|The town of Sliven (population: 100 695, 270 m above sea level) is situated in
the eastern part of the Gornotrakiyska (Upper Thracian) Lowland at the
foothills of the Sliven Balkan (Eastern Balkan Mountains).
It is 279 km east of Sofia, 28 km north-west of Sliven, 70 km north-east of
Stara Zagora, 75 km east of Kazanlak, 114 km west of Bourgas. “The town of the
100 Voivodi” (“voivoda” – leader of a detachment of armed revolutionaries). A
regional administrative centre.
Most probably the name derives from the location of the town, i.e. fusion of
the field, the mountain and the three rivers of Assenovska, Selishka and
Novo-sselska (“slivam” – to fuse). The town sprang up in the period 7th – 11th
centuries by a the old military road from the Danube through the Vratnik Pass
(Zhelezni Vrata – Iron Gates) in the Balkan mountains to Tsarigrad.
Idrissi, Arabian geographer, was the first to give information about the town
in 1153 calling it Istilifounos. Later it became known with as Silimno, Slivno.
In 1388 the town was conquered by the Turks and entirely destroyed. Father
Paisii mentioned it in his “Istoria Slavyano-bul-garska” (Slavonic and
Bulgarian History) (18th century) already as Sliven.
During the first decades of the Ottoman Rule Sliven enjoyed privileges as a
settlement of people breeding falcons and people guarding mountain passes.
Gradually the town became an important craft centre, growing further in size
and wellbeing. It gained popularity for the weaving of the woollen cloth
called ‘kebe’. In 1828 there were about 20 000 inhabitants. Sliven was
liberated in 1828 in the Russian-Turkish War. When the Russian soldiers
withdrew more than 15 000 Bulgarians left with them and settled to live in
Romania, Bessarabia and South Russia. In 1872 the population of the town
numbered 25 000 inhabitants.
Sliven grew as town of crafts and trade, making use of the water power of the
rivers. The craft of manufacturing aba (homespun coarse wollen cloth and upper
men’s garment made of it) was best developed. Up to 400 traders would annually
visit the town to buy thousands of metres of woollen cloths. The craft of
rifle making came second in importance. In 1836 the first woollen textile
factory in Bulgaria was built in Sliven, that of Dobri Zhelyazkov the Factory
Owner. It was three-storied, with 20 spinning machines, 6 mechanical looms and
500 workers. Its big stone buildings are still preserved. Traders from Turkey,
Poland and Hungary would come to the annual fair in Sliven. It rivalled the
fair in Ouzoundzhovo.
In the Revival Period Sliven became famous as “the town of the 100 voivodi”:
Indzhe, Zlati, Kara Subi, Radoi, Hristo, Konda – a woman leader, Hadgi Dimitur,
Panayot Hitov, Tenyu Voivoda and many other. Georgi Ikonomov, one of the
apostles of the April Uprising was born in the town. Sliven is the birthplace
of Sava Dobroplodni, Dr. Ivan Seliminski, Dobri Chintoulov. After the
Liberation the crafts suffered a decay, while the textile industry continued
to develop and shape the economic face of the town.
The Town Museum of History (18, Tsar Osvoboditel Str., tel.: 044 22494); The
Museum of Revival Arts (13, Tsar Osvoboditel Str., tel.: 044 22083) - a
permanent exposition of works of Revival Period painters as Dimitur Dobrevich,
D. Danchov, N. Pavlovich, as well as painters from the first decades after
Liberation - Ivan Murkvichka, Anton Mitov, Ivan Angelov, Yordan Kyuvliev, etc.
Hadgi Dimitur House-Museum (Assenova Str.) is situated in the south-western
part of the town (the former Kloutsohor Quarter) and comprises a complex of
several buildings restored in different periods - the native home with its
interior, the inn and some of the farm houses.
The monument of Hadzhi Dimitur was built in 1935 in the centre of the town.
The figure of the legendary leader stands on a rectangular column. At the foot
of the monument, in special niches one can see the busts of outstanding people
from Sliven from the period of Revival. The Stariyat bryast (The old elm-tree)
(600 years old) can be seen in the centre of Sliven. One can also visit about
ten Christian temples.