Page 358 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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The Kosovo battle can be classified among those events which, in the true sense of the word, have been fixed in people’s memories. Participants and contem-
poraries, as well as their heirs, talked about the great blood- shed. just a small part of the story, which had been told and sung, remained in written form and was preserved for fu- ture generations. That preserved part forms a long and rich tradition, composed of numerous and various genres and forms of presentation, such as echoes in contempo- rary letters, historical narratives and detailed epic poems. Taken all together, the texts represent a very important tes- timony to the Kosovo clash, to the power and duration of the tradition. But, taken in such a way, they cannot be used to establish the circumstances under which the battle took place, or to define its most important moments. among all these sources, there are those—not just a few—which were created very late, with very poor information, there are legendary ones also and additionally those in which we can recognize the color of later times experience.
Six weeks after the battle, the Venetians sent word to Murad’s heir Bayezid mentioning that “various matters, which cannot be easily believed” had been circulating about the war between his late father and Prince Lazar. From some other sources, we also get to know that, the letters and ru- mors on the Kosovo battle were not all correct and in agree- ment. These differences were even greater in testimonies written later. The Byzantine historian Laonik Halkokondil, a few decades after the battle, testified expressly that “the Greeks” i.e. Christians, had one, and the Turks—another version of the death of Murad. in the Ottoman version, Murad had been killed when he had already won the battle.
The disparity between the reports and stories was not a result of the inadequacy of technical means at the end of 14th century, but because the rumors reflected the attitudes of some of the participants, because they had conveyed only a part of what had happened, and because the major- ity of the reports, from the very beginning, were colored by partisan attitudes. in later representations, the versions from the standpoint of later experience were expressed fully, but different to those from 1389. Only after 1459, when the Serbian state had collapsed, was it possible to attach to the Kosovo battle, the importance of a vital turning point, and add the conviction of “failure of the Serbian empire.”
it was inevitable this change in the traditions of the Ko- sovo battle, as well as their transformation under the influ- ence of living circumstances and the ideas of further gen- erations, modified by their particular apprehension of val- ues. The recognition of the ideas of a later period is a nec- essary prerogative for approaching a realistic picture of the battle as a great and important event. a critical approach to the Kosovo battle must be based on a division between well informed and truthful, and less reliable and legendary sources. But critical research must not underestimate of exclude narrations from a later period, as they can throw light on the mentality of the times, in which they were cre- ated, and also because they are very important for preserv- ing a people’s consciousness of its own history.
it is natural that scholars and the general public are in- terested primarily in the concrete circumstances, in which the Serbs and Turks clashed, but it is also quite natural to preserve and interest in the changes within the tradition. it is interesting to search for the personality of a soldier who killed the Ottoman ruler Murad but it is more challenging to reveal how the views on him changed—how, from a knight at the end of 14th century, he became a mythical per- sonality of supernatural power.
a contemporary historian does not have any reason to oppose history to tradition in connection with the battle, as the study of former histories has shown him that both get equally interesting and significant tasks, which he must solve by a variety of methods and forms of research. No matter whether he has chosen one or the other way, he must pay attention to the time and circumstances in which some of the sources have been created. it is not possible to draw a clear and sharp line between the sources which speak of the event, and the sources which throw light on the event’s tradition, as it is possible that some correct contemporary detail appears in a later source and is found only there as well as it is possible that some unfounded rumor is con- nected to the first months after the battle. However, we must divide the sources of the battle from the sources of tradition, mostly to avoid the distortion which can occur under the influence of a later period. The example of Otto- man sources, made a whole century after the battle, serves as a warning; it gives the ways of fighting, types of arma- ment, and even the most important Ottoman enemies,
The Kosovo Field, june 15, 1389
Sima M Ćirković

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