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Silistra Art Gallery building
Silistra Art Gallery building
Coat of arms of Silistra
Coat of arms
Silistra is located in Bulgaria
Location of Silistra
Coordinates: 44°7′N 27°16′E / 44.117°N 27.267°E / 44.117; 27.267Coordinates: 44°7′N 27°16′E / 44.117°N 27.267°E / 44.117; 27.267
Country Bulgaria
 • Mayor Yulian Naydenov
 • City 27.159 km2 (10.486 sq mi)
Elevation 6 m (20 ft)
Population (2012)[1]
 • City 35 230
 • Urban 50 780
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal Code 7500
Area code(s) 086
Website Official website

Silistra (Bulgarian: Силистра, pronounced [siˈlistrɐ]) is a port city in the far northeast of Bulgaria, lying on the southern bank of the lower Danube at the country's border with Romania. Silistra is the administrative centre of the Silistra Province and one of the important cities of the historical region of Southern Dobrudzha.

Silistra is a major cultural, industrial, transportation, and educational center of northeastern Bulgaria. There are many historical landmarks including a Roman tomb, remains of the Medieval fortress, an Ottoman fort, and an art gallery.


The name Silistra is possibly derived from the root of the old Thracian name of the lower part of the Danube "Istrum." By another theory, the city's name comes from the Latin words "silo" and "stra", meaning "awl" and "strategy". Also, the Romanian version of its name, Dârstor is considered to have given the name of Dristor, a neighborhood in Bucharest which was at that time placed on the road to Silistra.


Silistra is in the northeastern part of Bulgaria on the right bank of the Danube River. It is located in the Bulgarian part of Dobrudzha.

The municipality of Silistra covers an area of 516 km2[2] and includes the city and 18 villages. The area of the city-proper is 27.159 km2.[3]

Silistra is 431 km from Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, 141 km from Varna, and 119 km from Ruse.



The Romans built a fortress in AD 29 on the site of an earlier Thracian settlement and kept its name, Durostorum (or Dorostorum). The earliest saints of Bulgaria are Roman soldiers executed at Durostorum during the Diocletian Persecution (303–313), such as St. Dasius and St. Julius the Veteran. Durostorum became an important military center of Moesia, and grew into a city at the time of Marcus Aurelius. In 388, Durostorum became the seat of a Christian bishopric and a center of Christianity in the region. Roman general Flavius Aëtius was born in the town in 396. After the Roman Empire split into the Eastern and Western empires, the town (known as Δουρόστολον, Durostolon in Byzantine Greek) became part of the Byzantine Empire. As part of the Bulgarian Empire Durostolon then became known as Drastar by the Bulgarians in Medieval times.

The fort of Silistra
Silistra Historical Museum

Around the end of the 7th century, the town was incorporated in the First Bulgarian Empire and the bishop of Drastar (Дръстър in Bulgarian) was proclaimed the first patriarch of Bulgaria. In 895 during the Bulgarian-Hungarian War of (894-896), the Hungarians who acted as Byzantine allies besieged the Bulgarian army under the personal command of Simeon I the Great in the fortress of the town but were repulsed.[4] On the next year the Hungarians were decisively defeated in the battle of Southern Buh.

The town was captured by the forces of Sviatoslav I of Kiev in 969, but two years later it was besieged by the Byzantines during the Battle of Dorostolon. Having been ceded to the Byzantines, it was renamed Theodoropolis, after military saint Theodore Stratelates, who is said to have come to Emperor John I Tzimiskes' aid during the battle. In 976, Tsar Samuel restored Bulgarian rule in the region until 1001, when it was once again incorporated within the bounds of the Byzantine Empire.

In 1186, after the Rebellion of Asen and Peter, the town became part of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

In 1279 Emperor Ivailo was besieged by the Mongols in Drastar but after three-month siege the Bulgarians managed to break through.[5] The town remained part of the Empire until the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans around 1400. Throughout the Middle Ages, Drastar (possibly known by the name Silistra too) was among Bulgaria's largest and most important cities.

During Ottoman rule, Silistra (Silistre in Ottoman Turkish) was part of Rumelia Province and was the administrative centre of the Silistra district (sanjak). This district was later upgraded to become the Silistra Province that stretched over most of the western Black Sea littoral.

The town was captured by Russian forces numerous times during several Russo-Turkish Wars and was besieged between 14 April and 23 June in 1854 during the Crimean War. Namık Kemal wrote his most famous play, Vatan Yahut Silistre ("Homeland or Silistre"), a drama evolving around the siege of Silistra, in which he expounded on the ideas of patriotism and liberalism. It was staged first on 1 April 1873 and led to his exile to Famagusta.

The Ottoman Silistra Province was reduced in size, as the districts of Özi and Hocabey and the region of Bessarabia were ceded to the Russian Empire between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, and the Edirne Province was established from its south regions in 1830. Finally, Silistra Province merged with the provinces of Vidin and Niš in 1864 and became Danube Province in 1864. Silistra was downgraded to a kaza centre in Ruse district in this province in the same year.

Between 1819 and 1826, Eliezer Papo — a renowned Jewish scholar — was the rabbi of the community of Silistra, making this town famous among observant Jews. Up to the present, his grave is a focus of pilgrimage, some pilgrims flying especially from Israel and even from Latin America to Bulgaria for that purpose.[6]

In 1878, following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, Silistra was included in Bulgaria.

In May 1913, following the Second Balkan War and after unsuccessful Bulgarian-Romanian negotiations in London, the two countries accepted the mediation of the Great Powers, who awarded Silistra and the area in a 3 km radius around it to the Kingdom of Romania at the Saint Petersburg Conference, confirmed at the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest that granted Silistra and the whole of Southern Dobruja to Romania. Silistra was rename Dârstor by the Romanians. Although Bulgaria regained the town during World War I with the Treaty of Bucharest (1918), in which Romania surrendered to the Central Powers (including Bulgaria), the Treaty of Neuilly (1919) following World War I returned it to Romania. Silistra remained a part of Romania until the Axis-sponsored Treaty of Craiova of 1940, when the town once again became part of Bulgaria, a transfer confirmed by the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947. Silistra was center of Durostor County between 1913–1938, except Bulgarian rule between 1916–1918, and part of Ţinutul Mării between 1938-1940 during Romanian rule. Following the establishment of People's Republic of Bulgaria, Silistra developed as a center of industry and agriculture in the region, comparable to Ruse (because of the strategic position on the Danube) and Dobrich (due to the abundant fertile lands). This lead to the major population increase which continued until 1985. After that, the population slowly started to decrease until 1989. Following the collapse of the regime, many of its inhabitants migrated to other parts of the country or emigrated outside Bulgaria.

A panorama of Silistra and the Danube (far in the back you can see some of the buildings from Călărași, Romania).


Climate data for Silistra (2000-2013)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 30.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 25.2
Average low °C (°F) 20.0


In January 2012, Silistra was inhabited by 35 230 people within the city limits, while the Silistra Municipality along with the legally affiliated adjacent villages had 50 780 inhabitants.[1] The number of the residents of the city (not the municipality) reached its peak in the period 1986-1991, when it exceeded 70,000.[7] The following table presents the change of the population after 1887.

Year 1887 1910 1934 1946 1956 1965 1975 1985 1992 2001 2011
Population 11,415 11,046 > 17,415[a] 15,951 20,350 33,041 59,296 70,537 49,304 41,952 35,607
Highest number 70,537 in 1985
Sources: National Statistical Institute,[7] „“,[8] „“,[9] Bulgarian Academy of Sciences[10]
^ a. Population in 1930: 17,415[11]

Ethnic, linguistic and religious composition[edit]

According to the latest 2011 census data, the individuals declared their ethnic identity were distributed as follows:[12][13]

  • Bulgarians: 29,677 (88.3%)
  • Turks: 3,458 (10.3%)
  • Gypsies: 123 (0.4%)
  • Others: 190 (0.6%)
  • Indefinable: 180 (0.5%)
    • Undeclared: 1,979 (5.6%)

Total: 35,607

The ethnic composition of Silistra Municipality is 40707 Bulgarians, 6258 as Turks and 899 Roma among others.

Notable natives[edit]


Silistra Knoll on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Silistra, as is the Dristor neighbourhood of Bucharest.

"Silistra" is also the name of a fictional planet in Janet Morris' book High Couch of Silistra (1977).


  1. ^ a b (Bulgarian)National Statistical Institute - 2012
  2. ^ "Bulgaria Guide, Silistra Municipality". Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  3. ^ "Bulgaria Guide, Silistra". Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  4. ^ Andreev, J. The Bulgarian Khans and Tsars (Balgarskite hanove i tsare, Българските ханове и царе), Veliko Tarnovo, 1996, p. 95, ISBN 954-427-216-X
  5. ^ Andreev, J. The Bulgarian Khans and Tsars (Balgarskite hanove i tsare, Българските ханове и царе), Veliko Tarnovo, 1996, p. 226, ISBN 954-427-216-X
  6. ^ Maariv, September 12, 2009, [1]
  7. ^ a b (Bulgarian)National Statistical Institute - Towns population 1956-1992
  8. ^ (English) „WorldCityPopulation“
  9. ^ „“
  10. ^ (Bulgarian) Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
  11. ^ Durostor County, as per 1930 Romanian census (Romanian)
  12. ^ (Bulgarian) Population on 01.02.2011 by provinces, municipalities, settlements and age; National Statistical Institute
  13. ^ Population by province, municipality, settlement and ethnic identification, by 01.02.2011; Bulgarian National Statistical Institute (Bulgarian)

External links[edit]