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Veliki Bečkerek

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Subject: North Banat District, Srpska Crnja, Torontál County, Capitals of Vojvodina, Opovo, Žitište, 1930 Yugoslav Football Championship, Jaša Tomić, Sečanj, Knićanin, Srpski Krstur
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Veliki Bečkerek

Peter I of Serbia

Coat of arms
Location of Zrenjanin within Serbia

Location of Zrenjanin within Vojvodina

Coordinates: 45°23′N 20°22′E / 45.383°N 20.367°E / 45.383; 20.367Coordinates: 45°23′N 20°22′E / 45.383°N 20.367°E / 45.383; 20.367

Country  Serbia
Province  Vojvodina
District Central Banat
Settled by Roxolani 3th century A.D.
Founded 10 July 1326
City status 29 December 2007
 • Mayor Ivan Bošnjak (SNS)
 • Zrenjanin 1,324.0 km2 (511.19 sq mi)
Elevation 76 m (249 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Zrenjanin Decrease 76,511 [1]
 • Density 93.2/km2 (241/sq mi)
 • Metro Decrease 123,362
Demonym zrenjaninci  (sr)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 23000
Area code(s) +381(0)23
Car plates ZR

Zrenjanin (Serbian Cyrillic: Зрењанин, pronounced [zrɛ̌ɲanin]) is a city located in the eastern part of Vojvodina, Serbia. It is the administrative centre of the Central Banat District. The city's population is 76,511, while the Zrenjanin county has 123,362 inhabitants (2011 census data).

Zrenjanin is the largest city in the Serbian Banat, the third largest city in Vojvodina (after Novi Sad and Subotica) and the sixth largest city of Serbia.


The city was named after Žarko Zrenjanin Uča (1902–1942) in honour and remembrance of his name in 1946. He was one of the leaders of the Vojvodinian Communists and Partisans. During World War II, he was imprisoned and released after being tortured by the Nazis for months. Later he was killed while trying to escape from being recaptured. The former Serbian name of the city was Bečkerek (Бечкерек) or Veliki Bečkerek (Велики Бечкерек). In 1935 the city was renamed to Petrovgrad (Петровград) in honor of king Peter I of Serbia. It was called Petrovgrad from 1935 to 1946.

In Hungarian, the city is known as Nagybecskerek, in German as Großbetschkerek or Betschkerek, in Romanian as Becicherecul Mare or Zrenianin, in Slovak as Zreňanin, in Rusin as Зрењанин, in Croatian as Zrenjanin, and in Turkish as Beşkelek (meaning five melons) or Beçkerek.

It is assumed[by whom?] that Zrenjanin's original name, Bečkerek/Becskerek, comes from Hungarian word kerek ("forest, grove") and the surname of the 14th century nobleman, Imre Becsei, who had large estates in the area. Therefore the name would be translated into English as "Becsei's Forest". The original name received an adjective meaning "great/big/major" in the languages of the Banat (Serbian: Veliki or Велики, Danube Swabian: Groß, Hungarian: Nagy, Romanian: Mare), to distinguish it from a village of the same name in the Romanian Banat, that is usually referred to as small Bečkerek (cf. Serbian: Mali Bečkerek or Мали Бечкерек, Danube Swabian: Kleinbetschkerek, Romanian: Becicherecu Mic, Hungarian: Kisbecskerek).


Main article: History of Zrenjanin


Prehistory can be divided into the Palaeolithic – Old Stone Age and the Neolithic – New Stone Age. In Zrenjanin's regions no archaeological sites of the Palaeolithic have been found. The only exception makes the discovery of mammoth’s head and other bones found on the banks of Tisa River near Novi Bečej in the year 1952. The discovered archaeological sites, however, indicate that these regions had already been inhabited in the early Neolithic period about 5000 years B.C. The most important archaeological site from this period is so-called Krstić tumulus, near Mužlja, about 10 km (6 mi) away from Zrenjanin. Here were found the ceramics, with interesting ornaments. Beside the brewery ground have been found rough, with coloured fine ceramics, ornaments (Starčevo culture). The middle Neolithic appeared in our area as Vinča and Potisje culture, in the down course of the Tisa River. What makes this area important is the fact that the influence of two parallel cultures flew through it at the same time. The Iron Age has not been enough explored yet. A few regions with some archaeological materials from the Iron Age have been found: in the residential area Šumica a tip of a spear was found and near the Oil Factory, pieces of ceramics from the Bronze Age were discovered.

At the beginning of A.D, this area was settled by many native tribes, but also by many newcomer tribes: the Illyrians, the Celts, the Goths, the Geths, the Sarmatian and Jazghs. In the end of the 3rd century and in the middle of the 4th century, in the area of Zrenjanin and its surroundings, the Sarmatian tribe Roxolani appeared. From this period a Sarmatian’s graveyard has been found in a city residential district, near the railroad bridge. Finally in the necropolis, not far from Aradac, “Mečka”, more than 120 graves, which date from the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century, have been excavated in 1952.

The Middle Ages

The first historical records mentioning Zrenjanin (Bečkerek) date from the 14th century, the time when the Charles I (1301-1342) used to visit Banat and spent most of his time in his capital Timișoara. Many noblemen came with him, among which the most powerful Imre Becsei was. He settled down in “Bechereki” and “Beche” (Novi Bečej), the names refer to his surname. In region of today’s Zrenjanin an inscription – Charles I a coin has been found .

The oldest written records of Bečkerek date from Budim Capitulum’s document of collecting Pope’s tens taxes in 1326, 1331 and 1332. Judging by the size of the tens Bečkerek of 1330’s was an average village. The first settlers were the landless Hungarian peasants. There were the Serbs in Banat, too. During Louis I of Hungary reign (1343-1382) more Serbs from the south came, among which many Orthodox priests. In the 15th century Bečkerek became Serbian place mostly. But after the Kosovo battle (1389), the Turks came to this area, too.

After the Turkish victory at the battle at Nikopolje (1396) the Hungarian King Sigismund (1387-1437) was considering the defending of the territory settled by the Serbs. Probably that was the reason, why the King visited Bečkerek on September 30, 1398. The town was granted to Stefan Lazarević at the end of the 1403. The despot became the vassal of Hungarian King; but he got Bečkerek and the title of the Great Head of the Torontál County.

Bečkerek under the Turks

The Hungarian King Ferdinand appointed the friar Djordje Martinović, a commander of his forces, to defend the town from the Turks. Hungary was attacked by 80,000 Turk soldiers under the command of Turk’s bey Mehmed Pasha Sokolović. On September 15, 1551, the siege of the town Bečej was raised and the town was taken after four days. On September 24 the Bečkerek fortress was sieged. Many people left town earlier and with few defenders the town couldn’t be defended and those eighty, who left surrendered the next day. For the commander of Bečkerek was appointed the bey Malković by Pasha. After the Turks had taken Timișoara in 1552, Banat became the special province (vilayet) with a Beylerbey on head, whose headquarters were in Timișoara. The vilayet was divided into more districts.

Bečkerek became the headquarters of one of the districts, with a bey on head. During the occupation, the executive authority had military character. The only exceptions were the emperor’s towns. Bečkerek wasn’t declared for such a town, but it was very close to become such a town. This was as a result of a good behaviour of the Serbs toward the Turks, and according to the Sultan’s edict the inhabitants were free of pay of war taxes. During the Turks reign of 165 years, Bečkerek consisted of two separate settlements: the settlement of Bečkerek, the village Gradna Street (Gradnulica). The town was divided into two parts, the Turkish and Serbian.. The Turkish part was fenced and closed, but the Serbian one was open. On the main square there was a large mosque built and inside the fortress there was a little one. There was a Turkish bath, and around it there were about twenty stores. Gradna Street was a disorderly village, whose centre was approximately on the crossroad of the present streets Sindjelićeva and Djurdjevska. The citizens of Bečkerek, except the crew of the fortress had been Serbs, before the Turks came. The number of the Turks families was about fifty at the end of 18th century.

According to the Treaty of Karlowitz, in the year 1699, the Timișoara province (including Bečkerek) stayed under Turks reign, but the Austrian forces which had taken this part of Banat had to destroy the Bečkerek’s fortress. That happened in 1701. But in the Bečkerek, however, the Turkish garrison stayed until 1716, when in 1717 it was taken by Prince Alexandar von Württenberg and his forces, and the Turks left the town and this territory. The final liberation from the Turkish sway was after making the Požarevac Peace Treaty on 27 July 1718.

Period 1718-1848

As a crown province, Banat belonged directly to the Vienna court. The first governor, appointed by the Emperor, was Count Claudius Mercy. By the imperial edict on September 12, 1718, Banat was divided into 13 districts, with the main administration in Timișoara at its head. The District of Banat included a few settlements: Idjoš, Arač, Bečej, Itebej, Elemir, Ečka and Aradac. The first chief of this district was Titus Vespanius Slucki. After the Turkish forces and Turks families had withdrawn, the land was left devastated without labour, which could till the soil and paid taxes. That’s why the Austrian court tried to settle Banat as soon as possible.

The colonization lasted from 1718 till 1724, when the town was settled mostly by Germans, but the Serbs never stopped arriving. The military frontier in Potisje was displaced. In the following years Italians, Frenchmen, Romanians arrived and then the Spanish from Barcelona and Catalans, who settled in the present “Dolja”. The town was called “New Barcelona”. But the life was difficult in this marsh area with many contagious diseases, so many of them died and still many left. The permanent dangers for the newcomers were the Turkish gangs, who drove very often into the town plundering and killing people.

In the summer of 1738 there was the great plague. The Count Mersy wanted to turn marshes into fertile soil and he began to regulate the Begej River. In the middle and down course of the river a long canal was built, to make the river traffic possible between Bečkerek and Timișoara. On the first of November 1745 Sebastian Krazeisen began to make beer in the first brewery and that meant the first start of the industrialization. In the same year the first Serb’s school was mentioned.

On the 6th of June 1769 Maria Theresa granted the Community of Great Bečkerek, the privilege of becoming the trading centre. By this privilege the whole social-economic life of the former Bečkerek was regulated and it got the status of the town. In the year 1769 the first hospital was built. In 1779, by the new organization of Torontál County, Bečkerek became its centre.

In the 18th century it developed into thriving economic and cultural centre, but the great fire destroyed a large portion of the town in 1807. The town was soon rebuilt. The fire came from the brewery, on 30 August 1807. After the fire a new regulation of streets had been done, houses had been built from stronger materials, roads had been rebuilt. The river traffic was especially intensive. The theatre building with an attractively decorated hall was built in 1839. In 1846 the Grammar School was opened and in 1847 the first printing shop.

Period 1848-1914

The 1848/49 revolution had its impact on Bečkerek. The Serbs’ war aim was to separate Vojvodina as an independent province, which could be equal with other countries. At the May meeting held in Sremski Karlovci from 13 to 15 May 1848, Metropolitan Josif Rajačić was elected for the Patriarch and spiritual leader of Serbs and “the Serbian Vojvodina” was announced. It should have included Srem, Bačka, Baranja, with Bečej’s district and the Šajkaš’s battalion and Banat with its frontier and the Kikinda’s district. The Serbs from Bečkerek took part in the revolt against Hungarian authority and from 26 January to 29 April 1849 the town was under the Serbs forces control. Đorđe Stratimirović was in command of the Serbian forces and after him, Stevan Knićanin, too.

City was part of the Serbian Vojvodina and Banat of Temeswar from 1849 to 1860.

Although that time was known in history as a period of Bach’s absolutism, the second part of the 19th century brought the town new developing benefits. New industrial facilities and handicraft stores were opened in every part of the town. Late 19th and early 20th century was progressive period for Veliki Bečkerek. Railway arrived in 1883, while post office was opened back in 1737.

World War I and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia

After the Sarajevo assassination, more than 30 citizens of Bečkerek were accused by the Austria-Hungary’s authorities for high treason. Among them was Dr. Emil Gavrila, who together with Svetozar Miletić and Jaša Tomić, worked very hard on the cultural and social strengthening of Serbs. The Serbs recruited in the Austria-Hungary’s army began soon to desert, so that they would not fight against their own people. 7000 of them formed volunteer detachments (people were from Banat and Srem) at the Eastern front and fought at Dobruja, but 79 of them fought on the Salonice front, too.

After four hard years and the golgotha of Serb people, the Serbs forces made a breakthrough of the Salonice front in 1918 and began to liberate their own country. The First Army in command of Vojvoda Petar Bojović freed Belgrade on 1st November 1918 and began to free Vojvodina. On 17th November Serbian army arrived at Veliki Bečkerek. It was the last day of October 1918, when that the breath of freedom was felt, and the Serb Chamber of People of the town founded in the war conditions, as a temporary authority with Dr. Slavko Župunski at its head. Serb army, the infantry iron regiment “Duke Mihajlo” and the infantry brigade with Colonel Dragutin Ristić in command came into the town on 17 November 1918. A few days after Vojvodina had been freed, its provinces united with the Kingdom of Serbs and on December 1, 1918 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was founded, as the first South Slavic state.

The town of Veliki Bečkerek became the administrative centre of Torontal-Tamiš County, and after its repealing, the town became the headquarters of District Office.In 1929 the town became part of the Danube Banovina. By the Town Council decision made on 29 September 1934, and confirmed by the Town Authority on 18 February 1935, the town was renamed Petrovgrad, after the king Peter I.

Second World War and SFR Yugoslavia

After the Kingdom of Yugoslavia had capitulated on 18th April 1941, and the Third Reich occupied the country, the German Forces came into Petrovgrad. The authority in Banat had domestic Germans – Volksdeutsche, who immediately started to confiscate Jews' property and arrested patriots. The town was renamed Great Bečkerek and it was the headquarters of the occupation authority for Banat (1941-44) with the notorious police authority Juraj Špiler and with concentration camp in Cara Dušana Street. The camp existed for almost two years and thousands of people passed through it. In town there were many underground groups supported by the Communist Party, which fought against German occupying forces. There were much sabotage, too, and the Germans made represials. Individual resistance in town was crushed without mercy.

On 2nd October 1944 the Red Army Forces came into town and after a short fight, took command in most vital public buildings. The following day the first meeting on National Liberation Committee for the town Petrovgrad was held. Eight members of the national liberation resistance, from the town and its surroundings were announced National Heroes: Žarko Zrenjanin, Svetozar Marković Toza, Pap Pavle, Stevica Jovanović, Servo Mihalj, Dr. Boško Vrebalov, Nedeljko Barnić Žarki, Bora Mikin Marko. During the World War II, the town infrastructure was kept almost saved. Except in the final fights for the town, there were no war actions on the territory of the town. The Germans tried to damage and destroy some industrial buildings, but it was prevented. Only Anau-Winkler’s mill and the monumental Jewish synagogue in the centre of the town were destroyed.

After World War II important social-political changes were made in the country, which, of course, had their influence on the development of Zrenjanin, newly named in 1946. In August 1945 the Agriculture Reform Act came into force, in June 1950 the Worker Self-Management Act, in 1959 the first direct urban plan of the town development, which indicated the urbanism-economic development of the town, was passed. The development, in the first after war decade, was directed by the directive plans, which were based on the principles of socialist economy in which the most important industrial branches were industry and agriculture. By the 1980s many people left their villages and moved into towns which brought many changes in the social, educational and ethnic structure of the town. There was permanently shortage of housing. That is why many new parts of the town and many new apartment buildings were built. Zrenjanin became an important agricultural, industrial, cultural and sport centre, at the time Zrenjanin was one of the most powerful industrial centres of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia leaded by Josip Broz Tito.

After 1991

The Town's development has always been strongly effected by the social-economic circumstances reflecting the State surroundings that Zrenjanin found in. At the beginning of 1990’s, when the war broke out on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and the country was falling apart, it led to rather hard social and economic crisis in this area, All that caused an economic stagnation, unemployment, large migrations of refugees from the former Yugoslav Republics: Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The town experienced the first political changes by the introducing of multiparty system at the end of 1996 when the local government was ruled by the coalition « Zajedno» /« Together»/ and in 2000 by the coalition Democratic opposition of Serbia. On March 24, 1999 the aggression of NATO-Pact on Serbia began. During 77 days of this aggression, the town was not bombed. The life in the town was quite normal, in spite of this dangerous situation.

In the first years after the end of war activities the Town and its citizens have been adjusting to new economic and social-economic conditions, known as transition. Instead of previous large economic combines and companies plenty of new flexible private enterprises are established and foreign capital is starting to flow in Zrenjanin. New industrial and work and residential zones are formed and the Town's General Plan 2006-2026 and Sustainable Development Strategy 2006-2013 are made and approved. At the end of 2007, introducing a new national territorial organisation followed by necessary legislation, the Municipality of Zrenjanin has been upgraded to an administrative and territorial status of a City.

Inhabited places

Zrenjanin municipality includes the city of Zrenjanin and the following villages:

Neighbourhoods in Zrenjanin

Demographics (2011 census)

Ethnic groups in the municipality

The population of the Zrenjanin municipality is composed of:[2]

Settlements by ethnic majority

Settlements with Serb ethnic majority are: Zrenjanin, Banatski Despotovac, Botoš, Elemir, Ečka, Klek, Knićanin, Lazarevo, Lukićevo, Melenci, Orlovat, Perlez, Stajićevo, Taraš, Tomaševac, Farkaždin, and Čenta. Settlements with Hungarian ethnic majority are: Lukino Selo and Mihajlovo. Settlement with Romanian ethnic majority is Jankov Most. Ethnically mixed settlements are: Aradac (with relative Serb majority) and Belo Blato (with relative Slovak majority).

Ethnic groups in the town

The population of the Zrenjanin town is composed of:[2]

  • Serbs = 54,648 (71.43%)
  • Hungarians = 10,000 (13.07%)
  • Roma = 2,109 (2.76%)
  • Romanians = 635 (0.83%)
  • Yugoslavs = 467 (0.61%)
  • Croats = 373 (0.49%)
  • others.


According to the 2002 census, most of the inhabitants of the Zrenjanin municipality are Orthodox Christians (77.28%). Other religions include Roman Catholic (12.01%), Protestant (2.13%), and other. Orthodox Christians in Zrenjanin belong to the Eparchy of Banat of the Serbian Orthodox Church with seat in Vršac. Zrenjanin is also the centre of the Roman Catholic diocese of the Banat region belonging to Serbia.

Main sights

  • City Hall, built in 1816, re-constructed in 1887, neobaroque, Gyula Partos and Ödön Lechner.
  • Finance palace, today National museum, built in 1894 in Neorenaissance style by István Kiss.
  • Theatre, built in 1839, classicism, the oldest theatre building in Serbia.
  • Court House, built between 1906 and 1908, romanticism, Sandor Eigner and Marcus Rehmer.
  • Uspenska Serbian Orthodox church, built in 1746, baroque, the oldest church in the city.
  • Vavedenska church, built in 1777 in Baroque style.
  • Evangelical church, built in 1837, classicism.
  • Zrenjanin Cathedral, built between 1864 and 1868, romanesque, Stevan Đorđević.
  • Protestant church, built in 1891, neogothic, Ferenc Zaboretzky.
  • Zrenjanin Synagogue, built in 1896, Moorish Revival, Lipót Baumhorn, demolished in 1941 by Nazis.
  • Bukovac palace, built in 1905, neorenaissance.
  • Old Vojvodina hotel, built in 1886, neorenaissance, Bela Peklo.
  • Grammar School, built in 1846, re-constructed in 1937 and later.
  • Small bridge, built in 1904, the oldest bridge in the city.
  • Trade academy, built in 1892, neorenaissance, István Kiss.
  • Bence's house, built in 1909, secession.
  • Dry Bridge, built in 1962, without river since 1985.
  • Eiffel Bridge, built in 1904, replaced by a new bridge in 1969.
  • Dunđerski palace, built in 1910, secession.
  • House of Soko, built in 1927, academism, Dragiša Brašovan.


Zrenjanin has many places of interest like City Hall, the Cathedral, Freedom Square, King Aleksandar I Street, etc.

Hotel "Vojvodina" is situated on Liberty Square. There is a Tourist Information Office in the building of National Museum (Subotićeva 1).


Zrenjanin has a long sports tradition. First clubs were established during 1880s. It was the home town of Proleter football club from 1947 until 2005. Today, FK Banat plays its games at Karađorđev Park Stadium in Serbian First League.


Zrenjanin no longer has a public transport operator, for the first time in its recent history, following the privatization and subsequent bankruptcy of Vršac), etc.

In the past river traffic on the Begej river used to be most developed mode of cargo transport. Veliki Bečkerek got a railway in 1883, when it linked the city to Velika Kikinda. There are many taxi companies in Zrenjanin and the regulations are either lacking or are not enforced by the authorities.

Notable citizens

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Zrenjanin is twinned with:


Climate in this area has mild dfferences between highs and lows, and there is adequate rainfall year round. The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Cfb" (Marine West Coast Climate/Oceanic climate).[4]

Climate data for Zrenjanin
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 3
Average low °C (°F) −3
Precipitation mm (inches) 36
Source: Weatherbase [5]

See also


  • Milan Tutorov, Banatska rapsodija - istorika Zrenjanina i Banata, Novi Sad, 2001.

External links

  • Official Website of the City of Zrenjanin (Serbian) (English)
  • Zrenjanin Weekly Newspaper
  • The official website of the Tourist organization of Zrenjanin (Serbian)
  • Villa Daniel, Zrenjanin (Serbian)
  • Website of the local weekly magazine "Zrenjanin" (Serbian)
  • Zrenjanin Business Portal (Serbian) (English) (Hungarian) (Romanian) (German) (French)


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