MUNICIPALITY OF STARA ZAGORA
Area – 1 019,4 sq. km
Population – 167 661
The municipality of Stara Zagora is situated in the southern central part of Bulgaria. It covers an area of 1 019,37 sq. km, which is about 1% of the country and 18,08% of the district territory. The average altitude above sea-level is 150-180. The municipality includes 1 city and 50 villages.
The transport and geographical situation of the municipality is favourable when looked at from the side of its potential for further development. Road and communication links, which are elements of the national road and communication infrastructure, pass through the municipal territory.
Due to its thermo-mineral waters located in the Stara Zagora Mineral Baths and Sulitza village, the municipality is a balneological (medical mineral spa) center of national importance.
Stara Zagora is one of the most ancient settlements in Europe. It has been inhabited for at least 8000 years. The recently established public organization “Eight Thousand Years – Stara Zagora” has the ambition to promote, at all levels, its historical and cultural heritage.
Both the remains of Neolithic dwellings (6th century B.C.), and the various archeological excavations from Thracian and Roman times witness to its millennial history. It was established by the Thracians in VI century B.C. under the name of Beroe. Later (II-IV century A.D.) when Thrace had been included in the Roman Empire, the city was rebuilt again, next to the ancient Thracian settlement, experiencing its peak in development, when it was named Avgusta Trayana (Ulia Augusta Trayaa) in honour of Emperor Marcus Trayan. The excavation of the remains from the forum, thermal baths, and the city wall of the southern and western gateways reveal the city’s importance, as the second largest in the province. During the centuries, it has also been named Vereya (VI-ŐII c.) and Irinopolis (VIII c.) – after the Byzantine Empress Irina. During the Middle Ages it was named Boruy (ŐIII-ŐIV c.), while after their conquest the Turks called it Eski Zaara. During the second half of the 19th century it was called, for a short period, Zheleznik. It received its present name, Stara Zagora, in 1871.
During the Russo-Turkish War, in 1877, some of the most violent and intense battles took place near Stara Zagora. That year the Turks burnt the city and razed it to the ground, leaving Eski Mosque as the only untouched building. The city received its freedom on January 23rd 1878, but according to the Berlin Treaty, it remained within the autonomous region of Eastern Rumelia. Numerous monuments on the territory of the city remind of these dramatic for all Bulgaria events and the memorial “The Defenders of Stara Zagora” was raised, celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Liberation at the place of the bloodiest battles.
The rebuilding of the city was started by Aleko Bogoridi on October 5th 1879, in accordance with the architectural plan developed by the Czech architect Ljubomir Bayer, which made Stara Zagora into the first post-liberation city with novel and contemporary urban planning. In 1895, the bishop of Stara Zagora, Methodiy Kussev, established, on the slopes of the mountain, the magnificent “Ayazmoto” Park. At the expense of enormous hardship, and with determination, he turned the bare, rocky, and arid hills into a marvelous park, containing species of trees unique for Bulgaria.Many of the city’s cultural institutions have sprung from amateur community clubs. As a result, as early as 1897, the “Kaval” music society was established, which in 1925 progressed into the first opera house in Bulgaria outside of the capital, Sofia. In 1905 the “Theatre” association was established, which began organizing the theatrical life of the city and built the city’s Dramatic Theatre house. Two years later the “Avgusta Trayana” archeological society was founded, being the ancestor of the Historical Museum. With private funding, several cinemas opened their doors in the beginning of the last century. The citizens of Stara Zagora are also proud of the first regional radio station in Bulgaria, which began transmission in February 1936. During that period, about 145 periodicals and over a thousand Bulgarian and foreign books were printed in the city.
During the second half of XX century, new cultural and science institutions were founded – the Puppet Theatre, the “Zachary Knyazhevsky” library, the “Literaturna Stara Zagora” house, the Art Gallery, the Astronomical Observatory, the Trakia University, as well as many other specialized educational institutions. The Stara Zagora region has a cultural tradition with an impressive number of talented poets, writers, artists, musicians, and actors.
Contemporary Stara Zagora is a city with a developed economy and intense cultural life. Key economic sectors are metal processing, machine-building, hydraulics, food industry, tobacco, beer and wine production, wood processing and furniture manufacturing, textile, clothing, cosmetics, and perfumes.
The municipality of Stara Zagora has a very skilled work force – over 20% of its workers have higher education, which is very attractive for foreign investors. The economic structural changes led to closing or limiting the production capacity of many enterprises. The municipality has a large number of specialists in the fields of electronics, electrical equipment, machine building for the food industry, etc.
Two of the leading enterprises in the district are in the field of metal processing: Progress, JSC and Preskov, JSC. Within the structure of the holding company Zagora is also Hraninvest – Hranmachkomplekt, JSC - well known abroad with its production of equipment for the food industry. DZU, JSC is the largest hi-tech company in the country. Currently it produces high quality industrial and household appliances and provides jobs to about 900 people. Scores of other enterprises form the economic image of the district. World renowned chains like Metro, Billa, Shell, OMW, etc., have invested in the district.
In 2002 investors like the Turkish “Embul Investment” entered Stara Zagora and opened new work places. Investors from Israel, Russia, China (business delegation from Tiandgin free economic zone), etc. showed interest in the region. Partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Modena, Italy has been developed. A team of experts from the French company “Ńîgđĺŕ” investigated the possibilities of building a facility for treatment of household waste.
One of the most important economic processes in the district over the last few years is the privatization of municipal-owned enterprises and facilities. On June 1998 a Decision of the City Council constituted the establishment of the Municipal Privatization Agency. It operates in compliance with the Law on Privatization and the post-privatization control and based on the annual programs, adopted by City Council. Since the beginning of the privatization process, and up to November 2002, in the Stara Zagora Municipality, 143 transactions have been concluded.
The major privatization transactions in Stara Zagora Municipality:
Subject of the transaction Date Price Buyer 80% of the shares of
26.10.1998 1 840 000 USD Narmag 97, JSC 75% of the shares of
21.11.2001 1 617 466 BGN Stelt 2001 80% of the shares of
26.06.1998 1 440 000 BGN Blagoustroystvo-99, JSC Zagorka Complex 27.09.2002 771 747 BGN Kalvacha, JSC
The Municipal Privatization Agency pays special attention to the post-privatization control. It is performed by an expert group, which inspects the implementation of the buyers’ obligations. The Agency plans to inspect all privatization contracts by the end of its mandate, which shall expire in 2003; by October 31st 2002 it had already inspected 80% of the existing transactions.
As of the end of November 2002, 1 499 919 BGN were received from sale of municipal property, while the plan foresaw only 915 000 BGN for the whole year. 91% of the privatization revenues are re-invested - mainly in construction and renovation of schools, health centers, roads, water supply and sewerage, etc. The multi-profile hospital and the dispensaries in Stara Zagora received modern medical equipment for active treatment. The oncology dispensary is the only provincial cancer unit, which owns a gama-rays-chamber; it was bought thanks to privatization proceeds.
Stara Zagora Municipality’s development plan for the period 2000-2006 includes the following priorities and targets:
- Support the development of intellectual and hi-tech businesses, business incubators and centers, hi-tech parks, etc.;
- Stimulate private business to establish highly adaptive and sustainable small and medium-sized enterprises;
- Support the restructuring of the industrial infrastructure;
- Priority development of fruit- and vine-growing by establishing new areas of cultivation;
- Develop stock breeding based on grain growing, and further activities.
Stara Zagora Municipality, in its strategy, considers the founding of SMEs for deep-frozen fruit and vegetable, fruit juices and fruit flours, as well as municipal warehouses for spare parts for agricultural equipment, plant protection agents and veterinary medicines, fertilizers, etc. as areas of great potential.
One of the main strategy goals is developing an efficient and competitive agricultural sector based on fruit- and vine-growing.