Attacks on Serbs during the Serbian–Ottoman War (1876–1878)

The events of persecution against the Serbian population occurred in Ottoman Kosovo in 1878, as a consequence of the Serbian–Ottoman War (1876–78).[1] Incoming Albanian refugees to Kosovo who were expelled by the Serb army from the Sanjak of Niš were involved in revenge attacks and hostile to the local Serb population.[2][3][4] Albanian troops also participated in attacks, at the behest of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.[1]


During the Serbian–Ottoman War of 1876–78, between 30,000 and 70,000 Muslims, mostly Albanians, were expelled by the Serb army from the Sanjak of Niš and fled to the Kosovo Vilayet.[5][6][7][8][4] Within the context of the Serbian–Ottoman War, the Sultan Abdul Hamid II unleashed his auxiliary troops consisting of Kosovar Albanians on the remaining Serbs before and after the Ottoman army's retreat in 1878.[9] Tensions in the form of revenge attacks arose by incoming Albanian refugees on local Kosovo Serbs that contributed to the beginnings of the ongoing Serbian-Albanian conflict in coming decades.[2][3][4]

On January 19, 1878, 40 Albanian deserters retreating from the Ottoman army broke into the house of elder Taško, a serf, in the Bujanovac region, tied up the males and raped his two daughters and two daughters-in-law.[10] The Albanian deserters were dispersed, drunk, and were intercepted first at Lukarce, where 6 of them were beaten to death. They killed all of them.[10]


Ottoman defeat to Serbia alongside new geopolitical circumstances post 1878 opposed by Albanian nationalists resulted in anti-Christian attitudes among them that eventually supported what today is known as "ethnic cleansing" that made part of the Kosovo Serb population to leave.[11]

Prior to the Balkan wars (1912–13), Kosovo Serb community leader Janjićije Popović stated that the wars of 1876–1878 "tripled" the hatred of Turks and Albanians, especially that of the refugee population from the Sanjak of Niš toward Serbs by committing acts of violence against them.[4]


  1. ^ a b Lampe, 2000, p. 55.
  2. ^ a b Frantz, Eva Anne (2009). "Violence and its Impact on Loyalty and Identity Formation in Late Ottoman Kosovo: Muslims and Christians in a Period of Reform and Transformation". Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. 29 (4): 460–461. doi:10.1080/13602000903411366. "In consequence of the Russian-Ottoman war, a violent expulsion of nearly the entire Muslim, predominantly Albanian-speaking, population was carried out in the sanjak of Niš and Toplica during the winter of 1877-1878 by the Serbian troops. This was one major factor encouraging further violence, but also contributing greatly to the formation of the League of Prizren. The league was created in an opposing reaction to the Treaty of San Stefano and the Congress of Berlin and is generally regarded as the beginning of the Albanian national movement. The displaced persons (Alb. muhaxhirë, Turk. muhacir, Serb. muhadžir) took refuge predominantly in the eastern parts of Kosovo. The Austro-Hungarian consul Jelinek reported in April of 1878.... The account shows that these displaced persons (muhaxhirë) were highly hostile to the local Slav population.... Violent acts of Muslims against Christians, in the first place against Orthodox but also against Catholics, accelerated. This can he explained by the fears of the Muslim population in Kosovo that were stimulated by expulsions of large Muslim population groups in other parts of the Balkans in consequence of the wars in the nineteenth century in which the Ottoman Empire was defeated and new Balkan states were founded. The latter pursued a policy of ethnic homogenisation expelling large Muslim population groups."; p. 467. "Clewing (as well as Müller) sees the expulsions of 1877 – 1878 as a crucial reason for the culmination of the interethnic relations in Kosovo and 1878 as the epoch year in the Albanian-Serbian conflict history."
  3. ^ a b Müller, Dietmar (2009). "Orientalism and Nation: Jews and Muslims as Alterity in Southeastern Europe in the Age of Nation-States, 1878–1941". East Central Europe. 36 (1): 63–99. doi:10.1163/187633009x411485. "For Serbia the war of 1878, where the Serbians fought side by side with Russian and Romanian troops against the Ottoman Empire, and the Berlin Congress were of central importance, as in the Romanian case. The beginning of a new quality of the Serbian-Albanian history of conflict was marked by the expulsion of Albanian Muslims from Niš Sandžak which was part and parcel of the fighting (Clewing 2000 : 45ff.; Jagodić 1998 ; Pllana 1985). Driving out the Albanians from the annexed territory, now called "New Serbia," was a result of collaboration between regular troops and guerrilla forces, and it was done in a manner which can be characterized as ethnic cleansing, since the victims were not only the combatants, but also virtually any civilian regardless of their attitude towards the Serbians (Müller 2005b). The majority of the refugees settled in neighboring Kosovo where they shed their bitter feelings on the local Serbs and ousted some of them from merchant positions, thereby enlarging the area of Serbian-Albanian conflict and intensifying it."
  4. ^ a b c d Stefanović, Djordje (2005). "Seeing the Albanians through Serbian eyes: The Inventors of the Tradition of Intolerance and their Critics, 1804–1939". European History Quarterly. 35 (3): 469. doi:10.1177/0265691405054219. hdl:2440/124622. "In 1878, following a series of Christian uprisings against the Ottoman Empire, the Russo-Turkish War, and the Berlin Congress, Serbia gained complete independence, as well as new territories in the Toplica and Kosanica regions adjacent to Kosovo. These two regions had a sizable Albanian population which the Serbian government decided to deport."; p.470. "The ‘cleansing’ of Toplica and Kosanica would have long-term negative effects on Serbian-Albanian relations. The Albanians expelled from these regions moved over the new border to Kosovo, where the Ottoman authorities forced the Serb population out of the border region and settled the refugees there. Janjićije Popović, a Kosovo Serb community leader in the period prior to the Balkan Wars, noted that after the 1876–8 wars, the hatred of the Turks and Albanians towards the Serbs ‘tripled’. A number of Albanian refugees from Toplica region, radicalized by their experience, engaged in retaliatory violence against the Serbian minority in Kosovo... The 1878 cleansing was a turning point because it was the first gross and large-scale injustice committed by Serbian forces against the Albanians. From that point onward, both ethnic groups had recent experiences of massive victimization that could be used to justify ‘revenge’ attacks. Furthermore, Muslim Albanians had every reason to resist the incorporation into the Serbian state."
  5. ^ Pllana, Emin (1985). "Les raisons de la manière de l'exode des refugies albanais du territoire du sandjak de Nish a Kosove (1878–1878) [The reasons for the manner of the exodus of Albanian refugees from the territory of the Sanjak of Niš to Kosovo (1878–1878)]". Studia Albanica. 1: 189–190.
  6. ^ Rizaj, Skënder (1981). "Nënte Dokumente angleze mbi Lidhjen Shqiptare të Prizrenit (1878–1880) [Nine English documents about the League of Prizren (1878–1880)]". Gjurmine Albanologjike (Seria e Shkencave Historike). 10: 198.
  7. ^ Şimşir, Bilal N, (1968). Rumeli’den Türk göçleri. Emigrations turques des Balkans [Turkish emigrations from the Balkans]. Vol I. Belgeler-Documents. p. 737.
  8. ^ Elsie, Robert (2010). Historical Dictionary of Kosovo. Scarecrow Press. p. XXXII. ISBN 9780333666128.
  9. ^ Lampe 2000, p. 55"Before and after the army's withdrawal, the new Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, unleashed Kosovar Albanian auxiliaries on the remaining Serbs."
  10. ^ a b Institut za savremenu istoriju 2007, p. 86
  11. ^ Little 2007, p. 125"In time the Albanian nationalists became more overtly anti-Christian, eventually advocating something what today would be called "ethnic cleansing," an alarming movement that encouraged many Serbs to leave Kosovo."