Valjevo City Day – March 20th
The day when Valjevo was liberated in the First Serbian Uprising, 20th March, 1804 – the day of freedom, the day of Valjevo. The day of new, continued development of Valjevo, its modernization and inclusion in modern society. The symbol of all other liberations and the date with no ideological nor political mortgage.
On March 20th, 1804, at the break of dawn, Serbian rebels from Valjevo County, after a many-day siege, entered the city Turks had abandoned the night before. After a few centuries under the Turkish reign, a new process of town development began, following Christian, Serbian and European values.
The Day of Freedom
The same way as Sretenje (February 15th), the day the First Serbian Uprising began, (the initial phase of the historical process known as the Serbian Revolution), represents Serbian Statehood Day, which symbolically equals the beginning of modern and free Serbia, built after many centuries of the Turkish reign, march 20th, the day Valjevo was liberated in the First Serbian Uprising, represents the beginning of modern Valjevo.
Valjevo, though originally built as a medieval Serbian square, begins its development precisely on March 20th, 1804. After more than two centuries, it is indisputable that the beginning of town development is far more important than the mere act of liberation, because on that day the third phase of Valjevo development started and it continues to this day.
Medieval City Center
The first phase in Valjevo history began in the second half of the 14th century (the name Valjevo is mentioned for the first time in historical texts in 1393) when, thanks to the active participation of the people of Dubrovnik, Valjevo was established as a medieval city center – a square. This phase lasted less than a century, until 1458, when, following the final Turkish conquest of northern Serbia, the second phase in Valjevo history started.
In the second phase Valjevo was a town in the Ottoman Oriental Empire. This phase lasted almost with no interputions (there were short periods of the Austrian reign towards the end of the 17th and in the first half of the 18th century) for three and a half centuries, from 1458 to 1804.
The third phase began on March 20th, 1804. In this phase Valjevo becomes a new Serbian town, in a new Serbian country. This phase continues to this day. This is why March 20th should be regarded as the day when the ongoing development of Valjevo began, and only then as the day of liberation (the day of freedom).
The Date’s Symbolic Strength
Two centuries of passed (and ongoing) continuity represent a fair historical distance from which to observe both the importance of the date when the development of Valjevo as we know it today began, and the fact that this date is not disputable from any point of view (state, national, church, ideological, civic, ethical… ).
Compared with other similar events, from other wars and uprisings, this date is historically infinitely more important, especially because of its symbolic power other dates do not posses, and it carries neither political nor ideological burdens.
During the Great Turkish War (the end of the 17th century), Valjevo was taken over from the Turks on several occasions, but liberation was not possible at that moment seeing that the city was occupied by the Habsburg troops and that, for a short while, in was a part of the Habsburg Empire.
Similar connotations are attached to a string of events from the Austro-Turkish war of 1718, as well as to the events from Koča’s frontier (the end of the 18th century), when Serbian rebels entered Valjevo, but on the Austrian side; following the conquest the settlement was pillaged and immediately abandoned without forming the local self-governing authority (in a short time the town was again under the Turkish rule).
In the Second Serbian Uprising in 1815 Valjevo was also liberated, but the Second Uprising is regarded, in the historical and scientific framework, as the element of a unique process named the Serbian Revolution which started with the First Serbian Uprising, and the local government formed after this event was based on the practice implemented after the liberation in the First Uprising.
Valjevo was liberated in World War I as well, following a short period of occupation (when compared with the Turkish domination), and the process of development which began in the First Uprising continued.
The same goes for the liberation in the Second World War, with the exception that it does have some ideological connotations (the fact that the occupiers were driven out is not debatable), but these connotations had devastating (and in many cases tragic) consequences for the people of Valjevo and its surroundings.
The Foundation of Modern Serbia
In addition to being of central importance for the city of Valjevo, March 20th is also a link with the First Serbian Uprising overall and its importance for our people’s statehood history and our country in total. The same way as the liberation of Valjevo in the First Uprising marked a new, so far uninterrupted phase in the city development, the First Serbian Uprising, following centuries of the Turkish reign, set the foundation of modern Serbia, which continues to this day (which is why Sretenje is the Serbian Statehood Day).
Serbia, and Valjevo, simultaneously ceases to be part of the Oriental milieu and joins Europe. The First Serbian Uprising is known in Europe as the beginning of the process called the Serbian Revolution, which included Serbia in a chain of European revolutions, which started with the French Revolution. This way Serbia, thanks to its people’s fight for liberation, which also brought the breakup with the Oriental feudal practice and the acceptance of the European civic practice, became a part of civic Europe of the time.
In the historical process known as the Serbian Revolution, with which March 20th is closely associated, Valjevo and its people played a significant role in many events, and their remarkable feats gave their homeland national importance, importance no other major historical event before or after ever did.
This way Valjevo became the symbol of the Firts Serbian Uprsing and the Serbian Revolution, which was the foundation of modern Serbia.
Vladimir Krivošejev, PhD, valjevo.rs
Translation: Marija Đurđević