The diplomatic relations between the two countries were established as early as 1906 when Norway appointed its first Consul General to Varna on the Black Sea Coast. However, the two countries have known each other since the Middle Ages. It was at that time the young Norwegian Viking king Harald Hardråde (1015 – 1066) took part in the suppression of an anti-Byzantinum uprising in 1040. Harald Hardråde took with him the Bulgarian princess Miroslava, also called Oslava, to Norway. Legend has it that the Norwegian capital Oslo was named after her.
Luckily, our mutual history has not been so turbulent thereafter and there have been other Norwegians who enjoy far better reputation in Bulgaria. Fridtjof Nansen, for example, is remembered for the “Nansen Passports” which helped thousands of Bulgarian refugees to return to Bulgaria after WWI. As a token of recognition, one of the streets in the centre of capital was named after Nansen already in 1933. In 2011 a monument of him was raised on the same street. The Bulgarian Institute of Oceanology is also named after Fridtjof Nansen.
Norwegian music, literature and contemporary art are well known in Bulgaria. Over 120 Norwegian books have been translated into Bulgaria just in the last decade. Norwegian language and culture are taught extensively at the Scandinavian Department of the Sofia University and the University in Blagoevgrad. In 2011 the Elin Pelin School in Sofia started teaching Norwegian language also to secondary school pupils.
Bulgarian seaside is attracting around 50 000 Norwegian tourists each year. Some of them choose to buy apart-hotels at the Black Sea coast in the small village of Ravda and every year arrange a flamboyant 17th of May celebration to the rejoice of the locals. In the last years more and more Bulgarians find their way to Norway, finding well-paid jobs and settling there.
Although quite modest in the past, the economic relations between Bulgaria and Norway are starting to grow due to the acquisition of Bulgaria’s second largest mobile operator Globul by Norwegian Telenor, the EEA and Norway Grants and the bilateral partnerships in the field of IT and production outsourcing. Many good partnerships have already been established in the public and private sector and the civil society and are already producing shared results.