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The Battle of Kosovo and Kosovo Today— History and Memory
Boško I Bojović
On 28 june 1389 a famous battle took place at Gazimes- tan near Priština, leaving a lasting impression on the collective memory of the Serbs. The death of both
rulers on the battlefield, the fierceness of the battle, and the extent of military sacrifice on both sides left a strong im- pression not only on the contemporaries on both sides, but also on others far from the Serbian and Ottoman borders. Both slain rulers were proclaimed martyrs, indicating the religious and inter-civilizational character of the battle, as seen by its contemporaries. This is testified by numerous Serbian Church writings to the glory of Prince Lazar,1 which date from the first years after his death in the battle against the Ottomans, as well as by his canonization (proclama- tion as a holy martyr), as testified by the church service (acolouthia) written by Serbian Patriarch Danilo iii as early as 1392.2 Buried in the Priština church after the battle, the Prince’s remains were ceremonially transported to his me- morial church Ravanica on that occasion.
The Ottomans erected the turbeh to their Sultan Mu- rad on the site where he was slain, at Gazimestan, in ac- cordance with the Muslim religious rituals to the glory of a gazi (hence the name Gazimestan), a fighter who sacrifices his life for the faith, as testified by Ottoman chroniclers.3 Under these circumstances, there appeared and survived living oral and written traditions and interpretations, whose content is often very difficult to verify.4 The consequences
1 Dj. Trifunović, Srpski srednjovekovni spisi o knezu Lazaru i ko- sovskom boju, Kruševac 1968; B. Bojović, “Geneza kosovske ideje u prvim postkosovskim hagiografsko-istorijskim spisima. Ogled iz is- torije ideja srpskog srednjeg veka”, in: Kosovska bitka 1389 i njene posledice—Die Schlacht auf dem Amselfeld 1389 und ihre Folgen, Bel- grade-Düsseldorf 1991, pp. 15–28 & 215–230.
2 Dj. Radojičić, “izbor patrijarha Danila iii i kanonizacija kneza Lazara,” Glasnik Skopskog Naučnog Društva 21 (1940), p. 33–88; Ma- nastir Ravanica—Spomenica o šestoj stogodišnjici, Belgrade 1981.
3 a. Olesnicki, “Turski izvori o kosovskom boju. Pokušaj kritičke analizenjihovasadržajaiuzajamnekonsekutivneveze,”GlasnikSkop- skog naučnog društva XiV (1935), pp. 57–95; a. Šmaus, “O kosovskoj tradiciji kod arnauta,” Prilozi proučavanju narodne poezije, iii 1–2 (1936), pp. 73–90.
4 D.Korać,R.Radić,“Kosovskabitkauvizantinologiji,”in:Kosovs- ka bitka u istoriografiji (ed. S. Ćirković), Zbornik radova 11, istorijski institut, Belgrade 1990, pp. 93–100; Boj na Kosovu Starija i novija saznanja, ed. R. Mihaljčić, Belgrade 1992.
of the conflict could only enhance and prolong the effect of the event both among the contemporaries and their suc- cessors, which resulted in the fact that the interpretation of the event surpassed in importance its description.5
This is the only way to explain the scarcity of the his- torical facts relating to the course and details of the Battle of Kosovo as well as its outcome. in the absence of written records, scientific historiography has succeeded in deter- mining only the site and date of the battle, as well as the death of both rulers, which in itself is almost a unique his- toric event. The most disputable is the military outcome of the battle itself. although both oral folk tradition and later written records stress the defeat of the Serbian army, the oldest yet insufficiently explicit sources highlight a Serbian victory. This is also testified by the oldest Western reports and Serbian writings dating from the first years after the battle. if we consider them insufficiently explicit, this can- not apply to the contemporaries who knew the outcome of the battle. However, in the spirit of the times, it was more important to emphasize the martyrdom and heroic sacri- fice of Holy Prince Lazar and his knights than the inexo- rable and well-known reality. Regardless of the military outcome of the battle, Serbia had to accept the supremacy of the new Sultan Bayazid to whom Lazar’s daughter Oli- vera was given in marriage as a pledge of peace and vassal- age. Lazar’s son and successor, Stefan, was still very young for the duty of a ruler and soldier, so that the wise and so- ber Princess Milica had to acknowledge the supremacy of mighty Bayazid.6
The new young sultan had to hurry back to Brusa in order to secure the throne after the death of his father. This can explain his leaving Serbia and Kosovo which, in the spirit of the times, was regarded as a sign of his defeat, be- cause the victor would remain on the site of the battle and take possession of the occupied land.
6 Istorija srpskog naroda i (R. Mihaljčić, jovanka Kalić), Belgrade 1981, pp. 36–46, 64–74; R. Mantran (group of authors, ed. R. Man- tran), Histoire de l’Empire ottoman, Paris 1989; B. Bojović, Le millé- naire byzantin (324–1453), “ellipses,” Paris 2008, pp. 239–241.
  B. Bojović, L’idéologie monarchique dans les hagio-biographies dynastiques du Moyen-Age serbe, Roma 1995, pp. 571–603; Id., Vla- darstvo i svetost u srpskom srednjem veku, Belgrade 1999, pp. 245–272.

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