First Serbian Uprising of 1804–13

First Serbian Uprising of 1804–13

 

a national liberation, antifeudal uprising of the Serbian people against Turkish military and feudal oppression. The chief motive force of the uprising was the peasantry; leadership was provided by the nascent rural commercial bourgeoisie.

The situation in Serbia was exacerbated by the intensification of the exploitation of the Serbian peasants by the Turkish landlords, as well as by the lawless rule of the Janissaries in Serbia (the pashalic of Belgrade). In January 1804, the Janissaries killed about 70 of the most popular Serbian leaders. In February 1804 a mass armed uprising led by Karageorge (Karadjordje; “Black George” Petrovic) broke out in the pashalic of Belgrade. The insurgents demanded that the peasants’ obligations be regulated, that the Janissaries be removed from Serbia, and that Serbia be granted autonomy in internal administration.

A delegation of insurgents headed by M. Nenadović was sent to Russia in 1804 and was sympathetically received in St. Petersburg. Financial assistance and diplomatic support were extended to the insurgents. A hostile position toward the uprising was adopted by France, which supported the Ottoman Empire in its struggle with Russia, and by Austria, which feared that the liberation movement of the oppressed Slavic peoples would spread to Austrian territory.

Although the government of Sultan Selim III tried at first to take advantage of the uprising’s anti-Janissary orientation (the Janissaries were opposed to Selim Ill’s reforms), it soon decided to use armed force to suppress the uprising. However, the Serbian rebels routed Turkish troops in the battles of Ivankovac (Aug. 6, 1805) and Misar (Aug. 1, 1806) and captured the fortresses of Belgrade and Ŝabac between late 1806 and early 1807. The Russo-Turkish War, which broke out in late December 1806, the military victories of the Serbs, and the protection provided by Russia made it possible for the insurgents to renounce the Treaty of Ichko and make the complete liberation of Serbia their goal. (The treaty, which had been concluded by the Serbian rebels and the Turkish government, provided for Serbian autonomy.)

In 1807 and during the period from the breaking of the Slobozia Armistice between Russia and the Ottoman Empire (August 1807-March 1809) to the end of the Russo-Turkish War, Russian troops fought many times alongside the Serbian insurgents against the common enemy (for example, in the battles of Brza Palanka and Kladovo in 1809 and at Varvarin in 1810). Included in the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1812 upon the insistence of M. I. Kutuzov, Article 8 obliged Turkey to grant internal self-government to Serbia. Article 8 was an important act of international law. Citing it and taking advantage of military and diplomatic assistance from Russia, Serbia was later able to fight for full independence. During the first Serbian uprising, Turkish officials and landlords were driven out of Serbia and the Turkish feudal system of land tenure was eliminated. The land was transferred to the Serbian peasantry, from which a rural commercial bourgeois stratum developed, assuming the dominant position in the country.

The Serbian People’s State Council was established in 1805 as the administrative body for the territories liberated from Turkish troops. While military operations were under way, supreme authority was exercised by Karageorge. The districts (nahije) were governed by local military commanders (voevodas). Major questions of domestic and foreign policy were decided by the people’s skupŝtina (assembly). Handicrafts developed to some degree in the territory liberated from Turkish rule. D. Obradović, the Serbian educational leader, founded the Higher School in Belgrade in 1808.

In 1813 the Ottoman Empire, taking advantage of Russia’s preoccupation with the war against France, attacked Serbia, defeated the Serbian troops, and restored the rule of the sultan. However, another Serbian uprising soon broke out (the second Serbian uprising of 1815).

REFERENCES

Istoriia Iugoslavii, vol. 1, ch. 22. Moscow, 1963.
Novaković, S. Vaskrs drkave srpske. Belgrade, 1914.

V. V. ZELENIN

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