Varna, the "water town"

A coin with the name OdessosThe new town appeared in the period of 580-560 B.C., at the same time when the other ancient Greek towns were also founded on our Black Sea coast. Its founders, the Miletian Greeks, settled gradually and without any problems in the already existing settlement, called Odessos and adopted the name given by the natives.

 That name is first detected in the works of the poet Skymnos of Chios and the historian Strabo. The town was also called Odissos and in the 5th century Theophanus referred to it as Odissopolis. It is assumed that the name is of Karian origin and is translated as "water-town". This statement is supported by the existence of pile dwellings, discovered some years ago on the Varna Lake sides. It is possible that the founders of the settlement were neither the ancient Thracians inhabiting our lands, nor the Greeks, but rather people coming from the regions of Asia Minor and present Greece who in many areas left behind settlement names ending in "-sos". There is still another version that the town was named after Odysseus. 

From VI century onwards the name of Odessos is no longer found in the historical documents. Varna is first mentioned in the chronicles describing the advancement of Khan Asparukh and his people who "...came to the so-called Varna, close to Odessos..." and the consequent settlement of Bulgarian tribes in those areas. Most probably Varna has been a village somewhere around the Devnya Lake. According to Shkorpil brothers a Thracian village with the name of Varnas existed on the lake's side, somewhere below the "Dzhanavara" region, where even nowadays lots of archeological materials are found. Dimitar Dimitrov suggests another version, according to which Varna has been a village situated in the western part of the present city, where necropolis of chalcolith times can be seen.

There is no commonly accepted theory for the origin and meaning of the name “Varna”. K. Irechek expresses the idea for its Slavic origin and meaning similar to the Bulgarian word "vrana", black. Close Slavic words, originated from the old Slavic word "uarna", rook. “Uarna” – vrana, wrona, vorona. The brothers Shkorpil are searching for the Thracian origin of the name Varnas.

In the beginning of the century archimandrite Inokenti presents interesting details from his researches. He also mentions the theory that the name Varna originates from the avarian word “var”, meaning city. 

The researcher from Varna, Petar Stoyanov, points out interesting findings – in different parts of the world, all settlements named Varna, Varnavino, Varnek, etc., are located on the sea-, river- or lake-coast.  He suggests that Varna was the name of a close settlement, later renamed to Odessos – both of which carry the meaning “town at water”, “water town”.

Some hypotheses maintain that at the time of Emperor Tiberius (14 -27) the town was, for a short time, called Tiberiopolis. And during the reign of Empress Irene towards the end of VII century there was another short period in which it took her name - Irinopolis. In the ancient times Theophanus referred to the town as Odessopolis and other authors - as Ulissopolis.

The monument of J.Stalin Only once in the thousands-of-years-old history of the town were there no doubts about the time, its name and meaning. In honour of the 70th birthday anniversary of Joseph Stalin, taking into consideration the request (or "request") of the citizens of Varna, the Council of Ministers issued a decree to rename the town. Thus on 21st December 1949 Varna became Stalin and a monument of the town's patron was erected at the entrance of the Seaside garden. Time passed by and at their 1956 plenary sessions the Communist Parties of the Soviet Union and Bulgaria admitted still another mistake and the recent town name was regained. For those in the nostalgic mood, however, the old streets of Varna still keep drainage covers made in the town of Stalin. 

Special thanks to Esin Halid for the translation of this page.

Should any navigation problems arise, click the titles from this location.