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History of Shoumen

Shoumen is an old town of fortresses. Its foundation and development were connected with the fortresses at the eastern end of the Shoumen Plateau (in the area of Hisarluka). The famous fortress of Shoumen was built in four basic periods: early and late antiquity, and early and late Middle Ages. It was first created by the Thracians (Vth century before Christ) and then consequently inhabited and built on by the Romans, the Byzantine, the Bulgarians and the Turks.

Together with Pliska and Preslav, Shoumen was an old Bulgarian fortification of 7th-10th centuries and it developed into a feudal town with a castle and an interior fortress, a number of churches, workshops (12th-14th centuries). This is the place where Tsar Ivan Shishmans inscription was found. The inscription announced the Tsars visit to Shoumen.

The Arabian traveller Idrisi first mentioned it as Simeonis (Shimeonit) in 1153. Some consider that it comes from Tsar Simeons name. In 14th century people called it Shoumna or Shoumen. Most probably it has the meaning of shouma (foliage) or zashoumen (covered up with branches) because it was situated in such an area. In 12th-14th centuries Shoumen was a significant military, administrative and economic centre surpassing even the old capital of Preslav, and growing outside the fortifications.

The town fell under Turkish rule after a long siege. It was turned into a well-fortified military town with a big garrison within the fortress. It housed a lot of Turks, Jews, Tartars, and Armenians. The town was mentioned with different names like Shoumena, Shoumna, Shoumoular, Soumounoum, and of course in the last centuries of the domination as Shoumen. In 18th and particularly in 19th century it developed as an important crafts centre, which was one of the preconditions for an active cultural life. On 22nd May 1813 here was held the first in Bulgaria civil celebration of the day of the Saint brothers Cyril and Methodius, and the first theatre performance. In 1828 the first monastery school for young girls was founded. In 1846 the first amateur associations in the schools were established. After the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution (1848) many Hungarian revolutionaries emigrated to Shoumen with Layosh Koshout at the head; these actively participated in the cultural life of the town. Due to them in 1851 the first symphonic orchestra conducted by Shafran was set up. Shoumen is the town of the first class school for young girls and the first communal cultural centre (1856). The first works of drama were written in Shoumen: Mihal (1853) by Sava Dobroplodni. The town hosted one of the first theatre performances (1856). The first Bulgarian short story Miserable Family (1860) by Vassil Droumev from Shoumen, founder of Bulgarian theatre, was written here, as well as School Theatre - the Wealthy Man (1864) by Dobri Voinikov from Shoumen, too. Born in Shoumen, Panayot Volov was one of the main apostles of the Fourth Revolutionary District at the time of the April Rebellion (1876). He died on 25th May 1876 near Byala (Rousse district).

After the Liberation the town fell in decay because of the loss of markets for the crafts, the migration of Turks and the comparatively cheap and of high quality industrial goods from the West competing with the local production. The town gradually recovered and in 1882 the first Bulgarian brewery was established with Czech capital; Shoumen Beer is still among those much sought after.

In the period between 1950-1965 the town bore the name of Kolarovgrad but after that it regained its old name of Shoumen. Because of its proximity to the first capitals of Danubian Bulgaria (Pliska and Preslav), and the Madara Knight, as well as because of its rich historical past, in 1981 Shoumen was chosen as centre of the celebrations dedicated to the 1300th anniversary of the foundation of the Bulgarian state by Asparuh. The great Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladigerov was born in the town.  The historical conditions and the natural environment make it a first-class tourist centre. 

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