History of the city of Strumica
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The Ancient Period
According to archeological research, the beginning of continuous life in Strumica dates back to 6th millennium B.C., a fact proved by the neolith settlement Stranata near the village Angelci, as well as by the findings from the Czar’s Towers site nearby Strumica, where traces of a prehistoric culture which existed from the late a neolith until early bronze age (early 4th to mid 3rd millennium B.C.) were discovered.
We find the first mention of the city under the name Astraion in the writings of the Roman historian Titus Livius in 181 B.C. regarding the execution of Demetrius, brother of the Macedonian king Perseus (179-168 B.C.), son of Philip V of Macedon (221-179 B.C.). The name Astraion came from the Paionian tribe called Astrai. In 168 B.C. Macedonia became a Roman protectorate and was subsequently divided into four regions (meridas). Astraion fell into the second merida. In 148 B.C. Macedonia became a Roman province. In the Roman period the city changed its name to Tiveriopolis, which is evidenced by a marble statue base dedicated to the patron Tiberius Claudius Menon, who lived in the period between late 2nd and early 3rd century. During the reign of the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363 A.D.), the fifteen holy hieromartyrs of Tiveriopolis were killed. In 395 A.D., the Roman Empire split, and Macedonia fell under the Eastern Roman Empire. After that, Tiveriopolis became part of the province Macedonia Salutaris in the late 4th century, and part of Macedonia Secunda in the late 5th century. The urban mansion Machuk dating from the late ancient period today still stands witness for the existence of a city settlement from that time.
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The Byzantine and Slavic Period
Due to the migration of the Slavs, which took place from the sixties of the 6th century until the thirties of the 7th century, the city suffered a major destruction. The area was settled by the Slavic tribe Strumicani who took their name after the Strymon River, which, in turn, they named Struma. For a short while, the sclavin of the Strumjani existed as an independent Slavic principality until it was conquered by Byzantium. During the period from 845 to 855, the Byzantine military administrator of the Bregalnica-Strumica region was Methodius. Later on, the Strumica region was conquered by the Bulgarian ruler Boris (852-889).
In 893, accordng to the Dikanzov List, Clement was appointed “episcope of Tiveriopolis and Velika”. The Strumica region remained part of the Bulgarian state until 969 A.D., when following the first uprising lead by the komitopuls Samuel, Aron, Mojsej and David, it became a part of Czar Samuel’s state. On July 29, 1014, this region was the setting ground for the battle of Belasica, in which the Macedonian army lead by tzar Samuel (976-1014) was defeated by the Byzantines headed by Basil II (976-1025). Having won the battle, the Byzantines blinded 15,000 captured Macedonian soldiers as a way for Basil II to take revenge for Theophylactus Botaniates, a Byzantine commander killed by czar Samuel’s son Gavril Radomir (1014-1015). In 1018, Byzantium took over Macedonia. It is in the 11th century when written sources for the first time begin to refer to the city as Strumica. By the end of the 12th century, the Byzantine central power had weakened and, as a result, many feudal lords broke away and became independent. Such independent lords in the Strumica region were Dobromir Hris (1185-1202), and later Dobromir Strez (1208-1214). But the Byzantines eventually put an end to the existence of their independent lordships. The end of the 13th century marks the beginning of Serbian attacks on Macedonia. For a certain period of time, Hrelja would rule with Strumica and the nearby region, until 1334, when the Serbian king Stefan Dushan took over the city. After the fall of Dushan’s kingdom, the Strumica region was first ruled by Uglesha, the brother of Volkashin. After his death in 1371, in the battle of the Maritsa River, the Dejanovici brothers took over this region. Their rule was short-lived because of the Turkish invasion of the Balkans when the the Turks also conquered Strumica in 1382-1383. This marked the end of the Middle Ages in the region.
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The Ottoman Period
Throughout the Ottoman period, the Turkish administration used the name Üstrümce for Strumica. The city was added to the Kyustendil sanjak, and the timar-spahi system was established. Nomads and livestock breeders of Turkish origin were settled, which altered the general look of the city making it more oriental. According to the census of 1519, Strumica had a population of 2,780, of which 1,450 were Christians and 1,330 were Muslims. These were times when conversion to Islam was at its peak in the region, which accounts for the increased number of Muslims (2,200) compared to Christians (1,230) according to the census of 1570.
In the 17th Century, Strumica became seat of a kadilik. At about this time, Strumica was visited by the Turkish travel writers Haji Kalfa (1665) and Evliya Çelebi (1670), who gave a description of the city making note of all Muslim buildings that were then found in Strumica. In the late 18th and early 19th Century, Strumica was part of the Solun sanjak. During the 19th Century the patriarchy movement picked up, and the number of pro-Greek citizens soared. This resulted in a strong anti-patriarchy movement during the 60s of the 19th Century. The first Macedonian school in the Strumica region was opened in Robovo in 1860, and its first teacher was Arseni Kostencev from Stip. This period coincided with the work of the great masters of fresco painting from Strumica – Vasil Gjorgiev and Grigorij Petsanov. They worked on the frescos and icons of many churches that were built in the Strumica region at the time. Following the Berlin Congress of 1878, when Turkey lost a sizable portion of its territory on the Balkans, including Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, a stream of refugees flowed into Macedonia – some of them ending up in Strumica.
These people were called muhajirs. The unbearable plight of the Macedonians under Turkish rule resulted in the formation of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) in Salonica on October 23, 1893. The first to take up the ideas of VMRO in the Strumica region was Stojan Gjorgiev from Dabile, who formed the organization’s first local committee in Strumica. The Macedonian and Odrin Revolutionary Committee for the Ograzden county was formed and operated in these parts. One of the most prominent leaders of the revolutionary organization in Strumica was Hristo Chernopeev, who took part in the Young Turk Revolution of 1908-1909. The outcome of this effort did not bring freedom to the Macedonian people who still remained under Turkish rule.
Strumica in the 20th Century
In the First Balkan War of 1912 the Turks were defeated by the joint effort of the Balkan allies Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro, and driven out of Macedonia, including Strumica. Bulgaria captured the town of Strumica.
In the Second Balkan War (1913), which was among the Balkan allies for partition of Macedonia, Bulgaria was defeated. However, according to the Bucharest Peace Treaty (28. 07. 1913) Strumica stayed under the rule of Bulgaria. The Greek armies, stationed in Strumica, were revolted by the decision for withdrawal and set the town on fire. It burned from 8th until 15th August 1913, when more than 1900 public buildings, private houses and other constructions were burnt. Strumica stayed under the rule of Bulgaria until 1919, (when with the Versailles Peace Treaty the First World War was over) then entered the Kingdom of SHS (Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians, from 1929 – Kingdom Yugoslavia).
Macedonian people had no rights in that Kingdom and were assimilated by Serbia. In the Second World War Strumica was captured by the German army on 6th April 1941 and, by means of the agreement for alliance with Bulgaria, Strumica was turned over under occupation of the Bulgarian armies on 18th April 1941. Macedonian people, including the people in Strumica, were discontented with the occupation of the fascist countries and initiated military actions against them. On 11th September 1944 the Bulgarian army was expelled from Strumica and on 5th November 1944, the town was left by the German army. Blagoj Jankov – Mucheto was proclaimed to be the sole national hero in Strumica.
After the war Macedonian people entered the Federation Yugoslavia as egalitarian people. However, with the referendum on 8th September 1991, Macedonia became an independent country. Nowadays Strumica is one of the most developed and magnificent towns in the country.
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