Krvna Osveta (Serbian: Крвна освета, Blood feud) is a law of vendetta in Montenegro and Herzegovina, practised by Montenegrins, Serbs, Bosniaks and Albanian families throughout history since medieval times. It is an oath of revenge for vendetta, meaning that the person must take revenge on whoever killed his relative by killing the murderer or one of the murderer's close relatives.
The practice started in the Balkans in the 15th century, under Turkish rule and the law decreased in the 19th century, when the Balkan countries slowly got their independence from the Ottoman Empire. In pre-Ottoman Serbian principalities, blood money (Vražda) was paid, one half went to the Serbian Orthodox Church, while the other to the victim's family. Stefan Uroš (1240—1272) talks about the Vražda in his works. After Ottoman conquest of Serbia, self-governing clans often feuded with each other. Families in Serbia abandoned the tradition as the bigger threats to family integrity was ethnic Albanians and Turks rather than of their own ethnic group.
When a family member has been killed, the perpetrator's family(Bratstva) has a "Blood debt" (krvni dug) which can only be removed when the victim's family (an appointed member, osvetnik) has had their revenge by killing the aggressor or any member of the murderer's family (Often a close male kinsman, preferably the brother, killing of children was not encouraged). Only then has the family of the victim received peace (However, the blood feud continues if a relative decides to revenge, disregardless of who started). However, killing in your own house is the worst action, representing unmorality, which is a great shame in Montenegrin and Albanian cultures. If a criminal was murdered, it often did not result in a feud as criminality was negative in the eyes of society, but in some cases the criminal's family went on to kill serdars and other high ranked people.
- In Montenegro, the feuds were predominantly between Montenegrins and ethnic Albanians.
- In Herzegovina (currently a region of both Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina) Serbs had feuds with each other. A neutral region was Grahovo and Vučja Zuba (triangle of Boka Kotorska, Montenegro and Herzegovina) where one could not blood feud.
- In Old Serbia (Kosovo, Macedonia) If a Serb had a weak family, he could be protected by an Albanian bratstva from other Albanians in exchange for anything from weapons or folk attire material (Serbs had rich textile art in the southern Serbian regions)
The Osveta is not limited to males, females that have their husbands or relatives killed could take on the blood debt, an instance is recorded from the Bjelopavlići clan, where a widow took out revenge for the murder of her husband.
If a bratstva finds and captures a thief or murderer (in connection to the bratstva) they could go to the person's house or relatives and tell them that their relative is a murderer or thief and end with something like "If we kill him, we are not to be held for" If the relatives answers "Do what you like with him" -the bratstva, if they kill the captive, they don't have a blood debt to his relatives because they settled his fate.
The blood feuds resulted in major instability in Montenegro, Kosovo and diaspora of Montenegrins in later centuries. Today cases have been found in Montenegro, mainly involving Montenegrins and in Kosovo, mainly involving Albanian families (Hakmarrja).
- Zora Latinovic, Krvna Osveta, 2005
- Blood Revenge: The Enactment and Management of Conflict in Montenegro and Other Tribal Societies at Google Books
- Gjakmarrja or "Besa", the Albanian law of vendetta.