indo-European language family.