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10 Fun Facts about Sofia

Updated on April 18, 2014
Sofia
Sofia | Source

Sofia is the capital of and the largest city in Bulgaria. Sofia (Sophia or Sofiya) is in the west central part of the country, about 35 miles (55 km) from the Bulgarian-Serbian border. The city is a separate district (okrug) and is also the capital of a surrounding district of the same name. Encircled by mountains, the city lies in a fertile basin formed by the IskĊ­r River and its tributaries. Here 10 fun facts about Sofia:

1. The oldest building in Sofia is the tiny Church of St. George, parts of which were built by the Romans as a public bath. Just outside Sofia, in the mountain village of Boyana, is another historic church, famous for its 13th century wall paintings.

2. The Buyuk-Djarna Mosque, now an archaeological museum, was constructed in the 15th century during the Turkish occupation. Another mosque, the Banya-Bashi, was built in the 16th century.

Banya Bashi Mosque
Banya Bashi Mosque | Source

3. There are several monuments in Sofia commemorating the Russian liberation of Sofia from Turkish rule. These include the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and a statue of Czar Alexander II. A mausoleum contains the embalmed body of Georgi Dimitrov, a leader of the Comintern in the 1930s who became Bulgaria's first Communist party chief.

4. The Sv. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia or Sofia University was founded in 1888 and chartered in 1909. In the early 1970s there were over 12,000 students enrolled in its 9 schools. Sofia also has several technical institutions and schools for art and music.

Sofia University
Sofia University | Source

5. Sofia is the seat of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and has numerous libraries, including the large National Library, and art, history, archaeology, and military museums. The city also has an opera house, concert halls, and several theaters.

6. Sofia is Bulgaria's chief commercial center. It has direct rail connections with most major Bulgarian cities and with Athens, Belgrade, and Istanbul. It is linked by air with the chief cities of Europe.

7. The city has developed a large and diversified industrial complex under Communist rule. Its most important manufactures are machinery, rubber, leather goods, and textiles. There are also numerous food-processing plants.

8. The city's name has changed several times during its history. In ancient times it was known as Serdica or Sardica. The early Slavs called it Sredets, and the Byzantines called it Triaditsa. Its present name has been used since the 14th century.

9. The site of Sofia was once a Thracian settlement. It was occupied by the Romans in 29 A.D. and became a military camp under Emperor Trajan shortly after 100. From about 809 to 1018 it belonged to the first Bulgarian Empire. From 1018 to 1185 it was ruled by the Byzantines. It then came under the rule of the second Bulgarian Empire, but in 1385 it fell to the Turks. Under the Turks, Sofia was the headquarters of the governor-general of the Balkan peninsula and assumed great strategic importance.

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10. After almost 500 years of Turkish rule, Sofia was captured in 1877 by the Russians, and in 1879 it was chosen as the capital of an autonomous Bulgaria. After Bulgaria joined the Axis powers in World War II, German soldiers were stationed in the city. In September 1944, Soviet troops captured Sofia, and the Communists gradually assumed control of the government. The Communist government collapsed in 1989.

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