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Serbia was conquered by the Turks about five hundred years ago. Although the Serbs suffered a crushing defeat on the plain of Kosovo in 1389, they cannot be said to have been brought definitely under Turkish rule for the next seventy years. Various leaders maintained the unequal struggle against the invader, and with efficient help from the Christian nations they might have succeeded in stemming the Asiatic flood, but with the fall of Smederevo in 1459, Serbian independence came to an end. The fortress of Belgrade, the last Christian stronghold in the Balkans, fell in 1521, and the task of defending Christendom against the Mohammedan hordes fell to the races of Central Europe. Then the Serbs sank into a deep sleep of four hundred years. The gross darkness of Turkish rule covered the land. From having been an independent and conquering people they became the working class of a Turkish pashalik or province. As against their Moslem lords, who took possession of the land and for whom they labored, they had few rights and little chance of successful appeal to the distant government of the Sultan. There has been and is now a tendency in England to regard the Turks as a race of honorable gentlemen, clean fighters, and even, when left to themselves, very tolerable governors. The nations whom they have ruled have thought very differently. They know what it has meant to be defenseless before the Turk, to see their sons carried off to be educated as Moslems and to form the corps of Janissaries, to be unable to protect their daughters from entering the harems of the dominant race or the fruits of their labor from the landlords. It seems as though the Turk had retained the chivalry of caste colored by Mohammedan contempt for infidels. To his equal in wealth or military prowess the Turk has usually appeared as a gentleman, with the qualities of the gallant fighter, but woe to those whom Allah has made weak and delivered into his hand, should they not submit to all his wishes! In this long period of extinction two forces were mainly responsible for keeping alive the national spirit of the Serbs. One was their church, part of the Holy Orthodox Church of the East. True to the precepts of Mohammed, the Turks did not force their religion on the peoples whom they conquered. They offered the three-fold choice of Islam, the sword, or tribute. Should a subject-race reject the Mohammedan faith and also not wish to be exterminated, it was spared on condition of paying tribute. So it came about that, at a time when Western Europe thought it the first duty of a government to impose what it considered the true religion on its subjects, the Sultan of Turkey drew his revenues from subjects who were allowed to abhor the faith of their ruler. Separate nationalities have never been allowed in the Turkish Empire. Religion is for the Turk the mark of distinction between men, and the people who would retain a united social life must find it in ecclesiastical organization. This the Serbs possessed in their national church with its patriarchate of Petch; and thus it was their church, the one institution left to them, that embodied the traditions, the hopes, and the unity of the people. The second influence that preserved the national spirit was that of the folk-songs and ballads (pesme). In these the lays of the saints and heroes of the glorious past were gathered, and they formed the whole sum of learning and culture to the greater portion of the people. The singing of these mournful and haunting ballads, which may often be heard from the lips of Serb soldiers, was the special business of the blind musicians who accompanied themselves on their one-stringed gousle, but every Serb would know several by heart and, his memory not being weakened by the arts of reading and writing, the words would remain indelibly printed on his mind.
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Book Description CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1500904112