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Coat of arms
|Died||October 6, 1397
|Religion||Serbian Orthodox Christian|
Vuk Branković (Serbian Cyrillic: Вук Бранковић, pronounced [ʋûːk brǎːnkoʋit͡ɕ]) (born 1345 - died October 6, 1397) was a Serbian medieval nobleman who during the Fall of the Serbian Empire inherited a province in present day south and southwestern Serbia, the northern part of present day Macedonia and northern Montenegro. His fief (and later state) was known as Oblast Brankovića (District of Branković) or simply as Vukova zemlja (Vuk's land) which he held with the title of gospodin (lord, sir), under Prince Lazar of Serbia. After the Battle of Kosovo Vuk was briefly de facto most powerful Serbian lord.
Vuk Branković belonged to a noble Serbian family which held a prominent role in 13th and 14th century Serbia under the Nemanjić dynasty. Vuk was a son of Branko Mladenović (died before 1365), who received the high court title of sebastokrator from Emperor Stefan Dušan (1331–1355) and served as governor of Ohrid (present day Macedonia). Vuk's grandfather was Mladen (died after 1326), who was župan (count) in Trebinje under king Milutin (1282–1321) and vojvoda (duke) under king Stefan Dečanski (1321–1331). Later chronicles derived origin of Branković family from Vukan Nemanjić, son of the founder of Nemanjić dynasty Stefan Nemanja, however this can't be taken with certainty.
After their father's death, Vuk and his brothers Grgur and Radonja Nikola were forced by the usurper king Vukašin to leave their land in western Macedonia (Ohrid), and they retreated to their ancestral lands in Drenica in the area of present day Kosovo. From there Vuk, who only held the humble title of gospodin (lord, sir), started to expand his realm and to create his own state. He took advantage of the death of king Vukašin Mrnjavčević in the Battle of Maritsa (1371) and occupied his lands in the southern part of Kosovo and northern Macedonia with the city of Skopje. The turning point of Vuk's ascension to power in post-Nemanjić Serbia was his marriage with Mara, daughter of the most powerful Serbian nobleman prince Lazar Hrebeljanović, which brought him substantial lands in Kosovo and the city of Zvečan as dowry. This marriage sealed the alliance between two houses and secured Lazar's assistance for Vuk's future plans, although Vuk in return had to acknowledge Lazar as his feuadal senior. Soon after the marriage, Lazar, Vuk and king Tvrtko I of Bosnia attacked župan Nikola Altomanovic, who ruled in the western part of Serbia, and conquered and divided his lands in 1373. In the partition of Altomanović's land, Vuk got areas of Raška (including the old Serbian capital Ras) and lands in Polimlje in present day northern Montenegro. The formation of the Realm of Branković was finished in 1378. After the death of Djuradj I Balšić, Vuk captured his cities of Prizren and Peć and the area of Metohija. At its peak, the realm of Branković stretched from Sjenica in the west to Skopje in the east, with the cities of Priština and Vučitrn serving as its capitals. The most important cities in Vuk's Realm were Priština, Prizren, Peć, Skopje and Ras, as well as the rich mining settlements of Trepča, Janjevo, Gluhavica and others.
Battle of Kosovo
After the Battle of Maritza, Ottomans forced the southern Serbian feudal lords (in present-day Macedonia and Greece), Konstantin Dragaš, king Marko, Toma Preljubović and others, to become their vassals, and started to attack the northern Serbian lands ruled by prince Lazar and Vuk. After initial Serbian successes at the battles of Dubravnica (1381), Pločnik (1386) and Bileća (1388), the Ottomans launched a full-scale attack on Serbia aiming at the very heartland of Vuk's realm in central Kosovo. In the epic Battle of Kosovo (1389), which ended with a strategic Serbian defeat, Vuk participated along with his father-in-law Lazar and a contingent of King Tvrtko's army. Unlike Lazar, who died in the battle along with most of his army, Vuk managed to survive and preserve his army, which later gave material for a popular Serbian folk tradition (represented in folk epic poems and tales) that he betrayed Lazar in order to become supreme ruler of Serbia, a theory that is rejected by modern day Serbian historians, but not by the Serb people. Despite the consensus of modern historiography in Serbia that Vuk Branković was not a traitor in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, Momčilo Spremić emphasized that there is a possibility that Vuk really betrayed his Serbian allies.
After the Battle of Kosovo, Vuk refused to become an Ottoman vassal (unlike prince Stefan Lazarević, son of prince Lazar, who became an Ottoman vassal in late 1389), and started to plan anti-Ottoman action together with the Hungarian king Sigismund. However, Vuk was unable to resist the Ottomans for long. In 1392, they captured Skopje and forced Vuk to become their vassal and pay tribute. Even after that Vuk showed some resistance to Ottomans, refusing to participate on the Ottoman side in the battles of Rovine (1395) and Nicopolis (1396), unlike other Serbian lords such as prince Stefan, king Marko and Konstantin Dejanović. He also maintained contacts with Hungary. Finally the Ottomans ended this situation by attacking Vuk in 1395-1396, seizing his land and giving most of it to prince Stefan Lazarević, while Vuk himself was imprisoned and died in an Ottoman prison. A small part of Vuk's land with the towns of Priština and Vučitrn were given to his sons to hold it as Ottoman vassals.
- Grgur Branković (1377 - 13 March 1408),
- Đurađ Branković (1377 - 24 December 1456), succeeded his maternal uncle Stefan Lazarević as Despot of Serbia (Serbian Despotate), ruling 1427–1456
- Lazar Vuković (died 12 July 1410), knez
In epic poetry and popular culture
Folk tradition portraits Vuk as a traitor: supposedly, Vuk tarnished the family name when he betrayed Prince Lazar at the Battle of Kosovo, which he survived in 1389. This tradition may be apocryphal.
- M.Spremic, Vuk Brankovic i Kosovska bitka, u : Glas CCCLXXVIII Srpske Akademije Nauka i Umetnosti , 85
- John VA Fine, The Late Mediaeval Balkans,p.389
- M. Ćirković, Vuk Tošić, The Serbs,Wiley-Blackwell, 2004,p.79
- M. Ćirković, Vuk Tošić, The Serbs,Wiley-Blackwell, 2004,p.83-85
- Zirojević, Olga. "Bog ubio Vuka Brankovića... (Let God kill Vuk Branković...)". Retrieved 14 May 2011. "Momcilo Spremic kao da ponovo izvodi Vuka Brankovica na sud. »Uzimajuci u obzir« - kaze on - »celokupnu delatnost Vuka, ne bi se moglo reci da je bio bez predispozicije za izdaju. Konacno, sve sto je ovde izneto, ne na osnovu emotivnog narodnog predanja, vec iskljucivo na osnovu pouzdanih dokumenata, pokazuje da njegova izdaja na Kosovu nije bila nemoguca«... Momčilo Spremić is again taking Vuk Branković on the trial. "Taking in consideraton [sic] - says he - the whole activities of Vuk Branković, it can not be said that he did not have prerequisites for betrayal. Finally, everything that was brought here , not on emotional peoples narative, but on the basis of reliable sources, shows that hi betrayal on Kosovo was not impossible."
- John VA Fine, The Late Mediaeval Balkans,p.409-415.
- ISBN 86-447-0006-5: Dušan Bataković: The Kosovo Chronicles: Part One: History and Ideology