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Bosnia - 1841-1849

The rebellion of Bosnia in 1849 was a rebellion of masters for the right of keeping their serfs in submission. To compare small affairs with great, it was analogous to the rebellion of the Southern planters against the North, but the result was not altogether the same. The rebels in each case were crushed by force of arms : in America the system was rooted out ; in Bosnia, after a certain period, things went on much as before. This was owing to the weakness of the central government at Constantinople.

In the year 1849, while Sir Stratford Canning was in all his glory - when, in fact, England was in a manner governing Turkey through her ambassadors and her consuls ; and when Russia was declaring to the world that the condition of her co-religionists was deplorable, and demanding the right of protecting them ; and when England was about to interfere by arms to support the Moslems in their tyranny - Ali Pasha of Stolac was governing his subjects in true Moslem fashion. In this year he sent Ibrahim, his eavass, to hunt after certain Christian outlaws. The eavass hit upon a plan which saved much trouble. He went to the village of Cernagora, where he spent the night. On the following morning he gave orders that one man out of each house should accompany him to Piva. At the distance of one hour from their houses these poor peasants had their hands bound behind them, and then Ibrahim shot each and all, and, cutting off their heads, presented them to his employer, Ali Pasha, who always had a row of Christian heads fixed on stakes on the walls of his fortress. There were a hundred and fifty stakes, which were always topped with as many heads [this Ali was shot in 1851].

In 1848 a man of tried capacity, Tahir Pasha, was sent as governor-general, with orders to introduce the Tamimat. He was backed by a considerable force of Nizam, or regular soldiers. No open rebellion immediately followed, merely a passive resistance on the part of the beys and agas (lords and squires) of the province, who for some months intrigued with the pasha, and bribed him ; but in 1849 a revolt broke out in that part of Bosnia called the Kraina. Tahir Pasha at once marched against the rebels, but, leaning upon the advice of his Bosnian friends as to the number of troops necessary and the proper routes to take, he was betrayed, driven out of Bihatch, and had to abandon his baggage.

This happened just as Turkey was menaced by Russia and Austria for her refusal to deliver up the Hungarian refugees, so that she had no troops to send to Bosnia, the rebels of which were thereby greatly encouraged. The sultan had to dispatch his best general, Omar Pasha, with a large-sized army, to Bosnia before the rebels consented to return to their allegiance.

When the condition of foreign affairs was somewhat calmer, it was deemed necessary to undertake the thorough subjugation of the rebellious province ; and so the famous Omar Pasha, who was afterwards the generalissimo of the Turkish army in the Crimean War, was sent with a powerful force to bring the Bosnians to reason. Omar Pasha was unquestionably a man of capacity, and, moreover, was himself of the Bosnian race. His original name was Michael Lattas, and, had the Ottoman conquests not been pushed back, he would have been a rayah. He had deserted from the Austrian army, had embraced Islamism as a young man, and achieved a brilliant Turkish career-which fact is not exactly a testimony to high moral character.

The insurgents of 1849, after a desperate and bloody resistance, were driven from their stronghold, retreating on Derbend, and from there to the hills of Vutshiak, where they intrenched themselves to the number of 15,000. The force under Omar Pasha scarcely exceeded 4,000, but his men were thoroughly disciplined, and much better armed than the tumultuous levies of farmers and shopkeepers opposed to him. By skilful strategy and bold attacks the rebels were dislodged, and many of them driven over the frontier into Austria, where they were disarmed.

The war was by no means over, for in the following spring the whole of the Kraina was in revolt. Cadi Kapitch, the chief of the insurgents, occupying the strong fort of Jaitza, on being summoned to surrender, returned a haughty answer, to the effect that he would allow the Turkish army to retire unmolested if Omar Pasha would renounce further hostilities. The siege that ensued showed the Bosnian-Moslem insurgents to be far from contemptible artillerymen. The defeat of rebel armies and the occupation of the capital did not bring the insurrection to an end.

Following his victory in 1849, Omar defiantly established himself as pasha at Sarajevo and gave the administration of these outlying territories a more centralized character than it had recently boasted; however, apart from a few alterations at the top, he changed nothing in the organization of Bosnian society. Much as before his coming the courts discriminated against Christians in favor of Moslems, all public offices were reserved to men of the privileged faith, the taxes were collected from the peasants by corrupt and tyrannical tax-farmers, and the Moslem landlords relentlessly exacted the payments due them from their Christian tenants to the last fowl or sheaf of wheat.

Should the oppressed peasants ever revolt, it would be as much against their local lords as against the financial agents of the sultan, and in all probability the revolt would be due, on the one hand, to some fresh aggravation of the familiar evils, and on the other, to a new hope aroused by an increasing acquaintance with the stimulating ideals and improving conditions of the outside world.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:26:59 ZULU