The uprising of Pjetër Bogdani

           After 1683, the anti-Ottoman movement was raging in Albania, while the Empire was at war with the great coalition of Austria, Venice, Poland, and Russia. The Albanian Catholic clergy led by Pjeter Bogdani encouraged the Albanians to rebel, and they did not stand back from fighting for freedom in a war that was largely won as a result of the favorable external situation. The support the Albanians gave to the Austrian and Venetian armies against Ottoman forces at the time provided both the Austrians and the Venetians with the opportunity to advance in to the Balkan Peninsula and occupy some coastal cities. Bishop and writer Pjeter Bogdani devised a plan to free the country based on the war that had started, in which Albanian rebels were giving valuable help.

After the Ottoman fight against the Austrian forces at the gates of Vienna was broken, their attacks on the Venetian military force had no better end. A decisive role was played by the Albanian and Montenegrin Highlanders for the failure of a series of Ottoman militart operations.

The involvement of the Albanians on the Austrian side became more evident in the spring of 1689, when Count Ludwig Baden, commander of the Austrian front, decided to invade Nis and cross through Kosovo to Prokupi. He wanted to go to Shkodra and the Adriatic Sea via Prizren and Kukes and thereby separate Bosnia and Herzegovina from the High Port. By the time Austrian forces entered the Balkan lands they had been joined by Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks and Albanians. On September 24, 1689, a fierce battle was fought near Nis which ended in an Austrian victory. The Ottomans left 10,000 dead on the battlefield. Following this victory the Austrian army was split into two sections, one headed by the Count Baden which headed towards Vidin in Bulgaria and the other headed by General Piccolomini left for Kosovo, where it was welcomed by Albanians. The Albanians were ready to accept the protection of the Austrian emperor. The Albanians of Kelmendi did the same. When Piccolomini entered Pristina, Kosovo Albanians declared that they were with the emperor, 6,000 Orthodox Albanian had joined the Austrians. Piccolomini encountered the same situation in Prizren. The inhabitants of this city came out and greeted him with honor. About 5,000 Albanians, led by their bishop, Pjeter Bogdani, welcomed him to with a barrage of fire. The general urged the Albanians who entered the Austrian army to obey the Austrian officers and carry their weapons, while others had to return to their homes. Austrian, English and Papal sources claim that there were over 20,000 Albanians were with Piccolomini.

After General Piccolomini’s death in November 1689, the attitude of the Albanians changed for several reasons. The was mainly the result of the attitude of the Piccolomini’s successors and other Austrian officers. They started treating the Albanians badly. In an anonymous diary, it was stated: “Piccolomini in the last moments handed over the command to the Duke of Holstein. Afterwards things started to look completely different, as the helmsman had passed away and the ship sailed out to sea left to the wishes of the wind. The Duke of Holstein initially looked at the Albanians with disdain and jealousy and then started to treat them harshly. The death of the Albanian Archbishop Peter Bogdani, who had tried several times to mitigate the dissatisfaction of his compatriots, also had a negative affect. Peter Bogdani’s contribution is described as follows in the anonymous diary: “In order for our affairs to suffer a severe blow, God wanted the Archbishop of Arberia to die.” However, many Albanians remained loyal to the Austrian government and participated in several battles. The extent of the uprising disturbed the High Porte, who on 1 December 1689 announced: “If the Arberian uprising continues, the whole country will collapse as far as Durres, and Greece may suffer much damage as the citizens rise in rebellion “.

Seeing the military potential of the Albanians and their readiness to fight, Tome (Thoma) Raspari, the Franciscan Vicar of Albania, advised the Austrian Emperor to distribute imperial diplomas to the peoples of the Balkans promising them recognition of all their privileges, recognition of their leaders. their free choice of vojvods (military commanders), the freedom of religion, and exemption from duties and cash payments. Under these conditions the Albanians would join arms with the Austrians. Using this advice, Austrian Emperor Leopold, bearing in mind the earlier assistance of the Albanians on 6 April 1690 called upon the people of the Balkans, most notably the Albanians, to take up arms against the Ottomans.

Many rebels loyal Austrians left Serbia and Kosovo with the Austrian army. The thesis of the Serbian historiography of the so-called: “Great displacement of Serbs from Kosovo and settlement by Albanians” arose from this. It is true that the Patriarch of Peja, Arsenije III Črnojević, along with some monks who settled in Panoni via Jenipazar and Studenica were among those who left with the Austrian army. But the Serbs who left with him were not so numerous as to speak of a great migration from Kosovo to those areas.

The documents of the Military High Command show that the forces supporting the Austrians consisted of two main groups: Albanians and Serbs. Even amongst the displaced people who did not exceed 10,000, Albanians made up a large number. According to one interpretation, the term “Serb” used in the documents referred to Orthodox Albanians who came under the jurisdiction of the Church of Peja.

Akademia e Shkencave e Shqipërisë, Instituti i Historisë. Historia e Popullit Shqiptar I. (Tiranë, Toena, 2002), 579-583.

Many Serbian historians believe that this exodus of Serbs from Kosovo known as “Velika Seoba” (the “Great Migration”) was 500,000 or “even more”. Its importance has partly to do with arguments about the ethno-demographic history of Kosovo: It is claimed that before 1690, the Albanians were only an insignificant minority in Kosovo (or perhaps not there at all) and that only after the exodus of the Serbs, did Albanians come flooding in to fill the vacuum they had left. However, the importance of the “Great Migration” cannot be confined solely to demographic arithmetic; it is an essential part of Serbian religious and national mythology.

The Serbs also claim that Albanian Catholic Archbishop Pjeter Bogdani had nothing to do with the rising and organizing of the people; the only religious leader to do that was Patriarch Arsenije, who met the Austrian general on arrival in Prizren in November 1689.

According to Albanians, the main insurgents against Ottoman rule were almost all Albanians. It is said that the religious leader who met with the Austrian general in November in Prizren was Archbishop Bogdani, while the Serbian patriarch was not in Kosovo at the time.

Noel Malkolm. Kosova një histori e shkurtër e një treve ballkanike. (Prishtinë, Koha, 2011), 197-198.

Then Piccolomini with his army left for Kosovo, to Lipjan. He was joined by Peter Bogdani. Soon they both fell ill with the plague. Although so sick, they met with Serbian Patriarch Arsenije III Črnojević, to discuss the need to organize Albanian and Serbian insurgents in regiments, following the Austrian military model… Bogdani was then transferred to Pristina for treatment by Austrian doctors, where he died on 6 November. He was buried in Prizren on the day the army entered the town. The Turks exhumed his grave, and his remains were thrown to the dogs in the middle of the market there.

Petrit Imami. Serbi I Albanci Kroz Vekove, Tom 1. (Beograd, Samidzat, 2016)

Kosovo in the Great Turkish War of 1683-1699

…. Piccolomini (4 November ) …. continued his march and arrived on the 6th, as reported earlier, in Prisiran [Prizren], the Capital of Albania, where he was welcomed by the Archbishop [Pjetër Bogdani] of that country and by the Patriarch of Clementa with their various religious ceremonies.
Outside of Priserin [Prizren] there were at least 6,000 Albanese [Albanian] troops as well as others who had formerly been in the pay of the Turks and who are known as Arnauts. When German troops marched by, they gave off three volleys of fire as a sign of their pleasure and then swore an oath of allegiance to the Emperor according to their custom. Piccolomini thus had over 20,000 Rascians and Albanese under his orders, all men of martial temperament, who were willing to undertake any endeavour, however great it should be, in accordance with the will of the General.

The Count did not forget to take counsel with the Archbishop and the other German leaders as to whether it was a good idea to trust such a body of men that had changed sides and was three times as large as his own forces. The Archbishop, however, not only assured him, but indeed encouraged him to pursue his victorious course with these ethnic troops and, as such, he issued various orders and instructions in the country to procure enough money and food to maintain such a militia, without burdening the population too much, by whom he hoped later to be assisted….

[Extract from Annotationes und Reflexiones der gloriosen kayserlichen Waffen im Jahr 1689. in: Austrian State Archives (Österreichisches Staatsarchiv), Military Archives (Kriegsarchiv), Vienna, AFA, Carton 195, 1689-13-1, fol. 32r-49r. Translated from the German by Robert Elsie.]

Peter Bogdani documentary.


The changing boundaries of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans 1683-1923