The Turkish Fortification of Kučajna From Its Establishment in 1552/53 to the Austrian Conquest in 1718 Cover Image

Турско утврђење кучајна од оснивања 1552/53. До Аустријског освајања 1718. Године
The Turkish Fortification of Kučajna From Its Establishment in 1552/53 to the Austrian Conquest in 1718

Author(s): Srđan Katić
Subject(s): Archaeology, Energy and Environmental Studies, 16th Century, The Ottoman Empire
Published by: Istorijski institut, Beograd

Summary/Abstract: Evidence of mining activities in the North-East Serbia dates back to prehistoric times. However, only during the Ottoman Empire did this region become famous for its mines. The most important of them, the Kučajna gold and silver mine, was opened in 1552/3. A mint, bullet workshop and other ancillary facilities were built in its vicinity. As until recently the historiography offered little information about this mine, the construction of the nearby palanka has never been connected with it. The only information about the palanka of Kučajna referrs to the number of garrison troops in the period from 1560 to 1589. The palanka of Kučajna, referred to in the records under the Hungarian name of parkanj, was built on a hill above the mine in the same year when the mine was opened. Its main purpose was to store silver ingots, coins and bullets. There is no record of how the palanka originally looked and it is hard to tell whether its walls were built of stakes tied with withes, or it was surrounded by a double wall of logs filled with earth. Since it was protected by two cannon and depending on construction, small wooden towers or earthen bastions were erected probably at the two corners to the left and right of the main gate. Inside the palanka, there were several specially protected solid buildings. These were the treasury for storing precious metals and coins, bullet and food storage, and a prison, known as the Dizdar's Jail. It was both the military and civil prison of the kaza of Kučajna. The palanka had an Islamic place of worship, houses of dizdars and other members of the garrison, many shops and workshops. The material that palankas were made of required their almost complete reconstruction every 10 to 15 years. According to the information recorded in the accounting books of the mine, the first major reconstruction of the palanka of Kučajna was carried out in 1564/65. A new stage in the history of the fortress of Kučajna began in 1577, after its second reconstruction and building of a stone fortress (Tur. kale). The new fortress was incorporated into the old one making a single fortification called kale-i parkan-i Kuçayna in the records. The fortification remained the same until the Viennese War (1683-1699). After the Austrian capture of Belgrade in 1688, the fortress was taken over by hayduks without fighting. During the retreat in 1690, they destroyed and torched the town and the mine and presumably the wooden part of the fortification, since it was not mentioned in the record made by the Ottoman chronicler Uskudari, who passed through Kucajna a month later. His record says that the town "has a small but strong stone fortress". New palisades were built between 1691 and 1696. They were possibly bigger than the previous ones, since the fortress of Kučajna not only served for the defence of the mine but had gained strategic importance. The number of soldiers at Kučajna fortress varied in relation to general circumstances in the Empire. In the second half of the 16th century, the number of garrison troops (Tur. mustahfız) was between 27 and 41; they were armed with rifles, and while arms and gunpowder were delivered from the arsenal at Smederevo, bullets were made at Kučajna. During the greater part of the 17th century, there were no major military conflicts in the Danube region and only about twenty janissaries (Tur. yerlü) were stationed in the fortress. One of the reasons why the number of soldiers was reduced was the fact that the nearby town of Majdanpek was becoming the mining centre of the region and had its own fortification. After the re-capture of Belgrade in 1690, the fortress of Kučajna became an important military stronghold with more than a hundred soldiers. Even after the 1699 peace treaty and establishment of Belgrade Frontier in 1702, Kučajna maintained a large garrison that included 73 yerlüs. For decades after its construction, the garrison of Kučajna was supported by the revenue from timars. According to the register of timars dating from the late 60s of the 16th century, 27 mustafhizs received income from 5 timars, four of which were in the nahiye of Mlava and comprised the villages of Bradača, Kobila, Mala Duboka, Slana, Crljenci, Rašanica and the Monastery of Oreškovica, while the fifth comprised the villages of Gornja Brestova and Sediče in the nahiye of Resava and the village of Sena in the nahiye of Pek. The village of Bradača with the annual revenue of 2800 akçes was the only independent timar and it belonged to the kethüda of the palanka. The other timar, the village of Kobila, with revenue of 2800 akçes was divided between two mustahfizs, and the third of 5600 akçes, comprising the villages of Mala Duboka, Slana and the Monastery of Oreškovica, was divided between four of them. The revenue from the fourth timar comprising the villages of Rašanica and Crljenci, in the amount of 12800 akçes, was used by two bölükbasís and seven mustafhizs. The fifth and the largest timar was worth 15400 akçes. Apart from the villages of Gornja Brestova and Sediče it included the unpopulated village of Sena. This timar was divided between 11 mustahfizs. This register does not contain information about dizdar's timar, but other documents show that his income was 3600 akçes. When the annual revenue from the timars is divided by 354 days of the Islamic year, it shows that the approximate amounts of per diems for dizdar, kethuda and mustafhiz were 10, 8 and 4 akçes respectively. Yerlü garrison troops during the 17th century were paid from the national treasury. Their pay often changed due to high inflation rates. Per diems of yerlü janissaries after the Viennese War were 11 akçes. However, the treasury did not have enough funds to pay the troops, and the garrisons now leased the right to collect local tax. The first such example was recorded at Kučajna, where before the end of the war the yerlüs took under lease the revenue of the devastated mine for only 250 groschen a year. Upon the expiry of the three-year lease in 1700, the yerlüs renewed the lease for 700 groschen. The collection of tax by the soldiers was a bad solution resulting in violence against the local population, embezzlements by commanders and overall breakdown of discipline. This was one of the causes of the Ottoman army defeat in the War of Varadin (1716-1718), after which Kučajna was part of the Habsburg Monarchy for more than two decades.

  • Issue Year: 2001
  • Issue No: 48
  • Page Range: 117-126
  • Page Count: 10
  • Language: Serbian