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This page is about the Battle of Kosovo of 1389; for other battles, see Battle of Kosovo ; for the movie depicting the battle, see Boj na Kosovu


The Battle of Kosovo was a battle fought in 1389 on St Vitus' Day, June 15, between Serb, Bosnian, and the Ottoman Empire, in the Kosovo Fieldmarker, about 5 kilometers northwest of modern-day Pristinamarker.

Reliable historical accounts of the battle are scarce. However a critical comparison with historically contemporaneous battles (such as the Battle of Angora or Nikopolismarker) enables reliable reconstruction.

The Battle of Kosovo is particularly notable to Serbian concepts of history, heritage, tradition and national identity. The Battle of Kosovo also has an important role in Albanian epic poetry.

Preparations

Army movement

After the defeat of the Ottomans at the Battle of Bileca and the Battle of Plocnik, Murad I, the reigning Ottoman sultan, moved his troops from Philippoupolis (Plovdivmarker, in present-day Bulgariamarker) in the spring of 1389 to Ihtimanmarker. From there, the party traveled across Velbužd (Kyustendilmarker) and Kratovomarker (present-day Macedoniamarker). Though longer than the alternate route through Sofiamarker and the Nišava Valleymarker, the route taken led the Ottoman party to Kosovomarker, an area that was strategically important and one of the most important crossroads in the Balkans: from Kosovo, Murad's party could attack the lands of either Lazar of Serbia or Vuk Branković. Having stayed in Kratovo for a time, Murad and his troops marched through Kumanovomarker, Preševomarker and Gnjilanemarker to Prištinamarker, where he arrived on June 14.

While there is less information about Lazar's preparations, he gathered his troops near Nišmarker, on the right bank of Južna Moravamarker. His party likely remained there until he learned that Murad had moved to Velbužd. Thus, he also moved across Prokupljemarker to Kosovo. This was Lazar's optimal choice for the battlefield as it meant having control of all the possible routes that Murad could take.

Army composition

Murad's army numbered from 27,000 to 40,000 fighters. Amongst the 40,000 included 2,000 to 5,000 Janissaries, 2,500 of Murad's cavalry guard, 6,000 sipahis, 20,000 azaps and akincis and 8,000 of his vassals.

Lazar's army numbered from 12,000 to 30,000. Out of the 25,000 fighters, 15,000 were under Lazar's command, with 5,000 under Vuk Branković, a Serbian nobleman from Kosovomarker, and just as many under Bosnian noble Vlatko Vuković. Several thousand were cavalry. As for combatants with full plated armor, it consisted of several hundred.

The Turkish army was aided by the Serbian noble Konstantin Dejanović.

The battle

Troop disposition

Kosovo Field with probable troop disposition before the battle
The armies met at Kosovo Fieldmarker. The Ottoman army was headed by Murad, with his son Bayezid on his right, and his son Yakub on his left. Around 1,000 archers were in the front line in the wings, backed up by azap and akinci; in the front center were janissaries, behind whom was Murad, surrounded by his cavalry guard; finally, the supply train at the rear was guarded by a small number of troops.

The Serbian army had Prince Lazar at its center, Vuk on the right and Vlatko on the left. At the front of the Serbian army was placed the heavy cavalry and archer cavalry on the flanks, with the infantry to the rear. While parallel, the dispositions of the armies were not symmetrical, as the Serbian center had a broader front than the Ottoman center.

Start

The battle commenced with Ottoman archers shooting at Serbian cavalry, who then made for the attack. After positioning in a V-shaped formation, the Serbian cavalry managed to break through the Ottoman left wing, but were not as successful against the center and the right wing.

Turkish counterattack

The Serbs had the initial advantage after their first charge, which significantly damaged the Turkish wing commanded by Yakub Celebi.[24168] When the knights' charge was finished, light Ottoman cavalry and light infantry counter-attacked and the Serbian heavy armour became a disadvantage. In the center, Serbian fighters managed to push back Ottoman forces with only Bayezid's wing holding off the forces commanded by Vlatko Vukovic. The Ottomans, in a ferocious counter-attack led by Bayezid, pushed the Serbian forces back and then prevailed later in the day.

It is said that Vuk Branković, one of the great lords, to whom was entrusted one wing of the Serbian army, had long been jealous of his sovereign. Some historians state that he had arranged with Sultan Murat I to betray his master, in return for the promise of the imperial crown of Serbia, subject to the Sultan's overlordship. At a critical moment in the battle, Vuk Branković turned his horse and fled from the field, followed by 12,000 of his troops. Bayezid I, who would become the Ottoman sultan after the battle, gained his nickname "the thunderbolt" here, after leading the decisive counter-attack.

Murad's death

Based on Turkish historical records, it is believed that Sultan Murad I was killed by Miloš Obilić the day after the battle, who killed Murad while he walked on the battlefield after the fighting had finished, on June 29, 1389.

Bulgarian, Greek and Serbian sources allege that he was killed by the Serbian knight Obilić during the battle, when Obilić went to the Ottoman camp into the tent of the Sultan in an appearing desertion; however, his intention was to kill the Sultan and he succeeded, stabbing him in the neck and heart. Obilić was killed by the Sultan's bodyguards immediately or afterwards while fleeing on horseback.
According to the earliest preserved record, a letter from the Florentinemarker senate to the King Tvrtko I of Bosnia, dated 20 October 1389, Murad was killed during the battle. The killer is not named, but it was one of 12 Serbian noblemen who managed to break through the Ottoman lines:

Murad was the only Ottoman sultan who died in battle. Murad's son, Bayezid, was informed of the Sultan's death before his older brother Yakub. Bayezid sent Yakub a message, stating that their father had some new orders for them. When Yakub arrived, he was strangled to death, his demise leaving Bayezid as the sole heir to the throne.

Aftermath

The battle of Kosovo was an important victory for the Ottomans. While losses were substantial (with both armies being virtually destroyed) on both sides and both sides lost their leaders, the Ottomans were able to easily field another army of equal or greater size, whereas Serbia could not. Heavy losses suffered by Serbia resulted in its reduction to a vassal state with Serbian nobles paying tribute and supplying soldiers to the Ottomans.[24169] The battle did, however, stop the Ottoman advance into Europe (temporarily) and slowed down their invasion of Serbia. Furthermore, in response to Turkish pressure, some Serbian noblemen wed their daughters, including the daughter of Prince Lazar, to Bayezid. In the wake of these marriages, Stefan Lazarević became a loyal ally of Bayezid, going on to contribute significant forces to many of Bayezid's future military engagements including the Battle of Nicopolismarker which marked the last large-scale Crusade in the Middle Ages. Eventually, the Serbian Despotate would, on numerous occasions, attempt to defeat the Ottomans in conjunction with the Hungarians until its final defeat in 1459 and again in 1540.

The Battle of Kosovo came to be seen as a symbol of Serbian patriotism and desire for independence in the 19th century rise of nationalism under Ottoman rule, and its significance for Serbian nationalism returned to prominence during the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo War when Slobodan Milošević invoked it during an important speech.

References

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