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(sōfē`ə, sō`fēə), Bulg. Sofiya, city (1993 pop. 1,114,476), capital of Bulgaria, W central Bulgaria, on a high plain surrounded by the Balkan Mts. It is Bulgaria's chief industrial, transportation, and commercial center. Among the chief manufactures are engineering and metal products, foodstuffs, textiles, rubber and leather goods, furniture, footwear, and chemicals.

A Thracian settlement once occupied the site of Sofia. It was taken by the Romans in A.D. 29 and flourished, especially, under the Emperor Trajan, as Sardica (or Serdica). Destroyed by the Huns in 447, the city was rebuilt (6th cent.) by Byzantine emperor Justinian I and renamed Triaditsa by the Byzantines. It formed part of the first Bulgarian kingdom (809–1018), reverted to the Byzantines (1018–1186), and was included in the second Bulgarian kingdom (1186–1382). Known as Sredets under the Bulgars, it was renamed Sofia or Sophya in 1376. Sofia passed to the Ottomans in 1382 and became the residence of the Turkish governors of RumeliaRumelia
or Roumelia
, region of S Bulgaria, between the Balkan and Rhodope mts. Historically, Rumelia denoted the Balkan possessions (particularly Thrace and Macedonia, and excluding Bosnia) of the Ottoman Empire.
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. Taken by the Russians in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, it became (1879) the capital of newly independent Bulgaria. During World War II the Russians captured Sofia from the Germans (1944).

The city has a university (founded 1889) and numerous other educational and cultural facilities. It is the see of an Eastern Orthodox metropolitan and of a Roman Catholic bishop and also retains many old churches, mosques, and synagogues. Landmarks include the parliament building, the state opera house, the former royal palace, the Church of St. George (4th–5th cent.), the Church of St. Sofia (6th–7th cent.), the Banya Bashi mosque (1474), and the Alexander Nevski Cathedral.


see infrared astronomyinfrared astronomy,
study of celestial objects by means of the infrared radiation they emit, in the wavelength range from about 1 micrometer to about 1 millimeter. All objects, from trees and buildings on the earth to distant galaxies, emit infrared (IR) radiation.
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(sof -ee-ă) Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, a 2.5-meter telescope in a high-flying Boeing 747 aircraft. Scheduled to succeed the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO), which ceased operation in 1996, the telescope was installed in its aircraft in 2002 and was used to view the stars for the first time in Sept. 2004. The largest airborne observatory in the world, it is one of the missions included in NASA's long-term Origins Program. It is scheduled to enter regular service in 2005.
Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the capital, major city, and chief economic and cultural center of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. Sofia is conveniently located on routes that since ancient times have followed the valleys and connected Western and Central Europe with the Middle East. The city is situated at an elevation of 530–650 m, on the southern border of the Sofia Basin, at the foot of the Vitosh mountain massif. The highest peak of the Balkan Peninsula, Mount Musala in the Rila Mountains, is located 60 km south of Sofia. The northern edge of the basin is occupied by the Stara Planina (Balkan Mountains), the east by the spurs of the Sredna Gora, and the west by the Liulin Mountains. The Isker River flows along the eastern edge of the city; the Isker Reservoir, on the upper Isker, is Sofia’s main water source. Sofia has a temperate continental climate, with a mean January temperature of 2°C and a mean July temperature of 20°C. Annual precipitation is 600–650 mm. There are mineral springs in Sofia and its environs.

The cities of Sofia, Bankia, and Novi Isker and several other communities form a separate administrative unit covering an area of 1,038 sq km; Sofia proper covers an area of 168 sq km. Sofia is divided into seven districts and has a population of approximately 1 million (1975; 21,000 in 1880), more than one-tenth of the population of Bulgaria. The major causes of the increase in population have been a population influx from other cities and villages and the expansion of the city limits. Seven-tenths of the city’s work force is engaged in material production, including two-fifths in industry (172,000 persons in 1973).

Administration. Sofia is under republic jurisdiction and is the administrative center of Sofia District. The agency of state authority in Sofia is the City People’s Council, the members of which are elected for terms of 2% years by citizens 18 years and older. The City People’s Council elects the Executive Committee, which functions between council sessions. The city’s districts elect district people’s councils for terms of 2Vi years.

History. Sofia arose under the name of Serdica in the first century AD. after the Roman conquest of the province of the Thra-cians and Serdians. Serdica was an important administrative and trade center of the Balkan possessions of first the Roman empire and later the Byzantine empire. It was destroyed by the Huns in 441–447 and restored under the emperor Justinian (reigned 527–565). In 809 it became part of the First Bulgarian Kingdom (681–1018) under the name of Sredets. From 1018 to 1194 it was under Byzantine rule; in 1078 the city rose against Byzantium. The city was renamed Sofia in the late 14th century, after the Church of St. Sofia, built in the fifth and sixth centuries. The city was captured by the Turks in 1382 and became the residence of the Rumelian beglerbeg (governor). From the 16th through 18th centuries, Sofia was, after Constantinople, the largest trade, artisan, and cultural center of the Balkan Peninsula.

Sofia was one of the major centers of the national liberation movement of the Bulgarian people in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. During the Russo-Turkish war of 1877–78, the Russian army liberated the city from the Turkish yoke on Dec. 23, 1877 (Jan. 4, 1878). In 1879, Sofia became the capital of Bulgaria. From 1905 to 1907 Bulgarian workers and students, encouraged by the revolution in Russia, held massive demonstrations in the city. In February 1915 an all-Balkan antiwar meeting was organized by the Bulgarian Workers’ Social Democratic Party (Narrow Socialists) in Sofia. The city was also the site of the First Congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party, held from May 25 to May 27, 1919.

During World War II (1939–45), Sofia was the center of the armed antifascist struggle of the Bulgarian people. The working people of Sofia played a prominent role in the September People’s Armed Uprising of 1944. The first people’s democratic Fatherland Front government was formed in Sofia on Sept. 9,1944, and Bulgaria was proclaimed a people’s republic on Sept. 15, 1946.

Economy. As Bulgaria’s chief industrial center, Sofia accounts for approximately 15 percent of the total national industrial output. The Sofia industrial center is the main part of the large Sofia-Pernik industrial region, which accounts for approximately 25 percent of the national industrial output. Industrial activity in Sofia is dominated by heavy industry, which accounts for approximately two-thirds of Sofia’s industrial output. Metallurgy is prominent. The Kremik Ferrous Metallurgical Combine, a combine for rolling nonferrous metals, and other enterprises account for one-fifth of the city’s industrial output. Machine building accounts for one-fourth of the city’s industrial output; the major products are instruments, computer equipment, hoisting and transportation equipment, and machine tools.

The chemical industry is also important and, together with the rubber industry, accounts for one-tenth of the city’s industrial output. Sofia also has enterprises of the textile and food industries. Most of Bulgaria’s printing presses are located in the city. A gas pipeline has been laid from the Soviet Union to Sofia.

Most of Sofia’s industrial enterprises are located in the city’s northern and eastern districts, adjacent to the main transportation zone. The central part of the city, which features main trade, administrative, and cultural institutions, has expansive parks, gardens, and boulevards. Sofia is a major junction of railroad lines, main highways, and air routes. Construction was begun in 1976 on the Khemus Highway, from Sofia to Varna, and the Trakiia Highway, from Sofia to Burgas. Sofia is also located on the international Budapest-Belgrade-Sofia-Istanbul railroad and highway lines. Plans are under way for the construction of a subway system.

The environs of Sofia, including Vitosha, Isker Gorge, and the Isker and Pancharevo reservoirs, serve as recreation areas for the residents and as tourist centers.

Architecture and city planning. City planning was instituted in Sofia between 1888 and 1893; the center has a radial-ring plan and the periphery has a rectangular plan. Remains of ancient Roman structures have been preserved. The most important monument of medieval architecture is the Church of St. Sofia, built in the fifth and sixth centuries. Many buildings constructed in the 19th and early 20th centuries are in the eclectic style. Several structures, however, reveal a trend toward development of national architectural traditions, for example, the Mineral Baths (1907–10, architect P. Momchilov). The city also has monuments commemorating Bulgaria’s liberation from the Turkish yoke.

Urban development has been especially intensive since 1944. A 20-year general plan for reconstruction and urban development was adopted in 1961. Modern architecture in central Sofia includes an ensemble of squares surrounding the G. Dimitrov Mausoleum (1949, architects G. Ovcharov and R. Ribarov), as well as the Universiada Sport Complex (1961, architect A. Barov). Sofia has a monument to the Soviet Army (bronze and stone, 1954, architects D. Mitov and L. Neikov, sculptors I. Funev and others).

Educational, scientific, and cultural institutions. Sofia has several notable institutes of higher learning, including the Kliment Okhridski University of Sofia and the Bulgarian State Conservatory. It also has schools of electrical engineering, economics, chemical engineering, mining and geology, agriculture, physical education, the fine arts, and the theatrical arts. The seat of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia has 117 scientific research institutes and ten centers for scientific study and the training of specialists.

The city’s major libraries are the Central Library of the Academy of Sciences, the Cyril and Methodius National Library, and the library of the University of Sofia. The principal museums are the National Art Gallery, which has a collection of Bulgarian, Western European, and Russian art, the National Archaeological Museum, the National Museum of the Revolutionary Movement in Bulgaria, the National Ethnographic Museum, the National Museum of Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship, the Museum of Sofia’s History, the G. Dimitrov National Museum, and the house-museums of D. Blagoev, I. Vazov, V. Kolarov, A. Stamboliiski, and N. Vaptsarov. Notable theaters in Sofia include the Sofia National Opera, the I. Vazov People’s Theater, the S. Makedonski Musical Theater, the dramatic theater Sleza i Smekh, the Theater of the People’s Army, the Satirical Theater, the People’s Theater, and the Central Puppet Theater. Sofia also has a philharmonic orchestra.


Peev, P., S. Muleshkov, and Kh. Marinov. Sofiia. Sofia, 1965.
Sofiia. [Album compiled by S. Kozhukharov.] Sofia, 1969. Tashev, P.
Sofiia: Arkhitekturno-gradoustroistvenno razvitie. Sofia, 1972.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the capital of Bulgaria, in the west: colonized by the Romans in 29 ad; became capital of Bulgaria in 1879; university (1880). Pop.: 1 045 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005