HISTORY OF BANSKO

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The location and the physical and geographic charasteristics of the territory have determined its being populated in the earliest historical times. Multiple archeological objects, found on the territory of the municipality, including on the territory of Bansko, serve as evidence for that. In the ‘Staroto Gradishte’ area, 4 km south-west of Bansko and in the ‘Yulen’ area (by the stream of the river of Damyanitsa) remains of ancient fortifications have been discovered. In close proximity to the ‘Staroto Gradishte’ area, Thracian mounds have also been found. A Medieval settlement supposedly exists in the ‘Holy Trinity’ area. The remains of the late Medieval churches of Saint George and Saint Elijah can be found south-east of the town of Bansko.

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It is commonly believed that Bansko was established as a settlement after several hamlets merged in the period between ХV-ХVІ centuries. The first documentary evidence of Bansko can be found in the Ottoman register of the celepkeşan (sheep-breeders) of 1576.

Up to the ХVIII century, the residents of Bansko were mainly stock breeders and craftsmen, who depended upon the spacious pastures and fertile forests. During the period of the national revival, the town of Bansko developed as a center of trade and crafts. By the shores of the River of Glazne a lot of mills, saw-mills, fulling-mills, tanneries for leather tanning, etc. were built. People of enterprise, the residents of the town maintained commercial relations with towns and villages from the area of the Aegean Sea, Central and Western Europe. Caravans with articles for the carpenter’s, leather and smith’s trade traveled to Western Thrace, Serres and Drama and returned loaded with cotton, fish, tobacco, olives, unprocessed and processed leather. Business offices of people from Bansko started to open in many towns around Europe – Budapest, Vienna, Leipzig, Marseilles, and London. A great part of the children of wealthy families received their education abroad.

Expanding contacts with the outer world have stimulated national consciousness ever since XVII century and made Bansko and its surrounding region one of the centers of the Bulgarian National Revival. Bansko is the native place of the founder of the Revival and author of Slavonic-Bulgarian History (Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya) – Paisiy Hildenarski (1722-1773). During the same period, this was the place where the prominent enlightener Neofit Rilski (1793-1881) – a monk, teacher and artist, described as the ‘patriarch of the Bulgarian teachers and men of letter’, Toma Vishanov Hadzhiikonomov-Molera (1750-?), founder of an artistic school with enormous contribution to the development of the national traditions in religious art, and Marko Teodorovich Veznyov (1760-1840) – tradesman, publisher and educationalist, lived. It should be added that a lot more famous people who left traces in the national history and culture were born in Bansko, among them: Galaktion Hilendarets(1830-1894) – clergyman and revolutionary, Georgi Kremenliyata (1840-1886) – rebel and voivode in the Kresna-Razlog Uprising, Dimitar Seizov, revolutionary, voivode in the area of Nevrokop and Melnik, Dimitar Penkov (1876-1925) – revolutionary, the brothers Dimitar (1874-?) and Kostadin (1876-?) Molerov – students of folklore and native place, and so on. Bansko is also the native town of Nikola Yonkov Vaptsarov (1909-1942) – one of the poets-geniuses of Bulgaria.

 

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The economic and spiritual progress in ХVІІІ and mainly in ХІХ century was reflected also in the activities of the local self-government of the then village of Bansko. Around 1850 the Bulgarian Municipality of Bansko was established, a successor of the village community council of all people established for the construction and drawing of the Holy Trinity Church (consecrated in 1835). The governing body of the Municipality consists of influential respresentatives of the tradesmen and craftsmen. In 1838, a monastery school was built in the churchyard; in 1847 the school developed into new Bulgarian secular school. By the initiative of the Bulgarian Municipality of Bansko, a new building for the school was constructed in 1857, the school of mutual instruction was transformed into a school with classes, and newspapers and literature of the revival started being distributed. Construction of the church tower of the Holy Trinity Church was organized by the Municipality in1850 and a clock mechanism was installed in 1865. In the 60s and 70s of the XIX century, the Bulgarian Municipality of Bansko lead the fight against the Greek Church for independence of the Bulgarian Church and development of the educational activities in the village. The Municipality supported financially the families that suffered during the suppression of the Kresna-Razlog Uprising and Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising and undertook a lot of other social initiatives after the liberation from the Ottoman rule in 1912.

The economic prosperity was reflected also in the characteristic popular residential architecture of XVIII and XIX century. Built of stone, the houses of the wealthy class had ‘impressive feudal appearance. This is their major difference from the architecture of the residential buildings in the rest of the towns and villages in the area of Razlog.’(R. Angelova). To this, we should also add the impressive wood-carving and wall-painting which decorated the houses and served as evidence not only of the wealth, but also of the high artistic culture of the residents of Bansko. Characteristic of the early local tradition in construction are the house of Hadji Valcho (Hadjivalchovata kashta), the house of Hadji Rusko (Hadjiruskovata kashta), the house of Velyan (Velyanovata house). Sirleshtovata kashta, Todevata jashta, Buynovata kashta, Zagorchinata kashta, Djidjevite kashti, Zlatevite kashti, Koyuvite kashti, Stefanovite kashti, etc. are also houses that stand out with their architectural qualities and rich artistic decoration.

When talking about the spiritual development in that period, we cannot but mention that Bansko was the first Bulgarian town in the second half of XX century where Protestant communities were formed. It was in the 1860, before Protestant missionaries appeared in the region, when Evangelical community already existed there, formed by the Orthodox priest Dimitar Mladenov and the local teacher Nikola Popfilipov. On 6th August 1868 the first Bulgarian Evangelical Christian Community was established and that date was accepted as the birthday of the first Protestant church in Bulgaria.

 

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At the end of XIX and the beginning of XX century, Bansko is the biggest settlement in the the district of Razlog. According to the data in the work of Vasil Kanchov ‘Macedonia. Ethnograpy and Statistics’, in 1900 ‘there were 6500 Christian Bulgarians living there.’

During that period, Bansko became a center of the fights for national liberation. The Kresna-Razlog Uprising (1878 – 1879) was an attempt to liberate the Kresna-Razlog Valley, which had remained on the territory of the Ottoman Empire by virtue of the resolutions adopted at the Congress of Berlin (1878). Almost all of the population took part in the uprising which turned out to be successful only for a short period of time: the so called ‘Kingdom of Razlog’ was formed, with Bansko as its center and lasting only seven days. During the suppression of the uprising, the population was tortured.

In 1896, at the time when Gotse Delchev was working as a teacher in Bansko, the village became a district center of the Internal Macedonian-Adiranople Revolutionary Organization and an important link in the secret revolutionary network. The climax of the national liberation movement in the region was the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising (1903). The residents of Bansko took an active part in the liberation process. The feat of the local teacher Radon Todev and his revolutionary group particularly stands out, as they meet their death during the Uprising, in the Godlevskata Mountain.

The Municipality of nowadays was included within the borders of Bulgaria in 1912. Bansko was liberated on 5th October during the same year with the help of the revolutionary groups lead by Yonko Vaptsarov, Hristo Chernopeev, Peyo Yavorov and Lazar Kolchagov. The municipal administration of Bansko, consisting of five members, wuth its first mayor Asen Todev was included in the state administration system adopted.

 

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After the First World War, the main means of living in Bansko were agriculture, stockbreeding, wood production for the needs of construction and carpentry – making furniture and other every-day items. By the Glazne River, there a lot of lathes, saw-mills, carding-machines, water-mills, and one mill as well were functioning. The residents of the town amounted to 4550 at the time.[1]

[1] Pirin Mountain, Lazar Tomov, 1927

 

 


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