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A few words about Alexandroupolis:
Alexandroupolis (ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥΠΟΛΗ in
Greek) is a city of Greece and the capital of the
Evros Prefecture in Thrace.
Alexandroupolis is about 14.5 kilometers west of the mouth of
the river Maritsa (Evros) and the border with Turkey, 391 kilometers from
Thessaloniki, and 849 kilometers from Athens. At the 1991 census the main city
had a population of 36,994, and the municipality had a population of 38,220.
The city's history only goes back to the 19th century. Long
used as a landing ground for fishermen from the coast of Samothrace opposite,
the location was known as Dedeagatch in Greek or Dedeağaç in Turkish (meaning
"tree of the monk"). The name was based on a local tradition of a wise dervish
having spent much of his time in the shade of a local tree and being
eventually buried beside it.
A small settlement developed in the area during the construction of a railway
line connecting Constantinople to the major cities of Macedonia. The work was
part of an effort to modernize the Ottoman Empire, and was assigned to
engineers from Austria-Hungary. The settlement soon grew into a fishing
village, which also used the name Dedeagatch.
Dedeagatch was captured by the army of Imperial Russia during the last
Russo–Turkish War of 1877–1878, and Russian forces settled in the village. The
officers in charge put some effort into urban planning, with an emphasis on
the design of wide streets, allowing the quick advance of troops. The streets
run parallel to each other, and cul-de-sacs were avoided as too confusing.
This was very unlike the narrow allies, cobbled streets, and dead-ends that
were characteristic of Ottoman cities at the time. The city returned to
Ottoman control by the end of the war, but the brief Russian presence has had
a lasting influence in the design of Alexandroupolis' urban streets.
The building of a railway station in Dedeagatch led to the development of the
village into a town, and a minor trade centre by the end of the century. The
town became the seat of a Pasha with administrative duties. The Ottoman
control of the town would last until the Balkan Wars. On 8 November 1912,
Dedeagatch and its station was captured by Bulgarian forces with the
assistance of the Hellenic Navy. Bulgaria and Greece were allies during the
First Balkan War, but opponents in the Second Balkan War. Dedeagatch was
captured by the Hellenic Army on 11 July 1913. This would prove short-lived,
for the Treaty of Bucharest (10 August 1913) determined that Dedeagatch would
be returned to Bulgaria along with the rest of Western Thrace.
The defeat of Bulgaria by the Allies in World War I (1914 - 1918) ensured
another change of hands for the town. The Treaty of Neuilly (27 November 1919)
required the ceding of Western Thrace from Bulgaria to Greece. However
Bulgaria retained the right to use the port of Dedeagatch to transport goods
through the Aegean Sea. The change of guard between Bulgarian and Greek
officials occurred on May 14, 1920. The city was soon visited by Alexander I
of Greece amidst great celebration. He was the first King of Greece to visit
the town which was renamed in his honor.
Following the defeat of Greece in the Greco-Turkish War (1919 - 1922), forces
of the Hellenic Army retreated from Eastern Thrace to the area of
Alexandroupolis under the leadership of General Theodoros Pangalos. Bulgaria
used the opportunity of the Greek defeat to demand for Alexandroupolis to be
either returned to its control or to be declared a neutral zone under
international control. Both demands were rejected by the Greek leadership and
found no support in the League of Nations.
The Treaty of Lausanne (24 July 1923) affirmed that Western Thrace and
Alexandroupolis would continue to be controlled by Greece. The previous
agreement allowing a Bulgarian presence in the town port had expired.
Representatives of Prime Minister of Greece Stilianos Gonatas offered a
renewal of the agreement in an apparent attempt to improve the relationship
between the two Balkan countries. Their Bulgarian counterparts informed Prime
Minister of Bulgaria Aleksandur Tsankov and returned a negative reply.
Bulgaria used its alliance with Nazi Germany to regain control of Western
Thrace during World War II. Alexandroupolis remained under Bulgarian
occupation between May, 1941 and 1945. The city suffered disaster of buildings
and loss of population during the war but was largely spared of the effects of
the Greek Civil War (1942 - 1949). Forces of the Democratic Army of Greece in
and around the town area were small and loosely organized , resulting in no
major battles occurring in it.
The return of peace allowed for Alexandroupolis to grow from a town of 16,332
residents (1951) to a city of 35,999 residents by 1981.
Alexandroupoli has schools, lyceums, gymnasia, banks, a post
office, beaches, a sporting centre, a train station (Thessaloniki - Drama -
Alexandroupoli) and squares.
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