Finally part of the free Bulgarian state, Plovdiv became a center of the tobacco industry. In addition, the city saw major urban developments such as the construction of schools, public buildings, factories, a central park and the first international fair in the country. The tumultuous years of the Balkan wars and the following World War I halted the economic progress of the city. Starting from the 1930s Plovdiv was again reclaiming its economic power – the city was electrified, new factories opened, the main shopping street was redesigned, Plovdiv airport started operations. World War II brought new struggles for the city and stopped economic development once again. However, Plovdiv will forever remain in history with its active role in the salvation of Bulgarian Jews from concentration camps.
World War II had stark consequences for Bulgaria. Even though, the country ended the war on the winning side, however, switching sides during the war, it was treated as a defeated country. Bulgaria fell under Soviet Union’s area of influence. The Communist elite set up a Cultural Committee in Plovdiv and through its work the symphony orchestra, the school of music, a university, theaters and a regional radio station were established. In addition, increased industrialization took place in Plovdiv.
The communist regime in Bulgaria lasted until 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell. Plovdiv was a center of the democratic movement in the country and saw numerous street protests in support of democratic reforms in the mid-1990s. In more recent years Plovdiv has been establishing itself as the cultural center of Bulgaria. The city places huge importance on archeological excavations, stimulating the arts, renovating public buildings and encouraging cultural tourism. Plovdiv was selected to be the European capital of culture in 2019 – the second time it has been awarded this status.