Independent Kingdom, 1204-1459 1660-1789

Serbia under Ottoman Rule, 1459-1660

Under Ottoman rule, each religious community was expected to regulate it's own affairs (the MILLET-SYSTEM); the non-Muslim communities had to pay the additional PER-CAPITA-TAX. The Sultan, however, did interfere in the communities' affairs inasfar as he influenced the appointment of high church officials such as the Patriarch of Constantinople or the chief rabbi. Also, differences between the Greek and Serbian Orthodox Church were disregarded, the Serbs placed under a Greek patriarch.
In addition, the non-Muslim communities were expected to provide the DEVSIRME or boy levy, healthy young boys which were separated from their families, raised as Muslims to loyally serve the Sultan, either in the army as JANISSARIES or in state administration, with absolute devotion and ready to commit suicide whenever ordered to.

When Serbia became part of the Ottoman Empire, many refugees settled across the Danube river in the Hungarian VOJVODINA. When Hungary was overrun in 1526, Serb refugees settled in the KRAJINA and WESTERN SLAVONIA region under Habsburg rule; the Habsburg administration welcomed these settlers as they were helpful in an effort to stabilize the frontier against the Ottoman Turks.
In these years, the Kosovo, historically the heartland of Serbia, was almost vacated by Serbs and Albanians migrated in, soon outnumbering the Serbs by number. The center of Ottoman Serbia shifted northward, to the region around BELGRADE, which had been under Hungarian rule for a long time and only fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1521, soon to become the political centre of Serbia.

Serbia, that is the region around Belgrade, was an exception on the Ottoman Balkans as the region had a homogenous Serbian Orthodox population, with small minorities of Muslims, Vlachs, Gypsies etc.; here, different from Serbia, Albania, the Kosovo and Macedonia, conversions to Islam were insignificant.
In 1459, the Serbian Orthodox Church had been placed under the Greek archbishop of Ohrid, the Serbian church thus being deprived of it's autokephalous status. This status was restored in 1557 by the Grand Vezir MEHMED SOKOLOVIC, a Bosnian by birth.
The Ottoman Empire continued to expand respectively to press for expansion, providing subjugated Serbia, as long as it was willing to accept Ottoman rule, with peace and stability.
At Belgrade, which had survived an Ottoman siege in 1456, the Turks erected KALEMEGDAN FORTRESS which served as an Ottoman stronghold until 1721 and again after 1739.

Servia, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914 edition
History of Serbia and Montenegro, from yunet
REFERENCE Fred Singleton, A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples, Cambridge University Press (1985) 1999

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 8th 2004

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