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Byala, Rus.

Post code: 7100
Intl dial code: +359 817

The white city

The monument to the Russian liberators
The monument to the Russian liberators

The name Byala (the Bulgarian word for "white") is supposed to come from the colour of the white hills which surround it.

Archaeological and other sources prove that its territory was populated as early as c. 4-5 AD. The first written document in which the name Byala is mentioned is an Ottoman tax register of the then Tarnovo province from 1618. It says that the settlement numbered five Bulgarian houses.

At the beginning of c. 17, Byala was a small hamlet with a population of 20-30 people. It grew rapidly as a result of the migration processes towards the plane. Turks came here after the Chiprovtsi Uprising in 1688 and settled in the west part of the village. Many Bulgarians also came from the Balkan and Fore-Balkan settlements. In c. 18, Bulgarian population from Svishtov and Arbanassi came in large groups. Byala became the most populous settlement in the region among Rousse, Tarnovo, Svishtov and Popovo and its natural centre, which is due not only to its favourable geographical location, but also to the stone bridge across the Yantra River, built in 1865-1867 by the self-taught National Revival master builder Kolyu Ficheto. After the bridge's building, the famous Byala Inns were built. Situated in the middle of the road Rousse - Tarnovo, along the important inner main road of the Ottoman Empire Rousse - Istanbul, the inns made Byala an important road station. The administrative and military ruler Mihdat Pasha connected with the bridge - a unique equipment for that time - the town of Rousse with the farthest town of his vilayet (province) - Nish (through Pleven and Sofia), and also with the Ottoman capital Istanbul (though Tarnovo and Odrin). The stone bridge was later replaced with an iron bridge, and today is the crossroads of two international motorways: Rousse - Veliko Tarnovo - Svilengrad and Dragoman - Sofia - Pleven - Varna.

The National liberation in 1878 found Byala as the largest settlement in the region with well-developed stock-breeding, agriculture, fur-dressing, goat's hair weaving, vine-growing bee-keeping. A large salhana (slaughterhouse) had been built. Its products were transported with buffalo caravans to Istanbul and Odrin. A Frenchman had built a steam flour-mill; and Kiril Rouskovitch from Arbanassi had built a distillery.

With the economic prosperity of Byala, the population's Bulgarian national spirit was also arising. The first Bulgarian school was founded in 1836, and a church was built in 1843. The village was the birthplace of the famous rebel leader Radoy. The Chervena Voda Detachment of Varban Yordanov was hiding in the forests east of the town during the Stara Zagora Uprising in 1875. After the crushing of the April Uprising in 1876, the revolutionary leaders Panayot Volov and Georgi Ikonomov and the revolutionary Stoyan Angelov hid in the village's environs before they found their death trying to cross the overflowing waters of the Yantra.

The Headquarters of the Russian emperor Alexander II were for about a month in the former house of the Ottoman administrator Mehmed Bey. Two military hospitals were also housed here, in which Russian doctors and nurses worked. Among the nurses were Baroness Yulia Vrevska and Maria Neelova, whose self-sacrifice was perpetuated with a monument by the grateful local population.

The location of Byala helped for its affirmation as the centre of a province with 34 villages and of a rich farming and cultural region. The Parliament officially granted Byala the statute of a town in 1891.

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