Last updated
Лесковац (Serbian)
City of Leskovac
Clockwise from top: Panoramic view of Leskovac city centre, Freedom Monument, Memorial Park, Holy Trinity Church, National Theatre, Cultural Centre
Flg leskovac new.jpg
Grb leskovac new.jpg
Municipalities of Serbia Leskovac.png
Location of the city of Leskovac within Serbia
Coordinates: 43°00′N21°57′E / 43.000°N 21.950°E / 43.000; 21.950 Coordinates: 43°00′N21°57′E / 43.000°N 21.950°E / 43.000; 21.950
Country Flag of Serbia.svg  Serbia
Region Southern and Eastern Serbia
District Jablanica
  MayorGoran Cvetanović(SNS)
Area rank 5th in Serbia
  Urban31.27 km2 (12.07 sq mi)
  Administrative1,025 km2 (396 sq mi)
228 m (748 ft)
 (2011 census) [2]
  Rank 5th in Serbia
  Urban density4,100/km2 (11,000/sq mi)
  Administrative density140/km2 (370/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Area code +381(0)16
Car plates LE
Website www.gradleskovac.org

Leskovac (Serbian Cyrillic: Лесковац, pronounced  [lě̞skɔ̝v̞at͡s] ) is a city and the administrative center of the Jablanica District in southern Serbia. According to the 2016 census, the city urban area has 63,964 inhabitants, while the city administrative area has 144,632.



Leskovac was historically called Glubočica, later evolving into Dubočica. These interchangeable variants derived from the Serbian word's, "glib", meaning mud and "duboko", meaning deep. Untamed rivers would often flood the area leaving swamps that once dried would spout hazelnut trees, or "leska" in Serbian, whilst "vac" is a common Slavic suffix, hence Leskovac. During Ottoman rule the town was referred to in Turkish as Leskovçe or Hisar (Turkish translation; fortress). [3] [4]


Early period

Archeological findings on Hisar Hill, located at the rim of Leskovac valley between the Jablanica and  Veternica rivers, have established continual habitation between the Bronz Age until the 19th century. Hisar served as a fortification for many centuries and its surrounding plateau are abundant in Iron Age pottery largely associated with the Brnjica culture. [5] Other archeological findings associated with the Illyrians, Thracians, Dacians, Greeks, Romans and Celts lay within Leskovac's surrounds. [6] [7] [8] The Roman Empire conquered the area in the 1st century BC and would remain the dominant power until Slavic invasion and settlement in the late 6th and early 7th centuries, with the Serbs solidifying their presence.

Leskovac as seen from Hisar Hill Brdo Hisar kod Leskovca 01.jpg
Leskovac as seen from Hisar Hill

The area Glubočica, later Dubočica and a synonym for Leskovac was first mentioned in the 12th century as lands bestowed upon the Nemanjić dynasty by Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos. The settlement of Leskovac per se was first mentioned by name in 1348 as an endowment by Serbian Emperor Dušan the Mighty to the Hilendar Monastery. [9] [10] [11] [12] [3] The vicinity of modern-day Leskovac was contested territory during a series of conflicts fought between the Bulgarian Empire and medieval Serbian states between the 9th and 14th centuries. [13] [14] [15] [16]

The Battle of Dubočica took place on September 24, 1454, between the Serbian Despotate and the invading Ottoman Empire, and ended in a Serbian victory. Brankovic's Serbia was a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire during the 1st half of the 15th century and was repeatedly invaded, eventually becoming part of the Ottoman state.

Ottoman rule

Leskovac was annexed by the Ottomans in 1454 and allotted to the Rumelia Eyalet, severely disenfranchising the Serbs, now classed subordinate within the Rum Millet. The Nahija of Dubocica (later Leskovac) became part of Kruševac Sanjak with Leskovac possessing one of six kadiluk. Ottoman conquest brought oriental acculturation to Leskovac, significantly influencing architecture, cuisine, customs, dress and language. Endowments by the ruling Ottoman aristocracy which financed the construction of mosques, tekije, madrasa, meter and Turkish baths greatly contributed to the process of partial Islamization. During this period Leskovac was regarded for its quality horse tack, tanning, smithing and weaving. The townsfolk worked as craftsman, merchants and peri-urban farmers, residing in separate Serbian Orthodox and Muslim mahallah's whilst affluent Muslim families held prominent real estate and owned farmland. This cosmopolitan milieu was supplemented by officials, clergy, sipahi, and soldiers interlaced with Jewish, Greek, Vlach, Albanian and Ragusan traders. During Ottoman rule Leskovac was known in Turkish as Leskovçe, or more commonly Hisar (Turkish translation; fortress), and for its annual 15-day long fair. [17] [18] [19] [20]

Depiction of Serbian urban life in the Ottoman Empire. The ruined gateway of Prince Eugene, Belgrade.jpg
Depiction of Serbian urban life in the Ottoman Empire.

Leskovac was severely damaged by fire in 1595 and again in 1690. In the Ottoman-Austrian War the  towns Serbs overwhelmingly sided with Habsburg forces on arrival in 1689. Following the failed uprising many Serbs migrated north after the Ottomans recaptured Leskovac, razing the Serbian quarters as reprisals for collaboration. In 1790 Sultan Selim III administrative reforms granted Leskovac the seat of its own Eyalet governed by Şehsuvar Abdi Pasha, who was succeeded by his son Ismail Pasha in 1830, until the Leskovac Eyalet was annexed to the Niš Eyalet in 1839. The Serbian population of Leskovac (along with other south Serbian towns and villages) took part in the failed rebellion of 1841. The Albanian population rebelled against the Ottoman rule in 1844 and with support of other Albanian rebels were able to capture the town and the area around it. [21] During the Serbian–Turkish Wars (1876–1878) Leskovac lost one third of its population comprising approximately 5,000 Muslims (mostly Slavs and Albanians) that fled the advancing Serbian Army and cheta who liberated Leskovac on December 24, 1877 ending 424 years of Ottoman rule. [19] [18] [22]

From Turkish kasaba to Serbia's Little Manchester

Serbian Army celebrating the liberation of Leskovac in 1877 Liberation of Leskovac, Old Church, 1877.jpg
Serbian Army celebrating the liberation of Leskovac in 1877

Leskovac became part of Serbia which received full international recognition following the Treaty of Berlin in 1878. Independence initially had a negative impact though trade barriers, tariffs and open hostilities between Serbia and Bulgaria necessitated the acquisition and development of technology for rope and industrial hemp processing. By the mid 1880s business development, particularly the textile sector enabled Leskovac to become the third largest urban area after Belgrade and Niš at the time. [23] [24] The establishment of a railway line linking Leskovac with Belgrade, Skopje and Thessaloniki in 1886 also significantly contributed to the development of the town. A vocational textile school opened 1890 and in 1903 the second hydroelectric power plant in Serbia was built on the nearby Vučjanka River. [25]

Due to the towns burgeoning industriousness in the late 19th c. Leskovac became popularity nicknamed Serbia's "Little Manchester" (Serbian Cyrillic: "Мали Манчестер") in honor of Manchester, England, a powerhouse of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution. The growing customs dispute with Austria-Hungary following the May Coup precipitated protectionism throughout the 1900s which served to nourish the local economy. [26] [27]

Child labour in the Leskovac textile industry, circa 1914. Child labour Leskovac (1914).jpg
Child labour in the Leskovac textile industry, circa 1914.

World War I and Bulgarian Occupation

Following the Serbian campaign of 1915 Leskovac fell within the Bulgarian occupational zone. This period was marked by harsh repression with attempts at Bulgarisation of the local inhabitants. Numerous crimes were committed on the Leskovac citizenry with 2,000-4,000 victims being executed and a great many more massacred in the surrounding region. [28] [29] [30] [31] During the occupation Leskovac was also adversely affected by a typhus epidemic and widespread malnutrition. [32] Bulgaria capitulation to the Entente on 30 September 1918, and Leskovac was liberated on 7 October 1918 in an offensive lead by Field Marshal Petar Bojović's 1st Serbian Corps, which repelled the Austro-Hungarian 9th and German 11th Divisions. Cheering crowds gathered to welcome the Serbian Army's Dinarska and Dunavska divisions as they entered the city accompanied by French cavalry units. [33] [34]

The Freedom Monument, erected in 1927 on the 50th anniversary of emancipation from Ottoman rule, honouring the liberators and defenders of Leskovac in the Balkan Wars and WWI. Leskovac - Spomenik slobode.jpg
The Freedom Monument, erected in 1927 on the 50th anniversary of emancipation from Ottoman rule, honouring the liberators and defenders of Leskovac in the Balkan Wars and WWI.

The "Golden Age" of Leskovac

Following the war Leskovac continued it's fast economic and social transformation. The townsfolk practised a cultural medley of both Oriental and European habits, whilst the social fabric was dominated by affluent, often competing industrialists families and greater social disparity within the community. [35] Industrial development facilitated trade union agitation amongst an emerging urban working-class. In August 1920 Leskovac became one of the first municipalities to elect the Communist Party. Despite its victory the party was quickly suppressed by the authorities. [36] [37]

Facade of the former Vlajcic Soap & Cosmetics factory built in 1926 Leskovac, Kulturni centar.jpg
Facade of the former Vlajčić Soap & Cosmetics factory built in 1926

Despite the rise of Leskovac as a regional manufacturing centre the town still lacked basic infrastructure during the interwar period such as a running water supply, sewerage system, paved streets (with only three asphaltedin 1938) and a permanent marketplace. Leskovac experienced a significant influx of largely peasant workers leading to poor housing conditions with many affected by squalor, alcoholism, a high mortality rate and labour exploitation. [38] [39] From 1929 to 1941, Leskovac was part of the Vardar Banovina of the renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

World War II and Allied bombing

WWII memorial park and "Goddess of Victory" statue Spomen park NOB, Leskovac 02.jpg
WWII memorial park and "Goddess of Victory" statue

During the World War II, the city was part of German-occupied Serbia. It was heavily bombed by the Allies in 1944, with estimates of civilian casualties varying from over a thousand to six thousand. [40] [41] The heaviest bombing occurred on September 6, 1944 when most of the central part of the town was destroyed. [42] The date is marked annually in the city.

Fitzroy Maclean the head of the British military mission to the Partisans wrote ..... as we watched the whole of Leskovac seemed to rise bodily in the air in a tornado of dust and smoke and debris, and a great rending noise fell on our ears. ..... What was left of Leskovac lay enveloped in a pall of smoke; several buildings seemed to be burning fiercely. Even the Partisans seemed subdued. This was part of Operation Ratweek to attack the enemy withdrawal, and air reconnaissance had confirmed the presence of a strong concentration of armour and motor transport there, although he said the use of 50 ‘Heavies’ or Flying Fortresses did seem rather like taking a sledge-hammer to crack a walnut.. [43]

Socialist era

Built in 1961, the Leskovac exhibition complex was designed to showcase the cities textile industry. Sajam Leskovac.jpg
Built in 1961, the Leskovac exhibition complex was designed to showcase the cities textile industry.

The city continued to be a major textile center until the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, but due to the economic isolation of Serbia resulting from ethnic wars, its remote location, and failure to privatize the mills, the industry collapsed resulting in depression of the economy in the area. [44]

Leskovac City Park Central park Leskovac.jpg
Leskovac City Park

On 12 April 1999, during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia a bridge near Leskovac (Grdelička klisura) was destroyed by a NATO aircraft as a passenger train was crossing. The act was highly condemned with the bridge being struck twice (the train itself having been bombed from the first attack).

21st Century

The Rostiljijada barbecue and entertainment festival is Leskovac's main tourist attraction. Rostiljijadales.jpg
The Roštiljijada barbecue and entertainment festival is Leskovac's main tourist attraction.

Contemporary Leskovac has become synonymous with Serbian culinary culture, particularly the national dishes of pljeskavica and ćevapi . The annual Roštiljijada grilled meat barbecue festival held since 1989 is the cities biggest tourist attraction drawing in thousands of visitors from both Serbia and abroad. [45] [46] [47] [48]

The once thriving textile industry of Leskovac has all but collapsed with only a small number of businesses still in operation. The effects of globalisation coupled with political sanctions have led to significant economic decline. Local businesses were sluggish in transitioning from a predominantly state capitalist economy towards greater deregulation and privatisation during the 2000s. Despite a modest increase in mostly foreign capital enterprise with some government support issues of corruption, high unemployment, ageing workforce and community, unreported employment, and population decline still persist. [49] [50] [51]


Leskovac is situated in the heart of the vast and fertile valley of Leskovac (50 km (31 mi) long and 45 km (28 mi) wide), the small Veternica river, at the foot of Hisar, in the central part of the Leskovac valley. Leskovac lies at an altitude of 228 meters, in a basin that covers 2,250 km2 (869 sq mi). Around the valley are mountains Radan and Pasjača the west, Kukavica and Čemernik in the south and Babička Gora, Seličevica and Suva Planina to the east.


Leskovac has an oceanic climate (Cfb) with long, hot summers and short but cold, cloudy winters.

Climate data for Leskovac (1981–2010)
Record high °C (°F)20.0
Average high °C (°F)4.4
Daily mean °C (°F)0.0
Average low °C (°F)−3.7
Record low °C (°F)−30.5
Average precipitation mm (inches)42.2
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm)131312131311879101214137
Average snowy days98510000003835
Average relative humidity (%)82777068696865667377818373
Mean monthly sunshine hours 66.690.1145.6168.0224.3255.3296.8288.6207.4147.385.450.92,026.1
Source: Republic Hydrometeorological Service of Serbia [52]


The largest river in the region of Leskovac is the South Morava River, which flows south to north. Tributaries of the South Morava are: the Vlasina river, which collects water from Lake Vlasina and flows through Crna Trava and Vlasotince; the Veternica river, which flows through Leskovac; the Jablanica river, which springs from the foot of Goljak and flows through Medveđa and Lebane; the Pusta (Deserted) river, which starts on Radan mountain, fills Lake Brestovačko and flows through Bojnik. The river Vučjanka, which springs from the Kukavica mountain, flows through Vučje and is a tributary of the Veternica river. Also known in the Leskovac region are Kozaračka, Predejanska, Kopašnička and Sušica rivers.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [53]
Panoramic view of Leskovac from Hisar Hill Leskovacpanoramic.jpg
Panoramic view of Leskovac from Hisar Hill

According to the 2011 census results, there are 144,206 inhabitants in the city of Leskovac.

Ethnic groups

In 2011 the city's population was 95,784 of whom majority are Serbs. Other significant ethnic groups include Roma, Macedonians and Yugoslavs. In January 2007, there were an estimated 500 persons of Chinese origin living in Leskovac. [54] Apart from the city proper, there are 143 populated places in the city, of which the largest are Vučje and Grdelica, classified as "urban" (town) in census, with about 3000 residents each. [2]

Ethnic composition of Leskovac as declared in the census (2011)

   Serbs (92.66%)
   Roma (5.34%)
  Other (1.99%)

The ethnic composition of the city administrative area: [55]

Ethnic groupPopulation%
Serbs 133,62392.66%
Roma 7,7005.34%
Macedonians 2910.20%
Montenegrins 1920.13%
Bulgarians 910.06%
Yugoslavs 880.06%
Croats 550.04%
Albanians 200.02%
Slovenians 190.01%
Muslims 190.01%
Germans 190.01%
Hungarians 160.01%
Greeks 160.01%

Vast majority of the people are Orthodox Christians (96%). There are also 3% Muslims, chiefly among local muslimani and Romani people. The rest are atheists or follow other religions. At one time the second largest city in Serbia, today Leskovac is blighted by economic problems with many working age people migrating out of the area. [44]


Siroka carsija (Wide square), Leskovac Leskovacdowntown,jpeg.jpeg
Siroka carsija (Wide square), Leskovac

There are 144 villages located within the municipality:


Traditional dress and dance. Igre iz okoline Leskovca.jpg
Traditional dress and dance.
National Museum of Leskovac Muzejle.jpg
National Museum of Leskovac



Roštiljijada (Barbecue week) is a grilled meat festival that has been organized in Leskovac for many years and takes place annually at the beginning of September. During the event, the main boulevard is closed for traffic for five days, and food stands are put up along the streets. The event brings visitors from all over Serbia as well as tourists. According to the TOL (Tourism Organization of Leskovac) in 2013, over 700,000 people visited the event. [56] The organisers hold competitions, such as making the biggest burger, the Pljeskavica . The festival is the highlight of the season in Leskovac.

International Carnival

In 2009 Leskovac officially became an International Carnival city, admitted by The Association of European Carnival cities, which has over 50 members from Europe and America. The Leskovac Carnival is held at a time of Roštiljijada festival. Around 1200 people take part in the carnival, of which one-third part from abroad. The City Government considered separating this event in 2010. as a special tourist event which will be introduced as a special offer of the city.

Theater Marathon

Leskovac National Theater Pozoristeles.jpg
Leskovac National Theater

Theater Marathon takes place every year in November and lasts 9 days. It runs performances of National Theaters from all over Serbia. This event takes place in the National Theater in Leskovac.

Leskovac International Film Festival

The first Leskovac International film festival was held in 2008. The idea of the film in the city is not that new. In 1996, a group of enthusiasts, with chairman Rade Jovic, organized the Festival which were shown films of domestic production. Today, many years later, Leskovac host an International Film Festival. The Festival presents awards in 3 categories:

  • "Golden hazelnuts" - Best Director
  • "Hazelnut leaf" - critics awards
  • "Vox populi" - Audience Award.

Cultural heritage

Church of the Holy Trinity Crkva Svete Trojice u Leskovcu.jpg
Church of the Holy Trinity
Odzaklija, the secret church Odzaklija.jpg
Odžaklija, the secret church
Bora Piksla house, built in 1850, today a museum and rare example of Ottoman architecture in Leskovac. Kuca Bore Piksle-muzej.jpg
Bora Piksla house, built in 1850, today a museum and rare example of Ottoman architecture in Leskovac.


Leskovac has a proud sporting history and is home to several teams, including football club's GFK Dubočica, FK Sloga Leskovac, basketball team KK Zdravlje, and handball team RK Dubočica 54.

Economy and infrastructure

Economy of Leskovac is diverse, but it is still somewhat stagnating as a city in whole. Overall, industry has a minor growth, but its growth is safe and in the future, industry will certainly face another growth that will increase its status among Serbia's largest cities. Its main industry is light industry such as textile, household commodities and medical industries. Leskovac has mine of lead and zinc called "Leskovac Lece".

The first boom occurred after WW1 and lasted until 1941. It was "succeeded" in the late 1940s. During so called "Yugoslav economic miracle" (1950s – c.1980) Leskovac has developed into not just regional, but textile center in entire Southeast Europe. It became known as "Serbian Manchester". Leskovac Lece was constructed during that era. During the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, Leskovac was severely damaged like no other city in Europe at the time.

The following table gives a preview of total number of registered people employed in legal entities per their core activity (as of 2018): [57]

Agriculture, forestry and fishing249
Mining and quarrying18
Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply306
Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities627
Wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles5,002
Transportation and storage1,211
Accommodation and food services1,007
Information and communication311
Financial and insurance activities339
Real estate activities139
Professional, scientific and technical activities896
Administrative and support service activities466
Public administration and defense; compulsory social security1,513
Human health and social work activities2,671
Arts, entertainment and recreation403
Other service activities544
Individual agricultural workers1,459


Leskovac is a traffic junction. International trains traveling from Europe to Skopje, Thessalonica and Athens pass through this city. Nineteen trains stop in Leskovac every day. The railway came to Leskovac in 1886. Leskovac today has one of the newest and most modern railway stations in Serbia.

Bus traffic is also very well developed, bearing in mind that Leskovac has been criss-crossed with roads. The most important is the E75 road which connects the borders of Hungary and North Macedonia. Regional roads lead from Leskovac to Priština, Pirot and Bosilegrad. The distance from Leskovac to Niš is 45, to Belgrade 280, and to Sofia 155 kilometres (96 miles).

Leskovac has a regional airport, which is commonly used for sporting and agricultural flights. Also in summer the airport is used for air taxi. The nearest international airport is Niš Constantine the Great Airport located 45 km (28 mi) north of the city.


Leskovac was the first city in Serbia which had a sanitary landfill. Željkovac depot spreads over 80 hectares and is made by all European standards. In the landfill there is a center for atmospheric water purification, center for the selection and disposal systems for the detection of all types of pollution. Company Por Werner and Weber for Serbia, began construction of the center for collecting and recycling waste, and is the first city in the Balkans, where starting this job.

Notable residents

International relations

Twin towns — sister cities

Leskovac is twinned with: [58] [59]

See also

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Further reading