MUNICIPALITIES

THE MUNICIPALITY OF TSARIBROD occupies an area of 48 074 hectares. According to the latest population census, the inhabitants of the municipality number 13 448, while the residents of the town of Tsaribrod itself are 7 273. As many as 42 villages fall under the municipal administration of Tsaribrod. The employed persons are about 5 000, the unemployed - over 1 000. The number of pensioners is 3 500. Only 51 individuals receive social insurance benefits; the size of personal income of those locally employed is among the lowest in Serbia. In the period 1948-1981, a total of 7 910 individuals left the place, which is somewhere the equivalent of a town's population. During the same period only 1 400 people have come to live here.
The Tsaribrod neighbourhood is a beautiful mountain area belted by thick forests and mountain slopes. Especially impressive are the mountain sides of the Balkan Range. The region comprises the territories in the upper course of the Nishava, the Visociza, and some of the Erma valley. To the west and southwest, the municipality borders on the municipalities of Pirot and Babushniza, which since 1960 have included  9 villages previously belonging to the Tsaribrod municipality.


The Sts Kirik and Yulita Church (17th c.),
village of Smilovtsi near Tsaribrod

The town of Tsaribrod is situated at 450 metres above sea level on the left bank of the Nishava. The fact that the town falls into the border area, which had for obvious reasons been  the symbol of the least accessible European frontier for more than seven decades, allows us to assert that these quarters have deliberately been kept in isolation and economic backwardness, in spite of their favourable position and the natural resources to be found here.
Tsaribrod lies at the international highway linking Western Europe and the Middle East. The town itself and its vicinity have long been in the focus of interest of travel writers, historians, journalists, botanists, and explorers. There are many pieces of evidence in historical and travel writings, some of which we have used in compiling this reference. Its geographical position has made it a famous and attractive small town, especially in the late 19th century, when it was granted an urban status. Already in the early 20th century, Tsaribrod became a centre of culture and learning, but also the trade centre of the entire county at that time. 

The municipality possesses vast grass fields covering an area of 5 600 hectares, pastures - 12 300 hectares, and forested land - 15 000 hectares. The infertile land amounts to 2 219 hectares. The individual localities have their own designations such as Zabardie, Visok, Derekoul, Nishavski Selishta, and they comprise 42 villages. Not all of the rural areas have good road communications with Tsaribrod. Some of the villages not only lack  roads to link them with the central town, but to this day have no direct bus line. Such are, for example the villages of Petarlash, Dragovita, Banski Dol, Skarvenitsa, Petachintsi, Slivnitsa, Vezar, Borovo, etc.

THE BOSSILEGRAD MUNICIPALITY is the other border municipality in Serbia populated predominantly by ethnic Bulgarians. It has an area of 57 091 hectares. The administrative territory includes 36 villages with a total population of 11 600, of which 2 447 are residents of Bossilegrad. The municipality comprises 3 899 households. The number of the rural households is 2 771. The number of retired people is nearly 1 400. Those engaged in the public and private sectors are 2 300, some 1 000 are seeking a job. The share of the jobless under 30 years of age is 60 per cent.
Public assistance benefits are received by 64 persons in the municipality.

The Bossilegrad area stretches over part of the Kraishte highland which spreads across the two sides of the Yugoslav-Bulgarian border. In its Yugoslavian portion, the Kraishte territory includes the mountains of Vardenik, Doganitsa, Dukat, Tlamino, Glozhka, and the Bossilegrad valley. The mountains are part of the Kraishte region. The Kyustendil Encyclopaedic Dictionary describes this region as an "intricate mosaic of mountain ridges and valleys", which is also quite characteristic of the Bossilegrad area.

The Bossilegrad area is characterized by an austere natural environment, barren  soil, no decent communications and prevailingly mountainous country. Unlike Tsaribrod, these lands are separated from the rest of Serbia by the mountain massifs of Besna Kobila, Vlasina, and Strasher.

The highest peak in this isolated and poorly developed highland is the Besna Kobila Mountain rising 1 936 m above sea level. This is the reason why in winter Bossilegrad is disconnected from the world for long six months,  given the inaccessible snowdrift mountain roads in particular.

The Bossilegrad valley is 5.5 kilometres long, 1.5 km wide on the average, and lies at 730 m above sea level. In the past, its vegetation had been ruthlessly cut to secure more arable land so much needed for providing livelihood for the inhabitants of this poor and inaccessible part of the country.
 

The Saviour's Chapel (19th c.)
Krivodol

The Bossilegrad area  had been almost unknown even to the Bulgarians themselves until 1918, when the book on "The Kyustendil Kraishte" by Yordan Zakhariev, Bulgarian scholar and specialist in regional studies, was published. 
Very little is known about the historical past of Bossilegrad. The scholarly description of this land  - its geographical, ethnographic, and historical characteristics - is mainly the work of Yordan Zakhariev, who himself was born and grew up in Bossilegrad. It is to be regretted that Yordan Zakhariev's home in Bossilegrad is almost in ruins, although with its architectural design and historical value it should have long been converted to an ethnographic museum of these parts. 

The current condition of the population in this isolated place is equally little known. From time to time the Serbian press reports on the poor economic development of this region, while the Bulgarian media post occasional materials connected with individual journalists' visits. Humanitarian aid has never been sent to this place, the local people even do not know the meaning of the term. As a result of the poor roads system in this municipal area, many of the villages are not accessible even by ordinary vehicles. However, it is most difficult to get there in winter time.

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