Rousse Regional Museum of History
"All that I experienced afterwards had already been in Roustchouk". Elias Canetti
Historical Development of Rousse after the Liberation

In the first years after the Liberation Rousse is the largest town and economic center of the Principality of Bulgaria. The important place of the town is determined by its fast industrial development and the traditional commercial connections, which it had with the Danube countries. The international economic contacts are presenting an opportunity to a part of the commercial and craft class even before the Liberation to implement an initial accumulation of capitals.

Immediately after the Russian forces entered Rousse, a Provisional municipal government was formed, headed by Atanas Garvalov. As a result of migration processes in the town fast demographic changes took place. The population grew and in 1880 it was 26 163, of which: Bulgarians 11 348; Turks 10 252; Jews 1 943; Armenians 835; Greeks 291; Romanians 230; Russians 171; Serbians 112; Gypsies 95; others 385. In 1888 after a Decree of the Regional Governor Dimitar Mantov began the regulation of the town. The first urban plan of Rousse was made by the Viennese architect Edward Winter in 1892. In the same year the Town Municipal Council issued the construction of a town garden on the site of the old Turkish cemetery on Alexander Square, and thus Rousse finally left its oriental outlook and began adopting a European one.

The first years after the Liberation were marked with an active economic and cultural life. In 1881 the first private bank in Bulgaria, called “Girdap” was opened in Rousse, in 1890 was established the first industrial and commerce chamber and the first insurance company “Bulgaria” and in 1895 – the largest bank in the province. As of the end of the 19th century in Rousse were created 14 larger industrial enterprises and 135 commercial companies were registered. This is the time of the rise of the large industrial and bank families – Simeonovi, Gubidelnikovi, Nachevi, Burovi, Mushanovi. The statistics shows that in 1905 the industrial enterprises were already 54 and the town holds a leading place in some industrial branches. Rousse was affirmed as a significant deposit center, from where large quantities of goods were distributed by water and railways. Despite its favourable geographic location along the Danube, as early as 1935 was a commercial steamboat association eastblished in Rousse.

The fast economic development is largely due to the consistent policy, led by the municipality for stimulating the local commercial and industrial class. The summarizing data of the Rousse Commercial and Industry Chamber show that in the beginning of the 20th century 9263 people were occupied in production, 6809 in trade and banking, 2066 were public servants, and 3915 were freelancers. The last number is indicative for the growth of the Rousse intellectuals. A special care of the Rousse Municipality is the youth’s education. In the beginning of the century Rousse had one of the largest percents of children, visiting schools. The Boys’ and Girls’ state secondary schools were elite education facilities.

The Municipality is the most generous sponsor of the cultural development of the town. In 1888 the Town Library was opened, in 1904 an archaeological museum collection at the “Knyaz Boris” Boys’ High School laid the foundations of the Museum of History, in 1933 with the support of the Municipality was opened the Rousse Art Gallery. The “Lyre” music society, the municipal theater, the amateur choir groups, the charity associations, the first cinematographers, affirmed their presence in the spiritual life of Rousse. The first decade of the 20th century is correctly called “the European construction era of Rousse”. Many of the buildings were bearing the typical style, decoration, composition and interior. Notable architects were working in Rousse, constructions and landscape-gardeners. In 1882 was finished the construction of the Regional government, designed by the Viennese architect Friedrich Grunanger. The Italian architect Valentino designed in 1890 the Catholic cathedral “St. Paul of the Cross”. The Austrian architect Paul Brank won the international contest for the Profitable House, whose construction was finished in 1902. Petko Momchilov, one of the first Bulgarian architects, graduated in Prague, was author of the project for the building of the Boys’ High School. Nikola Lazarov, who has graduated in Paris, designed the building of the Rousse Commercial and Industrial Chamber and the Monument to the fallen in the Serbian-Bulgarian War. The buildings of the “Bulgaria” Insurance Company, of the “Baba Tonka” Girls’ High School, etc. are works of the first town engineer Edward Winter. Nigohos Bedrosyan built a lot of residential and commercial buildings – the house of Yosif Daynelov, of Ivan Simeonov, the commercial building of Simeonovi brothers. The names of the Greek architect Valsamaki, of the Viennese architect Louis Meyer, architect Udo Ribbau, of the Polish architect Edwin Pietrizcki, of architect Nino Rosetti should also be added to the list. In 1905 the central town garden was finally finished by Richard Neuvirt. In 1909 the Monument of Liberty was erected after a project of Arnoldo Zocchi. In 1917 the town was supplied with electricity.

Up to the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 Rousse developed with extremely high rates. The detachment of Southern Dobrudzha away from Bulgaria deprived the town of its natural hinterland and it began slowly but surely to decay, especially in the first decade after World War I. The largest foreign countries left the town, along with capitals of 40 000 000 leva. In the years between the wars in Rousse there were 11 consulates, 19 banks, 17 insurance companies. In 1935 engineer Kiril Startsev was appointed mayor of the town and thanks to his competent and active work in the eve of the Second World War, Rousse again began to develop in terms of economy and culture. In 1940, when according to the Agreement of Craiova Southern Dobrudzha was returned to Bulgaria, Rousse again became a Regional center, and its citizens were elated with hope. In these years over 51 000 people were living in the town. In 1935 the Bulgarian River Shipping was established. And in the next year the largest import of goods was implemented through the port of Rousse. In 1939 was opened the Covered Market, and in the next year – the building of the Court of Justice was finished and the ferryboat line between Rousse and Giurgiu was opened. According to information of the Rousse Municipal authorities for the condition of the municipality in 1943 in Rousse there was one municipal hospital and a healthcare service, Boys’ and Girls’ High schools, secondary schools of techniques and furniture, French school, German commercial school, schools of economy and crafts. In the period between 1878 and 1944 in Rousse there were 416 companies functioning, among which 412 were private, 3 – state-owned and 1 municipal. The largest number – 164 were in the field of textile, tailor and leather industry, the production of paper packs, umbrellas and jewelry. 103 were the companies of the nutrition industry, 41 – of the chemical industry, 57 – in machinery and metal-processing, 36 – in the timber industry, 10 – in the ceramic industry.

After the end of World War II and the imposing of the Soviet economic model, processes of nationalization of the existing enterprises took places in Rousse, as well as a large-scale industrialization. For several decades the town became one of the largest industrial centers of the country. As a result its population grew rapidly (fourth in size in the country) and for fulfilling its residential needs in 1959 began the implementation of the industrial method of residential construction, new residential complexes were built. Due to the fact that Rousse is a main point in the east-west water route and of the north-south road and railway corridor, it shaped as a large transport center with a great significance for the country. In 1954 the Danube Bridge was constructed as a gate of Europe for Bulgaria. A new port was constructed, two railway stations, automotive transport companies, Airport of Rousse, the Bulgarian River Fleet increased its ship park.

Rousse also affirmed as one of the most important cultural centers in the country. In 1943 the State Symphonic Orchestra was established, and in 1959 Prof. Sasha Popov laid the foundation of the Rousse Philharmonic orchestra. In 1949 was established the Rousse Opera. In 1961 was conducted the first issue of the March Music Days International Festival, which gained significant popularity through the years and attracted world famous musicians. Rousse also became the host of the International Sport’s Dancing Competition, of the International Jazz Festival, and in the recent years of the International Theater Festival “Danube – River of Europe, Danube – River of the Balkans”. The town is also known with its “Winter Music Evenings”, with the “Golden Fiddle” Folklore Festival, with its first-class choirs and artistic groups, with the “Nayden Kirov” Folklore Dance Group, “Horo” Orchestra, etc. Among the institutions with affirmed authority are also the “Sava Ognyanov” Dramatic Theater and the Puppet Theater. The Rousse Regional Museum of History keeps thousands of valuable exponents of the town’s past, displayed in the recent years abroad. The funds of the Rousse Art Gallery contain works of famous Bulgarian and foreign artists. The “Lyuben Karavelov” Regional Library has information centers in English, German and French. In 1972 in the town was opened the fourth regional TV center, and in 1976 was constructed the TV tower. .

In 1946 a Higher Technical School was opened in Rousse, renamed in 1954 into Higher Institute for Mechanization and Electrification of Agriculture. In 1996 the institute received the status of a Technical University, named “Angel Kanchev” with technical and humanitarian profiles. In town there is also a medical school, three specialized language secondary school – English, German and for European languages, a school of mathematics and information technologies, school of arts, a lot of specialized technical and common school. An object of special attention in the recent decades is healthcare. The Rousse Hospital became the largest hospital in Bulgaria.

The contemporary town continues to take an important place in Bulgarian economy. The new market relations, the laws for the municipal property, for the restitution, for the privatization, define new directions for the development of Rousse. Since 1992 the town is again center of a District. Main advantage for the investors in Rousse is the established in 1983 Rousse Free Zone, the constructed ferryboat lines, the well-developed network of bank and insurance branches. Important industrial branches in town are the textile and chemical industries, the shipyard. The town transforms into a main producer of dresses for the country, and part of its pride are the famous wines.
Since 1998 began the restoration of the architecture heritage of the town by the “Beautiful Bulgaria” project, financed by the World Bank, the hotels “Riga”, “Danube” and “Splendid” were transformed. In the beginning of the 21st century the citizens of Rousse, led by the municipal authorities are working on the new priorities of the town, in order to restore its European outlook.

Mariana Dimitrova