Kyustendil (in the Middle Ages: Velbuzhd, in Antiquity: Pautalia) is a town in southwestern Bulgaria, the administrative center of the eponymous district and municipality. It is located near the border with the Republic of Northern Macedonia and the Republic of Serbia. Balneological and tourist center of national and international importance, archeological and architectural reserve, starting point for tourism and skiing in the Osogovo mountain. According to NSI estimates, the population of Kyustendil is 39,284 inhabitants as of December 31, 2019.
Kyustendil is located in the southern part of the Kyustendil valley, at the foot of Mount Osogovo, at 527 meters above sea level, on both banks of the river Banshtitsa, a right tributary of the river Struma. South of the town rises the hill "Hisarlaka" - northeast branch of Osogovo. The distance from Kyustendil to the capital Sofia is 86 km, to the border with Northern Macedonia is 22 km, to the border with Serbia - about 30 km. The city is an important road junction on the road Sofia - Skopje and the railway station on the line Sofia - Pernik - Gueshevo. A pan-European transport corridor 8 passes through Kyustendil (Vlora - Tirana - Skopje - Sofia - Burgas - Asia).
Two low-water rivers flow through Kyustendil - Banshtitsa and its tributary - Kolushka, and the bed of the second is completely covered. Numerous hot mineral springs with healing properties gush on the territory of the city. They are concentrated in the fault dividing the Osogovo mountain from the Kyustendil valley in a strip about 1 km long and 200-250 m wide. The springs (40 in number) are captured in a common tank. Their flow rate is 35 l / sec. The mineral water at the catchment has a temperature of 74 ° C - one of the hottest in the country. It is clear, colorless, with a strong odor of hydrogen sulfide. It has proven healing properties for certain diseases. Kyustendil mineral springs are favorable for the treatment of diseases of the respiratory tract, musculoskeletal system and gynecological diseases. In their chemical composition they are: hydrocarbonate-sulphate-sodium with an alkaline reaction.
The many mineral springs combined with the temperate climate, the beautiful nature and the rich cultural and historical heritage are favorable preconditions for the development of various forms of tourism.
Kyustendil falls into a zone of transitional-continental climate with Mediterranean influence (mainly along the river Struma). The average annual temperature is 12.5 ° C. The highest average monthly temperature is in July (21.8 ° C) and the lowest in January (-0.8 ° C). The annual temperature amplitude is 22.6 ° C. It is relatively large and is an indicator of the predominant continental nature of the climate. Summer is warm and long, winter is short and mild to slightly cold (only 30 days with an air temperature of 0 ° C), spring occurs early and persists after the first days of March, and autumn is long, warm and sunny, as remained stable until the end of November. Precipitation is moderate - an average of 624 mm per year, and the snow cover lasts an average of 30 - 40 days in winter. Due to the moderate cloudiness and low fog (average 22 days a year) the duration of sunshine is significant - about 2300 - 2400 hours per year. The second half of summer and the beginning of autumn in Kyustendil are the sunniest in the year, and the highest is in the winter. The humidity is moderate. It ranges between 65 and 70% and is relatively low during the summer months (especially in August). Kyustendil and the valley are characterized by low winds. The windiest is spring, and the quietest is autumn. The average annual wind speed is 1.4 m / s. During the winter and spring months, the warm and gusty wind "fyon" appears in the city, which causes a sharp warming of the weather. The temperature regime is characterized by some features. In winter, temperature inversions are observed, and in summer, as a result of overheating of the atmospheric air, the maximum daily temperatures rise to 35 - 37 ° C. The lowest (extreme) temperature in the city was measured in January and is -27 ° C, and the highest - in August and is 41 ° C.
Kyustendil is one of the most ancient Bulgarian cities. The city
has an eight-thousand-year history of settlement life and more than
1,900 years of urban tradition. In history it is known by the names
Pautalia, Ulpia Pautalia, Pautalia Aurelius, Velbuzhd, Konstantinova
Banya, Uladzha, Banya, Kotka, Kolasia, Kyustendil.
The presence of the Thracians in the Kyustendil valley dates back to the end of the Bronze Age (the second half of the third millennium BC). The region is inhabited by the Thracian tribes Peoni, Agriani, Denteleti and others. After the name of the largest of them, the whole area is called Denteletika. In the V - IV century BC. attracted by the healing mineral springs, the Thracians founded a settlement.
After the fall of Thrace under Roman rule (45), the Romans turned the village into an important trade center and a famous spa resort, which they called Pautalia (Latin Pautalia). Pautalia is a city with an intensive life and is an administrative, economic and cultural center on a large territory. During the reign of Emperor Mark Ulpius Trajan (98 - 117) in 106 Pautalia received city rights and added to its name the prefix "Ulpia" (Latin Ulpia Pautalia). During the period from the time of Emperor Antoninus Pius (138 - 161) to Emperor Caracalla (198 - 217) the city minted its own coins, which are a rich source of information about city life.
After the Edict of Milan in 313, Pautalia became an episcopal center, and its urban territory became a diocese of the Pautalian episcopate.
In the 4th century, after frequent raids by barbarian tribes, the fortress of Hisarlaka was rebuilt, rebuilt during the time of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (527-565), and was used until the 15th century. It is not known whether the city was conquered by Goths, Avars, Visigoths or Slavs. After 553, the name Pautalia did not appear.
The Middle Ages
Written information about the city during the First Bulgarian State (VII-XI century) is not preserved. It is not known when Velbuzhd was annexed to the newly founded Bulgarian state, but this probably happened during the reign of the khans Khan Kardam (777 - 802) or Krum (803 - 814). In the 9th century Velbuzhd was already a Bulgarian town, and after the baptism, under Prince Boris I (852-89), it became an important episcopal center of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and remained so throughout the existence of the First Bulgarian State. Towards the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century, Velbuzhd was located within the borders of Samuel's state. Among the episcopal thrones listed in the apse of the Prespa Basilica, subordinated to the Bulgarian Patriarchate in Prespa, is the episcopal throne of Velbuzhd.
In 1018 the Bulgarian state fell under Byzantine rule and Velbuzhd was included in the Byzantine Empire. In the charter given by Emperor Basil II the Bulgarian Assassin (976 - 1025), which confirms the privileges of the Bulgarian dioceses inherited from the time of Tsars Peter I (927 - 969) and Samuel (997 - 1014), the bishop of Velbuzhd is also mentioned. whose subordination, in addition to the town of Velbuzhd itself, also includes the fortified towns of Sateska, Germany, Terimer, Stob, Dolna Sateska and Razlog. Velbuzhd was an important spiritual center at that time. In the episcopal lists from the time of Emperor Alexius I Comnenus (1081 - 1118) the bishop of Velbuzhd is mentioned in third place before the bishop of Sredets.
In 1204, during the reign of King Kaloyan (1197 - 1207) Velbuzhd was conquered by the Bulgarian army and again became part of the Bulgarian state. During this period, the city continued to be one of the important administrative, economic and episcopal centers. At that time it belonged to the Prilep or Skopje people according to the Dubrovnik charter of Tsar Ivan Assen II (1218 - 1241) from 1230. For some time during the reign of Tsar Michael II Assen (1246 - 1257), when many Rhodope fortresses and all of Macedonia were conquered by the Nicaean emperor Theodore II Lascaris (1254 - 1258), Velbazhd became a border town of the Bulgarian state. After the death of Tsar Ivan Assen II and the temporary decline of the Bulgarian state, Velbuzhd was for some time annexed to the Byzantine Empire by Emperor John III Duka Vatatsiy (1222 - 1254).
During the Second Bulgarian State Velbuzhd enjoyed great economic
prosperity. In its vicinity and on the slopes of the Osogovo
mountain, various ore deposits are exploited - mainly for the
extraction of non-ferrous metals and iron. The importance of
Velbazhd as a spiritual center was also emphasized by the Roman Pope
Innocent III (1198 - 1216). Through his legate, a representative of
the Apostolic Church in Bulgaria, he sent a pallium to Bishops
Anastasius Velbuzhdski, Sava Preslavski and Archbishop Vasily
Tarnovski of Tarnovo.
Taking advantage of the unfavorable internal and external situation of Bulgaria in the early fourteenth century, Serbian King Stefan II Milutin (1282 - 1321) invaded the valleys of the rivers Vardar and Struma and conquered Velbuzhd, which for many years came under Serbian rule and influence. On July 28, 1330, in the battle of Velbazhd between the Bulgarian army led by Tsar Michael III Shishman Assen (1323 - 1330) and the army of the Kingdom of Serbia, led by King Stefan Uros III of Decani (1321 - 1331), the Bulgarians suffered a heavy defeat, and the Bulgarian king was severely wounded and died three days later.
Towards the middle of the 14th century in Southwestern Bulgaria a new state formation was formed with the center of Velabzhd headed by the family of Deyanovtsi (Dragashi). The ancestor of Deyanovtsi is Sevastocrator and despot Deyan Dragash. The estates of his sons Ioan Dragash and Konstantin Dragash stretch between the rivers Vardar and Struma, and the capital of the district Velbuzhd was chosen as the capital. Under Constantine Dragash, the despotate had a large territorial expansion, but fell into dependence on the Ottoman Empire. Despot Konstantin Dragash died together with King Marko / also an Ottoman vassal /, fighting on the side of Bayezid I in the battle of Rovinj against the Wallachian ruler Mircho Stari in 1395. He was succeeded by his son Jacob, who converted to Islam and the name Jacob. The last ruler of Velbuzhd was Yusuf (Christian name Stefan), probably a post-Muslim son of Konstantin Dragash or Yakub. After the conquest by the Ottoman Turks, the town was named after Constantine Dragash according to the practice of the Ottoman conquerors to name the conquered cities after the last Christian ruler.
After the conquest of the Balkan Peninsula, Kyustendil became the administrative center of the Kyustendil Sandzak, the largest in the province of Rumelia, which included 14 kaazi (districts): Kyustendil, Radomir, Dupnitsa, Petrich, Melnik, Doyran, Tikvesh, Veles, Strumi. , Kratovska, Vranyashka and Krivopalanska.
The Christian population of Kyustendil was expelled to the surrounding villages, killed and converted to Islam. In its place, 60 Turkish families from the town of Konya, Asia Minor settled in the city. The name Velbuzhd is replaced by Konstantin-illi (Constantine's Land) after the name of its last Christian ruler Konstantin Dragash, which passes to Kyustendil. The conquest of the city by the Ottoman Turks led to its rapid decline and for centuries it became a provincial Ottoman city with a predominantly Turkish population and oriental appearance.
Several times the city was briefly liberated by Christian troops. In the first case, during the Great Turkish War, the Austrians tried to capture Kyustendil, thus defeating the Turkish troops stationed in the area. Strahil Voivoda took the most active part in this attack. Sofia Governor Hussein Pasha sent two commanders from Asia Minor - Ahmed Pasha of Hamid and Mehmed Bey of Janik to defend Kyustendil. As the city is guarded by a field of 300 seimens, Strahil Voivoda passes through the mountains and attacks at night. Thus, the detachment managed to enter the city, looted and set on fire. Only then did the Turkish defenders of the fortress and the seimens from the field recover and begin the persecution. The second case was in March 1690, when the Austrian commander Antonio Valerio Zic with a military detachment of 2000 infantry and 100 cavalry penetrated the area, defeated the Turks and captured the city. 46 years later, in 1737, another Austrian detachment of 100 cavalry penetrated the nearby Kyustendil village of Perivol (now Dragovishtitsa), defeated the Turkish army, captured the flag and withdrew.
During the Revival the city began to develop and grow rapidly,
and one of the reasons for this is the growing number of the
Christian Bulgarian population. In the 1930s, the French geologist
Ami Bue passed through here, who described Kostendil as a populous
city with 5,000-6,000 Bulgarians and Muslims. There are many
mosques, a clock tower and a large number of shops, with gunsmiths
and blacksmiths predominating. There are several bathrooms with
mineral water. According to testimonies of American missionaries who
visited the city in 1859, it has 15,000 inhabitants, half Turks and
the rest Bulgarians.
Churches were built: "Assumption" (1816), "St. Mina" (1859), "St. Demetrius" (1866). A cell school was opened (1821), later a mutual school (1849), and the first community center in the region was founded (1869). The inhabitants of the town take an active part in the church-national struggle. The haidouk detachments of Ilio Voivoda and Rumena Voivoda, one of the few women voivodes in Bulgarian history, operate in the surrounding mountains. In 1872 the teacher Todor Peev founded a secret revolutionary committee. Kyustendil was liberated by Russian troops on January 29, 1878 (in a new style).
A new story
After the Liberation, Kyustendil became one of the important urban centers of Southwestern Bulgaria. In 1909 it was connected by railway with Sofia. At the beginning of the 20th century, Kyustendil was a provincial industrial and commercial center with a developed light and food industry and fruit growing. The city is also establishing itself as a resort.
At the outbreak of the Balkan War in 1912, 132 people from the city were volunteers in the Macedonian-Edirne militia.
During the time of the People's Republic in Kyustendil were built large industrial enterprises such as the Capacitor Factory, the Optical Mechanical Plant, the Transformer Factory, the Kitchen Equipment Factory, the Shoe Factory, the Vinprom, the Cannery, the Yarn Factory and others. In the 1960s and 1970s, massive construction was carried out, the modern residential complexes "West", "Rumyana Voyvoda", "Gerena", "Buzludzha" were formed.