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and the very soul of the Serbian people

Let us see how Western literature used to explain the meaning of Kosovo to the Serbian people.

  • Life World Library
    Time Life books, by Edmund Stillman and the Editors of LIFE
    First edition 1964, Revised 1967
  • Chapter 3: "Conquest, Anarchy and War"
    Pages 43 - 47 (quote):

    If any single factor made the Balkans what they were in history - and what they still are today - it was the ordeal of the Turk. But just what the 500 years of Turkish occupation meant to the Balkans is no easy matter to define. The image of the Turk has undergone radical transformation three times in modern history. For us in the mid-20th Century, the image of Turkey is that of a staunch ally of the West against the Soviets and of a modern state which is the legacy of Mustafa Kemal, the first and in some degree the most ambitious of the modernizers of the Islamic tradition. But that is an image that dates only from the years after World War I and World War II. For the 18th and 19th Centuries, the image of Turkey was that of a rotting empire, of a corrupt, incompetent and SADISTIC national elite PREYING ON THE SUBJECT BALKAN PEOPLES - of a cynical government whose very METHOD OF RULE WAS ATROCITY. And for still earlier times the image of the Turk was one of power - stark inexorable and menacing to Europe. For as Martin Luther said in the 16th Century, "The Turks are the people of WRATH OF GOD."...

    The effect on the Balkans of the Turkish occupation in the years of Ottoman power, stability and glory was one thing, but in the long years of decay and humiliation it was quite another. This is the story we must now briefly trace.

    Because both [Serbian Tzar] Lazar, the leader of the Balkan confederation, and Murat, the Sultan of the Turks, had died when the Balkan forces were defeated at KOSOVO in 1389, there was some years afterwards uncertainty in Europe about the significance of the battle. Church bells, so the story goes, were rung in Paris in rejoicing the defeat of the "seed of Ismael," as the Turks were known. But the reality was the reverse. The power of the Balkan Christian states declined steadily after 1389; the power of the Turks grew. In 1453 they seized Constantinople from Constantine XI, last of the weakened Byzantine emperors. Soon they were threatening Western Europe as well: In 1480 Turkish troops seized Otranto in southern Italy, and in 1499 patrols raided the outskirts of Venice and Vicenza. In 1526 the Turkish armies destroyed the power of the Hungarian state occupying all but the west most strip of the country, which sought the protection of Austria, and three years later they besieged the great city of Vienna itself.

    The Turkish achievement in those years was not merely a military one. Whatever the glory of the medieval Balkan principalities may have been before THE TRAGEDY OF KOSOVO, conditions of order had already begun to break down in the Balkans before the Turks ever came...

    The coming of the Turks, for the savagery of the onslaught, was not an unmitigated tragedy. In the first centuries of Turkish rule, conditions of public order markedly improved...

    The truth is that the Turks were largely indifferent in the matters of religion, although, fearing that the religions of their subjects might serve as focal points of resistance, they forbade the building of all but the meanest churches, and likewise outlawed the ringing of church bells.

    What was damaging to the Balkan people was something else: They had been stripped of pride and freedom... While any subject boy could aspire to the highest rank in the Turkish Empire, he had to convert to Islam to do so...

    As for... Bogumils, many of them found in the austere religion of Koran striking parallels to their own creed... They swung their allegiance to the Turks in 1463 and opened the gates of Bosnia. (It is from this act of apostasy that the vast majority of Moslems in the western Balkans derive. They are linguistically and racially akin to their Christian neighbors, rather to the Turks.)

    ...When the security of the Ottoman state demanded, there were FORCED CONVERSIONS. Every four years the most vigorous boys were [stolen from their parents] taken from the towns and villages, willingly or not, to be trained as Janissaries (a word from Turkish yeni cheri, or new troops). Thus even in the years of order, the Turkish conquest was a harsh experience...

    What was uniform to all [conquered Christian lands] was the experience of alien overlordship and legacy of violence as the cohesion and power of the Empire declined. When the Empire passed its apex of power in the 17t and 18th Centuries, the conditions of the subject peoples took a CATASTROPHIC TURN FOR THE WORSE... It was in these later years that the proverb came into vogue: "Where the Turk trod, no grass grows."...

    ...In central Macedonia, Serbia and the Sanjak, the situation was not much different. There the brigands took to the hills and forests, carrying on an outlaw life of rebellion...

    ...In the years of the Ottoman decline, the effects on the Balkans were very largely negative. There were few positive effects, except for the formation of certain features of the Balkan character which have earned nearly universal admiration - PRIDE IN SELF, COURAGE IN WAR, contempt for the suffering flesh, an unbreakable sense of community and generosity to friends...

    In 1804 the Serbian highlanders, under the leadership of... one Karageorge, rose against the forces of the local Turkish dahis... He quickly passed to the leadership of a NATIONAL UPRISING ON A HEROIC SCALE. Savage Turkish repression achieved little. At Nis in south-eastern Serbia the Turks beheaded the troops of a local chieftan and built a TOWER OF HUMAN [SERB] SKULLS, but the rebellion dragged on.

    Karageorge fled in 1813 to Austria, but in 1815 his rival, Milos Obrenovic, led a new revolt, one that this time succeeded. The repercussions of this victory were felt everywhere in the moribund Turkish Empire. The Greeks rebelled in 1821; by 1829 they had won effective independence... The autonomy of Serbia was proclaimed in 1830...

    Since the battle of Kosovo the Serbs have motto:
    "Only Unity Can Save the Serbs"

    It was disunity that made the great Serbian Christian civilization collapse under Turkish onslaught.

  • Ferdinand Schevill: "A History of the Balkans"
    Barnes & Noble Books
    Edition 1995 ISBN 0-88029-697-6
    The book was originally published under title "History of the Balkan Peninsula"
  • Page 184
    Subtitle: The coming of the Ottoman Turks

    Murad I (1359-1389) conquers Thrace and turns to the interior of Balkania

    (Murad I) Contending himself with forcing the (Byzantine) Emperor John V. to acknowledge his possession of Thrace, he turned his back on Constantinople and set his face to the interior. Here, he was aware, was the ONLY ORGANIZED POWER WHICH HE NEED FEAR, THE STATE OF SERBIA. True, Serbia was rapidly falling apart, owing to the selfish policy of its feudal magnates, whom the great (Serbian tsar) Dushan's irresolute successor did not know how to curb, but Murad needed evidence of Serb dissolution which nothing save a test of strength could give. In 1363 Ottoman and Serb had their first serious clash on the Maritsa river and Murad learned from his victory that Serb vigor, though still a fact, was patently ebbing...
    (End quote)

    As we see here and from other literature, the Sebs were not immediately united in fighting the Turks. Only South-East most Serbs met the Turks at Maritsa and thus were defeated.

    The same source, page 186 (Quote):
    Murad conquers parts of Bulgaria and Macedonia and reaches out toward the heart of Serbia:

    (Murad's) immediate goal was the Maritza valley, a possession of Bulgaria. This ailing state put up no better fight against him than Constantinople had done, with the result that before long the fertile territory between the Rhodope and Balkan ranges was in Murad's hands. Like his Byzantine contemporary the Bulgar ruler was glad to purchase a precarious peace by becoming Murad's vassal. Next, the Ottoman emir turned to MACEDONIA, A SERB PROVINCE since Stephen Dushan's day. The tsar's GREAT EMPIRE was now a hopeless wreck. the southern sections had definitely detached themselves from obedience of his son, Stephen Urosh, and everywhere feudal lords, aspiring to independence, raised a disloyal head. Pressing boldly forward, Murad seized area after area until by a second victory won on Maritsa, some twenty miles west of Andrianople, he completely broke the resistance of the southern Serb lords (1371). A few months after this disaster the wretched Serb tsar died and with him the house of Nemania...


    IT IS MEDIEVAL SERBIA'S TITLE TO DISTINCTION THAT SHE REFUSED TO PERISH WITHOUT A BLOW STRUCK IN HER OWN DEFENSE. Murad, master by this time of perhaps two-thirds of the peninsula, had been immensely helped in his victorious advance by the irreconcilable divisions among the Christian princes. Each stood aloof from the other or even looked on with malicious glee as his neighbor drained the cup of defeat. But now the alarm, spread by the startling Ottoman successes, was such that THE FIRST TIME something akin to BALKAN UNITY WAS BROUGHT ABOUT.

    IT WAS SERBIA, AFTER ALL THE SOUNDEST OF THE DECAYING BALKAN STATES, THAT FOUND A HEART AND SENT ITS WORD OF CHEER AND FRIENDSHIP TO THE OTHER PEOPLES. The most powerful and martial of the GREAT SERB LORDS, LAZAR by name, made himself the spokesmen of his nation. WITH SOMETHING OF THE CRUSADER'S UPLIFTED SPIRIT HE RALLIED HIS PEOPLE ABOUT HIM, while the princes of Bosnia and Wallachia and some of the tribal chiefs of Albania sent contingents to swell the numbers of his army. It was indeed a great host of Balkan Christians, but not even now, in the hour of the supreme strugle, a united Balkania which confronted the invader. Murad, making ready to meet the storm gathering in the west, found helpers among the lesser Serb and Bulgar lords, mostly, it is true, constrained to this service by a cruel master who held them at his mercy.

    In the great interior plain of Kossovo, set like an amphitheater among the mountains, on June 28, 1389, THE HOSTS OF CROSS AND CRESCENT MET TO DECIDE THE FATE OF THE PENINSULA.

    The facts in regard to the battle of Kossovo have been so obscured by the legend-loving spirit of the South Slavs that the actual course of the struggle will probably never be made clear. A hundred song sprang in later years, each new singer taking pride in contributing a fresh detail to the already rich embellishments of his predecessors. We hear of heroism, treasons, murders, making a national epic of magnificent proportions on which, as a spiritual manna, Serb patriotism has for centuries kept itself alive... And yet, whatever happened on that memorable field, the final upshot is like an open book: Lazar, the Serb champion, perished, the rout of the Christians was complete, and Serbia was stretched prostrate at the feet of the conqueror. That Murad too, died on that fateful day was hailed with satisfaction by the Serbs but proved no mitigation of their lot. True, Bayezid, Murad's son and successor, did not at once destroy the Serb state, root and branch. He was content with the formal submission of the country under a native ruler whom he put in office, but the Serbs themselves, undeceived by this act of grace, mournfully HAILED KOSSOVO AS THE GRAVE OF THEIR LIBERTY.
    (End quote)

    As this is only page 188 out of 533 page book, Professor Schevill, followed the Kosovo debacle with many pages of the Serbian struggle, heroism and glory as the Serbs endured the occupation of the brutal enemy and, at the end, lead for total liberation of the peninsula.

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    History of the Balkans

    Big powers and civil wars in Yugoslavia
    (How was Yugoslavia dismantled and why.)

    Proxies at work
    (Muslims, Croats and Albanians alike were only proxies of the big powers)

    The Aftermath

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    First posted: June 10, 1998
    Last revised: May 31, 2004