Stolipinovo is not the place where you will usually be taken if you are in the city under the hills. We would even rather recommend you not to go there after dark, but we can't help but share the story about the formation of the largest ethnic neighborhood in the Balkans.
Initially, the area was just a rural neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, inhabited by representatives of various cultures. According to a census after the Liberation in 1888, there were exactly 348 Roma people there.
Only a year later, however, Plovdiv was hit by a severe smallpox epidemic that was beyond control. Every fifth infected Plovdiv resident had complications and died. The city authorities realized that the infection was spreading from the huts, which were indiscriminately scattered throughout the city. To save the population, the city government made a drastic decision, namely - the Roma people, who were scattered throughout the city, to settle two kilometers east of Plovdiv, in the so-called "Novo Selo", which later adopted the name "Stolipinovo" in honor of General Arkadiy Stolipin – at the time Governor-General of Eastern Rumelia and Edirne Sanjak. The second article of the decision of the Plovdiv municipalities was - all abandoned buildings to be burned in order to eliminate the infection.
On its first birthday Stolipinovo melted to 237 inhabitants, and in 1910 it already numbered 3524. Today, it is officially claimed that there are over 40,000 people living in Stolipinovo, and there is unofficial talk of 80,000.
If you still decide to see the other face of Plovdiv, less than half an hour walk from the center of the European Capital of Culture 2019, you will find yourself in a completely different world. All kinds of temporary buildings and cottages are perched among the typical eight-story panel apartment blocks, and the spaces around them are filled with all sorts of dirt. Almost nothing has been repaired, and it's perfectly normal for a horse-drawn cart to be carelessly parked next to a ten-year-old Mercedes of a person working abroad. Among the tons of rubbish, regardless if there’s a pandemic or not, hordes of playing children of all ages are a constant sight, and compulsory school attendance here takes on a slightly different meaning. Most of the residents earn their living abroad, and in households you can often find more than 10 people living in a simple one-room apartment. Here they often act according to other rules and sometimes as a totally different unit from the Plovdiv community.
As an integral part of the city, Stolipinovo was also part of the program for Plovdiv 2019, in which the focus of the Plovdiv candidacy was to solve various urban problems through culture. In fact, the neighborhood is full of craftspeople who would fit into the modern cultural concept of "creative industries" - blacksmiths, goldsmiths, woodcarvers, etc., but everything there happens in a very different and unusual way and the whole organization only resulted in several art installations and exhibitions.