Rousse Regional Museum of History
"All that I experienced afterwards had already been in Roustchouk". Elias Canetti
Short History of Rousse

Man is living since millennia in Rousse and its vicinities. Thus, the traces of his habitation are so many – tells, ruins, necropoles, monuments. Few know that the town and the region have a unique cultural heritage of national and world significance. There are also a lot of places, which are leaving signs of memory, which are important for the local community, for the formation of its cultural identity. The knowledge for the existence of these sites supports their preservation.

Rousse is an old Bulgarian town on the Danube river. Since time immemorial people have settled along the river, which granted them means of living – thus the Rousse tell was formed in Prehistory. The discovered clay idols – patrons of life, are nowadays kept in the museum. The houses of the tell were arranged in a row, forming streets. This is why the specialists are considering the territory of the Rousse tell to be a prototype of a town – five millennia BC.
In the beginning of the 1st century AD the Romans founded here a military camp – a fort, where the navy of the Lower Danube was gathered in the winter. In the mouth of the Rousse Lom river were anchored the “pristis” ships, which gave the name of the ton – Sexaginta Prista – port of the sixty ships. According to others – the nomination “sixty ships” meant the number of ships needed to transport a legion of soldiers. The latest archaeological research showed that long before the arrival of the Romans on the high bank at the mouth of the Rousse Lom river there has been a Thracian settlement. It existed for three centuries BC and traded with the eastern part of the Balkans – amphorae from the island of Rhodes were also found.

n the beginning of the 5th century AD the Slavic invaders entered on the territory of the Roman Empire and destroyed the fort of Sexaginta Prista, like the Goths did before them. The Slavs, however, established settlements of their own in proximity to the contemporary town, and after the creation of the Bulgarian state, the fortress on the riverbank restored its guarding functions. Archaeological evidence from the time of the First Bulgarian Kingdom are proving the presence of a Bulgarian fortress and a settlement here.

During the pagan period the settlement bore the name of Rousse (probably Rousingrad) according to the nomination of the festival Roussalii. According to the researchers here was the site of a cult towards a woman – patron of the young men’s warrior bands, called Roussa maiden. The cult has reached to us thanks to folklore. Other fortresses along the Danube have also had women-patrons, for example Vida maiden and the fortress of Vidin. After adopting Christianity in the 9th century the patron of every Bulgarian warrior became St. George. Thus, the town was renamed Giurgevgrad (the town of St. George). In the end of the 13th century a bridgehead was made on the left riverbank, and in the sources appeared two nominations of the town – Larger and Lesser Giurgevo, sometimes Rousse and Giurgevo, as it is mentioned in maps of the 14th-15th century.

In the middle of the 15th century the Wallachian Prince Vlad III conquered Rousse and liberated it from the Ottomans. В средата на ХV век влашкият войвода Влад ІІІ превзема Русе и го освобождава от османците. Тук Влад ІІІ за пръв път проявява нечувана жестокост по отношение на пленените войници, тъй като ги нацепва - побива ги на кол. Заради това му деяние в Русе войводата Влад ІІІ придобива псевдонима Цепеш. Неговата мрачна слава по-късно става известна на европейците с името Дракула.

Since the 16th century the town on the right riverbank of the Danube (the present-day Rousse) is known with its Ottoman nomination – Rouschouk. The port and the good conditions for the winter stay of the ships supported the development of the town and in the Late Middle Ages Rousse hosted the Ottoman Danube Fleet. The star of Rousse, however, rose when after the Crimean War  in the middle of the 19th century, the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldova merged into a new state – Romania, with its capital of Bucharest standing only 70 km to the north of Rousse. At that time the Austrian steamboats already made it easy for the culture of Central Europe to enter and thus “Europe” penetrated into the Bulgarian lands through Rousse – by the river Danube and through Bucharest. This is the reason why even before the Liberation a number of European premieres for Bulgaria took place here – the first railway station and railway line, a modern printing house, a newspaper.

Being one of the main towns of the Ottoman Empire, Rousse gathered leading figures of the Bulgarian National Revival period, which made contacts from here with the revolutionaries in Wallachia. The mythical Grandmother Tonka is a personification of the Motherland, whose children are heroes of the revolution. After the Liberation Rousse is the largest town in the Principality of Bulgaria, its economy developed successfully, and this also reflected the European outlook of its architecture. The industrial development became the reason for a rich cultural life. In 1897 for the first time in Bulgaria, there was a cinema projection in Rousse. The Bulgarian fleet – commercial and maritime, was founded here. After the establishment of the first private bank, the first insurance company was also founded here, named “Bulgaria” – because in Rousse there was what to be insured.
Today the people of Rousse are proud of their European town, which has gathered the elite of the Bulgarian National Revival period, whose remains are kept in the Pantheon of the National Revival Heroes. Nowadays, the citizens are drawing confidently their vision for development, supported by the good example of the old Rousse citizens, one of them being Elias Canetti, a Nobel Prize winner for Literature.