40.8475/40°50'51" N lat.
25.8744/25°52'28" E long
11 m (centre)
|Number of subdivisions:||-|
|Postal code:||681 00|
|Area/distance code:||11-30-25510 (0030-25510)-2 through 7|
|3-letter abbreviation:||ALE Alexandroupoli|
|Address of administration:||306 Dimokratias Ave.|
Alexandroupoli 681 00
Alexandroupolis is about 14.5 kilometres west of the mouth of the river Evros (Maritza) and the border with Turkey, 391 kilometres from Thessaloniki, and 849 kilometres 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 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 modernise 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 alleys, 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 King Alexander 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 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 loss of buildings 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.