Sofia City

The Church of Sv. Georgi is among the oldest Christian churches in the Balkan peninsula dating back to 4th century

Sofia was originally a Thracian settlement called Serdica, or Sardica, possibly named after the Thracian tribe Serdi. Around 500 BC another tribe settled in the region, the Odrysi, known as an ethnos with their own kingdom. For a short period during the 4th century BC, the city was ruled by Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great.

Around AD 29, Serdica was conquered by the Romans. It became a municipium, or centre of an administrative region, during the reign of Emperor Trajan (98-117) and was renamed Ulpia Serdica.

It seems that the first written mention of Serdica was made by Ptolemy (around 100 AD).

Serdica (Sardica) expanded, as turrets, protective walls, public baths, administrative and cult buildings, a civic basilica, an amphitheatre – the City Council (Boulé), a large Forum, a big Circus (Theatre), etc. were built. When Emperor Diocletian divided the province of Dacia into Dacia Ripensis (at the banks of the Danube) and Dacia Mediterranea, Serdica became the capital of Dacia Mediterranea. The city subsequently expanded for a century and a half, it became a significant political and economical centre, moreso – it became one of the first roman cities where Christianity was recognized as an official religion (Еmperor Galerius). So it was only very natural that Constantine the Great called Serdica (Sardica) “My Rome”.

Serdica was of moderate size, but magnificent as an urban concept of planning and architecture, with abundant amusements and an active social life. It flourished during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, when it was surrounded with great fortress walls whose remnants can still be seen today.

The city was destroyed by the Huns in 447 but was rebuilt by Justinian and for a while called Triaditsa.
A fresco depicting Desislava, a 13th century patron of the church
Sofia has been a centre of Christianity since the times of the Roman Empire

[edit] Middle Ages
The Boyana Church is among the most precious monuments from the Bulgarian Empire

Sofia first became part of the First Bulgarian Empire during the reign of Khan Krum in 809 after a long siege. [6] Afterwards, it was known by the Bulgarian name Sredets and grew into an important fortress and administrative centre. After the fall of North-eastern Bulgaria under John I Tzimiskes’ armies in 971, the Bulgarian Patriarch Damyan chose Sofia for his seat in the next year. After a number of unsuccessful sieges, the city fell to the Byzantine Empire in 1018, but once again was incorporated into the restored Bulgarian Empire at the time of Tsar Ivan Asen I.

From the 12th to the 14th century, Sofia was a thriving centre of trade and crafts. It is possible that it has been called by the common population Sofia (meaning “wisdom” in Ancient Greek) about 1376 after the Church of St. Sofia. However, in different testimonies it was called both “Sofia” and “Sredets” until the end of the 19th century. In 1382 Sofia was seized by the Ottoman Empire in the course of the Bulgarian-Ottoman Wars – after a long siege the city was captured with treason. The new name – Sofia, replaced the old one – Sredets, after the liberation of the city from Turkish rule in 1878. Quite a time after 1878 there was a strong will, expressed by Bulgarian committees, to keep the name Sredets, but the Russian administration accepted Sofia.

[edit] Ottoman rule

After the campaign of Władysław III of Poland in 1443 towards Sofia, the city’s Christian elite was annihilated and became the capital of the Ottoman province (beylerbeylik) of Rumelia for more than 4 centuries, which encouraged many Turks to settle there. In the 16th century Sofia’s urban layout and appearance began to exhibit a clear Ottoman style, with many mosques, fountains and hamams (bathhouses). During that time the town had a population of around 7,000 which rose to 55,000 by the mid 17th century.

The town was seized for several weeks by Bulgarian haiduks in 1599. In 1610 the Vatican established the See of Sofia for Catholics of Rumelia, which existed until 1715 when most Catholics had emigrated[7]. In the 16th century there were 126 Jewish households, and there has been a synagogue in Sofia since 967.

[edit] End of Ottoman Rule

Sofia was taken by Russian forces on 4 January 1878, during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78, and became the capital of the autonomous Principality of Bulgaria in 1879, which became the Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1908. It was proposed as a capital by Marin Drinov and was accepted as such on 3 April 1879. By the time of its liberation the population of the city was 11,649.[8] For a few decades after the liberation the city experienced large population growth mainly from other regions of the country.

In 1925 the St Nedelya Church assault was carried out by the Bulgarian Communist Party which claimed the lives of 170 people and injured another 500.

During World War II, Sofia was bombed by Allied aircraft in late 1943 and early 1944. As a consequence of the invasion of the Red Army after war declaration by the Soviet Union with the approval of the Allied countries USA, Great Britain, France, Bulgaria’s government, which allied the country with Germany, was overthrown. Like Prague, Warsaw, Bucharest etc. Sofia became a capital of the Communist-ruled People’s Republic (1944). The population of Sofia expanded at high rates because of the collectivisation of agriculture and the related land dispossesion of people in the province, and also because a large emphasis was placed on the industrial development of the city – many new large factories and manufacturing plants were built in and around it. The city expansion accelerated after 1958 when the collectivisation and the construction of the huge Kremikovtsi Steel Complex near Sofia were completed. That led to the creation of many new neighbourhoods and the expansion of the public transport network.

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3 Comments on “Sofia City”

  • ViokeRigsig wrote on 28 February, 2010, 7:45

    The response to local and national disasters is awesome but it’s a damn shame that so many citizens take advantage of the sad situations.

    I mean everytime there is an earthquake, a flood, an oil spill – there’s always a group of heartless people who rip off tax payers.

    This is in response to reading that 4 of Oprah Winfreys “angels” got busted ripping off the system. Shame on them!


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