No. XXXVI (2005)

A Balkan-Style French Revolution? The 1804 Serbian Uprising in European Perspective

Dušan T. Bataković
Institute for Balkan Studies, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Published 01.12.2005


  • Serbian uprising of 1804-13,
  • Ottoman Empire,
  • janissaries,
  • revolution,
  • Balkan Christians

How to Cite

Bataković, D. T. (2005). A Balkan-Style French Revolution? The 1804 Serbian Uprising in European Perspective. Balcanica - Annual of the Institute for Balkan Studies, (XXXVI), 113–128.


The Serbian uprising of 1804-13, initially a peasant rebellion against abuses of power by local janissaries, turned into a national and social revolution from 1806. During its second phase (late 1806 – early 1807), Serbian insurgents openly proclaimed their demand for independence. Encouraged by their military achievements, the insurgent leaders began to seek wider Balkan support for their struggle against Ottoman domination. Although its political claims were a mixture of modern national and romantic historic rights, the uprising gave hope to all Balkan Christians that the Ottoman defeat was an achievable goal. For the Balkan nations it was a French Revolution adapted to local conditions: the principle of popular sovereignty was opposed to the principle of legitimism; a new peasant-dominated society was created in which, due to the lack of the aristocracy and well-established middle classes, agrarian egalitarianism was combined with the rising aspirations of a modern nation. Its long-term effects on the political and social landscape of the whole region justified the assessment of the eminent German historian Leopold von Ranke who described the uprising, by analogy with the French example, as the Serbian Revolution.


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