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History

Prehistory

The earliest traces of human presence in Varna region date back to the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic Age) about 100000 years ago and also Mesolithic with findings in the area of Pobiti Kamani. 13 settlements, dating from the Late Eneolithic, and 8 from the Early Bronze Age, have been discovered to date under the waters of Varna and Beloslav Lake. They are a real complex, unknown elsewhere, not only in the region of Southeast Europe.

Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis, dating from about 4400 - 4200 BC, was discovered during construction works in 1972. The find stands out as the richest (6.5 kg almost pure gold - 23.5 carats) necropolis in Europe since the Late Chalcolithic. That civilization is referred to as Varna Culture. The gold objects from Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis represent the oldest processed gold in the world. The treasure is on display in the halls of the Archaeological Museum in the city. 

Long before the arrival of the Greeks along the west coast of the Black Sea, as early as the Late Bronze Age (XIII - XII BC), the region around Odessos was populated by the Thracian tribe Crobyzoi, which later became part of the Getae tribal union. Their everyday life included farming crops, animals breeding, carpentry, hunting and fishing.

Odessos during Antiquity (VI BC - earlyVII AD)

Odessos (Οδησσος, Odessos, Odessus) is one of the most ancient settlements in Bulgaria. It was founded in the second quarter of VI BC (about 585–550 BC) by Greek émigré from the Asia Minor city of Miletus, on a site of an earlier Thracians settlement, whose name the Greeks retained. About the middle of the IV BC, Odessos was already fortified with solid walls that withstood the siege of Philip II of Macedon in 339 BC. However, his son Alexander the Great (336–323 BC) conquered the city in 335 BC. 

Odessos flourished most memorably during the Hellenistic Age (end of III – I BC), when the city served as a starting point of troops of the Thracian heir of Alexander the Great – king Lysimachus (323–280 BC). During this period were constructed big public buildings like temples, theatre, gymnasium (school for boys) and others. Due to the increase of Thracian population in the city, a temple of the Thracian god-rider Heros Carabazmos and a temple of Artemis Phosphoros were built in II – I BC.

In 15 AD Odessos became part of the Roman Empire, in the province of Moesia (later Lower Moesia), and became its main port. However, it remained relatively independent in terms of its governance. Huge and ornate warm baths (Roman baths), the fourth largest in Europe, were built 7 000 square meters of land. Every five years, big sports events and cultural city celebrations were held - various games and competitions - Darsaleyas, named after the local Thracian deity Darsalas that merged with the Great God of the city during the Roman times.  

By the middle of the III century (249–251), Goths tribes invaded the Balkans crossing the Danube River several times, destroyed settlements and caused a serious decline in the economy of the region. At the end of the VI and the beginning of the VII century the invasions of the Avars and the Slavs devastated and depopulated the lands again. In 614, the inhabitants of Odessos left their city that was conquered and ruined and remained uninhabited for several centuries. In the neighbouring territory appear many Slav, and later proto-Bulgarian settlements.

The Middle Ages

The name Varna was first mentioned in the Byzantine chronicles by the historians Theophanes and Nicephorus in 680 after the victory of the proto-Bulgarians, led by Khan Asparuh, over the Byzantine army at the Danube delta. Varna later became the name of the city, which rose on the place of ancient Odessos.

The pro-Bulgarians, who came from the north in the VII century, gradually mixed with the local Slavs and built together a protective embankment ("Asparuhov val") on the territory of present-day Varna, to protect from possible Byzantine landings by sea to the first capital Pliska of the Bulgarian state, officially recognized in 681. After the baptism of the Bulgarians in 864, during the reign of Tsar Boris I, the city became an important Christian center with a metropolitan.

Around 970 Varna was conquered by Byzantium and was liberated for a short period by Tsar Assen I in 1190. However, Byzantines regained control of the city and only on March 24, 1201 the Bulgarian Tsar Kaloyan I annexed definitely and finally Varna to Bulgaria.

In Varna during the XIII - XIV centuries there were Bulgarian, Venetian, Roman, Genoese, Ragusan and Florentine traders. A Venetian Consulate in Varna was established in 1352.

In 1369 Tsar Ivan Alexander ceded Varna to the Dobrudja ruler Dobrotitsa in gratitude for his help in returning Vidin within the Bulgarian state borders, who made the city capital. From 1372 to 1389 Varna was included in Balik's Karvuna Despotate .

In 1389 Varna was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. On November 10th, 1444 near the city, the Polish-Hungarian Crusaders led by King Vladislav III Jagelo, called Warneńczyk, and the Transylvanian Voivode János Hunyadi were defeated by the Ottomans.

After Turkish domination was finally established in Varna and Bulgaria at the end of the XIV century, from a flourishing city in the past, Varna became a typical Oriental settlement, but it remained its strategic and commercial importance.

Varna during XVIII and XIX centuries

In XVIII and XIX centuries Varna was temporarily took over me by the Russian troops in 1773 and 1828. In May 1854 a conference of the allies, the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain and France, fighting against Russia during the Crimean War (1854 - 1856), was held in the city. During the war, a telegraph cable was laid to Varna, and in 1866 the first railway in Bulgaria (Ruse - Varna), was completed, which led to the revival of trade. At the time establishments that contributed to the revival of the Bulgarian spirit appeared in the city - bank, hospital, school, church and chitalishte (community center). 

During the Russo-Turkish War 1877-78 (Liberation War) there were no battles on the territory of Varna. The Turks brought military equipment through the port, and the ancient fortress was strengthened and equipped with large guns from Krupp. Balchik, Kavarna and Provadia were already liberated, Russian troops were advancing, but before reaching Varna, a ceasefire was concluded in Edirne. A peace Treaty was signed in San Stefano on March 3, 1878, according to which the fortress was to be handed over to the Russians. Under the pretext that they did not receive the order from the Sublime Porte to handover the fortress, the Turkish authorities kept control over the city for another five months. Eventually, with the help of General Arkady Stolypin, Varna was liberated on 27 July 1878.

After the Liberation (1878)

After the Liberation, the population of Varna numbered about 25 000 inhabitants, making it the second largest city in Bulgaria (after ПлоPlovdiv). In 1956, its population was about 81000 as a result of the intense immigration processes of Bulgarians from the Edirne and West Thrace, as a result of the Ilinden–Preobrazhenie Uprising and the Balkan Wars. Since then the rise of the population started to increase rapidly. In 1966 the city has nearly 180000 inhabitants, in 1980 they were 320000. According to 2011 census the population of the city reached 331 516 (5% of the population of Bulgaria).