An uprising is an armed popular revolt, a rebellion. It is organised against a foreign rule, but also against a constituted government when people are discontent.
Throughout its history, Serbia was occupied several times. For years, Serbs lived under a foreign rule, but a traditional longing for liberty never died. Resentment felt against servitude, even when it lasted for centuries (under the Turks, for instance) often led to rebellions. Some were successful, leading to freedom, some were just the beginning of a long struggle, and some were crushed in blood. Anyhow, Serbs were always ready to rise up if faced with oppressive forces.
The first great uprising in the Serbian history was the one against the Turks in Banat in 1594. The great Turkish army overpowered the rebels. The leader of the revolt, the bishop of Vršac, was caught and skinned alive. The Church commemorates him as a great martyr on 29 May (16 May by the Julian calendar). In order to retaliate even more, a commander of the Turkish army, Sinan Pasha, ordered the remains of St Sava to be burnt in Vračar, Belgrade.
In the centuries to follow, there were some minor rebellions against the Turks, but they were easily defeated. In the 1689 Turkish war, Austria was a determining factor for Serbs to organise an uprising under the leadership of Patriarch Arsenije Čarnojević, allying with Austria in the war. After some initial success, the revolt eventually ended with the Great Serbian Migration – when people had to retreat to the regions across the Sava and the Danube, fleeing from Kosovo and Metohija before the Turkish vengeful forces.
A hundred years later, once again, during the 1788 Turkish-Austrian wars, serving in the Austrian army under the command of Captain Koča Anđelković, the Serbs crossed from Banat to Serbia and organised an uprising. The uprising, named the Koča’s Frontier Rebellion, was also defeated. Captain Koča and his closest officers were caught and impaled alive.
Already in 1804, under the command of one of the Koča’s officers, Đorđe Petrović – Karađorđe, the First Serbian Uprising started in Orašac. The Serbs started it on their own, liberated a large part of Serbia and established a new government. After the defeat in 1813, nothing was the same anymore.
The Second Serbian Uprising, under the leadership of Miloš Obrenović, started in 1815 in Takovo. From that point on, the ongoing renewal of the Serbian state started its course in the 19th century, under the rule of Miloš and his heirs, the Obrenović Dynasty.
In the 19th century, the Serbs living under the Austro-Hungarian rule also started the revolts, as did those of Herzegovina and Bosnia against the Turkish rule. A so-called Nevesinje Rifle, a great 1875 uprising started in Nevesinje, spreading to Herzegovina and parts of Bosnia. The revolt was followed by a war between Serbia and Montenegro on the one side and the Turks on the other, when the great world powers recognised the independence of the former. During the First World War in the occupied Serbia, there was a famous Toplica Rising. It was a unique case of a rising in an already occupied country during the whole course of the First World War.
During the Second World War occupation, Serbs organised a revolt against the Germans and their collaborators – the Croatian ustasha.
In Serbia, the dates when particular uprisings started are celebrated as state holidays, and their leaders are specially honoured. The Serbs sometimes start revolts against their own governments – when it alienates itself from the people.
“I am here, you are here – a war against the Turks!”
Miloš Obrenović at a gathering in Takovo