Traces of life of the Brnjica culture (8th century BC) is seen at the Hisar Hill (Hisar Leskovac) that was protected by a deep moat with a palisade on its inner side, a fortification similar to that of another fortification on the Gradac site near Zlokućane in the Velika Morava basin. A later Iron Age settlement existed at Hisar dating from the 6th century BC until the 4th century BC. Besides Greek fibula and pottery, Triballi (Thracian) tombs have been excavated in 2005.
Archeological findings from the multi-layer sites indicate that the Scordisci and Triballi inhabited the Leskovac valley before the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC. Famous cultural-historic monuments in this area are: the Roman necropolis in Mala Kopasnica originating from 2nd century AD, the Eastern Roman town of Justiniana Prima built in 535 AD.
Slavs settled the Balkans in the 6th and 7th centuries. The province was known as Dendra in Greek, and Glubočica (Глубочица, later Dubočica) in Slavic. Dendra was given to Serbian ruler Desa in 1155. It was then held by Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja.
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. During Ottoman rule Leskovac was part of the Sanjak of Niš. The Jasunje monasteries dedicated to the Virgin of Transfiguration and St. John the Baptist were built in 1499 as an endowment of sister Ksenija.
The Church of St. John the Baptist was built in the 16th century.
Leskovac became part of Serbia after the Treaty of Berlin in 1878, at which time Serbia also became fully independent from the Ottoman Empire. Full independence from the Ottoman Balkans initially had a negative impact on trade. However, by the end of the 19th century, the town of Leskovac was famous across the Balkans for its workshops which turned hemp into rope. Leskovac was known as Leskofça during Ottoman rule and was bounded to Niş sanjak until 1878.
Soon there were three watermill-driven lace producers in the region. In 1896, the founders of these companies pooled their resources and bought factory equipment for the production of woollen cloth from the German Empire. This was the first factory on the outskirts of the town. In 1903, a factory for hemp processing was built on the riverbank north of the old town centre. Amidst the First Serbian Uprising of the Serbian revolution (1804–1815), a forbidden Serbian Orthodox church was built in the town, through tricking the Turkish lords that the building would instead serve as a residence for the town-priest, and added a chimney, hence its name Odžaklija (Chimney). In 1922, the Teokarević family opened a wool cloth factory in the small town of Vučje near Leskovac. By 1938, the private textile factories of Leskovac town employed 2,560 workers. In the 1870s, there were thousands of hemp-processors in Leskovac, producing up to 150,000 cartloads per year. The city was once known as "Little Manchester", because of its 19th-century textile industry which was second only to that of Manchester, England. 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.
From 1929 to 1941, Leskovac was part of the Vardar Banovina of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
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. The heaviest bombing occurred on September 6, 1944 when most of the central part of the town was destroyed. 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..
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).
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.
Ethnic groups in the city administrative area:Serbs = 133,623
Romani = 7,700
In 2011 the city's population was 60,288 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. 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.
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.
The city proper of Leskovac is divided into the following local communities (месне заједнице or mesne zajednice):Dubočica
Prva južnomoravska brigada
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.
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.
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. The organisers hold competitions, such as making the biggest burger, the Pljeskavica. The festival is the highlight of the season in Leskovac.
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 considers to separate this event in 2010. as a special tourist event which will be introduced as a special offer of the city.
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 National Theater in Leskovac.
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.
Monastery of John the Baptist, Leskovac
Monastery of the Presentation of the Holy Mother of God, Leskovac
Memorial Park to the Revolution (1971) by famed Yugoslav architect Bogdan Bogdanović
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 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.Zvonko Marić, member of SANU
Nikola Skobaljić, medieval military commander
Jovan Spasić, goalkeeper for Yugoslavia
Nikola Dekleva, doctor
Bojan Dimitrijević, actor
Nenad Filipović, athlete
Predrag Filipović, athlete
Mija Kulić, satirist and artist
Aleksandar Davinić, satirist and publicist
Sloboda Mićalović, actress
Gojko Mitić, famous actor in Germany
Ahmed Ademović, Gypsy trumpeter who fought in the battle of Kumanovo, distinguished for his bravery in battle.
Marija Mitrović, singer
Jovan Popović, lawyer, publicist, demographer and anthropologist.
Trajko Rajković, basketball player, Olympic silver medalist and World champion
Jovica Arsić, professional basketball coach
Ljubiša Stojanović Louis, singer
Miodrag Stojković, geneticist
Goran Stojiljković, athlete
Nebojša Stefanović, ultramarathon
Bratislav Živković, footballer
Bojan Janić, volleyball player, World and European championships bronze medalist
Marko Perović, footballer
Predrag Stanković, footballer
Obrad Belošević, basketball referee
Maja Miljković, basketball player
Žak Konfino, physician and writer
Toma Zdravkovic, singer
Leskovac is twinned with: