Bulgarian Lev (BGN): What it is, How it Works, Example

What Is the BGN (Bulgarian Lev)?

BGN is the currency code for the Bulgarian lev, which is the official currency of the country of Bulgaria. The currency code was BGL until 1999. The currency symbol is лв. The BGN is made up of 100 stotinki. The currency's name comes from the archaic Bulgarian word "lev," which can be translated to mean "lion."

While no timeline exists, the euro is expected to eventually replace the BGN as Bulgaria has been a European Union (EU) member since 2007.

The BGN is pegged at one euro equals 1.95583 leva.

Key Takeaways

  • The Bulgarian lev is the national currency of Bulgaria.
  • The currency code for the Bulgarian lev is BGN, and the symbol is лв.
  • The Bulgarian lev is pegged to the euro at a rate of EUR/BGN 1.95583.
  • Bulgaria is an EU member since 2007 and is expected to adopt the euro as its currency in 2024, based on the governments most recent statement in May 2022.

Understanding the Bulgarian Lev

Bulgaria has made plans in the past to switch over from the Bulgarian lev (BGN) to the euro, but not everyone agrees that getting rid of the lev would be in the country’s best interest. Some financial experts believe that Bulgaria should hold tight to the lev, keeping it strong and stable. Keeping the lev stable has proven to be an excellent move for Bulgaria. The stability of the currency saw the country through external financial crises, such as the Great Recession of 2009 and the banking collapse of the Corporate Commercial Bank—Bulgaria's fourth-largest bank—in 2014.

The Bulgarian economy is industrialized, and the country is upper-middle-class. Since 2009, inflation has been relatively stable, fluctuating below 5%. Primary exports include steel and iron, clothing, and machinery.

The plural form of lev is leva.

4 Periods of the Bulgarian Lev

The Bulgarian lev can be separated into four distinct historical periods.

  1. The first circulation of Bulgarian currency occurred between 1881 and 1952. The valuation of the currency was equivalent to one French franc at first issue. The currency remained intermittently on the gold standard between 1899 and 1912 and banknotes had gold or silver backing until 1928. During World War II, Bulgaria pegged the lev to the German Reichsmark. Later, during the Soviet occupation, the currency was pegged to the Soviet ruble.
  2. The currency saw redenomination and began its second period between 1952-1962. Wartime pressures caused inflation in the country, and at revaluation one old lev exchanged for 100 new leva. The rates offered at some banks varied greatly. The currency was pegged to the U.S. dollar (USD) at a rate of 6.8 leva per USD, but fell to a rate of 9.52 in 1957.
  3. The third period of the Bulgarian lev existed from 1962 to 1999. This period began with another redenomination at 10 old leva for one new lev. The currency remained stable for nearly 30 years. It had gold backing until 1989 and was not easily convertible to Western currencies. With the fall of communism, the country experienced inflation and devaluation of the currency. At this point, the currency again moved off the gold standard and was pegged to the Deutsche Mark with 1,000 leva equaling one DM. Up to this point, the currency code for the lev was BGL.
  4. In 1999, the lev saw redenomination for the third time. One thousand old leva were worth one new lev, and the new lev equaled one Deutsche Mark. The currency code was switched to BGN. Bulgaria received acceptance into the EU in 2007, and the country intends to convert to the euro. However, postponement of the conversion continues into the 2020s, and no date is currently set. When the Deutsche Mark was replaced by the euro, the new pegged exchange rate became 1.95583 leva for one euro, or EUR/BGN = 1.95583.

Example of Converting Bulgarian Lev to U.S. Dollars

The exchange rate between the euro and lev is fixed at 1.95583 leva per euro.

The lev is not pegged to other currencies though, which means the rate will fluctuate. For example, between 2015 and the end of 2018, the USD/BGN fluctuated between 1.56 and 1.86. The lower the rate, like 1.56, the stronger the lev as it takes fewer leva to buy one USD. When the rate is higher, like 1.86, it costs more leva to buy one USD.

  • If the USD/BGN rate is 1.72, that means it costs 1.72 BGN to buy one USD.

To go the other way, and see how much USD it costs to buy one BGN, divide one by the current exchange rate. Or 1 / 1.72 = 0.5814, in this example. Therefore, if the USD/BGN rate is 1.72, it costs $0.5814 to buy one BGN.

The BGN/USD exchange rate is 0.5814 (notice the codes have flipped sides).

Article Sources
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  1. Oanda. "Bulgarian Lev."

  2. China-CEE Institute. "Weekly Briefing: Bulgaria economy briefing: Draft National Plan for the Introduction of the Euro in Bulgaria has been Published for Public Discussion," Page 1.

  3. European Commission. "Bulgaria and the euro."

  4. Council of Ministries of the Republic of Bulgaria. "Today’s Cabinet Sitting Approves Euro Changeover Plan for Bulgaria."

  5. University of Oxford, Blavatnik School of Government. "How the EU Can Help Bulgaria Avert Another Banking Crisis."

  6. The World Bank. "Coping with the Global Economic Crisis: How did Bulgarians Respond?"

  7. The World Bank. "Inflation, Consumer Prices (annual %) - Bulgaria."

  8. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. "OECD Economic Surveys Economic Assessment Bulgaria January 2021 Overview," Page 38.

  9. European Central Bank. "Bulgarian lev (BGN)."

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