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History of Kurdzhali

This place had been a settlement as early as 6 000 years ago. Prehistoric remains of human life as well as ample examples of the presence of Thracian, Roman and Byzantine culture have been found plus medieval Bulgarian and late-Ottoman remains. The first historical finds are associated with the Thracian tribe koelaleti, subdued by the Romans during 1st century. Then came the Slavic tribe of Smoleni. During the Middle Ages the settlement frequently shifted under Bulgarian or Byzanitine rule.

Bulgarian presence is proved by the unique 3-navel Bulgarian basilica found in Vesselchane Quarter of the town dated to the 11th - 12th century. This town quarter is heir of medieval Bulgarian town Munyak demonstrating an architectural style, similar to that of Preslav, Messemvria and Turnovo. In the 14th century the settlement was conquered by the Turks, and in 1379 it was populated by colonists from Asia Minor. In the middle of the 17th century the town was ruled by Kurdzhi Ali - a noted army leader. It is supposed that accepted the town was named after him. During the 18th century bloodthirsty kurdzhalii gangs (Turkish brigands), which ruined not one and two prospering Bulgarian villages, used to gather in the town. In January 1878 the Don Cossacks of General Chernobouzov liberated the town, which was to remain within the Eastern Rumelia part of the country, as agreed under the Berlin Treaty. In 1886 it is given to Turkey again as a compensation for the Union (1885). On 8th October 1912 the soldiers of colonel Delovs regiment liberated the town for the second and last time. Gradually, Kurdzhali became the tobacco warehouse of the Eastern Rhodopes and later a centre for the development of Bulgarian non-ferrous metallurgy.

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