Great Bosnian uprising

The Great Bosnian uprising was a revolt of Bosnians against the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.

The road to uprising

In the late 1820s, Sultan Mahmud II reintroduced a set of reforms that called for further expansion of the centrally controlled army ("nizam"), new taxes and more Ottoman bureaucracy. These reforms weakened the special status and privileges Bosnia had historically enjoyed under the Ottoman Empire and coupled with the growing power and position of other European people under Ottoman control caused much anger and alarm. Contrary to popular belief, however, Gradaščević was not greatly opposed to these reforms.

In 1826, when the Sultan issued a decree abolishing the "janissaries" in Bosnia, Gradaščević's immediate reaction was not unlike that of the rest of the Bosnian aristocracy. Gradaščević threatened that he would use military force to subdue anybody opposed to the Sarajevo "janissaries". When the janissaries killed "nakibul-ešraf"fn|1 Nurudin effendi Šerifović, however, his tone shifted and he rapidly distanced himself from their cause.

For the rest of the 1820s, Gradaščević generally maintained good relations with imperial authorities in Bosnia. When Abdurahim-"paša" became vizier in 1827, Gradaščević was said to have become one of his more trusted advisors. This culminated in Gradaščević's large role in the Bosnian mobilization for the Russo-Ottoman war. Following a riot in the Sarajevo camp during these preparations, Gradaščević even provided shelter for the ousted Abdurahim-paša in Gradačac before assisting him in his escape from the country. Gradaščević was also relatively loyal to Abdurahim's successor, Namik-"paša", reinforcing Ottoman garrisons in Šabac upon his orders.

The turning point for Gradaščević came with the end of the Russo-Ottoman War and the Treaty of Adrianople on September 14, 1829. According to the provisions of the treaty, the Ottoman Empire had to grant to Serbia. In a move that outraged Bosniaks and launched numerous protests, newly autonomous Serbia was also given six districts (Bosnian: "nahijas") that had traditionally belonged to Bosnia. Following this confiscation of historically Bosnian lands the Bosnian autonomy movement was born.

Between the 20th and 31st of December, 1830, Gradaščević hosted a gathering of Bosniak aristocrats in Gradačac. A month later, from January 20 to February 5, another meeting was held in Tuzla to prepare for the revolt. From there, a call was issued to the Bosnian populace asking them to rise up to the defense of Bosnia. It was then that the popular Husein-kapetan was unofficially chosen to head the movement. Further details of this meeting are murky and disputable. According to certain contemporary sources, the Bosniaks demanded that İstanbul:

*Repeal the privileges granted to Serbia and, in particular, return the six old Bosnian districts.
*Cease the implementation of the "nizam" military reforms.
*End the governorship of Bosnia and accept the implementation of an autonomous Bosnian government headed by a local leader. In return, Bosnia would pay a yearly tribute.


=The fight for autonomy=History of Bosnia

Another outcome of the Tuzla meeting was an agreement that another general meeting should be held in Travnik. Since Travnik was the seat of the Bosnian "pashaluk" and the vizier, the planned meeting was in effect a direct confrontation with Ottoman authority. Gradaščević thus asked all involved to help assemble an army beforehand. On March 29, 1831, Gradaščević set out towards Travnik with some 4,000 men.

Upon hearing word of the oncoming force, Namik-"paša" is said to have gone to the Travnik fort and called the Sulejmanpašić brothers to his aid. When the rebel army arrived in Travnik they fired several warning shots at the castle, warning the vizier that they were prepared for a military encounter. Meanwhile, Gradaščević sent a detachment of his forces, under the command of Memiš-"aga" of Srebrenica, to meet Sulejmanpašić's reinforcements. The two sides met at Pirot, on the outskirts of Travnik, on April 7. There, Memiš-"aga" defeated the Sulejmanpašić brothers and their 2,000-man army, forcing them to retreat and destroying the possessions of the Sulejmanpašić family. On May 21, Namik-"paša" fled to Stolac following a short siege. Soon afterwards, Gradaščević proclaimed himself the "Commander of Bosnia, chosen by the will of the people".

Wasting no time, Gradaščević made a call on May 31 demanding that all aristocrats immediately join his army, along with all from the general populace who wished to do so. Thousands rushed to join him, among them being numerous Christians, who were said to comprise up to a third of his total forces. Gradaščević split his army in two, leaving one part of it in Zvornik to defend against a possible Serbian incursion. With the bulk of the troops he set out towards Kosovo to meet the grand vizier, who had been sent with a large army to quell the rebellion. Along the way, he took the cities of Peć and Priština, where he set up his main camp.

The encounter with Grand Vizier Mehmed Rashid-"paša" happened on July 18 near Shtimje/Štimlje. Although both armies were of roughly equal size, the Grand Vizier's troops had superior arms. Gradaščević sent a part of his army under the command of Ali-beg Fidahić ahead to meet Rashid-"paša" 's forces. Following a small skirmish, Fidahić feigned a retreat. Thinking that victory was within reach, the Grand Vizier foolishly sent his cavalry and artillery into forested terrain. Gradaščević immediately took advantage of this tactical error and executed a punishing counterattack with the bulk of his forces, almost completely annihilating the Ottoman forces. Rashid-"paša" himself was injured and barely escaped with his life.

Following claims from the Grand Vizier that the Sultan would meet all Bosniak demands if the rebel army would return to Bosnia, Gradaščević and his army turned back home. On August 10 a meeting of all major figures in the movement for autonomy was held in Priština. At this meeting it was decided that Gradaščević should be declared vizier of Bosnia. Although Gradaščević refused at first, those around him insisted and he eventually accepted the honor. His new status was made official during an all-Bosnian congress held in Sarajevo on September 12. In front of the Tsar's Mosque, those present swore on the "Qur'an" to be loyal to Gradaščević and declared that, despite potential failure and death, there would be no turning back.

At this point, Gradaščević was not only the supreme military commander, but Bosnia's leading civilian authority as well. He established a court around him, and after initially making himself at home in Sarajevo, he moved the center of Bosnian politics to Travnik, making it the "de facto" capital of the rebel state. In Travnik, he established a "Divan", a Bosnian congress, which together with him made up the Bosnian government. Gradaščević also collected taxes at this time, and executed various local opponents of the autonomy movement. He gained a reputation as a hero and a strong, brave, and decisive ruler. One anecdote that illustrates this is Husein-kapetan's alleged response to whether he was scared of waging war against the Ottoman Empire. "God I fear slightly," Gradaščević replied, "the Sultan not at all, and the Grand Vizier no more than my own horse."

During this lull in armed conflict with the Ottomans, attention was turned to the autonomy movement's strong opposition in Herzegovina. A small campaign was launched against the region from three different directions:

*1. An army from Sarajevo was ordered to attack Stolac for a final encounter with Namik-paša, who had fled there following Gradaščević's capture of Travnik.
*2. An army from Krajina was to assist the Sarajevan forces in this endeavor.
*3. Armies from Posavina and south Podrinje were to attack Gacko and local captain Smail-aga Čengić.

As it happened, Namik-paša had already abandoned Stolac, so this attack was put on hold. The attack on Gacko was a failure as the forces from Posavina and south Podrinje were defeated by Čengić's troops. There was one success, however; in October, an army Gradaščević had deployed under the command of Ahmed-beg Resulbegović had taken over Trebinje from Resulbegović's loyalist cousins and other supporters of the Stolac opposition.

A Bosnian delegation reached the Grand Vizier's camp in Skopje in November of that year. The Grand Vizier promised this delegation that he would insist to the Sultan that he accept the Bosniak demands and appoint Gradaščević as the official vizier of an autonomous Bosnia. His true intentions, however, were manifested by early December when he attacked Bosnian units stationed on the outskirts of Novi Pazar. Yet again, the rebel army handed a defeat to the imperial forces. Due to a particularly strong winter though, the Bosnian troops were forced to return home.

Meanwhile in Bosnia, Gradaščević decided to carry on his campaign in Herzegovina despite the unfavorable climate. The captain of Livno, Ibrahim-beg Fidrus, was ordered to launch a final attack against the local captains and to thus end all domestic opposition to the autonomy movement. To achieve this, Fidrus first attacked Ljubuški and the local captain Sulejman-beg. In a significant victory, Fidrus defeated Sulejman-beg and secured the whole of Herzegovina except Stolac in the process. Unfortunately, the segment of the army that laid siege to Stolac itself met with failure in early March of the next year. Receiving information that the Bosnian ranks were depleted due to the winter, the captain of Stolac Ali-paša Rizvanbegović broke the siege, counterattacking the rebels and dispersing their forces. A force had already been sent towards Stolac from Sarajevo, under the command of Mujaga Zlatar, but was ordered back by Gradaščević on March 16 after he received news of a major offensive on Bosnia being planned by the Grand Vizier.

The Ottoman campaign began in early February. The Grand Vizier sent two armies: one from Vučitrn and one from Shkodër. Both armies headed toward Sarajevo, and Gradaščević sent an army of around 10,000 men to meet them. When the Vizier's troops succeeded in crossing the Drina, Gradaščević ordered 6,000 men under Ali-paša Fidahić to meet them in Rogatica while units stationed in Višegrad were to head to Pale on the outskirts of Sarajevo. The encounter between the two sides finally happened on the Glasinac plains to the east of Sarajevo, near Sokolac, at the end of May. The Bosnian army was led by Gradaščević himself, while the Ottoman troops were under the command of Kara Mahmud Hamdi-paša, the new imperially recognized vizier of Bosnia. In this first encounter, Gradaščević was forced to retreat to Pale. The fighting continued in Pale and Gradaščević was once again forced to retreat; this time to Sarajevo. There, a council of captains decided that the fight would continue.

The final battle was played out on June 4 at Stup, a small locality on the road between Sarajevo and Ilidža. After a long, intense battle, it seemed Gradaščević had once again defeated the Sultan's army. Near the very end, however, Herzegovinian troops under the command of Ali-paša Rizvanbegović and Smail-aga Čengić broke through defenses Gradaščević had set up on his flank and joined the fighting. Overwhelmed by the unexpected attack from behind, the rebel army was forced to retreat into the city of Sarajevo itself. It was decided that further military resistance would be futile. Gradaščević fled to Gradačac as the imperial army entered the city on June 5 and prepared to march on Travnik. Upon realizing the difficulties that his home and family would experience if he stayed there, Gradaščević decided to leave Gradačac and continue on to Austrian lands instead.

Exile and death

If the choice to flee Bosnia was not already clear, the Sultan's furious "fatwa" declaring Gradaščević "no good", an "evil-doer", a "traitor", a "gangster" and a "rebel" may have convinced Gradaščević to leave. Due to various customs and procedures, however, Gradaščević's departure from Bosnia was held up for several days. After pleading with Austrian officials to ease their restrictions, Gradaščvić finally reached the Sava river boundary with a large party of followers on June 16. He crossed the river into Habsburg lands the same day, along with some 100 followers, servants, and family. Though he expected to be treated as a Bosnian vizier, he instead found himself held in quarantine in Slavonski Brod for nearly a month, with his weapons and many of his possessions taken away.

Austrian officials faced constant pressure from the Ottoman government to move Gradaščević as far away from the border as possible. On July 4 he was moved to Osijek where he essentially lived in internment. His communications with the rest of his family and social circle were severely limited and he complained about his treatment to the authorities several times. His conditions would eventually improve, and before he left Osijek he remarked to local officials that he had enjoyed his stay there. Although intensely homesick and only partially in control of his own destiny, Gradaščević retained his pride and dignity. He was said to have lived a luxurious life that included jousting competitions with his companions.

In late 1832, he agreed to return to Ottoman territory to receive a "ferman" of pardon from the Sultan. The terms, read to him in Zemun, were very harsh, insisting that Gradaščević not only never to return to Bosnia, but also never to set foot on the European lands of the Ottoman Empire either. Disappointed, Gradaščević was forced to obey the terms and rode on to Belgrade. He entered the city on October 14 in the manner of a true vizier, riding a horse decked out in silver and gold and accompanied by a large procession. He was greeted as a hero by the Muslims in Belgrade and treated like an equal by the local "pasha". Gradaščević stayed in the city for two months, during which his health deteriorated (as was documented by local doctor Bartolomeo Kunibert). He left the city for İstanbul in December, but as his daughter was still very young, his wife remained in Belgrade, joining him in the spring of the following year.

In İstanbul Gradaščević lived in an old "janissary" barracks at "atmejdan" (Hippodrome square) while his family lived in a separate house nearby. He lived a relatively quiet life for the next two years, the only notable event being an offer from the Sultan for Gradaščević to become a high-ranking "pasha" in the Nizami army; an offer that Gradaščević indignantly refused. He died on August 17, 1834. Legend has it that he was poisoned by imperial authorities but, considering his long failing health, a more probable cause might have been cholera. He was buried in Eyup Sultan Cemetery near the site of the old veterinary school, where his grave remains to this day.

ee also

*Husein Gradaščević
*Herzegovinian rebellion


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