THE TOWN OF SHUMEN

Since hoary antiquity the lands of the Shumen region have been lying at the historical crossroads. Many tribes and races have gone through this land and left solid marks with their material and spiritual culture. The first traces of human life on the territory of the Shumen region date back to the 5th millennium BC.

The earliest finds discovered during the excavations of the Shumen fortress – the predecessor of the modern town – are from the 12th c. BC. In the course of time the fortress was inhabited by Thracians, Romans, Byzantines and Slavs. The strategic location allotted its important part in the historical events of the European southeast.

Due to the proximity of the Shumen fortress with the Old Bulgarian capitals Pliska and Preslav and the related to them cult center Madara the rulers of the First Bulgarian Kingdom retained it as a martial stronghold. It was of great wartime strategic significance during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom too when the Tarnovo kings relied on it for the defense of the state from the east. A unique stone inscription states the visit of the Bulgarian tsar Ivan-Shishman in Shumen on the eve of the Turkish incursion. It is the earliest domestic source that bares the modern name of the town.

The town was conquered by the troops of Ali Pasha in 1388 and a small Turkish garrison was settled there. Shumen played a significant strategic role in the devastating war, when Bulgaria was completely conquered by the Turkish invader. In 1444 after a couple of days’ siege the fortress was subjugated by the troops of the Second Crusade of Wladyslaw III Jagiello – king of Poland and Hungary. After the failure of the crusade the Turks returned in town and gradually turned it into an important military and economic center that endured till the Liberation.

There is scarce data about the Shumen’s history in the first decades of bondage. The social life declined, mainly Muslim cult buildings were constructed. In 1744 with the donation of Sherif Halil Pasha the Tombul Mosque was built – the largest mosque on the Bulgarian lands, still preserved.

A couple of centuries after the conquest Shumen turned into a solid Turkish stronghold – part of the fortified quadrangle Varna-Ruse-Silistra-Shumen and its history was related to the Russo-Turkish wars from 18th and 19th c.

During the Revival period Shumen was one of the fastest developing economical and cultural centers on Bulgarian lands. The town was known for its bustling streets, numerous craftsman’s workshops and shops, with more than twenty craft guilds, and its own towns self government. The articles made by the local craftsmen were sent to all the trade fairs and bazaars in and out of the Turkish Empire. Commodities from Marseille, Manchester, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest were imported here.

History assigns a merited place of the contribution of the town to the Bulgarian spiritual revival. In Shumen school syllabi after European model were drawn up and the first public school exam was held in 1846. The first school for girls was opened in 1856, a school convention was adopted for the village schools and compulsory primary education in the eparchy of Varna and Preslav was introduced. In 1813 the first celebration of the day of the Saints Cyril and Methodius was organized and the first theater play in Bulgaria was staged then. In 1856 Sava Dobroplodni’s comedy Michal was staged here, still pointed as the origin of the Bulgarian theater by the historians. One of the first cultural centers (chitalishte) – Archangel Michael was established in 1856. In 1850 the first Bulgarian orchestra for European music was formed in Shumen and shortly after – the first school choir and orchestra. The authors of the first original Bulgarian drama (D. Voynikov – Stoyan Voivode) and of the first Bulgarian short novel (V. Drumev – A Woeful Family) are also from Shumen.

Shumeners participated the struggle for church independence, in the Stara Zagora uprising in 1875, in the Russo-Turkish liberation war that brought the liberation of Shumen not until 6(18).07.1878.

After the Liberation the town preserved its place amongst the significant administrative, economic, cultural and military centers in Bulgaria. At the expense of the decline of traditional arts, the manufactured goods developed. In 1882 the first brewery in Bulgaria was estimated here and its brand Shumensko pivo is amongst today’s most popular. Furriery, furniture and chemical industry developed. The town was amongst the founders and innovators of the pedagogical education. In 1914 the first opera-theater in Bulgaria was opened

During the 50’s – 80’s of the 20th c. the destiny of Shumen is similar to that of the first ten towns in Bulgaria.

From 1950 to 1966 its name was Kolarovgrad, and after that the town was renamed again to Shumen. It remained an important administrative center – district, regional, municipal. Mechanical engineering, non-ferrous metallurgy and woodworking industry are developed.

Shumen is an academic town.

A number of professional institutes represent the culture in the town – Dramatic and Puppet Theater, Art Gallery, Regional Library, Regional Museum (one of the richest in Bulgaria), four memorial house-museums.

Nowadays Shumen has 82 500 residents and this makes it the tenth in Bulgaria.