Dorde Petrovic OSA (Serbian Cyrillic: Ђorђe Petroviћ, [d͡ʑoːrd͡ʑe petrovit͡ɕ], George Petrovich), known as Karadorde (Karaђorђe, [karad͡ʑoːrd͡ʑe], Black George; 16 November 1768 – 24 July 1817), founded modern Serbia as the elected leader of the First Serbian Uprising (part of the Serbian Revolution) that aimed at liberating Serbia from the Ottoman Empire (1804–1813); he personally led armies against the Ottomans in several battles, which resulted in a short-lived state which he would administer as Grand Leader (Veliki Vozd) from 14 February 1804 to 21 September 1813, alongside the newly founded People's Assembly and the Governing Council, simulating a wholly functional state government in war-time.
Born into a poor family who were pig farmers in Sumadija, at the time part of the Sanjak of Smederevo (modern central Serbia), Dorde began working as a servant for affluent Serbs and Turks, but after having killed a local Ottoman aga (lord), his family fled across the Sava into the Military Frontier, a Habsburg-controlled area. He rose to prominence in the Austrian army, participating in Koca's frontier rebellion. He received a medal of honour for his efforts, and when the Austrian army was forced to retreat, and the Ottomans re-occupied Sumadija, he joined the hajduks (brigands, rebels). He commanded a unit and fought the Ottomans until 1794, when he returned to his family.
In the following years the local janissaries grew stronger and seized the sanjak from the Sultan, imposing greater taxes and perpetrating violence against the population; as the janissaries feared the Sultan's retaliation as a possible task given to the Serbs, they executed hundreds of prominent Serbs in what would be known as the Slaughter of the Dukes (1804). Some 300 nobility assembled and elected Karadorde as leader; by the end of the year the janissaries were defeated, and the Sultan praised the Serbs. However, when the pasha arrived in Serbia to take over the governance, he was killed. The struggle continued as a wide-scale revolt, the First Serbian Uprising, in which several battles were successfully fought against the Ottomans; a government was established, and Karadorde abolished feudalism.
After the suppression of activities in 1813, Karadorde and other leaders went into exile, while in 1815 Milos Obrenovic, a fellow rebel leader, initiated the Second Serbian Uprising. The second uprising ended in 1817, when Obrenovic signed a treaty with the Ottomans and became the Prince of Serbia. Obrenovic (who saw a threat in the possible return of popular Petrovic) and the Ottomans (who despised him and feared more fighting) conspired and planned the assassination of Karadorde. When Karadorde returned in 1817 to start yet another uprising, he was deceived by a friend and killed; his head was sent to Constantinople and Obrenovic retained his leadership.
Karadorde founded the House of Karadordevic, the Serbian royal family, which would later gain the Serbian crown after the deposing of the rival House of Obrenovic.
Petrovic was born on November 3 [O.S. November 16] 1768 in the village of Visevac, then part of the Ottoman Empire (today's Raca municipality, Sumadija District), one of five children (alongside brothers Marko and Marinko, and sisters Marija and Milica) to father Petar (or Petronije) Jovanovic and mother Marica nee Zivkovic (from Maslosevo, in Stragari). Karadorde's slava was Saint Clement. The family claimed descent from the Vasojevici tribe (in Montenegro) and had emigrated in the late 1730s or early 1740s. His grandfather's family had lived in Macitevo (in Suva Reka), from where grandfather Jovan moved to Visevac, while Jovan's brother Radak moved to Mramorac.
His family was poor, their situation progressed as Karadorde began working for affluent Serbs and Turks. He and his father worked for a Fazlibasa, an Albanian who had enriched himself from robbing merchants, and who had bought a big house in Smederevska Palanka. There, Karadorde came into conflict with some local Turks; Fazlibasa protected Karadorde and punished these Turks. His family then moved to Zagorica, where he married Jelena Jovanovic, from Maslosevo, in 1785. Jelena is thought to have come from a wealthy background, thus her family didn't accept his marriage proposal. Karadorde took her and married her without the parents' consent. In Zagorica, he was angered by the violent behaviour of a Turk, whom he then killed, after which he hid at Fazlibasa's house until some time when he could return home. However, he did not have peace at home as people started talking about his murder, thus Karadorde saw crossing the Sava river, into Syrmia, in the Austrian-held Military Frontier, as the only chance of saving his family. What happens next is a matter of debate. The family left the home in secrecy, though on the way his father felt regret and wished to turn back, which would risk the family's survival; for this, Karadorde cold-heartedly killed him, and continued into Syrmia, arriving in ca. 1787.
Karadorde then lived and worked in the Krusedol monastery.
At the end of the Austro-Turkish War, 1787, amid Koca's frontier revolt, Karadorde enrolled in the Freikorps of the Austrian Army, fighting against the Turks. He took part in the botched attack on Belgrade, and fought in western and southern Serbia, where he gained military experience. In the mid-1791, peace was concluded, and Karadorde received a medal of honour. He then joined the Hajduks, where he led a large band. The decline of Hajduks came in 1793-94, at which point Karadorde rejoined his family, living peacefully in Topola. He began working as a livestock merchant, trading over the border with the Habsburg monarchy.
Oppression against Serbs significantly increased in the beginning of the 19th century when janissary leaders, the dahis, rebelled against the Sultan and seized the rule of the Sanjak of Smederevo. It culminated in January and February 1804, when dahis prepared executions of popular leaders, gentry, priests, former rebels and wealthy traders, dubbed the Slaughter of the Dukes, in which some 150 of the most notable Serbs were killed. Karadorde, among few other notable people who would later initiate the Serb Uprising, survived the assassinations.
As a response to the executions, the Serbian population without a central figure took measures of self-defence, and spontaneously attacked the jannisaries. Prota Mateja and several other leaders had organized military detachments that engaged the dahis in Valjevo. on 14 February 1804, 300 notables met in Orasac, Arandelovac where Karadorde was chosen as the undisputed leader. When Prota Mateja heard of this, he urged all Serb leaders to resist the dahis and the Ottoman authorities, Mateja was appointed deputy-commander of Valjevo, and later acted as diplomat to Russia, Austria, Bucharest and Constantinople. By the spring of 1804, Karadorde had 30,000 combat-ready men under his wing. After May 1804, Karadorde was titled Supreme Voivode.
The Serbians managed to quickly organize a widespread revolt, under the pretext of liberation from the dahis, Karadorde was successful in this, he terminated feudalism in the liberated areas of Serbia and installed his military commanders and local leaders as governors of nahis (administrative units), the dahis who refused to leave were captured and executed after the Serbian liberation of Belgrade.
In March 1805, Karadorde was officially appointed Military leader of Serbia, the self-proclaimed Vozd (old Serbian for voda, "leader"). The Ottoman government welcomed the rebellion against the dahis and decided to install a new governor in Belgrade. Karadorde, after tasting the fruits of liberty, decided not to let the new pasha enter the liberated area and defeated his army in the Battle of Ivankovac of 1805. This battle signified a turn of events, since the uprising was not a rebellion against the dahi terror anymore, but a war of liberation against the Ottoman rule. Karadorde founded the Narodna Skupstina (People's Assembly) and Praviteljstvujusci Sovjet (Governing Council) whose decree was drafted by writer and jurist Teodor Filipovic (a.k.a. Bozidar Grujovic).
The revolutionaries liberated territories after achieving several victories, at Misar, at Deligrad and at Belgrade, in 1806; and at Sabac and at Uzice in 1807. In 1806-1807 a Serbian envoy to the Ottoman government in Constantinople, Peter Ichko, managed to obtain a favourable Ichko's Peace. However, Karadorde disavowed the agreement and aligned with the Russian Empire in a war against the Ottoman Empire.
In 1808, Selim III and his successor Mustafa IV were both deposed and killed by Mahmud II. In midst of this political crisis, the Ottomans were willing to offer the Serbs a wide autonomy, however, the discussions led to no agreement between the two, as they couldn't agree on the exact boundaries of Serbia. Karadorde now declared himself hereditary supreme leader of Serbia, although he agreed to act in cooperation with the governing council, which was to also be the supreme court. When the Ottoman-Russian War broke out in 1809, he was prepared to support Russia, the cooperation was, however, ineffective. Karadorde launched a successful offensive in Novi Pazar, but was subsequently defeated at Battle of Cegar. In August 1809, an Ottoman army marched on Belgrade, prompting a mass exodus of people across the Danube, among them Russian agent Radofinikin. Facing disaster, Karadorde appealed to the Habsburgs and Napoleon, with no success. At this point, the Serb rebels were on the defensive, their aim was to hold the territories and not make further gains.
In July 1810, Russian troops arrived in Serbia for the second time, this time some military cooperation followed; weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies were sent, and Marshal M. I. Kutuzov, the great commander, participated in the planning of joint actions. The Russian assistance gave hope for a Serb victory, however, events in Europe were in the way. Russia, faced with a French invasion, wished to sign definitive peace treaty, and acted against the interest of Serbia. The Serbs were never informed of the negotiations; they learned the final terms from the Ottomans. This, second Russian withdrawal, came at the height of Karadorde's personal power, and rise of Serb expectations. The negotiations that led to the Treaty of Bucharest (1812), had Article 8, dealing with the Serbs; It was agreed that Serb fortifications were to be destroyed, unless of value to the Ottomans, pre-1804 Ottoman installations were to be reoccupied and garrisoned by Ottoman troops, in return the Porte promised general amnesty and certain autonomous rights; The Serbs were to control "the administration of their own affairs" and the collection and delivery of a fixed tribute. The reactions in Serbia was strong, the reoccupation of fortresses and cities was of particular concern and fearful reprisals were expected.
In 1812, threatened by Napoleon's French Empire, Russia had to quickly sign a peace treaty with the Ottomans. In 1813, the Ottoman Empire launched a big assault on Serbia taking land all up to the rivers Morava and the river Drina, and Karadorde, along with other rebel leaders, fled to the Austrian Empire on 21 September 1813.
After some time, Karadorde emigrated to Bessarabia, where he joined the Greek national liberation movement Filiki Eteria, becoming an active member. The Greeks were primarily interested in using the Serbian lands as base of the Greek operations. Milos Obrenovic was fully uncooperative.
On July 24, 1817, days after he secretly crossed into Serbia to try to spearhead a new uprising, Karadorde was assassinated in Radovanjski Lug by the men of Milos Obrenovic, Vujica Vulicevic and Nikola Novakovic. This happened on the orders of the Ottomans, who feared the possibility of a new uprising, while Milos feared competition by the enormously popular Karadorde. Some historians have speculated that Karadorde had no political ambitions and simply wanted to return home from exile, and informed Obrenovic of this in advance, however, Obrenovic did not believe him and had him killed. The assassination marked the beginning of the Obrenovic—Karadordevic feud, that ended in 1903.
Vuk Karadzic, a contemporary, wrote about Karadorde, and said that he was tall, physically strong and heavy shouldered. He was an unusual man. He would sit sometimes for days, not talking to anybody, and biting his fingernails. When somebody would want to talk to him, he would turn his head away and would not say a word. When he would drink a little he would become more talkative. He was tall man, wide shoulders, with big nose Not a single man in the Serbian revolutionary army could go against him in direct combat; only Stanoje Glavas, the initial choice of Grand Leader, was considered physically stronger. He had a big nose, dark hair, and his left hand was dislocated at the palm, though it did not stop him from shooting his rifle with great precision, He would jump from a horse, because he liked to fight as infantryman.
He was said to be a strict and harsh man, a military man and strategical genius, not necessarily fit for politics and administration, "His justice was harsh and cruel...", and he had a drinking habit, resulting in a somewhat high-pitched voice when under influence.
It is alleged that he killed his own brother and father. His brother allegedly raped a young girl; Karadorde, seeing this as unforgivable, he killed him. He liked order and discipline. He would let things go on their way, until it would not go any further.Than his justice would be harsh and terrible. Hiding behind his name, his only brother allowed himself many things, and Dorde went on with this for a long. But when his brother raped some girl, and her cousins complained loudly that because of those things rebellion started on the first place against the Turks, Karadjorjde became so mad, that he hanged his only brother on his house door. He than forbid his mother to cry... His father allegedly held the family back at the time of Austrian retreat, unconcerned by possibly Ottoman retribution against the family, so Karadorde killed him. During time of peace, he worked the field, as common folk, and once broke his medal. He did not give his daughter any privileges during his term as Grand Leader, making her work as everybody else.
Besides his harsh and emotional side, he was friendly, liked to joke and could take a joke, but it had a limit. He was praised by Napoleon for his military skill, and Petar Petrovic-Njegos wrote abut him, comparing him to Napoleon, Wellington and Kutuzov, three of the greatest generals of his time. Pushkin made a song about him to his daughter and Hegel also wrote about him.
Russian tsar awarded him the Order of St. Anna.
Karadorde, regarded a national founder of Serbia, has been given honorifics such as Father of the Nation, Father of the Fatherland, Father of Serbia (by Njegos), etc.
The first Serbian movie, and the oldest movie in the Balkans, The Life and Deeds of the Immortal Vozd Karadorde (1896) is a biography about Karadorde. He is included in the Serbian Academy's The 100 most prominent Serbs-list.