Second Serbian Uprising

The Second Serbian Uprising was the second phase of the Serbian Revolution against the Ottoman Empire, which erupted shortly after the re-annexation of the country to the Ottoman Empire in 1813. The occupation was enforced following the defeat of the First Serbian Uprising (1804–1813), during which Serbia existed as a de facto independent state for over a decade. The Second Uprising ultimately resulted in Serbian semi-independence from the Ottoman Empire. The Principality of Serbia was established, governed by its own parliament, constitution and royal dynasty. De jure independence, however, was attained in 1878, following the decisions of the Congress of Berlin.

The First Serbian Uprising liberated the country for a significant time (1804–1813) from Ottoman Empire; for the first time in three centuries, Serbs governed themselves without the supremacy of the Ottoman Empire or Habsburg Austria. After the failure of the First Serbian Uprising 1813, most commanders escaped to the Habsburg Monarchy, including Karadjordje Petrovic, leader of the First Serbian Uprising. Only a few commanders remained in Serbia trying to protect the local people and share their destiny.

Milos Obrenovic surrendered to the Ottoman Turks and received the title of “obor-knez” (“senior leader”). Stanoje Glavas also surrendered, but the Turks killed him after they became suspicious of him. Hadzi Prodan Gligorijevic knew the Turks would arrest him and started a rebellion in 1814, but Obrenovic felt the time was not right for a new uprising and did not provide assistance.

Hadzi Prodan’s revolt soon failed and he fled to Austria. After the failure of this revolt, the Ottomans inflicted more persecution against the Serbs, such as high taxation, forced labour, and rape. In March 1815, Serbs had several meetings and decided upon a new revolt.

The national council proclaimed open revolt against the Ottoman Empire in Takovo on 23 April 1815. Milos Obrenovic was chosen as the leader and famously spoke, “Here I am, here you are. War to the Turks!” When the Ottomans discovered the new revolt they sentenced all of its leaders to death. The Serbs fought in battles at Rudnik, Ljubic, Palez, Valjevo, Cacak, Karanovac, Pozarevac, Kragujevac, Jagodina, and Dublje and drove the Ottomans out of the pashalik of Belgrade.

After the battle at Dublje in July 1815, the clashes ended. Wider European events now helped the Serbian cause. Political and diplomatic means in negotiations between the Serbs and the Ottoman Porte, instead of further war coincided with the political rules within the framework of Metternich’s Europe. The final defeat of Napoleon in 1815 raised Turkish fears that Russia might again intervene in the Balkans. To avoid this, the sultan agreed to make Serbia a vassal state, semi-independent but nominally responsible to the Porte

In mid-1815, the first negotiations began between Milos Obrenovic and Marashli Ali Pasha, the Ottoman governor. The result was the acknowledgment of a Serbian Principality by the Ottoman Empire. Although a vassal state of the Porte (yearly tax tribute), it was, in most respects, an independent state. In 1816, the Ottoman Porte signed several documents for the normalization of relations between Serbs and Turks. The result was the acknowledgment of the Principality of Serbia by the Ottoman Empire. Milos Obrenovic received the title of Prince of Serbia.

By 1817, Obrenovic succeeded in forcing Marashli Ali Pasha to negotiate an unwritten agreement, thus ending the Second Serbian Uprising.

The same year, Karadjordje, the leader of the First Uprising (and Obrenovic’s rival for the throne) returned to Serbia. To confirm his hard-won loyalty to the Porte, Milos Obrenovic, an astute politician and able diplomat, ordered the assassination of Karadjordje Petrovic.

During the intermezzo period (“virtual autonomy” – the negotiation process between Belgrade and Constantinople 1817–1830) Prince Milos Obrenovic I secured a gradual but effective reduction of Turkish power and Serbian institutions inevitably filled the vacuum. Despite opposition from the Porte, Milos created the Serbian army, transferred properties to the young Serbian bourgeoisie and passed the “homestead laws” which protected peasants from usurers and bankruptcies. The new school curriculum and the re-establishment of the Serbian Orthodox Church reflected the Serbian national interest.

The Akkerman Convention (1828), the Treaty of Adrianople (1829) and finally, the Hatt-i Sharif (1830), formally recognized the Principality of Serbia as a vassal state with Milos Obrenovic I as its hereditary Prince.

Principality of Serbia

After the end of the Second Serbian Uprising, Prince Milos Obrenovic decided to create and strengthen Serbian statehood through diplomatic methods and gradual taking over state powers from the Ottoman Empire. The period from 1815 to 1830 was marked by the establishment of autonomous Serbian authorities in villages, districts and nahijas, whose powers gradually grew. But it was also characteristic for the absolutism of Prince Milos, who practically took over the Ottoman methods of government, established its own feudal system and monopolies on trade from which he gained immense personal wealth. The Treaty of Edirne (1829) obliged the Ottomans to allow Serbia to annex six nahijas that were conquered during the First Serbian Uprising.

Serbia transitioned from an Ottoman province to a vassal principality by the 1830 Hatt-i Sharif, which had great importance for its future. Serbia was granted the freedom of religion, including the right to elect a Serb instead of the Greeks to be the Metropolitan in Belgrade, so in 1831 Melentije Pavlovic was elected the Belgrade Metropolitan.

Resistance to Milos’ absolutism increased among the people, which would lead to several revolts, and after Mileta’s rebellion, to the adoption of the short-lived Sretenje Constitution of 1835, the first Serbian constitution. The final restriction of Milos’ authority would be achieved through the Turkish Constitution of 1838, after which Prince Milos abdicated. The capital of the Principality of Serbia during that period was Kragujevac.

After Prince Milos, his elder son Milan, who was in poor health, formally took over power and soon died without signing any documents as the Prince of Serbia.

The first reign of Prince Mihailo Obrenovic

After the death of Milos’ elder son Milan, his younger son Mihailo came to power. Three-years later, the change of dynasty ensued, and in 1842 Karadjordje’s son Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic came to the Princely throne. The capital was transferred to Belgrade.

The reign of Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic

The period of the reign of Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic (1842-1858) is known as the period of the government of the Defenders of the Constitution, because the real power was vested in the members of the State Council, which actually comprised one oligarchic body. Their name, the Defenders of the Constitution, was derived from their commitment to strict adherence to the Turkish Constitution. This period represented the period of development of Serbia, because the Defenders of the Constitution used their wide powers to pass numerous laws, build the first industrial plants and establish institutions of importance to the young state. Serbia got its bureaucratic organization, and initiated the policy of sending young and promising students to famous foreign universities.

Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic assisted the Serbs in Vojvodina in their struggle for autonomy during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, by sending a troop of volunteers from Serbia, under the command of Stevan Knicanin.

After the Crimean War, which ended with the Treaty of Paris, two commissions were established regarding the Danube region. Serbia participated in one of them, in the Coastal Danube Commission, since 1857. It was the first time that Serbia, as a vassal principality, had participated in the work of an international commission. The status of Serbia after the Treaty of Paris was placed under the “joint guarantee of all the contracting powers”: Russia, Austria, France, the United Kingdom, Sardinia and Prussia. Any military mediation in Serbia without the consent of all the parties was then banned.

The second reign of Prince Milos

The period of the Defenders of the Constitution ended with a conflict between the Prince and the Council, which unexpectedly resulted in the return to the throne of Prince Milos and his short-lived second rule. After his death, in 1860, Prince Mihailo came to the throne for the second time.

The second reign of Prince Mihailo Obrenovic

The period of Prince Mihailo’s reign was marked with great progress in terms of Serbia’s full independence.

At the beginning of his second reign, significant changes were made to Serbia’s domestic policy, and the current Turkish Constitution was abolished, with changes in a series of fundamental laws without the Porte’s consent. A completely different legal order was established, which showed Serbia’s actual independence in the domestic sphere. More laws were passed at the Transfiguration Assembly in 1861 in Kragujevac.

Prince Mihailo developed his great work in the field of domestic and foreign policy, with the motto: “Law is the supreme will in Serbia”.

On the feast of Pentecost, 23 May 1865, Prince Mihailo awarded a memorial medal to all the soldiers of the Milos’ Uprising who lived to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the restored freedom, cast from Prince Milos’ first cannon, and named the Order of the Cross of Takovo. The central celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Uprising was organized in Topcider.

Through persistent politics, Prince Mihailo managed to obtain the withdrawal of the Ottoman garrisons from Serbian cities in 1867, the last fortified cities being: Belgrade, Smederevo, Kladovo, Sabac, Uzice and Soko. The “handing over the keys to the cities” event was preceded by a confrontation with the Turks in 1862 and the bombing of the Belgrade by the Ottoman troops from the Kalemegdan fortress garrison.

Prince Mihailo also laid the foundations for the future Serbian army. There were also plans to form a larger anti-Turkish coalition (with Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro) and the final expulsion of Turkey from the Balkans.

The personal regime of the Prince, which could be called enlightened absolutism (because the Prince had put efforts into modernization and reform in Serbia), had created resistance in certain liberal circles in Serbia, which eventually took extreme steps in removing the Prince from power. Under circumstances that have not yet been clarified, Prince Mihailo was assassinated on 29 May 1868 in Kosutnjak. Since he left no legal heirs, the grandson of Milos’ brother Jevrem, Milan Obrenovic, was elected the new Prince of Serbia