The name "Stavropol" is a Russian rendition of a fictitious Greek name, Stauropolis (historically the name of an unrelated archbishopric in Caria, a Roman province in present Anatolia), meaning "The city of the Cross". According to a legend soldiers found a huge cross made out of stone when they were building the fortress in the future city location.
Alexander I in 1809, invited several Armenian families to settle by the fortress, in order to encourage trade in the region.
Stavropol's strategic location aided in the Russian Empire's conquest of the Caucasus. By the early 19th century the city grew into a busy trade center of the Northern Caucasus. In 1843 an Episcopal see of the Russian Orthodox Church was established in Stavropol and in 1847 the city became the administrative center of the gubernia (governorate) with the same name.
Well-known Russians who have visited or resided in Stavropol include: Generals Suvorov, Alexey Yermolov and Nikolay Raevsky, the poets Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov, who were in political disfavor, the surgeon Nikolay Pirogov, Alexander Griboedov, Leo Tolstoy, and the national poet of Ossetia, Kosta Khetagurov.
During the Russian Civil War the city changed hands several times and finally was captured by the Red Army from the Volunteer Army of general Anton Denikin on January 29, 1920. The city was renamed Voroshilovsk on the 5th of May, 1935, after Kliment Voroshilov, but returned to its original name in 1943. The Great Patriotic War took a heavy toll on the city and between August 3, 1942 and January 21, 1943 Stavropol was occupied by the Germans. Since 1946 natural gas has been extracted near the city; later on, a pipeline to Moscow was built to supply it. The first and only executive president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, was born in Stavropol Krai (region) and spent several years working in the city of Stavropol as the head of the Krai's administration.
Stavropol's population includes a significant number of refugees escaping the strife or instability of the Russian border regions and Caucasus nations to the south.