The Butterfly Effect, Battle of Kosovo and Vlad the Impaler

It is fascinating to consider the butterfly effect, how one small change can have a big impact on the future, especially with regards to the outcome of the Battle of Kosovo and the life choices of Vlad the Impaler, Vlad III, or Vlad Dracula.

I often ask myself, if history would have taken another turn, would Vlad III have made different life choices? Which ones?

One such turning point was the Battle of Kosovo that took place on 15 June 1389.

The Battle of Kosovo

The Battle of Kosovo took place on the Kosovo field, polje, (Field of the Blackbirds), in the territory ruled by Vuk Branković, between the defending Serbian army led by Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović (actually a coalition of Serbs, Albanians, Croatians, Bosnians, and Romanians – soldiers sent by Voievode Mircea the Elder who ruled Walachia at that time) and the invading army of the Ottoman Empire under the command of Sultan Murad I the Sovereign (also a coalition, as a small contingent of the Serbian army was already supporting the Turks, who in turn, were supporting the Serbian ruler in power).

The Butterfly Effect, Battle of Kosovo and Vlad the Impaler
Location of Kosovo in SE Europe

Both leaders were killed in action (and so was Vuk Branković) and the bulk of both armies were wiped out in this battle. As with any great battle, there are numerous accounts describing the forces, the attacks, as well as who exactly and how killed Murad I.

Who emerged victorious from this battle? The new Ottoman sultan…

It is said that Murad I’s son Bayezid strangled his younger brother Yakub Çelebi when he got news of their father’s death during the battle, thus securing himself the throne of the Ottoman Empire. Perhaps Bayezid’s name sounds familiar to you; he built one of the largest armies in the world at that time and unsuccessfully besieged Constantinople.

The outcome of the battle?

  • the Serbs were left with too few men to effectively defend their lands who became Ottoman vassals in the following years, although in the aftermath of the battle Serbian rulers might not have seen the outcome as a defeat, but as a victory;
  • Prince Lazar’s daughter, Olivera Despina, marries the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I right after this battle (she was not the only Serbian princess to marry a Sultan);
  • the Ottoman Empire straightened its position in the South-East Europe;
  • a crumbling Byzantine Empire was now completely encircled by the Ottoman Empire;
  • the Bulgarian kingdom fell in the year 1393, greatly endangering the safety of the Romanian Principalities at the North;
  • the stronger Ottoman Empire seized the Danube ports, now greatly endangering the independence of Wallachia (Walachia). Bayezid was also angry that the Romanians have supported the Serbs during the Kosovo Battle…);
  • a new epoch of Ottoman menace and threat begins for the whole of South-East Europe and the political landscape of this region is forever altered.

Following the butterfly effect, let’s move further to:

Vlad the Impaler and the Romanian Principalities during the 15th century

The Butterfly Effect, Battle of Kosovo and Vlad the Impaler, Walachia 14th century and KIngdom of Hungary
Walachia and the Kingdom of Hungary at the end of the 14th century.
  • the Romanian Principalities at this time were: Moldavia (in NE), Walachia (in south, above the Danube River), and Transylvania (in NW, although at this stage it was still part of the Hungarian Kingdom);
  • with Murad I dead during the Battle of Kosovo, Beyazıd the Thunderbolt took over the ruling of the Ottoman Empire;
  • Walachia was ruled by Mircea the Elder, father of Vlad II and paternal grandfather to Vlad the Impaler. Mircea the Elder had close relations with Sigismund of Luxembourg, King of Hungary (1387–1437);
  • Two things happen next: Mircea the Elder supported the Bulgarian Kingdom in their fight against the Ottomans (Bulgarians were Mircea’s neighbors in the south), a decision that brought him in conflict with the Ottoman Empire (famous Battle of Rovine, 10 October 1394, comes to mind), AND Mircea the Elder sent his son Vlad II to the court of the Hungarian King, as it was custom;
  • 1395: the first confirmed invasion of Ottoman Empire into Țara Bârsei, Burzenland (SE Transylvania) via the Bran Pass, with the Turks coming so close to the Hungarian Kingdom;
  • with the Ottoman Empire on the rise, Sigismund of Luxembourg founded the Order of the Dragon in 1408. Fashioned after the military orders of the Crusades, its purpose was to defend Christianity particularly against the Ottoman Empire;
  • Vlad II, showing great battle skills and courage, was invited by Sigismund of Luxembourg to join the Order of the Dragon in 1431 and later recognized by the Hungarian King as the lawful Voivode of Wallachia;
  • Sigismund of Luxembourg died in 1437 and Vlad II was left without the Hungarian support against the Ottoman Empire. Thus, Vlad II had to to pay homage to Murad II (grandson of Bayezid, now ruling the Ottoman Empire) and, to prove his loyalty he was ‘asked’ to send his two sons, Vlad III (~ age 11) and Radu (~ age 5) as hostages to the Ottoman court of Edirne. Vlad III and Radu were schooled and lived following the Islam laws for over five years.

It was here and now that Vlad III met Mehmed II the Conqueror (the one sultan who finally takes Constantinople on May 29, 1453). Vlad III and Mehmed II crossed swords many times afterwards.
What Vlad III had to put up with as a young boy held captive at the Ottoman court is a story for another time

The Butterfly Effect, Battle of Kosovo and Vlad the Impaler, Walachia under Mircea the Elder, 1390
Wallachia under Mircea the Elder, c. 1390

Back to the Battle of Kosovo, 15 June 1389

This specific date, 15 June on the Julian calendar or 28 June on the Gregorian calendar is a Serbian national and religious holiday, St. Vitus’ day.

Might be hard to believe, but notable events happened on that day throughout the history of Serbia, one of them being the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914.

Yes, the Battle of Kosovo took place about 40 years before Vlad III was born and 1 000 km away, but its outcome affected not only the entire dynamics of the South-Eastern Europe, including the lives of millions of Serbs, Hungarians, Romanians, Czechs, Bulgarians, Turks, Greeks, Albanians, but the dynamics inside the immediate family of Vlad III.

The Legend of Miloš Obilić

Is not sure if Miloš Obilić, the Serbian knight who walked straight into the tent of Sultan Murad I and kill him, really existed or not. But the force released in the aftermath of the Battle Kosovo gave birth to many legends, like the real one about Vlad the Impaler.

It is said that Obilić had super powers, he was the son of a fairy or of dragon and his unnatural powers came from drinking the milk of a mare. His nickname was Kobilic or Kobilovic, and in Serbian kobila means mare. His horse was named Zdral and his fiance was none other but the daughter of the Serbian ruler Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović.

Modern historian bring forward contradictory opinions on Vlad the Impaler. Some see him as a hero who fought his entire life to defend the independence of his country, Walachia, and the Christendom. Others see him as a psychopath who killed and tortured out of sadistic pleasure.

What is certain is that this Romanian prince entered the pages of literature through numerous writings that were published during his life, but especially the chronicles that appeared after his death, as well as the works of Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu and Bram Stoker. Perhaps all due to his unique personality features, nevertheless carved by his rich family roots, unusual and unfortunate upbringing as well as the historical circumstances that mapped his entire life.

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