HISTORY PRIJEDOR

Prijedor is located in the northwestern part  of the Republika Srpska, on the right bank of the Sana river, in the alluvial plain known as the Prijedor field. The town is located at 440 48' 30'' north latitude and 160 42' 53'' east longitude. On the north side, the municipality area is confined with the Kozara mountain and on the south with the Behremaginica hills. The town’s average altitude is 135 meters (443 feet) and the highest peak of the Kozara mountain, which belongs to the Prijedor municipality, is Lisina, at 987 meters (3,238 feet). The length of the municipal area in the north-south direction is 32 km (20 miles) and in the east-west direction almost 46 km (28 miles). The Sana river flows through the town as well as its tributary Gomjenica, which supplies the artificial fishing lake Saničani with water. The town has a favorable geostrategic location, connected with main roads to Banja Luka (50 km/31 miles), as well as to Kozarska Dubica, Novi Grad and Sanski Most (each 32 km/20 miles). The railway track connecting Sarajevo and Zagreb passes through Prijedor.

 

Prijedor is one of the youngest towns in the Republika Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina, since it was first mentioned at the end of the 17th century, but in the true sense only at the middle of the 18th century. However, the first traces of human life in this area appear in the distant prehistoric times and the material remains of these region’s inhabitants have been found, dating back to ancient times and the Middle Ages, until the arrival of the Ottomans.

 

Previous archeological investigations have confirmed that the first traces of settlement in this area are related to the so-called Eneolithic period, which would correspond in the absolute chronology to the period of about 2100 BC. A number of sites in the tamed valley of the Sana river, of which the most important is the fort in Zecovi, with an abundance of material remains and with its significant name in the archeological literature of the Balkans, have brought the researchers from the prestigious University of Cambridge to this area. The start of the joint research by the Cambridge and the Museum of Kozara during 2011 and 2012, and the findings of the new cultural layers, indicate that the age of the Zecovi fort could move almost 2000 years back, that is, to the early Stone Age.

 

In pre-Roman and Roman times, the Masai tribe lived in this area, which was the second biggest tribe in the Roman province of Illyricum, according to the writings of Roman historians. According to recent research, the tribe belongs to the large group of Pannonian peoples. The area rich in iron was of a great importance for the big Roman Empire, which remained in this region for more than four centuries. From this period, there are numerous testimonies poured into the remains of settlements and archeological material, dominated by tombstones and altars from the 3rd century.

 

There are traces of human population, from the ancient times and the Middle Ages, which moved in waves toward the Roman Empire, as well as the first traces of Slavic settlements and necropolises, among which the biggest necropolis is located in Gomjenica near Prijedor, containing buried remnants of a larger settlement of 246 inhabitants. Until the arrival of the Ottomans, the constant conflicts over the dominance prevailed over this region between the Croatian and Hungarian nobility. Only in a short period of time, this region, known as the “Lower Districts,” belonged to the Bosnian state under Tvrtko the First.

 

In the early 16th century, the Ottomans come to this region and their conquest of Kozarac in 1528 meant the beginning of a great occupation which lasted until 1878. Many conflicts of two great empires, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empire, influenced the significant ethnic changes and movements of population, which end-result in our case was the establishment of Prijedor. It was the time when all the warfare of the Ottoman army in the western and northwestern parts of Bosnia was about the protection of already conquered territory and when many small fortifications were built. This is especially true at a time after the defeat of the Ottoman army at Vienna in 1683, and after the Karlovac peace, when the borders in Lika region were shifted in favor of Austria-Hungary.

 

The first mention of the name of Prijedor happened at the time when the Croatian units of the Karlovac general command burnt a part of the fortifications along the Sana river, between 1693 and 1696. The written report in Latin by the Count of Bacani contains the report about burning several watchtowers in Čarakovo and Dragotinja, as well as Praedor Palanka. The very term “palanka” refers to a wooden fort that had to be built urgently and quickly, at the artificially created small river island. The fort was created by a part of the Muslim refugees’ population from Lika, that came to a relatively sparsely populated area, near smaller Christian settlements. After almost 50 years, the name of Prijedor re-appeared on the historical scene. In 1745, a document appeared talking about the crossing of two town guards from the abandoned fortification at the Una river to the rebuilt palanka “Pridorska ada.” A confirmation of this time could also be found on a stone plaque above the mosque’s entrance in the Old Town, with information that it was built during Sultan Mahmoud in 1747. The fortification was built of stone with three large towers and earthen fort for the cannons and it contained, besides the civil population, various branches of the army. This fortification existed as an occupied military post until 1851, when the army left it because the settlement outside the walls overcame the size of that in the fortification. It was a Christian settlement known as the “Serbian Town,” where already in 1835 the first Serbian primary school was built and little before 1849 the log cabin church dedicated to the Holy Trinity was built as well. Pretty soon, a new town district was established called “čaršija“ (downtown), which was built, unlike many Bosnian towns, along a 500 meters (1,640 feet) long street, extending in the north-south direction.

 

The town kept developing as a commercial and crafts center of this area, with the navigable Sana river which influenced the economic development at the beginning, facilitating the extensive trade with the East. Almost 70 ships were traveling on the river and they were carried downstream, loaded with numerous rough derivatives of iron, and drawn back upstream by human power, loaded with sugar, coffee, salt and other items.

 

One event will substantially change the look and future of the town. The first railroad in Bosnia and Herzegovina was built from Banja Luka to Dobrljin, passing through Prijedor, in 1873, by the Ottomans in their attempt to connect with the western regions. The town will quickly begin to spread to the north, merging with settlements Urije and Puharska, while the river traffic was eventually replaced by rail.

 

Numerous uprisings of the Christian population in the mid 19th century, with the biggest one at Kozara, led to a decision of great European powers at the Berlin congress in 1878 to grant the mandate to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to occupy Bosnia. Despite sporadic fighting throughout the country, the Austrian army entered Prijedor without fighting on September 6th, 1878. Instead of the feudal empire, the capitalist one appeared, which didn’t solve the fundamental existential questions for the population of this area. The town began to develop rapidly and the first census showed that Prijedor had 4681 inhabitants at that time.

 

Another important date in the history of Prijedor was in 1882, when the town lost almost 120 dwellings as well as the elementary school and church, during one single night, due to a great fire. Therefore, the Austrian authorities issued the first urban development plan, by which the town was built in the modern spirit of Central European cities.

 

At the place of the burnt school the new one was built, as well as the new Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, which was formally consecrated in 1891. The Town’s Mosque already existed and in 1896 St. Joseph Catholic Church was built. In 1899, the Municipal School was built (now the Museum of Kozara), as well as the first hotel built by the Trappists and after five years it was sold to the Serbian-Orthodox Church Municipality. During those years, the first Czech and Jewish settlers came to the town, and after the Austrian administration was established, Germans, Poles and Hungarians inhabited the town. Unlike many others who left the town by the end of the First World War, the Czechs have remained settled until today.

 

In 1885, the Serbian Orthodox Church’s Choral Society “Vila” was established, which will eventually be, up until 1946, with brief interruptions during the wars, the backbone of the cultural life of the town. The lyrics of the anthem was written by Aleksa Šantić and the music was composed by then the greatest living Serbian composer, Josif Marinković. The Serbian Reading Room was founded as well as the first printing house of Nikodim Mijatović. The “Serbian Hawk” and the “First Serbian Savings Bank” were also founded. The first visual art exhibition held in Sarajevo in 1907 involved two trained painters from Prijedor, Pero Popović and Todor Švrakić. Already in 1910, Prijedor hosted Todor Švrakić’s solo exhibition in the municipality building, the second one in the history of visual arts in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

The beginning of the First World War and the assassination in Sarajevo were marked by fierce reprisals against the Serbs and the killings, robbery, deportation, imprisonment and forced mobilization characterized almost four years of this period. It is important to mention, on the economic front, the opening of the narrow-gauge railway which connected Prijedor with the Dalmatian hinterland and especially the opening of the iron-ore mine Ljubija in 1916, as one of the largest mines in Europe at that time. At one time, almost 4000 captured Russians, Italians, Czechs and French worked there.

 

After the First World War, Prijedor was developing as a well-developed commercial and crafts center of this region. The work was restored in the Ljubija mines and the town got electrical lighting in 1928, after Ljubija, and Urije got the electrical power in 1933. A group of prominent traders established the shareholding company which built the “First Krajina’s Brick and Tile Factory” in 1926, as the first modern industrial plant. The work of “Vila” was restored, first football teams were formed, as well as the handball team “Hazena,” the tennis and chess club. In 1920 and 1921, the lower gymnasium was established which prompted the construction of a new building in 1924, and the third elementary school was built at Urije. Shortly before the war, the town was an important center, as in 1940 almost 244 handicraft shops were registered.

 

At the beginning of the Second World War, Prijedor was occupied by the so-called Independent Croatian State, a fascist entity, with the goal of maximizing the extermination of the Serbian and Jewish population. A strong retaliation in the first August days in 1941 was continued almost throughout the war. Partisan forces, established at Kozara in 1941 under the leadership of the legendary Commander Dr. Mladen Stojanović, during that very year reaffirmed the desire of the peoples for freedom, standing up together with people. The first liberation of Prijedor on May 16th 1942, which lasted only for a month, had far-reaching consequences. In those days, the First Krajina Brigade was established as well as the First Partisan Air Force, and the people with their army were determined to fight to the end. The great enemy offensive, launched by Germans, Ustasha, Hungarians, Italians and others during June, July and August in 1942, despite large casualties of people from Kozara (about 60,000, of which about 20,000 children), did not shake the people in their struggle for freedom. In the European largest and extremely inhuman camp Jasenovac, where men, women and children were captured, the youth of this region perished. The struggle for freedom was stronger however and already on September 7th 1944, Prijedor was liberated, the second time and this time finally.

               

The period after the Second World War will be marked by an expansion in all the aspects of life in the town. The old industrial facilities were restored and the new ones established. The former biscuits industry, sawmills, mills, tailor shops, moved from private to public ownership. The Ljubija mine started the production, the company “Tailor” was founded, as well as the Power Management company, the Pulp and Paper plant “Celpak”, “Javor” carpentry, “Biljoproizvod”, “Hladnjača”, Ceramics Factory, Brickyard plant, the Biscuit Factory “Mira Cikota.”

 

In the field of culture, “Vila” became the Cultural Artistic Society “Dr. Mladen Stojanović;” the theater, museum, library, new cultural societies, sports clubs, primary and secondary schools were established. The National Park “Kozara” was founded and in 1972 the memorial monument was opened for the fallen soldiers and people of Kozara. New hotels were opened, as well as new modern factories, and the town quickly became an important cultural, political and economic center of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

The war in former Yugoslavia 1992 to 1995 left a trace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Prijedor. The civil war is always the cruelest war. Many people were killed in Prijedor, the material goods were destroyed, the system of values was disrupted and the inhabitants were brought to poverty. In the post-war development, Prijedor has been taking big steps in moving forward and today we belong to the pro-European towns which solved many problems of infrustructure, towns which have made progress in education, culture, sport, by having all the institutions in these fields. The economy takes the center stage in all subjects in Prijedor, with the economic activities gaining a stronger momentum. We want Prijedor as a developed European town with all the characteristics of such a place.

     


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