Blagoevgrad (until 1950 Gorna Dzhumaya) was an economic, cultural and educational center of Southwestern Bulgaria and an administrative center of the district and municipality of the same name. According to the census of the National Statistical Institute as of December 31, 2018, the city has a population of 69,178 people.
Blagoevgrad is a village with a rich history. The favorable conditions created by the hot mineral springs contribute to the emergence around 300 BC. of the Thracian settlement Skaptopara (Σκαπτοπάρα) on the site of today's Gramada district. In 238, the inhabitants of Skaptopara, also called Gresiti (Γρεσειται), sent a petition to the Roman Emperor Gordian III, which showed that two miles from the village several times a year held crowded fairs, the most visited was the fair of 1 until October 15, on which sales were tax-exempt.
Remains of a late antique church have been found in today's Strumsko district.
With the arrival of the Slavs, life in Skaptopara died out, and for the following centuries there is no data.
In the Ottoman Empire
After the Ottoman conquest of the peninsula, from the XV century on the site of Skaptopara again there is a city with a large population, which repeatedly changed its name - Juma Bazaari, Juma, Banya, Orta Juma, Juma, Gorna Juma. Jumaya is a Turkish word meaning "Friday", ie market day.
In the middle of the 17th century, the Ottoman traveler Evliya леelebi passed through here, writing that the town of Orta Jumaa had 200 tiled houses, a large mosque with many worshipers and 80 shops and many mineral springs.
During the Revival, Varosha, the Bulgarian quarter of the town, was built on the eastern side of Bistritsa. In the 1930s, the French geologist Ami Bue passed through, describing Jumaya as a city of 3,000 to 4,000 inhabitants with a hereditary duke. The mosques prove that there are many Turks and Pomaks, along with the Bulgarians. The streets are paved and too irregular. According to the Frenchman, the Bulgarians call the city Shuma (from "shuma" - forest).
In the 19th century, pilgrims came to the Rila Monastery from Jumaya most regularly. In 1836 the Jumalii donated 864 groschen alms, in 1837 - 3859 groschen, and in 1840 - 813 groschen. Residents of Jumaya also make personal donations to the monastery. In the village the monastery has a "help box", as well as shops, an inn, fields and meadows.
In 1844, after the execution of a sultan's decree, the church "Introduction to the Mother of God" was consecrated in Varosha, completed and painted in the next 50 years. In 1845, the Russian Slavist Viktor Grigorovich, on his way from Melnik to the Rila Monastery, visited the town and wrote in the "Essay on Travels in European Turkey":
"... after leaving the village of Semitlia, I entered a valley decorated by the town of Dzhumaya on the Struma River. I spent the night with its hospitable inhabitants. Dzhumaya has a church "Introduction of the Most Holy Mother of God" and a small Bulgarian school. "
The house of the revolutionary Georgi Izmirliev is also located in Varosha. In 1866 the community center of the town was founded.
In 1891 Georgi Strezov wrote about the city:
"The center of Gorna Dzhumaya (Juma-balya) is a neat town with no more than 1,200 houses. During the turbulent years of 1877-1879, most of the population in the city, as well as in the surrounding area, emigrated; the city was plundered, devastated. Most of the houses are new; and the inhabitants are migrants from different countries. Most invaded Tsintsari and Greeks from Melnik and Siar, who collected speeches all the trade. The city as a border, grows and thrives day by day. It is a pity that all the work is in foreign hands and the Bulgarian language is weakening. Once upon a time, this city was one of the most awakened; now it is scary not to open a Greek school in this purely Bulgarian city. In Jumaya there are two baths with mineral water: one in the bazaar, the other outside. There is also a stone with an inscription in the basement. In the churchyard there is a stone with a Greek inscription, brought by Strumski Chiflik. 1 school. A church, Bulgarian. “
By 1900, according to the well-known statistics of Vasil Kanchov, the population of Gorna Dzhumaya (Yokari Dzhumaya) numbered 6440 people, of whom 1250 were Bulgarian Christians, 4500 Turks, 60 Greeks, 250 Vlachs, 180 Jews and 200 Gypsies.
At the outbreak of the Balkan War in 1912, sixty-four people from the city were volunteers in the Macedonian-Edirne militia.
On October 5, 1912, Gorna Dzhumaya was liberated by the Bulgarian army. After the Inter-Allied War in 1913, the Turkish population largely emigrated and the city was inhabited by numerous masses of Bulgarian refugees coming from Aegean and Vardar Macedonia. According to Dimitar Gadjanov, in 1916 Gorna Dzhumaya numbered about 7,000 people, of whom only 30 were Turkish families, 100 were wealthy Vlach families and a few Jews and Gypsies.
Gradually, the development and sanitation of the city began. In
1920 the Thessaloniki High School moved here, today the National
Humanitarian High School “St. St. Cyril and Methodius ”. Initially,
two primary schools were opened - Junior High School and
Agricultural High School. An Archaeological Museum is being built.
In 1919 the first newspaper in Gorna Dzhumaya "Macedonian Tear" was published. In the summer of 1923, at the upper end of today's city garden, the Rozhen brothers screened the first film. After 1925, the more thorough improvement of the center began. In 1926 the first stone of today's community center was laid and then Macedonia Square and its adjacent streets were formed. Until 1929, there was no electricity in Gorna Dzhumaya. Gas lanterns lit in certain places in the evening. It was the same in homes, cafes, pubs and inns. In the autumn of 1929 there was a solemn release of electricity, celebrated with national joy and merriment in the square. However, private homes did not become electrified until the following decade.
In place of today's "Golden Chicken" was housed the hotel "Sofia". In the 1920s, the London Hotel was located opposite today's Cosmos, and there was the Pirin Hotel on the same street. The first cars in the city appeared in 1928, but they were only owned by larger dealers and companies. In February 1933 in Gorna Dzhumaya the First Great Macedonian Assembly of the Bulgarian refugee community from Macedonia was organized. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Ilinden-Preobrazhensk Uprising, a Monument to the Unknown Macedonian Chetnik was built, but it was destroyed after the September 9 coup of 1944.
It was not until 1934 that a water pipe was laid, and until then the water was extracted from wells. Initially, fountains appeared on the main streets, and later on the houses. In 1937 the railway station was opened, connecting Gorna Dzhumaya with Dupnitsa, celebrated again with general merriment.
The town hall at that time was located in the building of today's Raffy cafe, and the square - in the old Turkish konak. On May 9, 1950, the town of Gorna Dzhumaya was renamed Blagoevgrad in honor of the political figure Dimitar Blagoev. In 1954 the village of Gramada was annexed to it, and in 1973 the village of Strumsko. In 1955 a monument to Gotse Delchev was built, 8 meters high. In a surprisingly short time, known as the construction era for the diplomatic corps, in the late 1980s Blagoevgrad literally dawned with a new center and transformed municipal buildings. The sewerage is being changed; the Party House (now the American University), the town hall, the polyclinic were built; Georgi Izmirliev Square is formed and the fountains are launched.
Theaters, opera and cinema
Drama Theater "N. J. Vaptsarov ” (architect Vitomir Gabrovski)
The Nikola Yonkov Vaptsarov Drama Theater is a repertoire theater in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. The Blagoevgrad Regional Theater was founded in 1919 as a city theater at the Saglasie Chitalishte by Georgi Iliev Bratchkov. As a young civil engineer studying in Vienna until PSV and a war veteran wounded at the front, Bratchkov was sent by the Bulgarian government to build the Municipality building and create the urban plan of the newly liberated city. A colleague in Stoyan Bachvarov's Free Theater until 1919. The theater and its activity developed under the name "Modern Theater" in the Grand Mosque. In its place, Bratchkov built a new building with the support of the Municipality to house the theater and community center in 1926. In 1939, his son Iliya Georgiev Bratchkov took the initiative with youthful enthusiasm and continued the theatrical work confidently and successfully. It received the status of a state institute with a permanent acting troupe, full-time directors, set designers and playwright in 1948 with the help of Georgi Stamatov, Lyubomir Bobchevski, Petko Atanasov and Boyan Danovski, permanent companions in the creative activity of Georgi Bratchkov. Bratchkov's students are Konstantin Kisimov and Nikola Vaptsarov. Due to the strong local significance and premature loss, since 1953 the theater has been named after his student "Nikola Yonkov Vaptsarov". For the same reason the Chitalishte bears the name of the poet from 1952. The theater puts for the first time his play "The Ninth Wave", as well as the play by Peyo Yavorov "At the foot of Vitosha" as his lyrical and family mentor, as evidenced by the writer Mikhail Kremen.
Municipal Puppet Theater
USET Educational Theater
Drama Theater "Prof. Encho Halachev ” (From 2010 to June 8, 2015 is called Blagoevgrad Youth Theater) - private theater, Branimir Mitov-Brano)
Blagoevgrad Chamber Opera
Cinemax Cinema - The cinema has one hall with 234 seats, two more halls are expected to open. The first cinema in the country was equipped with a Sony Cinealta 4K digital machine.
Museums and galleries
Blagoevgrad Regional History Museum
The Regional History Museum in Blagoevgrad was founded in 1952.
Its beginning dates back to 1948 - 1949, when a small collection was
created at the city community center, mostly with archeological
materials, which gradually grew.
Currently there is a well-developed structure, with the following departments: "Archeology", "Ethnography", "Bulgarian lands XV - early XX century", "New and modern history", "Nature", "Art", "Funds "," Public Relations ", as well as service units: laboratory for conservation and restoration, modern photo laboratory and library with over 16,000 volumes.
Today in the funds of the museum are stored materials about the historical past of the area. Especially interesting are the tombstones from the Roman era from the valley of the river Struma, the finds from the ancient necropolis near the village of Rupite, the pottery and coins from antiquity and the Middle Ages, the finds from the medieval Melnik, Samuel's fortress and others.
In the funds of the museum are stored priceless items testifying to the life and struggle of the Bulgarian revolutionary, ideologue and voivode of IMRO Gotse Delchev, among which are "Regional of TMORO" from 1902, written by Gotse Delchev and Gjorche Petrov, original photo of Delchev with a dedication to Nikola Maleshevski, postcards, printed publications reflecting the life and revolutionary work of the hero, as well as the oath symbols before which the defenders of freedom entered the ranks of IMRO, personal seal, 24 original letters written personally by Gotse Delchev and addressed to the revolutionary Maleshevski. There are also stored a large number of items and weapons belonging to revolutionaries such as Yane Sandanski, Todor Alexandrov, Hristo Chernopeev, Ilio Maleshevski, Krastyo Assenov and others.
Especially valuable are the materials related to the wars for national unification of Bulgaria from the period 1912-1913 to 1915-1918. Military cards, weapons and equipment, personal letters, photos, documents, diaries and others are stored. Among the valuable items is an original letter written by Ivan Vazov and addressed to General Konstantin Zhostov in 1915.
Since December 21, 2011 the museum is included in the national tourist movement of the Bulgarian Tourist Union - 100 national tourist sites under number 27.
In October 2013, the municipality of Blagoevgrad voted to purchase a historical archive containing documents and items related to the history of the Macedonian-Edirne Liberation Movement. The collection includes 103 documents, 74 photos, 65 letters, topographic and military maps, private archives, newspapers, books, correspondence, notebooks and diaries of Boris Sarafov, Krastyo Misirkov, Yane Sandanski, Gotse Delchev, Hristo Tatarchev, Pere Toshev, Dame Gruev, Anton Ketskarov, Arseni Yovkov, Atanas Lozanchev, Petar Atsev, Vasil Chekalarov and others. The historical archive is kept in the museum, and at the end of July the most valuable documents, photos and objects will be displayed in an exhibition on the occasion of the celebrations of the Ilinden-Preobrazhensko uprising.
Georgi Izmirliev House Museum
Izmirlieva House is a Revival building, a cultural monument in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. The house is the birthplace of the revolutionary Georgi Izmirliev (1851 -1876) and in 1976 it was turned into a museum under the name House Museum "Georgi Izmirliev". It was built in the Varosha neighborhood probably in 1830 - 1835. It is a small building connected by a neighborhood to the south with the church "Introduction to the Mother of God". In 1954 the river Bistritsa came and destroyed it. It was restored in 1976 exactly according to a model prepared by the teacher Filip Stoychev on the basis of studies of the residential interior of a middle-class town house in Gorna Dzhumaya from the end of the 19th century, and opened its doors as a museum. On the second floor the interior of the house from the end of the XIX century has been restored - a curling iron, a bonfire, a candlestick, a gas lamp, a table, clay bowls, a coffee cupboard, copper, rubber, towels to cover the pitchers and boilers. The preserved original carved ceiling of the living room has been transferred to it. The luggage room has a horizontal loom and men’s and women’s urban suits. An album, cups and a knife are on display from the original items of the Izmirlievi family. The photo exhibition shows the life path of the revolutionary. In summer, an open gallery operates in the yard, where artists from Pirin Macedonia exhibit their paintings.
Pirin Folk Song and Dance Ensemble
The fame of the city and Bulgaria is spread around the world by the Pirin Folk Song and Dance Ensemble, winner of many national and international awards.
Sports and sports facilities
The sport is well developed in general, but traditionally strong for the city sports such as handball and basketball are in financial crisis and without representative teams in the championships in the last year; only children's and youth teams are supported. On the other hand, the clubs in baseball (Bison), taekwondo (Falcon) and Canadian wrestling (Armsport Club - Blagoevgrad) are on the rise, which for several years have no competition in Bulgaria and with many awards on the international stage. Chess Club (Victory) and Chess Club (Pirin).
There are two multifunctional sports halls in the city, and the second one - Skaptopara hall in the West residential area was opened in 2007. It has a capacity of over 1000 seats and meets all the requirements of the international federations of handball, basketball and volleyball, and the play area can be used for competitions in rhythmic gymnastics and martial arts. The city also has three well-maintained tennis complexes, a football stadium, six small football fields, an Olympic-sized indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a karting track and one of the best baseball courts in the Balkans. In 2008 the construction of the new sports complex at SWU "Neofit Rilski" for the needs of students began.