Cities
Blagoevgrad
Bulgaria


Location: Blagoevgrad is situated at the foot of the south-west declivity of Rila mountain, along the banks of river Bistritsa, in the valley of Struma river. Located at a distance of 96 km from Sofia and 85 km from the Bulgarian-Greek border, Blagoevgrad is the largest city in South-West Bulgaria and regional center.

Population: The population of Blagoevgrad is 70 900 inhabitants.

History: Found in the 4th century B.C. (because of the many hot mineral springs in the region) by the ancient Thracian people, who called it Scaptopara. In the past, the city was important roadside fortress controlling the flow of people and goods to and from Byzantium. In the year 238 the residents of Scaptopara sent a petition to the Roman Emperor Gordian III. From the text of this petition we learn that two miles away from the village, populous fairs were organized several times a year, where the sales were exempted from taxes. By the time Slavs came around, life in the region was slowly fading away and no information about the village for the next few centuries is available. After the Ottoman Empire conquered that region in 15th century, new city with numerous population emerged again at the place of ancient Scaptopara. During the 17th century, monks from the Rila monastery opened a monastery school in the city. During the second half of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century it became large craftsmans and trade centre and was called Gorna Dzhumaya (The Upper Market) by its residents. After the Berlin Treaty, Gorna Dzhumaya still remained within the borders of the Ottoman Empire and that is why it became crucial factor in the struggle against the Ottoman oppression. The city was liberated during the First Balkan War and in 1950 changed its name to Blagoevgrad, in honour of Dimitar Blagoev (Bulgarian politician and philosopher). Currently, Blagoevgrad is a university centre. The American University in Bulgaria and the South-east University Neofit Rilski are located in the city.

Landmarks:

  • The Varosha residential district has preserved the spirit of the Bulgarian National Revival. During the 18th century it was the only residential district with Christian population, which consisted of about 150-200 families. During the Bulgarian National Revival period, Varosha was the home of the best teachers and cultural figures in the region, who actively participated in the struggle for independence of the local population.

  • The Regional Museum of History has about 116 000 exibits, where special attention is given to the unique collection of cult figures from the pre-historic era and the archaeological treasures from the Thracian era.

  • Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary is a three-nave basilica, richly decorated by the masters from the Art School in Bansko. It was once, one of the richest and most splendid churches in the region (build in the middle of 19th century).

  • The Georgi Izmirliev's house works as an affiliate of the Historical museum. Georgi Izmirliev was participant and one of the leaders of the April rebellion of 1876. Inside the house visitors can see a kitchen, bedroom and a living room set up with folk-style items that were typical for that time.