|The town of Kyustendil (50 243 inhabitants, 525 m above sea level) is situated
in the most western parts of Bulgaria, only 27 km in the air from the three
borders - Bulgarian-Macedonian, Bulgarian-Serbian and Serbian-Macedonian.
The town lies in the most southern part of the fertile valley of Kyustendil,
on both banks of the not large River Banshtitsa, leaning on the most northern
slopes of the more than 2000 m high Ossogovo Mountain bordering with Macedonia.
Quite close to the south of the town flows the big Bulgarian River Strouma. It
is 90 km from Sofia to the south-west, 70 km to the north-west of Blagoevgrad,
at 40 km to the west of Doupnitsa and at 22 km north-east of the border point
with Macedonia - Gyueshevo. The town is a spa resort of national significance.
A regional administrative centre.
Kyustendil is one of the most ancient towns in Bulgaria. Fertility and the
warm mineral springs attracted the Thracian tribes of danteleti and peontsi,
which founded here a settlement far back in 5th-4th century BC. During the 1st
century the Romans turned it into an important fortress, trade venue and
renowned spa resort, calling it Pautalia. In 4th century the fortress
Hissarlaka was built later reconstructed by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I
(572-565). After 553 the name Pautalia is not accounted any more. In 1019, in
the Charter of the Byzantine Emperor Vassilii II, the town was mentioned by
the name Velbuzhd, probably after the name of a leader. It was integrated to
the Bulgarian State during the reign of King Kaloyan (1197-1207). From 1379 to
1395 feudal ruler had been Konstantin Dragash and by his name, later in the
16th century, the town was renamed Kyustendil (the land of Konstantin).
From the middle of the 15th century the Turks began to colonise massively the
town and subjected the Bulgarian population to assimilation. In the end of the
Ottoman domination and after the Liberation, in particular, the ethnic make up
changed due to the numerous Bulgarian emigrants from the lands remaining under
Ottoman rule and from the neighbouring settlements. During the Revival the
town rapidly grew and developed. A church school was opened (1821), its
inhabitants took active part in the ecclesiastical and national struggles. The
detachments of haidouts (armed volunteers), lead by Ilyo Voivoda and Roumena
Voivoda, one of the few women leaders in Bulgarian history, were very active
in the surrounding mountains. Kyustendil was liberated on 29th January 1878.
After the liberation some of the crafts depending on Turkish markets declined,
but tobacco production developed, as well as spa resort activity.