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History of Varna

Varna has a history that could be traced back for thousand years. Due to its favourable location and visibility of almost 270 degrees the small cape, which now hosts the sea station, was inhabited by an ancient Thracian tribe Corbisy in their small fishermens settlement.

In 6th century BC a Greek polis (settlement) inhabited by colonists and settlers from Millet emerged here under the name of Odessos. The town became a fishing and farming colony and later on in the 5th century BC it turned into a real centre of commerce.

Up to the Roman domination the Thracian god Darzalas was worshipped rather than the common gods Apollo and Dionyssus. Old Greek and Roman sources evidence that in Darzalas honour processions, mysteries, games and competitions were organised.

The town had been under the siege of the troops of Alexander of Macedonia in the middle of the 4th century BC but after the siege was put down the town was given autonomy within the limits of his Empire. After the uprising and its liberation during the rule of Lisimah the town re-established its supremacy at the north Black Sea coast. Up to the 1st century BC it was an independent polis (town) and minted coins with the effigy of its patron god. Conquered by Mark Lukulus legions, it became a Roman regional centre of great importance. There the great epic poet of Rome Ovidii stayed in his way to the town of Tommy (nowadays Kyustendzha, Romania) where he was sent on exile.

Gradually Odessos lost its supremacy in the region, which was then gained by the town of Martsianopolis (nowadays Devnya) founded by the emperor Trayan. Beeing conquered and devastated several times during the barbarian invasions it was for some time within the Byzantine Empire then out of its territories.

In 9th century it was already called Varna. It is supposed that the name originates from the horse people in Central Asia toponymy (name of an area) and hydronymy (name of a water basin) in India (the river that runs into the Ganges at Varanassi) and from the concept of caste (colour). After the numerous wars between Bulgaria and Byzantine, the town was included in the territory of Bulgaria in the beginning of the 13th century during the reign of king Kaloyan. Its defence system consisted of three strongholds: one - at the Cape Galata; other - at Cape St. Dimitar and the third, called Petrich was near the lake of Beloslav.

Despite its reliable defence system, the town was conquered by the Turks in 1391 and it soon declined. In 1444, during the crusade of the Polish king Vladislav Yagello (Varnenchik) and the Hungarian leader Yanosh Huniady, the town was under the siege of the knights. Despite the fact that the troops of the Christian coalition fought bravely they suffered a complete defeat. The young king Vladislav was killed. The citizens of Varna built a mausoleum in his honour.

In the course of time the town more and more acquired and Oriental outlook. Many Turks settled there. Mosques, konaks (town-halls) and Turkish baths were built. The construction of churches was strongly forbidden for a long time. Varna became a mighty stronghold, which guarded the north-east borders of the Ottoman Empire and a commercial and craftsmen centre of great importance. During the Russian-Turkish War in 1828 the town was conquered by the Russian troops and hold under their rule for some time. An uplift of the national spirit began in the following decades. Schools, community centres and churches were built.

In 1878 Varna was finally liberated from Ottoman rule and became the most important Bulgarian seaport town. At the end of the 19th century it was connected with Sofia by railway. Many factories were opened, and industrial fishing was developing. Varna quickly established as a seaside resort as well, enhanced by the European fashion in architecture and water transport. Entertainment establishments and holiday houses were built. Varna won the fame of a favourite place for Bulgarian cultural elite.

For a short time the city was renamed Stalin. After 1956 its previous name was reinstated. Varna became a centre of the North Black Sea coast and a starting point for the design and building of the numerous resorts around it. Marine business was developing from fishing to the transfer of goods between the East and the West. Nowadays Varna is an industrial city - the third biggest one in Bulgaria after Sofia and Plovdiv.

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