Resistance against the Turks

Resistance against the Turks

Important representatives of the Croatian resistance against the Turkish penetration, that entered our national epic literature, are

  • What Jeanne d’Arc is for France, Mila Gojsalic is for Croatia. In 1543 she saved the Poljica Principality from the furious attack of 6,000 Turks. She managed to break into the Turkish camp, found the ammunition magazine next to Pasha’s tent, and sacrificing her life – blew up the entire encampment.
  • Petar Kruzic (16th century), the famous defender of the Klis fortress near Split. After the fall of Klis in 1537 Kruzic was decapitated by the Turks. His sister Jelena had to pay 100 gold coins for his head, which was buried in the Franciscan Monastery of Trsat, Rijeka. We know these details from a manuscript preserved from that time, written in the Glagolitic script. See [Fucic, Terra Incognita].
  • Mijat Tomic (17th century), legendary Herzegovinean from Duvno,
  • Vuk Mandusic (17th century), the famous defender of the Sibenik hinterland. His sabre is held in the Visovac Monastery.
  • Ilija Smiljanic (17th century), defender of the Zadar hinterland (Ravni Kotari).

All of them have been killed by the Turks.

In the vicinity of Zadar (in Ravni Kotari) there are two neighbouring villages bearing surprising names, unique in the world, which witness about extremely complex history of Croatia:

  • Islam Latinski (that is, Latin Islam!), and
  • Islam Grcki (that is, Greek Islam!).

According to the investigations of academician Veselko Karaman there are more than 300 names in the history of the Croatian literature in Bosnia – Herzegovina. The earliest known Bosnian writer in general is Matija Divkovic (1563-1631), a Bosnian Franciscan, educated in Italy. He published his books in the Croatian Cyrillic (Bosancica).

The penetration of the Ottoman Empire to Europe was stopped on Croatian soil, which could be in this sense regarded as a historical gate of European civilization. Since 1519 Croatia has been known as Antemurale Christianitatis in Western Europe. The name was given by Pope Leo X.

The Croats endured the greatest burden of this four century long war against the Turks. The most tragic fact in this war was that many islamized Croats had to fight against the Catholic Croats. It is interesting to note that the city of Zagreb and nearby Sisak despite many attempts were never occupied by the Turks, though they came as far as Vienna in 1683. Budapest for instance was in the hands of the Turks for 160 years.

It is in the 17th century that the following very condensed description of the Croatian tragedy was given by Pavao Vitezovic (1652-1713), a writer: “Reliquiae reliquiarum olim inclyti Regni Croatiae”, i.e. “Remains of remains of ancient glorious Croatian Kingdom”. Indeed, throughout its long and difficult history its territory has been reduced to the shape of a flying bird.

Gabrijel Jurkic: Prayer

Present day Croatia is profoundly related to Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is ethnically certainly the most complex state in Europe. It has three major ethnic groups: the Muslims, Serbs and Croats, very intermixed. Let us mention by the way the world-famed Medjugorje, which is in the area inhabited by Croats. During the last ten years it was visited by millions of pilgrims.
Bombed by Greater Serbian aggressors in 1992.

Gabrijel Jurkic: Madona

By the end of the 17th century some of the occupied parts of Croatia and Hungary were liberated from the Turks. The Serbs joined Austrian forces (composed mostly of Croats), hoping to get a full freedom. However, the Austrian forces were defeated near Skopje in Macedonia. The Turks managed to regain most of the lost territories, and then a very difficult period for Serbian people started. Fearing the revenge of the Turks, in 1690 Kosovian Serbs (37,000 families) left for present day Vojvodina, a very fertile region, the part of which between the rivers Sava and Danube was a Croatian territory and Hungarian to the north of the Danube. Actually, the exodus of Serbs included even Budapest. Most of the Catholic monasteries in Vojvodina became the `property’ of the Orthodox Church, whose aggressiveness made interconfessional relations very tense. The emptied territories of Kosovo were then populated by the islamized Albanians. Today the official Serbia quite unjustly claims an equal right to both Kosovo and Vojvodina.

The Gvozdansko fortress in Croatia, between the villages of Dvor (at that time called Novigrad, on Una river)
and Glina. Drawing from the 17th century.

On Jaunary 13th 1578, after three months of continuous attacks of several thousand soldiers, led by Ferhad pasha, the Turks managed to enter the fortress of Gvozdansko. To their surprise, this time they entered the fortress without any resistence from Croatian side. And upon entering, they saw an amazing scenery: all Croatian defenders (50 soldiers, and 250 peasants and miners with wives and children) were lying dead, frozen in the snow. The soldiers were with arms in their hands. Ferhad pasha was so shocked by what he saw, that he asked a Catholic priest to be found, so that currageous defenders could be burried according to their tradition. The Croatian crew refused several previous Turkish offers to leave the fortess for unoccuopied part of Croatia. They had to struggle not only aginst the Turks, but also against famine and extreme coldness. This is one of the most celebrated events in the military history of Croatia.

We know the names of four captains that led the defense of Gvozdansko:

  • Damjan Doktorović
  • Juraj Gvozdanović
  • Nikola Ožegović
  • Andrija Stipšić

More infromation:

By the 1699 peace treaty in Srijemski Karlovci, the region between the rivers Una and Vrbas was named Turkish Croatia (Turska Hrvatska, Croazia Turca). According to the decisions of the Berlin Congress in 1878 (by which the Habsburg Monarchy obtained a mandate to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina), for the first time was a settlement on the right side of the river Una called Bosnian Dubica (Bosanska Dubica), and the name of Bosnia was extended to the region between the rivers Una and Vrbas.

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