Persons and happenings before the battle with direct influence on the whole battle.
Princ Lazar - Defender Of Kosovo
and King Dusan The Powerful
Prince Lazar was born in 1329 in Prilepac to the aristocrat family Hrebeljanovic. His father Pribac was a Logotet-secretary doing very confidential work for King Dusan the Powerful in the royal palace. Young Lazar was raised in the palace, and was respected by the King who entrusted him with the rule of two parts of his kingdom: Srem and Macva. Lazar married Milica the daughter of an important aristocrat named Vratko also known as Yug Bogdan - a very wise and honorable man from the Nemanjic family. Lazar had three sons: Stevan, Vuk and Lazar and five daughters: Jelena, Mara, Despa, Vukosava and Mileva.
King Dusan the Powerful died unexpectantly in 1355 at the age of 48. This led to a weakening of Serbia's central government. Many dukes used this opportunity to secede from the Kingdom with the land that had been entrusted to them. The young son of Dusan Uros took over the throne and soon was killed. Vukasin Mrnjacevic proclaimed himself the King of Serbia. At this time, Turks were advancing toward the Kingdom of Serbia. In a battle on the river Marica in 1371, Vukasin was killed leaving behind him a weakened, poor and torn Serbia. Serbia was in desperate need of a gifted statesman, rich in virtue and deserving of God's Grace: a man similar to St.Sava and his father St. Stefan Nemanja who had founded the Serbian state. The Church recognized just such a man in Prince Lazar. His talent for leadership, wisdom and experience lifted him above those who would seize the throne by force and sought their own glory and importance.
Prince Lazar, first sought to consolidate and strengthen the Kingdom. As was the custom of that day and age, he married his daughters to the rebellious Serbian aristocrats. This enlarged and stabilized Serbia. Having thus secured the loyalty of dissident aristocrats, Prince Lazar turned to those countries which bordered his own, seeking to deepen Serbia's relationship with them.
At this time, the Serbian Orthodox Church was in a dispute with the Patriarch of Constantinople. King Dusan the Powerful wanted Serbia to have an independent Church. He single-handedly sought to elevate the Serbian archbishop to the level of a patriarch. The Patriarch of Constantinople utterly rejected this act and broke relations with the Church in Serbia. This was a very serious problem and one which King Lazar managed to solve by reconciling the Serbian Church and that of Constantinople. It was a result of this reconciliation that gave the Serbian Church its first canonical Patriarch.
The expansion of that Ottoman state, and increasingly frequent Turkish raids into his land, warned Prince Lazar that the time for a decisive battle was drawing near. Lengthy preparation on both sides preceded this confrontation. The fact that the armies were led by the Turkish ruler Murad 1 and by King Lazar of Serbia illustrates the importance of this battle. It was decided that the site of the battle would be a field in Kosovo (Kosovo Polje).
Prince Lazar knew that his chances against the Turkish aggressor were small and on the eve of the Battle of Kosovo he gathered his upper aristocracy and asked if they should fight for the Holy cross and Golden Freedom or surrender to their adversaries and live as slaves of the Muslims. They had to chose between the Heavenly Kingdom and earthly one. In the true spirit of Christianity they preferred to place their hope in Christ and Eternal Life. The Prince and all of this warriors took Holy communion and went into battle on Saint Vitus Day, Tuesday June 15th 1389.
St. Prince Lazar on a 19c. Serbian painting
It is not certain how large the armies were, especially as later sources tend to exaggerate on their size, launching it into the hundreds of thousands.
Murad's army might have numbered 27-40,000. Taking the 40,000 estimate, it probably included some 5,000 Janissaries, 2,500 of Murad's cavalry guard, 6,000 sipahis, 20,000 azaps and akincis and 8,000 of his vassals Lazar's might have been 12-30,000. Taking the estimate of 25,000, some 15,000 were under Lazar's command, 5,000 Vuk's, and as many of Vlatko's. Of those, several thousands were cavalry, but perhaps only several hundreds were clad in full plate armor. Both armies included some foreign troops: for example, the Serbian force included the Croatian ban Ivan Palinza with a small number of troops, probably as a part of Bosnian contingent while the Turkish army was helped by the Serbian noble Konstantin Dejanovic. This led some authors to describe the armies as coalitions.
The armies met at Kosovo field. The center of the Turkish army was led by Murad, while his son Bayezid was on the right wing and Yakub on the left. Around 1,000 archers were in the first line of the wings, followed with azap and then akinci; in the front of the center were janissary, behind whom was Murad, surrounded by his cavalry guard; finally, the supply train was at the rear, guarded by a small number of troops. The Serbian army had Lazar at the center, Vuk on the right wing and Vlatko on the left. In the front of the Serbian army were placed the cavalry, with the infantry to the rear. While parallel, the dispositions were not symmetric, as Serbian center overlapped the Turkish
The battle started with Turkish archers shooting at the Serbian cavalry, which then moved into the attack. They managed to break through the Turkish left wing, but were not as successful against the center and the right wing. The Serbs initially gained the advantage after their first charge, which heavily damaged the Turkish wing commanded by Jakub Celebi. In the center, the Serbian fighters managed to push the Ottoman forces back with only Bayezid's wing holding off the forces commanded by Vlatko Vukovic. The Ottomans, in a counter-attack, pushed the Balkan forces back and prevailed later in the day. Bayezid I, who would after the battle become the Ottoman sultan, gained his nickname "the thunderbolt" in this battle, after leading the decisive counter-attack. In the main, numbers of Turkish military strength (army) and better weapons eventually won them the day.
Based on the Turkish historical records, it is believed that the Sultan was killed by Miloš Obilić, who was pretending to be dead, while the Sultan was walking in the battlefield after the battle. On the other hand, according to Serbian records he was assassinated by Miloš Obilić, who made his way into the Turkish camp on the pretext of being a deserter and knelt before the Sultan. He stabbed him in the stomach while about to kneel before him. Miloš Obilić was immediately killed by the Sultan's bodyguards.
painted by Petar Radicevic 1987
by Mark Gottfried (1972)
The Serbian culture endured through five centuries of Turkish occupation, although the Turks offered security and prosperity, for conversion to Turkish life styles. This Serbian culture was retarded for five centuries, after the Serbian defeat on the plain of Kosovo.
From a culture that led Europe and the Balkans during the Medieval period, the Serbian culture degenerated and stagnated, to the point that when it regained its freedom it had centuries to recover. The Turkish victory at Kosovo, was not as much political as it was cultural. "Turkish historians lay more stress on the Battle of Maritza eighteen years before, which they call Serb Sindin (Serbian defeat)." The military destiny of Serbia was sealed at Maritza. Contemporary chroniclers, without the benefit of hindsight, felt that Kosovo was only one of a series of bloody engagements, leading to the collapse of the Serbian kingdom.
What then is the importance of the Battle of Kosovo? It was a cultural defeat, a religious defeat. It became the symbol of Turkish power and Serbian defeat, not to be forgotten . . . revenge was always over the horizon. The grand Serbian culture, which flourished under Tzar's Dushan and Milutin, was only a memory, after Serbia's knights, armies and hopes died at the field of Kosovo.
"The State was destroyed, but underneath was born from pain and from battle a strong people." It was this strong people, that clung to their own culture, or a remnant of it against time and the Turks. The Battle at Kosovo Polje is one of the focal points of their memories, and as such played a vital role in the Serbian culture.
The binding force in Serbian Culture is its national religion. When in 1190 Nemanja set up a state, from the chaos of the third crusade, the people's religion was not a national concern. His son, now known as St. Sava, brought the Eastern Orthodox Church to Serbia, and set up an oriental culture, leaning toward Byzantium. St. Sava also separated the church from Byzantine rule, and placed the church establishment in the service of the nation. This was the first national church, untied to either Greek Orthodox or Roman dictates. This policy of separation was continued through Tzar Dushan's reign (1331-1355) when he planned and executed all possible activities halting the influence of the Roman church in his state.
This national religion needed a base, or platform to be effective. The monastery was "chosen" for this purpose. In fact by 1430 there were 3,000 monasteries and churches in Serbia. These institutions were the basic educational and cultural establishments of their day. An example of the high culture prevalent in the monasteries at the end of the thirteenth century, Queen Jelena founded a type of "womans' home keeping school" at Brnjeval near today's Kosovska Mitrovica. The building and maintaining of monasteries and church institutions are shown in many of the ballads from the period, "The Building of Ravanitsa" (a monastery) is one example. This poem speaks of the construction of a church institution as a duty of the Tzar.
In the Serbian society literacy was limited to a narrow circle, mainly religious in character. However, there are proofs that literacy often passed the bounds of the religion sector. An example of the literature of the time is a biography of St. Sava written by Monk Teodisije in the thirteenth through fourteenth centuries. The monasteries besides being centers of education and literature were centers of art.
In these monasteries were created beautiful frescos, paintings, tapestries and handicrafts. The art of Serbia of the thirteenth century is considered independent and "convincingly superior" to the art of Byzantium. "On the vast territory of Dusan's empire there were a number of smaller provincial centers of art . . . in spite of their local character, the works produced there had two great assets; they were numerous and of high technical accomplishment," The architecture of the monasteries also represents a special achievement for its time.
Other cultural achievements of the Serbs lie in the field of politics and government. Militarily the Serbs had been on the rise continually and under Tzar Dushan they controlled Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and parts of Greece. At the time of his death, Tzar Dushan was planning to resist the Turks and attack Constantinople. Under Tzars Milutin through Dushan, Serbia was moving toward its real mission as a nation with wealth and power. The advances were not only in military spheres. Tzar Dushan also gave to the Serbs a law which has importance to the Serbs and to Southern Slave in general. This law, the Zakonk, was born of Byzantine and other prevalent laws of the time, and can be said to be a picture of the Serbian social structure of justice based on law.
After Dushan's death the military strength of the autocracy decreased. In 1377 Knez Lazar (ruler of Serbia) was forced to accept the crowning of Tvrtka I at Milesevo (St. Sava's grave) making him (Tvrtka I) king of Bosnia, with rights over Serbia. The clash with the Turks found the Serbs at the teak of their national feeling and culture.
When fourteenth century Serbia achieved its political peak most European countries were second-rate powers. Individual nation states were only evolving in Europe at the time when Serbia's star was already falling. The "countries" of Europe were still subservient to the church of Rome, until the seventeenth century, while Serbia developed a national church in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This superior culture faced the Ottoman Turks. This was a clash of not only military strength, but of faiths and ways of life.
Though the major motivating forces were political, cultural and religious feelings and motives also played a part in the battle of Kosovo. "The Turkish system of occupying conquered countries with military colonies and carrying off the original inhabitants, excited a great national opposition in the year 1389." This policy which would destroy the culture and religion of Serbia as well as the state, enraged the people. They felt that "the Ottomans were alien barbarians with a lesser civilization and a religion totally different from that of the conquered." Both the Turks and Serbs were motivated by religious Ideals; the Turks for Islam, and the Serbs for Christianity.
Barring other motives, both parties were politically opposed. The conflict had begun with small marauding raids the Turks pushed across the Dardanelles. When they established a foothold in the Balkans the conflict ". . . progressed too more serious . . . and finally to a full scale campaign."
It is felt that Tzar Dushan might have held back the Turks, but at his death his empire fragmented. Lacking a common culture or political tradition the empire collapsed, leaving. Its remnants open to Turkish encroachment.
"Of course the great task for the Serbian statesman of that time was, how to stem the further progress of the Ottoman Turks and drive them back to Asia." Knez Lazar as elected chief of Serbia tried to unify tie country and stop the Turks. "While Prince Lazar was Infusing fresh vigor into the Serbian State, the danger from the Turks was becoming increasingly pressing." Knez Lazar began to form a Christian league against the Turks. It was revealed to Sultan Murad, who promptly invaded Bulgaria and Serbia to destroy the Christian league. The political desires of the two nations were diametrically opposed; the Turks wanted Serbian lands, and the Serbs survival.
The final military struggle, the clash at Kosovo, was a conflict of both empires, economic systems, religions and hopes. Bulgaria was subdued first and then in 1339 Amurath (Murad I) marched against Knez Lazar, ruler of Serbia. "A great assault on Serbia was organized by the Sultan Murad I . . . he penetrated to the field of Kosovo." "In great haste he (Lazar) had to summon his noblemen to hurry with their retinues to Kosovo to meet the Turkish army." Though Knez Lazar called all his vassals, only some came, some were late, and some never started.
Lazar wished to delay the battle, hoping more reinforcements would arrive, but on July 15 (28), 1389 the Turks surprised the Serbs with an unexpected attack. (The date discrepancy is due to the acceptance of the Gregorian calendar by the Serbs later than Europe). The Serbs led an army of Bulgarians, Bosnians, Skepitars of Albania, with men from Hungry, Wallachia and Poland. It appeared that in the beginning, the Turks with an array of their vassals, were losing. In truth, history knows little or nothing of the facts. It appears that the battle was one of courage rather than tactics.
"It was not a fight to the bitter end." Before the battle started, it was lost, for the Serbs fearing treachery, lost courage. "Victory is never won by those who feel they are going to lose." "All the legends agree in suggesting that the Issue of the battle was determined by treason. A certain Vuk Brankovitch Is represented as the Serbian Judas who led his forces over to the enemy at the crucial moment." However, the treachery of Vuk Brankovic is not a proven historical fact. "Treachery is always the excuse of the vanquished, for it assuages the bitterness of defeat."
Beyond excuses and legend, both leaders, Knez Lazar and Sultan Amurath were killed during the battle. We know nothing historically of how either leader died. It is said that Murad was killed by a false deserter, and that dying he had Knez Lazar brought before him and beheaded. However, that is only legend. At the reports of Murads death the western world thought that Serbia had won, but his death did not affect the course of the battle except that "It considerably increased the severity of Bayazids' treatment of his Serbian captives."
This led to the battle's major political importance, for Bayazid, Murad's heir, killed most of the Serbian princes and nobles either in battle, beheaded them immediately after it, as revenge for his father's death.
The two new rulers, Bayazid of the Ottoman's and Stephan Lazarovitch of the Serbs, made peace. The truce of peace which followed ". . . established the inferior position of the Serbians." "The terms of the treaty then agreed to were very moderate. Instead of being incorporated In the Ottoman Empire . . . Serbia was to be an autonomous state under vassalage to the Ottoman Empire . . . " It is known that this liberal peace came from the "enforced" marriage of Stephan's sister Oliva to Bayazid.
After the battle of Kosovo the Serbs did not deceive themselves, It was the death-knell to independence. It destroyed all that was done in the way of Statehood and freedoms since the eleventh century and Nemanja. Even further destruction came in 1459 when Serbia was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire proper. After that time Serbia was no longer a true state.
"The battle of Kosovo, one of the most decisive moments in the century-long struggle of the Serbs against the Turks, quickly became the subject of legend." The poets, bards or minstrels of Serbia were touched to their poetic souls, and wrote the legend of Kosovo. They were affected because there was a foreigner, a conqueror, an occupier in their land. The legends, or poems are probably the most important effect, political or cultural that the battle at Kosovo Polje had. They are important because they helped the Serbs to remember the battle and what their past was. The greatness of the legends or poems lies in their honesty. The guslari (minstrels) did not hide the weaknesses which led to the defeat, but glorified them. "...what amazes one is the curious fact that the very folk songs that glorify Saint Lazar and lament Kosova reveal a frank and true picture of the events and prove how little warrant there is for the legend."
The legends were needed, however, to help maintain the culture of the Serbs. The Turkish victory cut off and destroyed the work of Serbia's leaders and founders, leaving the people alienated from their culture. To maintain a remnant of their culture, the guslari sung their songs of defeat and of God's will to the people. As there are few cultural or artistic expressions as powerful as the guslari, they had a great impact on their time.
In the poems are all the social relationships, portrayed and examined, the culture idealized. All that was good remembered, the bad forgotten. For cultural reasons these legends were essential. If not for the legends, the Serbian people might have forgotten their past and adapted Turkish life styles. The epic poems prevented their forgetting the past, as the poems taught in the schools, filled the minds of the people with heroes, and a heritage. Their religion also glorified in the epics also needed a tool for survival, and the legends complied. Once again the legends helped the people remember their religion, and to be proud of the heritage they possessed.
In the legends themselves are suggestions ". . . for a future struggle against the Turks . . . " This led to the peoples hope for a future, thus for survival. The poems glorify the defeat as an act of God. They assuage the bitterness of defeat by using scapegoats, and traitors. In addition they bring to mind the "good old days" of heroes and heroines fighting for their country, king, and Christianity.
These epics "helped the Christian peasant to preserve his ethnic individuality and his faith." The memories are still strong, ". . . and in token of mourning for that great national calamity (the Watterloo of the Serbian Empire) the Montenegrins still wear a black band on their caps . . . Murad's heart is still preserved on the spot where he died; Lazar's shroud is still treasured by the Hungarian Serbs in the monastery of Vrdnik; and in many a lonely village the minstrel sings to the sound of the gusle the melancholy legend of Kosova." It Is these memories which prevented the Serbs from self-pity, but steeled them against submission. When they needed support most the epics which ". . . so majestically touched on the defeated Serbian nation . . . " gave them the strength to withstand the slavery and look toward freedom. Even today, years later, upon the rise of modern Serbian nationalism Kosovo became the symbol for their national Identity.
The quality of the epics can also be spoken of. "In their description of the events, especially where the poets narrated the terrible tortures during battle and afterwards, they bring to mind the Italian poet Dante's Divine Comedy which also dates between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries." The Divine Comedy Is considered one of the Western world's greatest classics. It was also said of the poems that they were as good as, If not better than any Greek or Latin poems ever written. This was said by Jurag Sisgoric (1487) in his work De Situ Illyriae et civitate Sibenici.
These legends and poems held the Serbian people together in their memories of pride and honor. The poems can be said to be one of the major causes for Serbia's continued cultural and religious survival. However, the battle of Kosovo also had direct negative effects on the Serbian people. There was a terrible set back of their language, civilization, nationality, religion and of all they held dear. This great catastrophe tested Serbian moral, religious, and physical strength.
After the battle of Kosovo the Turks were tolerant of religion except when it went into political spheres or sided with rebels. Since there were rebellions and struggles and since the church worked with the rebellious people, she also suffered the wrath of the Turks. Of the 3,000 different Church institutions half were destroyed or desecrated by the nineteenth century.
Despite these persecutions the Serbian faith in their national religion made it impossible for Islam to take over as it had in Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria. In Serbia the Turks ruled but could not destroy its national identity.
Though under difficult conditions Stephan Lazarovitch gathered together the intelligencia of Serbia to a monastery at Velika Morava, called Resava. In this monastery scribes and translators worked, and frescos covered the walls. Between Knez Lazar and his son the Moravska school of art and studies developed in the Velika Morava area.
Other contributions to the culture of Serbia after Kosovo mainly related to the battle, commemorating it, and its heroes, were: Konstantin Mihajiovic wrote a biography of Stephan Lazarovic; and the nuns Jefinije and Grigorije who made a tapestry dedicated to the death of Knez Lazar, which is an object of great cultural importance to medieval art in general.
After Kosovo, Serbian books were printed at Gorazde, Gracanica, Rujio, Milesvo, Beograde and Skadar. The Turks persecuted and destroyed these publishers because they served the Serbian national purpose. The situation after the battle was so bad for the people, that in a letter from a Dubrovnik family to Serbian friends, the Serbians were invited to go to Dubrovnik, "If they could not support themselves."
Despite the persecutions and bad economic conditions, the Serbian people always had a feeling of optimism, remembering past glories and looking to future greatness. They survived five centuries of alien subjugation. During those five centuries neither culture advanced, both Serbs and Turks remained in a pocket of Feudal, Medieval life, till the nineteenth century. This stagnated culture, the culture of the Serbs held down, from flourishing as it had, sprang back to life when it regained its freedom. Although the Serbs missed both renaissance and enlightenment, due to the Turkish occupation, they rapidly advanced, once freed, due to the heritage which they so zealously protected through some five centuries.
They are advancing because of their spirit and hopes. They are advancing because of their pride and convictions. They are advancing because they remember, the humiliation of their fathers. Their memory is long, but vital and strong. It is this memory of the battle of Kosovo that kept the Serbian culture alive.
The Battle of Kosovo was a military loss to the Serbs. They lost country, language, and hopes. Yet from this loss came the epic poems of Serbia, the stories of their past. I feel that this loss of a battle enabled the Serbs to win the war . . . of cultural survival.
Glossary of Serbian elite!
["yoog bohg-DAHN"]. An elderly Serbian nobleman. Father of Milica and the Jugovići. (In the Serbian text the name is "Bogdan-Juže".)
Vuk Branković ["vook"]. A Serbian nobleman, portrayed as a traitor in the epics. Before the battle of Kosovo, he was an ally of Lazar Hrebeljanović and was married to one of Lazar's daughters. According to the epics he betrayed Lazar by abandoning him during the battle. Whether this betrayal actually took place cannot be determined. Ottoman accounts report that Branković fought bravely and did not retreat until after the battle was lost.
Branković was the most prominent nobleman to survive the war, and he sought to become the next Serbian leader. That brought him into rivalry with Lazar's widow Milica and her son Stefan Lazarević. The latter allied with the Ottoman empire, and Branković was defeated. Although the Lazarević-Branković rivalry lasted only a few years, it is commonly assumed that the epic poems about Kosovo originated during these years as pro-Lazarević propaganda, thus explaining the portrayal of Lazar as a saint and Branković as a traitor.
One of the Jugovići.
Gojko. A fictitious character, brother of Vukašin and Uglješa of the Mrnjavčević family. In the poems presented here, Gojko gets only a passing mention. Another poem not included here ("Uroš and the Mrljavečevići"), gives an unflattering portrayal of the other two brothers, in which they are contrasted with the admirable Gojko.
Jugović, plural Jugovići ["YOO-go-vee-chee"], "sons of Jug". Sons of Jug Bogdan, brothers of Milica; in the poems there are nine of them. Although Milica is a genuine historical figure, the Jugović brothers in the poems are fictitious. In another poem, about the building of Ravanica, not included here, the Jugovići are portrayed unfavorably.
Ivan Kosančić. A fictitious character. In the poems he is a Serb nobleman allied with Lazar.
Lazar Hrebeljanović ["la-ZAR khreb-el-YAH-no-vich"]. Hero of the Kosovo epics. A powerful nobleman from the northern part of Serbia. He prevailed in the civil wars of the 1360s and 1370s. After Uroš and Vukašin were killed in the battle of Marica, Lazar emerged as the de facto king of Serbia. He led the Serbians in the battle of Kosovo, where he was killed. In the poems Lazar is given the title of "tsar", but his real title was "knez" (prince).
Mrnjavčevići ["murn-YAHV-cheh-vee-chee"], "sons of Mrnava". Mrnava's identity is unknown; his sons were Vukašin and Uglješa. A third brother named in the poems, Goďko, is a fictitious character.
Milica. Wife of Lazar Hrebeljanović. In the poems Militsa is given the title "tsaritsa", but since Lazar was never named tsar, Militsa was never really a tsaritsa either. After Lazar died in the defeat at Kosovo, Milica became regent for their son Stefan Lazarević. For the next few years, she was in a bitter political rivalry with Vuk Branković, the most prominent Serb nobleman who survived the battle. Although the rivalry lasted only a few years, it is commonly assumed that the epic poems about Kosovo originated during these years as pro-Lazarević propaganda, thus explaining the portrayal of Lazar as a saint and Branković as a traitor.
Murad I. Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, 1360-89, leader of the Ottoman forces at Kosovo. On the evening before the battle, Murad was murdered by Miloš Obilić, a Serb who had entered the Ottoman camp representing himself as a deserter. The sultan's death was kept secret and not revealed until after the battle was over.
Stefan Mušić. A Serbian nobleman, allied with Lazar Hrebeljanović.
Miloš Obilić. According to the poems, Miloš was the greatest of Lazar's warriors, a rival of Vuk Branković, and the man who slew the Ottoman Sultan Murad. One of the poems makes Miloš a participant in the battle at Kosovo, while another legend says that he infiltrated the Turkish camp and murdered Murad in his tent. A 17th century Italian historian [Orbini, probably following Serbian oral tradition] reports that a Serb named Miloš Obilić did indeed desert (or pretend to desert) to the Ottoman side. When brought before the Sultan, Obilić produced a concealed dagger and assassinated the sultan. I know of no references to Miloš Obilić outside of the context of the Kosovo battle.
I believe that some depictions of Miloš in the poems have conflated him with George Balšić, a leading Serbian nobleman of the time. George Balšić is known to have been a rival of Vuk Branković (the two families had been traditional enemies) and he, like Vuk, married one of Lazar's daughters. The Balšić family's lands were in the west (in what is now Montenegro). George Balšić submitted to Ottoman suzerainty a few years prior to Kosovo and did not participate in the battle.
A Serb warrior at Kosovo.
There were many Serbian nobles named "Stefan". I assume this reference is to Stefan Mušić.
Strahinja. A Serbian nobleman, hero of another poem not included here. Strahinja's historical identity is uncertain. It has been suggested that he may represent George Balšić.
Toplica Milan ["toh-PLEET-sa MEE-lahn" in the English translation; "mee-LAHN" in the original Serbian text]. A fictitious character. In the poems he is a Serb nobleman allied with Lazar. The name should be read as "Milan from Toplica". Toplica is a place name for a town, a region, and a river in what is now southcentral Serbia. Toplica was site of one of the original Serbian bishoprics. The river still bears the name.
Uglješa ["oog-LYEH-sha"]. Brother of Vukašin. A vassal of Stefan Dušan, he remained loyal to Dušan's son Uroš. As Uglješa's lands lay nearest to the area threatened by the growing Ottoman empire, it was Uglješa who worked hardest to collect allies to fight for Serbia in 1371. The mention of Uglješa in the poem "The Fall of the Serbian Empire" is historically inaccurate: The real Uglješa was killed at Marica in 1371.
A variant name for Vlatko Vuković. He commanded the Bosnian army, which fought with Lazar at Kosovo, and was one of the few Serb leaders to survive the battle. (At that time there was little distinction between Serbian and Bosnian nationality.)
Vukašin Mrnjavčević ["voo-KAH-sheen murn-YAHV-che-vich"], brother of Uglješa. A powerful nobleman in Stefan Dušan's court, he remained loyal to Dušan's son Uroš. About halfway into Uroš's reign, Vukašin came to be the real power behind the throne and was named "king" (kralj). (According to the tradition of the time the title for the monarch (Uroš) was "tsar", and the title "kralj" was given to the designated successor.) The mention of Vukašin in the poem "The Fall of the Serbian Empire" is inaccurate: The real Vukašin was killed at Marica in 1371.
After the deaths of Vukašin and Uroš, Vukašin's son Marko inherited the title of kralj. In spite of the fact that the historical Marko's attempted reign was unsuccessful and undistinguished, he is the hero of several later Serbian epics (not published here), in which he is known as "Marko Kraljević". The same Marko is a hero of Bulgarian poetry as well, in which he is known as "Krali Marko".