Čačak is a city and the administrative center of the Moravica District in western Serbia. Čačak lies on the West Morava river, which is the second largest river in Serbia after the Danube (308 km), and between Šumadija and the Dinaric Alps, in the Čačak-Kraljevo valley. The lowest altitude is 204 m (confluence of Bresnička reka and Zapadna Morava) and the highest is 985 m (the highest peak of Ovčar mountain). The population of the city itself is 73,331, while the population of the municipality is 115,337.
Čačak is the main crossroad and economic center in western Serbia, bordering with the several municipalities, Požega (Zlatibor District) to the west, Knić (Šumadija District) to the east and the city of Kraljevo (Raška District) to the southeast. It is also is the main administrative and cultural center of the Moravica District, which includes Gornji Milanovac to the north, Lučani to the southwest and Ivanjica to the south. It is located 144 km south of the capital city of Belgrade.
The city has a unique morphological area in its surroundings, the Ovčar-Kablar Gorge, where 300 monasteries have been built since the 14th century, but only 12 remain today. This area is also called "Serbian Mount Athos." Čačak got its current name in 1408; before that it was called Gradac. One of Gradac's leaders was Stracimir Zavidović, brother of Stefan Nemanja, an important Serbian ruler. He built the church of 'Our Lady' (Church of Jesus Ascension), which still stands in the center of Čačak. The church underwent reconstruction from 2010 to 2011, following an earthquake which damaged its facade.
From 1459, when Serbia lost its independence to the Ottomans to 1718, and again from 1739 to 1878 Čačak was a part of the Ottoman Empire. During the short period from 1718 to 1739 it was the southern settlement of the Habsburg Empire. Čačak saw heavy fighting during the Second Serbian Uprising in 1815. At the highest peak of Ljubić hill, where the main battles of the uprising were fought, now stands a monument to Tanasko Rajić, who died a brave death while protecting the city. After that Serbia was given autonomy in the Ottoman Empire in 1817. Sixty one years later Serbia became an independent country.
After 1882, Čačak was a part of the Kingdom of Serbia, and then of Kingdom of Yugoslavia until 1941. In 1941, during World War II Čačak was the eastern settlement in the short-lived Užička republika which was cut off by Nazi Germany shortly after it was founded. After the end of World War II, it was a part of SFR Yugoslavia until 1992 and FR Yugoslavia until 2006. Since then, Čačak has been a part of the Republic of Serbia.
In the vicinity of Čačak there are more than 20 churches and monasteries, the largest number found on such a small area in Serbia. They represent cultural and historic monuments of great significance. The most important ones are the Church of the Ascension of Jesus, a church on Ljubić hill dedicated to Saint Tsar Lazar, as well as the Vujan Monastery located on a nearby mountain of the same name. Special value is attributed to the monasteries of the Ovčar-Kablar Gorge, which as a cultural and historic whole date back to the Middle Ages and represent the particularity of the region's cultural and artistic heritage created over the centuries. There are 12 monasteries and churches in the gorge:
- Sveta Trojica
Thermal and mineral springs with medicinal properties provide the basis for the development of recreational tourism. There are three spa resorts within the territory of the Čačak municipality: Gornja Trepča, Ovčar Banja and Slatinska Banja. There are also picnic sites: Gradina and the "Battle and victory" park (also called "Spomen" (remembrance) park) on the Jelica mountain, the Memorial complex on Ljubić hill, Grujine fields, rafts on Zapadna Morava river in Beljina, Parmenac, Međuvršje and Ovčar Banja, and picnic sites on the tiny rivers called Dičina, Kamenica, Čemernica and Banja.
The region has several archaeological sites, dating from prehistory to the present, the oldest from the 15th century BC.
Princely tombs of Greco-Illyrian type (Glasinac culture) were found in two mounds of Atenica with Ionian glass, glass-paste, an amber bead depicting a swan, an Attic plaque of wild boar, dating to the late 6th century BC. More ornithomorphicfibulae of bronze swans was found in Mojsinje.
Prehistoric tumuli have been unearthed in Mrčajevci. The Triballi and Scordisci tribes lived in this area until the Romans came.
The town was inhabited in Roman times, with traces of the Roman settlement still visible today, like Roman baths built in the 2nd to 4th century period. These still stand behind a secondary school in the center of Čačak.
Nearby, in the village of Gradina on the Jelica mountain, a Roman compound (fort) with a martyrium and necropolis has been excavated, with three churches, one of which produced a pentanummion for the late Roman Emperor Justinian in the 526–537 period. Justinian is also believed to have founded the fort in the 530s. The presence of burnt layers on the sight could be evidence that the settlement ended in violence. In the same region, in the 6th century, four other forts were built.
South Slavs settled this area during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (610–641). From this period there are remains of sites in Culina, under the Kablar mountain. From 1168 to 1189 Stefan Nemanja's brother Stracimir Zavidović controlled the Zapadna Morava region, including Čačak (at that time Gradac). At this time he raised the church of Our Lady or Moravian Gradac. The word čačak means mud in the Turkish language. The Turks came here in 1459 and the Church was converted to a mosque.
Suleiman the Magnificent, Catib Çelebi and Evliya Çelebi in 16th century and 17th century talked about Čačak as the main place in qadi. 1717. Čačak became a part of the Habsburg Empire after Austrians defeated Ottomans. Austrian rule was short, however, because 21 years later Čačak again became a part of the Ottoman Empire. After that Čačak became virtually deserted because most of its inhabitants migrated north, to the Habsburg Empire. Their place was filled by people from Montenegro, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Old Vlach.
Čačak has two years on its coat of arms. The first is 1408 (from one of notes from Dubrovnik's archives), when the city was first recorded as Čačak, and the second is 1815, the year the Second Serbian Uprising began and the battle of Ljubic hill was fought. This battle is famous for the victory of the Serbian rebels who defeated a much stronger Ottoman army numbering 60,000 men.
In 1837 a grammar school was built, one of the first in Serbia. In the 1837–1941 period Čačak became a more modern town. During World War II Čačak was part of the short-lived Republic of Užice, which was cut off by German forces shortly after it was founded. On the 4 December 1944 Čačak was liberated by Yugoslav Partisans. It has since evolved into a large town and a regional center, later being given the status of a city.
The municipality of Čačak is in the western part of central Serbia, 144 km south of the capital city, Belgrade. The nearest international border is with Bosnia and Hercegovina. Within the Moravica District, this municipality has all the characteristics of the main center. Situated mostly in the western area of the flow of the West Morava river, this municipality connects the hills of Šumadija in the north and higher regions of the interior to the south. These mountains incline in a gentle and wavy way toward the Čačak valley, the town and the Morava River. The territorial area of the municipality is 636 square kilometers and contains:
- Čačak valley with an altitude between 204 m and 300 m
- Hills that between 300 m and 500 m high and
- Mountains Ovčar (985 m) (W), Kablar (889 m) (W), Jelica (929 m) (S) and Vujan (857 m) (NE).
A humid continental climate brings an average temperature of 10.47 °C with 74.1% humidity, warm summers and cold winters. Winds come from the north and northeast, rarely from west because of the mountains that block them. The average temperature in August is 22 °C, while in January it is 0.5 °C . There are, on average, 38 days with snow during the year. The average wind speed is 2.3 m/s. The usual number of foggy days is 54. There are a few recorded instances of Sahara desert sand making its way to the town via winds, when it caused problems for the town's population, especially in traffic. Average yearly precipitation is 735 mm.
The structure of the economy of the municipality of Čačak is composed of agriculture, industry, trade and services. Apart from agricultural production, also present are paper production, electric home appliances, blade tools for the processing of metal, non-metals and wood, chemical industry products, thermal technical appliances, wood, metal and combined carpentry, parts and kits for the pharmaceutical industry and products for medical needs, processing of forest and agricultural products, etc.
Many companies with more than 250 employees have deteriorated due to the sanctions in the 1990-s. Since 2000, more than 40 government-owned companies have gone through the privatization process. Today, on the territory of the municipality of Čačak, the only enterprises with more than 500 employees are Sloboda Čačak and Fabrika reznog alata. Also, Čačanska banka, one of 30 commercial banks in Serbia, has its headquarters in Čačak.
Private enterprise, which has its tradition from back in the 19th century, is indeed the primary characteristic of the economy of the municipality. A large number of private companies grew into middle-size companies with 80 to 270 employees offering a wide variety of products.