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Military Frontier

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Title: Military Frontier  
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Subject: Croatian Military Frontier, Banat of Temeswar, Sremski Karlovci, Semyon Zorich, Konstantin Danil
Collection: 1553 Establishments in the Habsburg Monarchy, 1881 Disestablishments in Austria-Hungary, History of Austria, History of Bačka, History of Banat, History of Bosnia and Herzegovina, History of Croatia, History of Hungary, History of Romania, History of Syrmia, History of Vojvodina, Hungary Under Habsburg Rule, Military Frontier, Military History of Croatia, Military History of Slovenia, Modern History of Slovenia, Ottoman Period in the History of Romania, Serbia Under Habsburg Rule, Vojvodina Under Habsburg Rule
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Military Frontier

Military Frontier
Vojna granica / Vojna krajina
Војна граница / Војна крајина
Graniță militară
Katonai határőrvidék
military province
16th century–1882
Map of the Military Frontier (marked with a red outline)
Capital Not specified
Religion Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic
Political structure military province
Historical era Early Modern period
 -  Established 16th century
 -  Disestablished 1882
 -  1869 33,553 km² (12,955 sq mi)
Today part of

The Military Frontier (also known as Military Border and Military Krajina; Croatian: Vojna granica, Vojna krajina; Serbian: Vojna granica / Војна граница, Vojna krajina / Војна Крајина; Slovene: Vojna krajina; German: Militärgrenze; Hungarian: Katonai határőrvidék; Romanian: Graniţă militară) was a borderland of Habsburg Austria and later the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which acted as the cordon sanitaire against incursions from the Ottoman Empire. When created in the 16th century by Ferdinand I, it was divided into two districts each under its own special military administration: the Croatian Military Frontier and the Slavonian Military Frontier. Both of these, along with all later military districts, were placed in 1783 under the unified control of the Croatian General Command headquartered in Zagreb.[1][2][3] The Military Frontier was a separate Habsburg administrative unit, directly subordinated to Vienna. Its territory stretched from Croatia proper in the west to eastern Transylvania in the east and included parts of present-day Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Hungary.


  • History 1
    • Ottoman wars 1.1
    • After the Great Turkish War and the Treaty of Karlowitz 1.2
    • Abolishment of the frontier 1.3
  • Demographics 2
    • 1846 2.1
    • 1857 2.2
  • Divisions 3
    • Danube Military Frontier 3.1
    • Tisa Military Frontier 3.2
    • Mureș Military Frontier 3.3
    • Sava Military Frontier 3.4
    • Banat Military Frontier 3.5
    • Slavonian Military Frontier 3.6
    • Croatian Military Frontier 3.7
    • Šajkaš Battalion 3.8
    • Transylvanian Military Frontier 3.9
  • Legacy 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Sources 7
  • Further reading / Bibliography 8
  • External links 9


Ottoman wars

Frontiersman from Pomorišje, first half of the 18th century.

The Ottoman wars in Europe caused the border of the Kingdom of Hungary - and subsequently that of the Habsburg Monarchy - to shift towards the northwest. Much of the old Croatian territory either became Ottoman land or bordered the new Ottoman domain.

In 1435, in an attempt to strengthen the defences against the Ottomans and Venice, King Sigismund founded the so-called tabor, a military encampment, each in Croatia, Slavonia and Usora. In 1463 King Matthias Corvinus founded the banovina of Jajce and Srebrenik, and in 1469 the military captaincy of Senj, modeled after the Ottoman captaincies in the Province of Bosnia. All these actions aimed to improve defence, but ultimately proved unsuccessful. It did bring forth the Croatian Pandur infantry and the Serbian Hussar cavalry though.

After 1526 the Croatian Parliament selected the Austrian Habsburgs as kings of Croatia, and Emperor Ferdinand promised the Croatian Parliament that he would give them 200 cavalrymen and 200 infantrymen, and that he would pay for another 800 cavalrymen who would be commanded by the Croatians. Soon the Habsburg Empire founded another captaincy in Bihać. In the short term, all this was also ineffective, as in 1529 the Ottomans swept through the area, captured Buda and besieged Vienna, wreaking havoc throughout the Croatian border areas.

In 1553 the borderland was reformed for the first time, under the commander Ivan Lenković. The frontier was split into the Croatian Military Frontier (Krabatische Gränitz) and the Upper Slavonian Military Frontier (Windische, Oberslawonische Gränitz). The border with the Ottoman Empire on the line Senj-Otočac-Slunj-Glina-Hrastovica-Sisak-Ivanić-Križevci-Đurđevac was fortified with several smaller and larger forts. New captaincies were formed in the larger forts: Ogulin, Hrastovica, Žumberak, Koprivnica, Križevci and Ivanić. Smaller forts were manned by German infantry and Croatian light infantry. The larger forts were manned by German heavy cavalry and Croatian light cavalry.

The new military expenditures became a considerable concern, and the Congress of Inner Austrian lands in Bruck an der Mur in 1578 defined the obligations of each land in covering the military expenses and defined the priorities in improving the defensive strategy. The nobility of Styria financed the Upper Slavonian Frontier while the others (Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Carniola, Carinthia and Salzburg) financed the Croatian Frontier.

By the end of the 16th century, the Croatian Military Frontier became known as the Karlovac generalat, and from the 1630s the Upper Slavonian Military Frontier was known as the Varaždin generalat. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the military administration of the Frontier was moved away from the Croatian ban and the Sabor (Parliament) and instead instated in the high command of Archduke Charles and the War Council in Graz.

Despite the financial support of the Inner Austrian nobility, the financing of the Military Frontier was not efficient enough. The military leadership in Graz decided to try solutions other than mercenary units. In the 1630s the Imperial Court decided to give land and certain privileges to immigrants into the Frontier (the voivodeships per each captaincy.

In November 1630, the Emperor Ferdinand II proclaimed the so-called Statuta Wallachorum or Vlach Statute,[4] which regulated the status of so-called Vlach settlers (which included Croats, Serbs and Vlachs) from the Ottoman Empire with regard to military command, their obligations and rights to internal self-administration. Over time, the population of the Frontier (as it was then) became mixed between the autochthonous Croats and Croatian serfs who had fled the Ottoman territories, and the numerous minority of Serb and Vlach (who were later assimilated into Croats and Serbs) refugees who strove to expand their rights as a major contributor in the defense of the land. By creating the new military class in the Frontier, the territory of the Frontier eventually became fully detached from the Croatian Parliament and the ban. The Territory of the Frontier had a large Serb population, who fled from their south-eastern lands, and tried to fight the Ottoman forces, making a refuge in Habsburg Croatia. As freedom of faith was granted to them, the Orthodox faith was preserved in spite of their living in a Catholic country. Eventually, the whole population of the Military Frontier became professional soldiers who served the Empire on several fronts and through many European wars, even after the relaxation of the Ottoman threat.

In 1673 the first detailed map of the Military Frontier was released, where the funfair and the public bath for border guard officers and other gentlemen from the neighborhood in Miholjanec was marked.[5] Their wives and children lived together in organized agricultural cooperatives.

After the Great Turkish War and the Treaty of Karlowitz

The 17th century was a relatively peaceful period, during which only smaller raids were made from the Province of Bosnia. After the Ottoman army was repelled at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the Great Turkish War ended with much of the former Croatian lands under Habsburg control. Despite this, the Frontier system was retained, and expanded onto former Ottoman territories in Lika, Kordun, Banija, lower Slavonia, Syrmia, Bačka, Banat, Pomorišje, and Transylvania. The Habsburg Empire valued the ability to centrally control the area and to draft cheap and numerous army units.

Map of the Military Frontier in the middle of the 19th century (marked with a red outline)

After the Treaty of Karlowitz of 1699, a unit called the Serežan troop formed: it had both military and police duties. The members were not paid, but were freed from paying all taxes. As an irregular unit, they wore a folk uniform rather than an army one. Over the following century, each regiment had one section of the serežani, led by a oberbaša or harambaša (sergeant), several unterbaša (corporal) and vicebaša (lance corporal). They organized the border patrols towards Bosnia, particularly on difficult terrain, and stopped incursions of bandits. They required extensive knowledge of the territory, good marksmanship and to be constantly under arms. They also maintained public law and order in the area of their regiment. There were also cavalry serežan units that served as escort to the high officers of Frontier regiments, carried urgent orders and carried out special patrol duties.

From 1718 to 1739 the Military Frontier also included the Habsburg-controlled northern parts of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina.[6]

In mid-18th century the Frontier was once again reorganized and modelled after the Imperial army and its regular regiments. In 1737, the Vlach Statute was formally abolished. All previous captaincies and voivodships were discarded, and the area was instead subdivided into general-commands, regiments and companies:

Kaiserliches Infanterieregiment No. 60 Albertina-Handschrift 1762

After 1767, every twelfth inhabitant of the Military Frontier was a soldier in contrast to every 62nd inhabitant in the rest of the Habsburg Monarchy. The Frontier soldiers became a professional military, ready to move to all European battlefields. Due to further immigration of refugees from the Ottoman domain, and to the expansion of the territory to places previously controlled by the Ottomans, the population of the Frontier became even more mixed. There were still many autochthonous Serbs and Croats in Slavonia and parts of present-day Vojvodina (in Syrmia, Bačka and Banat). However, at this time they became outnumbered by the Serb, Croat and Vlach refugees/immigrants. Some Germans and Magyars also came to the Frontier, mostly as administrative personnel, and there was a number of other settlers and military persons from other parts of the Habsburg Empire such as the Czechs, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Rusyns and others.

In 1787 the civil administration was separated from the military, but this was reversed in 1800. By the Basic Law of the Frontier from 1850, the administration of Military Frontier was split and the land started to look like a state. The Main Command had its headquarters in Zagreb, but remained directly subordinate to the Ministry of War in Vienna.

Abolishment of the frontier

The Croatian Parliament made numerous pleas to demilitarize the Frontier after the Turkish wars subsided. The demilitarization began in 1869 and on August 8, 1873, under Franz Joseph, the Banatian Frontier was abolished and incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary, while part of Croatian Frontier (Križevci and Đurđevac regiments) was incorporated into Croatia-Slavonia. The decree in which the rest of Croatian and Slavonian Frontiers were incorporated into Croatian-Slavonian crownland was proclaimed on July 15, 1881, while incorporation started to be performed on August 1, 1881, when the Ban of Croatia Ladislav Pejačević took over from the Zagreb General Command.[7]



An Austrian statistical yearbook for 1846 notes that 1,226,408 residents lived in the Military Frontier:[8]


The first modern population census in the Austrian Empire was conducted in 1857 and recorded the religion of the population. The population of the Military Frontier numbered 1,062,072 inhabitants,[9] while the religious structure of the Military Frontier was:

Population data by divisions:

Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier (Total 675,817)[10]

Banat Military Frontier (Total 386,255)[11]


In the 18th and 19th centuries, the frontier was divided into several districts:

Danube Military Frontier

This section of the Military Frontier existed in the first half of the 18th century and comprised parts of southern Bačka (including Palanka, Petrovac, Petrovaradinski Šanac, Titel, etc.) and northern Syrmia (including Petrovaradin, Šid, etc.). After the abolishment of this section of the Frontier, one part of its territory was placed under civil administration and another part was joined to other sections of the Frontier.

Tisa Military Frontier

This section of the Military Frontier existed between 1702 and 1751 and comprised parts of north-eastern Bačka (including Sombor, Subotica, Kanjiža, Senta, Bečej, etc.). After the abolishment of this section of the Frontier, most of its territory was placed under civil administration, while one small area in the south remained under military administration as part of the Šajkaš Battalion.

Mureș Military Frontier

This section of the Military Frontier existed between 1702 and 1751 and comprised the region of Pomorišje (area on the northern bank of the river Mureș). After the abolishment of this section of the Frontier, its entire territory was placed under civil administration.

Sava Military Frontier

It existed in the first half of the 18th century along the Sava river.

Banat Military Frontier

The Banat Military Frontier was located on the Serbian-Romanian border. It was divided into Serbian (Illyrian), German (Volksdeutscher) and Romanian (Vlach) sections.

Slavonian Military Frontier

Serb frontiersman in Syrmia in 1742

The Slavonian Military Frontier was located along Posavina, from eastern Croatia, following the river Sava, along the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, and stretched into Syrmia, until inflow into Danube near Zemun (today part of Belgrade). Its north-eastern border followed the Danube up until the Petrovaradin.

Croatian Military Frontier

The Croatian Military Frontier or "Banska krajina" was located on the border of Croatia and Bosnia.

This part of the Military Frontier included the geographic regions of Lika, Kordun, Banovina (named after "Banska krajina"), and bordered the Adriatic Sea to the west, Venetian Republic to the south, Habsburg Croatia to the west, and the Ottoman Empire to the east.

It extended onto the Slavonian Military Frontier near the confluence of the rivers Una and Sava.

Šajkaš Battalion

The Šajkaš Battalion was a small part of the Frontier that was formed in 1763 from parts of the previously abolished Danube and Tisa sections of the frontier. In 1852, Šajkaš battalion was transformed into Titel infantry battalion. It was abolished in 1873, and its territory was incorporated into Bačka-Bodrog County.

Transylvanian Military Frontier

Transylvanian Military Frontier existed from 1762 to 1851, mostly in eastern and southern parts of Transylvania. It was composed of two Székely and two Romanian regiments. The establishment of the frontier was followed by the Mádéfalva Massacre or Siculicidium.


After the former Yugoslav Republic of Croatia declared independence (in 1991), the Serbs who lived in the region of former Military Frontier (Vojna Krajina) adopted that name (Krajina) in the name of the Republic of Serbian Krajina. However, this Serb entity also included some territories that were not part of the Military Frontier in the past, while large tracts of territory that had constituted the Military Frontier resided outside the Serb region as largely Croat populated areas of the Republic of Croatia (See the Croatian War of Independence for more information).

See also


  1. ^ Fine, p. 370-371
  2. ^ Karl Kaser: Freier Bauer und Soldat: die Militarisierung der agrarischen Gesellschaft and der kroatisch-slowanischen Militärgrenze (1535-1881), Böhlau Verlag Wien, 1997, p. 369
  3. ^ Gunther Erich Rothenberg: The Military Border in Croatia, 1740-1881: a study of an imperial institution, University of Chicago Press, 1966, p. 63
  4. ^
  5. ^ Geoadria, Year: 2001, Volume: 6, Issue: 1, Pages/record No.: 81-91, Hrvatsko geografsko društvo - Zadar, Odjel za geografiju, Sveučilište u Zadru, 2001., ISSN 1331-2294
  6. ^ Empires and Peninsulas: Southeastern Europe Between Carlowitz and the Peace of Adrianople, 1699-1829, Plamen Mitev, Plamen Mitev, Ivan Parvev, Maria Baramova, Vania Racheva, LIT Verlag Münster, 2011, page 171.
  7. ^ Horvat 1906, pp. 289-290.
  8. ^ Uebersichts-Tafeln zur Statistik der österreichischen Monarchie: besonderer Abdruck des X. und XI. Heftes der "Statistischen Mittheilungen". 1850, page 2
  9. ^ Statistische übersichten über die bevölkerung und den viehstand von Österreich nach der zählung vom 31. october 1857, page 179
  10. ^ Statistische übersichten über die bevölkerung und den viehstand von Österreich nach der zählung vom 31. october 1857, page 172
  11. ^ Statistische übersichten über die bevölkerung und den viehstand von Österreich nach der zählung vom 31. october 1857, page 176


  •   (Wikisource)

Further reading / Bibliography

  • John Van Antwerp Fine, When ethnicity did not matter in the Balkans: a study of identity in pre-nationalist Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia in the medieval and early-modern periods, University of Michigan Press, 2006 ISBN 0-472-11414-X.
  • Walter Berger: Baut dem Reich einen Wall. Das Buch vom Entstehen der Militärgrenze wider die Türken. Leopold Stocker Verlag, 1979 ISBN 3-7020-0342-8
  • Jakob Amstadt: Die k.k. Militaergrenze 1522 - 1881 (mit einer Gesamtbibliographie). Dissertation, University of Wurzburg, 1969
  • Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (Hrsg.): Die k. k. Militärgrenze (Beiträge zu ihrer Geschichte). ÖBV, 1973 (Schriften des Heeresgeschichtlichen Museums, 6) ISBN 3-215-73302-1
  • Dragutin Pavličević (ed.): Vojna krajina: povijesni pregled-historiografija-rasprave, SN Liber, 1984, Zagreb
  • Mirko Valentić: Vojna krajina i pitanje njezina sjedinjenja s Hrvatskom 1849-1881, CHP, 1981, Zagreb
  • Gligor Stanojević: Dalmacija u doba Morejskog rata, 1967, Beograd
  • Alexander Buczynski: Gradovi Vojne krajine 1-2, HIP, 1997, Zagreb
  • Milan Kruhek: Krajiške utvrde Hrvatskog kraljevstva, HIP, 1995, Zagreb
  • Drago Roksandić: Vojna Hrvatska (1809.-1813.), 1-2, ŠK, 1988, Zagreb
  • Drago Roksandić: Etnos, konfesija, tolerancija, SKD Prosvjeta, 2004, Zagreb
  • Potiska i pomoriška vojna granica (1702–1751), Muzej Vojvodine, Novi Sad, 2003.

External links

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