Sretenje, Serbian Statehood Day and Army Day (15 February)

Serbian Statehood Day commemorates both the First Serbian Uprising (1804) and the First Serbian Constitution (1835).

Karađorđe Petrović

Serbian Statehood Day commemorates both the First Serbian Uprising (1804) and the First Serbian Constitution (1835).

The First Serbian Uprising against the Turks began in the village of Orašac on 15 February 1804 (Gregorian style, or 2 February Julian style). This is the religious holiday of Candlemas (Serbian Sretenje), also known as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The uprising was led by Karađorđe Petrović, the founder of Serbia’s Karađorđević dynasty. Although Serbia was not internationally recognized until the Congress of Berlin in 1878, the foundations of Serbian statehood are symbolically connected with 1804. On the same day in 1835, during the rule of Prince Miloš Obrenović, the first Serbian constitution was adopted in Kragujevac (known as the Sretenjski ustav ‘Candlemas Constitution’). The Candlemas Constitution narrative particularly emphasizes its modernity and focus on human rights:

“The constitution was drawn up to secure the Europeanization of Serbia, protection of citizens before the state, and transformation of Serbia into a state governed by the rule of law with protection of human and property rights for all.” (From President Boris Tadić’s 2009 address on Statehood Day and Army Day)

Candlemas was officially declared as Serbian Statehood Day on 10 July 2001. In addition to being a religious holiday and Statehood Day, Candlemas has also been celebrated as Serbian Armed Forces Day since 2007.

The holiday narrative establishes a symbolic link from the First Serbian Uprising and the Candlemas Constitution to the later creation of the Serbian army and state. The central celebration is held annually in the villages of Orašac and Topola.

Published May 20, 2010 3:38 PM - Last modified May 2, 2012 9:13 AM