Serbia Despotia (1389 – 1459)

The consequences of Kosovo were disastrous. However, it was still possible to avert the complete enslavement to Turkey, thanks to the skilled policy of Queen Milica, widow of Lazarus, who maneuvered so as to make the Serbs appear sympathetic and natural allies of the Turks against the Christians. The vassalage was accepted, tributes were paid, troops were supplied, fortresses were handed over; the youngest daughter of the fallen king, Oliviera, went to shut herself up in the sultanial harem of Brussa. Under these conditions the framework of the state could be maintained. Lazarus was succeeded by Stefano Lazarević who fought valiantly on the side of the Turks, a first time in 1394 against the Romanian prince Giovanni Mircea, a second time in 1396 in Nicopolis, deciding with his intervention the defeat of the crusaders of Sigismund of Luxembourg, a third in 1398 against Bosnia, a fourth in 1402 in Angora against Tamerlane. Angora, in which Sultan Bāyazīd I was defeated, marks a halt in Turkish expansion. Stefano was ready to take advantage of this to restore Serbia’s independence. Returning, after the route, to Italian galleys, and passing through Constantinople, he stopped at the court of Giovanni Paleologo from whom he had the title of despot which he then always carried and passed on to his successors. He oriented his policy towards Hungary, declaring himself a vassal, and obtained Macsó with Belgrade, where he fixed his residence. He skilfully exploited the Turkish dynastic struggles by throwing himself now from one to the other side and always deriving some advantage, at least moral. He helped Sigismund against the Bosnians and had Srebrnica in 1412. In 1421, after the end of the Balsa of Montenegro, it had the Zeta. At one time in bitter struggle with the Brankovići family, descendants of King Lazarus through his mother, he made peace with them, appointing Giorgio as his successor in 1426. Under George (1427-1456) the definitive collapse begins. Belgrade returns to Hungary as the price of George’s recognition as a despot. The Turkish offensive resumes, making Serbia a double vassal state: Hungary and Turkey. Squeezed between these two powers, in constant war, the country is every moment trampled by enemy armies, the fortresses occupied and ruined, the population suspected, the vacillating policy of the despot accused of treacherous duplicity. The fortunes rose a little in 1442, when the troops of George, in union with those of Giovanni Hunyádi, under the aegis of the papacy, they move victorious against the infidels up to Sofia, but the Christian defeat of Varna (1444) aggravates the situation more and more. Giorgio is now more inclined to the Turks than to the Magyars. His troops collaborate with the infidels in the capture of Constantinople. Turco-loving currents are also emerging among the nobility and the people. All sense of nationality, race and religion is lost. There remain only the miseries and tribulations of the people and the relentless struggles between nobles and rulers, always greedy for power and obsessed with the frenzy to overwhelm themselves. Giorgio Branković died in 1456. Unrealizable plans for the merger of the despotia with Bosnia were dreamed of. However, the Turkish pacifist current prevails, which in 1459 handed over Semendria, the last Serbian stronghold, to the forces of Mohammed II.

Serbia Despotia (1389 - 1459)