Serbia Principality (1830 – 1882)
Miloš’s Serbia territorially is far from having identical limits and centers of gravity to those of Nemanja’s Serbia. In the course of the centuries, the living and propulsive centers of national life had moved north. Karagjorgje and Miloš operate almost exclusively in the Šumadija, a small region of no more than 25,000 sq km, immediately south of the Danube, with Kragujevac in the center. This was the Serbia of Miloš, a new core, like Rascia at the time of the Nemanja, to which the other regions made up over the centuries extraneous to Serbian life and spirit will join. But before this could happen, it was necessary to strengthen politically, settle economically, increase, indeed create, a Serbian culture, so that in every sense centripetal forces could develop. Miloš did not have the qualities necessary to act in this sense. He placed personal and dynastic interests before national interests and needs. No difference, in spirit and means, between his regime and that of the pashas that had preceded him. Under him, Serbia was on the way to becoming an absolute monarchy. This trend was opposed in continuous revolts by the nobles and sovereign powers, Turkey and Russia, who in 1838 arranged for an annuity chamber with very broad powers to be established alongside the prince. Miloš, indignant, abdicated in favor of his son Milan on 12 June 1839 and left Serbia. Milan, after 16 days of not exercising power, died and the principality fell to his younger son, Michele. Michele tenaciously continued his father’s policy and tried in every way to govern outside and above the chamber. A bitter struggle developed between the prince and the “Ustavobranitelji” (defenders of the constitution), always based on armed uprisings, which in 1842 ended with the ousting of the Obrenovićs and the recall of the Karagjorgjević in the person of Prince Alexander. Alexander ruled from 1842 to 1858 without however being able to give the country peace and harmony, on the contrary receiving, due to his Austrophile and Turkic tendencies, the opposition of very strong currents, so that in 1858 he too had to retire to give up the power to the Obrenovićs. Meanwhile in 1856 the Paris Congress, after the Crimean War, had replaced the Russian protectorate with the guarantee of the great powers. In those years the prestige of the Skupština (popular assembly) grew considerably and liberal ideas penetrated widely, so that at the new advent of the Obrenovićs the traditional struggle between the prince and the constitutional parties could be said to be resolved in favor of the latter. From 1858 to 1860 the “ancient lord” Miloš held power, and from 1860 his son Michael, already ousted in 1842. Michael’s government was one of the most brilliant. He created the army; he freed the principality from any residue of Turkish sovereignty; he established normal relations with foreign powers by grafting Serbia as an active element in the European diplomatic game; he established agreements with the Slavs of Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, promoting in all the awareness of the common ethnic soul and arousing lively aspirations for unity; he turned to the Balkan states and asked for the design of an anti-Turkish alliance and federation; he lived intensely in the atmosphere of liberal and irredentist currents, having contacts that were not only ideal, with Kossuth and the Italian patriots. Everything gave a foreboding of big events when, on June 10, 1868, an emissary of the Karagjorgjevićs assassinated him. The action was immediately stopped. Four years of flat government of the regency followed, then, from 22 August 1872, the principality of Milan. In 1875, completely unprepared, Serbia was surprised by the anti-Turkish insurrection of the Bosnians, alongside which, almost against its will, it had to intervene with Montenegro and, later, with Russia. The campaign, despite the influx of volunteers, including Italian Garibaldians, resulted in a series of defeats. Serbia was forced to ask for peace, while Russia, to ensure the neutrality of Austria in the future war against Turkey, abandoned Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Reichsiadt meeting of 8 July 1876. When Russia took up arms the following year, the Serbs were again at her side, this time achieving notable successes and obtaining the districts of Niš and Mitrovica in the Treaty of Santo Stefano (March 3, 1878). But, against this treaty, which to the detriment of British interests and Austro-German prestige established a Russian prevalence in the Balkans, and to the detriment of the Balkan states consecrated a great Bulgaria, the Western powers immediately took action by convening the Congress of Berlin, which, with the treaty of. July 13, 1878, dismembered Bulgaria and expanded Serbia by four more districts.