The first written trace of Petrinja as an inhabited settlement is the one about the benefits awarded to the inhabitants of Petrinja by the Slavonian duke Koloman in 1240. This old medieval Petrinja belongs to the time of warring with the Turks. In 1592, Petrinja was given a new location with the construction and building of a Turkish fortress at the confluence of the Petrinjčica and the Kupa rivers. The fortress was to serve the Turks in conquering Sisak, Turopolje and Zagreb.
On August 10, 1594, the fortress was first liberated by the Croatian army. Therefore, August 10 has become the day of gratitude towards God and St. Lawrence, and this saint has been chosen for the patron saint of the parish and the town of Petrinja. Over the time, Petrinja has increasingly become the place of the settlement for many craftsmen and merchants whose arrival marks the beginning of the town's development.
Petrinja was part of Napoleon's Illyria from 1809 till 1813 when the town became a significant trade and traffic center. In the same period, the French army planted the lindens that even today testify to the town's historical moment.
The foundations of the Prva hrvatska tvornica salame, sušena mesa i masti (first Croatian salami, cured meat and lard factory) were set in the year 1792, now developed into the "Gavrilović" factory, the principal factor of the area's economic development, well known for the quality of its gastronomical products.
The influence of Croatian national revival in the 19th century was felt in Petrinja. That was the time of the founding of the Town Orchestra (1808), Music Department (1841), Library and reading-room (1842), Teachers' Training School (1862), Croatian Choir "Slavulj" (1864), Town fire-brigade (1880), First printing-house (1881).
Recent history has witnessed the war in Croatia during which the people were exiled from their hometown of Petrinja in the period from September 1991 till May 1995. The town itself has been through a very grave destruction. On November 25, 1991 the Serb mayor of Petrinja Radovan Marković sent a message to Željko Ražnatović to have his troops enter the city as part of a "2. motorized battalion" of the 622. Motorized Brigade of the Yugoslav People's Army. Beholding Croatian identity, many monuments have been erected in memory of the Croatian war heroes and victims of the war.
In reconstructing and rebuilding their town, the inhabitants of Petrinja took great care of the town's urban tradition by keeping the old customs alive, celebrating Catholic holidays, and organizing numerous cultural, social and sports events.
There is a very lively tradition of the potting and ceramic crafts, which represent the main souvenir production of the items characteristic for this area, all made of high quality clay. The main souvenir is "stucka", an ornamented multi-use jar made of clay that has become a symbol of the town of Petrinja.
City economy is in a major decline for the last 20 years. High impact of the war from the 1990s is felt through the abandonment and depopulation of many villages and closure of many farms which used to supply local meat packing plant Gavrilović d.o.o. and dairy processors from other cities. Gavrilović still remains the biggest company and employer in the city, currently employing about 800 workers.
Other notable industries are saw mills and wood flooring manufacturing. Former Finel furniture factory now mostly lays abandoned while there are current plans to activate part of its capacity for hardwood flooring manufacturing. Former Ciglana brick factory is now converted into a large saw mill called Nil-Ž and employs more than a 100 people.
Small entrepreneurship is still underdeveloped due to lack of a finished small business zone. City owned agency Poslovne Zone Petrinja has been announcing the opening of a small business zone at the suburb of Močćenica for the last several years, but there are still no visible results.
Small family farming operations called O.P.G. have been registered by many small farmers but just a few are producing in larger quantity and being able to offer fresh or processed meat, fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs to markets. Lack of local and national co-operative organization management is making small farmers not competitive enough to other EU producers. This stems from an inherent belief that co-op are a negative heritage from the socialist era of pre-1990 period and should not be established again, while at the same time people buy products produced by strong Italian, Austrian, French and German co-operatives.
City used to have a local transportation company called Slavijatrans, which operated local and regional bus lines and cargo transport with an extensive fleet of fuel, bulk and general cargo carrier trucks. Due to mismanagement and numerous cases of corruption on one hand, and lack of law enforcement in the field of passenger transport, many private taxi's took over the passenger traffic from the most profitable lines, while cargo traffic was gradually reduced to just a few trucks from a fleet of a few hundred trucks. Now the company is sold to a large national carried Čazmatrans and only operates local passenger lines.
A statue of Croatian politician Stjepan Radić was made in Petrinja in 1929 by Mila Wood after his assassination the previous year. In 1936, the statue was placed in the city's central square, which was named after him. In 1963 the communist regime moved the statue to a city park. In 1991, the statue was damaged and thrown into an orchard in a nearby village. It was not found until 1998, when it was restored. In 1999, it was restored to Petrinja's central square, and was unveiled by Croatian minister of culture Božo Biškupić.
The population of Petrinja is 24,671, of which 15,683 live in the urban settlement.
|Source: Naselja i stanovništvo Republike Hrvatske 1857–2001, DZS, Zagreb, 2005 & Popis stanovništva 2011|
|Population by ethnicity|
|Year of census||total||Croats||Serbs||others|
|1961||27,517||14,942 (54.30%)||11,955 (43.45%)||620 (2.25%)|
|1981||33,570||14,621 (43.55%)||12,617(37.58%)||6,332 (18.86%)|
|1991||35,565||15,791 (44.40%)||15,969 (44.90%)||3,805 (10.70%)|
|2001||23,413||19,280 (82.35%)||2,809 (12.00%)||1,324 (5.65%)|
|2011||24,671||20,925 (84.82%)||2,710 (10.98%)||1,036 (4.20%)|
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