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History of the city of Struga
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Struga is an ancient settlement where traces of an old civilization dating from the Neolithic period can be found. The archaelogical records demonstrate that there was a community in this area in prehistoris times, when on the shores of the lake were built the first Neolithic settlements dated from the year 3000 BC. The first Neolithic settlement, which is assumed to have been a fishing area, was built on the place where the river Crn Drim flows out of the Lake Ohrid. It is a pile dweller, an ancient fisherman community. Many archaelogical objects were found there that date from the early stone age, such as different tools made of stone and bones as well as weapons.
It is considered, according to some relevant sources, that the first inhabitants of this area were the Briges and the Enheleians, and later came the Desarets. With the passing of the centuries this fishing settlement grew into a town-like village which was called Enhalon (eel). The name is accidental. Namely, here on the outflow of the river Crn Drim from the Lake Ohrid, the longest journey of the eel starts, which leads to the Sargasso Sea in the Caribean region of the Atlantic ocean where the fish satisfies its biological needs for continuing its kind. The ancient historian Polibius says that in the year 334 BC, king Philip II (stavi link) of Macedon, conquered Enhalon in addition to Lihnidos and the other towns on the shores of Lake Ohrid. There is an important monument from that period with inscription in classical Greek, discovered by the monastery of St. Bogoroditsa (the Virgin Mary). Enhalon was part of the Macedonian state until the year 148 BC when it was conquered by the Romans. The connection of this area and Rome grew closer with the construction of the strategic road Via Ignatia, which connected Rome, through the town known today as Drach and through Thessalonica, to Istanbul and Asia Minor. The road was passing close to Enhalon.
With the spread of Christianity by the end of the 3th century AD the ancient temples were destroyed and on the same place many Christian basilicas were built. Their remains have been and are still being discovered in the surroundings of Struga. The antiochian bishop St. Erazmo (stavi link do ohrid.com.mk ako postoi) is considered to be the first Christian missionary in this area.
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The name Struga was mentioned for the first time in a document dated from the XI century. In another document dated from the XVI century (Kalimanova Gramota) there is a royal issue: "The incomes of the fishing area in the town of Struga should be given to the monastery Zoograf". The legends say that St. Kliment Ohridski (stavi link) founded a school in Struga. The grounds and the river which was passing through have the name Klimetitsa even today. It is considered that the medieval Macedonian tsar Samoil (link) built a church in Struga devoted to St. George and also erected a church in the village of Vranishta. On his demands one hundred bridges were built over the river Crn Drim, according to the byzantine traveler and author Ana Komnena.
In the VI century Enhalon, Lihnidos and the other inhabited places were in the frames of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. In this period the Brsjatsi tribe settled in this area changing the name Enhalon with a new one, Struga, on which historians and linguists have different opinions; some say that the word comes from the word STRIG (to fleece sheep) and some claim that it means a passage for sheep through a fence which was called STRAGA, STROGA, STRUGA. In addition, there are some claims that Struga means a river branch, a tributary or a river flow.
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In the medieval times Struga was frequently visited by authors who wrote about their travels. One of them is Bernard (1591) who describes Struga as caravan-station with caravan-inns, as a crossroad for many caravans. The famous Turkish traveler Evliya Cheleby, who visited Struga in 1671, describes the town in detail. Struga used to be a great fishing are, especially for eel. The local Turkish ruler by the name of Eminaga, who lived in Struga then, from his rich incomes, built a large bridge on the mouth of the river Drim. On the bridge he built his palace (Saray). The traveler Cheleby wrote that the town was built by the lake and consisted of 300 houses all built of hard material. Cheleby adds that the climate is pleasant, and that there are 3 inns and 40 stores in the town. In this town, says the traveler, twice a year a big fair takes place which is visited by up to 50 000 people. During the 10 days of the fair, people traded their goods and celebrated the fair. The crowd of people gathered there is undescribeable, according to Cheleby. In the vicinity of Struga 300 stores were built for the purposes of the fair. Even today the name of the location, described by Cheleby, where the fair was taking place is preserved - Panagjurishte ("panagjur" means a fair in Macedonian).
In 1783 the Englishman John Bew in London printed the map "Turkey in Europe" where one can find Struga. The chronicler Nikola Pop Stefanov in his "Chronicles" says: "June 6, 1808. We built Geladin Bey's Saray on the river. And it was a terrible forced labour..." The saray was built in the middle of the river Drim and was a quite atractive object visited by many authors who wrote about their travels and were passing through Struga.
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In the years to come, on the sky over Struga, two brighest Macedonian stars would appear, the fighters of the spiritual freedom and self-awareness of the Macedonian people, the dearest sons of Struga, the brothers Dimitri and Konstantin Miladinovtsi. Dedicated to their mission, they would leave to their people the Golden Book of Macedonian renaissance - the Collection of Macedonian Folk Songs. Their lives tragically ended in a Turkish prison in Istanbul in 1862. The citizens of Struga, in the following years, will get involved in the spiritual and the national liberation. They would take an active part in the Ilinden uprising (1903) and the National Liberation Movement (1941-1945). There is an interesting information that right here in Struga the Macedonian National Anthem "Today over Macedonia..." was sang for the first time by its author Vlado Maleski.
In the period after the Second World War the town lives its renaissance in all fields. Struga becomes a modern town with wonderful banks and wide streets, with many parks and greenery, with beautiful new buildings, trade and industrial areas, and catering objects and cultural institutions. In honor of the Miladinovtsi brothers every year a renowned festival of poetry is held - "The Struga Poetry Evenings", where many famous world poets take part.