The town of Elena (7471 inhabitants, 300 metres above sea level) is situated in the mountain valley of the same name, in the northern approaches of the Elena–Tvurditsa Balkan Mountain (Central Stara Planina). It is situated at the distance of 280 km north-east of Sofia, 40 km, 36 km and 33 km south-east of Veliko Turnovo, Gorna Oryahovitsa and Lyaskovets, respectively, 18 km south of Zlataritsa, 28 km south-east of Kilifarevo, 40 km north of Tvurditsa and 79 km north-west of Sliven. A Revival town.
History & Landmarks
The region of the today’s town was inhabited even during the late Neolite. There was a settlement there before the Ottoman Rule, but it was mentioned as a deserted village with the names of Mezra Istromena (Sturmena) and Iliyana (Elyana) in a document of 1430. It was known under the name of Gelendzhik, too. At the end of the century it was already registered as a settlement guarding the passes of Stara Planina.
By the 16th century Elena has already grown as a village. It reached prosperity during the 18th and the 19th centuries as a craftsmanship, trade, Revival and revolutionary centre (in 1860 it was proclaimed a town). Crafts were developed – manufacturing of aba (coarse homespun woolleen cloth and upper men’s garment made of it), ironmongers, production of ropes, silkworm breeding and others. In 1854 there were 1000 houses in Elena, a result of an active construction of public and civil buildings.
In 1843 the citizen of Elena Ivan N. Momchilov (Russian graduate) established the first Teacher Training School (called “Daskalolivnitsa” – moulding of teachers, by Petko R. Slaveikov), preserved up to date. In 1874 Doino Gramatik made the Elena transcript of Paisii’s History. The citizens of Elena took part in Velcho’s Conspiracy (1835), in Captain Dyado Nikola’s uprising (1856), in the Turnovo Uprising (1862). Georgi Sava Rakovski stayed in the town several times, and the Apostle Vassil Levski came twice (1868 and 1871), and during his second stay he organised the Elena secret revolutionary committee. During the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation the town and its surrounding areas were an arena of fierce battles. Elena was destroyed by fire, but fortunately not completely.
The town developed as an architectural and historical town-museum whose future was in the development of tourism most of all. It is the birthplace of the plotter Hadzhi Y. Bradata (the Beard), of the great church activist Ilarion Makariopolski, of the writers Stoyan Mihailovski and Petko Yu. Todorov, of Sava Katrafilov, of the Kurshevski Brothers.
Landmarks: The town has preserved its ancient Revival appearance up to date. 130 buildings of that time are preserved, grouped in several ensembles. Most renowned are the Daskalolivnitsata (first teachers training school in the country) of 1844 in which the Museum of the Town of Elena is located. Museum of Revival and the Struggles for National Liberation. The clock tower of 1812, which counts every hour still today. The Ilarion Makariopolski Museum in his home (the house itself being a valuable architectural monument of 1710-1715). Popnikolov’s house of 1830 is perhaps the most beautiful building of the Revival Period in the town _ almost completely made of wood. The five Razsukanov’s houses date back to the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. The two old churches _ Saint Nikola Church (1804) and Assumption Church (1837) are the work of builders from the village of Bolertsi and are distinguished by the rich wood-carvings in style of the Tryavna School, the second evoking respect by its big dimensions. They are located next to each other. The Art Gallery is located in the home of the writer Petko Yu. Todorov and exhibits a priceless collection of icons and modern works of art. The five Hadzhi Dimitrov’s houses, the Poryazov’s house. There is special charm and romance in the ensemble of houses along S. Petkov Street, S. Yovchev Street and Hadzhi Sergii Street.