Twinning agreement between Leskovac and Bijeljina was signed in 2018.
Leskovac is a city and the administrative centre of the Jablanica District in southern Serbia. It received the status of a city in 2007.
The legend says that there was a lake under the hill near the today’s location of the city, but it dried up and a plant called ‘leska’ (hazel bush) sprouted there. The settlement was named after the plant Leskovac more than 600 years ago.
According to the 2011 census, there are 145,000 inhabitants in the city and its 144 communities. According to the number of communities, the Municipality of Leskovac is the most indented in Serbia, and, after Niš, the City of Leskovac is the largest local community in the south of Serbia.
Greek historian Herodotus mentioned in the fifth century B.C. that in the place or in the vicinity of today’s Leskovac there was an Illyrian (Dardanian) settlement, with fields of hemp around it. During the second century A.D., after defeating Illyrians, the Romans found a settlement on the left bank of Veternica, and built a fortress on the hill called Hisar, which dominated the town and road.
The first mention of the Slavs living in this territory appeared in the twelfth century. The area around today’s Leskovac, called Glubočica (Dubočica), with the settlement of Leskovac, was gifted to Stefan Nemanja by the emperor Manuel in the twelfth century. During the emperor Dušan’s time, and immediately after that, some villages in Dubočica, and Leskovac itself, were gifted to monasteries: in 1348, emperor Dušan gifted the village of Leskovac to the Hilandar Monastery, and in 1395 nun Jevgenija (Princess Milica) with her sons Vuk and Stefan gifted a house and two men in Leskovac to the St. Panteleimon Monastery from the Holy Mount Athos, and that is the first time leskovac was mentioned as a town.
Local Serbian feudal lords resisted the Turks until the defeat in the battle of Trepanja near Klisina on 16 November 1454, which was an introduction to the Turkish rule in Leskovac which lasted for 423 years.
At the end of the 18th century, Leskovac became the centre of a large pashalik which included the whole territory of the former Sanjak of Alaca Hisar (Kruševac) and Paraćin.
During the First Serbian Uprising a great number of people from Leskovac joined the Karađorđe’s rebels, but the rebellion in the area of Leskovac was quickly quelled, and Şehsuvar Abdi Pasha executed 300 rebels in Leskovac, and several thousand in the area around Leskovac.
According to the data of professor Han, with 15,000 inhabitants, Leskovac was the second largest Serbian town after Belgrade, which had 22,000 inhabitants at the time. Niš had 10,500, Kruševac had 7,000 and Kragujevac had 4,000 inhabitants.
During the Second Serbian-Turkish War, Leskovac was liberated from the Turks in 1877, and remained in within Serbia after the Congress of Berlin.
At the time of liberation from the Turks Leskovac was one of the largest trade centres in Serbia, and it was written down that at the end of the 19th century it had thirteen textile factories, and for this reason it was later called “Little Manchester”.
At the beginning of the First World War a decisive moment during the Battle of Morava (1915) happened in Leskovac and the area around it. It is known as the Leskovac Manoeuvre. This Serbian counter attack enabled the retreat of the main part of the Serbian Army by route Prokuplje-Lebane-Medveđa-Priština.
On the first day of German attack on Yugoslavia Leskovac was bombed. This announced new destruction and casualties. However, when liberation was within grasp, Leskovac experienced a real disaster on 6 September 1944. About fifty American bombers destroyed complete blocks in Leskovac for no reason. The exact number of deaths and wounded people was never determined, and the estimates range from 2,500 to 4,000 casualties. Leskovac was liberated only 35 days after this bombing.
Before the start of the Second World War, Leskovac reached its economic development peak, and according to the data from 1938, it had 18,000 inhabitants and powerful textile (wool industry in Leskovac with Vučje and Grdelica accounted for 40 per cent of total Yugoslav textile industry), metallurgical, brick, rubber, and food industries. Industrialisation and development encouraged some pioneer projects like the building of a hydroelectric power plant on the Vučjanka River – HE Vučje in 1903 (the second hydroelectric power plant in Serbia).
Today, together with Niš and Vranje, this city is one of three main economic centres in South Serbia with numerous companies in chemical, food, textile, wood, metal, and electronic industries, with agriculture as a significant part of the economy.
Town reading room in Leskovac was founded in 1869, and in 1935 it became the City National Library. In the early 1960s it was named after Radoje Domanović who lived in Leskovac from 1896 to 1898.
The National Museum in Leskovac was founded in 1948, and the following separate buildings are part of the Museum:
Textile Industry Museum in the village of Strojkovce
Kosta Stamenković Memorial House
Justiniana Prima Archaeological Site
The Cultural Centre in Leskovac started working in 1981.
The events have a decisive role for the development of tourism in Leskovac. Gril festival in Leskovac, which is held in the late August and early September, has long been a brand for which Leskovac is well known even outside Serbia. It is the largest and most visited grill festival and meat festival in this part of Europe. According to the number of visitors, it is in the very top of the tourist events in Serbia, and people from Leskovac regularly set records in making the largest burgers in the world.
Leskovac Carnival is held in July. It is a merge of tradition and modern carnival trends. With the main international carnival procession, the Carnival is comprised of children’s carnival, great costume party, carnival ball with election of the Carnival Princess, carnival exhibition, and numerous accompanying programmes and concerts.
Summer in Leskovac (Leskovačko leto) is an outdoor multimedia festival, one of the longest lasting events in Serbia. With its contents and concept it attracts more attention each year. Summer in Leskovac is held at the ethno complex “Šop Dokić” in the city centre, it starts with the calendar start of summer and lasts to the middle of July.
In addition to Bijeljina, Leskovac is a sister city / twin town or partner of Plovdiv, Silistra and Kyustendil (Bulgaria), Kumanovo (North Macedonia), Lanzhou (China), Novo Mesto (Slovenia), Pazin (Croatia), Okayama (Japan), Petra (Jordan) and Poznan (Poland).