Kulturni Centar Vršac

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About Vrsac

HISTORY

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According to to the written records, the name of our town first appeared almost six centuries ago, back in 1427, in the form PODVRSAN, in a letter of King Sigismund (1387-1439). At the end of the sixteenth century the forms VARSOCZ (VARŠOC), VERSECZ (VERŠEC), VIRSICZA (VIRŠKA), could be found in the written records. In 1694 a toponym VERSOCZ (VERŠOC) was noted down, and in 1707 VARSACZ (VARŠAC). At the base of all these names is the Serbian word "vrh". In 1427 the prefix "under“ was used in front of the mentioned basic meaning, which means under the top (of the hill) and it would mean PODVRSAN. Later, the prefix "under" disappeared and the ending ’’šac“ was added to the base of the word "vrh", and so we got the name which the town bears today - VRŠAC (a small peak).

 

THE HISTORY OF THE TOWN

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The region where two different economic areas merge - the plain and the Vršac mountains have always attracted people to settle down here, because the land is suitable for agriculture, viniculture and livestock, the vast swamps enabled abundant fishing, the forests full of game were ideal for hunting,
The first settlements appeared in the Neolithic period in the age of polished stone, which can be proved by archaeological finds. Human settlements got more permanent character with the arrival of the Slavs (late Middle Ages) in this region, and before them Cimmerians, Thracians, Celts, Scythians, Dacians, Romans, Sarmatians, Gepids, Avars and others had stayed here.
The first traces of settlement on Vršac hill date back to prehistoric times. Substructure under the Vršac tower (medieval fortress) is 21 m high, with walls 2.5 m thick. Hungarian and Serbian rulers gave way to each other, and at one time it was owned by Đurađ Smederavac, which could be documented by written records. In 1425, in the time of Despot Đurađ, Serbs came here and founded a settlement Podvršac, and it linked the fort on the hill with its main fortresses south of the Danube (Smederevo) in a solid defense system.

 

THE OLD AND THE NEW HISTORY

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This area was a crossroads of many roads, there was also a Roman road near Vršac, which connected Viminacium (now Kostolac), Lederat (on the island Sapaja, near Banatska Palanka), Agidava (now Varadija) with Pomorišje.
In the Middle Ages Vršac was on the road that led from the Danube toward Lugosi, Timisoara, Transylvania, Pont and the Ukrainian steppes, and from north to south to the Mediterranean.
Today's symbol of the town, the Vršac tower, was built in the first half of the 15th century during the Hungarian rule. Some sources say that the fortress was built on the site of old Roman observation tower. It was built by Đurađ Branković after the fall of Smederevo for the defense against the Turks. This could be proved by the fact that the tower above Vršac is very similar to the one above Smederevo.
As far back as the middle of the 15th century this area was well-known for its wines, which were among the most wanted at the Hungarian court. Often, many historians mention the year 1494, when a barrel of Vršac wine was paid 10.50 ducats at the court of the Hungarian king Vladislav.
The period of Ottoman rule in the region lasted from 1552 to 1716 (164 years).
When in 1552 Ahmet Pasha was conquering Banat, heading towards Timisoara, Vršac and its fortress were the first to suffer. The town was ravaged and the population retreated into the surrounding hills, where they built smaller settlements and only the names Topolovo, Ludoš, Grobljište, Crvenka, Manastirište and Jarak have survived. After they had destroyed the town the Turks instead of today's Čukur-mala region built a rectangular palanka, made of pads, and poles, on the shores of a lake which stretched in the Little swamp area (Mali rit).
The people of Banat revolted. The bishop of Vršac Teodor Nestorović, in agreement with the Transylvanian Prince Bathory, started people's uprising in Banat. Serbian troops that started conquering and liberating the villages of Banat, were carrying flags in front of them, with the embroidered figure of Saint Sava, in order to encourage them and give them new strength. At the beginning they had a lot of success and amongst others Vršac was also liberated. In order to destroy Serbian national and religious fervor, the Turkish general Sinan Pasha ordered to bring the relics of Saint Sava from the monastery Mileševa and had them burned. It was a revenge for Serbian war successes.
One troop of rebels under Janko Lugošan, called Halabura, kept attacking the Vršac tower. The commander of the fort challenged Janko Halabura to a duel, and Janko beheaded aga in that duel. That victory appears as one of the symbols of the emblem of the city (above the fortress tower we can see the hand with a sword and severed Turkish head). At the end of the summer Hasan Pasha came with his forces, defeated the rebels, and started with a vengeance. Most Serbs withdrew and Halabura himself was killed a few days later in a battle near the village of Parta. Most of the people ran away with Bishop to Transylvania to hide from the Turkish wrath, and after that Vršac fully took an oriental look

 

VRSAC IN THE EIGHTEENTH AND NINETENTH CENTURIES

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 Turks were exiled from the town by a military leader Eugene of Savoy in the year 1716, which opened a new epoch in the history of the town. Vršac became a part of Tamis Banat based in Timisoara. The town became the seat of the newly established Vršac District (1718), which included 72 villages and 3,500 houses.

From 1717 groups of colonists arrived in this region,  from Germany, France, Italy and Spain, primarily tenants. At the same time many immigrants from Serbia came to Vršac, primarily artisans and merchants, Serbs and Aromanians. Then beside the old (Serbian Vršac) German settlement was founded (the area of ​​today's streets - H.Pinkija and Sterijina). The Serbian part was ruled by the prince and the German by the šulhajz (serf). In 1794 Austrian court approved the unification of the Serbian and German Vršac and so in 1795 a unique city was founded where the authority, based on specific agreement, was shared by Serbs and Germans.

During this period, many buildings were built that have been preserved til today. One of the oldest buildings is the chapel on the hill, the Chapel of the Holy Cross, built in 1720, the Chapel of St. Rock in 1739, Residence of the Banat Episcopacy in 1759, Church of the Assumption of the Virgin 1763 (also known as Little or Alex's church, built with funds of a merchant Aleksa Nikolic), The Congregational Church 1783-85 (dedicated to Saint Nicholas). From that time is also the building of the first pharmacy  "At the Savior's" 1783 (Pharmacy on the stairs). The oldest part of the City Hall was also built in the late eighteenth century.

As far back as the 30's of the eighteenth century the first elementary schools were opened here, and since 1790 the first Latin Grammar School. In the next century many schools were founded in Vršac such as: crafts, real high school, agricultural, senior schoolfor girls, teachers' school and others. Many theater troupes and theaters were guests in Vršac and stayed in it even for a few months.

In 1804 the town received a Trade Charter of Francis II for bravery of its inhabitants in the wars against the Turks from 1787 to 1791, and in 1817 it became a free royal town within what was then Austria-Hungary. 13 large craft associations (guilds) worked in the town with several hundreds or even more than 1000 artisans. Trade became very important in 1857 when the city rail, which came together with telegraph and express post, linked with Timisoara, and further with Europe and to the south with Bazijas port on the Danube, through which the goods went to the Black Sea and further to the east.  Soon after that the first bank opened, the mills and big craft workshops were built which were made into factories of agricultural equipment, primarily for viniculture. Cobbling of roads began in 1820, and the following year second pharmacy opened. The Church of "All Saints“ was built on the new, Orthodox cemetery in 1837. The first stock association among artisans, founded in 1833, built the  hotel "Concordia" in 1847. "Town arena" was built in the Town Park (opened in 1797) in 1803, for public performances and appearances with 400 seats. Records about the first libraries show that Vršac had Public Reading Rooms as far back as in 1840, and later three libraries were founded and worked at the same time. The revolutionary events in 1848 affected several European countries, extending also to the Habsburg monarchy, which also included the territory of Vojvodina of that time.

In 1859 seven bridges were built, the new City Hall building was built linked to the old part, and from 1860-63 new Catholic church was built in the same architectural style. In 1873, with the construction and arrangement of the promenade in today's St. Sava Square, the core of the city was formed, getting the look that has mostly been preserved until today. A Swiss trader Bernard Staub opened a cellar in Vršac called "Helvetia“ in 1880 (capacity 10,000 hl) and Vršac vineyards exhibited their products in all the major European cities: Vienna, Paris, London, Brussels, Bremen, Budapest. In 1891 the paving of the streets and squares began. The first light bulbs were lit up in the homes in 1897, when the city power plant began operating, a telephone switchboard from 1892 was connected to the intercityrlink in 1901. The new railway station building was built in 1900..

In 1872 Vršac became an independent municipality, it got its first Prefect and trial court.

 

WORLD WAR I

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In the late 19th century the socialist ideas reached Vršac with, the powerful action of the group "Vršac socialists" (Laza Načić and Jaša Tomić) they spreaded the socialist ideas among the youth, workers, artisans and petty trader Vršac passed into the 20th century as the town of 25000 inhabitants and well-developed small industry, strong trade and renewed wine growing, good transport connections to all directions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Europe, a number of cultural and educational institutions, various associations, and a great number of newspapers in Serbian, German and Hungarian languages, several printing houses, two permanent and several temporary cinemas. After the outbreak of the First World War, the status of Serbian population changed, many prominent Serbs were sent into exile. They ceased publishing newspapers in Serbian. A number of Serbian young men were mobilized into the Austro-Hungarian army and sent to the Western Front to Italy or Eastern - to Russia.. German army arrived in Vršac in 1915, began fortifying the town, digging trenches and building roads to the Tower for the cannons, in order to control the surroundings from there. On 10th November 1918, as the German army withdrew towards Timisoara, Serbian troops came into Vršac led by the major Dušan Dodić.
Life in the town was now oganized within the new state, but because of the proximity to the border, Vršac soon lost large raw material and trading backgrounds and began to stagnate economically. Yet, some of the earlier industries still existed and some small factories were established, such as a salami factory, factory of methylated alcohol, cognac, champagne, furniture industry was still working and a number of smaller chemical plants, and wine production was still the most important and the prosperity of the town mostly depended on its sales.

 

WORLD WAR II
SabornaBetween the two wars, several political parties were active in Vršac, among which the the Radical and Democratic Parties were the strongest and the most numerous. The Communist Party of Yugoslavia, worked illegally, which  had a number of prominent activists in Vršac, such as Žarko Zrenjanin, Borislav Petrov, Jelisaveta Petrov, Živa Jovanović and others. Relations between ethnic groups, especially the Serbs and German, began to intensify with the emergence of fascism in Germany. World War II (1941-1945) brought great sufferings, destruction, and numerous victims in this region. After the fall of fascism Vršac repaid to their heroes and great people, so that a number of streets, squares, schools are named after them, and there are sculptures in the parks representing these famous people.

A few days after the liberation of the town the part of the General Hearquarters of the People's Liberation Army led by the Supreme Commander - Josip Broz Tito came to Vršac, and commanded the battle for the liberation of Belgrade from here. A large number of citizens of Vršac was moblized or voluntarily joined the People's Liberation Army and went to the Srem front and then fought till the final liberation of the country. The largest ethnic changes happened during the last days of World War II, when the local Germans fled before the Red Army. There was a systematic demographic and political change, the Communist took over the rule. The land, estates, factories, buildings ...were taken away from the people who lived here and were given to the loyal (''suitable“) ones. By the fifties of the twentieth century there was robbery, violence, harassment and killing, and later the city began to live like any other town in SFRY. During the eighties of the 20th century Vrsac began to emerge from the economic darkness and started developing the image of a successful town.

Today it is a town with a developed network of schools, sports clubs, cultural institutions, medical institutions, and above all, a town with strong economic potential grounds on which it has built its prosperity for the 21st century. Vršac, with the patina of a long and turbulent history is ready to step into the new millennium. Today, like during the most of its past, Vršac and its surroundings is a multi-national environment, with the respect for human rights, regardless of the religious affiliation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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