– History

изглед към Разлог от миналото

Razlog Municipality has a rich cultural and historical heritage. The region abounds in cultural monuments from different eras and civilizations – Neolithic, Thracian civilization, Greco-Roman civilization, Christian civilization represented by early Byzantine and Bulgarian culture.

Razlog Municipality has a rich history related to the struggles in Razlog for national liberation and independent Bulgaria. Razlog Municipality has preserved over the centuries unique cultural traditions and customs, which together with the interesting and significant cultural monuments of the territory make it an attractive tourist center.

Prehistory and Antiquity – from the dawn of human civilization, through the heritage of Thracians, to the glory of the Roman Empire

The lands of Razlog Municipality have been inhabited for millennia. Prehistoric times have left a settlement near present-day Eleshnitsa Village and more traces near the village of Bachevo.

At the edge between Prehistory and Antiquity, the culture of Thracians reached the valley of Mesta River. Many traces of that epoch have been preserved in the neighbouring mountains. An ancient Thracian sanctuary has been discovered in the Stolovatets locality. In the locality of Katarino, there is a still unexplored fortified Thracian town that might turn to be a significant find for Thracian history. A megalithic Thracian sanctuary may be seen near the village of Bachevo at the Gergova (Dzherdzheva) Rock which is also related to the legend of Saint George telling how he and his horse reached the rock when chased by enemies and instead of getting killed, the horse got wings and flew away. Nowadays, the rock sanctuary can impress the visitor with the magical view of Pirin Mountains alone. Other local legends tell about an ancient Thracian settlement existing near the village of Eleshnitsa where Orpheus was born.

Early Christianity in Bulgarian lands – legends of miracles and evidence of the Christian Path

It is certain that the lands of Razlog Municipality were an early Christian center, and the preserved archaeology and architecture of the churches shows the history of Christianity here. The Krushe locality hosts the Painted and White Churches. The first one is an early-Christian basilica from the end of the Antiquity period (5th c. AD) and according to some sources, it has been a part of an early monastery complex. In the Middle Ages, a newer building was erected on the same spot. The archaeological complex has been partially conserved which allows the visitor to see clearly the remains of the two churches. The White Church was built centuries later – in the late Middle Ages – and there is yet another small medieval church very close to it, named Sveti Nikola. The journey along the steps of Early Christianity includes also the church of Sveta Troitsa built probably in the 13th c. over a burial mound from previous epochs. It is an early example of a cross-domed church.

In the times of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Middle Ages, the town of Iliopol (Sun City) existed near present-day village of Eleshnitsa. According to some historic sources, it succeeded an older Thracian settlement which then turned into the Slav fortress of Nebush. A medieval inscription that was found here tells about the healing powers of the mineral springs of Eleshnitsa. In the ruins of a medieval church, archaeologists have discovered a burial plate, commemorating the story of a lady from the court of Constantinople who lived during the reign of Emperor Jusinian I. She restored a former church while receiving treatment with the mineral waters of today’s Eleshnitsa. The church in question continued to exist up till the 19th c. under the name of Sveta Nedelya.

The town of Iliopol was certainly well known for the wealth of its mineral waters ever since the early Middle Ages, despite the mystery surrounding its existence. According to an Athos legend from the 19th c., the Christian saint Varvara lived exactly in Iliopol. The young woman devoted herself to her Christian faith, for which her father gave her up. The dramatic life of the saint ended soon after that, taken away by the very same father. Today local people honour the memory of the martyr at the Sveti Ilia sanctuary near Eleshnitsa, close to the Sveta Nedelya Church and the Sveta Varvara mineral spring. A new Orthodox church was also built close to the spring in recent years.

The first centuries of the Ottoman era – the tests of faith

In 1614, they built the church of Sveti Sveti Theodor Tiron and Theodor Stratilat which is now one of the symbols of Razlog Municipality and a cultural monument of national importance. The church is dedicated to the Roman soldiers Theodor Tiron and Theodor Stratilat who died as martyrs and is the most significant sample of church art in our lands after the end of the Middle Ages. Painted two centuries after the conquering of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom by the Ottoman Empire, the priceless murals and iconostasis keep the traditions of Medieval Bulgarian masters. The interior of the church is fully painted, with more than 500 scenes showing the life of Jesus Christ. In the scene named “Descending to Hell”, Christ is depicted in what looks like a jet rocket – an image that astonishes all the church visitors.  The stone altar partition wall serving as a basis for the iconostasis is also very specific. The accent of the latter are five large icons showing Christ, the Holy Mother, John the Baptist, Archangel Michael and the symbols of the church – Theodor Tiron and Theodor Stratilat. These five icons combine skillfully the old traditions and new techniques and motives in icon-painting. The lively images of paintings and the fine details of wood-carvings are samples of the mastership of Bulgarian artists long before the epoch of the Bulgarian Renaissance. Seen from the outside, the semi-dug church is not much different from the Sveta Ekaterina Church. The unpresentable exterior gives no clue of the bravery of the Christian master from 1614 – to eternalize his faith and art through his remarkable creation.

In the 17th and 18th c., the village of Dobarsko turned into an important trade center and many other churches were built. This was again due to the location of the village on the road from Athos to the Rila Monastery. The remains of the medieval and later churches around Dobarsko today are used as sanctuaries.

The enlightening 19th c. – revival of identity

It was in the past centuries of the Ottoman Rule when Razlog established itself as the main center of the Razlog Valley. Written sources show the name of Mehomia for the existing settlement. In the 19th c., the lives of local people were related mainly to agriculture, animal-breeding and the crafts of pottery and gold-smithing. The church of Sveti Georgi was erected in 1834 and only a year later, the first secular school was opened in its yard. The first teacher was Mihail Manzurski. After about two decades, the school was turned into a modern, the so-called New-Bulgarian one. At the end of the 19th c., the Mehomia school of Sveti Sveti Kiril and Metodi was a solid two-floor building.

At the same time, the settlements of today’s Razlog Municipality (excluding the village of Eleshnitsa) were part of the large Razlog Kaaza (District) uniting present day Razlog, Bansko, Belitsa, Yakoruda and Dobrinishte. Mehomia did not have any significant buildings in that period; most houses were made of wood and had two floors. The town was known not for agricultural production but for the various crafts and trade. The large Sunday market in Mehomia was the most significant event in the economic life of the Razlog Kaaza. According to Georgi Strezov, Banya was the biggest and best-developing settlement in the area until the Kresna-Razlog Revolt when big parts of it were destroyed. Banya attracted visitors with its mineral springs even back in the 19th c. The two Turkish Baths built in the previous centuries were extensively used at the time; and the most amazing thing is they can still be used for the same purposes today. Both baths have been restored and are accessible as a tourist attraction. Both have mostly rectangular shapes, one with a dome and the other – with a four-sided roof. Among the Razlog villages, two were better known: Bachevo with its agriculture and stock-breeding, tar production and beautiful surrounding forests, and Gorno Draglishte which was the one with biggest population. Livelihood in the remaining Rila villages was connected to small agriculture and seasonal work in other regions.

The typical Mehomia architecture in the so-called Razlog-Chepino style appeared in the 19th c. The general atmosphere created by it can still be sensed at the square around the Historical Museum. The museum itself is located in the Parapunovs’ House, the birthplace of Nikola Parapunov (the founder and leader of the first partisan / anti-fascist detachment in Bulgaria). It neigbours other buildings from the same period including the Astinovs’ House which form a common ensemble with the Parapunovs’ one and serve as a symbol of that epoch. The two-floor houses face the street and have modest architecture where wood and the white colour prevail. A vast passage cuts through the face of each house, leading into an inner yard with various support buildings. Though modest in size now, this architectural ensemble shows the atmosphere of the famous Krapata Quarter from 100 year ago. Among the preserved buildings are also the Patokovs’ House and the Kiprevs’ House. The latter differs from the rest of the houses being situated in a spacious yard surrounded by a thick stone wall. The old architecture preserved in the villages of Razlog also shows the typical features of the Razlog-Chepino style. Several old houses may be seen near one of the old baths in the village of Banya.

The beginning of the 20th c. – struggles for liberation, tragedies and enthusiasm

The next dramatic moment of Bulgarian history was the summer of 1903 and the revolts of the Bulgarians living in Macedonia and Odrin Thrace. During the Ilinden, Preobrazhenie and Krastovden Revolts died thousands of people and many settlements were burnt to the ground but the Bulgarians still could not win their freedom. The line of revolts ended on Krastovden when the citizens of the Serres Revolutionary District part of which were Mehomia and the neighbouring villages chose their ideal for freedom against all other values. On 14.09.1903 (Krastovden), one of the first battles in the Mesta River Valley was fought in Andaka locality west of Razlog. The next day, 15.09.1903, gave the name of today’s Historical Museum square in Razlog Town. This was the scene of the biggest battle of this revolt. A monument was built later on the square to remind of the long and difficult path of local people to freedom. The monument is now the focus of annual celebrations held on September 14 in the memory of the forefathers of Razlog.

Freedom and inspiration

After its liberation, the old Ottoman town was renamed to Razlog and started living with the enthusiasm of the new Bulgarian reality. A large part of the Turkish population left the town. The tragic fate of Bulgaria in WWI and the failed ideal of unification did not hinder the development of the free parts of Macedonia. These were the most prolific decades in the history of Razlog, dedicated to cultural and economic burst. The town was urbanized and expanded; beautiful buildings were erected; banks and commercial bodies were opened; new cultural institutions were established; organized tourist activity was started. Razlog quickly gained the atmosphere and looks of a typical small European city.

Within two decades, the town gained its new urban architecture. Fragments of it can be seen today reminding of the enthusiasm of Bulgarians from that epoch – to build for themselves and for their city. Five buildings were harmonically connected into a unified ensemble which provides now a beautiful framework for the city square. The accent of the architectural composition is a corner building topped by a massive dome. The street of Stefan Stambolov starts from the square and heads southwards, offering a precious architectural ambiance. One should note the two elegant buildings located at the crossroad of Stefan Stambolov and Sheinovo Streets. Heading towards the Bus Station of Razlog, the visitor can see the unusual architecture of a house from 1930 located at the corner of Stefan Stambolov and Bratya Kulini Streets. Both street facades of the house are decorated with clocks. The charm of the early 20th c. architecture can also be seen at the streets of Sveti Sveti Kiril and Metodi, and Byala Reka. One of the symbols of Razlog from that period is the church of Sveto Blagoveshtenie (built in 1939), one of the biggest in Razlog Valley, which is impressive with its size, internal space and artistic murals. The high bell-tower and the white colour make it easily visible from afar. If one could stand on top of Golak Hill in the late 30s of the 20th c. and look down at Razlog, he or she would notice the unified town exterior. The houses were harmonically spread along the town streets and the even height of the urban silhouette was only broken by the big church and the representative buildings around the city square. Above the church bell-tower, there was only Pirin.

Razlog Municipality

Razlog Municipality is one of the most dynamically developing municipalities, sixth in territory and fifth in population in Blagoevgrad region.

Razlog Municipality (22 876 inhabitants) consists of 8 settlements – town of Razlog / municipal center / and 7 villages: Banya, Bachevo, Godlevo, Gorno Draglishte, Dolno Draglishte, Dobarsko and Eleshnitsa.

Razlog Municipality has a rich cultural and historical heritage. The region abounds in cultural monuments from different eras and civilizations – Neolithic, Thracian civilization, Greco-Roman civilization, Christian civilization represented by early Byzantine and Bulgarian culture.

Razlog Municipality has a rich history related to the struggles in Razlog for national liberation and independent Bulgaria. Razlog Municipality has preserved over the centuries unique cultural traditions and customs, which together with the interesting and significant cultural monuments of the territory make it an attractive tourist center.

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