Pleven (Bulgarian: Плевен [ˈplɛ.vɛn]; historically known as Plevna in English) is the seventh most populous city in Bulgaria. Located in the northern part of the country, it is the administrative centre of Pleven Province, as well as of the subordinate Pleven municipality.
Internationally known for the Siege of Pleven of 1877, it is today a major economic centre of the Bulgarian Northwest and Central North and the third largest city of Northern Bulgaria after Varna and Rousse.
Pleven is located in an agricultural region in the very heart of the Danubian Plain, the historical region of Moesia, surrounded by low limestone hills, the Pleven Heights. The city's central location in Northern Bulgaria defines its importance as a big administrative, economic, political, cultural and transport centre. Pleven is located 170 km away from the capital city of Sofia, 320 km west of the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and 50 km south of the Danube.
The river Vit flows near the town and the tiny Tuchenitsa river (commonly known in Pleven as Barata, literally "The Streamlet") crosses it.
The climate is temperate continental, with cold winters (down to –15°C) and hot dry summers (up to +35-40°C).
In the beginning of the new era, the region became part of the Roman province of Moesia, and a road station called Storgosia arose near present-day Pleven on the road from Oescus (near modern Gigen) to Philippopolis (now Plovdiv). It later evolved into a fortress. One of the most valued archaeological monuments in Bulgaria from the period is the Early Christian basilica from the 4th century discovered near the modern city.
The events of the Russo-Turkish War proved crucial for the development of Pleven as a key town of central northern Bulgaria. The town experienced significant demographic and economic growth in the following years, gradually establishing itself as a cultural centre of the region.
The Bulgarian Agrarian National Union, a leading interwar party representing the Bulgarian peasantry, was founded in the town in December 1899.
Prior to the Bulgarian orthographic reform of 1945, the name of the town was spelled Плѣвенъ (with yat) in Cyrillic.
According to statistical data, Pleven has a population of about 140,000. The ethnic breakdown is 94% Bulgarians and 5% Roma, with other ethnic groups being represented by about 1%.
An overwhelming majority of 90% of Pleven's residents are Eastern Orthodox Christian, while 5% of the population follows Islam. The Diocese of Nikopol, of which Pleven is part, is one of the two Roman Catholic dioceses in Bulgaria, and another 5% of the residents are Roman Catholic by faith, a significant number compared to other Bulgarian cities.
Pleven has three Eastern Orthodox churches, the Bulgarian National Revival St Nicholas Church (1834) that was constructed at the place of a chapel from the Second Bulgarian Empire, the St Paraskeva Church (1934) and the Holy Trinity Church, built in 1870 at the place of a church mentioned as early as 1523 and inaugurated by Exarch Antim I. As of 2005, a new Eastern Orthodox church is being built in the Strogoziya quarter.
The construction of a large Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of Fatima began in 2001. A mosque also exists in the town to serve the needs of the Muslim population, as well as a Methodist church that is situated on the site of the former local puppet theatre
A major centre of oil processing, metalworking, machinery construction, of light and food industries in Socialist times, after 1989 Pleven found itself in an economic crisis, with many of the major enterprises (such as the Plama oil refinery) closing or practically ceasing to work. However, the late 1990s and early 2000s saw a revival of light industry and the development of branches such as knitwear and store clothes production. Tourism, which had attracted many people from the Soviet Union prior to 1989, and had experienced a slump in the following years, is on the rise again. Other economic branches have also improved in the 2000s. The unemployment has fallen from 17% in 2000 to 7.5% in 2005 and continues to decrease.
The city has seen a number of major foreign investments in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Particularly noticeable is the mass construction of hypermarkets, with two Billa stores, a Praktiker outlet and a number of technology hypermarkets being opened as of 2006. In 2005, the investments in the economy of Pleven amounted to around 250 million leva (around €125 million).
Most of the sights of the town are related to the Russo-Turkish War. The monuments related to the war alone are about 200. Some of the more popular include the St George the Conqueror Chapel Mausoleum in honour of the many Russian and Romanian soldiers who lost their lives during the Siege of Pleven and the ossuary in Skobelev Park. Another popular attraction is Pleven Panorama, created after (and reputedly larger than) the Borodino Panorama in Russia on the occasion of the anniversary of the Siege of Pleven.
The Pleven Regional Historical Museum is another popular tourist attraction, while the Svetlin Rusev Donative Exhibition, situated in the former public baths, exhibits works by famous Bulgarian artists, as well as noted Western European art figures like Pablo Picasso, Francisco Goya, Honoré Daumier, Marc Chagall, Maurice Denis, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Salvador Dalí, Renato Guttuso and Eugène Delacroix, Auguste Rodin and Edgar Degas.
The Ivan Radoev Dramatic Theatre is the centre of theatrical life in Pleven. A number of community centres (chitalishta) are also active in the city.
Pleven is often regarded as an important centre of sports in Bulgaria, with many noted Bulgarian sportspeople having been born and/or trained in the town, including Tereza Marinova and Galabin Boevski. The sports school in Pleven is thought of as one of the most prominent in the country.
The city hosts two football clubs, Spartak Pleven and Belite Orli, which have separate stadiums. Both teams play in the second Bulgarian league and haven't had any major successes in the past, although Spartak Pleven has been the first team for a couple of former Bulgarian internationals such as Plamen Getov.
Spartak Pleven is also a basketball team, a national championship winner in 1995 and national cup winner in 1996 (then named Plama Pleven). Other than that, the team is a regular first league participant.
Pleven is famous for its Kaylaka (where the ruins of the Storgosia fortification can be found) and Skobelev parks. The latter is home to the Pleven Panorama and is situated on the original location of the battle during the Russo-Turkish War.