The fruitful river Timok, gold-bearing mountain streams, and Stara Planina have always been interesting for settlers!
Many armies have marched through these regions. There have been a lot of warfare, as well as fires, destruction, and, eventually, building and rebuilding.
The hordes of Huns and Avars passed through here, and after them, the spacious valley of Timok was settled by the Slavs. The first news about the Slavic tribe of Timočani and their prince Borna dates back to the year 818 .
The Timočani changed their rulers. They lived under the rule of the Franks, Bulgarians, and Byzantines, as evidenced by the remains of numerous medieval settlements and churches preserved in the surrounding area of the town.
The Turks conquered this region in 1396 Year. Turkish sources mention that in 1455. there were around a hundred villages in the Timočka nahia, including the village of Gurgusovče.
Three hundred years later, it was recorded that Gurgusovac was located on the Small Timok, which flowed through the small town, with a wooden bridge over it.
Timočka Palanka, as the Turks called it, had 120 Serbian and 46 Turkish houses, two mosques, one stone-built and the other wooden. It had two taverns and two inns. There was a Turkish settlement on the hill, enclosed by a palisade, with a garrison of about 100 men and several cannons. Below, the road from Niš to Vidin went through. In the middle, there was a square, suggesting that Knjaževac, then known as Gurgusovac, was a trading center.
The oldest evidence of human habitation in the territory of the municipality of Knjaževac is a cave drawing in the area of the village of Gabrovnica, dating back to prehistoric times.
The area around Knjaževac, formerly known as Gurgusovac, was inhabited by various tribes such as the Triballi, Mezi, and others, who named the largest river in this area “Tim aqua” (Black Water). Pliny mentions the tribe of Timahi, who lived in this area. At the dawn of the new era, the Romans arrived in these lands and called the river Timahus. During the period of Roman rule, it is known that there were two sites in this territory: Timacum maisus (Great Timok) and Timacum minus (Small Timok).
The origin of the name Gurgusovac
There are several versions regarding the origin of the name Gurgusovac. According to one version, the name of the town was derived from Grgur, the eldest son of Despot Đurđe.
According to another version, it was named after the gurgusan doves, which were abundant in the surrounding forests. A third version suggests that the name originates from Đurđeva voda (George’s Water) near Mileta’s Church, not far from Knjaževac, which the Turks called Gjurgu-su (“su” meaning water).
After the liberation from the Turks and its annexation to Serbia in 1833. , Gurgusovac developed all the services of a town, although the majority of the population still relied on agriculture.
The appearance of the town in the mid-19th century was described in “Serbske novine” from 1851. :
“Anyone who saw and knew Gurgusovac fifteen years ago and compared its former state with the present one will truly acknowledge significant progress.
Back then, one could mostly see houses covered with straw and baskets, but now one can see beautifully constructed houses with tiled roofs. In addition, there are more taverns and shops than before. A large and prosperous marketplace extends on both sides of the old wide main street filled with taverns and shops.
However, the greatest adornment of the town, serving as a source of joy for every Serbian, is the large and beautiful church, and next to it, a lovely school. Moreover, Gurgusovac takes pride in a well-built municipal hospital, one of the first in Serbia.”
The name Knjaževac
Knjaževac acquired its name on January 17 , 1859. after Prince Miloš Obrenović, who stayed in Gurgusovac on that day, ordered the burning of the infamous Gurgusovac Tower (which was a symbol of darkness and slavery for the people).
By the Law on Places in 1886, Gurgusovac was formally declared a town.
During the period from 1875 to 1877, the town was briefly reoccupied by the Turks. 1883. In 1883, after the liberation wars, unresolved political and economic conditions led to the outbreak of the Timok Rebellion. The immediate cause of the rebellion was the confiscation of weapons from the people’s army by the order of King Milan Obrenović, and its leaders were Aleksa Aca Stanojević, Gavra Aničić, Ljuba Božinović, and others.
From 1913, during the Balkan Wars, this region was frequently attacked by Bulgaria, and in 1915. it was even occupied. The Serbian army and the French cavalry brigade liberated Knjaževac on October 15, 1918 .
During World War II, this region was occupied by the Germans (in 1941) until its final liberation on October 10, 1944 .
After the liberation, the town experienced a rapid development. The mines in the surrounding area were reopened, industrial plants replaced former small craft workshops, and all of this led to significant population migrations from rural areas to the town.
Bordered by the slopes of Stara Planina, Tresibaba, and Tupiznica, intersected by rivers whose banks are connected by numerous bridges, the municipality of Knjaževac represents a romantic haven that can charm and warm the hearts with its offerings.
Today, the municipality of Knjaževac is built on the fusion of rich traditions and modern trends.
Covering an area of 1,202 km², it is the fourth largest municipality in Serbia. The municipality consists of one urban and 85 rural settlements. The range from the lowest point in the Timok Valley (around 170 meters above the sea level) to Babin Zub (1,780 meters above the sea level) in Stara Planina represents a creative space where everyone can find themselves.
According to the latest census, there are approximately 25,000 inhabitants living in the municipality.
Knjaževac is known as “Little Venice,” situated on the three rivers, intersected by a large number of bridges, whereas , “Stara čaršija” or “Old Bazaar“ lies in the very town centre as the old commercial and artisan core.