Belitsa is close to Razlog Municipality, Bansko Municipality, and Yakoruda Municipality. The municipality of Belinitsa is picturesquely situated in the northeastern part of the valley of Razlog and the Blagoevgrad regione, in the dale of the river Mesta, in between the southern slopes of eastern Rila and the northern slopes of the Beliyshko-Videnishki part of the southern Rhodopes.
It contains 12 settlements, and 8 of them are scattered in the mountainous area of the Rhodopes. The municipal center, Belitsa, is located in the southern part of the Rila mountains and is connected to the route Razlog-Velingrad (with international E79 and E80) but off to the side by 4 kilometers. This makes for easy transportation from the town to Sofia (172 kilometers away) and Blagoevgrad (72 kilometers away).
Belitsa is recorded for the first time in a record from the Tatarpazardzhiyska province (kaaza) in the Ottoman Empire in 1516 under the name Belitsa, together with Little Belitsa (Bulgarian: Малка Белица, Malka Belitsa).
In the 19th century, it was a Christian-Muslim village in the Nevropska kaaza of the Ottoman Empire. In "The Ethnography of the Vilayets Adrianopole, Manastir, and Salonica" in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1878 and statistics reflecting the male population from 1873, Belitsa (Bielitsa) is shown as a village with 303 households, 640 Bulgarian Christians and 250 Pomaks. In agreement with the statistics of Vasil Kanchov, during c. 1900, Belitsa (in old Bulgarian orthography Бѣлица) is a mixed Bulgarian-Christian and Bulgarian-Muslim village. 2700 Bulgarian Christians live in it, as well as 550 Pomaks and 50 Vlachs.
During 1833-1855, under the control of Pope Iliya, the church "Saint George" is built. Construction was unusually slow because of the unwillingness of the then-in-power Turkish local government, which would often destroy what progress the Christians had made. The church was built contrary to the laws of the empire, in a high and visible part of the village. Its domes were visible from everywhere. As a compromise, Belitsan Christians convinced the local authority to bring an mount a clock face from Vienna, which would be mounted on the highest dome. It was bought from Vienna with natural products (cheese, wool, and others).
During 1903, during the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising, the church was burned down and the clock fell to the ground, stopping at 4:00 in the afternoon. Its parts were collected by the Bulgarian Muslim Irlovets and later returned to the returning Christians with the purpose to be returned to its old place. According to one legend—which Belitsa is full of—Levski came to Pope Danail's house in Belitsa after the pope fictitiously invited him to marry his daughter so he would come to the village. After that, a revolutionary organization was created in the village to ready the Christian population for the April Uprising.
During the Russo-Turkish War from 1877–78, under the Samara flag, 19 Belitsan volunteers fought at Svishtov, Rousse, Sheinovo and Shipka. They returned to their village with many medals and honors and were received with delight from their neighbors. Belitsan volunteers were also involved in the Kresna-Razlog Uprising as well as the training and fighting at Razlog. A large amount of the volunteers were sent to jail or forced to leave the village.
In 1891, Georgi Strezov wrote of Belitsa:
|“||Belitsa, a large village 3 hours northeast from Mehomia: located in a corner, which is formed from the Yakorudska river and [the] Belitsa. Below the village, at the tip of the corner, was the place of Old Belitsa. People say that the modern Belitsa was created 250 years ago by the citizens of Old Belitsa, who were forced to run from the citizens of Kardzhali. East of the village, above a slope is the consecrated "St. Elijah", visible everywhere. Above that area, up to 200 tall pine trees, which create a large copse above the church. In the village, two large towers stand out, each 9 stories tall, left from the Janissaries. The church "St. Georgi" is elevated and at the edge of the village; below the church is a small school, built in 1875. There are 3 teachers and around 150 students, girls and boys. The surrounding area is bare; the ground is the best in Razlog. Because of the scarcity of land, many leave the village and go to other areas, most of them going to Vlashko [an area on the border of Romania], where they make boza. There are 500 houses, of which 110 are inhabited by Pomaks.||”|
Georgi Strezov also wrote about the neighborhood of Belitsa, Kuru Dere. It was on the road from Yakoruda to Belitsa and in 1891, Strezov wrote that there are 10 Pomak houses with around 50 people.
During 1903, because of its active partake in the Ilinden Uprising, Belitsa was burned to the ground. Over 475 people die, and more than 120 men, women, and children are murdered.
During 1920 in Belitsa, the Forest Labor Production Cooperative "Rila Planina" is formed. In 1935, it has 480 members.
The local economy is based primarily off of small workshops in the wood processing and sewing industries. The NSI reports that in the territory of the municipality, there are 150 registered businesses, the largest being the ones related to transportation, repair, and service (totaling 36.6%), followed by the manufacturing industries (24.3%), and hotel and restaurant service (around 18%), primarily in the neighborhood Semkovo. The lowest percentage is that of businessed involved with village, hunting, and forest economy, at 4.3%. The structure of the businesses follow the general tendency for the province and the country.
The industry in the municipality is made up of businesses specializing in logging and wood processing, which rely on the availability of raw materials, equipment and personnel. Arable land is 54.2% of farming territories and is in total 34,203 decares. Its relative share of the total area of the municipality is 11.7%—about 4 times less than the national average ( 44.8% ). 3.6 acres of farmland are available per capita, while the country average is 6.3 hectares per person.
Belitsa municipality is part of the program ""Sustainable Development of Forestry, Agriculture and Alternative Tourism", as well as the United Nations Development Programme during the 2003-2007 period. The main aim is an efficient and conscientious combination of economic, social, and ecological development. During 2002, "A Strategy for the Developement of Village Tourism" is put into place. Under it, explorations are conducted and many attractions and objects of interest are marked for tourist developement.
The community center Georgi Todorov has a history spanning over a century. It was created as the workshop "Zora" during 1885 by the returning war volunteers, which brought Russian books from free Bulgaria, with which to enlighten Belitsans. In addition to its workshop activities, the builders used it to develop the revolution against Ottoman oppressors locally. The Turkish local authorities forbade its use, but books were still being provided by the local citizens. From then on, it contained many books pertaining to folklore of the region. Belitsa's libraries also contain many books, all publicly available.
The Bulgarian revolutionary Todor Saev was born in Belitsa, as well as the Internal Macedonia-Adrianopole Revolutionary Organization (Bulgarian: Вътрешна Mакедоно-Oдринска Pеволюционна Oрганизация, Vatreshna Makedono-Odrinska Revolyutsionna Organizatsia) and the Supreme Macedonia-Adrianople Committee (Bulgarian: Върховен Mакедоно-Oдрински Комитет, Varhoven Makedono-Odrinski Komitet). Three other notable figures were also born in Belitsa: the politician Vladimir Poptomov, the American, Soviet, and Bulgarian politician and journalist Georgi Andreychin, and the writer and folklorist Nikola Aleksiev, as well as others.
Belitsa's population is mixed, with both Christians and Muslims.
Points of Interest
The town's historical museum was opened in 1995 and is built in the center of Belitsa. In its modern building are contained all found precious historical items. The museum also offers to its guests, in four different rooms, an ethnographic exhibit and an exhibit-shop for local fabrics and crafts.
The Belitsa area is home to the famous park for dancing bears.
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- Belitsa, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria at GEOnet Names Server
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- Promacedonia.org Retrieved June 10, 2015
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- Попов, Рачко, Ангел Янков, Евгения Троева, Цветана Бончева, Обредната трапеза: Сборник доклади от XI-та Национална конференция на българските етнографи - Пловдив, 2005, БАН, 2006, стр. 322.
- Dancing Bears Rehabilitation Park tourist overview
- Awarded "EDEN - European Destinations of Excellence" non traditional tourist destination 2009