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Excavations in Gradishte
Excavations in Gradishte
Gabrovo, 1847. Artist Tzanko Lavrenov
Gabrovo, 1847. Artist Tzanko Lavrenov

Archeological finds region testify to the rich and intensive life in this region during the Neolithic period. The fortress Gradishte (IV-VI century) is one of the best-preserved examples of the ancient civilizations that have ruled these lands. As the natural cross-road between the Mediterranean and the North, and between East and West, these lands have been inhabited by different nations and tribes over the years. The arrival of the Slavs and the proto-Bulgarians (V-VII c.) and their mingling with the native Thracian population established the ethnic background of the present day Bulgarians.

The establishment of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom during the XII century and the proximity of the capital Veliko Turnovo, changed the lifestyle and the way of living of the people in this region. Trade and crafts developed, and the production activities, connected with the servicing and the protection of the Balkan passages were established. Gabrovo became famous for its skillful blacksmiths, tailors, woolen braiders, and its master gunsmiths.

One legend retells the founding of Gabrovo through the hard work of one young blacksmith. He used to shoe the horses of the caravans that traveled to and from the mountains allowing the settlers to travel more easily. These new settlers were able to sew clothes, to cook delicious dishes, to repair carts and to process leather. Near the furnace of the blacksmith there was a huge hornbeam (or in Bulgarian - gabar), so they named the place Gabrovo in memory of its humble origins.

Gabrovo during the Middle Ages was a small village with about one hundred houses, located at the foot of the Central Balkan Mountains. The village served the passing travelers, noble delegates from and to the capital Tsarevgrad - Turnov, trading caravans and wayfarers. During the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, all of these factors helped shaped its economic and cultural appearance.

After the enslavement of Bulgaria by the Ottoman Turks the demographic situation of Gabrovo changed. As the only residential area with a comparatively big geographic region, the town and its surroundings become an attractive center and a secure shelter for the Bulgarian population from the capital - Turnovo, the demolished fortresses of Vitata Stena, Strinava and the near-by villages, all seeking to escape from the Ottoman arbitrariness and bloody terror. In this way the village of Gabrovo becomes a small town and naturally turned into an economic, cultural and political center under the harsh conditions of the Ottoman military and feudal economic system.

The craftsmen and the traders here discovered a way for the goods of Gabrovo to be sold in the markets of Russia, Romania, Austro-Hungary, France, Greece, and Italy. The connections in Europe and the Ottoman Empire defined the wider cultural interests of the inhabitants of Gabrovo. The rich guilds provided significant finances for the urbanization of the town. In 1835, the traders Vasil Evstatiev Aprilov and Nikolay Palauzov built and established the first Bulgarian secular school using their own funds. This is an important event not only for Gabrovo, but for our national history as well.

One of the historical achievements of Gabrovo is its pronouncement for a town and center of a county on 1 (13) of May 1860 by the ruling Ottoman authorities during that period.

The establishment of the rich craftsman's traditions in the processing of wood, metal, wool, leather is a result of the famous entrepreneurship and frugality of the people of Gabrovo. They facilitated the transition towards the modern industry that exists in the town today.

Shareholding companies modeled after those in Europe were established towards the end of the 19th and in the beginning of the 20th Century here in Gabrovo. Numerous factories were built, business relations with the big stock exchanges were established and Bulgarians and foreigners alike started referring to Gabrovo as "The Bulgarian Manchester".

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