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Subotica - Serbia

Subotica (Serbian Cyrillic: Суботица [sǔbotitsa] (About this sound listen), Hungarian: Szabadka) is a city and the administrative center of the North Bačka District in the autonomous province of Vojvodina, Serbia. Formerly the largest city of Vojvodina region, contemporary Subotica is now the second largest city in the province, following the city of Novi Sad. According to the 2011 census, the city itself has a population of 97,910, while the urban area of Subotica (with adjacent urban settlement of Palić included) has 105,681 inhabitants, and the population of metro area (the administrative area of the city) stands at 141,554 people.

Subotica probably first became a settlement of note when people poured into it from nearby villages destroyed during the Tatar invasions of 1241–42. However the settlement has surely been older. It has been established that people inhabited these territories even 3000 years ago. When Zabadka/Zabatka was first recorded in 1391, it was a tiny town in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Later, the city belonged to the Hunyadis, one of the most influential aristocratic families in the whole of Central Europe.

King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary gave the town to one of his relatives, János Pongrác Dengelegi, who, fearing an invasion by the Ottoman Empire, fortified the castle of Subotica, erecting a fortress in 1470. Some decades later, after the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the Subotica became part of the Ottoman Empire. The majority of the Hungarian population fled northward to Royal Hungary. Bálint Török, a local noble who had ruled over Subotica, also escaped from the city. During the military and political havoc following the defeat at Mohács, Subotica came under the control of Serbian mercenaries recruited in Banat. These soldiers were in the service of the Transylvanian general John I Zápolya, a later Hungarian king.

The leader of these mercenaries, Jovan Nenad, established in 1526–27 his rule in Bačka, northern Banat and a small part of Syrmia and created an ephemeral independent state, with Subotica as its capital. At the peak of his power, Jovan Nenad proclaimed himself as Serbian tsar in Subotica. He named Radoslav Čelnik as the general commander of his army, while his treasurer and palatine was Subota Vrlić, a Serbian noble from Jagodina. When Bálint Török returned and captured Subotica from the Serbs, Jovan Nenad moved his capital to Szeged.

Some months later, in the summer of 1527, Jovan Nenad was assassinated and his state collapsed. This was the last independent Serbian state before the final Ottoman conquest of all Serb-populated lands. However, after Jovan Nenad's death, Radoslav Čelnik led the remains of the army to Ottoman Syrmia, where he briefly ruled as Ottoman vassal.

Unique in Serbia, Subotica has the most buildings built in the art nouveau style. The City Hall (built in 1908-1910) and the Synagogue (1902) are of especially outstanding beauty. These were built by the same architects, Marcell Komor and Dezső Jakab, from Budapest, Hungary. Another exceptional example of art nouveau architecture is the actual Artistic Encounter building, which was built in 1904 by Ferenc J. Raichle.

Church buildings include the Cathedral of St. Theresa of Avila dating from 1797, the Franciscan Monastery dating from 1723, the Orthodox churches also from the 18th century, and the Hungarian Art Nouveau Subotica Synagogue from the early 20th century and is currently in the process of renovation.

The historic National Theatre in Subotica, which was built in 1854 as the first monumental public building in Subotica, was demolished in 2007, although it was declared a historic monument under state protection in 1983, and in 1991 it was added to the National Register as a monument of an extraordinary cultural value. It is currently in the midst of renovation and is scheduled to open in 2017.

Subotica is the centre of the Roman Catholic diocese of the Bačka region. The Subotica area has the highest concentration of Catholics in Serbia. 57% of the city's population are Catholics. There are eight Catholic parish churches, a Franciscan spiritual centre (the city has communities of both Franciscan monks and Franciscan nuns), a female Dominican community, and two congregations of Augustinian religious sisters. The diocese of Subotica has the only Catholic secondary school in Serbia (Paulinum).

When the nuns' orphanage and children's home in Blato, Korčula (present-day Croatia) had exhausted the food and funds needed for helping poor and hungry children, Marija Petković (later known as Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified Petković), went to Bačka, whose apostolic seat is Subotica, to solicit help for orphans and widows. Bishop Ljudevit Lajčo Budanović asked Petković to found monasteries of her Order in Subotica and neighbourhood, so the locals could benefit spiritually from the instruction of the nuns of her Order. She learned that Bačka had many poor and abandoned children. In 1923, she opened Kolijevka, a children's home in Subotica. The home still exists but is no longer run by nuns.

Among another Christian communities, the members of the Serbian Orthodox Church are the most numerous. There are two Orthodox church buildings in the city. Orthodox Christians in Subotica belong to the Eparchy of Bačka of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Subotica has two Protestant churches as well, Lutheran and Calvinist. The Jewish community of Subotica is the third largest in Serbia, after those in Belgrade and Novi Sad. About 1000 (of the 6,000 pre-WWII Jews of Subotica) survived the Holocaust. According to the 2011 census, fewer than 90 Jews remained in Subotica as of 2011.

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