On the territory of Kragujevac, we find a lot of traces of human life and remains of material culture, dated from the prehistoric times. Before the arrival of the Slavs, on the city territory (and the entire Balkans), Illyrians and Romans used to live. They influenced significantly the development of these areas. Stefan Nemanja wins this territory from the Byzantine and he merges it to the Serbian state in 12th century. Numerous river valleys led to the territory of today’s city, where the original “market place” or “village fair” was created. There, the people from the city and its vicinity, and later the passengers as well, were gathering, to exchange their products.
After the fall of Serbian state under the Turkish rule, on the territory of Kragujevac developed a very important settlement, which, under the name “Kragujevdza”, was mentioned for the first time in Turkish writings in 1476. Those writings are nowadays being kept in the Archives of the government of Turkey in Istanbul. It is considered that the name of the city comes from “kraguj”, a bird of prey which was used for hunting, like falcons are used today. They remind of eagles and today they are a part of the city’s emblem.
During the long rule of Turks, the city falls twice under the Austrian rule. During the second Austrian rule, the city becomes an important military-strategic center, governed by ober-prince Stanisa Markovic Mlatisuma. With the Belgrade treaty form 1739, Turkish rule was restored under the notorious Dahi Kucuk Alija. The First Serbian Uprising lasted from 1804 to 1813. After that the Turks conquer the city again, only to finally leave it in 1815.
The turning point and the most important period in the city’s development, begins on May 6th 1818, when prince Milos Obrenovic declared it the capital of Serbia, on the Assemble of the people provosts, in the monastery Vracevsnica. During the next period, the city was being strategically urbanized and territorially expended and it became administrative, political, cultural- educational, health, military and industrial center of Serbia. Private houses and many institutions are being built with characteristics of national architecture; the streets are being covered with paving stone and illuminated with carbide lamps and by order of Prince Milos, houses are being covered with roof tiles instead of straw, in order to protect them from the fire. Three wooden bridges and the first stone bridge over the river Lepenica were built during that period. There were no wars in that period and everything carries the sign of blooming, but due to arbitrariness of the rule of Obrenovic dynasty, following rebellions were organized: Djakova rebellion (1825), Mileta’s revolt (1835) and the Kragujevac military rebellion (1839).
The capital was moved to Belgrade in 1841, and since then the number of citizens in Kragujevac has been decreasing, because many officials of the state administration were leaving. However, in 1851, the Foundry was moved to Kragujevac, and with the foundation of Military Technical Institute, in 1833, the need for the manpower grown. Around the institute new settlements were formed (Palilula and Pivara), where workers and their families lived. First workers demonstrations known as “Red flag” were organized in Kragujevac on February 15th 1876.
During the World War One Kragujevac was again the capital city in which Regent Aleksandar Karadjordjevic stayed, and it was the seat of Serbian Army High Command lead by Radomir Putnik. Kragujevac was the place where the plans of famous battles of Cer and Kolubara were made. These plans are still being studied on the Military Academies around the world. Between two wars Kragujevac remained the conceptual and revolutionary center of working class. The biggest tragedy befall the city during the World War Two, on October 21st 1941, when a couple of thousands of citizens, men, women, pupils and young children, were shot, due to great loses that German army suffered in battles with Chetnik and Partisan units, on the road Kragujevac- Gornji Milanovac. On the same date Kragujevac was liberated from the German rule.