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Krajina Serbs: Defenders of the Christian Europe

Book: "Genocide in Satellite Croatia, 1941-1945"
written by Dr. Edmond Paris,
Published by the "American Institute for Balkan Affairs",
Second edition 1962,
Library of Congress catalog card number 62-399.

This excerpt is from "Introduction", pages 9 to 11:

In the middle ages the Serbs had their own independent nation, occupying the area of what is now the southern part of Yugoslavia. After their defeat by the Turks at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, they began moving northward, entering regions then under the nominal rule of Hungary, hoping to live to fight another day of behalf of Christianity and freedom. This Serbian emigration reached considerable proportions after the fall of the Serbian ruler, Djuradj Brankovic (1459), and after the fall of Bosnia (1463) to the Turks.

The Hungarian kings used the emigrant Serbs in the struggles to defend their borders from the Turks, because the Serbs, already at that time, were known as able and competent soldiers. After Hungary united with Austria (1526), the Austrian rulers created a military belt streching from the Adriatic Sea in the West to the Carpathian Mountains in the East, known as "Vojna Krajina" (literally military zone or region).

This region was populated chiefly by Serbs. Most of the Croatians, who were tenants or landed estates in this area, fled to Hungary, Austria, Italy, Bavaria or Croatia proper (Croatia had been absorbed in the twelf century by Austria and Hungary). The Austrian rulers settled the depopulated areas with Serbs, who had come, not as refugees, but as warriors. They were given land (they became free peasant owners), but they had to promise that a certain number of man had to be under arms constantly. All men between 18 and 60 had to do military service whenever they were called.

Thus, the Serbs came to empty, deserted property. And the Austrian authorities were glad to have them, because they did not come as ordinary refugees, seeking merely to save their necks, but as warriors willing to continue the fight against the infidel Turk, in the eternal hope that one day Turkey would be defeted and they could return to their own lands. But the Turkish occupation was to last some five hundred years. In the meantime, the Serbs became valuable and respectes citizens, settled in their new home, although they often had to pay a dear price for living on the frontier, exposed to periodic Turkish military onslaughts.

But the Serbs were also to face difficulties inside the Austrian an Hungarian kingdoms. To the north of them was Croatia proper, a strongly clerical land. Life was difficult there for anyone who was not a Roman Catholic. The Catholic bishops (from Zagreb and from Senj), with the help of Viennese Jesuits, sought constantly to convert the newly-arrived Serbs to Catholicism in the regions bordering on Croatia, or at least to get them to accept the Uniate rite. Many times those attempts were aided by military authorities using brute force, althought the Austrian kings were officially and formally on the side of the Serbs.

In short, the Serbs in these regions were to be on the defensive for 350 years, trying to preserve their religion (Serbian Orthodox) and their national identity. Their right to own land and their right to work for the state were limited because they were not Catholics. Serbian priests were tortured and imprisoned because they refused to join Uniates. These restrictions and persecutions have been described by Croatian and German (Austrian) historians. And they were admitted by the various official promises of rectification.

End quote...

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Last revised: October 10, 1999