Starina Novak

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For Baba Novac village in Satu Mare County, Romania, see Ardud.
Starina Novak
Старина Новак (рођен је око 1520. године).jpg
Nickname(s) Baba Novak
Born ~1530
Poreč, Ottoman Empire (today Donji Milanovac, Serbia)
Died 1601
Kolozsvár, Principality of Transylvania (today Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
Allegiance Hajduks, Serbia, Wallachia
Years of service 153x-1601
Rank Captain
Unit Hajduk unit of Michael the Brave

Starina Novak (Serbian: Старинa Новак, Romanian: Baba Novac, meaning "old Novak"), also known as Novak Debeljak (Новак Дебељак) or Karaljuk (Караљук) was a Serb hajduk (brigand and rebel) who distinguished himself in many battles against the Ottoman Empire. He is considered a national hero by both the Serbs and the Romanians.


Novak was born to a lower-class family in 1530s in the village of Poreč, Ottoman Empire, on an island on the Danube, (today Donji Milanovac, Serbia).[1] Novak's parents on his father side were Serb, and according to a legend, his mother was Romanian, a descendant of the Basarab family.[2] He studied at the monastery of Poreč and was fluent in both Serbian and Old Slavonic. He also spoke Romanian and Greek.

He began his career as a hajduk at an early age after he was imprisoned and beaten by Turks, losing all his teeth (hence the name Old Novak)[citation needed] that led him to leave his birthplace and take refuge in the forests of Timočka krajina where he quickly learned the use of weapons and military from a harambaš Hajduk. He soon formed his četa (band of hajduks) and started a violent fight against the Turks. His strong personality and military prowess made him a man of many followers and his guerrillas became a strong fighting force. He joined the forces of Michael the Brave in Banat with 2000 Serbian hajduks for the liberation of the Vlach lands and was made captain of the Brigands. His forces participated in the seizure of Călugăreni, liberated Târgovişte, Bucharest and Giurgiu in October 1595. His forces were part of the attack on Bulgarian Sofia which earned him great reputation after he and his 700 soldiers tricked the Turks by changing route through the Balkan mountains and successfully surprise-attacked the Turkish forces only leaving behind 8 of his soldiers and capturing vast amounts of livestock and supplies from the Ottomans. He liberated Plevna with 1,500 soldiers. In 1598, his sizable forces, composed primarily of Serbs but also some Bulgarians, met the remaining forces of Michael the Brave, amounting to a total of 16,000 armed men. They liberated Plevna, Rahovo, Vratsa, Vidin and Florentin, after which the Serbs and Bulgarians of the cities gathered with the forces and had a feast. In Ploeşti, 1599, the forces of 50,000+ under Bordj Mako gathered with the forces of Novak in a square with 5-6 rows in the center before the taking of Sibiu. In 1600 his forces were deployed in Banat and was later given the instructions of liberating all lands to the south, also part of the uprisings in Mirăslău and the near towns. He followed Mihai to Vienna in December 1600.[3]

He wanted to hand over the fortresses of Lugos and Karánsebes to the Turks, but his intention was unveiled in time. For this he was accused of treason by ally-turned-rival Giorgio Basta and was sent to the Hungarian authorities in Cluj (Kolozsvár), sentenced to burning. On 5 February 1601 the execution took place, gypsies prepared the fire that would be the end of Novak two of Mihai's captains, Joan Celeste and Savi Armašulu, and some Saxon priests. After being burnt alive for 1,5 hours (water was tossed at the bodies for slower death) the bodies were impaled and crows were eating from the corpses. Mihai was unaware of the execution and heard of it when passing Cluj in early August 1601; he raised a flag on the site of the execution. Giorgio Basta then ordered the assassination of Mihai, which took place near Câmpia Turzii on 9 August 1601.[4]


He is venerated as a Serb hero in the Serb epic poetry in the tale of "Starina Novak and Knez Bogosav" and in Romanian tales.

Streets in Cluj-Napoca, Bucharest, Brasov and Belgrade are named after him. [5]

The song Baba Novak by the Romanian band Phoenix is about him.[6]

See also[edit]