The History of Subotica
Subotica - A City With 200 Names
The first mentioning of Subotica in written documents dates from May 7th 1391; however the settlement has surely been older. It has been established that people inhabited these territories even 3000 years ago. The fate of Subotica was clearly defined by its position between Europe and Asia, whilst, historically, it was between two opposing forces – the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. Frequent migrations resulted in a diverse population on this military borderland, such as: Serbs, Hungarians , Germans, Slovaks, Jews, Bunjevci and Greeks… Both the rulers and the names of the city changed quite often. Since its first name: Zabatka given in 1391, the city has changed more than 200 names, however the most peculiar ones are Szent – Maria, Maria-Theresiopolis, Maria Theresienstadt, Szabadka and Subotica.
Despite its location along crossroads, Subotica has always been a place of turbulent historical events. Hence, Pongrác János from Dengelega, the Duke of Transylvania, built a fortress here in 1470, though it failed to withstand the impact of the people and time. The remained parts of this fortress can be seen on the inside wall of the Franciscan Church tower.
Subotica’s Self-Proclaimed Czar
One of the fairy-tale-like images from Subotica’s past, Jovan Nenad, appeared in history after the the Hungarian army was defeated by the OttomanTurks in the Battle of Mohács, in 1526. Jovan Nenad had a strange black line stretching from his temple to his foot and it strengthened his mysterious appeal and served as a reason behind his nickname: the Black Man. He defeated the Ottoman Turks in South Hungary and founded his own ephemeral Slavic state there. He proclaimed himself a czar and chose Subotica for his capital. He died in 1527, in a conflict with a Hungarian noblemen. After four centuries, on the anniversary of his death, a monument was set up on the central square in Subotica that was demolished in 1941 by the occupant. This monument as restored and set up again in 1991.
Maria Theresiopolis – A Free Borough under the Crown
The Turks conquered Subotica in 1542 and governed it until 1686.On a privilege from 1743, Maria Theresa declared Subotica a free borough under the Crown, for which she was bestowed with 150 horses. For the committed service of the border guards, Maria Theresa declared Subotica a free borough under the Crown in 1799. In their appreciation of that important decision, the inhabitants of Subotica bestowed the empress with 5000 gold coins and paid a ransom of 266.666 forints. A free borough status meant extended autonomy for Subotica, and a new name – Maria Theresiopolis, and that year also meant the beginnings of the city’s planned and accelerated growth.
Subotica During World War I and II
During the years of Serbian Vojvodina (Serbian Voivodship) , between 1850 and 1860, under a strictly centralized system, culture had not lost its importance, since a theater and many district schools were built in 1853.
Civil society and the city itself were rapidly developing in the period after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 until 1914.
By the end of World War I, Serbian and French units entered Subotica on November 13th, 1918. During the Great National Assembly in Novi Sad, on November 25th 1918, the unification of Banat, Bačka and Baranja with the Kingdom of Serbia was declared. However, Subotica was incorporated in the new state of Yugoslavia, in Trianon on June 4th ,1920. One of the central figures in these significant events was Blaško Rajić, a vicar from Subotica.
By the beginning of World War II, on April 12th 1941, Subotica was occupied by the Hungarian fascists, and later liberated by the Partisan unit of Subotica and Red Army units, on October 10th 1944. During the final confrontation at the railway station, Jovan Mikić Spartak, a captain of the Unit and an athlete of the Yugoslavia National Team and record holder, got killed.
Economy, Schooling System, Culture
Subotica developed into a modern central European city by the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The city had, at that time, experienced an exceptional urban, industrial, cultural boom. The rapid development of handicraft, industry and economy was stimulated as early as 1869, by the arrival of the first train, and advanced by the building of the electric power station in 1896, and the tram traffic in 1897. Our present day modern industry is rooted in companies established at end of the 19th century: Hartmann and Konen - Meat Export Company, having the first ice-truck in the country; Klotild - the first Sulfuric Acid and Fertilizer Plant in Subotica, founded in 1904;Ruff brothers started the production of sweets in 1917, and Sever – the electric motor industry was founded in 1923.
The first high school, later called “Gymnasium”, was opened in Subotica in 1747; the Music School was established in 1868, the senior citizens home in 1766; Lake Palic became a health resort in 1845, the first printing house was founded in 1844; the first newspaper came out in 1848; the first cinema performance was presented by Angelo Bianci from Pécs in 1899; and Alexandar Lifka opened the first regular cinema in 1910; Đuro Stantić won the first Olympic medal in Athens in 1906; Ivan Sarić flew a plane of his own construction in 1910...
The original Serbian texts are fragments from Subotica, a monograph by Boško Krstić; 1996, scond edition, p. 13-14, p. 29, p. 47.