Battle of Krbavsko field, 1493.

At the end of the 15th century the Ottomans consolidated their position in central Bosnia and began to put pressure on the southern borders of the Croatian kingdom. Even in times of peace, their light cavalry (akinjis) rushed into the inland Croatia plundering and raving the lands, retracting a feeling of insecurity and fear among the local population.
In the time of king Matthias Corvinus the defense of the kingdom was stabilized and very well organized. He recognized the danger inposed by the Turks, but was not very popular among the nobility because of the high taxes he collected to organize the defense. In 1490. Vladislav II. Jagel became the Hungarian-Croatian king. In order to secure his position with nobility he abolished almost all taxes. That policy left the royal treasury almost empty and significantly weakened the defense capabilities of the kingdom. Now the defense was left to the local feudal lords in the border areas who by themselves did not have enough resources for quality defense.

The borders of the kingdom at the time (approximately)

In 1491. in the Vrpile pass, the Turkish army of 10,000 men suffered a heavy defeat and the region remained peacefull for several years. However, in the summer of 1493. bosnian Hadum Jakub pasha with 8,000 akinjis broke into central Croatia, plundering all the way to Carniola and Styria (Slovenia).
At that time, the Croatian ban (the king’s viceroy) was Emerik Derenčin, who knew about the movements of the Turkish army and decided to oppose them. Due to the lack of funds from the king for such a thing he needed the help of feudal lords from the area who were the only ones who had enough trained people for such a thing (infantry and cavalry). In the end, Derenčin managed to gather an army of about 13,000 men composed of 3,000 cavalry, 2,000 trained infantry and about 8,000 peasants armed mostly with javelins and slings. The Croatian army was more numerous, but the Ottomans had much more cavalry. Most of the feudal lords suggested to Derenčin that they should face the Ottomans in one of the mountain passes on their route to Bosnia and use infantry superiority but Derenčin refused. He believed that the only honorably way was the battle in the open field and also he wanted to show the Croatian nobles that he, as the king’s viceroy, is the leader of the army. Also all routes that led the Ottomans back to Bosnia were going through Krbavsko field. The Croatian army was waiting for them…

Krbavsko field


The cavalry was divided into three groups and infantry were deployed between them. Jakub pasha sent several hundred akinjis to shoot arrows at Derenčin’s army which brought unrest and nervousness among the troops. Also, about 1,000 Ottoman cavalry passed unnoticed around the Croatian forces and remained hidden in the nearby forrest. Provoked by the constant arrows of the akinjis, Derenčin ordered the army to move towards the majority of the Turkish army. He was convinced that the Turks could not oppose his heavy cavalry and also the Croatian army was bigger in numbers. Immediately the Turks began to move slowly towards the Croats. At that moment, one of Jakub pasha’s assistants, Ismail beg launched a sudden assault with his detachment and crashed with all his strength into the ranks of the infantry. A fierce battle ensued. Also Derenčin’s army was still being attacked by arrows of akinjis maneuvering around them. After a while it seemed that the infantry was winning the battle and the Turks were retreating. But it was a fake retreat. Croatian infantry rushed after them. The commanders shouted in vain to stop, and in the end, in order to maintain some kind of cohesion, they were forced to follow them. There was a severe clash between the majority of the two armies. At that moment, Mehmed beg’s cavalry flew out of the woods where they were hidden and roared and slammed into the Croatian army from behind. The situation was chaotic. The infantry began to slowly fade in battle, and slow Croatian cavalry found it hard to manouver in a small area. The Turks surrounded them on three sides, and on the right there was the river Krbava which was blocking the retreat. Some dukes fell during the very first attacks of the akinjis and when Ivan Frankopan of Cetin fell the Croatian army desintegrated. After a few hours the defeat was complete.

The drawing describing the battle

The Turkish losses were about 1,000 and Croatian more than 10,000 men. Most of the Croatian nobility perished, and ban Derenčin was captured and taken to a dungeon in Bursa where he died a few months later. . The defeat in the battle of Krbavsko field left an indelible mark on the Croatian people. Because since they could not rely on the king the only ones who could organize a defense against the enemy were now almost gone. The already unstable border with the Ottoman Empire was now completely exposed. The population of the area began to flee to coastal towns or to the north making the possible defense even more difficult. The battle of Krbavsko field remained remembered as the most significant defeat, probably in the entire Croatian history, because it left a large part of the country practically undefended, and its consequences were felt long after the event…

Published by borisbirosevic

Hi! My name is Boris Birošević. I live in Zagreb, Croatia. My father studied history so he passed the love for it on me from my youth ages. He always told me interesting stories from history. I loved listening to him and I was always attracted to that, for me, unexplored and mystical world. I read all six books “History of the Croats” by Vjekoslav Klaić during my elementary school. During high school, I was (I could say) the best in history in my generation, and I further expanded my knowledge in college because we had a lot of history-related subjects. By the way, I have a master of journalism degree. I have been studying and dealing with history for 25 years, on a daily basis. I have a broad and deep knowledge of Croatian, European and worldwide history. My goal is to transfer my knowledge to others in an interesting and even so objective way. On my website and blog, I will try to bring details from Croatian history closer to foreigners because it is still unknown to many and difficult to access. I will also cover some topics that are close and related to Croatian history in a certain way (Western Balkans, Slavs, Austria-Hungary, etc.) I hope that on my page everyone will find something for himself. For me, history is not a job but a calling… Join me on my website "HISTORY OF CROATIA and related history"...

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