Blagoevgrad Province

Blagoevgrad Province

Infobox Province of Bulgaria
Cyrillic = Област Благоевград

Capital = Blagoevgrad
Municipalities = Bansko, Belitsa, Blagoevgrad, Gotse Delchev, Garmen, Kresna, Petrich, Razlog, Sandanski, Satovcha, Simitli, Strumyani, Hadzhidimovo, Yakoruda
Area = 6,449.5 km²
Population = 364,076 [Population by address registration up to September 14, 2007. Source: [ ГРАО] . Retrieved on October 3, 2007. bg icon]
LicensePlate = E

Blagoevgrad Province ( _bg. област Благоевград, "oblast Blagoevgrad" or Благоевградска област, "Blagoevgradska oblast"), also known in certain contexts as Pirin Macedonia [Despite a history of use by Bulgarian nationalists, the term "Pirin Macedonia" is today regarded as offensive by certain Bulgarians, who assert that it is widely used by Macedonists as part of the irredentist concept of United Macedonia. However, many people in the country also think of the name as a purely geographical term, which it has historically been. Its use is, thus, controversial.] ( _bg. Пиринска Македония, "Pirinska Makedoniya"), is a province ("oblast") of southwestern Bulgaria. To the north and east it borders with four other Bulgarian provinces, to the south with Greece and the west with the Republic of Macedonia. It has 14 municipalities with 12 towns. The province's major city is Blagoevgrad, while other significant towns include Bansko, Gotse Delchev, Melnik, Petrich, Razlog, Sandanski and Simitli.

Geography and climate


The province has a territory of 6,449.5 km² and a population of 341,245. It is the third largest in Bulgaria after Burgas and Sofia Provinces and comprises 5.8% of the country's territory. Blagoevgrad Province includes the mountains, or parts of, Rila (highest point of the BalkansMusala summit, 2925 m), Pirin (highest point — Vihren summit, 2914 m), the Rhodopes, Slavyanka, Belasitsa, Vlahina, Maleshevo, Ograzhden and Stargach. There are two major rivers — Struma River and Mesta River — with population concentrations along their valleys, which are also the main transport corridors.


The climate varies from temprerate continental to Mediterranean in the southernmost parts. Natural resources are timber, mineral springs, coal, construction materials, including marble and granite. The beautiful and preserved environment is widely considered an important resource. A number of national parks and protected territories care for the biodiversity. Arable land is 38.8% and forests constitute 52% of the province's territory.


Blagoevgrad Province was originally part of ancient Thrace and inhabited by the Thracian tribe Maedi [Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt Page 234 By Hildegard Temporini, Wolfgang Haase ISBN 3110068753, 9783110068757] . Alexander the Great founded his first town/colony "Alexandrupolis" in 340 BC. Afterwards the town was probably destroyed by a local Thracian raid [ [] ] .


right|thumb|300px|Map of Blagoevgrad Province showing themunicipal subdivisions and centres

Blagoevgrad Province is divided into the following municipalities:
*Gotse Delchev


The region is characterized with diversified economic branch structure: food and tobacco processing industries, agriculture, tourism, transport and communications, textile industry, timber and furniture industries, iron processing and machinery industry, construction materials industry, as well as pharmaceuticals, plastics, paper and shoes production. Approximately 10% of the population is unemployed (close to the national average). There are 4 major hospitals in the province.

With its railway line and road connection, the region forms the heart of the land-based trading route between northern Greece, Bulgaria and Romania. Since the early 2000s the province enjoys a mini boom in trade from thousands Greek day-trippers from across the border, purchasing cheaper goods and services (dental, opticians, etc.). Since the early 1990s, the region has also attracted Greek manufacturers who moved their production line from Greece, especially to Petrich. It was an important tourist destination during the communist years for East Germans and is slowly picking up again. The unique town of Melnik was once a wealthy centre built on the back of exiled phanariots from Constantinople. Now it is a centre for wine production and offers eco-tourism.

Infrastructure remains relatively underdeveloped, especially regarding road and rail communications. It remains an important target for potential EU funding. There are two major infrastructural projects in the region. The Struma motorway, which is planned to connect the capital Sofia with the Greek border and the port of Thessaloniki, is going to run through the valley of the Sruma River, and will be ready in a few years. The second project is the airport of Bansko. The cost is currently estimated at around 30,000,000.

Culture, education and monuments

Historical and archaeological monuments include the ruins of antique Thracian and Roman settlements, Early Christian basilicas, medieval Byzantine and Bulgarian towns, monasteries and fortresses, as well as many preserved buildings and whole villages — examples of the architecture from the Ottoman period (like Melnik, the Rozhen Monastery and Bansko).

A theatre, a library with 345,000 tomes, and an opera house are situated in the provincial centre, Blagoevgrad. There are art galleries in Bansko, Blagoevgrad and Sandanski. Many small cultural institutions, "chitalishta", are dispersed around the province. The Pirin State Ensemble is the most prominent among the numerous folklore and music bands. There are 10 museums in the province that preserve the rich historical, ethnographic and archaeological heritage. Cultural events include the Theatre Festival in Blagoevgrad, the Jazz Festival in Bansko and the Melnik Evenings of Poetry.

The Southwestern University and the American University in Bulgaria are situated in Blagoevgrad; the latter is the second largest American university campus in Europe and is located in the former headquarters of the communist party. Annually the city draws around 10,000 students from the country and abroad. The number of schools in the province is 182.

Notable Bulgarians from Blagoevgrad Province

A number of the province's municipalities were re-named in honor of major figures such as Sandanski (after Jane Sandanski), Gotse Delchev and Blagoevgrad (named after Dimitar Blagoev).

*Paisiy Hilendarski (1722–1773)
*Neofit Rilski (1793 -1881)
*Boris Sarafov(1872-1907)
*Yane Sandanski (1872-1915)
*Nikola Vaptsarov (1909-1942)
*Georgi Pirinski (1948)


According to the 2001 census, the population of the province consists of 286,491 Bulgarians (including a number of Muslim Bulgarians), 31,857 Turks (also including a number of Muslim Bulgarians), 12,405 Roma and 3,117 ethnic Macedonians, among others. 4,242 people did not specify their ethnicity.

268,968 of the province's residents are Eastern Orthodox, 62,431 are Muslims, 1,546 — Protestants. 7,018 people did not idenfity their religion in the census.

Bulgarian is the mother tongue of 306,118 people, Turkish is spoken by 19,819, while 9,232 identified as speakers of Romany. 2,921 specified their mother tongue as "other" and 2,424 did not identify their language.


Blagoevgrad Province is currently one of the best-represented provinces in Bulgarian football, with 3 teams playing in the Bulgarian A PFG (second only to Sofia with 4) — FC Vihren Sandanski, PFC Belasitsa Petrich and PFC Pirin 1922 Blagoevgrad. One more team from the province, PFC Pirin Blagoevgrad (as distinct from Pirin 1922), began the 2005/06 season in the highest Bulgarian division, but disbanded shortly afterwards due to financial problems.

Owing to the alpine features and accessible location, the northern and eastern regionof Blagoevgrad Province is also a centre of winter sports. The main centre is Bansko which is becoming a leading skiing resort at European level with rapidly rising property prices.

Ethnic Macedonians in Blagoevgrad Province

Blagoevgrad Province roughly corresponds the geographical region of Pirin Macedonia. It is considered by some nationalist Ethnic Macedonians as part of a United Macedonia. The vast majority of the Slavic population though, has a Bulgarian citizenship and self-consciousness and a regional (geographic) Macedonian identity, similar to that of the Greeks in Greek Macedonia. [ Center for Documentation and Information on Minorities in Europe - Southeast Europe (CEDIME-SE) - Macedonians of Bulgaria] ] Moreover, the majority of Bulgarians believe that most of the population of Macedonia is Bulgarian. [Bulgarian “Macedonian” Nationalism: A Conceptual Overview Anton Kojouharov. OJPCR: The Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution 6.1 Fall: 282-295 (2004)ISSN: 1522-211X [] ] According to the 2001 census, 3,117 persons described themselves as ethnic Macedonians. [ [] Official census data (in Bulgarian)] According to a study by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee performed in 1998, the people with a Macedonian national self-consciousness, however, are between 15,000 and 25,000.Finally, the local ethnic Macedonian political activist, Stoyko Stoykov claims their number to be between 5,000 and 10,000. [ [ source] ]


See also

* Provinces of Bulgaria


Printed sources

*"Who are the Macedonians?" Hugh Poulton. London: 1995.

External links

* [ Blagoevgrad Province — information on all of cities and villages]
* [ Provincial administration of Blagoevgrad Province]
* [ Municipality of Blagoevgrad]
* [ Municipality of Gotse Delchev]
* [ Municipality of Sandanski]
* [ Municipality of Petrich]
* [ Official website of Bansko]
* [ Pirin National Park]
* [ Rila National Park]
* [ Neofit Rilski Southwestern University]
* [ American University in Bulgaria]
* [ Pirin Folk song and dances State Ensemble]
* [ Historical and Architectural Reserve Village Kovachevitza]
* [ Rozhen Monastery St. Nativity of Virgin Mary]
* [ Bansko Ski Zone]
* [ Kordopulova House in Melnik]
* [ Radio Blagoevgrad online, regional station of the Bulgarian National Radio bg icon]
* [ Informative site about South-Western Bulgaria bg icon]
* [ Struma Daily newspaper of South-Western Bulgaria bg icon]

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