Photograph: Club Evropeistika


Ruse is a cosmopolitan city situated at a crossroads. Different ages have left their mark on the city’s diversity of cultural layers through its 2000 years of history. But one thing remains unchanged – it’s spirit, free and eternal like the great European river which creates influences, connects, inspires life and gives promise to the future…


Ruse is the biggest Bulgarian city on the Danube, the most important transport, logistics, economic and cultural centre in Northern Bulgaria. The population amounts about 160 000 residents.


The city was founded 23 centuries ago as a port of the ancient Thracians. At the end of the 1st century AD, the Roman fortress Sexaginta Prista became part of the Roman Danube Limes - the Northern border of the Empire. The name Sexaginta Prista in translation from Latin means Port of 60 ships. The remains of the fortress today are an outdoor exhibition.


In the Middle Ages the city existed as a joint settlement with the Romanian city of Giurgiu. In the beginning of the 17th century Ruse started to develop as a commercial centre and its port was becoming increasingly important for the foreign trade between Central Europe and the Balkans. The city was marked on all geographic maps of this period.


In the 1860’s Ruse became the capital of the Danube vilayet of the Ottoman Empire with a territory which comprised land of three modern countries. The first industrial companies were established and the first railroad line was built here. During the second half of the 19th century, the city becomes a seat of 11 European diplomatic missions.The influences of modern Europe became tangible, and changed the everyday lifestyle of the inhabitants of the city. A lot of Bulgarian national heroes from the Revival period are connected with the city. The role of Ruse as one of the most important cultural-historical centres of the country is also result of the fact that the city is the pioneer of modernity in Bulgaria. 


Ruse welcomes its guests with rich cultural heritage – fruit of the enterprising and European city of its citizens, who at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century attracted prominent European architects and builders to create the urban architectural environment. Dozens of monumental buildings today have the European cultural heritage sign.


In the 1950’s in Ruse was built the largest and until recently the only bridge in the Bulgarian part of the Danube River basin, which today creates new opportunities for the development of the city. The democratic process in Bulgaria started here a quarter century ago as a reaction to the severe environmental problems in Ruse and Giurgiu. The cult documentary “Breath“dedicated to the ecological drama of Ruse and Giurgiu in the 1980’s became a national symbol of the protest against the political hypocrisy of the totalitarian state.


Ruse is a bridge which marks and overcomes borders and its history it’s been both a centre and a capital city. The first symbols of modernity in the industrial age in Bulgaria were born in Ruse. The ideas of humanism, scientific, technical and economic prosperity were introduced to the European south-east from here.


The history of Ruse is an exciting tale about the emergence and the turbulent life of a community, united by the bright and enterprising spirit of the local inhabitants which nowadays we can rightly call Danubian. Regardless of the historical twist and turns it continues to face challenges and cross borders to openly communicate with the outside world to accept cultural differences and to create progress.


Ruse is a Danube port where cultural influences from West and East, North and South meet and take roots. Both the people living here and the new comers perceive Ruse’s identity as a bridge between cultures.


“All that I experienced later had already happened in Rouschuck” this is how the Ruse-born Nobel Prize laureate summarizes his memories from his home town. The picturesque kaleidoscope of languages, customs, religious cults and communities, artistic and architectural models is reflected in the cosmopolitan spirit of Ruse.  As in all big cities the spirit of today’s Ruse is created in the end of the 19th – the beginning of the 20th century on the basis of an economically prospering multi-cultural society. And nowadays Bulgarians, Armenians, Jews, Turks, Roma are peacefully coexisting here. They freely practice their Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims religions. Today when Europe is so close to the long-awaited goal to put separation behind and to share common values the example of Ruse is inspiring.  


The monument of Liberty in the centre of Ruse embodies the determination of its citizens to defend their freedom and civil rights as a supreme European value and energy for constructive change. They were the ones who started the civil protests against the totalitarian communist regime, which initiated the democratic changes in Bulgaria.


With the expansion of the European Union, the Danube River becomes a symbol of European unification, the European river par excellence. More than 60 years ago, the building of the EU started with the economic and political idea of the Rhine Strategy as an initiative for solving post-war problems. Today the Danube Strategy is called to solve the post-totalitarian problems of United Europe. Ruse is part of this process.


Motivated to preserve and develop its bright identity as a free spirit city and bridge of cultures, Ruse, the biggest Bulgarian Danube city, confidently declares its affiliation to the values of New Europe.


A symbol of the richness and multiculturalism of the Danube area, in partnership with its Romanian sister-city Giurgiu, Ruse is determined to establish itself as European centre and leader of cross-border cooperation.

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