About Ilija Milosavljević Kolarac

Ilija Milosavljević Kolarac was born in 1800 in Kolari, a small village near Smederevo, after which he was eventually nicknamed Kolarac. He received his primary education in a local school in his village, and soon afterwards started his sales apprenticeship in Vršac. Gaining his first trading experience and sales knowledge, in 1817 he moved to Belgrade and went on to become a journeyman trader. There he married Sindjelija,the daughter of Milutin Radovanović, a leading salesman he worked for at the time. He then set up the first store of his own in today’s Dubrovačka street, and a year later, in 1828, he left for Pančevo to engage in food grains and pig trade. That he had developed a lively interest in literature and education trends of his times was revealed in the fact that, together with his wife, in 1854 he became a member of Matica Srpska. He also provided money for the printing of Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo, translated by Milan D. Rašić. After his wife’s death, in 1856, he returned to Belgrade, where he expanded his business by trading in salt and saltpetre. He enlarged his estate as he bought the land and built a house below the Varoš Gate, in today’s Pop Lukina Street. Shortly after that his other house was erected by the Stambol Gate, at the location of today’s Republic Square. He started his endowment activity when in 1857 he established, together with Duke Toma Vučić-Perišić, the Fund in Memory of Those Who Gave Their Lives for the Fatherland. The funds were used to honour and keep the memory of those who died in the battles of liberation from Turkish rule. At the invitation of Svetozar Miletić, mayor of Novi Sad, in 1861, he made a generous contribution to the establishment of the Serbian Academy of Law in Novi Sad, whose funds were managed by the Matica Srpska. In 1878 he was wrongfully convicted of high treason and arrested for involvement in the Topola rebellion, but after a few months he was pardoned. He returned from prison, his health deteriorating, and in the same year, on 6 October (in the old calendar), he died at his home at the Stambol Gate.

About the Kolarac Literary Fund

Ilija Milosavljević Kolarac established the Literary Fund in 1861. He allocated 100 ducats from his revenues annually to help and support literature and the works published in the Serbian language that “spread the message of honesty, patriotic sentiment and useful knowledge among people”. The Board of the Fund included the President Kosta Cukić, Secretary Ljubomir Nenadović, and noteworthy members Panta Jovanović, Emilijan Josimović, Miloje Lešjanin, Dimitrije Matić and Josif Pančić. Until 1874, the Fund helped publish 42 works, mainly translations. In his last will and testament in 1877, Kolarac bequeathed 10 000 ducats to the Literary Fund of Ilija M. Kolarac to assist “those who write to educate the nation, but are unable to publish the works on their own.” Moreover, the Board was authorized to issue educational books and provide them to poorer students. The publications supported by the Fund had to be printed in the Cyrillic script. Kolarac emphasized that the funds should also be made available to the Serbs “on the other side of borders”, that is, outside the former Principality of Serbia, if their works deserved help. In later years Kolarac People’s University published the parts of lectures held at the forums of Kolarac University as well as the whole series of lectures issued in separate publications. The published works funded by the Kolarac Literary Fund can be found today in the Library of the Kolarac Foundation.

About Kolarac People’s University

Ilija Milosavljević Kolarac, in his last will and testament in 1878, bequeathed all his property to his people with the aim of promoting science, culture and knowledge. His assets were to be used to create the Fund for Establishing Serbian University that will bear the name of its founder – The University of Ilija M. Kolarac founded through his own efforts for the benefit of his people.

Accordingly, the construction of an impressive edifice of the Kolarac Foundation, measuring 4500m2, was completed in 1932. The architect Petar Bajalović, having an extraordinary sense of architectural finesse, first tackled the issue of the Concert Hall space. The most advanced scientific acoustics solutions of the time were applied to the effect that even today the Kolarac Concert Hall has been regarded as the most acoustic venue for music performances in Belgrade. The Establishment situated in Student Square was officially opened on 4 February 1932 with the concert of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra performed in the Concert Hall.

The Kolarac People’s University started its programme activity on 19 October of the same year. Since its foundation it has been accessible to people from different social backgrounds, with various education levels, of diverse age groups, and above all, to all those eager to gain knowledge being aware of its value. It also ensured equal access to the underprivileged whose unfavourable life circumstances disrupted their regular education. The Kolarac University’s mission has invariably been “to disseminate scientific knowledge and understanding, to expand the influence of applied sciences on the people’s lives and economy, and to continually teach specific skills and competencies”. The Kolarac People’s University promoted and developed practical knowledge as well and for that purpose it organized courses for farmers, artisans, merchants and clerks.

Every year since 1968 the Board of Ilija M.Kolarac Foundation has awarded Plaques of the Kolarac Foundation for exceptional contribution to the Foundation programme development, and since 1977 it has given the Annual Gallery Award for the best art exhibition of the season.