Archaeological and other studies give us reliable evidences of continuous inhabitation of Semberia since prehistoric times (New Stone age or Neolithic era, about 5000 years BC). Despite of numerous migrations, wars, shifts of state and administrative systems in the later periods of history (from Roman time to the modern era) this area probably has never been completely neglected.
Prehistory and Classical Age
The earliest confirmed traces of human life in the area of today's City of Bijeljina date from the the New Stone Age (5000-3000 BC). Also, the material remains from the Bronze and Iron Age have been found. The most of these findings from prehistoric periods were found in the villages Ostojićevo, Batković, Glavičice, Dvorovi, Kojčinovac, Patkovača and Triješnica. Characteristics of pottery, tools and weapons emphatically confirm cultural connections of aboriginal inhabitants of Semberia with Vinča Neolithic culture and the Bronze age cultures - Vučedol, Kostolac and Baden culture.
MUSEUM OF SEMBERIA - FOSIL OF
SEA URCHIN (CLYPEASTER PYRAMIDALIS)
FROM FORMER PANNONIAN SEA
MUSEUM OF SEMBERIA -
NEOLITHIC STONE AXES
MUSEUM OF SEMBERIA
ROMAN BRONZE FIGURINE
Archaeological findings from the Iron Age are linked to the arrival of the Celtic tribes, just before the Roman conquests (8-1 Century BC).
In the Antique period (1-5 Century BC) Semberia and Posavina (region around of the River Sava), were parts of the Roman province of Pannonia. The most important archaeological discoveries from the Roman period have been found at sites in Brodac (Roman villa), Kojčinovac (tombstone), Velika Obarska (lead plate for the ritual use with the image of so-called Danubian horseman), Amajlije (bronze figurine, 13 cm height), Modran (hidden Roman coins), Dijelovi (two stone sculptures of lions). New sites were discovered in Janja and villages Dvorovi, Batković and Patkovača. Somewhere in the area of Donje Podrinje (on one of banks of the Drina River) was a Roman settlement Ad Drinum, but it exact location is unknown.
MUSEUM OF SEMBERIA - ROMAN MONUMENTS WITH IMAGES OF LION AND DOPLHINS AND
ROMAN STONE MORTAR, ONE METER LONG IN DIAMETER
The oldest archeological site of this period in Semberia is located on both sides of channel Bistrik, between the villages Batković and Ostojićevo and it consists of four smaller sites which are dating from the period of the 7th to the 12th Century. On localities Jazbina and Oraščić were found remains of a settlement with a half-buried huts, but the most significant discovery was a complex of metallurgical workshop at the site Čelopek where iron was melted in the 8th century and where iron tools were manufactured. At this time the village Bistrik probably was called Bistrica and with no doubt it was the center of the parish, which covered the entire territory of today’s City of Bijeljina, before settlement on today's urban part of City of Bijeljina was established.
The Middle Ages and Ottoman Period
The first mention of the name Bijeljina is lost in the distant past. In "The Chronicle of Priest Dukljanin" a victory of Zahumian prince Bela-Pavlimir over the Hungarians "in the plain of Belina" is mentioned. However, because of the extreme unreliability of this scripture and proven numerous inaccuracies, modern historical science consider that the first mention of Bijeljina was on the 3rd of March 1446, when Dubrovnik's merchant Bogiša Bogmilović was robbed there by servants of Ban (Master) of Ilok (in today’s Croatia). Document about this event is written in Latin and it is kept in the archives of Dubrovnik, in the collection called "Lamenta de Foris" (book 20, page 71), and says:
"Day the 3rd of March 1446.
Bogiša Bogmilović in front of Mr. Alois, prince of Dubrovnik, filed suit against Vučić Pribišević and Vučić Ugrinović and Radić Gucić and all the other people of Ban of Ilok Osvart, declaring that they had robbed him in Bielina, and took his commodities, golden coins, silver and cloth – all worth 435 ducats and two horses, arms, his clothes and a silver platter."
|FASCIMILE OF THE DOCUMENT WITH THE FIRST MENTION OF BIJELJINA|
In addition, there is the medieval tombstones with inscriptions in old Cyrillica, which shed new light on the history of the area in a period before Turkish conquest. Tombstones are discovered during the restoration of the Atik Mosque in the center of Bijeljina. Although this monuments hasn’t inscriptions of date, paleographical analysis show that the signs have written in the long period between the second half of the 14th until the mid-15th century, which means that some tombstones were built before the note from 1446.
MUSEUM OF SEMBERIA, SWORD, 15th CENTURY
Text on the Tombstone:
This once again proves that Bijeljina in that period was a separate parish, and that it’s seat was definitely at the place where the Church was. Through this parish a road passed, leading from upper Podrinje and settlements of Srebrenica, Kušlat, Zvornik, Teočak and Bijeljina to Mitrovica (in today’s Serbia) and Ilok (in today’s Croatia). Here was also the confluence of this road with the road which led from the river Bosna i.e. Doboj, through Spreča valley to Srebrenik and Soli.
The Middle ages in Semberia were marked by constant struggle for power in this region between the princes and kings of Serbia, Bosnia and Hungary, as well as minor feudal lords. In medieval times the oldest building on territory of the City - Tavna monastery was built. The Monastery was probably found by the sons of King Dragutin of Serbia and it dates from the beginning of the 14th century.
Weakened by feudal disunity and inter-Christian fighting, these states have been unable to resist the Turkish attacks and, like the most of the neighboring countries, in the 16th century, Semberia felt under the Turkish rule. The final Turkish occupation of this area took place probably about 1530. After that, in the first census of the Zvornik Sanjak in 1533, in the area of Bijeljina (Bijeljinska Nahia) only 4 villages were mentioned: Četvrtkovište, Mirkovci (Dašnica), Grm (Galac) and Čukojevići (Modran) with a total of 55 houses. The list from 1548. shows the increase of number of villages on 17 with 772 houses of which 554 were Orthodox Christian and 218 were Muslim. By the Decree of the Turkish Sultan in 1580, the Četvrtkovište (today's center of Bijeljina) got the status of the kasaba (small town), and became administrative center (Kadiluk) for three nahias (Bijeljina, Koraj, Teočak). By the same decree, there were established market day and an annual fair. About half a century later, according to so-called Tuzla Protocole (“Tuzlanski sidžil”) from 1634, and other sources, the seat of Kadiluk has the old medieval name - Bilina.
|MUSEUM OF SEMBERIA, HANDGUN "KUBURA" (OTTOMAN PERIOD)|
After a century of relative stability in this area, in Vienna war 1683-1699 Turkish Empire lost Pannonia and the border with Austria moved back to the Sava and the Danube. Already in 1716 region around the River Sava, including Bijeljina, became part of Austrian Empire, but the Turks occupied Bijeljina again in 1739. In those conflicts Bijeljina suffered extensive damage. During these wars, and later throughout the 18th and the 19th century, huge migrations were caused by highly volatile situation. First and Second Serbian Uprising (1804-1813; 1815), Rebellion in Posavina 1858 and the Serbian-Turkish wars 1876-1877 and 1878, involved Serbs from Semberia, which resulted with temporary or permanent eviction of part of Serbian population the areas across the Sava and the Drina (in Serbia and Austria/Austria-Hungaria). After the failure of the First Serbian Uprising, during which Bijeljina was shortly liberated, Serbian population in Semberia suffered terribly and many villages were completely destroyed. After that, this area was inhabited by immigrants from Herzegovina and Montenegro and their descendants were a majority of the population in Semberia until to the ninetie's of the 20th century. Muslim population in Semberia was mostly settled in the years after liberation of Serbia from Turkish occupation. The cessation of big migrations and relative population stabilization in Semberia can be observed only after the Austro-Hungarian occupation in 1878.
In this region Serbs earnestly supported the First Serbian Uprising (1804-1813) and glorious awakening of the Serbian people, but the attempt of liberation did not succeed. Results of these actions in and around Semberia were demolition of the old fort in Teočak in 1805, battles around Janja in 1807, short period of liberation of Bijeljina and whole Semberia and Majevica in the year 1809.
|PRINCE IVO OF SEMBERIA||FILIP VISNJIC|
These were tough times in which two of the most famous people of the region lived: Prince (Knez) Ivan Knežević – Prince (Knez) Ivo of Semberia (1760-1840) as a symbol of Serbian nobility and Filip Višnjić (1767-1834), the most important Serbian minstrel. As symbols of Bijeljina and Semberia, they were represented as guardians on the coat of arms of the City of Bijeljina. During the First Serbian Uprising some other heroes became famous - Simo Katić (1783-1832) from Semberian village Dvorovi, who was commander of the defense of Serbian border on the Drina from village Badovinci to the confluence of the Drina and Sava Rivers, and later, during the reign of Prince Miloš of Serbia, he was deputy head of Mačva region. The famous hero was also Zeko Buljubaša - Jovan Gligorijević (1770-1813) from Semberian village Brodac - "Serbian Leonidas" who died heroically in the battle on Ravnje, the last battle of the First Serbian Uprising together with his companions.
Regardless to all aggravating circumstances - and population losses in the Serbian Uprisings and the plague in 1814, according to the the census from 1864, Bijeljina was the largest city in the region with 6.074 inhabitants (according to the same census – smaller cities were neighboring Tuzla with 5.264, Zvornik with 4.870 and Brčko with 2562 inhabitants).
Two oldest buildings in urban area of the City of Bijeljina were built in time of decline of the Turkish power – Serbian Orthodox Church of St. George and the building “Konak” (building of Turkish Municipality administration; today’s Museum of Semberia).
Attempts of liberation of Bijeljina in the big Bosnian and Herzegovinian Uprising and Serbian-Turkish Wars 1875-1878 were not successful. In the autumn 1875, Jovan Panić tried to get back from Serbia to his hometown with 300 rebels, but this squad were defeated in the area of the Monastery Tavna. In 1876 the Serbian General Ranko Alimpić unsuccessfully beseiged Bijeljina. That was also the time when the Turkish forces in Galac defeated the squad of Italian volunteers Garibaldians who came to help to Serbia in mission of national liberation.
After the Uprising and the War, Bosnia and Hercegovina, including Bijeljina were occupied and ruled since 1878 to 1918 by Austria-Hungaria. As the Danube Monarchy was on a much higher level of economical and civilization development than Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced rapid economical progress, which led to a new wave of national awakening.
By Decree of the National Government at the beginning of the 1879, Bijeljina received the first Municipal Statute, one of the first in Bosnia and Herzegovina under Austro-Hungarian rule.
According to the Census from 1879 Bijeljina has 1.602 residential buildings and 6.090 inhabitants. During that time, Bijeljina was a large settlement, the fifth largest in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Time of the Austro-Hungarian occupation was the time of revival of Bijeljina, when it started to get a glimpse of a modern city. Recognizing the great strategic significance of Bijeljina placed on the border to the Kingdom of Serbia, the authorities have paid a lot of attention to the development and adjustment of the Town to military needs.
ST. GEORGE CHURCH IN
BIJELJINA (BUILT IN 1872)
(BEGINNING OF THE 20th CENTURY)
CITY HALL AND GRAIN MARKET
(BEGINNING OD THE 20th CENTURY)
Within the Statute were the care and development of the Municipality, regulation of existing streets, open markets, nighttime street lighting, holding weekly and annual fairs, street cleaning and garbage collecting to landfills outside the Town, taking care of people's health and care of the poor in Bijeljina. Municipal Council soon decided to open grain market in the Town center, beside the headquarters of the District. Council employed street sweepers and two cars were purchased for garbage collecting. In the same year, Tuesdays and Fridays were set up for the weekly fairs, and the Day of St. Panteleimon (the 9th of August) and Day of St. Demetrios (the 8th of November) for annual fairs. In 1880 the most important places in the Town were shined by kerosene lanterns. Austro-Hungarian authorities seized a Turkish military PhD Jacob Kohut, a Viennese medical graduate, whose efforts in 1880 resulted with the opening of the first civil hospital in Bijeljina. At the same year first pharmacy was opened in Bijeljina.
PART OF TOW CALLED LEDINCI, HOTEL "DRINA" AND OLD MARKET
AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 20th CENTURY
The river Janjica was displaced from the center of the Town because it’s frequent flooding which contributed to the occurrance of malaria and other diseases. It's flow was transferred to the stream of Dašnica out of Town. However, Dašnica flooded villages on the western outskirts of the city and finally in the period 1905-1907 Dašnica was channeled.
Thanks to great efforts of the Municipal Council, the former Cattle Market at Pašić Crossroad ("Pašića meraja") in the center of Bijeljina was cultivated and under the supervision of Johann Kaiser and Georg Buhmayer there were planted the seedlings of trees in the first City Park. In 1892 the hotel "Drina" was built - the first modern inn in Bijeljina.
The First World War brought new sufferings to the people of Semberia by Austro-Hungarian authorities because of the constant accusations of collaborating with the Serbs on the other side of the Drina. A famous Austrian writer and journalist Egon Erwin Kish significantly testified about the horror of those days, heroism of Semberians and their unwavering desire to live in freedom, along with rest of Serbs and other South Slavs.
The major turning point was marked in a year 1918 - after the break through of the Thessaloniki front and victory of the Army of Kingdom of Serbia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire broke down, and Semberia was shined by Freedom for the first time in the modern era.
|CITY HALL AND GRAIN MARKET (1926)||MONUMENT TO KING PETAR THE LIBERATOR (1937)|
NOTE: More photos from past of Bijeljina can be found in Gallery "Black&White" - on link http://www.sobijeljina.org/en/410._Black_and_White_Bijeljina.html.