Orašac is a small village in the municipality of Aranđelovac in Central Serbia. It is known as the place of the First Serbian Uprising in 1804, which initiated the creation of Serbia as a modern state.
Since 1979, the famous place Orašac has been classified as a cultural landmark of exceptional importance. In memory of this great historical event that brought national freedom to the Serbian people, today 15th February is celebrated as Statehood Day in Serbia.
How to get to Orašac
Orašac is located about 70 km from Belgrade when you go by highway to the city of Niš, via the turning for Mladenovac, and then follow the signs for Arandjelovac. Actually, Aranđelovac is 6 km from Orašac.
On the right side of the road, among the trees, first, you will see the statue of Karađorđe and you will know that you have come to Orašac and “the First Serbian Uprising” monument complex.
What you can see in the complex in Orašac
The monument complex includes the monument dedicated to Karađorđe, the memorial school, the museum, the church and Maricević Gully.
The monument of Karađorđe and the Memorial School
The statue of Vožd Karađorđe is 3,4m high and it is made of white marble.
It was erected on the jubilee – the 200s years of the uprising.
The Memorial School in Orašac
Close to the monument, there is the Memorial School “The First Serbian Uprising”. This impressive building was built in 1932 by the order of King Aleksandar Karađorđević, and as promised by King Petar I Karađorđević during his visit to Orašac in 1912, before the beginning of the First Balkan War.
By the way, the first schools in Serbia were established in the 18th century, in towns and near monasteries and churches. In the 19th century, with the development of the uprisings, there was a practice to establish the school as soon as a region was liberated from the Turks. According to the archive, it is known that in 1844-1845, there was a school with 12 students in Orašac.
Near the Monumental School, there is the Museum dedicated to the First Serbian Uprising. And when you pass the museum and school, you can go down by stone path among the trees to the Marićević Gully. It was the place where Serbian history was changed at the beginning of the 19th century.
But first, let’s talk about the life and situation in Serbia at that time…
Serbia at the beginning of the 19th century
Serbia was still under Ottoman rule at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. Actually, it was Smederevo pashaluq, later known as Belgrade’s pashaluq. So, the people lived modestly in villages, in log cabins with one room and a fireplace in the centre. Only a small number of merchants and craftsmen lived in cities, together with the representatives of the Turkish government. The people were burdened with numerous taxes and levies, and the arrogant behaviour of Turkish officials led to growing dissatisfaction.
By the way, leaders of the Ottoman janissary units in the Belgrade pashaluq were dahias. They managed the region independently from the central authorities from 1801 to 1804. So, they organized the Slaughter of Princes between 4th and 10th February in Valjevo, i.e. the execution of Serbian elders, princes and priests, to intimidate the people. Therefore, it incited the beginning of the First Serbian Uprising.
Monument in the Marićević Gully
The secret meeting of prominent Serbs was held on 15th February 1804 in the Marićević Gully in Orašac village. It was the day of Sretenje (Candlemas Day) – The presentation of Jesus at a temple, a church holiday on a remembrance of the day when Mother of God first brought the newborn Christ into the temple to dedicate him to God.
Today at this memorial place there are three white marble plates. In the middle there is engraved text: “On this place on 15th February in 1804, the First Serbian Uprising was raised”. Also, on the left and right plates, there are engraved verses from the famous song “The beginning of the revolt on the breath”.
On the left side, there is the relief “Oath of the Insurgents” from 2002. On the right side of the plates, there is a bronze plaque with the image of Karađorđe.
Meeting in the Marićević Gully
Over three hundred people were at the meeting. Teodosije Marićević, the merchant and the prince of Orašac and Stanoje Glavaš didn’t accept to be a leader. So, they elected Đorđe Petrović known as Karađorđe as the leader of the first Serbian uprising against the Ottomans.
As soon as the meeting was over and after taking the new oath, the Turkish inn located close to the church in Orašac was burnt. And that was officially the beginning of the First Serbian Revolution which lasted until 1835.
The Ottomans suffered a series of defeats and until 1806, the Serbian forces occupied all major cities in the pashaluq, including Belgrade and Smederevo. But in July 1813, Belgrade fell under Ottoman rule and everything was like before the uprising in 1804.
The death of Karađorđe
As the uprising was brought to a close, Karađorđe and his followers had to escape to Austria, but they were arrested. The Austrians handed Karađorđe to the Russians, who offered him refuge. However, Karađorđe secretly returned to Serbia in 1817, but very soon, he was killed by the order of Miloš Obrenović. Actually, Miloš Obrenović was afraid that Karađorđe could take his place.
Interestingly, Karađorđe was the best man to Miloš at his wedding Ljubica.
By the way, Karađorđe is considered as the founder of the Karađorđević dynasty. Also, Karađorđević and Obrenović dynasties were the two royal families in the period of Serbian history from the beginning of the 19th to the mid-20th century. If you like to know more about how they were intertwined, you can read it in my post “Exhibition “Serbian Royal Portraits” which was opened in mid-November 2019 in Belgrade.
Today Karađorđe’s remains are at St. George’s Church in Oplenac near Topola. You can read more about this significant church and the life of Karađorđe in one of the following posts.
The Church of Ascension of Lord in Orašac
In memory of the First Serbian Uprising, the Church of the Ascension of the Lord was built between 1868 and 1870.
There is an interesting iconostasis with 24 icons painted by Steva Todorović, the famous Serbian painter. In this small church located near the museum, there is also a memorial plaque of white marble, in honour of those who were killed in the Balkan wars.
The bell tower near the church was erected in 1994.
Close to the church, there is the memorial fountain built in 1954 on the 150 anniversary of the First Serbian Uprising.
The First Serbian Uprising Museum in Orašac
The museum in Orašac was opened in 2004.
It shows events and life in Serbia before the uprising, the beginning of the uprising, and various information about battles and the history of the Serbian people.
From this period, among the exhibits, you can see arms, guns, pistols, jatagans, sabers, soldiers’ uniforms, Serbian flags, and maps.
Also, you can see the dolama of Karađorđe and his statue.
There are a few portraits of the famous insurgents, as well.
It is always interesting to see the items used in everyday life in households.
The museum is open every day from 9-17, and the ticket is 150 RSD (about 1,3 EUR). Also, there is a combined ticket of 400 RSD (about 3,4 EUR) which includes also tickets for the museum in Aranđelovac and the Risovača cave.
What else you can see near Orašac
Since you can see the whole monumental complex in Orašac in about one hour, you can visit some interesting places near Orašac. First, you can take a break in the household Karađorđev Vajat and try some local specialities.
About 5 km from Orašac there is the charming city of Aranđelovac. Visit the National Museum, take a walk in the beautiful park of the Bukovička Banja and see the impressive and unfortunately decrepit building of the Old Edifice.
Close to Aranđelovac, there is the famous Risovača cave.
About 18 km from Orašac, there is the small town of Topola.
Near Topola you can visit Oplenac, the mausoleum of the Karađorđević family and Karađorđe’s residence museum. Besides, you can enjoy nature and peace on the mountain Bukulja or Garaši Lake.
The role of Orašac in Serbia
Even though it is a small place, Orašac had a great role in the history of the Serbian people. With the First Serbian Uprising, conditions were created for the maturing of the national consciousness. The need for liberation from centuries of Turkish rule increased together with the creation of an independent Serbian state. There were many economic, social, and cultural changes during the first decades of the 19th century.
Exactly on the day of the first Serbian uprising, at the meeting in 1835 in Kragujevac, the Sretenje Constitution, the first democratic constitution of Serbia was adopted and feudalism was abolished.
Because of these two events, the 15th of February is celebrated as Statehood Day in Serbia.