1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Karageorge
KARAGEORGE (in Servian, Karadyordye) (c. 1766–1817), the leader of the Servians during their first revolution against the Turks (1804–13), and founder of the Servian dynasty Karageorgevich. His Christian name was George (Dyordye), but being not only of dark complexion but of gloomy, taciturn and easily excitable temper, he was nicknamed by the Servians “Tsrni Dyordye” and by the Turks “Karageorge,” both meaning “Black George,” the Turkish name becoming soon the generally adopted one. He was born in 1766 (according to some in 1768), the son of an extremely poor Servian peasant, Petroniye Petrovich. When quite a young man, he entered the service of a renowned Turkish brigand, Fazli-Bey by name, and accompanied his master on his adventurous expeditions. When twenty he married and started a small farm. But having killed a Turk, he left Servia for Syrmia, in Croatia-Slavonia, where the monks of the monastery Krushedol engaged him as one of their forest guards. He remained in the service of the monks nearly two years, then enlisted into an Austrian regiment, and as sergeant took part in the Austrian war against Turkey (1788–91). He deserted his regiment, returned to Servia, and settled in the village of Topola, living sometimes as a peaceful farmer and sometimes again as the leader of a small band of “hayduks”—men who attacked, robbed and in most cases killed the travelling Turks in revenge for the oppression of their country.
The circumstances in which the Servians rose against the janissaries of the pashalik of Belgrade are related in the article on Servia. The leaders of the insurgents’ bands and other men of influence met about the middle of February 1804 at the village of Orashatz, and there elected Karageorge as the supreme leader (Vrhovni Vozd) of the nation. Under his command the Servians speedily cleared their country not only of the janissaries disloyal to the Sultan, but of all other Turks, who withdrew from the open country to the fortified places. Karageorge and his armed Servians demanded from the Sultan the privileges of self-government. The Porte, confronted by the chances of a war with Russia, decided in the autumn of 1806 to grant to the Servians a fairly large measure of autonomy. Unfortunately Karageorge was comparatively poor in political gifts and diplomatic tact. While the hattisherif granting the rights demanded by the Servians was on the way to Servia, Karageorge attacked the Turks in Belgrade and Shabats, captured the towns first and then also the citadels, and allowed the Turkish population of Belgrade to be massacred. At the same time the Russian headquarters in Bucharest informed Karageorge that Russia was at war with Turkey and that the Tsar counted on the co-operation of the Servians. Karageorge and his Servians then definitely rejected all the concessions which the Porte had granted them, and joined Russia, hoping thereby to secure the complete independence of Servia. The co-operation of the Servians with the Russians was of no great importance, and probably disappointing to both parties. But as the principal theatre of war was far away from Servia on the lower Danube, Karageorge was able to give more attention to the internal organization of Servia. The national assembly proclaimed Karageorge the hereditary chief and gospodar of the Servians (Dec. 26, 1808), he on his part promising under oath to govern the country “through and by the national council” (senate).
Karageorge’s hasty and uncompromising temper and imperious habits, as well as his want of political tact, soon made him many enemies amongst the more prominent Servians (voyvodes and senators). His difficulties were considerably increased by the intrigues of the Russian political agent to Servia, Rodophinikin. A crisis came during the summer months of the year 1813. The treaty of peace, concluded by the Russians somewhat hurriedly in Bucharest in 1812, did not secure efficiently the safety of the Servians. The Turks demanded from Karageorge, as a preliminary condition for peace, that the Servians should lay down their arms, and Karageorge refused to comply. Thereupon the entire Turkish army which fought against the Russians on the Danube, being disengaged, invaded Servia. After a few inefficient attempts to stem the invasion, Karageorge gave up the struggle, and with most of the voyvodes and chiefs of the nation left the country, and crossed to Hungary as a refugee (Sept. 20, 1813). From Hungary he went to Russia and settled in Khotin (Bessarabia), enjoying a pension from the Tsar’s government. But in the summer of 1817 he suddenly and secretly left Russia and reappeared quite alone in Servia in the neighbourhood of Semendria (Smederevo) on the Danube. The motives and the object of his return are not clear. Some believe that he was sent by the Hetaerists to raise up Servia to a new war with Turkey and thereby facilitate the rising of the Greek people. It is generally assumed, however, that, having heard that Servia, under the guidance of Milosh Obrenovich, had obtained a certain measure of self-government, he desired to put himself again at the head of the nation. This impression seems to have been that of Milosh himself, who at once reported to the Pasha of Belgrade the arrival of Karageorge. The pasha demanded that Karageorge, alive or dead, should be delivered to him immediately, and made Milosh personally responsible for the execution of that order. Karageorge’s removal could not unfortunately be separated from the personal interest of Milosh; already acknowledged as chief of the nation, Milosh did not like to be displaced by his old chief, who in a critical moment had left the country. Karageorge was killed (July 27, O.S., 1817) while he was asleep, and his head was sent to the pasha for transmission to Constantinople. It is impossible to exonerate Milosh Obrenovich from responsibility for the murder, which became the starting-point for a series of tragedies in the modern history of Servia.
Karageorge was one of the most remarkable Servians of the 19th century. No other man could have led the bands of undisciplined and badly-armed Servian peasants to such decisive victories against the Turks. Although he never assumed the title of prince, he practically was the first chief and master (gospodar) of the people of Servia. He succeeded, however, not because he was liked but because he was feared. His gloomy silence, his easily aroused anger, his habit of punishing without hesitation the slightest transgressions by death, spread terror among the people. He is believed to have killed his own father in a fit of anger when the old man refused to follow him in his flight to Hungary at the beginning of his career. In another fit of rage at the report that his brother Marinko had assaulted a girl, he ordered his men to seize his brother and to hang him there and then in his presence, and he forbade his mother to go into mourning for him. Even by his admirers he is admitted to have killed by his own hand no fewer than 125 men who provoked his anger. But in battles he is acknowledged to have been always admirable, displaying marvellous energy and valour, and giving proofs of a real military genius. The Servians consider him one of their greatest men. In grateful remembrance of his services to the national cause they elected his younger son, Alexander, in 1842, to be the reigning prince of Servia, and again in 1903 they chose his grandson, Peter Karageorgevich (son of Alexander) to be the king of Servia.