The Battle of Kossovo, 1389

Anne Kindersley describes ‘a triumph of Good over Evil’; for Serbs it was a physical defeat against the Ottoman Turks, but a moral victory.

In the early morning of St Vitus’ Day, June 15th, 1389, the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Murad I defeated the Serbian ruler Prince Lazar and his Bosnian allies at Kossovo Field, a high rolling plateau some sixty miles north of Skopje. This battle, once celebrated in Western Europe, is nowadays scarcely remembered. The domination of the Balkans by the Turk is usually linked with the fall of Constantinople in 1453, a time when the Imperial City had already been isolated from most of her European neighbours for fifty years or more.

But in South-East Europe, especially among Serb and Montenegrins1, Kossovo Field is still considered to be a turning-point in history. It is famous in three ways: as a great battle fought with exceptional heroism, as the moment of crisis when the Ottoman Turks overran Serbia and condemned her to centuries of repressive rule, and lastly as a symbol of enduring nationalism, which found its popular expression in epic poetry, and was eventually to inspire the Serbs to break free from Turkish control.

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