Turkish Croatia

Turkish Croatia

The territory between Una and Vrbas (former Turkish Croatia) has been ceded to the Serbian entity by the Dayton agreement in 1995. Truly a great success of Milosevic and his apprentices Karadzich and Mladich. The area itself, as well as the fertile region of Bosanska Posavina along the right bank of the Sava river (now also within the Serbian entity), had a large Muslim and Croatian majority in 1991. The region has been almost completely cleansed from the Croats and Muslims that lived there for centuries. A part of cleansing was the so-called “humanitarian exchange of population” under the auspices of the international community that was not willing to put pressure on Karadzic and Mladic. The European officials describe this as a “compensation” for the disappearance of the Serbian para-state in Croatia during the Flash and Storm operations.

The Serbs living in Bosnia came with the Turks mostly as assisting Turkish troops. It should be emphasized that these Bosnian Serbs were originally Valachies (Vlachs) from Montenegro and northern Albania. In fact they were non-slavic nomads – Protoromans and romanized Balkan Celts and Illyrians, who accepted the Serbian Orthodox faith (there were also Catholic Valachies in Croatia, croatized after 16th century). Later, under the influence of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Bosnia, they became Serbs. They had been fighting on the Turkish side until the decline of the Turkish Empire started. Their enclaves in present day Croatia follow roughly the border of the Turkish Empire in the medieval Croatia.

Completely destroyed sanctuary of Podmilacje (on the left) and a damaged church near Jajce, after Greater Serbian aggression on BiH (photos by [Cakic-Did])

These migrations led to further complications. Counting on these Serbian settlers as a military aid, the Austrian kings supplied them with privileges. This meant that parts of the Croatian territory were not completely under the Croatian jurisdiction and the Croats felt them as intruders within their state. This was the beginning of the so-called Krajina (`Military Frontier’; “Bosnian Krajina” appeared much later), whose complete and systematic ethnical cleansing from Croats and from everything reminding on their existence was finished during the Serbian aggression 1991-1995. Here we see the beginning of the drama in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Krajina region in Croatia has been liberated during the Flash and Storm operations in the summer 1995.

2nd Novi breviary, 1495

Among the most tragic events in the history of the Croats were the Turkish occupation of Bosnia in 1463, and the catastrophic defeat of Croatian defenders in the battle with the Turks on the Krbavsko polje (Krbava field in today’s Lika) in 1493. The slaughter of the Croatian nobility greatly reduced the economic power of the Croatian lands for the centuries to come. It was described in the “Second Novi Glagolitic breviary” by rev. Martinac in 1494 (see a column from this breviary on the photo). Marko Marulic wrote his famous Prayer against the Turks. An extensive collection of dozens of speeches “against the Turks” (Orationes contra Turcas) from the middle of the 15th century to the end of the 16th century can be seen in [Gligo], on 650 pp. Several of these speeches have been delivered by Croatian noblemen, writers and clergy in front of Popes, as well as in front of high dignitaries of various European states. 

These speeches are important and indelible historical fact. They do not have to have any influence on good contemporary relations between Croatian and Turkey. D.Ž.

In the 16th century the Turks started settling down Serbian population in the emptied regions previously inhabited by the Croatian Catholics. The representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church had the privilege to collect taxes from the Croatian Catholics. In this way the Serbs wanted to include the Catholics into the Orthodox Church, which was under the control of the Turks (the residence of the Serbian Patriarch was in Constantinople in present-day Turkey).

Let us mention by the way that the animosity of the Orthodox Christians against Catholics was strengthened first in Greece and then in Serbia after the Crusaders had occupied Constantinople and formed the Latin Empire (1204-1261).

Gabrijel Jurkic: Ljubljenje kriza u Bosni (Kissing the Cross)

Before the Turkish penetration in the 15th century there were 151 Catholic churches in Bosnia, about 20 Catholic monasteries, and not a single Serbian Orthodox church. Several Catholic orders were present in Bosnia: Benedictines, Paulines, and above all Franciscans. Immediately after the arrival of the Turks a large number of Serbian Orthodox churches was built up, many of them on the ruins of Catholic churches. Under the pressure of the Serbian Clergy many Croatian Catholics had to convert to the Serbian Orthodox Christian faith. And the religion was one of the decisive factors in the national affiliation of the people in Bosnia.

Catholic mass in Bosnia in the open, 1898

The border between Middle Age Bosnia and Croatia was on the river Vrbas, not on Una. The lovely town of Jajce (on river Vrbas) was in Croatia, as well the town of Bihac. The territories enclosed by three rivers – Sava, Una and Vrbas – bore the name of the Turkish Croatia in the European literature of 18th and 19th century. The name was given by the Turks, and it was accepted by Austrian, Italian, German and Dutch cartographers. It was only in 1860 that upon insistance of the Valachian part of the population the name of Turkish Croatia was abolished in favor of the new name – Bosanska Krajina (Bosnian Frontier). This name appears on maps for the first time in 1869.

TURKSICH KROATIEN, depicted with light green border in the middle of the map from 1799.
Source of the map Turska Hrvatska.

CROAZIA TURCA, depicted on a map published in Rome in 1790.
Below is the same map with more details, slightly rotated

Croatie Turc (in French), part of a map by P. Du Val from 1663:
Les confins des Chrestiens et des Trucs en Terre Ferme, C’est a dire
The whole map also shows Slavonie Turc and Dalmatie Turc, occupied by the Turks.




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