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History of Svilengrad

There is information about an initial Thracian settlement, and consequently a Roman one, which was later transformed into an important Roman fortress called Bourdenis guarding the military road to Tzarigrad. In 1205 on the same territory Tzar Kaloyan inflicted the first serious defeat on the Crusaders lead by emperor Baldwin; that was one of the greatest battles in medieval Bulgarian history. At the time of imposing the Ottoman Rule the settlement of Kinekli was situated there. The present town was formed in 15th century beside a ford on the Maritsa River. Actually the town expanded around the famous Moustafa Pasha Bbridge built in 1529. It is 300 m long, 6 m wide and has 20 arches. There is a slabstone with an inscription stating the years of construction, which the generations assessed as an eternal useful deed. The bridge is considered to be one of the best representatives of this epoch in Southeastern Europe. In the middle of 17th century the town had more than 700 houses and a kervan-sarai (stable for the horses of travelling tradesmen) for 700 horses. Apart from its strategic location (on the way to Tsarigrad and the bridge over Maritsa) the town was famous as a big silk-worm breeding centre. The follicles called Odrin type were particularly evaluated in Europe, however the main market was Turkey. The town was famous for its renowned charshiya (market street) - workshops and inns. A secular school was built in 1847, where Ivan Vazov was later a teacher (1872-1873). In 1870 the Zvezda (Star) Communal Cultural centre was opened. In 1874 Peter Stanchev, a teacher from Turnovo, proposed the name of Svilengrad for the town (svila silk, grad - town), and the Bulgarians accepted this idea, however it was implemented during the Balkan War (1912).

G. S. Rakovski, Petko. R. Slaveikov, Hr. G. Danov would often travel through the town on their way to or back from Tzarigrad. In 1871 Levski set up a secret revolutionary committee. On 7th January, 1878 the Russian armies entered, however after the signing of the Berlin Treaty the town was left in the territory of Turkey. During the Balkan War a military airport was equipped near Svilengrad. For the first time in world history an army (the Bulgarian army) used aeroplanes for military purposes. The town was finally liberated during the Inter-Allies War (1913). At the time of liberation the towns ethnic composition was entirely changed, the inhabitants were predominantly Bulgarians, refugees from the areas still under yoke.

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