VASSALS, TRIBUTARIES, ALLIES. THE NATURE OF THE RELATIONS OF THE BALKAN STATES WITH THE OTTOMAN TURKEY IN THE 14TH CENTURY (Wasale, trybutariusze, sojusznicy. Charakter relacji panstw balkanskich z Turcja osmanska w XIV wieku)
In the second half of the fourteenth century, more than twenty political bodies functioned in Balkans, which were more or less independent, often in conflicts with each other, joining into leagues and alliances. The Ottomans were a valuable ally, with which the Balkan rulers came in close political and military relationships. The study of evolution and the nature of these relations meets serious difficulties due to lack of surviving documents, defining the nature of bilateral relations of the Ottomans with particular Balkan states, while other sources, usually from a later period, are not very precise. The difficulties of interpretation concern such fundamental matters as the chronology of Turkish conquests, conflicts and peace agreements. However, the analysis of preserved source material leads to the following conclusions: 1. Subordination of the Balkan countries by the Ottomans was a long-term process, and their relationships with the Balkan states were diverse in nature. 2. Payment of the tribute for the benefit of the Turks could, but did not have to mean the entry into vassal relations, however gave an evidence about the entry into peaceful relations. 3. Orhan, Murad I and Bajezid I were satisfied on the territory of Europe with the establishment of the allied, tributary relationships and over the time with the strengthening of own vassal position. However, at the end of the fourteenth century, all the Balkan states were at some stage of such relations, mostly on the last of them. 4. Entry into close, family relations with the ruling sultan meant usually a close political and military cooperation. Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian wives of the sultans had the right to remain in the Christian faith and often exerted a strong political influence. The support and protection of the closest relatives of the wife was fulfilled by the Turkish rulers. Thanks to it, for example Serbia of Stefan Lazarević was essentially strengthened, becoming at the same time the most serious support of Bajezid I in the Balkans. 5. The defeat of Ottoman Turkey at Ankara in 1402, led to the collapse of the Turkish plans for more expansion to the east and to the collapse of the elaborated system of allies and vassals in Europe. In the fifteenth century, an escalation of the ideological war from both sides was performed with the religious factor as an essential theme for military activities. In this situation, the confrontation between the Christian and Islamic world become inevitable.
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