The Feast of Sretenje, February 15th, has been marked since 2002 as the Statehood Day and the Constitution Day of Serbia. Statehood Day is celebrated in memory of the gathering in the village of Orašac near Topola, held at the Meeting in 1804 – the date taken as the beginning of the First Serbian Uprising. On that day, about 300 people’s representatives from Šumadija met above Marićević Jaruga “near two large elms” on a plateau surrounded by dense forest. Among them were: Đorđe Petrović from Viševac, Orašac knez Marko Savić, Koračić knez Vićentije Petrović, Topola knez Matija Jovčić, Marko Katić from Rogača, Teodosije Marićević, Janićije Đurić, Tansko Rajić, Arsenije Lomo, Milutin Savić from Garaš (father of Ilija Garašanin ), hajduks Stanoje Glavaš, Veljko Petrović, Vule Ilić Kolarac … A decision was made to raise a revolt against the dahijas, the leaders of the janissaries who ruled the Belgrade pashaluq. Đorđe Petrović-Karađorđe, a volunteer in the Austro-Turkish war (1788-1791), the buljukbaša of the Serbian People’s Army, was elected the leader of the revolt. The participants in the gathering took the oath before prota Atanasije from Bukovik, kissing the cross and the Gospel. On the same day, the inn in Orašac was set on fire, and soon a revolt spread throughout Šumadija. From 1805, the revolt grew into an uprising against the Ottoman rule and a struggle to restore Serbian statehood. The Serbian insurgents achieved victories over the Turkish army – near Ivankovac (1805), on Mišara and near Deligrad (1806) – after which they liberated the entire Belgrade pashaluk and several nahijas of the neighboring pashaluks.

Flintlock, early 19th century, Serbia, steel, brass, wood, length 52 cm, Historical Collection of the National Museum Kraljevo (I-293).

The area around the then Karanovac (now Kraljevo) was also included in the uprising. Many heroes and people’s elders came from them: Jovan Kursula from Cvetke, Radosav Jelečanin from Mataruge, Jaćim Šućur from Gračac, priest Nikola Kostić from Mrsać and priest Filip from Brezova. Karanovac itself, where the Turks lived, and which was a strategically important point in the spread of the uprising through the Ibar Valley towards the Raška region, was liberated on St. Peter’s Day on July 12th (June 29th according to the Julian calendar) in 1805. The importance of owning Karanovac is evidenced by the fact that Karađorđe personally commanded the fighting around it, with the help of some of his most famous military leaders, such as Janko Katić, Simo Marković, Vaso Čarapić, Đusa Vulićević, Stanoje Glavaš, Mladen Milovanović, Lazar Mutap, Radič Petrović, Prota Mateja Nenadović and Prota Milutin Ilić Gučanin. During the eight years of the insurgent administration, the officers of Karanovac were Captain Radič Petrović, and then Duke Antonije Ristić-Pljakić. Although the Turkish army quelled the uprising in 1813, its significance is reflected in the fact that the foundation of the future Serbian state was laid, which will be created through long-term negotiations with the Turkish Porta through the 19th century, with the support of the Russian Empire.

Franta Maly, The First Serbian Uprising, 1932, Belgrade, graphics, paper, 50 x 34.5 cm, edition of the Milorad P. Milanović Bookstore, Study Collection of the History Group of the National Museum Kraljevo.

Constitutional Day is marked in memory of the adoption of the first Constitution of the Principality of Serbia – the Constitution of Sretenje. The Constitution was adopted at the Great National Assembly in Kragujevac in 1835, in which over 2,400 official representatives took part. The writer of the Constitution was Dimitrije Davidović, the secretary of Prince Miloš Obrenović. The constitution is written on the Western European model. It had fourteen chapters and 142 articles. The basic principles of the Constitution were that Serbia is indivisible and an independent state in the internal administration with the prince, the State Council and the National Assembly. The Principality of Serbia was divided into districts, counties and municipalities, it had its own flag and coat of arms. The constitution guaranteed civil rights: the principle of equality before the law and the courts, the inviolability of property and the right to dispose of it fully. The Ottoman Empire was against the Sretenje Constitution, since it was adopted without consultations with Porta, and Russia, which considered it too liberal. This was used by Prince Miloš and the opponent of the Constitution himself due to the limitations of power, and he soon abolished it.

Nemanja Trifunović
Curator of the National Museum Kraljevo

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