About St. George and the names of the cities of Ruse and Giurgiu

It is known for certain that the patron saint of the youth military formations after the adoption of Christianity by the Bulgarians is St. George. This quality of the saint – to patronize the warrior youth – is the reason for the replacement of the former (pre-Christian) local protector The blond girl with Saint George. This logic seems strange today, but 11 centuries ago it subjugated the realities of the ninth century and named the settlement with the patron Saint. George – Giurgiu.

One of the two oldest churches in Ruse is named after St. George. When a bridge (fortification, not a settlement) was built on the left bank of the Danube River in the 14th century, the new fortress from the fortification system of the city also had a patron Saint. George is named Giurgiugrad. The name Giurgiu is preserved in the song folklore of Northeastern Bulgaria. In the historical springs there are different variants of the name – Giurgiugrad, Yergyogi, Jorgovo.

The official and folklore name of the village are not mutually exclusive because they are subject to the cultural peculiarities of Bulgarian society, which contain their official („high“) and folk („low“) manifestations. The former correspond with the state ideology, and the latter – with the established folklore-mythological ideas, with the picture of the world in the Bulgarians.

An essential feature of the names „Ruse“ and „Giurgiu“ is their character of confessional names – names that preserve the memory of the religious history of the community. The two oldest churches in the city – Saint George and Holy Trinity indirectly testify to the change of faith (from paganism to Christianity) and the resulting change in the name and patronage of the city. Thus, the first of the city’s names (Rusin city, Rousse) marks the time of Old Bulgarian paganism, and the second (Giurgiu city, Giurgiu) – the Christian presence, which replaced functionally one character – patron with another.

With the loss of statehood and the emergence of a second fortress (on the left bank of the river), the duality of naming the city was gradually overcome. By the middle of the 15th century, only the settlement on the right bank of the Danube river was already marked by RUSE, and by GURGEVO – the settlement on the left bank. Since then the independent development of these two cities has begun.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nikolai Nenov