In Memory

Liberation of the areas across the Sava, Danube and Drina and their unification with the Kingdom of Serbia on November 25, 1918 was one of the most important events in modern Serbian history. Serbs and other Slavs from Srem, Banat, Bačka and Baranja decided about it in the freest and most democratic way in then Europe. ”Martyrs of Kosovo! Happy liberation! (...) If we ask our heart, it’ll say – you’ve done it my way. If we ask our mind – it’ll say the same”, said Jaša Tomić, who deserves to be raised a golden monument by Serbs today, at the Assembly. Celebrating that important date in this era is our debt to ancestors and descendants, it means preserving self-consciousness and sobering up of the state

Edited by: Đorđe M. Srbulović

”What is our purpose in this case?” asked Milan Petrović.
”Great Serbia, not Yugoslavia”, replied Jaša Tomić. ”That is the main difference between us and something, as I see, we’ll never agree upon.”
The stated part of the conversation, published in the Memories of Milan Petrović, later president of Matica Srpska, then democrat from Vojvodina, contains the very core and deepest meaning of the Great National Assembly held on November 25, 1918 in Novi Sad. The position of Jakov Jaša Tomić, son-in-law of Svetozar Miletić and political heir of his ideas and activities, then leader of the Radical Party in Vojvodina, chief editor of Zastava and indisputable political leader of the Serbian people north of the Sava and the Danube, was of crucial significance. The conversation between the two took place just before the session of the Great National Assembly of Serbs, Slovaks, Bunjevac and other Slavs in Novi Sad, at the point when it still wasn’t sure whether Vojvodina would unify with the Kingdom of Serbia through the National Council in Zagreb and join the stands of the ”Zagreb Assembly” or through direct unification. At the time the conversation took place, Jaša Tomić was described as ”an incorrigible chauvinist and fanatic” by Croatian and some Serbian politicians in the decomposing Austro-Hungary. At one moment, it seemed that, with such a stand, he belonged to a minority, even within his Radical Party. The thesis ”one nation with three names”, elevated almost to the level of scientific exclusivity, was dominant among the Serbian elite. Correspondingly, it was considered utterly insignificant whether the state of all Southern Slavs will be created by unifying the ”State of Slovenians Croats and Serbs” (provisorium created in Zagreb) with the Kingdom of Serbia (formal state and winner of the Great War), or if Vojvodina (which, until 1945, covered the area of Banat, Bačka and Baranja) would first be unconditionally unified with the Kingdom of Serbia and only then, as part of the Kingdom of Serbia, enter the united Southern Slavic state. Jaša Tomić, as it later turned out – and history proved him right – wasn’t part of the minority and his negation of the thesis about ”one nation with three names” will prove absolutely true. Perhaps his stand didn’t fit in the ”opinion of the elite”, but he had great support among ordinary people. Deeper contemplation will also indicate that Tomić didn’t want to be part of the Southern Slavic whole which, before then as well as later, fought wars against Serbia and Serbian people. Today, almost an entire century after those historical events and all the experiences we as a nation had with Southern Slavic communities, we can only ask ourselves: what would be the fate of Vojvodina (and Serbian people living in it) if a different decision was brought at the Great National Assembly of Serbs, Slovaks, Bunjevac and other Slavs? What would be the fate of Serbia if Vojvodina made a different decision? Thus Serbs north of the Sava and the Danube owe great and eternal gratitude to the participants of the Great National Assembly – most of all Tomić.


Serbs across the Danube, Sava and Drina were in a difficult position even before the Great War broke out. From December 1860, when the Serbian Voivodeship and Banate of Temes were cancelled and the territory of the Voivodeship divided between Hungarian counties, the position of Serbs became even more difficult and grew worse after the Austro-Hungarian settlement in 1867 and the Hungarian-Croatian settlement in 1868. Hungarization was spreading more quickly, Serbs were not readily accepted, and their collective rights – guaranteed by the imperial Privileges received during the Migration in 1690 – brutally infringed. The law adopted by the Hungarian Parliament in 1907 predicted no non-Hungarians in Hungary in the following 40 years. It seemed that the existence of Serbian people north of the Sava and Danube was inevitably reaching its end. However...
Victories of the Serbian army in the First and Second Balkan War showed that Serbs across the rivers were very lively and nationally conscious. We will state only two among a multitude of examples proving it. Miloš Crnjanski, in his Lyrics of Ithaca and Commentaries states (comment for the poem ”Toast”) that Novi Sad is boiling with excitement after the assassination in Sarajevo, as well as that the greatest explosions of feelings of equality with ”Serbian brothers” are on Salajka, Matica Srpska and ”Bela Lađa”. In his monograph about his birthplace Nadalj (border village in the Šajkaš area, Bačka), Lazar Rakić says that villagers spontaneously gathered in the churchyard after receiving news about the consecration of Kosovo. Together with their priest, they passed the village in a procession and, on its southern border, held Gratitude to the Lord on their knees. When World War I began, Serbs from the area of Southern Hungary were among the most numerous in the volunteer movement: some fled to the Serbian army from ”their homes”, while some, as mobilized soldiers of the K und K monarchy, surrendered to the allies on the front – especially frequently on the Russian battlefield – and from there went to the Serbian army. Families of those who fought in the Serbian army as volunteers made entire settlements in Vojvodina after the Great War. After the War ended, they were organized and active in the War Volunteers Society and even had their Home in Novi Sad, erected in 1940 with their own means. In the year 1947, the Home was confiscated and the Society proclaimed illegitimate as pro-fascist.
The Austro-Hungarian authorities certainly didn’t like such behavior at all, since they considered the Kingdom of Serbia dangerous for their existence and made plans for its destruction. They were just looking for a reason to go to war against the Serbian kingdom, and found it after the assassination in Sarajevo, on St. Vid’s day in 1914. Since the response of the Serbian government to the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum dated July 23, 1914 didn’t satisfy the Vienna Court, war was declared to Serbia in a telegram on July 28. The Russian Empire and Kingdom of Montenegro almost immediately took the side of Serbia and declared war to Austro-Hungary, while France and Great Britain declared war to Germany, which started its invasions towards the west through Belgium. Thus began the greatest warfare in the history of mankind up to then. It his Proclamation, Emperor Franz Joseph said that ”a punitive expedition against Serbia” is starting. Nikola Pašić, Serbian premier, said: ”Austria declared war against us. This is its end, God will give us victory.”


Horrible war crimes of the Austro-Hungarian army committed against civilians in the Kingdom of Serbia marked the beginning of the war. The Serbian government immediately informed the international public about those crimes through hired foreign experts and thereby gained sympathy of the world. Archibald Reiss, Swiss criminologist and forensic pathologist, doctor of chemistry had a particularly important role in it.
The war triggered great suffering of the Serbian population in Vojvodina, especially Novi Sad, since this city was undoubtedly the center of Serbia across the rivers. Already on August 3, 1914, all political activities of Serbs were banned. All Serbian societies and institutions were disbanded: Serbian Reading Room, Serbian Hawk, Commercial Youth of Novi Sad, ”Neven” Singing Society, and many others. The activities of Matica Srpska were canceled it was put under police supervision. Two Serbian daily newspapers were immediately banned: Zastava and Branik, as well as all press in Serbian language. Also banned was the Bunjevac Neven published in Subotica. Along with such measures, or immediately after them, all Cyrillic inscriptions on companies were taken off, and Serbian churches in Hungary forbidden to ring bells, even during funerals. The church bells were taken off in the following years and melted for the needs of war. Police took off flower wreaths for St. John’s Day from Serbian houses in Novi Sad. Seven war loans were imposed to the city during the war years; vehicles, tools, cattle and food were constantly confiscated. Every Serbian house in the state had to give ”charity” to the Austro-Hungarian Red Cross. Court martial was proclaimed for Serbs. Many Serbian families were exiled from places they lived in.
Serbian politicians suffered most. Jaša Tomić was arrested already in June and imprisoned in the Petrovaradin Fortress, where he was held without food for five days. He was punched with bags filled with sand and tortured in many different ways. He was then interned in Inđija, and later in Čilag and Mezetur prisons. He stayed in prison until January 8, 1918, when he was released and came to Novi Sad. Vasa Stajić was arrested on July 26, 1914 and exiled to Arad. He was sentenced to ten years of prison at the ”trial”. He didn’t hire an attorney or asked for pardon, he never complained about his punishment. After hearing the sentence, he said with a smile: ”So little?” Orthodox priests and other reputable Serbs were arrested, persecuted and taken to camps: Mita Klicin, editor of Zastava, Janko Perić, editor of Branik, attorneys Stevan Adamović, PhD, Kosta Hadži, PhD, Stevan Malešević, PhD, Laza Bajić. Slovakian politicians, such as Miloš Krn, PhD, were also persecuted and arrested. Same happened to composer Isidor Bajić (who passed away already in 1915), professors Gliša Marković, Svetislav Banica, Milan Popović, printer Kosta Bradvarević, merchants Đorđe and Nikola Ivković, famous inn-keeper Vuja Pupovac and others. The Matica secretary, Tihomir Ostojić, was also interned.
After the ”Srem Offensive”, initiated by the Serbian army in September 1914, the Austro-Hungarian military and civil authorities commenced big repression on Serbian civilians in Srem. The number of people shot and taken to camps was never determined. Famous academic painter Danica Jovanović from Beška was one of the assassinated people. Particularly cruel measures were undertaken against prisoners of war from the Kingdom of Serbia. Studies for determining the exact number of killed Serbian soldiers still hasn’t been conducted. Furthermore, from 1915 on, the number of Russian prisoners of war brought from the Galician front grew. They were kept in inhuman conditions, poorly fed (or, better to say, not fed at all), constantly maltreated, and had to do the most difficult manual work. Only in the Novi Sad area, more than a hundred and fifty Russian prisoners of war died: from hunger, illness, exhaustion, suffering...


The war, however, took longer than expected and its expenses for the German and Hungarian population of Austro-Hungary were harder to bear. The American entry into the war in 1917 will bring, as it will turn out, fundamental advantage to the Entente powers, and the future of the Habsburg Monarchy will be sealed with the Fourteen Points outlined by American president Woodrow Wilson on January 8, 1918, although at the moment it happened, it didn’t seem so.
The Points included the following:
1) Covenants of peace must be openly arrived at, after which there mustn’t be any private agreements or private diplomacy. 2) Navigation upon seas outside territorial waters is absolutely free both in war and peace, except in case that the seas are closed by international action for the enforcement of international covenants. 3) Any economic barriers, as far as possible, must be removed, for the establishment of equality of trade conditions. 4) All countries mutually guarantee that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety. 5) Any colonial claims will be adjusted freely, openly and absolutely impartially, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable government whose title is to be determined. 6) All foreign troops will be evacuated from the Russian territory, so Russia will have the opportunity to, with the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world, freely, unhampered and independently determine her own political development and national policy. Under institutions of her own choosing, Russia will be provided a sincere welcome into the society of free nations, whereas she can count on assistance of every kind that she may need and desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy. 7) All foreign troops (German army, editor’s note) must be evacuated from Belgium, after which its sovereignty will be restored. No other single act will serve better to restore confidence among the nations in international laws, without which its entire structure and validity would be destroyed. 8) All French territory must be liberated, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted. 9) The frontiers of Italy will be established along the clearly recognizable lines of nationality. 10) The people of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, will be given the freest opportunity for autonomous development. 11) Foreign troops from Romania, Serbia and Montenegro must be evacuated, occupied territories restored. Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea, mutual relations of several Balkan states determined by friendly agreements along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality, and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into. 12) After being assured sovereignty, the Ottoman Empire will assure autonomous development of all non-Turkish nationalities on its territory, and Dardanelles, under national guarantees, should be permanently opened as a free passage to ships of all nations. 13) An independent Polish state should be erected on territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, with a free and secure access to the sea, and international guarantees for political and economic independence and territorial integrity. 14) A general association of nations will be formed for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.
Lloyd George and the British government joined this program.


The change of stand, especially with regards to point 10, happened in the second half of 1918: the almost mythical heroism of the Serbian army and breakthrough of the Salonika Front on September 15, 1918, led to the collapse of the Balkan Front. Mihály Károlyi, leader of the opposition in the Hungarian parliament, as well as the Hungarian National Council, led by Károlyi, requested the parliament to break the state union with Austria, which the parliament did. This marked the end of the Dual Monarchy, Károlyi seized power, counting that he will gain a separate peace with the allies and, in the worst case, determine the Hungarian border about fifteen kilometers north of the Sava and Danube. He’ll do everything to prevent separation of ”nationalities” and dissolution of the state. However, Hungarians were not in a position to impose conditions. The Aster Revolution broke out in Hungary and Károlyi was given mandate for creating the government only on October 31. Already on November 16, 1918, the Hungarian People’s Republic was proclaimed. The Declaration on Independence was adopted on October 14 in Prague and the National Council proclaimed separation from Austria-Hungary on October 28. Slovaks brought a similar decision at Martin two days later, on October 30, 1918 and proclaimed unification with Czechia.
Then the Americans and Brits stated that events that succeeded the Peace Program were significantly altered, and that they recognize Czechoslovakia as a warring party. Woodrow Wilson’s Peace Program, accepted by the Brits, implied establishing ethnically homogenous states in new circumstances. The National Council in Zagreb (political body founded on October 5 of the same year, made of opposition members in the Assembly) requested the Assembly on October 25 to proclaim termination of state relations with Austria-Hungary (cancelling of the 1868 Settlement). The Assembly brought such a decision on October 29, after which it transferred power to the National Council of Slovenians, Croats and Serbs, which proclaimed the ”State of Slovenians, Croats and Serbs”, including territories of the former Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia and Military Frontier, the counties of Carniola, Upper Carniola, Carinthia and Styria, Istria, Dalmatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Austro-Hungarian condominium), and the city of Rijeka. This ”state” brought a decision on uniting with the Kingdom of Serbia and Montenegro on November 24, and a delegation led by Svetozar Pribićević was sent to Belgrade.
The last Austro-Hungarian Emperor Charles tried everything to save what could be saved of his empire, but all his attempts to preserve at least Austria as a state ruled by the Habsburgs were belated and thereby completely meaningless.
The plan was to have Vojvodina access this ”creation of Zagreb”, and a certain number of places were left for their representatives in the National Council of Slovenians, Croatians and Serbs. It should also be noted that Vasa Stajić, who managed to flee from the camp in Arad ”with the help of Serbian friends”, worked with the National Council in Zagreb as well. Serbs in Vojvodina, however, still didn’t decide which side they would take. A group of Serbian, Bunjevac and Croatian independent politicians, led by secretary of Matica Srpska Tihomir Ostojić, PhD and Blaško Rajić, Bunjevac, Catholic priest and writer, brought the ”Subotica Resolution” on October 2 in Subotica, requesting secession from Austro-Hungary, stating that ”only a peace conference is reliable for resolving the Yugoslav issue”. Political leaders of Serbs in Vojvodina still didn’t make up their mind. There were offers from Károlyi’s government as well, but they also became meaningless after the events that took place. There were attempts of creating two ”Banat republics”, however this could also be observed as a strange event in an interspace and interim. The old left – the new still hasn’t arrived.
National councils in Germany and Austria became parts of revolutionary authorities in revolutions that broke out there.


Establishing of authorities in Vojvodina, which will, in the days and weeks of chaos and anarchy – from the second half of October 1918 to the Great National Assembly – preserve peace and order, prevent plundering, revenge and take over civil authority, began with the Central Board for Banat, Bačka and Baranja for accepting and accommodation of war orphans and poor children from Bosnia and Herzegovina. One such council was first founded by Serbs in Zagreb in late 1917 and immediately after by Serbs in Novi Sad. (This Board in Novi Sad will make the core that gave birth to the Serbian National Board, which organized the Great National Assembly.) After being released from internment, Jaša Tomić became the crucial figure of this fourteen-member Board and of Serbian political activities in Southern Hungary from January 1918. During several months of activity, this Board saved more than 10.000 children from certain death from starvation. The political philosophy and idea promoted by Jaša Tomić, undisputable leader of Vojvodina Serbs and Radical Party president, were accepted by other members of the Board: priest Đorđe Velić, Dušan Monašević, Ignjat Pavlas, Mita Đorđević, Dušan Marković and Joca Jovanović. They will make the core of the future Serbian National Board in Novi Sad.
From early October, this group held meetings in the Novi Sad apartment of Ignjat Pavlas, PhD, famous attorney and creator of the ”sokolski” (falcon) movement, in 10, Železnička Street. The meetings were informal until November 3. It should be noted that only on October 27, at the meeting in Subotica, a decision was brought to form Serbian National Boards instead of National Councils. Such boards would slowly take over power in local environments from previous authorities, which were no longer able to control the situation in their surroundings. This also showed that Serbs in Banat, Bačka and Baranja were distancing from Zagreb.
While returning from captivity, Serbian army sublieutenant Boško Pavlović stopped at the railway station in Novi Sad. Together with other released Serbian war prisoners passing through Novi Sad on their way home, he seized all vital objects in the city. In order to protect the objects and prevent retreating Austro-Hungarian and German soldiers from causing damage, he formed the Royal Serbian Military Police. They performed their tasks until the arrival of regular Serbian troops. Something similar was also done in other places, where possible. Boško Pavlović began creating police bodies on October 22. At the session held in the night between October 26 and 27, with present members of the city authorities and Serbian National Board, he proclaimed that ”in the name of His Majesty King Petar I Karađorđević” he was taking over power in Novi Sad. The present members agreed. This armed formation had good cooperation with Serbian leaders in Novi Sad, which later constituted the formally established Serbian National Board.
Regular troops of the Kingdom of Serbia entered Srem and Banat only in early November, and the demarcation line was agreed by Field Marshal Mišić and Von Kevesh, and on November 13 by Franchet d'Espèrey and Károlyi. The delimitation of the two armies was done on the line Beszterce–Mureș–Subotica–Baja–Pécs–Drava. Serbian liberators were magnificently welcomed anywhere they entered, since civilians could finally express freely their national spirit and belonging. The Serbian army was also ceremonially greeted in Novi Sad, marching into the city from Petrovaradin on November 9, 1918, second morning of St. Demetrius’ Day.


The first Serbian National Board was founded in Veliki Bečkerek, present Zrenjanin, on October 31, 1918, and Slavko Županski elected its president. Although the Novi Sad Board played a crucial role in organizing the Great National Assembly and unification of ”old” Vojvodina with the Kingdom of Serbia, it must be noted that, after the Novi Sad Board, boards were constituted in other places in Bačka, Banat and Baranja as well, Vršac, Pančevo, Kikinda and Bela Crkva, according to the guidelines of the November 3, 1918 Proclamation. Serbs from Timisoara were also against staying in Hungary. Mixed Bunjevac-Serbian boards were constituted in Subotica. The situation in Baranja was more complicated and the position of Serbs more difficult than of their compatriots in other environments, so some settlements had to be guarded with arms from Hungarian attacks and the intention to keep Baranja within Hungary.
The first official session of the Serbian National Board in Novi Sad, and the most important one, was held in the Ceremonial Hall of the Matica Srpska old building (the building on present Trg Slobode was demolished in 1953). The Proclamation, which finally started unstoppably rolling the issue of Vojvodina towards permanent secession from Hungary and determining the way the secession would be done, was unanimously adopted and proclaimed. The text of the Proclamation states:
”The war tempest crushed the damnation of mankind, the sadistic understanding that the strong can rule over the weak, the spilt blood of man elevated the parole on its waves: that every nation has the right to determine its own fate. This understanding is both right and humane, but general peace of mankind requests that the suppressed ones are satisfied, so they don’t provoke excesses and riots. Unfortunately, up to now, Serbian people in Hungary were in the most horrible position compared to other nations. It doesn’t have a single member in the Hungarian parliament, elected by the will of Serbian people. It didn’t have a single political newspaper during this war. It didn’t have a single educational or charity society. Any meetings and negotiations were considered a crime. Therefore, the Serbian supreme board, consisting of members of all Serbian parties and groups from Hungary, states: present Serbian emissaries don’t have the right to speak and decide on behalf of Serbian people in Hungary. It is prohibited by the unjust electoral order, it is prohibited by the violence, injustice and bribery we have witnessed during their elections. Certain municipalities and counties also don’t have the right to decide on behalf of the Serbian people, because the structure of such bodies is unjust and reactionary. Certain parties, let alone certain people among Serbs in Hungary don’t have any rights. This Board also doesn’t assume such a right either. The National Board of Serbs in Hungary only accepted the duty to help Serbs and other Southern Slavs in Hungary to gain their rights, based on the self-determination of nations, acknowledged by the entire world. One of the main assignments of this Board will be to initiate a Serbian political newspaper and work on creating a freely elected Serbian national assembly as soon as possible, which will be able to decide about the true wishes of Serbian people in Hungary. Members of this Board will also be ordinary people, as soon as this Proclamation is signed, because this has already been negotiated. Members of this Board will also be other Southern Slavs in Hungary. This Board will be able to, if needed, negotiate with representatives of other nationalities, but it may not recede from the agreements determined here, or take any obligations. The main and final decision of the Serbian people in Hungary must remain in the hands of the entire nation, that is, its Assembly.”


The newly founded Serbian News became the Serbian National Board newsletter. Besides this herald, the Proclamation was also published in the social-democratic paper Freedom and printed and shared as a poster. The Proclamation was signed by: Jaša Tomić, Arkadije Varađanin, Ignjat Pavlas, PhD, Milan Petrović, PhD, Mita Đorđević, Dušan Tušanović, Pavle Tatić, Laza Marković, PhD, Kosta P. Mirosavljević, Miladin Svinjarev, PhD, priest Joca Jovanović, Laza Mirosavljević, Dušan S. Marković, Dušan S. Monašević, priest Đorđe Velić, Bogoljub Prešić, Aleksandar Moč, PhD, Dušan Lalošević, Stevan Dotlić, Mita Klicin, Tihomir Ostojić, Paja Janković, PhD, Radivoj Stratimirović, PhD, Marko Vilić, Jovan Živojnović, Vlada Stefanović and Ljubomir Stefanović.
In the afternoon of the same day (November 3, 1918), a big national meeting was held in the Novi Sad neighborhood of Salajka, and the Serbian National Guard formed, consisting of about five hundred Serbs from Novi Sad. After weak resistance, the representatives of county authorities gave them weapons and ammunition. The Serbian National Board thus completely took control over all actions in the city and took over all forms of power into its hands. Conditions were fulfilled for beginning the organization of the Assembly.
Serbian leaders, participants of the most important conference in the eve of the Great National Assembly, held on November 17, 1918 in Matica Srpska, didn’t reach an agreement about how to enter the new unified state. The democrats on one side, assisted by Vasa Stajić, spoke about the unification ”through Zagreb”. On the other side, the radicals, led by Jaša Tomić, supported the idea of unconditional unification with the Kingdom of Serbia prior to any further integrations. ”Let’s first put the Serbian shirt on and then the Yugoslav coat.” Those Tomić’s words were later often quoted. With the mediation of the Belgrade University rector Bogdan Gavrilović, it was concluded to proceed with the unification – but conditionally: if there are any problems with Zagreb and the National Council, go to direct unification.
The decision about holding the Assembly in Novi Sad on November 25 was brought at this session (”truce was signed – we have to hurry”), so parliamentary elections were announced. The right of vote was given to the entire Slavic population, regardless of sex, older than twenty. The property census was not applied, so everyone – rich or poor alike – could elect and be elected. These were definitely the most democratic elections in Europe at that time, as well as later.
One assembly member was elected per thousand inhabitants. Members were mostly elected upon the recommendation of national boards, publicly, by acclamation. The non-Slavic inhabitants were not taken into account, since they had their own national boards and assemblies (Romanians, for example, held their assembly on December 1, 1918, and the definite demarcation between the Kingdom of SCS and Romania was done at peace conferences). In places which didn’t have national boards (Serbian, Serbian-Bunjevac, Slovakian, Rusyn), elections were held through parishes. The elections took place from November 18 to 23, so mandates could be verified and Assembly members reach Novi Sad in time.


The beginning of the Assembly was scheduled for 11 a.m. in the Grand Hotel ”Mayer” hall, at the Main Square in Novi Sad (later ”Sloboda” hotel, then Army Home, today building of the ”Vojvođanska” Bank on Trg Slobode). When it became clear that Zagreb will not oppose the unification process, Svetozar Pribićević (as Vasa Stajić told later) advised Serbs in Vojvodina: ”Ignore Zagreb!” Vasa Stajić said that the Assembly in Novi Sad wasn’t necessary. Followers of the ideas of Jaša Tomić made an overwhelming majority in the Serbian national boards and absolute majority at the Assembly. So, while the ”elite” was mostly on the side pretty distant from the longings and need of people, the voice of ordinary people triumphed only thanks to free, democratic elections, unseen in European history.
A day before the Great National Assembly, a Meeting of emissaries of national councils of Srem was held, convened by Žarko Miladinović, PhD, with about 700 delegates present. After the Agreement from 1868, Srem was merged with Slavonija and, as such, part of the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonija, ”separate from Vojvodina”. The territory of Srem was much larger than later, especially after World War II, when Vukovar (center) and all villages up to Vinkovci and Osijek were taken away and incorporated in Croatia. Žarko Miladinović, PhD, was president of the National Council in Ruma, member of the National Council in Zagreb.
The following Resolution was brought at the meeting:
”1) Today’s assembly... requests realization of a unique and democratic state of SCS under Karađorđević dynasty and expects the National Council in Zagreb to realize a unique joint government with its seat in Belgrade, as soon as possible. 2) In case of clan or political splitting, representatives in the National Council in Srem, as emissaries of the people, decide on direct unification of Srem with the Kingdom of Serbia. 3) For that case, we wish to be represented at the peace conference by the royal Serbian government.”
The following day, a delegation from the Ruma meeting handed over this Resolution to the presidency of the Great National Assembly.


November 25, 1918 was a wet, cold, sleeting day. The center of Novi Sad was filled with delegates from entire Vojvodina and the picture was more than ceremonial.
At 11 a.m., Jovan Hranilović, Greek-Catholic priest from Novi Sad opened the Assembly session. He had the honor to be its first president, because he was the oldest assembly member.
Dušan Tušanović reported about the Assembly structure. Present at the Assembly were 757 emissaries, representing Slavic inhabitants of 211 municipalities in Banat, Bačka and Baranja. Nationality structure was: 578 Serbs, 84 Bunjevac, 62 Slovakians, 21 Rusyns, three Šokci, two Croatians, as well as six Germans and one Hungarian. The fact that they had their own national boards didn’t prevent the Germans and Hungarian to apply for elections and support the decisions of the Great National Assembly. The emissaries also included seven women.
Representatives of the Serbian National Board from Novi Sad, representatives of Srem, and several Serbian and French officers who happened to be in Novi Sad were also present.
The following president, Ignjat Pavlas, PhD, then asked Jaša Tomić, president of the Serbian National Board in Novi Sad, to submit the suggestion of the most important decision. Before stating it, Tomić addressed the Assembly with the following words:
”Martyrs of Kosovo! Happy Liberation!... We are not alone. You can all certainly see that five hundred years of Serbian history is in this hall, previously ill-fated, but now joyful and smiling. You can all certainly see the white snowflakes hitting the windows of this hall, carrying the souls of those who haven’t been born yet and who are about to come, the spirit of our future. We are not alone here!...”
Speaking about the decision to unify Vojvodina with Serbia, Jaša Tomić said:
”If we ask our heart, it’ll say – you’ve done it my way. If we ask our mind – it’ll say the same.”
Then he read the suggestion of the first Decision in four points, adopted with enthusiasm, by acclamation: ”1) We ask the government of brotherly Serbia to represent our interests at the Peace Congress. 2) We are unifying with the Kingdom of Serbia, which, with its previous activities and development, guarantees freedom, equality, all kinds of progress, not only to us, but also to all Slavic and non-Slavic nations living with us together. 3) This request wishes to support the longing of all Yugoslavians, because it is our sincere wish that the Serbian government together with the National Council in Zagreb does everything to realize a united state of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians, under leadership of King Peter and his dynasty. 4) Therefore, in order to help the realization of a united state of all Slavs, Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians, this Assembly elects two members to be at the service of the Serbian government: Jaša Tomić from Novi Sad and Blaško Rajić from Subotica, as well as two members to be at the service of the National Council in Zagreb: Jovan Manojlović, PhD, from Subotica and Vasa Stajić from Novi Sad.”


Blaško Rajić, Bunjevac by nationality and Catholic priest from Subotica, created a storm of enthusiasm, and stated in a similar mood, ”I agree and accept with all my heart such a way of resolving our issue”.
In further explanation and amendment to this decision, Tomić guaranteed all rights to members of non-Slavic minorities who remain in the Kingdom of SCS after the demarcation, but also added that the new state will fight for all rights of Serbs, Croatians, Bunjevac and others, who happen to remain in other states. ”If we behave as they did – we’ll collapse just like they did.”
The second Decision was read and explained by Petar Konjević:
”Banat, Bačka and Baranja, within the borders established by Entente’s Balkan army, is proclaimed today, on November 25 (12 according to the old calendar), 1918, at the Great National Assembly, based on the great principle of national self-determination, separated from Hungary, in the state and legal, political and economic aspect.
For this purpose, the Great National Assembly established a Great National Council, with National Administration as its executive body. The National Council consists of 50 members, elected among the Assembly members. The National Council brings necessary regulations and orders, appoints the National Administration and supervises it. The National Administration is made of the following departments: 1. Political affairs, 2. Internal affairs, 3. Judiciary, 4. Education – school and church, 5. Finance, 6. Traffic, 7. Economy, 8. Nutrition and supply, 9. Social reforms, 10. National health, 11. National defense.”
The seat of both the Council and Administration was Novi Sad and the Council consisted of 35 Serbs and 15 emissaries of other nationalities.
Slovakian emissary Jan Grunjik spoke to the Assembly and read the Statement of the Assembly of representatives of Slovakian municipalities in Bačka, Baranja and Srem, declaring unification with the new state.
At the end, they all sang anthems: Serbian, Croatian and Yugoslavian, as well as the song ”Eagle Screaming from the Heights”, but mentioning Peter Karađorđević instead of Svetozar Miletić.
The first session of the Great National Council was held, presided by Jovan Hranilović, after the ending of the Assembly. The National Administration was elected at the third Council session, held on November 27, 1918, and its president Jovan Lalošević, PhD, from Sombor, with Petar Konjović as his deputy. The interim authorities were thus constituted in Vojvodina, with mandates until the new state establishes its full and legitimate power.
Jaša Tomić and Blaško Rajić were leaders of the delegation that traveled to Belgrade to meet regent Aleksandar and representatives of the Kingdom of Serbia government. They received the Decisions of the Great National Assembly ”with full pleasure and approval”.
This successfully ended a great several-centuries long history of a part of the Serbian nation, the part that took over the role of being a Serbian center in times when the Serbian state didn’t exist. The war successes of the Kingdom of Serbia and high national awareness of Serbs across the rivers forced even great powers, which were never inclined to Serbia, to recognize Vojvodina as part of the Serbian state.
On November 26, 1918, the Great National Assembly of the Serbian people of Montenegro was held in Podgorica. Decisions were brought on overthrowing the Petrović dynasty in favor of the Karađorđević dynasty and unconditional unification with the Kingdom of Serbia.
Several days later, on December 1, 1918, the Kingship of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians was proclaimed. When the borders were definitely determined after peace agreements signed in French palaces in 1919 and 1920, the Kingship became the Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians, later Yugoslavia.


The observation of anniversaries of the Great National Assembly between two world wars was modest, reduced to activities of Novi Sad, local authorities in Vojvodina and active cultural societies. After introducing the personal regime of King Aleksandar on January 9, 1929, the Union Day, December 1, became state holiday, so all celebrations were held then, except the impressive celebration of the 20th anniversary of liberation of Vojvodina in November 1938.
After World War II until the 1990s, the date of holding the Great National Assembly wasn’t observed, and Jaša Tomić, the most deserving for the Unification – wasn’t mentioned and didn’t have a place in the ”official Pantheon”. Only since the last decade of the previous century, observation of the anniversary of the Unification began in a dignified manner, with the participation of Republic of Serbia and Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. Monuments to Serbian great people from the time of 1918 Liberation and Unification were raised again, and erecting new ones began. In the last few years, we can more frequently hear that the date of holding the Great National Assembly should be celebrated as a public holiday.
Thus this event passed all historical phases: from ceremonial observance and celebration, underestimating and ignoring, to rereading in a completely different reality. Just like Serbia and the Serbian people who, after an entire century of great temptations, found themselves at a new beginning, in a completely different reality. Thus in that new reality they need such strongholds – such holidays – which they can always proudly return to and, ceremonially and dignifiedly celebrating them, remember.


While women in European countries, which consider themselves ”leaders of democracy and freedom”, could only dream of taking part in elections – they were allowed both to elect and be elected for the Serbian Great National Assembly. Thus seven women were elected Assembly members. The most famous among them were certainly Milica Tomić, daughter of Svetozar Miletić and wife of Jaša Tomić, Bunjevac Marta Malagurski, who left a deep trace with their activities prior the Assembly as well. Besides Marta Malagurski, there were also Bunjevac Katica Rajčić and Manda Sudarević, about whose later activities we, unfortunately, know little. Two Serbian ladies from Subotica, Olga Stanković and Anastazija Manojlović, were also Assembly members. Olga’s husband was Assembly member as well, so were three sons of Anastazija Manojlović. One more female Assembly member was Marija Jovanović from Pančevo. Her husband Kamenko Jovanović, publisher, dedicated his entire life to the fight for uniting Serbian people in one state. He died before such events took place, but his wife completed their joint activity in the most brilliant manner.


Women, especially those from Subotica, were depicted in the famous painting – a unique document: ”Great National Assembly in Novi Sad”, painted by Serbian painter Anastas Bocarić, born in Durres. The fact that the city of Subotica ordered and paid this painting is probably why the artist made them eternal in this manner. There is another interesting detail about this painting: it is assumed that the appearance of the hall, with the stage and gallery, was taken from the Subotica Theater and that the real hall where the Assembly took place didn’t look like that.


Presidency and Secretariat
Upon the suggestion of Mita Klicin, besides president Jovan Hranilović, elected members of the presidency were: Bogdan Malagurski, PhD, from Subotica, Božidar Popović and Slavko Miletić, PhD, from Vršac, Ljubomir Mičatek, PhD, Ignjat Pavlas, PhD and Pavle Tatić from Novi Sad, and priest Stevan Mihaldžić from Branjina, Baranja. Members of the Assembly secretariat were: Mita Đorđević, Jovan Latinčić, PhD and Dušan Tušanović from Novi Sad, as well as Dušan Bošković, PhD from Pančevo.

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