Siege of Knin
|Siege of Knin|
|Part of the Ottoman wars in Europe|
Hundred Years' Croatian-Ottoman War
View of Knin from c. 1522
|Commanders and leaders|
Mihovil Vojković |
|~25,000 men||few hundred men|
The Siege of Knin (Croatian: Opsada Knina) was a siege of the city of Knin, the capital of the Kingdom of Croatia, by the Ottoman Empire. After two failed attempts in 1513 and 1514, Ottoman forces led by Gazi Husrev-beg, sanjak-bey (governor) of the Sanjak of Bosnia, laid the final siege of the Knin Fortress in May 1522. Frequent confrontations and raids of its surroundings left Knin devastated, so it had only a small garrison at the time. Mihovil Vojković was the commander of Knin's defense and he surrendered the fortress on 29 May in exchange for a free evacuation of his men and Knin's residents. The Ottomans eventually made Knin the center of Sanjak Lika-Krka.
The defeat at Krbava field in 1493, that was preceded by the first serious Ottoman siege of Knin, marked the beginning of the largest emigration from the city and its surroundings to safer parts of Croatia. Knin, the long-time capital city of Croatia, was slowly losing its status as the political and administrative center of the country. Its Supreme court ceased to function, Ban's deputy no longer had civil duties, and all efforts were focused on the buildup of Knin's fortifications.
The last major conflict around Knin before the truce was in September 1502 when 2,000 Ottoman cavalrymen looted the area. On 20 August 1503 King Vladislaus II concluded a 7-year peace treaty with Sultan Bayezid II. The armistice was generally respected by all sides, during which Knin's defensive positions were strengthened in 1504. A period of severe famine started in 1505 that affected entire Dalmatia. In 1510 the plague halved Knin's population.
A new peace treaty was signed after the previous one expired, but sanjak-beys from the Sanjak of Bosnia have not honored the new ceasefire and were often ravaging the countryside of the Croatian border towns. In a report on 5 May 1511 to the parliament in Budim, it was stated that Knin was under constant Ottoman assaults and that whole Croatia will be lost if it fell.
Failed siege attempts
In 1510 around 1,000 Ottoman Akıncı ( irregular light cavalry) raided the countryside of Knin. There had been word that the Vice Ban of Croatia was captured on that occasion. Three years later there was another siege of Knin, but Baltazar Baćan (Hungarian: Boldizsár Batthyány), Vice Ban of Slavonia, together with forces from the Zagreb Bishopry managed to lift the siege in January 1513. In February of the following year the Ottomans besieged Knin with 10,000 men from the Sanjak of Bosnia, but were unable to take the city and lost 500 troops. Knin's outskirts were burned on this occasion.
These clashes left Knin devastated and there were no news about the city for 5 years. Local population was decimated by war, hunger, plague, and migration to safer places, and its economy was hindered by the seizure of crops and livestock. Due to Knin's strategic value, King Louis II responded to requests from captains of Knin, Skradin, and Ostrovica and promised reinforcements of 1,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalrymen. However, it is unlikely that these forces arrived to the endangered towns. In 1522 the Ottomans attacked Knin and the nearby forts not just to raid them, but with a firm intention to occupy the area.
Preparations and final siege
Mahmud-Bey of the Sanjak of Herzegovina bypassed Knin with his army into Lika and ravaged the entire area. The goal of his offensive was to cut off Knin form the north and prevent the arrival of reinforcements. Mahmud's army encamped near Cetina. Soon an army led of Gazi Husrev-beg, sanjak-bey of the Sanjak of Bosnia, returned from a raid into Carniola. Gazi Husrev-beg conquered smaller forts near Knin and completely surrounded it, joining his forces with Mahmud-beg. The two combined armies had around 25,000 men and a large amount of artillery. They started shelling Knin day and night. The fortress was defended by Mihovil Vojković from Klokoč, a Croatian nobleman who had only a small garrison on his disposal.
As soon as Croatian Ban Ivan Karlović heard news of the siege, he started gathering an army to help Knin, the seat of Croatian Bans. He also asked captains from neighbouring Archduchy of Austria for assistance. While the ban was preparing an army, Knin's fate was already determined. The Ottomans launched three intense attacks on Knin until Mihovil Vojković surrendered the fortress on 29 May after negotiations with Gazi Husrev-bey. He was granted permission to leave the city with his men.
After hearing about the fate of Knin, the citizens of nearby Skradin fled and left the town undefended, so it was easily taken by the Ottomans. Next day Drniš also fell into Ottoman hands. Ivan Karlović was at the time located in Topusko, so information about the loss of Knin and Skradin arrived with a considerable delay. After conquering Knin the Ottomans moved towards Klis, another important fortress in Croatia. However, the fortress garrison was strong enough to repel the attacks of Husrev-bey's men, who had to break the siege and withdraw his forces. Croatian border captains expected that the Ottomans will try to compensate their failure under Klis by attacking the less defended towns of Udbina, Bihać and coastal cities.
Ivan Karlović was furious at Mihovil Vojković for surrendering Knin, so he arrested Vojković and sent him to prison in Udbina. Counts Juraj II i Matija II Frankopan seized the town of Klokoč, Vojković's seat, where they found ammunition and cannons that were intended to strengthen Knin's defenses.
The fall of Knin was a huge shock for Croatia, as the cradle of the Croatian state, seat of the Croatian ban and place of Croatian nobility conventions was lost. Bihać now took the leading role in Croatia's defenses south of the Sava river. Under Ottoman rule, a new population moved into empty Knin and the region. These were Vlach shepherds from other Ottoman territories, mainly of Orthodox faith.
There were several attempts of a quick liberation of Knin. In September of the same year, Croatian Ban Ivan Karlović gathered an army and attacked Ottoman forces in the vicinity of Knin, capturing several Ottoman soldiers, including the goldsmith of Gazi Husrev-beg. Aid was expected from Austrian Archduke Ferdinand, who guaranteed to help regain or strengthen Senj, Krupa, Knin, Skradin, Klis, and Ostrovica, but of no avail. There were two more attacks in 1529 and 1530, first of which ended with 24 captured Ottoman soldiers, while in the second one in July 1530, around 100 cavalrymen from Bihać reached the area of Knin and the Cetina River, where local Christian troops were gathered by Nikola Bidojević, but had to return as Bihać was endangered. The Ottoman Empire made Knin the starting point of their further offensives in the area.
- Vjekoslav Klaić: Knin za turskog vladanja, p. 258
- Stjepan Gunjača: Tiniensia archaeologica - historica - topographica, 1960, p. 86-87
- Stjepan Gunjača: Tiniensia archaeologica - historica - topographica, 1960, p. 84
- Ive Mažuran: Povijest Hrvatske od 15. stoljeća do 18. stoljeća, p. 44-45
- Ive Mažuran: Povijest Hrvatske od 15. stoljeća do 18. stoljeća, p. 48
- Vjekoslav Klaić: Povijest Hrvata od najstarijih vremena do svršetka XIX. stoljeća, Knjiga četvrta, Zagreb, 1988, p. 302
- Stjepan Gunjača: Tiniensia archaeologica - historica - topographica, 1960, p. 88
- Vjekoslav Klaić: Povijest Hrvata od najstarijih vremena do svršetka XIX. stoljeća, Knjiga četvrta, Zagreb, 1988, p. 382-383
- Ćiro Truhelka: Gazi Husrefbeg, njegov život i njegovo doba, p.20
- Carolin Leutloff-Grandits: Claiming Ownership in Postwar Croatia: The Dynamics of Property Relations and Ethnic Conflict in the Knin Region, LIT Verlag Münster, 2006, p. 45-46
- Stjepan Gunjača: Tiniensia archaeologica - historica - topographica, 1960, p. 90-91