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History of Pleven

Pleven has a centuries old and rich in events history. It originated in Thracian times on the place of todays park of Kailuka and it was named Storgoziya, which name was preserved in Roman times as well. After its destruction by the barbarians, the Slavs rebuilt it under the name of Kamenets. A second settlement was set up to the north of it which was named Pleven (from plevel which means weed). Later on the two settlements united and they were first mentioned under the name of Pleven in 1266when the Magyars occupied it. After the 12th century the town developed as a craftsmans and trade centre. The town put up a ferocious resistance to the Turkish invaders and that is the reason for its being destroyed and for its population being slaughtered, expelled and converted to Islan after its downfall. In 1596 Pleven was conquered and set on fire by the Wallachian Voivoda Mihail Vityaz (Hrabri) (the Courageous).

During the 17th and the 18th centuries the Bulgarian population in the town grew in number and took the trade and crafts in their own hands and started to develop its cultural life as well. The town became famous on the Balkan Peninsula and in Anatolia for its market of cattle and sheep (as of 1842). In 1825 a Bulgarian secular school was opened there, in 1840 - the first Bulgarian girls school was opened by Anastassia Dimitrova and a year later a new boys school was opened. In 1834the Saint Nikolai Church was built and in 1845 its iconostasis was made. Dimitur Dospevski and Nikola Obrazopissetsa (the Image Painter) painted the icons. In 1869 a chitalishte (cultural centre and reading-club) was founded in the town, too. In 1871 Pleven had 3101 houses with the population of 17 000 people. On 6th May 1869 Levski set up the first secret revolutionary committee here. The citizens of Pleven took part in the detachments of armed volunteers of Philip Totyu and Hristo Botev.

Pleven became famous most of all with the events, which took place during the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878). After the forcing of the Danube River by the Russian troops, their Western squadron headed to that town of strategic importance. The Turkish commandment on its part dislocated the whole garrison of the Vidin Fortress here headed by Osman Pasha, in command of a 40-thousand people army. A system of defensive facilities was built up around Pleven. The Russian forces under the command of Gen. Shouldner, consisting of 7000 people, carried out the first assault of Pleven on 18th June 1877. It was not a success. There were more than 2400 people killed and wounded (against 2000 on the part of the enemy). The second assault was held on 30th July and despite the numerous victims (over 7000 people killed and wounded) was not a success, either. On 11th and 12th September a 100-thousand Russian-Romanian army carried out the third assault orientated at the town. This battle cannot be equalled to any other during the whole war in relation to its large scale and bloodshed. The units of Gen. Skobelev managed to perform a break-through at the Green Hills but the Chief Russian Headquarters did not appreciate the situation well enough and ordered a retreat... 16000 people killed and wounded on the part of the Russians and the Romanians during the two-day not abating battles.

The outstanding military engineer Gen. Totleben arrived promptly from Russia to organize the blockade of the town. In execution of the blockade related plan, Gen. Gourko conquered the villages located by the road to Sofia - Dolni Dubnik, Gorni Dubnik and Telish, and the knot around the town got tight. Staring from the end of October Russians and Romanians gradually built up a fortifying blockade line. At the beginning of December it reached 50 km. At the same time the situation of the Turkish Army was deteriorated due to hunger, diseases and cold. It was completely isolated, the essential merit for this belonging to the epic battles for defence of the Shipka Pass. There Bulgarians and Russians at the expense of incredible sacrifices and with unseen courage and selflessness stopped the 45-thousand army of Suleiman Pasha heading towards Pleven and did not allow them pass through the Balkan Mountain. On 10th December 1877 Osman Pasha made a desperate attempt to break through the blockade in the region of the Vit River, but suffered a complete defeat and Pleven fell after 5 months of defence at the expense of incredible efforts.

The town quickly grew up after the Liberation. The newly built railway lines Sofia - Varna (Rousse) and Pleven (Yassen) - Somovit - Cherkovitsa greatly contributed to it. Today Pleven is the 7th biggest town in Bulgaria.

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