Subotica (Serbian Cyrillic: Суботица) is a city in northern Vojvodina, Serbia. Formerly the largest city of Vojvodina region, contemporary Subotica is now the second largest city in the province, following Novi Sad.
It is also the fifth largest city in Serbia (discounting Kosovo). The city’s population (with town of Palić) numbers 105,681 inhabitants, while its administrative area numbers 141,554 people. Subotica is a multiethnic city, with Hungarians (35.65%), Serbs (27.02%), Croats (10.00%) and Bunjevci (9.67%) as largest ethnic groups. It is the administrative centre of the North Bačka District.
The Late Middle Ages
Subotica probably first became a settlement of note when people poured into it from nearby villages destroyed during the Tatar invasions of 1241-1242. However the settlement has surely been older. It has been established that people inhabited these territories even 3000 years ago. When Zabadka / Zabatka was first recorded in 1391, it was a tiny town in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Later, the city belonged to the Hunyadis, one of the most influential aristocratic families in the whole of Central Europe.
King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary gave the town to one of his relatives, János Pongrác Dengelegi, who, fearing an invasion by the Ottoman Empire fortified the castle of Subotica, erecting a fortress in 1470. Some decades later, after the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the Subotica became part of the Ottoman Empire. The majority of the Hungarian population fled northward to Royal Hungary. Bálint Török, a local noble who had ruled over Subotica, also escaped from the city.
In the extremely confused military and political situation following the defeat at Mohács, Subotica came under the control of Serbian mercenaries recruited in Banat. These soldiers were in the service of the Transylvanian general John I Zápolya, a later Hungarian king. The leader of these mercenaries, Jovan Nenad, established in 1526-1527 his rule in Bačka, northern Banat and a small part of Syrmia and created an ephemeral independent state, with Subotica as its capital. At the peak of his power, Jovan Nenad proclaimed himself as Serbian tsar in Subotica. He named Radoslav Čelnik as the general commander of his army, while his treasurer and palatine was Subota Vrlić, a Serbian noble from Jagodina. When Bálint Török returned and captured Subotica from the Serbs, Jovan Nenad moved his capital to Szeged. Some months later, in the summer of 1527, Jovan Nenad was assassinated and his state collapsed. This was the last independent Serbian state before the final Ottoman conquest of all Serb-populated lands. However, after Jovan Nenad’s death, Radoslav Čelnik led the remains of the army to Ottoman Syrmia, where he briefly ruled as Ottoman vassal.
In 1687, about 5,000 Bunjevci, led by Dujo Marković and Đuro Vidaković settled in Bačka (including Subotica). After the decisive battle against the Ottomans at Senta led by Prince Eugene of Savoy on 11 September 1697, Subotica became part of the military border zone Theiss-Mieresch established by the Habsburg Monarchy. In the meantime the uprising of Francis II Rákóczi broke out, which is also known as the Kuruc War. In the region of Subotica, Rákóczi joined battle against the Rac National Militia. Rác was a designation for the South Slavic people (mostly Serbs and Bunjevci) and they often were referred to as rácok in the Kingdom of Hungary. In a later period rácok came to mean, above all, Serbs of Orthodox religion.
The Serbian military families enjoyed several privileges thanks to their service for the Habsburg Monarchy. Subotica gradually, however, developed from being a mere garrison town to becoming a market town with its own civil charter in 1743. When this happened, many Serbs complained about the loss of their privileges. The majority left the town in protest and some of them founded a new settlement just outside 18th century Subotica in Aleksandrovo, while others emigrated to Russia. In New Serbia, a new Russian province established for them, those Serbs founded a new settlement and also named it Subotica. In 1775 a Jewish community in Subotica was established.
It was perhaps to emphasise the new civic serenity of Subotica that the pious name Saint Mary came to be used for it at this time. Some decades later, in 1779, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria advanced the town’s status further by proclaiming it a Free Royal Town. The enthusiastic inhabitants of the city renamed Subotica once more as Maria-Theresiopolis.
This Free Royal Town status gave a great impetus to the development of the city. During the 19th century its population doubled twice, attracting many people from all over the Habsburg Monarchy. This led eventually to a considerable demographic change. In the first half of the 19th century, the Bunjevci had still been in the majority, but there was an increasing number of Hungarians and Jews settling in Subotica. This process was not stopped even by the outbreak of the Revolutions in the Habsburg Monarchy in 1848/49.
During the 1848-1849 revolutions, proclaimed borders of autonomous Serbian Vojvodina included Subotica, but Serb troops did not manage to establish control in this area. In March 5, 1849, at the locality named Kaponja (between Tavankut and Bajmok), there was a battle between Serb and Hungarian army. Although the Hungarian army won this battle, they were subsequently defeated in the summer of 1849.
The first newspaper in the town was also published during the 1848/49 revolution – it was called Honunk állapota (“State of Our Homeland”) and was published in Hungarian by Károly Bitterman’s local printing company. Unlike most Serbs and Croats who confronted with Hungarians, part of the local Bunjevci people supported Hungarian revolution.
In 1849, following the defeat of the Hungarian army, Subotica, together with most of the Bačka region, was separated from the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary and became a part of a separate Austrian province, named Voivodeship of Serbia and Banat of Temeschwar. The administrative centre of this new province was not Subotica, but Timişoara. This province existed until 1860. During the existence of the voivodeship, in 1853, Subotica acquired its impressive theatre.
After the establishment of the Dual-Monarchy in 1867, there followed what is often called the “golden age” of city development of Subotica. Many schools were opened after 1867 and in 1869 the railway connected the city to the world. In 1896 an electrical power plant was built, further enhancing the development of the city and the whole region. Subotica now adorned itself with its remarkable Central European, fin de siècle architecture. In 1902 a Jewish synagogue was built in the Art Nouveau style.
South Slavic states
Subotica was part of the Austria-Hungary until the aftermath of World War I in 1918, when the city became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In changed economical and political circumstances, Subotica was now a border-town in Yugoslavia and did not, for a time, experienced again the dynamic prosperity it enjoyed in the years preceding World War I. However, at that time, Subotica was the third largest city in Yugoslavia by population, following Belgrade and Zagreb.
In 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded and partitioned by the Axis Powers, and its northern parts, including Subotica, were annexed by Hungary (This partition of Yugoslavia was not recognized by the international community and city was, from the legal point of view, still part of Yugoslavia, whose only legal representative was Yugoslav government in exile). Hungarian troops entered Subotica on April 11, 1941. During World War II the city lost approximately 7,000 of its citizens, mostly Serbs, Hungarians and Jews. Before the war about 6,000 Jews lived in Subotica. Many Jews were deported from the city during the Holocaust, mostly to Auschwitz. In April 1944 a ghetto was set up. Also, many communists were put to death during Axis rule. In 1944, the Axis forces left city, and Subotica became part of the new socialist Yugoslavia. During the 1944-45 period about 8,000 citizens (mainly Hungarian) were killed by Yugoslav partisans.
In the post-war period Subotica has gradually modernised itself. During the Yugoslav and Kosovo wars of the 1990s, a considerable number of Serb refugees came to the city from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo, whilst many ethnic Hungarians and Croats, as well as local Serbs, left the country because of economical stagnation. However, unlike in some other places of Serbia, number of Serbs who moving in Subotica is larger than the number of those who leaving the city. During the break-up of Yugoslavia, local leaders in Subotica were drawn from political parties opposed to the policy of the state government in Belgrade.
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Languages in the Subotica administrative area
Languages spoken in Subotica administrative area (according to 2002 census):
- Serbian = 69,155 (46.60%)
- Hungarian = 57,608 (38.82%)
- Croatian = 8,806 (5.93%)
Note: The Bunjevac language is also spoken in Subotica, but it was not listed separately in the 2002 census results published by the Statistical Office of Serbia; the speakers of this language were listed in category “other languages”. The number of those who speak “other languages” (presumably Bunjevac) in the Subotica municipality is 8,914. Some other members of the Bunjevac ethnic community declared in census that their language is Serbian or Croatian. Bunjevac is likely to be listed separately in the future censa, since the members of the Bunjevac ethnic community expressed the wish for affirmation of their language. They also expressed the wish to have school classes in Bunjevac, so the state is most likely to oblige.
Religion in Subotica administrative area (according to 2002 census):
- Roman Catholic = 93,521 (63.02%)
- Orthodox = 38,523 (25.96%)
- Protestant = 2,794 (1.88%)
Subotica is the centre of the Roman Catholic diocese of the Bačka region belonging to Serbia. The Subotica area has the highest concentration of Catholics in Serbia. Nearly 70% of the city’s population are Catholics. The liturgical languages used in the city’s Catholic churches are mostly Hungarian and Croatian. There are eight Catholic parish churches, a Franciscan spiritual centre (the city has communities of both Franciscan monks and Franciscan nuns), a female Dominican community, and two congregations of Augustinian religious sisters. The diocese of Subotica has the only Catholic secondary school in Serbia (Paulinum).
Subotica had a Roman Catholic Blessed working in it. When the nuns’ orphanage and children’s dome in Blato has exhausted the food funds for helping poor and hungry children, Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified Petković went to fertile pleains of Bačka and the seat of Bačka Apostolic Administration, Subotica, to solicit help for the orphans and widows. In return, Bishop Ljudevit Lajčo Budanović asked her to found monasteries of her Order in Subotica and neighbourhood, so the locals could benefit spiritually from the instruction of the nuns of her Order… Marija Petković quickly noticed that Bačka also faced the problem of numerous poor and abandoned children, so in 1923, she opened Kolijevka, Children’s Home in Subotica. Today this city still has that Children’s Home, although the nuns of Marija’s Order no longer occupy that Home.
Among another Christian communities, the members of the Serbian Orthodox Church are the most numerous. There are two Eastern Orthodox church buildings in the city; as well as two Protestant churches, Lutheran and Calvinist, respectively. Orthodox Christians in Subotica are belonging to the Eparchy of Bačka of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The Jewish community of Subotica is the third largest in Serbia, after those in Belgrade and Novi Sad. The astounding proportions and beauty of the Hungarian style art nouveau synagogue are the legacy of a Jewish community that once numbered 6,000 members. About 1,000 of the original Jews of Subotica survived the Holocaust. Today, less than 200 people of Jewish origin remain in Subotica.
Surroundings of Subotica are mainly farmland but the city itself is an important industrial and transportation centre in Serbia.
Because of the surrounding farmlands Subotica has some of the most famous food producer industries in the country, with brands such as the confectionery factory “Pionir”, “Fidelinka” the cereal manufacturer, “Mlekara Subotica” a milk producer and “Simex” producer of strong alcohol drinks.
There are a number of old socialistic industries that survived the transition period in Serbia. The biggest one is the chemical fertilizer factory “Azotara” and the rail wagon factory “Bratstvo”.
Currently the biggest export industry in town is the “Siemens Subotica” windmill factory and it is the biggest brownfield investment so far. The other big companies in Subotica are: Fornetti, ATB Sever and Masterplast.
The most recent companies to come to Subotica are Dunkermotoren, and NORMA Group.
The main reason why foreign industry is usually interested in Subotica are (according to the local economic development office):
- Perfect strategic location for business development
- Efficient and business friendly administration
- Free zone and logistic center
- Well trained, hardworking and easy to come by labour
- Great tourist recognition
The city received the NALED award for being the one of five best cities in Serbia for investors in 2010 and also has the NALED business-friendly certificate.
Tourism is significantly important to the city due to Palić and the Palić Lake being near by, which is by itself a tourist destination. In the past few years, Palić has been famous for the Palić Film Festival. Subotica is also a festival city, hosting more than 17 festivals over the year.
The Subotica tram, put into operation in 1897, ran on electricity from the start. While neighbouring cities’ trams at this date were often still horse-drawn, this gave the Subotica system an advantage over municipalities including Belgrade, Novi Sad, Zagreb, and Szeged. Its existence was important to the citizens of Subotica, as well as tourists who came to visit. Subotica has a bus system. The Subotica buses transport people via nine city, six suburban, and ten interurban, as well as two international lines of bus operations. Per year the buses pass some 4.7 million kilometers, and carry about ten million people. The city used to have a tram system, the Subotica tram system, but it was discontinued in 1974.
Important Phone Numbers
- ER 024 / 551 – 373
- Hospital 024 / 555 – 222
- Bus Station 024 / 555 – 566
- Railway Station 024 / 555 – 606
- Branimir Aleksić, football player and member of the Serbia national football team
- György Arnold (1771–1848), Hungarian composer
- Sava Babić (born 1934), writer, translator and university professor
- József Bártfay (1812–1864), Hungarian, lawyer, writer
- Géza Csáth (1887–1919), Hungarian, a tragic physician-writer
- Gyula Cseszneky (born 1914), Hungarian, poet, voivode
- Sreten Damjanović (born 1946), wrestler
- Oliver Dulić (born 1975), politician
- Vlatko Dulić (born 1943), actor
- Dr. Kalmar Elemer (1887–1947), lawyer
- Yehuda Elkana, Jewish, born 1934. Israeli philosopher of science
- Lazar Jaramazović (born 1947), national champion in fencing
- Pierre Jovanović (born 1960), French writer and reporter of Serbian origin
- Zoran Kalinić (born 1958), table tennis champion
- Danilo Kiš (1935–1989), Montenegrin-Jewish, possibly the most well-known Serbian writer alongside the Nobel laureate Ivo Andrić
- Juci Komlós (born 1919), Hungarian actress
- Dezső Kosztolányi (1885–1936), Hungarian poet and prose-writer
- Zoran Kuntić, a former Serbian professional footballer
- Félix Lajkó (born 1974), Hungarian, a “world music” violinist and composer
- Péter Lékó (born 1979), Hungary’s number one chess player
- Szilveszter Lévai (born 1945), Hungarian composer
- Aleksandar Lifka (1880–1952), a central-European cinematographer
- Bela Lugosi (1882–1956), actor
- Bruck Matija (Bruk Matjas), chemist, creator of Kosan
- Refik Memišević (born 1956), wrestle champion
- Gyula Mester, born in 1972, volleyball player
- Jovan Mikić Spartak (1914–1944), the leader of the Partisans in Subotica, and a national hero who was killed in 1944
- Dr. Arthur Munk, a doctor on RMS Carpathia, famous for saving survivors from Titanic. Doctor Munk was awarded for his helping to survivors
- Tihomir Ognjanov, a former Serbian footballer who was part of Yugoslavia national football team
- Dr. Vinko Perčić (1911–1989), authority in gastroenterology and internal medicine
- Momir Petković (born 1953), wrestle champion
- Bojana Radulović (born 1973), handball player
- Eva Ras (born 1941), Hungarian, actress, painter and Serbian writer
- Magdolna Rúzsa (born 1985), Hungarian pop singer
- Ivan Sarić (1876–1966), aviation pioneer and cyclist
- Tibor Sekelj (Tibor Székely) (1912–1988), Hungarian, explorer, esperantist, writer
- Dr. Stevan Sepesi (1914–1974), Dr of law
- John Simon, Hungarian, American theatre critic
- Đuro Stantić (1878–1918), a world champion in racewalking
- Đorđe Tutorić, Serbian professional football player