Vršac (Вршац) is a town and municipality located in Serbia. In 2002 the city's total population was 36,001, while Vršac municipality had 53,751 inhabitants. Vršac is located in the Banat region, in the Vojvodina province. It is part of the South Banat District.
The name Vršac is of Slavic origin. It derived from the Slavic word vrh, meaning "summit".
The Agathyrsi (people of mixed Scythian-Thracian origin) are the first people known to live in this region. Later, the region was inhabited by Getae and Dacians. It belonged to the Dacian kingdoms of Burebista and Decebalus, and then to the Roman Empire from 102 to 271. In Vršac, archaeologists founded traces of ancient Dacian and Roman settlements. Later, the region belonged to the Empire of the Huns, the Kingdom of the Gepids, the Kingdom of the Avars, and the Bulgarian Empire.
The Slavs settled in this region in the 6th century, and the Slavic tribe known as Abodrites (Bodriči) was recorded to live in the area. The Slavs from the region were Christianized during the rule of the Bulgarian duke Ahtum in the 11th century. Since duke Ahtum was defeated by the Hungarian Kingdom, the region was included into this state.
There are no much data about early history of the town, but it is certain that it was inhabited by Serbs, although it was under administration of the Kingdom of Hungary. The original name of the town is unknown. There are several theories that its first name was Vers, Verbeč, Veršet or Vegenje, but these theories are not confirmed. The name of the town appears for the first time in 1427 in the form Podvršan. The town was at first in the possession of the Hungarian kings, and later became property of a Hungarian aristocrat, Miklós Perényi, ban of Severin. In the 15th century, the town was in the possession of the Serbian despot Đurađ Branković (It was donated to the despot by Hungarian king Sigismund in 1411).
Ottomans destroyed the town in the 16th century, but it was soon rebuilt. In 1590/91, the Ottoman garrison in Vršac fortress was composed of one aga, 2 Ottoman officers and 20 Serb mercenaries. The town was seat of the local Ottoman authorities and of the Serbian bishop. In this time, its population was composed of Muslims and Serbs.
In 1594, the Serbs in the Banat started large uprising against Ottoman rule, and Vršac region was centre of this uprising. The leader of the uprising was Teodor Nestorović, the bishop of Vršac. The size of this uprising is illustrated by the verse from one Serbian national song: "Sva se butum zemlja pobunila, Šest stotina podiglo se sela, Svak na cara pušku podigao!" ("The whole land has rebelled, a six hundred villages arose, everybody pointed his gun against the emperor").
The Serb rebels bore flags with the image of Saint Sava, thus the rebellion had a character of a holy war. The Sinan-paša that lead the Ottoman army ordered that green flag of Muhammad should be brought from Damascus to confront this flag to the Serbian flag with image of Saint Sava. Furthermore, the Sinan-paša also burned the mortal remains of Saint Sava in Belgrade, as a revenge to the Serbs. Eventually, the Serb uprising was crushed and most of the Serbs from the region escaped to Transylvania fearing the Ottoman retaliation. However, since Banat region became deserted after this, which did not conformed to the Ottoman authorities who needed population in this fertile land, the authorities promised mercy to everybody who come back. The Serb population came back, but the mercy did not applied to the leader of the rebellion, bishop Teodor Nestorović, whose skin was striped as a punishment. The Banat uprising was one of the three largest uprisings in the Serbian history and the largest one before First Serbian Uprising lead by Karađorđe.
In 1716, Vršac passed from Ottoman to Habsburg control, and the Muslim population fled from the town. In this time, Vršac was mostly populated by Serbs, and in the beginning of the Habsburg rule, its population numbered 75 houses. Soon, German colonists started to settle here. They founded new settlement known as Werschetz, which was located near old (Serbian) Vršac. Serbian Vršac was governed by knez, and German Werschetz was governed by schultheis (mayor). Name of the first Serbian knez in Vršac in 1717 was Jovan Crni. In 1795, two towns, Serbian Vršac and German Werschetz, were officially joined into one single settlement, in which the authority was shared between Serbs and Germans. She was occupied by Ottomans between 1787-1788 during Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792).
The 1848/1849 revolution disrupted the good relations between Serbs and Germans, since Serbs fought on the side of the Austrian authorities and Germans fought on the side of the Hungarian rebels. In 1848-1849, the town was part of autonomous Serbian Vojvodina, and from 1849 to 1860, it was part of the Voivodship of Serbia and Tamiš Banat, a separate Austrian province. After abolishment of the voivodship, Vršac was included into Temes county of the Kingdom of Hungary, one of two autonomous parts of Austria-Hungary. The town was also a seat of the district. In 1910, the population of the town numbered 27,370 inhabitants, of whom 13,556 spoke German language, 8,602 spoke Serbian language, and 3,890 spoke Hungarian language.
Since 1918, the town was part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later renamed to Yugoslavia). During the Axis occupation (1941-1944), many citizens were sent to concentration camps or killed. Since 1944 when it was liberated by the Red Army's 46th Army, the town was part of the new Socialist Yugoslavia, and since dissolution of this country in 1991-1992, the town was part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1992-2003) and Serbia and Montenegro (2003-2006). Since 2006, it is part of an independent Serbia.
Vrsac is a town famous for well developed industry, especially pharmaceutical, wine and beer industry, confectionary and textile industry. The leader of Vrsac’s industry is Hemopharn group but it is the leader in the country too.
Over the past ten years it is present also in China and Russia and other countries that Hemopharm group has its representative offices. Hemopharm group is the first that initiated foundation of the Technology Park in Vrsac.
Vrsac is considered to be one of the most significant centers of agriculture in the region of southern Banat, which is the southern part of the province of Vojvodina. It is mainly because it has 54.000 hectares of arable and extremely fertile land in its possession.
The city itself together with 22 surrounding communities has some 56.000 residents, whose lives are closely connected with agriculture.
Note: for the places with Romanian and Hungarian ethnic majorities, the names are also given in the language of the concerned ethnic group.
The tower is a remain of the medieval Vršac fortress. There are two theories about origin of this fortress. According to the Turkish traveler, Evliya Çelebi, the fortress was built by the Serbian despot Đurađ Branković. The historians consider that Branković built the fortress after the fall of Smederevo in 1439. The fortress in its construction had some architectural elements similar to those in the fortress of Smederevo or in the fortress around monastery Manasija.
The other theory claim that Vršac Tower is a remain of the medieval fortress known as Erdesumulu (Hungarian: Érdsomlyó or Érsomlyó, Serbian: Erd-Šomljo / Ерд-Шомљо or Šomljo / Шомљо). However, the other sources do not identify Erdesumulu with Vršac, but claim that these two were separate settlements and that location of town and fortress of Erdesumulu was further to the east, on the Karaš River, in present-day Romanian Banat.