Zrenjanin is the largest city in the Serbian part of the Banat geographical region, and the third largest city in Vojvodina (after Novi Sad and Subotica).
The city was named after Žarko Zrenjanin (1902–1942) in honour and remembrance of his name in 1946. He was one of the leaders of the Vojvodina Partisans. During World War II, he was imprisoned and released after being tortured by the Nazis for months. Later he was killed while trying to avoid being recaptured. The former Serbian name of the city was Bečkerek (Бечкерек) or Veliki Bečkerek (Велики Бечкерек). In 1935 the city was renamed to Petrovgrad (Петровград) in honor of king Peter I of Serbia. It was called Petrovgrad from 1935 to 1946.
In Hungarian, the city is known as Nagybecskerek, in German as Großbetschkerek or Betschkerek, in Romanian as Becicherecul Mare or Zrenianin, in Slovak as Zreňanin, in Rusin as Зрењанин, in Croatian as Zrenjanin, and in Turkish as Beşkelek (meaning five melons) or Beçkerek.
It is assumed that Zrenjanin's original name, Bečkerek/Becskerek, comes from Hungarian word kerek ("forest, grove") and the surname of the 14th-century nobleman, Imre Becsei, who had large estates in the area. Therefore, the name would be translated into English as "Becsei's Forest". The original name received an adjective meaning "great/big/major" in the languages of the Banat (Serbian: Veliki or Велики, Danube Swabian: Groß, Hungarian: Nagy, Romanian: Mare), to distinguish it from a village of the same name in the Romanian Banat, that is usually referred to as small Bečkerek (cf. Serbian: Mali Bečkerek or Мали Бечкерек, Danube Swabian: Kleinbetschkerek, Romanian: Becicherecu Mic, Hungarian: Kisbecskerek).
Prehistory can be divided into the Palaeolithic – Old Stone Age and the Neolithic – New Stone Age. In Zrenjanin's regions no archaeological sites of the Palaeolithic have been found. The only exception makes the discovery of mammoth’s head and other bones found on the banks of Tisa River near Novi Bečej in the year 1952. The discovered archaeological sites, however, indicate that these regions had already been inhabited in the early Neolithic period about 5000 years BC. The most important archaeological site from this period is so-called Krstić tumulus, near Mužlja, about 10 km (6 mi) away from Zrenjanin. Here were found the ceramics, with interesting ornaments. Beside the brewery ground have been found rough, with coloured fine ceramics, ornaments (Starčevo culture). The middle Neolithic appeared in our area as Vinča and Potisje culture, in the down course of the Tisa River. What makes this area important is the fact that the influence of two parallel cultures flew through it at the same time. The Iron Age has not been enough explored yet. A few regions with some archaeological materials from the Iron Age have been found: in the residential area Šumica a tip of a spear was found and near the oil factory, pieces of ceramics from the Bronze Age were discovered.
At the beginning of the common era, this area was settled by many native tribes, but also by many newcomer tribes: the Illyrians, the Celts, the Goths, the Geths, the Sarmatian and Jazghs. In the end of the 3rd century and in the middle of the 4th century, in the area of Zrenjanin and its surroundings, the Sarmatian tribe Roxolani appeared. From this period a Sarmatian’s graveyard has been found in a city residential district, near the railroad bridge. Finally in the necropolis, not far from Aradac, “Mečka”, more than 120 graves, which date from the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century, have been excavated in 1952.
The first historical records mentioning Zrenjanin (Bečkerek) date from the 14th century, the time when Charles I, King of Hungary and Croatia (1301–1342), used to visit Banat and spend time in his capital Timișoara. (Near today's Zrenjanin a coin was found with the inscription "Charles I".) Many noblemen came with the King, including the powerful Imre Becsei. The areas where Becsei settled down were named for him, “Bechereki” and “Beche” (Novi Bečej).
The oldest written records of Bečkerek date from Budim Capitulum’s document of collecting the Pope’s tens taxes in 1326, 1331 and 1332. Judging by the size of the taxes, Bečkerek of 1330’s was an average village. The first settlers were the landless Hungarian peasants. There were the Serbs in Banat, too. During the reign of Louis I of Hungary (1343–1382), more Serbs migrated to the area from the south, and with them many Orthodox priests. In the 15th century Bečkerek was mostly populated by Serbias, but after the Kosovo battle (1389), Turks migrated here too.
After the Turkish victory at the battle of Nicopolis (1396) the Hungarian King Sigismund (1387–1437) was considering defending the territory settled by the Serbs, and he is known to have visited Bečkerek on September 30, 1398. The town was granted to Stefan Lazarević at the end of the 1403. The despot became the vassal of the Hungarian King; but he got Bečkerek and the title of the Great Head of the Torontál County.
The Hungarian King Ferdinand appointed friar Djordje Martinović, a commander of his forces, to defend the town from the Ottomans. Hungary was attacked by 80,000 Ottoman soldiers under the command of Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha. On September 15, 1551, the siege of the town Bečej was raised and the town was taken after four days. On September 24 the Bečkerek fortress was sieged. Many people left town earlier and with few defenders the town couldn't be defended and those eighty, who left surrendered the next day. Malković was appointed the lord of Bečkerek. After the Ottomans had taken Timișoara in 1552, Banat became a special province, the Temeşvar Eyalet, which was made up of several sanjaks, one of which was the Sanjak of Beçkerek.
During Ottoman occupation, the sanjak had a military administration. Due to good behaviour of the rayah, the inhabitants were exempt from war taxes. During the 165 years of Ottoman rule, Bečkerek consisted of two separate settlements: the settlement of Bečkerek and the village of Gradnulica. The town was divided into two parts, a Turkish and a Serbian. The Turkish part was fenced and closed, while the Serbian one was open. On the main square there was a large mosque built and inside the fortress there was a little one. There was a Turkish bath, and around it there were about twenty stores. Gradnulica was a disorderly village, whose centre was approximately on the crossroad of the present streets Sindjelićeva and Djurdjevska. Prior to Ottoman occupation, the citizens were Serbs. At the end of the 18th century there were about fifty Turk families.
According to the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699), the Temeşvar Eyalet, including Bečkerek, stayed under Ottoman rule, while bordering territories once again came under the Military Frontier. After the Austro-Turkish War of 1716–18 Bečkerek went under Habsburg rule.
As a crown province, Banat belonged directly to the Vienna court. The first governor, appointed by the Emperor, was Count Claudius Mercy. By the imperial edict on September 12, 1718, Banat was divided into 13 districts, with the main administration in Timișoara at its head. The District of Banat included a few settlements: Idjoš, Arač, Bečej, Itebej, Elemir, Ečka and Aradac. The first chief of this district was Titus Vespanius Slucki. After the Turkish forces and Turks families had withdrawn, the land was left devastated without labour, which could till the soil and paid taxes. That’s why the Austrian court tried to settle Banat as soon as possible.
The colonization lasted from 1718 till 1724, when the town was settled mostly by Germans, but the Serbs never stopped arriving. The military frontier in Potisje was displaced. In the following years Italians, Frenchmen, Romanians arrived and then the Catalans from Barcelona, who settled in the present “Dolja”. The town was called “New Barcelona”. But the life was difficult in this marsh area with many contagious diseases, so many of them died and still many left. The permanent dangers for the newcomers were the Turkish gangs, who drove very often into the town plundering and killing people.
In the summer of 1738 there was the great plague. The Count Mersy wanted to turn marshes into fertile soil and he began to regulate the Begej River. In the middle and down course of the river a long canal was built, to make the river traffic possible between Bečkerek and Timișoara. On the first of November 1745 Sebastian Krazeisen began to make beer in the first brewery and that meant the first start of the industrialization. In the same year the first Serb’s school was mentioned.
On 6 June 1769 Maria Theresa granted the Community of Great Bečkerek, the privilege of becoming the trading centre. By this privilege the whole social-economic life of the former Bečkerek was regulated and it got the status of the town. In 1769 the first hospital was built. In 1779, by the new organization of Torontál County, Bečkerek became its centre. The city was briefly restored to Ottoman administration from 1787 to 1788 during Austro-Turkish War (1787–91).
In the 18th century it developed into thriving economic and cultural centre, but the great fire destroyed a large portion of the town in 1807. The town was soon rebuilt. The fire came from the brewery, on 30 August 1807. After the fire a new regulation of streets had been done, houses had been built from stronger materials, roads had been rebuilt. The river traffic was especially intensive. The theatre building with an attractively decorated hall was built in 1839. In 1846 the Grammar School was opened and in 1847 the first printing shop.
The 1848–49 Revolutions had its impact on Bečkerek. The Serbs revolted, aiming for autonomy within the Austrian Empire. At the May Assembly (13–15 May 1848), the Serbian Vojvodina was proclaimed, including most of what is today Vojvodina. Serbs from Bečkerek participated in the uprising against Hungarian authority (which refused Serb rights) and from 26 January to 29 April 1849 the town was under Serb rebel control. In 1849, the town became part of the Voivodeship of Serbia and Banat of Temeschwar until 1860.
Although that time was known in history as a period of Bach's absolutism, the second part of the 19th century brought the town new developing benefits. New industrial facilities and handicraft stores were opened in every part of the town. Late 19th and early 20th century was progressive period for Veliki Bečkerek. Railway arrived in 1883, while post office was opened back in 1737.
After the Sarajevo assassination, more than 30 citizens of Bečkerek were accused by the Austria-Hungary’s authorities of high treason. Among them was Dr. Emil Gavrila, who together with Svetozar Miletić and Jaša Tomić, worked very hard on the cultural and social strengthening of Serbs. The Serbs recruited in the Austria-Hungary’s army began soon to desert, so that they would not fight against their own people. 7000 of them formed volunteer detachments (people were from Banat and Srem) at the Eastern front and fought at Dobruja, but 79 of them fought on the Salonice front, too.
After four hard years and the Golgotha of Serb people, the Serbs forces made a breakthrough of the Salonice front in 1918 and began to liberate their own country. The First Army in command of Vojvoda Petar Bojović freed Belgrade on 1 November 1918 and began to free Vojvodina. On 17 November Serbian army arrived at Veliki Bečkerek. It was the last day of October 1918, when that the breath of freedom was felt, and the Serb Chamber of People of the town founded in the war conditions, as a temporary authority with Dr. Slavko Župunski at its head. Serb army, the infantry iron regiment “Duke Mihajlo” and the infantry brigade with Colonel Dragutin Ristić in command came into the town on 17 November 1918. A few days after Vojvodina had been freed, its provinces united with the Kingdom of Serbs and on December 1, 1918 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was founded, as the first South Slavic state.
The town of Veliki Bečkerek became the administrative centre of Torontal-Tamiš County, and after its repealing, the town became the headquarters of District Office. In 1929 the town became part of the Danube Banovina. By the Town Council decision made on 29 September 1934, and confirmed by the Town Authority on 18 February 1935, the town was renamed Petrovgrad, after the king Peter I.
After the Kingdom of Yugoslavia had capitulated on 18 April 1941, and the Third Reich occupied the country, the German Forces came into Petrovgrad. The authority in Banat had domestic Germans – Volksdeutsche, who immediately started to confiscate Jews' property and arrested patriots. The town was renamed Great Bečkerek and it was the headquarters of the occupation authority for Banat (1941-44) with the notorious police authority Juraj Špiler and with concentration camp in Cara Dušana Street. The camp existed for almost two years and thousands of people passed through it. In town there were many underground groups supported by the Communist Party, which fought against German occupying forces. There were much sabotage, too, and the Germans made represials. Individual resistance in town was crushed without mercy.
On 2 October 1944 the Red Army Forces came into town and after a short fight, took command in most vital public buildings. The following day the first meeting on National Liberation Committee for the town Petrovgrad was held. Eight members of the national liberation resistance, from the town and its surroundings were announced National Heroes: Žarko Zrenjanin, Svetozar Marković Toza, Pap Pavle, Stevica Jovanović, Servo Mihalj, Dr. Boško Vrebalov, Nedeljko Barnić Žarki, Bora Mikin Marko. During World War II, the town infrastructure was kept almost saved. Except in the final fights for the town, there were no war actions on the territory of the town. The Germans tried to damage and destroy some industrial buildings, but it was prevented. Only Anau-Winkler’s mill and the monumental Jewish synagogue in the centre of the town were destroyed.
After World War II important social-political changes were made in the country, which, of course, had their influence on the development of Zrenjanin, newly named in 1946. In August 1945 the Agriculture Reform Act came into force, in June 1950 the Worker Self-Management Act, in 1959 the first direct urban plan of the town development, which indicated the urbanism-economic development of the town, was passed. The development, in the first after war decade, was directed by the directive plans, which were based on the principles of socialist economy in which the most important industrial branches were industry and agriculture. By the 1980s many people left their villages and moved into towns which brought many changes in the social, educational and ethnic structure of the town. There was permanently shortage of housing. That is why many new parts of the town and many new apartment buildings were built. Zrenjanin became an important agricultural, industrial, cultural and sport centre, at the time Zrenjanin was one of the most powerful industrial centres of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia led by Josip Broz Tito.
The town's development has always been strongly effected by the social-economic circumstances reflecting the State surroundings that Zrenjanin found in. At the beginning of 1990’s, when the war broke out on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and the country was falling apart, it led to rather hard social and economic crisis in this area, All that caused an economic stagnation, unemployment, large migrations of refugees from the former Yugoslav Republics: Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The town experienced the first political changes by the introducing of multiparty system at the end of 1996 when the local government was ruled by the coalition Zajedno (Together) and in 2000 by the coalition Democratic opposition of Serbia. On March 24, 1999 the aggression of NATO-Pact on Serbia began. During 77 days of this aggression, the town was not bombed. The life in the town was quite normal, in spite of this dangerous situation.
In the first years after the end of war activities the Town and its citizens have been adjusting to new economic and social-economic conditions, known as transition. Instead of previous large economic combines and companies plenty of new flexible private enterprises are established and foreign capital is starting to flow in Zrenjanin. New industrial and work and residential zones are formed and the Town's General Plan 2006-2026 and Sustainable Development Strategy 2006-2013 are made and approved. At the end of 2007, introducing a new national territorial organisation followed by necessary legislation, the Municipality of Zrenjanin has been upgraded to an administrative and territorial status of a city.
Zrenjanin is situated on the western edge of the Banat loess plateau, at the place where the canalized River Begej flows into the former water course of the River Tisa. The territory of the city is predominantly flat country. The City of Zrenjanin is situated at a longitude of 20°23’ east and a latitude of 45°23’ north, in the center of the Serbian part of the Banat region, on the banks of the Rivers Begej and Tisa. The city is located at 80 meters above sea level.
Zrenjanin is around 70 kilometers away from Belgrade, and about 50 kilometers from Novi Sad, which is also the distance to the present border with the European Union (Romania), which makes its position a particularly important transition center and potential resource in the directions north–south and east–west.
The city administrative area includes the following villages:Aradac
Mužlja, a former village, joined with Zrenjanin in 1981
The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is Dfa (Humid Continental Climate).
The average temperature for the year in Zrenjanin is 11.5 °C (52.7 °F). The warmest month, on average, is July with an average temperature of 22.2 °C (72.0 °F). The coolest month on average is January, with an average temperature of 0.1 °C (32.2 °F).
The highest recorded temperature in Zrenjanin is 42.9 °C (109.2 °F), which was recorded in July. The lowest recorded temperature in Zrenjanin is −27.3 °C (−17.1 °F), which was recorded in January.
The average amount of precipitation for the year in Zrenjanin is 584.2 mm (23.0 in). The month with the most precipitation on average is June with 88.9 mm (3.5 in) of precipitation. The month with the least precipitation on average is February with an average of 30.5 mm (1.2 in). There are an average of 127.0 days of precipitation, with the most precipitation occurring in December with 13.0 days and the least precipitation occurring in August with 8.0 days.
The population of the city of Zrenjanin is composed of:Serbs = 91,579 (74.24%)
Hungarians = 12,350 (10.01%)
Romani = 3,410 (2.76%)
Romanians = 2,161 (1.75%)
Slovaks = 2,062 (1.67%)
Yugoslavs = 592 (0.48%)
Settlements with Serb ethnic majority are: Zrenjanin, Banatski Despotovac, Botoš, Elemir, Ečka, Klek, Knićanin, Lazarevo, Lukićevo, Melenci, Orlovat, Perlez, Stajićevo, Taraš, Tomaševac, Farkaždin, and Čenta. Settlements with Hungarian ethnic majority are: Lukino Selo and Mihajlovo. Settlement with Romanian ethnic majority is Jankov Most. Ethnically mixed settlements are: Aradac (with relative Serb majority) and Belo Blato (with relative Slovak majority).Changing demographics of the city of Zrenjanin
The population of the Zrenjanin town is composed of:Serbs = 54,648 (71.43%)
Hungarians = 10,000 (13.07%)
Roma = 2,109 (2.76%)
Romanians = 635 (0.83%)
Yugoslavs = 467 (0.61%)
Croats = 373 (0.49%)
According to the 2002 census, most of the inhabitants of the Zrenjanin municipality were Orthodox Christians (77.28%). Other faiths include Roman Catholic (12.01%), Protestant (2.13%), and other. Orthodox Christians in Zrenjanin belong to the Eparchy of Banat of the Serbian Orthodox Church with seat in Vršac. Zrenjanin is also the centre of the Roman Catholic diocese of the Banat region belonging to Serbia.City Hall, built in 1816, re-constructed in 1887, neobaroque, Gyula Partos and Ödön Lechner.
Finance palace, today National museum, built in 1894 in Neorenaissance style by István Kiss.
Theatre, built in 1839, classicism, the oldest theatre building in Serbia.
Court House, built between 1906 and 1908, romanticism, Sandor Eigner and Marcus Rehmer.
Uspenska Serbian Orthodox church, built in 1746, baroque, the oldest church in the city.
Vavedenska church, built in 1777 in Baroque style.
Evangelical church, built in 1837, classicism.
Zrenjanin Cathedral, built between 1864 and 1868, romanesque, Stevan Đorđević.
Protestant church, built in 1891, neogothic, Ferenc Zaboretzky.
Zrenjanin Synagogue, built in 1896, Moorish Revival, Lipót Baumhorn, demolished in 1941 by Nazis.
Bukovac palace, built in 1905, neorenaissance.
Old Vojvodina hotel, built in 1886, neorenaissance, Bela Peklo.
Grammar School, built in 1846, re-constructed in 1937 and later.
Small bridge, built in 1904, the oldest bridge in the city.
Trade academy, built in 1892, neorenaissance, István Kiss.
Bence's house, built in 1909, secession.
Dry Bridge, built in 1962, without river since 1985.
Eiffel Bridge, built in 1904, replaced by a new bridge in 1969.
Dunđerski palace, built in 1910, secession.
House of Soko, built in 1927, academism, Dragiša Brašovan.
Zrenjanin has many places of interest like City Hall, the Cathedral, Freedom Square, King Aleksandar I Street, etc.
Hotel Vojvodina is situated on Liberty Square. You can reach every part of the city from the hotel very easily, because it is surrounded by many cultural, historical, business and commercial contents. Services meet the highest hotel standards. . There is a Tourist Information Office in the building of National Museum (Subotićeva 1).
Zrenjanin has a long sports tradition. First clubs were established during the 1880s. It was the home town of Proleter football club from 1947 until 2005. Today, FK Banat plays its games at Karađorđev Park Stadium in Serbian League Vojvodina devisin, which is the third level football league in Serbia.
Zrenjanin no longer has a public transport operator, for the first time in its recent history, following the privatization and subsequent bankruptcy of Autobanat. It used to operate as the city's public transport company and as the regional public transport service to the nearby cities of (Novi Sad, Belgrade, Kikinda, Vršac), etc.
In the past river traffic on the Begej river used to be most developed mode of cargo transport. Veliki Bečkerek got a railway in 1883, when it linked the city to Velika Kikinda. There are many taxi companies in Zrenjanin and the regulations are either lacking or are not enforced by the authorities.Dragan Ahmedović, Serbian composer
Dezső Antalffy-Zsiross, Hungarian organist and composer
János Bartl, magician
Nenad Bjeković, former Serbian football player
Dejan Bodiroga, Serbian basketball player, Olympic silver medalist, World and European champion
Ivan Boldirev, hockey player
Jovana Brakočević, Serbian volleyball player, Olympic silver medalist and European champion
Branimir Brstina, Serbian actor
Branko Cuic, Serbian basketball player
Žarko Čabarkapa, Serbian basketball player, World champion
Konstantin Danil, Serbian painter of Romanian origin
Željko Đurđić, Serbian handball player
Dejan Govedarica, Serbian football player
Nikola Grbić, born in Zrenjanin, lived in Klek, Olympic and European champion
Vladimir Grbić, born in Zrenjanin, lived in Klek, Olympic and European champion
Ivan Ivanji, Novelist
Vladimir Ivić, Serbian football player
Đura Jakšić, Serbian painter, studying painting as a student of Danil
Olivera Kovačević, Serbian journalist
Prof dr Smiljko Slankamenac,The first dentist with faculty
Todor Kuljić, sociologist
Vilmos Lázár, Hungarian general
Ivan Lenđer, Serbian swimmer, World and European junior champion
Mile Lojpur, first Yugoslav rocker
Željko Lučić, operatic baritone
Todor Manojlović, Serbian writer
Mirko Milosevic, Serbian handball player
Brižitka Molnar, Serbian volleyball player, European champion
Zvonko Ninkov, Serbian journalist
Zorica Novaković, Serbian poet 
Maja Ognjenović, Serbian volleyball player, Olympic silver medalist and European champion
Joe Penner (József Pintér), American radio and film comedian
Snežana Pantić, Serbian professional karate competitor, World champion
Emil Petrovics, Hungarian composer of South Slavic origin
Čedomir Popov, Serbian academic
Miodrag Popov, Serbian journalist
Nebojša Popov, sociologist, affiliated with Praxis School
Marianna Schmidt, Hungarian-Canadian printmaker and painter
Milorad Stanulov, Serbian rower, two-time Olympic medalist
Mario Szenessy, Hungarian-German author
Uglješa Šajtinac, Serbian writer
Nada Šargin, Serbian actress
Ivana Španović, Serbian long jumper, Olympic bronze medalist and European champion
Duško Tošić, Serbian football player
Zoran Tošić, Serbian football player
Danica Vučenić, Serbian journalist
Zvonimir Vujin, Serbian boxer, two-time Olympic medalist
Zvonimir Vukić, Serbian football player
Jelena Živković, Serbian handball player, World Championship silver medalist
Rudolf Wegscheider, Austrian chemist
Zrenjanin is twinned with: Békéscsaba, Hungary