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Centralsouth Bulgaria > Smolyan > History

History of Smolyan

On the 18th of June, 1960 the three neighbouring villages of Smolyan, Raikovo and Ustovo merged in a town, which was named Smolyan, and presently each one of the villages is its quarter. Smolyan Quarter (at the highest altitude) is the successor of the vanished village of Ezerovo, which was situated 3 km above the town, amidst the Smolyan Lakes. During the period of the attempts to convert the native population to Islam (17th century), its inhabitants strongly opposed this act and the Turks completely destroying the village. Some of the inhabitants were killed, others ran to the mountains and those who adopted the Muslim religion populated the areas along Cherna River, where the modern quarter lies. The Turks named this new settlement Pashmaklu. This is the name mentioned by the French traveller Dr. Paul Luka (1706) and it is recorded in the inscription of the Overarched Bridge (Beiska Kupriya), built in 1716. The name of Smolyan was given to this neighbourhood after the Liberation and it came out of the name of the Slav tribe of Smoleni.  Raikovo Quarter (the quarter in the middle) was divided in the early ages into Gorno (Upper) and Dolno (Lower) Raikovo. A legend tells us that the fellow of Momchil the Hero, Raiko founded this settlement. During the attempt to convert the population to Islam, its inhabitants strongly resisted, paying for that with more than 200 victims, but they preserved their religion and village. The first written document about this settlement dates back to the inscription on a stone of the Mazolska drinking-fountain (1572). It developed as a craftsmanship village. Its aba (coarse homespun woollen cloth and upper mens garment made of it), woollen cloths and rugs were famous throughout the Ottoman Empire. Its economic power during the Revival Period revealed in the building of nice houses of typical Rhodope architecture, churches and schools. Ustovo Quarter (the lowest) is an old settlement. Its name is linked to ustie (estuary) or ushtelie i.e. it originated from the geographical location of the settlement. It is situated on an important crossroad - this was the crossing point of the old roads from Plovdiv to Xanti and Gyumyurdzhina and from Drama through Nevrokop (modern Gotse Delchev) to Kurdzhali and Odrin. This predetermined to a greater extent its economic and historic development. Ustovo became an important market centre and significant craftsmanship settlement. Crafts like coppersmith, tinkering, shoe-making, goldsmith, and furriery, homespun wollen cloths and tailoring and others were well developed since early ages.  Their products had good market, most of all in Istanbul and Smirna  (Izmir). At the beginning of 19th century the village achieved great economic and cultural boom. Almost all of the interesting site and buildings date back to that period. In 1830 the first monastery school was founded. Priest Gligorko, one of the prominent defenders of Bulgarian population, lived and worked in Ustovo. This is the birthplace of some prominent Bulgarians, such as Sava Stratiev, fighter against Phanariotism and Stoyu Shishkov, a teacher, ethnographer and a man of letters. After the Liberation the entire Smolyan region remained under Turkish Rule until 1912.

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