Kosovo: 'Lost Heart of the Balkans'

VFW Magazine, June/July 1999 | Go to article overview

Kosovo: 'Lost Heart of the Balkans'


For 628 years, ethnic conflict has plagued the Balkan countries of southeastern Europe. The Serbian province of Kosovo was often a battleground between Orthodox Christian Europe and Moslem Ottoman Turkey. Here is a brief overview of that region's blood-stained history.

1172: First Serbian state is created when Byzantine (an empire run by Eastern Orthodox leaders) rule is overthrown in parts of the Balkans.

1371 (Sept. 26) BATTLE OF MARICA. Fought in Bulgaria, this decisive Turkish victory opens the way for the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans. A large Serbian army is entirely wiped out by a surprise night attack. Serbians lose control of territory in Macedonia.

1381 and 1386: Serbs thwart Turkish invasions of Balkans.

1389 (June 28): BATTLE OF KOSOVO POWE. Waged on the "Field of Blackbirds," an army of 15-20,000 European Christians is defeated by 27-30,000 Turks. Most important single battle in Serbian history. Serbia becomes a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire.

1448 (OCt. 17-19): BATTLE OF KOSOVO (SECOND). A mostly Hungarian army of 3072,000 men is defeated by 100,000 Turks on almost the same spot as the 1389 battle after three days of carnage. Half the Hungarians die; one-third of the Turks. Serbians refuse to aid the Hungarians, effectively sealing their own fate.

1454: Southern and Central Serbia are seized by the Ottoman Empire.

1455 (April-May): BATTLE OF Novo BRDO. City is besieged for 40 days. Prizren surrenders June 21. Kosovo in its entirety is brought under direct Ottoman rule.

1459: Turkey re-conquers Serbia after its few years of nominal independence.

1500: Turkish conquest of Albania complete; Roman Catholicism is soon largely eradicated.

1689-90: An Austrian army drives the Turks from Kosovo during the OttomanHabsburg War, but then quickly withdraws. An Ottoman-Tartar army invades, killing and plundering on a large-scale, leading to massive Serb migration.

1689-90: GREAT MIGRATION" (Velika Seoba). 100,000 Serbs flee Kosovo for Bosnia and other sanctuaries.

1737 (August): An Austrian recon force penetrates as far as Pristina, Kosovo's capital, but retreats in the face of advancing Turks. 3,000 allied Albanian Catholic clansmen are later killed or captured in an Ottoman ambush while fleeing through Serbia. "Second Migration" of Christians begins.

1804-13: Serbs rise up against Turks, gaining independence for six years but are again subjugated.

1815-17: Serbs revolt against Turks successfully, gaining a degree of autonomy.

1830: Under Turkish suzerainty and Russian protection, Serbia survives as an autonomous principality.

1831 (July 16: BATTLE OF LIPJUAN (third battle of Kosovo) is fought on the southern end of the Kosovo Polje plateau. An Army of 20,000 Bosnians routs the Ottomans.

1845: A large revolt in western Kosovo is crushed by the Ottomans.

1876: SERBO-TURKISH WAR. Ferocious battle at Aleksinac. Turks defeat Serbs who suffer at least 13,000 casualties in the war. War prompts massive migration on both sides.

1877-78: RUSSO-OTTOMAN WAR. Serbia becomes independent from Turkey. Serbian army invades Kosovo. Moslem Albanian guerrillas drive many Serbs from Kosovo; Serbs displace 30,000 Albanians. First major Serb-Albanian conflict.

1880s-1900s: Local, small revolts.

1881 (March-May): Albanian League of Prizren (12,000 troops) faces a 20,000-man Ottoman army. A local rebellion is crushed, signaling the last large-scale organized resistance in the province.

l886: SERB-BULGARIAN WAR. Serbia is defeated, but is saved by Austrian diplomatic intervention.

1901: Albanian bands pillage several cities and massacre Serbs.

1903: Albanians crush various Orthodox Christian uprisings with great brutality.

1910 (April) An Ottoman army of 20,000 Kurdish irregulars suppresses an Albanian tax revolt with severity. …

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