This essay contains briefings on three middle-income Eastern European countries – Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. All three countries are recent entrants into the European Union (EU) – Hungary joined in 2004 and Romania and Bulgaria in 2007. Each briefing focuses on political, economic, and cultural history and on indicators of recent socio-economic development. I originally wrote the briefings for Budapest to Tehran By Train, a program operated by Stanford Travel/Study in March-April 2016.
The historical section of each briefing sets out key turning points in history for the country during the past two millennia. I look at how the Hungarian, Romanian, and Bulgarian nations were formed, how they fared in World Wars I and II, and how they have evolved since 1945. The primary socio-economic indicators are levels and growth rates of income per capita, adult literacy, life expectancy, and rankings in the United Nations’ Human Development Index, the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. I append a time line, a bibliography, and a description of sites that I visited in Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.t, Hungary, Sighisoara and Brasov, Romania, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, Nessebar, Bulgaria, Constanta, Romania,