Serbians are marking Statehood Day, commemorating two important events from the first half of the 19th century, instrumental in the renewal of the state.
The Orthodox holiday of Candlemas (Sretenje) was in 1804 chosen as a date to launch the First Serbian Uprising against the occupying Turks, and in 1835, to declare the country's first Constitution.
Friday and Saturday are non-working days in Serbia, while celebrations started on Thursday with special classes dedicated to the holiday in all schools, and a gun-salute at the Belgrade Fortress.
The Serbian parliament today held a ceremonial session, that was addressed by President Tomislav Nikolić.
Top state officials placed wreaths at the Tomb to the Unknown Soldier on Mt. Avala, near Belgrade, and attended ceremonies in historic Oplenac and Orašac in central Serbia.
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Mt. Avala on the occasion of February 15, Serbian Statehood Day.
Nikolić signed the memorial book: “In the name of all citizens of Serbia, in the name of children who live in peace, in the name of Serbia that exists, I voiced gratitude for the fact that you sacrificed your life for your Serbia.“
Nikolić also wrote: “It is hard when you are unknown, and a hero, but it is for the pride of Serbia, for which we will fight forever. The known and the unknown. Thank you.“
Prime Minister Ivica Dacic has laid a laurel wreath on behalf of the Serbian government on the sarcophagus of Vozd Karadjordje in the St. George church at Oplenac, Topola. The wreath-laying ceremony was performed with the highest state and military honours that will be given by the honorary Guard of the Serbian Army. He said that Serbia 209 years after the First Serbian Uprising has similar geo-strategic issues and problems in the protection of its national interests just like in the past few centuries.
According to him, the government is committed to protecting national interest diplomatically and politically when it comes to the issue of Kosovo and the Serbian people in the countries of the region, but also when it comes to the future of Serbia's membership in the EU.
Dacic said that he believes that Serbia will regain reputation, influence and respect in the world.
On Thursday evening, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Belgrade Stanislav Hočevar served holy mass dedicated to the blessing and prosperity of Serbia, attended by the president and Crown Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević, among others.
Serbian officials have received messages congratulating the holiday from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, and from the prime ministers of Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Serb Republic (RS).
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also sent a message on behalf of the U.S. president.
Statehood Day marked in Orašac
The Statehood Day of Serbia and 209 years since the First Serbian Uprising were marked at the Marićevića Jaruga site near Orašac in central Serbia on Friday with a liturgy that was served by Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Bishop Jovan of Šumadija, and wreath laying ceremony at the memorial to Grand Leader Đorđe Petrović Karađorđe.
Laurel wreaths were laid by advisor to the Serbian president Oliver Antić, on behalf of the president, Crown Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević, president of the municipality of Aranđelovac Bojan Radojević, and Darko Pavlović on behalf of the First Serbian Uprising Fund.
The Statehood Day celebrations brought together government officials, a large number of citizens and associations for fostering traditions of the liberation wars.
Besides the flags of Serbia, the Ravna Gora Movement, and the Kingdom of Serbia, citizens carried banners reading Kosovo is Serbia's fac"', and during the ceremony, citizens shouted several times "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia", "Long Live the King".
Addressing those gathered, Oliver Antić said that “by their great deeds, great people give an example to their spiritual successors“, and that Karađorđe is also needed today as it was yesterday."
Crown Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević underlined that Orašac and Oplenac are the symbols of the modern Serbian state and freedom, and that Marićevića Jaruga is one of the most holy sites in the Serbian history.
He noted that a great injustice is being remedied these days, as his father, mother, grandmother - King Petar II , Queen Aleksandra and Queen Marija will be buried in the St. George's Church on Oplenac Hill on May 26.
Aranđelovac Mayor Bojan Radojević underscored that a crucial event in the history of the Serbian people took place at Marićevića Jaruga in 1804, when around 300 determined Serbs led by Karađorđe staged an uprising against the occupying Ottoman Turkish forces.
source: serbian government, b92 news