History of Bosnia and Herzegovina
from the origins to 1992

Mr. Thierry Domin
First published in
SFOR Informer#118, July 25, 2001

Chapter 2
From the millennium to the Battle of Kosovo Polje

The golden age of Kulin Ban
In 925, Tomislav, the first Croatian King unified Pannonia (inland plain) and Dalmatia (coastal) Croatia. After the death of its last King, Petar Svacic, in 1102, Croatia became a vassal state of Hungary. The state of Bosnia began to take shape in the 10th century, and at that time extended from the Drina River to the Adriatic Sea. Byzantium, Hungary and the neighbouring states of Croatia and Serbia each tried to take Bosnian territory in order to expand Catholicism and Christian Orthodoxy, thereby challenging the socio-legal position of Bosnia from its origins in the medieval period.
In 1130, Bosnia emerged as an independent state under the leadership of Kulin, Ban (king) of Bosnia. The kingdom of Bosnia was established under the dominion of King Stephan Nemanja, king of Serbia. It was a small kingdom in comparison with kingdoms such as England or France. The most powerful empires in the area at the time were the Hungarian Empire, the Holy Roman Germanic Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Ban Kulin ruled until 1204; his reign was characterised by peace and even today is referred to as a time of peace within Bosnia. It was the so-called “golden age of Kulin Ban". Bosnia was developing as an independent and internationally recognized country. Ban Kulin has a street bearing his name, running alongside the Miljacka River, in Sarajevo.
The Bogomilism
During this reign, a Bulgarian Christian sect known as Bogomilism (from Bulgarian language: 'Bog', i.e. God, and 'Mil', i.e. friend) began to attract followers in Bosnia, as Bosnian principalities adopted Bogomilism in order to offset the strong influences of its Catholic and Orthodox neighbours. Bogomilism was eradicated in Bulgaria and Byzantium in the 13th century, but thrived in Bosnia until the Ottoman Empire gained control of the region in 1463. Both Catholics and Orthodox persecuted the Bogomils as heretics. The early pressures by its Catholic and Orthodox neighbours drew Bosnia to Bogomilism. Later, with the introduction of Ottoman rule, Bosnians were often more susceptible for conversion to Islam since they were not friends of either the Roman Catholic or Serb Orthodox churches, and also to continue to avoid the Catholic/Orthodox trap set by their regional neighbours.
During the 12th century, the Bosnian State was established on the parliamentary principle. In 1353, Stephen Tvrtko became king at the age of 15 when his uncle, Stephen Kotromanic, died while fighting a territorial war with Stephen Dusan of Serbia. On his crowning in 1377, Bosnia became a kingdom, and during his rule (1353-1391) Bosnia reached its maximum size, stretching from the Sava River to the islands of Korcula and Hvar. Subsequently, Bosnia was ruled by the Kotromanjic dynasty. When Ban Tvrtko captured the monastery of St. Sava, he declared himself to be the king of Bosnia, the Serbs and the Croats. But, wisely, he never tried to apply that authority to Serbia properly.
On June 28, 1389, St. Vitus' (or Vidovdan) Day, King Lazar of Serbia met the invading Ottoman Turk armies at Kosovo Polje (Plain of the Blackbirds) in Kosovo. Even though he was able to unite the bickering factions of Serbia, the Serbs were defeated. The Sultan of the Ottomans was killed in this battle, as was King Lazar when he was captured. The sultan's son became the new sultan and promptly killed his brothers, so that no one could compete with him for control. King Lazar was buried on the Field of Blackbirds in Kosovo.
It is very difficult to determine the facts of the famous 1389 battle in Kosovo Polje. There are not reliable historical sources chronicling the events of the battle. Large portions of the surviving knowledge of the battle have been enshrined in a series of epic poems that have formed the Serb legend. However, many of these were written centuries after the fact, and are not historically objective.
Contrary to the widespread Serbian legend about this battle, thousands of Albanian knights and soldiers fought beside their Serbian brothers in arms against the Ottoman Empire and many of them died on behalf of the Serbian cause. Many Serbs continue to glorify the defeated and martyred king as a national hero, and the battlefield is still regarded as a monument. In fact, Kosovo Polje was just one of the several battles as the Ottomans expanded their Empire. At the time of the battle of Kosovo Polje the Ottoman Empire already occupied many of the territories that are parts of Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sixty-four years after the battle, in 1453, Constantinople fell.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6