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Karađorđe Petrović
Велики вожд Карађорђе Петровић
Karađorđe Petrović, by Vladimir Borovikovsky, 1816.jpg
Karađorđe Petrović of Serbia
Grand Duke of Serbia
Reign 14 February 1804 – 21 Sept 1813
Predecessor Title created
Successor Miloš Obrenović I
President of the Administering Council
Term 22 January 1811 – 3 October 1813
Predecessor Jakov Nenadović
Successor Mladen Milovanović
Spouse Jelena Jovanović
Issue Alexander Karađorđević
House House of Karađorđević
Father Petar Jovanović[1]
Mother Marica née Živković
Born (1768-11-16)16 November 1768[citation needed]
Viševac, Ottoman Empire (now Serbia)
Died 24 July 1817(1817-07-24) (aged 48)
Radovanjski Lug, Ottoman Empire (now Serbia)
Burial St. George's Church, Serbia
Religion Serbian Orthodox
Monarchical styles of
Karađorđe Petrović, Grand Duke of Serbia
Monogram of Đorđe Petrović Karađorđe of Serbia.svg
Reference style His Grand Ducal Highness
Spoken style Your Grand Ducal Highness
Alternative style Sir

Đorđe Petrović OSA (Serbian Cyrillic: Ђорђе Петровић, Serbian pronunciation: [d͡ʑôːrd͡ʑe pětroʋit͡ɕ], Anglicized: George Petrovich), known as Karađorđe (Карађорђе, [kârad͡ʑoːrd͡ʑe], Black George[a]; 16 November 1768[citation needed] – 24 July 1817), founded modern Serbia as the elected leader of the First Serbian Uprising (part of the Serbian Revolution) that aimed at liberating 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 in Šumadija,sometimes between 4 and 17 November, but it is presumably that he was born on 16 November St George's day, by which he got his name, in part of the Sanjak of Smederevo (modern central Serbia), Đorđe began working as a servant for affluent Serbs and Turks, but after having killed an Aga (local Ottoman nobleman), his family fled across the Sava into Military Frontier, a Habsburg-controlled area. He rose to prominence in the Austrian army, participating in the liberation of the sanjak. 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. He commanded a unit and fought the Ottomans until 1794, when he returned to his family, in Military Frontier.

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 went 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 Petrović) 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.


Origin and early life[edit]

Đorđe was born sometimes between 3 November and 18 November 1768, but his birth day is presumably 16 November St George's day in Serbian Ortodox calendar, since it was custom that if child is born on day of Saint it gets that Saint name, and that saint will bring good luck[citation needed].He was born in the village of Viševac,[2] then part of the Ottoman Empire (today's Rača municipality, Šumadija District), one of the five children (with brothers Marko and Marinko, and sisters Marija and Milica) to father Petar Jovanović and mother Marica née Živković (from Masloševo, in Stragari). Karađorđe's slava was Saint Clement.[2]

Karađorđe's paternal ancestors hailed from Vasojevići (Montenegro), and had left for Serbia; on the way, they lived in Mačitevo (in Suva Reka), from where grandfather Jovan moved to Viševac, while Jovan's brother Radak moved to Mramorac.[2][3] The Vasojevići clan claimed descent from Stephen Constantine of the Nemanjić dynasty (that ruled Medieval Serbia, 1166–1371).[3] The Vasojevići were proud of Karađorđe and saw him as their sprout.[4] Serbian historiography accept the theory that Karađorđe's ancestors came from Vasojevići, although there some other unproven theories (see Karađorđević dynasty).[5]

His family was poor, their situation progressed as Karađorđe began working for affluent Serbs and Turks. He married Jelena Jovanović 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, and they didn't stay long in Serbia, as he had killed a local Ottoman Aga. He fled with his family to Military Frontier in ca 1787. Karađorđe lived and worked in the Krušedol monastery.

Physical look and personality[edit]

Vuk Karadžić wrote of Karadjordje. He said Djordje was tall, physically strong and heavy shouldered. No single man in the Serbian revolutionary army, could go against him in direct combat. The sole individual who was physically more highly considered was Stanoje Glavaš, the initial choice for the leading position in the Uprising. He rejected and Djordje took the position. He had a big nose, dark hair, his left hand was dislocated in the area of the palm, but that could not stop Djordje from shooting from his rifle with great precision. When it comes to his personality, Djordje was a harsh and strict man. It is said that he was a military and strategical genius, but was not fit for politics and administration. He liked to drink a lot, so his voice was a little high-pitched. There is also a legend that he killed his brother and father, father because he didn't want to allow the family to escape Turkish retribution, and brother because he raped a young girl, showing that he didn't forgive crimes, even committed by his family. During time of peace, he liked to work in the field, and people couldn't recognize him between ordinary men. His daughter also didn't have any privileges during his time as Leader, because he made her work. At one occasion, while working on field, he broke his medal. Beside his harsh and emotional side, he was friendly, liked to joke and could take a joke, but had his limits. And when he forgives, he forgives forever and never mention that over what he was angry. Many people phrased him at the time. Napoleon praised his military skill, Peter Petrovich Njegosh wrote abut him, comparing him to Napoleon, Wellington and Kutuzov, three greatest generals of his time,Pushkin made a song about him to his daughter and Hegel also wrote about him.

Austrian-Turkish War[edit]

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.[6] He took part in the botched attack on Belgrade, and fought in western and southern Serbia, where he gained military experience.[6] 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 1793-4, at which point Karađorđe rejoined his family, living peacefully in Topola. He began working as a livestock merchant, trading over the border with the Hapsburg monarchy.[6]

War against the Janissaries[edit]

Karađorđe's personal flag, adopted as the War flag of the Serbian Revolution. Presently kept at the Military Museum, Belgrade.

Oppression against Serbs significantly increased in the beginning of 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.[7] 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.[7] Prota Mateja and several other leaders had organized military detachments that engaged the dahis in Valjevo.[8] on 14 February 1804, 300 notables met in Orašac, Aranđelovac where Karađorđe was chosen as the undisputed leader.[7] When Prota Mateja heard of this, he urged all Serb leaders to resist the dahis and the Ottoman authorities,[8] 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.[7] After May 1804, Karađorđe was titled Supreme Voivode.[7]

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.

War against the Ottoman Empire[edit]

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).[9]

The revolutionaries achieved several victories, including in the Battle of Mišar in 1806, and the Battles of Deligrad and Belgrade in 1806. At the end of 1806 Belgrade was freed from Ottoman rule. In 1807 Šabac and Užice were also freed.

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 and his successor Mustafa IV were both deposed and killed by 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.[10] 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.[11] When the Ottoman-Russian War broke out in 1809, he was prepared to support Russia, the cooperation was, however, ineffective.[11] Karađorđe launched a successful offensive in Novi Pazar, but was subsequently defeated at Battle of Čegar.[11] In August 1809, an Ottoman army marched on Belgrade, prompting a mass exodus of people across the Danube, among them Russian agent Radofinikin.[10] Facing disaster, Karađorđe appealed to the Habsburgs and Napoleon, with no success.[10] At this point, the Serb rebels were on the defensive, their aim was to hold the territories and not make further gains.[10][11]

Black George led the revolutionaries in the second major victory at the Battle of Mišar on 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.[11] The Russian assistance gave hope for a Serb victory, however, events in Europe were in the way.[11] Russia, faced with a French invasion, wished to sign definitive peace treaty, and acted against the interest of Serbia.[11] The Serbs were never informed of the negotiations; they learned the final terms from the Ottomans.[11] This, second Russian withdrawal, came at the height of Karađorđe's personal power, and rise of Serb expectations.[11] 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.[11] The reactions in Serbia was strong, the reoccupation of fortresses and cities was of particular concern and fearful reprisals were expected.[11]

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[edit]

Monument to Black George in Orašac.

After some time, Karađorđe emigrated to Bessarabia, where he joined the Greek national liberation movement Filiki Eteria, becoming an active member.[12] The Greeks were primarily interested in using the Serbian lands as base of the Greek operations.[13] Miloš Obrenović was fully uncooperative.[12]

On 24 July 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,[12] 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[who?] have speculated that Karađorđe had no political ambitions and simply wanted to return home from exile and informed Miloš of this in advance, who however did not believe such protestations and had Karađorđe killed. The assassination marked the beginning of a "war" between the white and red rose in Serbia which did not end until the May Overthrow (Obrenović and Karađorđević) in 1903.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nickname: George Petrović was known in Serbian as Karađorđe and Crni Đorđe (Serbian Cyrillic: Црни Ђорђе, Angl.Karageorge, Black George, Turkish: Kara Yorgi), a nickname that the Ottomans gave him because of his bellicosity and commoner background, alternatively for the black suits[citation needed] that he wore and was easily recognizable by ("kara" is black in Turkish).


  1. ^ "Rodoslov". Nj.K.V. Princeza Jelisaveta Karađorđević. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Bogdan Popović, Jovan Skerlić (1932). Srpski književni glasnik, Volumes 35-36. p. 282. 
  3. ^ a b R-J. V. Vesović, 1935, "Pleme Vasojevići", Državna Štampa u Sarajevu, Sarajevo
  4. ^ Pregled, Volume 9 (in Serbian). Nova tiskara Vrček i dr. 1933. "Васојевићи нарочито радо причају о војводама Србије који су имали везе са њиховим племеном или из њега старином потичу. Говоре често о Карађорђу, зову га Карађоко и сматрају га као свој изданак." 
  5. ^ "Srpsko Nasledje". Srpsko Nasledje. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Jelavich, p. 200
  7. ^ a b c d e Jelavich, p. 196
  8. ^ a b Serbian studies, p. 137
  9. ^ http://www.douklia.net/povest/proglasenije.html[dead link]
  10. ^ a b c d Jelavich, p. 201
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k The establishment of the Balkan national states, 1804-1920, p. 34
  12. ^ a b c Jelavich, p. 207
  13. ^ Jelavich, p. 240


Born: 3 November 1768 Died: 24 July 1817
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Title created
Grand Duke 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