Kumanovo Uprising

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Kumanovo Uprising
Part of Ottoman–Serbian Wars, Serb struggle for Macedonia
Date January 20 — May 20, 1878 (4 months)
Location districts (kaza) of Kumanovo, Kriva Palanka and Kratovo, in Kosovo Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Result Ottoman victory
Local Serbian-oriented rebels  Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
  • Pop Dimitrije
  • Pop Paunović
  • Veljan Cvetković
Ottoman Empire Hafuz Pasha
Casualties and losses
150 POW

The Kumanovo Uprising (Serbian: Кумановски устанак/Kumanovski ustanak[a]) was an uprising in early 1878 organized by an assembly of chiefs of the districts (Ottoman kaza) of Kumanovo, Kriva Palanka and Kratovo in northern Macedonia, which sought to liberate the region from the hands of the Ottoman Empire and unify it with the Principality of Serbia, which was at war with the Ottomans at that time. With the Serbian Army's liberation of Niš (31 December 1877) and Vranje (31 January 1878), the rebellion had been activated during the latter event with guerrilla fighting. The rebels received secret aid from the Serbian government, though the uprising only lasted 4 months, until its suppression by the Ottomans.


The Herzegovina Uprising (1875–77), backed unofficially by the states of Serbia and Montenegro sparked a series of rebellions against the Ottoman Empire in Europe (such as the Bulgarian April Uprising, or that of Velika Begovica[1]). Serbia and Montenegro jointly declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 18 June 1876. In July–August, the ill-prepared and poorly equipped Serbian Army aided by Russian volunteers failed to achieve offensive objectives but did manage to repulse the Ottoman offensive into Serbia, and on August 26, Serbia pleaded European powers to mediate in ending the war. A joint ultimatum by the European powers forced the Porte to give Serbia an one–month–ceasefire and start peace negotiations. Turkish peace conditions, however, were refused by European powers as too harsh. In early October, after the truce had expired, the Turkish Army resumed its offensive and the Serbian position quickly became desperate. As a result, on October 31, 1876 Russia issued an ultimatum requiring the Ottoman Empire to stop the hostilities and sign a new truce with Serbia within 48 hours. This was supported by the partial mobilization of the Russian Army (up to 20 divisions). Sultan Abdul Hamid II accepted the conditions of the ultimatum, though the Ottoman atrocities carried out in suppressing unrest in the Ottoman Balkan provinces eventually led to the Russo-Turkish War (April 24, 1877 – March 3, 1878). The Serbian Army advanced into Old Serbia, and liberated Niš (December 3–29, 1877) and then Vranje (January 26–31, 1878). The Serbian Army that had fought the Ottomans included a large number of volunteers from Macedonia.[2] These volunteers had joined the ranks in order to later liberate and unite Macedonia with Serbia.[2] The Serbian advance in Old Serbia (1877–1878) was followed with uprisings for the Serbian cause in Macedonia, with the most notable revolt being the one that broke out in the counties of Kumanovo, Kriva Palanka and Kratovo.[2]

With the Serbian liberation of Niš, the Kumanovo villagers awaited the Serbian Army which went for Vranje and Kosovo.[3] The Serbian artillery fire was heard throughout the winter of 1877/78.[3] Ottoman Albanian troops from Debar and Tetovo fled the front and crossed the Pčinja, looting and raping along the way.[3]

On January 18, 1878, 17 armed Albanians descended from the mountains into Oslare, shouting while entering the village.[3] They first arrived at the house of Arsa Stojković, which they looted and emptied before his eyes, enraging Stojković who proceeded to punch one of them.[3] He was shot in the stomach and fell down, though still alive, he took a stake and delivered a mighty blow to the shooter's head, dying with him.[3] The villagers then quickly entered an armed fight with the Albanians, killing them.[3]

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 daughter-in-laws,[4] then proceeded to loot the house and left the village.[3] Taško armed himself and persuaded the village to retaliate, tracing them in the snow and multiplying in numbers.[5] The Albanian deserters were disperced, drunk, and were intercepted first at Lukarce, where 6 of them were beaten to death.[5] They killed all of them.[4]

With the taste of blood, revenge and victory, the retaliation grew into an uprising, with the avengers becoming rebels, riding armed on horse as soldiers, through the villages of Kumanovo and Kriva Palanka and called to revolt.[5] The movement was strengthened by Mladen Piljinski and his group's killing of Ottoman Albanian haramibaşı Bajram Straž and his seven friends, whose severed heads were brought as trophées and used as flags in the villages. On January 20, 1878, the leaders of the uprising were chosen.[5]


Prince Milan IV (dated 1870—1880).

With the revolt ongoing, the villages chose as leaders: Orthodox priests Dimitrije, and Paunović from Staro Nagoričane; and Veljan Cvetković, from Strnovac[5]

The revolt was organized and led by the district chiefs of Kumanovo, Kriva Palanka and Kratovo.[2] The leading Kumanovo citizens swore oath in the local church to fight for the Serbian cause, until the end.[2] The rebel movement appealed to Prince Milan IV of Serbia to aid the uprising, and they pledged their devotion and loyalty, and union with Serbia.[2] They also appealed to the Serbian generals, asking them to secretly supply them with arms and ammunition.[6] With the Treaty of San Stefano (3 March 1878), and announced implementation of Greater Bulgaria, the people of the counties of Kumanovo, Skopje, Palanka, Kratovo, Kyustendil, Kočani, Strumica, Štip, Veles, Debar, Kičevo, and Prilep, sent deputations and more appeals to the Serbian Prince Milan IV, to unite Macedonia with Serbia, and not to abandon Macedonia to Bulgaria.[7]

The rebels of the districts of Kumanovo, Kriva Palanka, Kratovo and Vranje managed to hold a liberated territory for four months, until their defeat at the hands of brigadier-general Hafuz Pasha by May 20, 1878.[4] The Ottoman retaliation was tremendous,[4] and atrocities were carried out,[6] with around 900 houses burnt down, the captured rebels were killed in cruel manners, and captured women, girls and boys were raped by Ottoman soldiers.[4] Some 150 captured rebels were taken towards Priština in chains, and on the way most of them died.[4] The Ottoman government most notably prohibited the appellation "Serbian" to be used; the Serbian element in Macedonia was persecuted, while the Bulgarian element increased.[7] Several of the leaders and their people succeeded in escaping to Serbia, where they were settled in the depopulated counties of the districts of Toplica and Vranje.[6]


  • Pop Dimitrije, Orthodox priest, founding leader[5]
  • Pop Paunović, Orthodox priest, from Staro Nagoričane, founding leader[5]
  • Veljan Cvetković, from Strnovac, founding leader[5][8]
  • Stojan Vezenković, Serbian agent, planner[9]


Principality of Serbia in 1878.

On June 15, 1878, an assembly was held at Zelenikovo, southeast from Skopje, where 5,000 villagers from the nahiye of Veles, Skopje and Tikveš, which requested from Prince Milan IV that these nahiye be unified with Serbia.[10] The request came with 800 municipality-, church- and monastery seals, and 5,000 signatures, finger prints and crosses.[10] Unfortunately, the carrier heading for Vranje, Rista Cvetković-Božinče, was intercepted on the Skopje-Kumanovo road by the Ottoman gendarmerie which had been tipped off by a Bulgarian teacher.[10] There was a shootout, and when the carrier's bullets had ran out, he ripped and swallowed some of the papers before being shot.[10] Most of the petition was destroyed, however, 600 signatures were identified, with 200 of the identified signatories being immediately killed, the rest were imprisoned and died in prison, with only 50 later being released from Ottoman casemates.[10]

With the Congress of Berlin (13 June – 13 July 1878), petitions were sent from all parts of Macedonia, reinforcing the statements that Macedonia should unite with Serbia, and that it did not belong to any other country — the official statement reads:[7]

In late 1878 and early 1879 the pro-Bulgarian Kresna-Razlog Uprising took place in Pirin Macedonia (in modern Bulgaria).

An assembly consisting of 65 individuals, again made up of the most notable people of the districts of Kumanovo, Kriva Palanka, Kočani, Štip, Veles, Prilep, Bitola, Ohrid, Kičevo and Skopje, addressed an appeal to the Serbian commander of the Macedonian volunteers in the Serbian-Ottoman Wars (1876–1878), M. S. Milojević,[6] requesting the smuggle of arms and leading them in a revolt against the Ottoman Empire.[7] The same year, the Brsjak Revolt (viewed of as a continuation of the uprising[12]) broke out in the counties of Kičevo, Poreč, Bitola and Prilep, which would span over 6 months until it ultimately ended in failure.[7] Serbia secretly and carefully aided the Christians in the Ottoman areas; in the Brsjak revolt, however, by the end of 1881, the aid was stopped by the intervention of the Ottoman government.[13] The Ottoman army succeeded in suppressing the rebellion in the winter of 1880/1881, and many of the leaders were exiled.[14] The Brsjak Revolt, and the preceding ones in Kumanovo, Kriva Palanka and Kratovo, had all a Serbian character, planned in the Serbian cause, thus, the unsuccessful outcome resulted in persecution of Serbs in the Macedonia region, with an increased Bulgarization of the region's Christian Slavic populace.[7]


The uprising is commemorated in epic poetry from Macedonia.[6]


  1. ^ Name: It is named after Kumanovo, where the oath was sworn.[3][12] It is also known as: the Uprising- or Insurrection of Serbs in the Kumanovo and Palanka Districts[6] and Kumanovo-Palanka Uprising (Кумановско-паланачки устанак);


  1. ^ Krakov 1990, p. 8
  2. ^ a b c d e f Georgevitch 1918, pp. 181–182
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Krakov 1990, p. 11
  4. ^ a b c d e f Institut za savremenu istoriju 2007, p. 86
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Krakov 1990, p. 12
  6. ^ a b c d e f Georgevitch 1918, p. 182
  7. ^ a b c d e f Georgevitch 1918, p. 183
  8. ^ Institut za savremenu istoriju 2007, p. 97
  9. ^ Milić 1980, p. 159

    Y кумановски, кривопаланачки и у скопски Kpaj били су илегалио послати повереници, као што je напр. био cnyMaj са CiojaiioM Везенковипем,* kojh су радили на припреман>у македонског народа да спреман дочека почетак ...

  10. ^ a b c d e Institut za savremenu istoriju 2007, p. 87
  11. ^ Georgevitch 1918, p. 184
  12. ^ a b Trbić 1996, p. 32

    иако је за то било могућности, јер и Кумановски устанак, после 1878. год., и његов наставак Брсјачки устанак 1881. и 1882. год., били су под утицајем Србије и није било тешко нрогласити ове нове "културтрегере" за народне ...

  13. ^ Matica srpska 1992, p. 55

    Србија је тајно и врло опрезно помагала акције хришћана у Турској (Брсјачка буна), али је на интервенције владе та помоћ престала ... 1881

  14. ^ Koliševski 1962, p. 499

    Сето ова движење во Западна Македонија е познато во историјата под името „Брсјачка буна". Турската војска успеа во зимата 1880 — 1881 година да ја задуши буната и многу нејзини водачи да ги испрати на заточение.