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 (modern Republic of Macedonia)
Result Ottoman victory
Principality of Serbia Local Serbian-oriented rebels  Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
See note[b] Ottoman Empire Hafuz Pasha
ca. 1,000 (January 21)
Casualties and losses
Unknown number of deaths, 150 POW Unknown
Kumanovo Uprising is located in Republic of Macedonia
Kumanovo Uprising
Location of Kumanovo in the Republic of Macedonia

The Kumanovo Uprising[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.


Serbian-Ottoman War[edit]

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]


With the revolt ongoing, the villages chose as leaders: Orthodox priest Dimitrije 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] In the morning of January 21, between the heights of Četirce and Nikuljane, the Serbian army entered and excited the villages.[5] Locals from the region met on the icy river sides of the Pčinja.[5] Volunteers came with the army.[5] The rebels, numbering ca. 1,000, awaited them.[5] The Serbian army had been halted as the Russians made peace with the Ottomans.[5] Meanwhile, on January 26, refugees from Albanian-inhabited villages came to Pristina with news that Serbian outposts were already at Gračanica. Joyful to the Serbs, however, armed Albanians shouted and gathered in the Serb-inhabited mahala (quarter) of Panađurište, and started a massacre of Serbs.[6] Under pressure from the British, Russia accepted the truce offered by the Ottoman Empire on January 31, 1878, but continued to move towards Constantinople (Istanbul).

The rebels had cleaned the Kumanovo and Palanka regions of Turks and Albanians, but with the peace treaty, the beys, hodjas, and soldiers, refugees, again secure, started to return to their houses.[7] The returned refugees gathered in the Kumanovo graveyard in early February, the groups that had been collected through the night arranged for the massacre of Serbs in the town.[7] The next day, at dusk, some 200 Serb rebels appeared in the vineyards of Kumanovo to prevent the massacre, which they had heard of. Shots were fired and returned at the heights. Two Ottoman jandarma (gendarmerie) that had encountered the rebels were cut down by the outraged rebels.[7]

The rebels appealed to Prince Milan IV (photograph taken 1870—80)

Rebels and notables of 40 Serb villages gathered at the Zabel monastery in Nikuljane, where they decided to seek weapons from Serbia and to send petitions to Prince Milan IV of Serbia.[7] They asked him 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.[8] At the same time, at the house of prota Dimitrije in Kumanovo, ten veterans swore oath on the Gospel that they would not give up the fight, kissed each other and wrote a request to Prince Milan praying to him that Kumanovo and the surroundings be joined into Serbia.[7] The petition, sewn into the saddle of Tasa Kostić-Civković, was brought to Serbian outposts via the Monastery of St. Prohor Pčinjski (a later rebel center).[7] At the same time, two other rebel envoys arrived at the village of Rataje near Vranje and met with general Jovan Belimarković, whom they asked for weapons. Belimarković promised them 2,000 guns, which were to be received from the Prohor Pčinjski Monastery.[7]

Upon hearing that they would receive weapons, the rebels were approached by all villages of Palanka and Kratovo, all the way to Deve Bair, where the demarcation line passed, held by Russian troops. These villages had not been overtaken by the Bulgarian Exarchate.[9] 4,000 Serbs gathered at the icy fields of Palanka and Kumanovo.[9] Bulgaria were alarmed by the Kumanovo rebels, and started to send their agents to stop them and overturn them to the Exarchate.[9] Exarchist clergyman Mihajlo died after one of his attempts to convince the rebels that they were on the wrong path; he talked about Imperial Russia and her powerful friend Bulgaria, and laughed at little Serbia. The outraged villagers, after hearing him, beat him up and took him to Zabel, before the rebel court, seeking the death penalty. He was acquitted and exiled, and died shortly after in Bulgaria from the beating.[9]

The fighting became ruthless and fanatical. On the hill of St. Parascheva, on the Četirce and Nikuljane height, the Albanian bands sent to break the rebels, were defeated and returned.[9] With haramibaşı Fehat (or Fetah) from Mutlovo, a girl named Halime led a band of seven relatives, seeking to capture Velika Begovica, who at that time was deathly sick in a house under the Kozjak.[9] They did not find Velika, but encountered Veljan Strnovski and Jaćim Čelopečki, whom they were unable to kill in several fights.[9] Haramibaşı Fehat was left with 20 companions after the fateful meeting in the Četirce forest, and these then quickly fell, with Fehat being shot in the heart by two bullets.[9] After the fighting Jaćim tied the heads of fallen rebels to his donkey.[9] The Albanians who were left carried their leader's corpse into the empty Mutlovo, while Halime lied down dying from a blown out knee.[10]

Not only Bulgaria, but Istanbul started to fear the Kumanovo rebels. Messages were sent and amnesty was offered.[10] Two Ottoman delegates returned from Zabel and informed the Porte that the rebel leaders reject all offers and do not want the Sultan's authority, but unification or death.[10] The desire for unification in these southern Serbs became particularly strong, and prompted peasants from distant parts to join the rebels.[10] The rebels compiled petitions, addressed them to Prince Milan, the Russian Emperor and demanded unification with the Principality of Serbia.[10]

With the Treaty of San Stefano (3 March 1878), and announced implementation of Greater Bulgaria, more appeals were sent to Prince Milan, asking to unite Macedonia with Serbia, and not to abandon Macedonia to Bulgaria.[11] On May 10,[12] on the day of Simon the Zealot, an assembly of kmets, clergy and rebel leaders gathered from the nahiya of Skopje, Tetovo, Debar, Kičevo, Veles, Prilep and Kočani to sign the petition to Prince Milan, asking him "on their knees" to unite "our land and the Holy Mother Serbia, and to not replace the hard and grim Turkish (Ottoman) enslavement with the worser and blacker Bulgarian".[10] There was 170 signatures with another 44 official Ottoman municipal seals.[10]

The Berlin Congress approached – the Porte decided to destroy the uprising, which became an increasing risk to the Ottoman Empire.[10] On orders from Istanbul, brigadier-general Hafuz Pasha departed from Pristina.[10] He had led a brigade that suppressed the April Uprising (1876).[13] Five Ottoman camps were accompanied by new cannon guns.[10]

On May 20, at the outskirts of rebel territory, on the hill of St. Parascheva, the rebels, aware of their powerlessness, awaited Hafuz Pasha.[14] The cannon fire, as "deadly meteorites", broke up the rebel resistance.[14] The rebels once again defended themselves on the warm and bare Čelopek.[14] Under the clear sky, a white and dense cloud "covered their defeat".[14] In the twilight of firebombing and cannon fire, the peasants fled for their children and wives in the villages.[14] People recklessly went for the mountains for sheltering, while others, distraught, threw themselves down the steep river sides of the Pčinja, which was said to have become red of blood.[14] Young women and girls drowned.[14]

The Ottoman retaliation was tremendous,[4][8] "unprecedented atrocities and evilness fell on the rebel land".[14] Captured rebels were killed in cruel manners.[4] Women, girls, children and young boys were raped.[4][14] Girls were taken to Ottoman camps where they served soldiers naked with wine and their bodies.[14] Old people were leashed until they collapsed.[14] Young peasants were tied by their foots and roasted on fire, with swarming flies on their open wounds.[14] The sun started coming up, while around 900 houses[4] were burning in the surroundings.[14] The rebels managed to hold a liberated territory for four months, until their defeat at the hands of Hafuz Pasha on May 20, 1878.[4]

Three columns of chained, captured rebels, numbering 150 people, were led on the dusty Skopje road by Ottoman soldiers drunk on victory and the peasants' rakija.[14] They were taken towards Pristina and on the way most of them died.[4] The soldiers pierced the tortured captives' bodies with their bayonets, and bodies were left on the road.[14]

Saved rebels hid on the Kozjak and Đerman.[14] 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,[8] where they "hungry and humiliated, instead of help and awards were given to serve as pandurs" (policemen).[14] Veljan and Jaćim left their houses, families and friends, and lived lonely, unknown and poor lives in Vranje.[15]

The Ottoman government most notably prohibited the appellation "Serbian" to be used; the Serbian element in Macedonia was persecuted, while the Bulgarian element increased.[11]


Principality of Serbia in 1878.

After the uprising, the Serbs of the Vranje region signed a memorandum on joining with Serbia.[4] Notable local Stamenko Stošić Torovela took the memorandum to count Nikolay Pavlovich Ignatyev, the Russian official and main Bulgarian supporter.[4] Ignatijev acted as the political programme of the Russian Empire, and threw the memorandum in the face of Torovela,[4] who managed to flee across Bulgarian territory from Bulgarian agents who sought to liquidate him.[16]

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.[16] The request came with 800 municipality-, church- and monastery seals, and 5,000 signatures, finger prints and crosses.[16] Unfortunately, the carrier heading for Vranje, Rista Cvetković-Božinče, was intercepted on June 16 on the Skopje-Kumanovo road,[17] by the Ottoman gendarmerie which had been tipped off by a Bulgarian teacher.[16] There was a shootout, and when the carrier's bullets had run out, he ripped and swallowed some of the papers before being shot.[16] 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.[16]

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:[11]

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,[8] requesting the smuggle of arms and leading them in a revolt against the Ottoman Empire.[11] The same year, the Brsjak Revolt (viewed of as a continuation of the uprising[19]) broke out in the counties of Kičevo, Poreč, Bitola and Prilep, which would span over 6 months until it ultimately ended in failure.[11] 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.[20] The Ottoman army succeeded in suppressing the rebellion in the winter of 1880/1881, and many of the leaders were exiled.[21] 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.[11]


The uprising is commemorated in epic poetry from Macedonia.[8]


  1. ^ Name: The uprising is simply known as the Kumanovo Uprising (Serbian: Kumanovski ustanak/Кумановски устанак,[3][19] Macedonian: Kumanovsko vostanie/Кумановско востание). It is also known as the Uprising- or Insurrection of Serbs in the Kumanovo and Palanka Districts.[8]
  2. ^
    Commanders and leaders
    • Dimitrije Pop Paunović (Dimko Nagorički), Orthodox priest from Staro Nagoričane, founder[5]
    • Veljan Cvetković (Veljan Strnovski, Čiča Veljan), from Strnovac, founder and rebel leader[5][22]
    • Jaćim (Čelopečki), from Čelopek, rebel leader[9]
    • A poem enumerates the following leaders: Dimko Nagorički, Veljan Strnovski, Jaćim Čelopečki, Dimiško, Peša Jovanovski, Mladen Čakr-paša, Nikola Algunjski, Vukadin Miljkinski, priest Spasa Peljinski, Đorđe Vragoturski, Krsto Dragomanski, Apostol Žegnjanski, Stoša from Stepance, Mladenko Begovski, Spaso from Ramno, Đele Arbanaški, Leksa Dlibočički.[23]
    Other people
    • Stojan Vezenković, Serbian agent, planner[24]


  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 g h i j k Institut za savremenu istoriju 2007, p. 86
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Krakov 1990, p. 12
  6. ^ Krakov 1990, pp. 13–14
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Krakov 1990, p. 14
  8. ^ a b c d e f Georgevitch 1918, p. 182
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Krakov 1990, p. 15
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Krakov 1990, p. 16
  11. ^ a b c d e f Georgevitch 1918, p. 183
  12. ^ Aleksa Jovanović (1937). Spomenica dvadesetogodišnjice oslobodjenja Južne Srbije, 1912-1937. Južna Srbija. p. 237. [quotation from the official statement] 
  13. ^ Konstantin Dimitrov Kosev (1976). The April 1876 Uprising. Sofia Press. p. 37. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Krakov 1990, p. 17
  15. ^ Krakov 1990, p. 18
  16. ^ a b c d e f Institut za savremenu istoriju 2007, p. 87
  17. ^ Босанска вила: лист за забаву, поуку и књижевност. Никола Т. Кашиковић. 1905. ... но долазимо те као Срби молити и преклињати, да прицима Тако су Турци, на бугарску доставу, 16. јуна 1878. ухватили на путу Скопље-Куманово Ристу Цветковића-Божинче, из Врања, ... 
  18. ^ Georgevitch 1918, p. 184
  19. ^ 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 ...

  20. ^ 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

  21. ^ Koliševski, Lazar (1962). Aspekti na makedonskoto prašanje (in Macedonian). Kultura. 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.

  22. ^ Institut za savremenu istoriju 2007, p. 97
  23. ^ Brastvo 11. Društvo sv. Save.  "Scanned page" (in Serbian). p. 203. 
  24. ^ 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 ...