Twelve Decades of Lazar’s Town
Only 14 years have passed since coal was discovered in Vreoci, in the summer of 1889, on Vidovdan, one-half a millennium after the Battle of Kosovo. The ministry board of the Kingdom of Serbia, on the demand of citizens, allowed that the small town of Zbegovac is permanently called Lazarevac. Today, a century and a half later, it is a serious modern town, on 55 kilometres from the centre of Belgrade, famous for its big coal mine, but also for other possibilities on whose affirmation more work should be done

By: Zoran Plavšić
Photographs by: Milan Cvijetić

Such a young town and such a rich past. The first traces of any settlement originate from prehistory. In the neolith, there were many settlements. In the 4th century BC, this area was settled by Celts, Thracians... In the new era, Roman legionnaires had their estates and kept them until the Barbarians came. Then, it was Byzantine territory, then Hungarian, Serbian, Turkish...
Lazarevac got its name after the Serbian Prince, Lazar Hrebeljanović. It happened on Vidovdan (June 28th) 1889 when the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo was celebrated, and the ministry board of the Kingdom of Serbia changed the name of the settlement Zbegovac into Lazarevac, as the people wanted. Since then, Vidovdan is also celebrated as the Day of Lazarevac.
– This day is uniting two holidays: the day of the immortal victim of the Serbian army in Kosovo, led by the Saint Martyr Prince Lazar, and the Day of our community and town, the namesake of Saint Lazar – says the President of the Community of Lazarevac, the architect Branko Borić, for National Review. – We have begun the celebration of the holiday under the domes of the Church of Saint Dimitrije, where lie in peace the bones of Serbian and Hungarian warriors, those who have been angry enemies once in history.  On that important day, which determined us as a nation, defined our consciousness that life in slavery is not worth living and has no sense, exactly 120 years ago Zbegovac got its proud name of Lazarevac.
Lazarevac entered modern history, with that particular name. In the area surrounding the town, in November of 1914, during World War I, there was one of the greatest battles between armies of the Kingdom of Serbia and Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. In front of the Serbian army was General Živojin Mišić, the brilliant and brave commander, who made a great revolution in the battle and casted out the enemy army from the Serbian territory. This battle made part of history of battles and it is still studied on all military academies in the world.
When the war finished, the people of Lazarevac (which came back from the Salonika Front) decided to build a church and bury all dead soldiers of the Battle of Kolubara in Lazarevac. This is how the Church of Saint Dimitrije was built, in whose crypt there are 20 thousand bones of Serbian soldiers and 30 thousand bones of Hungarian soldiers! This is a unique monument in the entire world.


The municipality of Lazarevac, one of 17 municipalities of Belgrade, is on 55 kilometres from the capital’s centre and it is one of four biggest municipalities. Ibar Highway and the railroad Belgrade-Bar connect it with Belgrade and Central Serbia It is also the place where passes the highway which is connecting Valjevo and Aranđelovac. It has 33 communities and the town of Lazarevac, with 60 thousand residents. 
– The basic potential of the development of Lazarevac is the fact that it is the biggest coalmine in the Balkans, where coal is used in open mines – says President Borić. – Coal reserves can satisfy the present level of exploitation for 60 years ahead, or more. The exploitation is spreading, entire settlements are moving according to plans in order to free space for exploitation. It is done with full ecological awareness and responsibility, with good and realistic plans of how the terrain will be later rehabilitated. We do not need all these benefits if we destroy the environment in which generations of our ancestors will live in afterwards!
– Sceptic people of Lazarevac are sometimes giving us the dark vision after which, when the coal reserves disappear, this town and this municipality will fade away. The residents will leave it, the activities in it will stop, it will be a ”dead town” and it will share the destiny of other mining settlements. However, none of this will happen in Lazarevac. The competent people who are in charge of Lazarevac, have already though about it all, they have the power of prediction, they have made a strategy of the development of the area of Lazarevac. 
– Besides big coal reserves, we have more than 23 thousand hectares of agricultural land (70 percent of the total municipality surface) which represents a great potential – says President Borić. – Conditions for the development of quality agricultural production are very good, especially for stock farming. In addition, we should not forget the closeness of the Belgrade market. The production of healthy food has a great export potential. They can use industrial hot water during the entire year to produce vegetables, flowers, medicinal, industrial and other herbs. According to our plans and potentials, all of this would be refined into profitable final products, such as top quality food, but also into half-products used for the pharmaceutical industry.
In the passed years in Lazarevac, they have made effort that the entire municipality is developed equally, says Borić, through the building of communal infrastructure and the development of social life. They wanted no great difference between town and village life.
– The municipality made results which are visible to everyone, in collaboration with the Mining Basin ”Kolubara”. This is how they shall continue, according to their powers.
In order to stimulate economic development, says the first host of Lazarevac, it is planned to make a dynamic Working Zone in the area besides Ibar Highway. It is now in the phase of developing, but some time later it will become a techno-park, where we would unite research, transfer of technology, obtaining help in financing and credit systems (especially in stimulating direct foreign investment).
– The most important task of the future techno-park will be the diversification of industry of Lazarevac, which would inspire the development of new industrial fields and the improvement of profits, which, of course, includes better employment.
– This kind of concept of sustainable development should enable Lazarevac a new cycle on intensive economic growth and development. The main things remain mining, energetics, industry, building, but with better use of additional possibilities with such mining and energetics system. We should add the development of crafts (production, art...), which had a beautiful and a long tradition in Lazarevac, as well as the development of sports, all sorts of recreation and tourism.
– Natural values are enabling us the development of tourism, first, recreation tourism. Many water potentials (Kolubara with its new lake, Stara and Nova Očaga, many natural and artificial lakes and ponds) are the pearls of Lazarevac and a good development basis for recreation, fishing, and country tourism – says President Borić. – We have thermo-mineral springs, rich woods with various game, which are very important resource in our epoch.


Tradition and customs, old crafts (preserved by ”Prela i posela” Ethno Club), music and cuisine, are all elements of the authentic character which is always a realistic comparative advantage. The character of the wealth and the diversity can be seen every year during the Fair of Folk Creations. There are many band of folk music, folklore ensembles, players of old national instruments, competitions of spinners and crewelists, preparing old authentic meals, picking the most beautiful peasant clothes, the longest braid of hair, men compete in different sports... This year, on the slava of Lazarevac, the Holy Trinity, in the porch of the church there has been a special ”Kolubarski vez”, the longest kolo in the history of this town.
Near Lazarevac, in the village of Leskovac is ”Čarobni vrt” of the famous naive painter and sculptor Bogosav Živković. The original exhibition of work in stone and wood was visited by many world artists, among which was the former American president Jimmy Carter. The park ”Kamengrad” in the centre of Lazarevac was made after the projects of this artists, and now, there are some of his representative sculptures exhibited there.
In the Modern Gallery of Lazarevac, bedside the Legacy of Lepa Perović and the collection of art world of the most eminent artists of former modern Yugoslav art, there are many interesting objects discovered during the excavation of coal in the period, which is more than six thousand years long (an archaeological collection).
Of course, under the roof of this Gallery, as well as in the Cultural Centre of Lazarevac, there are many programs of live cultural activities, with lots of energy. During a few passed springs, the town is successfully organizing the Days of French and Serbian Friendship, and the initiator of the event, with the support of the municipality, is the academic painter Milija Belić, who is a Ph.D. of theory of art of Sorbonne (the Serbian edition of the thesis: MET ART, Plastički ritam. Prolegomena za jednu metaumetnost, Belgrade, 1997), the artist of world recognition, born in Lazarevac.
– Our greatest resources are the young people, the generation that is rising and which shall take the responsibility of taking care of our town and our community – says Borić. – That is why we want to make the best conditions and the best infrastructure, from culture and fun, to sports, to improve the exciting and tempting future.
– Lazarevac has a great sports centre, in which we have the Olympic swimming pool, a modern rifle range, more than 30 football pitches, and courts for smaller sports, many gyms, and terrains in the open and closed ones... Elite sports teams come here for training and Lazarevac has been the place where a part of this year’s Universiade took place. In the last few years, all village communities and the municipality of Lazarevac, 33 of them, got their sports terains, and beautiful sports centres are built in Veliku Crljeni and Rudovci. In the village Cvetovac, on mines, they are planning to build a big sport and recreation centre and a tourist complex, with a hippodrome and an autodrome, besides usual sports terrains. The experts of the European Automobile Federation have visited Cvetovac recently and they were satisfied with what they have seen – this will be the place of the most important centre of this sport, which has been missing in Serbia for a long time.
–  This sports renaissance of our municipality and the fact that Lazarevac is becoming a sports town, also brings great results in many fields – says Borić proudly, naming the successes of young people of Lazarevac in handball, karate, chess, football, volleyball...
During the summer, the people of Lazarevac, young and old, swim in the lake in the complex ”Očaga”. Spring water is filtered every day; there are two Olympic diving boards. The complex can include six thousand swimmers. There are sports terrains, walking paths, a restaurant with a big parking...
We have been there, we chatted, and we have seen it all. If we could tell you everything of the beautiful town in the ”Šumadija part of Kolubara”, maybe you would ask yourselves how it became a mining town, an industrial centre with the biggest coal mine in the Balkans. However, everything is clear, there is no misunderstanding. Our witnesses are the past and the future of Lazarevac.


There is no month in the entire year without interesting and important events in the municipality of Lazarevac. In January, on the Day of Epiphany, men swim for the Holy Cross. In February, the meetings of Young Violin and Piano Players of Lazarevac and the Dedication of vine in vineyards of Zeoke. Then, the International Chess Tournament for Women on March 8th and the memorial Handball Tournament for veterans ”Srećko Trifunović Krekac”. In April, we have the International Fair of Agriculture and Country Tourism ”Kolubara Fest”. In May, we have the Meetings of Young Brass and Accordion Players, the Athlete Street Race and the celebration of Saint Marko’s Day in Veliki Crljeni. In June, the bicycle event ”Okreni pedalu”, the International Bikers Meeting in Očaga, many events of the Cultural Spring of Lazarevac (KULL). In July, we have the Sports Summer of Rudovac, in August ”Spačekijada” (the meeting of owners of Citroen Spacek) and the Art Colony of Rudovac. In September, we have the Days of Beekeepers and the festival of Humour for Children, in October the Serbian Championship in Standard and Latino Dances, and the October Events in Vreoci. In December, we have the Days of the Battle of Kolubara and the Christmas Football Tournament...  


The people of Lazarevac can be satisfied by the good heating system they have. Industrial heat producers are the heating plant in Vreoci and the thermal power station and heating plant in Veliki Crljeni. This is the centre from which the heating is produced for settlements of Lazarevac, Veliki Crljeni and Vreoci. The reconstruction and the building of the system of steam heating is in progress, and the residents of Lazarevac really do deserve it given that 70 percent of total coal production is coming from there.


Years, events
1855 The first school in the district of Kragujevac, in Vreoci
1875 Coal is discovered in Vreoci
1882 Health centre, post office, and telegraph
1885 The Court
1889 The first school in the town centre
1890 The first theatre
1890’s Opening of ”Evropa” and ”Mali Pariz” hotels
1906  The first pharmacy
1909 The first rail station on the track Mladenovac-Valjevo
1928 Electric illumination
1930 The first hospital
1940 Lazarevac gets plumbing
1956 Thermal power station ”Kolubara” starts working
1960 Technical School
1964 On the Conference of Towns in Podgorica, Lazarevac gets the status of a town
On New Year’s Day, ”Vis” Hotel receives its first guests
1971 Lazarevac becomes a municipality of Belgrade
1977 Cultural Centre
In the end of the 80’s A new Sports Centre
2002 Modern Gallery
2009 After reconstruction of the old hospital, a beautiful building of Town Library started working


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