The word Kosovo comes from the name of a very common bird kos, a blackbird – a black bird with a yellow-orange beak, living in the woods and fields, in moist environment. It nests in tree tops or bushes. The Field of Kosovo, where the famous battle took place, is a place, a habitat of blackbirds.
The Battle of Kosovo was neither a major victory nor a major defeat in the history of Serbian warfare, but it has remained one of the most significant events of the Serbian history. A great clash of the Serbian and Turkish armies took place on Vidovdan (15 June by the Julian calendar, 28 June by the Gregorian calendar) 1389 on the Kosovo Field, not far from the present Priština. The allied Serbian forces were under command of prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic, the Turkish army was under sultan Murad I and his sons Yacoub and Bayezid.
Some estimates given later on say that there were about 30,000 Serbs and about 40,000 Turks. Both sides suffered a great number of casualties, and both rulers died as well. A legend says that sultan Murad was killed by a Serbian hero, Miloš Oblić, who devised a cunning plan. Serbian prince Lazar was captured and killed during the battle.
Turkish army, now under the command of Murad’s son Bayezid, left Serbia after the battle, so at first it seemed that the Serbs were victorious. However, due to substantial losses suffered in Kosovo, no one was left in Serbia who could put a stop to the Turkish invasion, and Serbia lost its independent status.
The Battle of Kosovo has remained a symbol of a great defeat, but the one allowed by God – in spite of the Serbian warriors’ heroism. Sung in folk epic songs, interpreted with a deep faith in God, for the Serbian nation the Battle of Kosovo means a contact with and passage to the Heavenly Kingdom. Kosovo is a defeat promising future victory. In centuries of servitude, remembering the Kosovo heroes and their leader, the Holy Martyr Prince Lazar, helped the Serbs to preserve their national identity and their Orthodox Christian faith and after being liberated from the Turkish rule to once again stand fast among the independent and free nations of the world.
“Mighty God, what now shall this my choice be!
Shall I choose to have a heav’nly kingdom?
Shall I choose to have an earthly kingdom?
If I now should choose an earthly kingdom,
Lo, an earthly kingdom is but fleeting,
But God’s kingdom shall endure for ever.”
And the Tsar he chose a heav’nly kingdom,
And he built a church upon Kossovo,—
Did not bring foundation stones of marble
But he brought pure samite there and scarlet;
Summon’d there the Patriarch of Serbia,
Summon’d there with him the twelve archbishops.
Thus he gave the warriors and their leaders
Holy Sacrament and battle orders.
But no sooner gave the Prince his orders
Than the Turkish hordes swept on Kossovo.
(an excerpt from a Serbian epic song „Propast carstva srpskoga“)
Да је коме послушати било
Како љуто кнеже проклињаше:
„Ко не дође на бој на Косово,
Од руке му ништа не родило:
Ни у пољу бјелица пшеница,
Ни у брду винова лозица!“
(The Prince’s Curse (Kneževa kletva),
an excerpt from a lost Serbian epic song)
When the fine-written letter Tsar Lazarus had read,
He looked upon the letter and bitter tears he shed.
Bitter was the tsar’s curse to hear; aye! and a word of woe:
“Who comes not to the battle with me at Kósovo,
Let nothing grow beneath his hand in the field that he shall till;
Let not the white wheat spring in the field, nor the vine shoot on the hill!”