The Battle of Kosovo
Compiled by: Syed Muhammad Bokreta
*Date: The 15th of June 1389
*Place: Pristina, Kosovo
*Main historic Figure: Sultan Murad I.
It is worth recalling that the land of Kosovo passed between Serbian, Bulgarian and Byzantine control with the victory of Stephan Nemanja over the Byzantines in 1168, it became a part of Serbia. Stephen Dushan (ruled 1331-1355) aimed to craft an empire that would rival even exceed the Byzantines. Dushan was crowned Emperor of the Serbs on Easter Sunday, 16 April 1346, in Skopje. Serbian, Greek, and Albanian nobles attended, and chroniclers contrasted the grandeur of the event with the impoverishment of the Byzantines.
Meanwhile to the southeast, the Ottoman Empire had begun its remarkable expansion. Sultan Murad I (1360-1389), son of Orkhan, was only the third Ottoman Sultan. His plan for conquering the Balkans included proceeding from Edirne up the Maritsa River to Sofia thence past the watershed between the Martisa and Nitsava, on to Nis at the fork in road from Belgrade to Salonica. From there he would capture Skopie (Uskup), along the east-west road from Istanbul to Albanian coast.
The main powers at the time were Serbia, the Bulgars, the Albanian and Dalmatian coastal states, mainly under various types of Latin and Italian domination, and Hungary, which ruled south to Bosnia.
Indeed, in 1361, Sultan Murad I conquered Adrianople (Edirne), and went on to Philipoli (Plovdiv) on the upper Maritsa in 1363. By capturing the Maritsa valley, he isolated the Bulgarians and Serbians from the Byzantines, cut off a major Byzantine source of taxes and wheat, and forced them to conclude a treaty with him in 1363. Serbia, Bosnia, and Hungary united against Sultan Murad I and fought him near Edirne; Stanford Shaw gives 1364 as the date for this battle; most others give Sept. 26, 1371. Although there may well have been several separate engagements, it appears that both Shaw and the others are referring to what the Ottomans remember as the "The defeat of the Serbs" Sirp Sindigi.
As such and in parallel to the above great Victory, also, are two well-remembered Victories of the Ottomans that took place on the plains of Kosovo, not far from Pristina; the first, in 1389, which is our subject and is well remembered by the Serbs as marking the end of hopes for an independent, lavish Serbian Empire. The second Battle of Kosovo, in 1448, and was the last stepping stone on the way to Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and its domination of south-eastern Europe until the twentieth century.
The final military struggle, the clash at Kosovo in 1389, was a conflict of Empires, economic systems, Religions and hopes. Bulgaria was subdued first and then in 1339, Sultan Murad I (or Amurath in Latin) marched against Knez Lazar, ruler of Serbia and in great haste Lazar had to summon his noblemen to hurry with their retinues to Kosovo to meet the Ottoman army. Though Knez Lazar called all his vassals, and wished to delay the battle, hoping more reinforcements would arrive, but on July 15 (28), 1389 the Ottoman Turks surprised the Serbs with an unexpected attack. (The date discrepancy is due to the acceptance of the Gregorian calendar by the Serbs later than Europe).
The Serbs led an army of Bulgarians, Bosnians, Skepitars of Albania, with men from Hungary, Walachia and Poland. It appeared that in the beginning, the Ottoman Turks with an array of their vassals were losing. In truth, history knows little or nothing of the facts. It appears that the battle was one of courage rather than tactics. "It was not a fight to the bitter end." Before the battle started, it was lost, for the Serbs fearing treachery, lost courage. "Victory is never won by those who feel they are going to lose."
All the legends agree in suggesting that the Issue of the battle was determined by treason. A certain Vuk Brankovitch who led his forces over to the Ottoman Army at the crucial moment. However, the treachery of Vuk Brankovic is not a proven historical fact, “Treachery is always the excuse of the vanquished, for it assuages the bitterness of defeat."
Beyond excuses and legend, both leaders, Knez Lazar and Sultan Murad I were killed during the battle. We know nothing historically of how either leader died. It is said that Murad I was killed by a false deserter, and that dying he had Knez Lazar brought before him and beheaded. However, that is only legend. At the reports of Murad’s death the western world thought that Serbia had won, but his death did not affect the course of the battle except that it considerably increased the courage and the bravery of Bayazid, Murads ‘son who took control of the battle and led the Ottoman troops to an overwhelming Victory.
This led to the battle's major political importance, for Bayazid, Murad's heir, and Stephan Lazarovitch of the Serbs, they finally came to a peace-treaty in which terms agreed that instead of being incorporated In the Ottoman Empire, Serbia was to be an autonomous state under vassalage to the Ottoman Empire and it is known that this liberal peace came from the marriage of Stephan's sister Oliva to Bayazid.
For the battle of Kosovo, one of the most decisive moments in the long Glory and Great Achievements of the Ottoman Empire, quickly became the subject of deep sorrow and ever lasting mourning legend for the Serb People ,as Poets, Bards or Minstrels of Serbia were touched to their poetic souls, and wrote the legend of Kosovo, The legends or poems are probably the most important effect, political or cultural that the battle at Kosovo Polje had and the six hundred years old myth about the battle of Kosovo is still actively present in Serbian society it is said that according to an early twentieth century Historian who reported that the Montenegrins still wear round their caps a black border in mourning for Kosovo.
The Serbs practiced an annual pilgrimage to Lazar's grave, and sing of the “heroism” and “sacrifice” of those who fought at Kosovo. No wonder why such hatred, grudge and hostilities expressed in recent conflicts against Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995), in Kosovo (1998-2000) and in Macedonia (2000-2002) Such pagan feelings can easily be explained as a replay of Serb’s historic old animosities towards Muslims that are deeply rooted in the battle of Kosovo that took place a certain day of the 15th of June 1389.