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Kardzhali or Kurdzhali ( , ) is a town in Bulgariamarker, capital of Kardzhali Provincemarker in the Eastern Rhodopes. Near the town is the noted Kardzhali Dam.


Kardzhali is located in the low eastern part of Rhodope Mountains, on both banks of the river Ardamarker between the Kardzhali Reservoir to the west and the Studen Kladenetsmarker Reservoir to the east. The town is southeast of Sofiamarker. It has a crossroad position from Thrace to the Aegean Seamarker — part of European transportation route 9.


The location of Kardzhali has been inhabited since the Neolithic. Plenty of artifacts have been found during the archaeological excavations comprising ceramics and primitive tools. Most of them are now exhibited in the local museum of history.

Later Thracian tribes settled in the area developing a highly advanced civilization. They built many sanctuaries dedicated to the gods of Sun and Earth. Near the village of Nenkovo (northwest of Kardzhali) an artificial cave was found in 2001. It has the form of a woman's womb. Exactly at noon, when the sun is highest on the sky, a ray of light comes in through a stone slit forming a falitic shade in the cave. According to the Thracian beliefs this is the conception of the new Sun god. This cave is considered a complex astronomic facility (compared to Stonehengemarker in Great Britainmarker) as the ray of light comes in the cave in a single day in the year.

There are many stone castles and palaces the Thracians built in the region — Perperek, Ustra, Vishegrad. The most magnificent is Perperikonmarker where a residence of a Thracian king was situated. The place is getting more popular as archaeological works are in progress and new artifacts are being discovered.

During the Byzantine period Kardzhali was the centre of a Christian eparchy — Achridos. The Monastery of John the Precursor (Bulgarian: Йоан Продром or Йоан Предтеча) was built in the 6th-8th century and is now a monument of medieval architecture.

The name Kardzhali is mentioned for the first time in Ottoman documents. It comes from the name of the Ottoman army leader Kardzha Ali (modern Turkish spelling: Kırca Ali), who conquered the region in the 14th century. Its old Bulgarian name, mentioned until the 17th century, was Žerkovo (Zherkovo) .

The town developed because of its position on the trade roads during the Ottoman rule. However, it remained a small town with almost no industry. During the 18th century Turkish brigands used this remote town as a hide-away and supply point, and the town was named after their leader. The best known of these brigands was led by Pazvantoğlu Osman Pasha who ruled most of northeastern Bulgaria and the Danube estuary until 1807.

Kardzhali and its neighborhood became part of the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia under the stipulations of the Berlin Congress of 1878, but after the reunification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia in 1885, was ceded back to the Ottoman Empire as a township of Gümülcinemarker sanjak in Edirnemarker vilayet. Ottoman rule ended during the First Balkan War, with its liberation by the Bulgarianmarker General Vasil Delov on 21 October 1912. The day has been celebrated yearly, since 1937, as a municipal holiday through concerts and commemorative events. Kardzhali was declared the center of Kardzhali Province in 1949.


Memorial to the Jewish community of Kardzhali

According to the last census in 2001, Kardzhali municipality ( the city plus 118 villages) had a population of 69830, while the city itself had a population of 45729 . More recent estimates give 119978 and 76232 respectively , but these estimates are considered doubtful due to their reliance on address registration, while the census actually counts persons present. In 1989 the population was estimated at 59,000.

Before 1913 most of the population of the city where Muslims - Turks and Pomaks. Later, Bulgarian refugees from Eastern and Western Thrace and Roma people settled in Kardzhali. Some Turks immediately moved to the Ottoman Empire in 1913 in response to the Bulgarian return in their lands. Further emigration to Turkey continued between 1913 and 1989, either voluntarily (throughout the period), forcefully (in 1913 and in 1989) or under treaties between Bulgaria and Turkey(in the 30's and 50's). Many Bulgarians came in the city from other parts of the country or as refugees from the parts of Thrace left outside Bulgaria. Turkish emigration from the city was particularly intense in 1989, during the state-sponsored Revival Process which saw the forced conversion of ethnic Turks.

After 1990 the deteriorating economic conditions in Bulgaria (and especially the region) during the post-communist transition led many Bulgarians families to leave the area and move to more prosperous parts of Bulgaria or abroad. The economic crisis also affected the remaining Turkish population in the city, resulting in another wave of migration to Turkeymarker.

Kardzhali Province is according to the last census in 2001 the region of Bulgaria with the highest relative proportion of ethnic Turks, though Kardzhali municipality and the city itself have a lower proportion of ethnic Turks than the rest of the province. As of 2001, the population of Kardzhali municipality consisted of 53% Turks, 42% Bulgarians and 1% Roma, among others.. The population structure of the city itself is undetermined, though as the rural areas of the municipality are overhelmingly Turkish, it is believed that Bulgarians predominate in the city. The regional government today is primarily in the hands of the Turkish-dominated Movement for Rights and Freedoms. The province is represented in the National Assembly of Bulgaria by five deputies.

In December 1989 and January 1990 there were a series of demonstrations in Kardzhali against the liberalization of anti-Turkish laws. A particular issue of contention was whether Turkish should be taught in state schools as an elective. In response Turkish students boycotted schools until the ban on using their mother tongue was discontinued.


The new openmaket
Formerly Kardzhali was a tobacco processing center, but for economic reasons some of the communist era industrial plants are no longer operative. The large deposits of lead and zinc ore in the area make the town an attractive location for the metallurgy and machine building industry.

Retail trade and services constitute the largest share of local production. The abundance of cultural and natural sights in the area also make it a promising area for tourism.

Culture and tourism

The Thracian town of Perperikonmarker is located near the city on a rock high above the valley. It is interesting for the fact that it is cut in the rock.

The monastery of John the Precursor from 11th century is located in the Vesselchane Quarter of the town. It was renovated in 2000 and a new bell tower was built.

The town clock is unique in Bulgaria because it sounds Bulgarian revolutionary songs every hour.

The Kardzhali Museum of History has one of the most extensive exhibitions in Southern Bulgaria. This includes pre-historic tools and ceramics from the Thracian cities of Perperikonmarker and Tatul, Christian icons and ethnographic exhibits. It is located in the old konak (the Turkish town-hall built around 1870) with its period exterior architecture.

There are many open-air restaurants, offering a variety of drinks and cocktails in summer time on the dam. It is a popular place among fans of water sports and fishing.

The town has two drama theaters — "Dimitar Dimov" and "Kadrie Lyatifova", a puppet theater and a museum of history medrese, as well as an art gallery.

 from Kardzhali, near the village of Zimzelen, is a small badlands, where a series of white pillars have eroded out of the volcanic tuff which are referred to as the "Kardzhali Pyramids". Ensembles have been given names based on resemblances. One is known as "The Mushrooms" and another as the "Stone Wedding".


There are two large dams on the river Ardamarker. Studen Kladenetsmarker Dam is on the east and Kurdzhali Dam is on the west. The city is sandwiched between the two dams. Upper part of Studen Kladenets Dam is now up to the old bridge inside the city. The concrete wall of the Kurdzhali Dam is only about two kilometers upstream from this bridge. The reservoir of the Kurdzhali Dam was recently seeded artificially with European perch. The fish were taken from the Ovčarica (Ovcharitsa) dam.

The first historical moment of the dam was in the 1970s, when it was artificially seeded with sheatfish. Nowadays there are 100 kg representatives. Later, 45,000 carp were introduced into the dam as well.

Notable natives

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Kardzhali is twinned with:


  1. (2 May 2001) Вестник Новинар Newspaper article in Bulgarian with photos
  2. Bulgarian National Statistical Institute
  3. The World Gazetteer
  4. Kardzhali Municipality
  5. Regional Strategy of Kardzhali Province
  6. "Monastery Complex: St. John the Precursor" Kardzhali Museum of History in Bulgarian;
  7. "The Stone Wedding near Kardzhali" All Bulgaria Vitual Guide

External links

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