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The Turkish Conquest and Rule (14th - 19th Century) Having defeated the Serbian army in two crucial battles: on the banks of the river Marica in 1371 - where the forces of noblemen from Macedonia were defeated, and on Kosovo Polje (Kosovo Plain) in 1389, where the vassal troops commanded by Prince Lazar - the strongest regional ruler in Serbia at the time - suffered a catastrophic defeat. The Battle of Kosovo defined the fate of Serbia, because after it no force capable of standing up to the Turks existed. This was an unstable period marked by the rule of Prince Lazar's son - despot Stefan Lazarevic - a true European-style knight a military leader and even poet, and his cousin Djuradj Brankovic, who moved the state capital north - to the newly built fortified town of Smederevo. The Turks continued their conquest until they finally seized the entire Serbian territory in 1459 when Smederevo fell into their hands. Serbia was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for almost five centuries. The Turks persecuted the Serbian aristocracy, determined to physically exterminate the social elite. Since the Ottoman Empire was an Islamic theocratic state, Christian Serbs lived as virtual bond servants - abused, humiliated and exploited. Consequently they gradually abandoned the developed and urban centers where mining, crafts and trade was practiced and withdrew to hostile mountains living on cattle breeding and modest farming.

Devastated Monastery of  St. Archangeles near Prizrena

European powers, and Austria in particular, fought many wars against Turkey, relying on the help of the Serbs that lived under Ottoman rule. During the Austrian-Turkish War (1593-1606) in 1594 the Serbs staged an uprising in Banat - the Pannonian part of Turkey, and the sultan retaliated by burning the remains of St. Sava - the most sacred thing for all Serbs honored even by Moslems of Serbian origin. Serbs created another center of resistance in Herzegovina but when peace was signed by Turkey and Austria they abandoned to Turkish vengeance. This sequence of events became usual in the centuries that followed.

Emigration of Serbs During the Great War (1683-1690) between Turkey and the Holy Alliance - created with the sponsorship of the Pope and including Austria, Poland and Venice - these three powers incited the Serbs to rebel against the Turkish authorities, and soon uprisings and guerrilla spread throughout the western Balkans: from Montenegro and the Dalmatian coast to the Danube basin and Ancient Serbia (Macedonia, Raska, Kosovo and Metohija). However, when the Austrians started to pull out of Serbia, they invited the Serbian people to come north with them to the Austrian territories. Having to choose between Turkish vengeance and living in a Christian state, Serbs massively abandoned their homesteads and headed north lead by their patriarch Arsenije Carnojevic. Many areas in southern Balkans were de-populated in the process, and the Turks used the opportunity to Islamize Raska, Kosovo and Metohija and to a certain extent Macedonia. A process whose effects are still visible today started.

Another important episode in Serbian history took place in 1716-1718, when the Serbian ethnic territories ranging from Dalmatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to Belgrade and the Danube basin newly became the battleground for a new Austria-Turkish war launched by Prince Eugene of Savoy. The Serbs sided once again with Austria. After a peace treaty was signed in Pozarevac, Turkey lost all its possessions in the Danube basin, as well as northern Serbia and northern Bosnia, parts of Dalmatia and the Peloponnesus.

The last Austrian-Turkish war was the so called Dubica War (1788-1791), when the Austrians newly urged the Christians in Bosnia to rebel. No wars were fought afterwards until the 20th century that marked the fall of both mighty empires.


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