UZICE REPUBLIC-UŽIČKA REPUBLIKA
Uzice Republic (or Užička Republika) is the name of the first area to be liberated from the Nazis during World War II. The pro-socialist country, located in Western Serbia and in parts of Eastern Bosnia, was created by the Partisan resistance movement on September 24, 1941.
This country had all elements of a free country: a government made of “people of councils”, schools, independent newspapers, a postal system and even a railway. Its borders changed with every new fight between the Partisans and Germans. Užička Reublika lasted 67 days, until the final German attack at Kadinjača, 14 kilometers from Užice, on November 28, 1941.
How did it all start and finish?
Near the end of July 1941, Josip Broz Tito, the leader of the Partisan resistance movement, decided that Western Serbia was the best area to establish a free territory. He chose Western Serbia because the mountainous terrain was suitable for guerilla warfare and because the Serbian inhabitants had a long military tradition. The memories from World War I and the resistance to the Nazi invaders were still fresh in people’s minds.
After numerous diversions and minor incidents with German forces, the two main resistance movements (the socialist Partisans and the nationalist Chetniks) began liberating cities in Western Serbian. By mid-September 1941, united Chetnik and Partisan forces had liberated Bajina Bašta and Čajetina, and were approaching Požega and Užice.
With the threat of being cut off and destroyed, German command was forced to evacuate from Užice. On September 21st, the city submitted to Chetnik and Serbian police without a fight. Under the pressure of Partisan units, the Chetniks left the city on September 24th. This date marks the official beginning of the Užička Republika.
In late September and early October, the free territory was in a state of constant flux. The number of recruited fighters changed rapidly. Some troops were recruited into the army while others stepped in voluntarily. In almost every city and village there were two mobilization tables, one Chetnik and one Partisan. In some places, citizens were mobilized under the threat of death. Euphoria at the freedom from the Nazis was replaced with anxiety about the brutal measures taken by the new government. There was also considerable fighting between the Chetniks and Partisans.
And there was still the threat from Germany. By mid-November Nazi forces had retaken the cities of Mačva, Posavina and Tamnava. Because of the lost territory and infighting with the Chetniks, Partisan forces were significantly weakened before the final German attack on Užička Republika.
The final attack started on November 25, 1941. The Serbian headquarters believed that there were still many resistance fighters, but Partisan units began to leave Užice and Sandžak. Meanwhile, more and more cities were lost one to the Germans, including Ljubovija and Bajina Bašta, which left an open door to Užice. The only remaining part of the free territory was Užice.
The last place where resistance could be organized was on Kadinjača Hill, 14 kilometers from Užice. The Partisan leaders had only the Workers’ Battalion at their disposal, along with one unit from Šumadija Battalion and two units of Posavski Battalion. The Workers’ Battalion consisted of four units: Railway, Bakers, Weavers and Shoemakers. Just before they left the city, the Railway unit organized transportation along the railway tracks to Kremna to evacuative working materials and the civilian population. 270 fighters in the Workers’ Battalion stayed to fight.
The day of the battle was cold and foggy. There was no time for soldiers to dig trenches. At 10:00 am, German motor units opened fire on the slopes of Kadinjača. The soldiers in the Workers’ Battalion died very quickly, and by around 2:30 pm the battle was over. More than 240 Partisan soldiers were killed. The Germans entered Užice and stayed there until the end of the war, after which the leader of the Partisans, Josip Broz Tito, rose to power and created the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.