Spirit of New Entrepreneurship
Pirot is to Serbia what Serbia is to Europe. The southeast. The house on the main road. The gate to the East and the gate to the West. A beautiful and rich region which is only about to be discovered, whose gifts are only about to be recognized again. A space of a long history of culture and economy. Intelligently and bravely led by its young management in this completely new time, Pirot finally began systematically reactivating its strategic potentials

By: Jovana Jelić Banović

If you are coming from central Serbia and then from Niš or Niška Banja, from Corridor 10, turn left and go along the Nišava river. The road takes you through the picturesque Sićevac Gorge, paradise for fishermen, alpinists, photographers. A little before Bela Palanka, you enter the spacious basin bordered with the powerful wreaths of the Svrljig, Suva, Vlaška and Stara Planina mountains. You continue along the river, just like the road does. 70 kilometers from Niš and about as much to Sofia, when you see the old fortress under the Belava slope called Sarlah, you will know you have reached Pirot.
The charming town greets you calmly and elegantly. It is in no hurry to show itself, it is not hasty to reveal its charms and attractions, its skills and gifts. If you have not been here for several years, you will immediately notice many positive changes and feel the spirit of new entrepreneurship. A very beautiful sports hall named ”Kej” was built, a new building of the Historical Archive, a bridge on the Nišava, the Municipality Service Center, the City Square and Nikola Pašić’s Street were reconstructed, the road to Stara Planina built, the wonderful quay along the Nišava (built already in 1927) paved and illuminated, new city lighting made… This significant economic, cultural and tourism center, center of the county named after the city, has obviously left behind, both psychologically and practically, the 1990s general crisis, broke the chain of giving in and lethargy and took its fate into its own hands. The long history of the city and many centuries of experience of its people were certainly a good ally.
The oldest preserved written record about the city originates from the Roman period (first half of the III century). It was a watchtower Turres, which administratively belonged to the province of Thrace. Archeological findings, however, imply a several millennia long presence. The Eneolit culture of the central Balkans, Bubanj Hum, was present here. There is also a lot of ceramics from the early Iron Age. Especially rich is the Antique and Late Antique period. Already at that time, especially in the Byzantine period, a strong fortification used to be here ”with a horseshoe-like tower at the gate and early Christian basilica, along with many thermae and other buildings, towers and ramparts”. At the time, the Constantinople Road which, like today, passed here, gave Pirot special significance.
Pirot has been part of Nemanja’s state from the year 1180. The construction of the Pirot fortress, probably in the form we know or assume today, is related to Momčilo, the semi-legendary regent of the Southern Rodopi Mountains and despot of the Merop region. Even today the fortress is often called Momčilo’s City after him. However, the strong fortifications did not even help Constantinople, let alone Pirot. The Turks conquered it in 1445, and it remained under their occupation until 1877.


In the XIX century, long before the liberation, the city began coming back to life. In the year 1815, an elementary school was opened on the Pirot Bazaar, in 1865 the first pharmacy, in 1869 the first city lighting was installed (petroleum lamps) and 1872 was marked with the beginning of industry (”Mitad-Pasha’s factory”). A year after liberation, in 1878, the first library in Pirot was opened. Three years later, in 1881, the famous Serbian writer Stevan Sremac became professor of the Pirot gymnasium, and in 1895 the equally famous writer Radoje Domanović came for the first time too. He was also gymnasium professor, just like Jaša Prodanović was from 1894 to 1897. The city chronicle also informs us that the Pirot Rug Makers Society was founded in 1886, and in 1889 the first theatrical ensemble.
In the period of great wars, two Balkan wars and two world wars, Pirot and his inhabitants took their part of the Serbian burden consisting of feats and sufferings. Pirot experienced true flourishing and modernization after World War II. The Theater was established already in 1944, National Museum in 1947, the Archive in 1956. In the year 1945, after the war pause, ”Tigar” (founded in 1934) continued to work and soon became the foundation of Yugoslav rubber and tire industry. ”Prvi maj” textile products factory, the second economy giant which will make Pirot famous throughout Yugoslavia, even abroad, was founded in 1958.
Famous for its rugs, yellow cheese, ironed sausage, this city and this beautiful area have always been specifically attractive. However, Pirot has always been primarily an important industrial center. That is why it suffered so much during the years of economic embargo, wars, disintegration of the country and its economy.
– I think that, after many years of talking about potentials, Pirot has a serious chance to finally use those potentials – says Vladan Vasić, M.A., young mayor of Pirot, a man who brought the long awaited positive changes with his team. – Pirot also has a big regional responsibility for the whole southeastern Serbia, considering that it is a frontier region and that the Pirot County includes the municipalities of Babušnica, Bela Palanka and Dimitrovgrad which have huge economical problems; they are underdeveloped, at the bottom of the average income list, with low natality and high migration rates. Pirot, with 19.000 employed residents, more than the population of all three mentioned municipalities, must make a huge development step forward, thereby initiating all the others.
When he speaks about development potentials, says the mayor, he mainly means several projects with an undoubtedly national significance. Corridor 10, nationally and internationally important project, is crucial for the development of the Pirot region. Being exactly half-way between Niš and Sofia, Pirot will be able to completely open its infrastructure and its communications towards Belgrade and the international surroundings after the completion of this corridor, especially towards Sofia, now one of the EU capitals. In order to understand what economical and other possibilities are opening before this city and region, it is sufficient to say that the very frequent Sofia international airport is only 70 kilometers from Pirot.
The second project of extraordinary significance for Pirot is the ”Southern Stream”, the gas pipeline which is about to pass through here and supply Serbia among other countries. We have seen that the agreements were signed and that the realization will start in the following years.
The third mega-project, also of extreme importance for Pirot and the region, is the Stara Planina mountain. It is also the most emphasized point in the state strategy of Serbian tourism development for the upcoming period.


– Each of these projects and all of them together will bring Pirot into the focus of interest of both local and international public and investors – continues mayor Vasić. – We are preparing to use many development chances which will thereby open in the fields of tourism, agriculture and infrastructure. During the previous 4-5 years, Pirot has already done a lot on developing infrastructure (traffic infrastructure, drinking water supply, waste water treatment, heating infrastructure). We have a good cooperation with the economy, and are realizing the project of a 25 hectares large industrial and technological park, with a free economic zone already established on 18 hectares. These are potentials we are already systematically promoting in the region. We want to be one of the best places in Serbia for investments. We passed many important decisions for simplifying and enabling easier procedures of investing and meeting the investors’ needs. We have an excellent cooperation with the non-government sector and foreign diplomatic and economic representations in Serbia (e.g. we are realizing the project of business incubation with the German regional office) and cooperate with several Bulgarian municipalities. Many projects were realized or are soon to be realized based on the EU competition for promoting frontier cooperation.
Saying that agriculture is a great development possibility is not just a phrase in Pirot, a trendy mantra appearing especially in election campaigns. Creating the development strategy will soon be completed, and an Agriculture Development Fund will begin working in 2009.
– The Municipality now has a more active approach in the economy development. We are a shareholder in the free zone, with about 13 percent of shares, which, in my opinion, is the best form of public and private partnership in Serbia (it is spoken about a lot). We enable the investors to invest under most favorable conditions, without paying the land, taxes, and already have positive examples, such as the big investment of the French ”Michelin”. The Pirot Dairy is in a successful privatization process and some companies which practically disappeared during the transition period are now successfully returning to the economy stage. We established an office for local economic development. Its main task is to help people begin, continue or increase their investment in Pirot. For the first time in the history of Pirot, we have the Municipality president assistant in charge of local economic development. He is in everyday direct contact with people doing business in Pirot, or those intending to come. We are strengthening our presence at trade fairs and our cooperation with the competent ministries. Figures from 2008 show that there are 1.200 less unemployed people at the labor market. I have strong reasons to believe that we will continue with such results, even improve them.


Mayor Vladan Vasić is a graduated electrical engineer and Master of Arts of economic sciences, married, with three children. In the year 2000, he became member of the Municipality Parliament, and in 2003, at the first direct elections, he was elected Municipality president. His second mandate on that position began in 2008.
– The easiest thing is to sit in your chair and criticize. You must work and do something yourself, change things for the better, take responsibility. I plan to live in Serbia and Pirot. That is why I think that one must invest great efforts to make the surroundings decent for living, for your children, for your friends and townsmen, and that is only what actually remains after you. That is the energy that has been initiating me for the previous 4-5 years. There is room in Pirot and Serbia for all people with a good idea and such energy. It is frivolous and irresponsible to always blame others, and then pack your things and look for a chance somewhere else.


– Richness in extraordinary quality water is another huge and long neglected potential of Pirot. Our Zavoj Lake was designed to supply two million people with healthy drinking water! We also have many other springs. The studies done up to now indicate that Pirot has 800 liters of water per second from captured springs, whereas the needs here will not surpass 300 liters per second until the year 2030. So, already now we have 500 free liters of water per second ready for exploitation – says Mr. Vasić.


– During the year 2009, we will enter the procedure of protecting and developing some brands of Pirot which have not been officially verified and protected up to now: Pirot yellow cheese, Pirot rug, ironed sausage, Pirot white sheep cheese – says mayor Vladan Vasić. – We will also promote these brands throughout the region and Europe, create new jobs, improve the quality of life and again make this city and this region a place people would wish to live in.


Premier League
Pirot used to be a significant sports center, and its sportsmen famous around the world (such as Svetislav Pešić, basketball player and one of the best coaches on the planet). During the previous period, the Municipality became owner of a complex of sports objects, and has been investing significantly into sports infrastructure. The construction of the closed swimming pool should start next year, and it will significantly increase the life standard in the whole region.
– Our aim is to have many sports and clubs. Naturally, high level competitions are important as a motivation and initiator. ”Radnički” football club has a big chance for it. The female handball club is fighting to enter the Premier League. The basketball club also has high potential, as well as the volleyball and karate club. We will attempt to support them on their path as much as we can – says mayor Vasić.


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