‘’Factor of Volunteerism in Wars Waged by Serbian Nation’’
Military volunteerism traditionally played a significant role in wars waged by Serbian nation. The explanation to this lies in the Serbian history itself where the state apparatus for a long time presented a hostile force. The only ‘’national’’ Serbian institution – Serb Orthodox Church – securing to some extent certain elements of political
and cultural autonomy for Serbs – by church canons could not organize and train military units.
As the edge of the main Turkish blow in XVI-XVII centuries was directed through the Balkans against Austria which after the defeat of Hungary in XVI century was the last barrier on the way of Turks to Europe, the issue of formation of volunteer units was vital for Serbian nation’s survival.
The fact that after Turks defeated Serbs, Austria followed the earlier example of Hungary
and hosted thousands of Serbs retreating from Turks, was favorable for the formation of these units . In his book ’’ Life and Ways of the Serbian People’’ Vuk Karadjic was describing the life of Serbs who lived at the so-called “zadruga (cooperatives), headed by one leader and where several families were united. In its essence such organization made Serbs a manageable and disciplined military entity used by Austrian authorities.
Policies of the Ottoman imperial authorities were also playing an important part. Thus, the Belgrade pashaluc where the main bulk of Serbs resided, likewise other similar pashalucs of the Ottoman Empire was a military-territorial formation governed by a Pasha who had the right to fulfill both military command and judicial authority and collect taxes as well. According to the Serbian historian Vuk Karadjic the Belgrade Pasha had his own armed equestrian detachments consisting of the so-called ‘’deliya’ headed by a ‘’deliya-basha’ who had subordinate tax-collectors-“kavazes” and “chaushes”, as well as bailiffs- “bumbarashes”.
In book ‘’Karageorgij’s Serbia’’ (1804-1817) (Zivko Markovic.Bern.2006) quotes an excerpt from reminiscences of de Nicole where he writes that ‘’deliya’’ who had no payment were living off captives and ‘’always strived to display their courage’’, and that among them were people of all confessions including Serbs. The Belgrade pashaluc was divided into sandjaks governed by a sandjak-bey, and sandjaks were sub-divided into ‘’nahias’’. At the head of ‘’nahias’’ a ‘’kadia’’-judge was placed and also an administrator-‘’muselim’’who, as Vuk Karadjic wrote in his book ‘’Life and ways of the Serbian people’’, were the roots of all kinds of abuse of power, first of all in relation to Serbs deprived of all rights.
The situation of Serbs was vividly depicted by Ivo Andric in his book ‘’The Drina Bridge’’ when Turks (at that time all Muslims including Bosnian Muslims were regarded as Turks ) were seizing children around Serbian villages to send them to become Janissary. But then no less cruel was the picture when the same Turks were seizing girls and often boys around villages for their Pashas’ and Beys ’harems , and it is hard to find a more indicative example of absence of rights of Serbs.
In the book by Zivko Markovic ‘’Karageorgij’s Serbia’’ recollections of former Janissary Konstantin Mihalovic from Ostrovica were quoted , the latter wrote that when the Sultan’s army takes a town by storm all the captive prominent men were killed, young men were sent to be Janissary, and women were handed out as concubines. Regarding Christians’ situation as such at that time, it is well enough described in the book by L.I. Klimovich ‘’The Book on Koran, its Origin and Mythology’’, where there is a quotation by ‘’the righteous’’ caliph Omar: ‘’The following statement attributed to ‘’the righteous ‘’caliph Omar I has become the motto of the conquerors: ‘’Truly, Muslims will feed on these (zimmies), paying taxes, and when we die, and they die, our sons will feed on their sons eternally, as long as they will exist, so that they would be the slaves of the followers of the Muslim faith, as long as the Muslim faith will remain prevailing’’. This text was contained in The Book of Kharadj(Khitab Al-Kharadj) written by the supreme judge Abu-Jussuf (731-798), on the order of caliph Harun Al-Rashid and which therefore has received the value of legal instruction for all ’’Islamic’’ Emirs and Sultans.
In the book ‘’Life and Ways of the Serbian People’’ Vuk Karadjic wrote that it was forbidden for a Serb to get dressed in expensive clothes, to wear clothes of green color, to have good horses, to smoke in public, at the same time a Turk could beat him, swear his faith, cross, fasting; take him by force to work, as well as rape Serbian women and take them to harem by force where to convert them to Islam forcibly.
Finally, in the work of Miroljub Yevtic, Professor of Sorbonne and Belgrade Universities, ‘’Contemporary Jihad as War’’ where there is a quoted passage from the book by an English archeologist Evans ( «Through Bosnia and Herzegovina on foot”.Evans A.1877.London) on the situation of Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina it is written: ‘’ A Christian kmet (peasant), or the one who tills the land, is in a worse situation than many slaves in our murkiest times, and is totally placed at the mercy of Muslim landowners, like a slave’’.
Christians’ situation itself, as second grade persons on their own soil, would seem to be a sufficient ground for an armed rebellion against the absolutely evident Turkish aggressors, though some contemporary historians could argue this right finding some elements of social liberation of Serbian peasants from Serbian feudal lords.
It is however clear that after Turks conquered Serbian lands, Serbian peasants continued to pay high taxes to Turks – otherwise why should Turks conquer them altogether. Furthermore, Turks have introduced a new tax for all Christians-jizia-head tax, levied in Islamic states from adult and free non-Muslims of masculine gender in accordance with the following “khadis” (short stories about life of Muhammad) from Koran (9:29): ‘’Fight those of the people of Bible Scriptures who do not have faith in neither in Allah, nor in the Last Day, who do not find forbidden what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, who do not worship the true religion until they start to pay tolls by their own hands remaining humiliated’’.
Of course the Turkish authorities often protected Christian village people as those paid taxes to them, however it is clear that these taxes were hard enough if only because of Turkish authorities’ big expenditures for the upkeep of their army and waging non-stop wars of conquest.
As even in medieval Europe riots of peasants had serous social grounds, it would be illogical to negate same reasons for peasants of the Turkish Empire.
However, if in the medieval Europe peasant rioting against feudal lords could count on protection of the Church, cities or kings, in the Turkish Empire they had no way back and that is why among Serbs as well as among other nations conquered by Turks- Bulgarians, Greeks and Vlachs – different armed groups emerged either engaging in robberies or raising rebellions against Turks, and these were called ‘’hajduks’’
As Christians were forbidden both to bear arms and apply it against Muslims, then each ‘’hajduk’’ became a state criminal for Turkish Empire by that.
It goes without saying that ‘’hajduks ‘’ were highwaymen but to refuse them a right to national and religious ideas means to understand nothing about Balkans, their history and about Turkish policies. The mere fact that independent armed groups existed in Turkey, groups largely consisting of ‘’raya’’ stripped of rights by Islamic laws (Christians were strictly forbidden to bear arms) was for Turks a state and religious crime.
Serbian historian Vuk Karadjic has made a detailed description of ‘’hajduks’’. According to Karadjic, ‘’hajduks’’ had a developed code of honor which after getting acquainted with it reminds of the code of honor of medieval Serbian knights, on which Colonel Rade Rajic dwelt in sufficient detail in his work ‘’On Obilic’s Spirit of Honor within Serbs’’’’.
As Karadjic wrote, ‘’hajduks’’ themselves often gathered into relatively large detachments – ‘’chetas’’ and ‘’druzhinas’’ , numbering several dozen men , with their leaders-‘’harambashi’’ at the head. ‘’Haiduks’’ made collectors of ‘’harach’’-‘’harachliis’’-their main targets, but often robbed rich Serbs and ordinary folks, evidently considering that submission of these folks to Turks was a sufficient justification for such attacks.
Karadjic also wrote that Serbian peasants as well were called in by Turks to stalk ‘’hajduks’’, and Turks recruited from Serbs those who would fight ‘’hajduks’’ and who would be called ‘’pandurs’’. Karadjic claimed that ‘’hajduks’’ themselves had a well-developed network of supporters harbouring them and named ‘’yatakis’’.
Simultaneously some ‘’hajduks’’ were hiding at the territories of neighboring Austria and Venetian Republic and there they got the name ‘’uskokis’’ (jumpers-in).
‘’Uskokis’’ were different from ‘’hajduks’’ only by that they lived on Austrian and Venetian lands in their own private houses and their elected leaders had to coordinate actions of ‘’uskokis’’with Austrian and Venetian authorities. ‘’Uskokis’’ were not only Serbs, of course majoring among them, but also Croatians as well as Germans and Italians.
Thus, in the Sinja region under the auspices of the Venetian Republic in XVI-XVII centuries there existed a peculiar ‘’uskok’’republic from where ‘’uskoki’’ attacked Turks and buccaneered in the Adriatic Sea alongside with British and French pirates who attacked the Spanish in the interests of their kings from whom they had received their patents.
Further on a ‘’Military Border’’ consisting of Serbs was created in Austria in 1617 which was a military territorial formation where Serbs lived in their villages but at first call were mobilized to military units, the more so that even at peaceful times they were commanded by the Austrian army officers who were Serbs en mass.
Though Croatian and Hungarian nobility was displeased because of the creation of the ‘’Military border’’, Austrian emperors protected rights of Serbs –border guards. The Serb border guards were in essence the main connecting link between such Serb ‘’hajduks’’ and Austrian regular army, and being regular army units they at the same time fulfilled assignments intrinsic nowadays to special units.
Since big Serbian rebellions as a rule started during the years of wars of Christian states against Turks, like for example during the Austrian-Turkish war of 1591-1606, during the Candian war of 1649-1665 waged by Venetia against Turkey, during the Morey war waged against Turkey by Austria, Russia, Poland and Venetia, because of this detachments of Serb rebels were de-facto included into foreign armies.
Thus, during the Morey war the Austrian army broke through into Kosovo, and it was the Serbian support made it possible for Austrian troops to come far into Turkish territories seizing the cities of Skopje and Pristina in 1689.
At that time only 4,000 Austrian troops were commanded by Austrian general Piccolomini, but their actions were supported by detachments of local Serbs, including ‘’hajduks’’ who secured their rear communications.
After the French king Louis XIV attacked Austria and after the death of Piccolomini the Emperor was compelled to give the order for retreat. But Austrians did not let Serbs who supported them down and gave them the opportunity to retreat with them to Austria and settle there on lands specially allotted by the Emperor.
The then eviction of Serbs with their leader Patriarch Arsenij III Carnojevic was depicted by Serbian writer Milos Cirnjanskij in his novel ‘’Resettlements’’.
Also during war of 1736-39 which Austria failed and lost the northern Serbia conquered before, from Kosovo moved new columns of Serb refugees headed by Patriarch Arsenij IV Jovanovic.
During the Austrian-Turkish war of 1788-1791 Austrian Emperor allowed Colonel of the Austrian army Serb Mihailo Mihaljevic to form volunteer detachments within the regular Austrian army where he recruited Serbs who joined Austrian troops on Turkish lands. These detachments were called Freichor and numbered up to ten thousand men according to ‘’History of Serbian Nation’’ by S. Gavrilovic.
Freichors were practically independent fighting on the territory of the Belgrade pashaluc liberating Pozarevac, Paracin, Kladovo,Cupria,Negotin,Sabac and Loznica.
Captain Koca Andjelkovic was prominent among commandants of these detachments; he freed from Turks large territories in Podrinje (places along Drina river) which became known as ‘’Koca’s Krajina’’. Austrian-style military organization was established in Freicors, and many of those who later prepared the Serbian rebellion against Turks, like e.g. Aleksa Nenadovic and Petar Novakovic received combat experience there. It is necessary to mention Georgi Petrovic later know as Karageorgi(Black George) who while serving in Freicor got the rank of non-commissioned officer.
After the Austrian -_Turkish peace of 1791, when Porta forbade its janissary to be on the territory of the Belgrade Pashaluc, and when reforms of Sultan Selim have deprived janissary of ‘’chitluks’’ – estates allotted to them, and while the new organization of the army ‘’nizami-dzedid’’ stripped them of their former privileges, then in retort in 1792 janissary headed by Kucuk Alija Husein aga, Mula Jusuff and Mehmed aga Focic (all of them were Serbs by nationality) rioted against Sultan, supported then in 1795 by Osman Pazvan-oglu from pashaluc Vidina neighboring to Belgrade.
Last edited by a moderator: