Serbia: Turkish Rule

Turkish Rule

Serbia became a Turkish province, with its pashas residing at Belgrade. Turkish rule in Serbia was more oppressive than in most Turkish provinces. The Serbian nobility was annihilated and its lands distributed to the Turkish military aristocracy, while the Christian peasants (rayas) were treated like virtual slaves. Although the Serbs were forbidden to possess weapons, frequent insurrections erupted. No attempt was made to curb Christianity; but the Serbian Church was placed in the hands of unpopular Greek Phanariots (see under Phanar). Many Serbs fled to Hungary and Austria to help those countries fight the sultans. Turkish reverses in 17th- and 18th-century wars against Austria and Russia revived Serbian hopes for independence.

The liberation struggle began in 1804, when Karageorge (“Black George,” Serbian Karadjordje) led a rebellion that eventually freed the pashalik (province) of Belgrade from the Turks. Russia, also at war with Turkey, then formed an alliance with Serbia. The Treaty of Bucharest (1812) forced Turkish recognition of Serbian autonomy, but Russian preoccupation with Napoleon's invasion allowed the Turks to renew their tyranny in Serbia. A revolt flared in 1815 under Miloš Obrenović, who in 1817 procured the assassination of his rival Karageorge and became prince of Serbia. Turkey proved unable to challenge his power. In 1829, Russia forced the Treaty of Adrianople upon the sultan, who had to grant Serbian autonomy under Russian protection and to recognize Miloš as hereditary prince. Except for garrisons in Belgrade and other fortresses, the Turks evacuated Serbia.

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