Đorđe Petrović – Karađorđe

Karađorđe, by Vladimir Borovikovsky, 1816
Grand Vožd of Serbia
Reign 15 February 1804 – 21 September 1813
Predecessor Title created
Successor Miloš Obrenović I
President of the Administering Council
Reign 22 January 1811 – 3 October 1813
Predecessor Jakov Nenadović
Successor Mladen Milovanović
Born (1762-11-16)16 November 1762
Viševac, Ottoman Empire (now Serbia)
Died 24 July 1817(1817-07-24) (aged 54)
Radovanjski Lug, Ottoman Empire (now Serbia)
Burial St. George's Church
Spouse Jelena Jovanović
Issue Alexander Karađorđević
House Karađorđević
Father Petar Jovanović
Mother Marica née Živković
Religion Eastern Orthodox Christian (Serbian Church)

Đorđe Petrović OSA (Serbian Cyrillic: Ђорђе Петровић, Serbian pronunciation: [d͡ʑôːrd͡ʑe pětroʋit͡ɕ], Anglicized: George Petrovich; known as Karađorđe (Serbian Cyrillic: Карађорђе, [kârad͡ʑoːrd͡ʑe]), Black George (Serbian: Црни Ђорђе / Crni Đorđe) [a]; 16 November 1762 – 24 July 1817), founded modern Serbia as the elected leader of the First Serbian Uprising (part of the Serbian Revolution) that aimed at separating Serbia from the Ottoman Empire (1804–1813); he personally led armies against the Ottomans in several battles, which resulted in a short-lived state which he would administer as Grand Leader (Veliki Vožd) from 14 February 1804 to 21 September 1813, alongside the newly founded People's Assembly and the Governing Council, simulating a wholly functional state government in war-time.

Born into a poor family who were pig farmers[1] in Šumadija, at the time part of the Sanjak of Smederevo (modern central Serbia), Đorđe began working as a servant for affluent Serbs and Turks, but after having killed a local Ottoman aga (lord), his family fled across the Sava into the Military Frontier, a Habsburg-controlled area. He rose to prominence in the Austrian army, participating in Koča's frontier rebellion. He received a medal of honour for his efforts, and when the Austrian army was forced to retreat, and the Ottomans re-occupied Šumadija, he joined the hajduks (brigands, rebels). He commanded a unit and fought the Ottomans until 1794, when he returned to his family.

In the following years the local janissaries grew stronger and seized the sanjak from the Sultan, imposing greater taxes and perpetrating violence against the population; as the janissaries feared the Sultan's retaliation as a possible task given to the Serbs, they executed hundreds of prominent Serbs in what would be known as the Slaughter of the Dukes (1804). Some 300 nobility assembled and elected Karađorđe as leader; by the end of the year the janissaries were defeated, and the Sultan praised the Serbs. However, when the pasha arrived in Serbia to take over the governance, he was killed. The struggle continued as a wide-scale revolt, the First Serbian Uprising, in which several battles were successfully fought against the Ottomans; a government was established, and Karađorđe abolished feudalism.

After the suppression of activities in 1813, Karađorđe and other leaders escaped into exile, while in 1815, Miloš Obrenović, a fellow rebel leader, initiated the Second Serbian Uprising. The second uprising ended in 1817, when Obrenović signed a treaty with the Ottomans and became the Prince of Serbia. Obrenović (who saw a threat in the possible return of popular Karađorđe) and the Ottomans (who despised him and feared more fighting) conspired and planned the assassination of Karađorđe. When Karađorđe returned in 1817 to start yet another uprising, he was deceived by a friend and killed; his head was sent to Constantinople and Obrenović retained his leadership.

Karađorđe founded the House of Karađorđević, the Serbian royal family, which would later gain the Serbian crown after the deposing of the rival House of Obrenović.

Styles of
Karađorđe Petrović, Grand Vožd of Serbia
Reference style His Highness
Spoken style Your Highness
Alternative style Sir


Đorđe Petrović was born on November 3 [O.S. November 16] 1762 in the village of Viševac,[2] then part of the Ottoman Empire (today's Rača municipality, Šumadija District), one of five children (alongside brothers Marko and Marinko, and sisters Marija and Milica) to father Petar (or Petronije) Jovanović and mother Marica née Živković (from Masloševo, in Stragari). Karađorđe's slava was Saint Clement.[2] The family claimed descent from the Vasojevići tribe (in Montenegro) and had emigrated in the late 1730s or early 1740s.[3] His grandfather's family had lived in Mačitevo (in Suva Reka), from where grandfather Jovan moved to Viševac, while Jovan's brother Radak moved to Mramorac.[2]

Early life

His family was poor, their situation progressed as Karađorđe began working for affluent Serbs and Turks. He and his father worked for a Fazlibaša, an Albanian who had enriched himself from robbing merchants, and who had bought a big house in Smederevska Palanka. There, Karađorđe came into conflict with some local Turks; Fazlibaša protected Karađorđe and punished these Turks. His family then moved to Zagorica, where he married Jelena Jovanović, from Masloševo, in 1785. Jelena is thought to have come from a wealthy background, thus her family didn't accept his marriage proposal. Karađorđe took her and married her without the parents' consent. In Zagorica, he was angered by the violent behaviour of a Turk, whom he then killed, after which he hid at Fazlibaša's house until some time when he could return home. However, he did not have peace at home as people started talking about his murder, thus Karađorđe saw crossing the Sava river, into Syrmia, in the Austrian-held Military Frontier, as the only chance of saving his family. What happens next is a matter of debate.[4] The family left the home in secrecy, though on the way his father felt regret and wished to turn back, which would risk the family's survival; for this, Karađorđe cold-heartedly killed him, and continued into Syrmia, arriving in ca. 1787.

Karađorđe then lived and worked in the Krušedol monastery.

Austrian-Turkish War

At the end of the Austro-Turkish War, 1787, amid Koča's frontier revolt, Karađorđe enrolled in the Freikorps of the Austrian Army, fighting against the Turks.[5] He took part in the botched attack on Belgrade, and fought in western and southern Serbia, where he gained military experience.[5] In the mid-1791, peace was concluded, and Karađorđe received a medal of honour. He then joined the Hajduks, where he led a large band. The decline of Hajduks came in 1793-94, at which point Karađorđe rejoined his family, living peacefully in Topola. He began working as a livestock merchant, trading over the border with the Habsburg monarchy.[5]

War against the Janissaries

Black George.

Oppression against Serbs significantly increased in the beginning of the 19th century when janissary leaders, the dahis, rebelled against the Sultan and seized the rule of the Sanjak of Smederevo. It culminated in January and February 1804, when dahis prepared executions of popular leaders, gentry, priests, former rebels and wealthy traders, dubbed the Slaughter of the Dukes, in which some 150 of the most notable Serbs were killed.[6] Karađorđe, among few other notable people who would later initiate the Serb Uprising, survived the assassinations.

As a response to the executions, the Serbian population without a central figure took measures of self-defence, and spontaneously attacked the jannisaries.[6] Prota Mateja and several other leaders had organized military detachments that engaged the dahis in Valjevo.[7] on 14 February 1804, 300 notables met in Orašac, Aranđelovac where Karađorđe was chosen as the undisputed leader.[6] When Prota Mateja heard of this, he urged all Serb leaders to resist the dahis and the Ottoman authorities,[7] Mateja was appointed deputy-commander of Valjevo, and later acted as diplomat to Russia, Austria, Bucharest and Constantinople. By the spring of 1804, Karađorđe had 30,000 combat-ready men under his wing.[6] After May 1804, Karađorđe was titled Supreme Voivode.[6]

The Serbians managed to quickly organize a widespread revolt, under the pretext of liberation from the dahis, Karađorđe was successful in this, he terminated feudalism in the liberated areas of Serbia and installed his military commanders and local leaders as governors of nahis (administrative units), the dahis who refused to leave were captured and executed after the Serbian liberation of Belgrade.

First Serbian Uprising

Small and Great Seal of Grand Vožd Black George.

In March 1805, Karađorđe was officially appointed Military leader of Serbia, the self-proclaimed Vožd (old Serbian for vođa, "leader"). The Ottoman government welcomed the rebellion against the dahis and decided to install a new governor in Belgrade. Karađorđe, after tasting the fruits of liberty, decided not to let the new pasha enter the liberated area and defeated his army in the Battle of Ivankovac of 1805. This battle signified a turn of events, since the uprising was not a rebellion against the dahi terror anymore, but a war of liberation against the Ottoman rule. Karađorđe founded the Narodna Skupština (People's Assembly) and Praviteljstvujušči Sovjet (Governing Council) whose decree was drafted by writer and jurist Teodor Filipović (a.k.a. Božidar Grujović).

"Therefore, dear Serb brothers...now when it's only up to us, take an example from those peoples who foster unity and order, for they have become mighty and prosperous; offer advises to each other, as the priests do, when they teach their flock: teach them the words of Christ, the ones which say: As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. Not so much by words, but by your deeds... by doing so, the end of our quest will bring out the old glory of Serbia to show, who we indeed are: the children of our glorious and brave ancestors"

The Proclamation of Karađorđe in liberated Belgrade (1809).

The revolutionaries liberated territories after achieving several victories, at Mišar, at Deligrad and at Belgrade, in 1806; and at Šabac and at Užice in 1807. In 1806-1807 a Serbian envoy to the Ottoman government in Constantinople, Peter Ichko, managed to obtain a favourable Ichko's Peace. However, Karađorđe disavowed the agreement and aligned with the Russian Empire in a war against the Ottoman Empire.

Revolutionary Serbia, 1809 and 1813.

In 1808, Selim III was killed by Mustafa IV his successor became Mahmud II. In midst of this political crisis, the Ottomans were willing to offer the Serbs a wide autonomy, however, the discussions led to no agreement between the two, as they couldn't agree on the exact boundaries of Serbia.[8] Karađorđe now declared himself hereditary supreme leader of Serbia, although he agreed to act in cooperation with the governing council, which was to also be the supreme court.[9] When the Ottoman-Russian War broke out in 1809, he was prepared to support Russia, the cooperation was, however, ineffective.[9] Karađorđe launched a successful offensive in Novi Pazar, but was subsequently defeated at Battle of Čegar.[9] In August 1809, an Ottoman army marched on Belgrade, prompting a mass exodus of people across the Danube, among them Russian agent Radofinikin.[8] Facing disaster, Karađorđe appealed to the Habsburgs and Napoleon, with no success.[8] At this point, the Serb rebels were on the defensive, their aim was to hold the territories and not make further gains.[8][9]

Black George led the revolutionaries in the second major victory at the Battle of Mišar in 1806.

In July 1810, Russian troops arrived in Serbia for the second time, this time some military cooperation followed; weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies were sent, and Marshal M. I. Kutuzov, the great commander, participated in the planning of joint actions.[9] The Russian assistance gave hope for a Serb victory, however, events in Europe were in the way.[9] Russia, faced with a French invasion, wished to sign definitive peace treaty, and acted against the interest of Serbia.[9] The Serbs were never informed of the negotiations; they learned the final terms from the Ottomans.[9] This, second Russian withdrawal, came at the height of Karađorđe's personal power, and rise of Serb expectations.[9] The negotiations that led to the Treaty of Bucharest (1812), had Article 8, dealing with the Serbs; It was agreed that Serb fortifications were to be destroyed, unless of value to the Ottomans, pre-1804 Ottoman installations were to be reoccupied and garrisoned by Ottoman troops, in return the Porte promised general amnesty and certain autonomous rights; The Serbs were to control "the administration of their own affairs" and the collection and delivery of a fixed tribute.[9] The reactions in Serbia was strong, the reoccupation of fortresses and cities was of particular concern and fearful reprisals were expected.[9]

In 1812, threatened by Napoleon's French Empire, Russia had to quickly sign a peace treaty with the Ottomans. In 1813, the Ottoman Empire launched a big assault on Serbia taking land all up to the rivers Morava and the river Drina, and Karađorđe, along with other rebel leaders, fled to the Austrian Empire on 21 September 1813.

Exile, death and aftermath

Assassination of Karađorđe, 1863 painting.

After some time, Karađorđe emigrated to Bessarabia, where he joined the Greek national liberation movement Filiki Eteria, becoming an active member.[10] The Greeks were primarily interested in using the Serbian lands as base of the Greek operations.[11] Miloš Obrenović was fully uncooperative.[8]

On July 24, 1817, days after he secretly crossed into Serbia to try to spearhead a new uprising, Karađorđe was assassinated in Radovanjski Lug by the men of Miloš Obrenović,[10] Vujica Vulićević and Nikola Novaković. This happened on the orders of the Ottomans, who feared the possibility of a new uprising, while Miloš feared competition by the enormously popular Karađorđe. Some historians have speculated that Karađorđe had no political ambitions and simply wanted to return home from exile, and informed Obrenović of this in advance, however, Obrenović did not believe him and had him killed. The assassination marked the beginning of the ObrenovićKarađorđević feud, that ended in 1903.


Vuk Karadžić, a contemporary, wrote about Karađorđe, and said that he was tall, physically strong and heavy shouldered. He was an unusual man. He would sit sometimes for days, not talking to anybody, and biting his fingernails. When somebody would want to talk to him, he would turn his head away and would not say a word. When he would drink a little he would become more talkative. He was tall man, wide shoulders, with big nose Not a single man in the Serbian revolutionary army could go against him in direct combat; only Stanoje Glavaš, the initial choice of Grand Leader, was considered physically stronger. He had a big nose, dark hair, and his left hand was dislocated at the palm, though it did not stop him from shooting his rifle with great precision, He would jump from a horse, because he liked to fight as infantryman.

It is alleged that he killed his own brother and father. His brother allegedly raped a young girl; Karađorđe, seeing this as unforgivable, killed him. He liked order and discipline. He would let things go on their way, until it would not go any further.Than his justice would be harsh and terrible. Hiding behind his name, his only brother allowed himself many things, and Đorđe went on with this for a long. But when his brother raped some girl, and her cousins complained loudly that because of those things rebellion started on the first place against the Turks, Karadjorjde became so mad, that he hanged his only brother on his house door. He than forbid his mother to cry... His father allegedly held the family back at the time of Austrian retreat, unconcerned by possibly Ottoman retribution against the family, so Karađorđe killed him. During time of peace, he worked the field, as common folk, and once broke his medal. He did not give his daughter any privileges during his term as Grand Leader, making her work as everybody else.

Besides his harsh and emotional side, he was friendly, liked to joke and could take a joke, but it had a limit. He was praised by Napoleon for his military skill, and Petar Petrović-Njegoš wrote about him, comparing him to Napoleon, Wellington and Kutuzov, three of the greatest generals of his time. Pushkin made a song about him to his daughter and Hegel also wrote about him.

Russian tsar awarded him the Order of St. Anna.


Karađorđe, regarded a national founder of Serbia,[12] has been given honorifics such as Father of the Nation,[13] Father of the Fatherland,[14] Father of Serbia (by Njegoš[15]), etc.

He is included in the Serbian Academy's The 100 most prominent Serbs-list.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Karađorđe Petrović.


  1. ^ His nickname was Kara-Đorđe or Crni Đorđe (Црни Ђорђе), meaning "Black George" (kara, "black" in Turkish), due to his "dark complexion and violent nature".[31]


  1. http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/sudetic-blood.html
  2. 1 2 3 Bogdan Popović, Jovan Skerlić (1932). Srpski književni glasnik, Volumes 35-36. p. 282.
  3. Király & Rothenberg 1982, p. 23.
  4. http://www.novosti.rs/dodatni_sadrzaj/clanci.119.html:276202-Bekstvo-iz-Srbije. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. 1 2 3 Jelavich 1983, p. 200
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Jelavich 1983, p. 196
  7. 1 2 North American Society for Serbian Studies 1995, p. 137
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Jelavich 1983, p. 201
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Charles Jelavich; Barbara Jelavich (1977). The Establishment of the Balkan National States: 1804-1920. University of Washington Press. pp. 34–. ISBN 978-0-295-80360-9.
  10. 1 2 Jelavich 1983, p. 207
  11. Jelavich 1983, p. 240
  12. Yugoslavia. Narodna skupština (1936). Stenografske beleške Narodne skupštine Kraljevine Jugoslavije. p. 1284. Караћорће бити оснивач Србије
  13. http://www.telegraf.rs/vesti/1167226-velika-mrlja-u-istoriji-srbije-dan-kad-je-ubijen-otac-nacije-vozd-karadjordje-video. otac nacije Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. Durde Jelenić (1923). Nova Srbija i Jugoslavija, 1788-1921. p. 56. ОТАЦ ОТАЏБИНЕ - КАРАЂОРЂЕ ПЕТРОВИЋ
  15. Vasilije Krestić (2004). Great Serbia: truth, misconceptions, abuses : papers presented at the International Scientific Meeting held in the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts Belgrade, October 24-26, 2002. SANU. pp. 236, 250. ISBN 978-86-7025-377-3. In fact, the work is dedicated to the ashes of the Father of Serbia, that is, to Karadjordje, whom he compares with the greatest men of the 19th century. Throughout the work, Njegos asks the Serbs to live up to the model set by the heroes of ...
  16. Poem: The Beginning of the Revolt against the Dahijas (English version)
  17. Karađorđe at the Internet Movie Database
  18. Karađorđe on YouTube Silent Film
  19. "Restauriran najstariji srpski igrani film" (in Serbian). Rts.rs. 26 November 2011. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  20. "Razvoj filma i kinematografije u Srbiji". Netsrbija.net. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  21. The Song from Kumbara on IMDB
  22. The Song from Kumbara Film
  23. Swarm on IMDB
  24. Swarm Film
  25. Karađorđeva smrt at the Internet Movie Database
  26. Death of Black George on YouTube TV Film
  27. Vuk Karadzic at the Internet Movie Database
  28. Vuk Karadzic on YouTube TV Seria
  29. Na tragu Karađorđa at the Internet Movie Database
  30. Na tragu Karađorđa on YouTube Documentary series
  31. Morison 2012, p. xviii.


History books
Born: November 1768 Died: 24 July 1817
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Title created
Grand Vožd of Serbia
14 February 1804 – 21 September 1813
Succeeded by
Miloš Obrenović I
as Prince of Serbia
Political offices
Preceded by
Jakov Nenadović
President of the Administering Council
22 January 1811 – 3 October 1813
Succeeded by
Mladen Milovanović
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