Stara Zagora is a city in South Bulgaria and one of the major economic centers in the country. It is center of the eponymous municipality and region and of Trakia regional association of the municipalities. With a population of 137,834 according to census data as of December 31, 2013 Stara Zagora is the sixth largest city in the country.
Unemployment in the region of Stara Zagora remains below the country’s average. According to data of the Employment Agency unemployment in 2013 was 10.25%. A total of 62,000 companies are registered in the region of Stara Zagora.
The municipality of Stara Zagora is a strategic center of Bulgaria and the Balkan Peninsula.
Motorways and first-class roads and railroads pass through the region. It is crossed by the routes of three European transport corridors that are the major connections between Bulgaria’s northern border at the Danube River and the southern border with Greece and Turkey. Trakia motorway provides a convenient road connection between Sofia and Burgas, further encouraging business development in the region.
During its 8,000-year history the city has had different names: Beroe, Augusta Traiana, Irenopolis, Boruy, Vereya, Eski Zagra, Zheleznik and Stara Zagora.
The city dates back to the 6th-5th millennia BC, when the first Neolithic settlements that are still preserved were established. For the first time the city became part of the Bulgaria state in 717 under the rule of Khan Tervel.
In 1372 the city was captured by the Ottoman Turks. During the Ottoman Empire it was a major cultural and economic center. A telling example of the revolutionary fights is the Stara Zagora Uprising of 1875, which was led by Kolyu Ganchev.
During the Russo-Turkish Liberation War Stara Zagora was burned down. In 1878 Czech architect Lubor Bayer arrived in the city and designed the new city plan with the rectangular street pattern that Stara Zagora features to this day. The first stone for the restoration of the city was put in place on October 5 that same year and the date was named the city’s holiday.
Within the boundaries of the municipality and 15 kilometers northwest of Stara Zagora there is located the popular balneological resort of Starozagorski Mineralni Bani (Mineral Baths), known as Ladzhite.
The region of Stara Zagora ranks second in Bulgaria in terms of gross domestic product per capita. During the crisis it outperformed the region of Varna and became second after Sofia. According to 2011 data per-capita gross domestic product in the region of Stara Zagora stands at 10,067 leva. Stara Zagora’s GDP is expected to keep growing in nominal terms in the next few years and reach 12,000 leva per capita in 2016.
Foreign direct investment in the region of Stara Zagora amounted to 669 million euro at the end 2012, increasing rapidly by as much as 107 million euro on 2011, when investment totaled 562 million euro. A large part of the foreign direct investment in the region of Stara Zagora was made in the energy sector in the municipality of Galabovo (397 million euro).
A total of 255 contracts under the EU operational programs were closed in the region of Stara Zagora in 2007-13. The value of the projects amounts to 412.3 million leva. Ten projects have been approved in the region of Stara Zagora under the Growth and Sustainable Development of Regions public investment program.