Siege of Knin

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Siege of Knin
Part of the Ottoman wars in Europe
Croatian–Ottoman wars
Hundred Years' Croatian-Ottoman War
View of Knin from 1525, shortly after its conquest
Dateearly May - 29 May 1522
Result Ottoman victory
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844).svg Ottoman Empire Coat of arms of Croatia 1495.svg Kingdom of Croatia
Commanders and leaders
Gazi Husrev-beg
Murat-beg Tardić
Mihovil Vojković  White flag icon.svg
~25,000 men [1] few hundred men
Today's Fortress of Knin Knin Fortress, Croatia, view towards flag.JPG
Today's Fortress of Knin

The Siege of Knin (Croatian : Opsada Knina) was a siege of the castle 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 the castle's residents. The Ottomans eventually made Knin the center of Sanjak Lika-Krka.

Croatian language South Slavic language

Croatian is the standardized variety of the Serbo-Croatian language used by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina, and other neighboring countries. It is the official and literary standard of Croatia and one of the official languages of the European Union. Croatian is also one of the official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a recognized minority language in Serbia and neighboring countries.

Knin City in Šibenik-Knin, Croatia

Knin is a city in the Šibenik-Knin County of Croatia, located in the Dalmatian hinterland near the source of the river Krka, an important traffic junction on the rail and road routes between Zagreb and Split. Knin rose to prominence twice in history, as the capital of both the medieval Kingdom of Croatia and, briefly, of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina from 1991 to 1995.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Asia, Europe and Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.



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. [2]

Battle of Krbava Field

The Battle of Krbava Field was fought between the Ottoman Empire of Bayezid II and an army of the Kingdom of Croatia, at the time in personal union with the Kingdom of Hungary, on 9 September 1493, in the Krbava field, a part of the Lika region in Croatia.

The last major conflict around Knin before the truce was in September 1502 when 2,000 Ottoman cavalrymen looted the area. [3] 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, [4] 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. [2]

Vladislaus II of Hungary King of Bohemia and of Hungary

Vladislaus II, also known as Vladislav II, Władysław II or Wladislas II, was King of Bohemia from 1471 to 1516, and King of Hungary and Croatia from 1490 to 1516. As the eldest son of Casimir IV Jagiellon, he was expected to inherit Poland and Lithuania. George of Poděbrady, the Hussite ruler of Bohemia, offered to make Vladislaus his heir in 1468. Poděbrady needed Casimir IV's support against the rebellious Catholic noblemen and their ally, Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary. The Diet of Bohemia elected Vladislaus king after Poděbrady's death, but he could only rule Bohemia proper, because Matthias occupied Moravia, Silesia and Lusatia. Vladislaus tried to reconquer the three provinces with his father's assistance, but Matthias repelled them.

Bayezid II Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512

Bayezid II was the eldest son and successor of Mehmed II, ruling as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512. During his reign, Bayezid II consolidated the Ottoman Empire and thwarted a Safavid rebellion soon before abdicating his throne to his son, Selim I. He is most notable for evacuating Sephardi Jews from Spain after the proclamation of the Alhambra Decree and resettling them throughout the Ottoman Empire.

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. [5] 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. [2]

Sanjak of Bosnia was one of the sanjaks of the Ottoman Empire established in 1463 when the lands conquered from the Bosnian Kingdom were transformed into a sanjak and Isa-Beg Isaković was appointed its first sanjakbey. In the period between 1463 and 1580 it was part of the Rumelia Eyalet. After the Bosnia Eyalet was established in 1580 the Bosnian Sanjak became its central province. Between 1864 and the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia in 1878 it was part of the Bosnia Vilayet that succeeded the Eyalet of Bosnia following administrative reforms in 1864 known as the "Vilayet Law". Although Bosnia Vilayet was officially still part of the Ottoman Empire until 1908 the Bosnian Sanjak ceased to exist in 1878.

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. [2] 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 castle and lost 500 troops. The settlement beneath the castle in its outskirts was burned on this occasion. [6] [7]

Hungarian language language spoken in and around Hungary

Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language spoken in Hungary and parts of several neighbouring countries. It is the official language of Hungary and one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. Outside Hungary it is also spoken by communities of Hungarians in the countries that today make up Slovakia, western Ukraine (Subcarpathia), central and western Romania (Transylvania), northern Serbia (Vojvodina), northern Croatia and northern Slovenia. It is also spoken by Hungarian diaspora communities worldwide, especially in North America and Israel. Like Finnish and Estonian, Hungarian belongs to the Uralic language family. With 13 million speakers, it is the family's largest member by number of speakers.

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. [7]

Louis II of Hungary King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia

Louis II was King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia from 1516 to 1526. He was killed during the Battle of Mohács fighting the Ottomans, whose victory led to the Ottoman annexation of Hungary. He had no legitimate issue.

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. [8]

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. [8] [9]


Vincenzo Coronelli's illustration of Knin from the late 17th century, during Ottoman rule Chnin Fortezza nella Dalmatia 30 miglia lontana da Sebenico nell'ultime Parti di quel Territo E confinante alla Bossina - Coronelli Vincenzo - 1687.jpg
Vincenzo Coronelli's illustration of Knin from the late 17th century, during Ottoman rule

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. [5]

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. [8]

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. [5] 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. [10]

Relief attempts

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. [11]

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Gazi Husrev-beg Bosnian noble

Gazi Husrev-beg was a Bosniak Ottoman sanjak-bey (governor) of the Sanjak of Bosnia in 1521—1525, 1526—1534, and 1536—1541. He was known for his major contribution to the improvement of the structural development of Sarajevo urban area and his construction of many important buildings there, such as the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque or the medresa Kuršumlija, as well as for his successful conquests and for the launching of further Ottoman expansion into Croatia.

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Minnetoğlu Mehmed Bey was an Ottoman general and the first governor of the Sanjak of Bosnia, serving Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror


  1. Vjekoslav Klaić: Knin za turskog vladanja, p. 258
  2. 1 2 3 4 Stjepan Gunjača: Tiniensia archaeologica - historica - topographica, 1960, p. 86-87
  3. Stjepan Gunjača: Tiniensia archaeologica - historica - topographica, 1960, p. 84
  4. Ive Mažuran: Povijest Hrvatske od 15. stoljeća do 18. stoljeća, p. 44-45
  5. 1 2 3 Ive Mažuran: Povijest Hrvatske od 15. stoljeća do 18. stoljeća, p. 48
  6. Vjekoslav Klaić: Povijest Hrvata od najstarijih vremena do svršetka XIX. stoljeća, Knjiga četvrta, Zagreb, 1988, p. 302
  7. 1 2 Stjepan Gunjača: Tiniensia archaeologica - historica - topographica, 1960, p. 88
  8. 1 2 3 Vjekoslav Klaić: Povijest Hrvata od najstarijih vremena do svršetka XIX. stoljeća, Knjiga četvrta, Zagreb, 1988, p. 382-383
  9. Ćiro Truhelka: Gazi Husrefbeg, njegov život i njegovo doba, p.20
  10. 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
  11. Stjepan Gunjača: Tiniensia archaeologica - historica - topographica, 1960, p. 90-91