Russian-Serbian Relations, 19th and 20th Century

Extracted from the Soviet Military Encyclopedia, c. 1985
Author - Kh. M. Ibragimbeili.
(Translated to English, 1998, Mark Conrad)

SERBIAN UPRISING OF 1804-13 AND 1815 - a national-liberation anti-feudal uprising of the Serb people against the Ottoman yoke. It was caused by a sharp increase in social and national oppression. The main active force of the revolt was the peasantry, with direction provided by the newly arisen bourgeoisie (merchants, prosperous village elite, and others).

The First Serb Uprising
Began in January of 1804 in the Belgrade Pashalyk (province) and was directed at first against the janissaries who remained in Serbia after the destruction of the janissary corps and had there established their power. The cause of the revolt was janissaries' slaughter of the the knezy - the representatives of communal self-administration - ("the chopping of the knezy"), during which 70 influential Serbs were killed. Prince George Petrovich, called the Black (Karageorgii), headed the uprising. The rebels formed their own army, which by March of 1804 numbered 28,000 men, and demanded that the Turkish goverment withdraw the janissaries, put feudal dues in order, and grant autonomy to all of Serbia. By the summer of 1804 the revolt had taken over most of Serbia. The rebels' attempt to obtain Austrian support was unsuccessful, and in September, 1804, they sent a deputation to St. Petersburg, where they were promised financial aid and diplomatic support. Sultan Selim II sent forces to suppress the uprising, but they were beaten by the rebels led by the voevod M. Stoikovich in a battle at Ivankovats on 6 August, 1805. In Jan.-Mar. 1806 the rebels liberated a number of towns and erected a strong fortification at Deligrad near the southern border of the Belgrad pashalyk, later using this as support in repulsing Turkish attacks. In April and August of 1806 the rebels defeated Turkish forces at Chuchugi (near Valev) and near Shabats.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812, which began in December of 1806, had a great effect on the course of the national liberation struggle of the Serb people. From the end of 1806 to early 1807 Serb rebels captured the last Turkish fortresses on Serb territory - Belgrade and Shabats. Thanks to the successes of Russian arms and Russian aid the Serb rebels were able to renounce the so-called "Ichko Peace" which they had concluded with the Turkish government in the summer of 1806 (P. Ichko was the Serb negotiator sent to Istambul), and which planned for an autonomous Serbia. Instead they were able to push forward a program for its full independence. In 1809-12 at battles at Brz-Palanka, Kladovo (1809), Yasikaja on Varvara Field, Loznitsaja (1810), and others, the rebels along with Russian forces achieved victory over a common enemy. A large role in this was played by the military and diplomatic skill of the commander-in-chief of the Army of Moldavia, M. I. Kutuzov. At his insistence the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1812 included Article 8 granting Serbia internal self-government. However, after Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 the situation changed sharply. Turkey sent three armies into Serbia which destroyed the rebel forces and re-established the sultan's power and the Turkish feudal land ownership which had disappeared during the course of the rebellion.

The Second Serb Uprising -
In fact, a continuation of the first revolt. It began on 11 April, 1815, in Belgrade Pashalyk. The voevod Milosh Obrenovich was chosen to lead the rebellion. On 14 July, 1815, near Dubel on the Drina River the rebels won a significant victory over Turkish forces. The sultan sent troops from Rumelia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Albania against the insurgents. Obrenovich was forced to begin negotiations for a truce, and the Turkish government entered into an armistice. The diplomatic support of Russia played a decisive role in this through its demand that Article 8 of the 1812 Bucharest Treaty be carried out. The Turkish government recognized Obrenovich as the chief knez of Serbia, regularized the amount of taxes due to Turkish landowners (spahis) by Serb peasants, and granted the Serbs themselves the right to collect the obligations. In Belgrade a People's Chancellery was created - the highest administrative and judicial institution, in which the district (nakhi) knezy had the right to take part.

The historic significance of the Serb uprisings is that they created the conditions for the Serb people's subsequent struggle for Serbian internal autonomy, which was achieved in the 1830s with the creation of the Principality of Serbia out of the Belgrade Pashalyk. During the rebellions the Serb insurgent militias generally used partisan methods of fighting, skilfully taking advantage of the forested mountain terrain. An important factor in their successes was the military, material, and diplomatic support of Russia. In writing about Russia's liberating role in the destinies of the Serbs and other Balkan peoples, F. Engels noted: "When the Serb revolution erupted in 1804, Russia immediately took the insurgent 'raija' under its protection, supported them in two wars, and in two treaties guaranteed the independence of their country in regard to internal affairs." (K. Marx, F. Engels, "Works", 2nd ed., Vol. 9, pg. 32.) - Kh. M. Ibragimbeili.

SERB-MONTENEGRAN-TURKISH WARS OF 1876-78 - between Serbia and Montenegro on one side and the Ottoman Empire on the other, during a period of increased national-liberation struggles of the Balkan peoples, concurrent with the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.

In the beginning of the 1870s there was a significant spread in the European regions of the Ottoman Empire of the national-liberation struggle against the Turkish yoke. The Bosnia-Herzegovina Uprising of 1875-78 and the April Revolt of 1876 in Bulgaria were the culmination of this movement and directly touched off the Near Eastern crisis of 1875-78. Unsatisfied by the sultan's decrees of 1875-76 in regard to "equal rights of Muslims and Christians", which in fact did not free the Bosnians, Montenegrans, and other Balkan peoples from the knout of Turkish feudalism, Serbia and Montenegro went to the aid of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 18 July, 1876, they declared war on Turkey even though they were not ready in any economic, political, or military sense, and their militia-based armies were poorly armed. Serbia and Montenegro counted on the military support of Russia, which could not openly came out against Turkey since it was bound by the Austro-Hungarian Reichstadt Treaty of 1876, which promised non-interference by either side in a Serb-Montenegran-Turkish war. Nonetheless Russia gave financial aid and sent to Montenegro volunteers and several trains with supplies (over a million pounds), artillery, and rifles. In addition, Russian societies organized collected some four million roubles and donated it to the Serbs and Montenegrans through Slavic philanthropic committees.

On 28 July, 1876, the Montenegran army defeated the Turks in battle at Vuchee Dole (Herzegovina), and on 14 August, with the help of the local population, it won a great victory over a 40-thousand strong Turkish army at Fundina (southeast Montenegro). But the Serbian army, even though reinforced by Bulgarian volunteers, suffered defeat. In order to help Serbia, the Russian government transferred an additional one million roubles and fomred a Russian-Bulgarian volunteer division (over 3000 men). By the beginning of September, 1876, the number of Russian volunteers in the Serbian army reached 5000. on 28 September, 1876, a 20,000-strong Serbian army along with Russian-Bulgarian volunteers launched an offensive in the valley of the Morava River. However, on 29 October, 1876, they were defeated by a 100,000-man Turkish army at the Battle of Dyunishe (Dzhunise). Only a Russian ultimatum to Turkey on 31 October (12 November western calendar), 1876, saved Serbia and Montenegro from total collapse. An six-month armistice was concluded between the warring sides.

On 28 February, 1877, Serbia concluded peace. Montenegro refused to sign the treaty with Turkey and with the start of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 renewed military operations. In May of 1877 a 45,000-man army under Suleiman Pasha invaded Montenegro from the north, east, and south. After terrible battles from 2 to 11 June ("the nine bloody days"), the Turkish army broke into the Zeta River valley, threatening to capture the Montenegran capital - Cetine. The advance of the Russian Danube Army into the Balkans forced the Turks to transfer Suleiman Pasha's army to Bulgaria, which allowed the Montenegrans to go over to the counteroffensive and liberate a significant number of the towns on the Adriatic coast.

On 1 December, 1877, Serbia again entered the war against Turkey and soon freed a number of cities. By drawing upon themselves part of the Turkish forces, the Serbian and Montenegran troops, along with a Russian column under General I. V. Gurko, were participants in the victorious conclusion of the war. Military operations between Montenegro and Serbia on one side and Turkey on the other were halted by the start of Russian-Turkish negotiations. By the San Stefano Treaty of 19 February (3 March), 1878, Serbia and Montenegro received full independence and significantly increased their territory. The Serb-Montenegran-Turkish War initiated Russo-Serb-Montenegran military friendship and the building of a regular army in Serbia and Montenegro. These wars saw the same development of the military art as was seen in the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish War (skirmish lines, troop-made entrenchments, and others).

Created: Saturday, March 21, 1998, 15:37 Last Updated: Saturday, March 21, 1998, 15:37