|Battle of Novšiće|
|Part of Battles for Plav and Gusinje|
|Principality of Montenegro||
League of Prizren|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|500–700 killed||around 400 killed and wounded|
The Battle of Novšiće (Serbian: Boj na Novšiću/Бој на Новшићу; Bitka na Novšićima/Битка на Новшићима, Albanian: Beteja e Nokshiqit)) was a battle for control over Plav and Gusinje fought on 4 December 1879 between the forces of Principality of Montenegro led by Marko Miljanov and local pro-Ottoman forces which included irregulars of the League of Prizren, both commanded by Ali Pasha, the Kaymekam of Gusinje. The League of Prizren consisted of the local Albanians and Bosniaks from Plav and Gusinje in Scutari Vilayet and irregulars from Kosovo Vilayet.
This battle followed the Montenegrin–Ottoman War (1876–78). It happened because the Ottoman Empire avoided to provide conditions for peaceful cession of Plav and Gusinje to Montenegro, as agreed in the Treaty of Berlin (1878). To straighten their position at Congress of Berlin and later to avoid fulfillment of their obligations from the Treaty of Berlin, the Ottomans unofficially supported the League of Prizren which mobilized the pro-Ottoman irregulars. They easily mobilized 14,000–15,000 forces, because Plav and Gusinje were predominantly populated by the pro-Ottoman Muslims and Albanians who opposed this cession to the predominantly Christian populated Montenegro. They paid all the income of their waqif to the chieftains of neighboring Albanian tribes who belonged to the League of Prizren to support them with their forces. The League of Prizren forces gathered in Plav and Gusinje where they were put under the command of the Ottoman kaymakam of Gusinje, Ali Pasha.
The Montenegrin forces of four battalions with 4,000–6,000 men were positioned along the demarcation line near villages Velika and Murino. Until the end of November 1879 they were under the command of voivode Petrović, who strictly respected instructions of the Montenegrin government to employ static and defensive tactics. At the beginning of December 1879 Montenegrin Prince Nicholas appointed Marko Miljanov, instead of Petrović. On 4 December 1879 one skirmish in the village Velika evolved into the battle when the Montenegrin forces advanced into Ottoman territory. Two battalions commanded by Miljanov quickly advanced without securing their flanks. The League of Prizren forces ambushed and surrounded them near the village of Novšiće. After several hours of fighting additional two Montenegrin battalions commanded by Vuković arrived and released forces under Miljanov from the encirclement and secured their retreat. Both sides suffered significant casualties. About a month later, in the subsequent battle, the Montenegrin forces near Murino near Plav defeated the League of Prizren forces.
In 1880 the Ottomans ceded seaport Ulcinj to Montenegro, instead of the two towns of Plav and Gusinje. Since the Ottomans completely lost control over the League of Prizren, they disestablished it and crushed their forces in April 1881. Ali Pasha of Gusinje was promoted by the Ottomans to the position of mutasarrıf of the Sanjak of İpek and awarded the title of beylerbey. After a fierce disagreement with Prince Nikola in 1882, Miljanov decided to retire from public life to his native Medun. In 1912 Montenegro annexed Plav and Gusinje.
The Battle of Novšiće followed the Montenegrin–Ottoman War (1876–78), which the Ottomans had lost. The Ottoman Empire had accepted de jure the independence of Montenegro, which received certain territorial gains. According to the Treaty of Berlin the territories of Plav and Gusinje (then part of Scutari Vilayet in the Ottoman Empire) were awarded to Montenegro, in compensation for territories in Herzegovina captured by Montenegro during the war. Until October 1879 the Montenegrin forces were able to march into this territory without any resistance. However, when Montenegrins prepared forces for a military expedition in Plav and Gusinje, the Ottomans intervened with the Great Powers to stop it, in order to avoid eventual conflicts. Diplomacy of Austria-Hungary emphasized that Montenegro would use Plav and Gusinje as a foothold to realize its territorial aspirations toward Metohija. The common interest brought together former enemies, the Ottoman forces of Plav and Gusinje with Albanian irregulars from the Prizren League. The demographic structure of the population of Plav and Gusinje in 1908, which was not significantly different from data in 1878, was researched by Jovan Cvijić: out of 1,785 households, 1,174 belonged to Bosniaks, 401 to Albanians and 210 to Orthodox population. Muslim population of Plav and Gusinje was afraid that they would suffer the same destiny previously experienced by Muslim population of Nikšić and Kolašin.
The Ottomans were officially intentioned to respect their obligations, however, in reality, they supported the League of Prizren. The Ottoman governor of Scutari sent ammunitions to Gusinje to be distributed to the local population. Thousands of armed irregulars were mobilized by the League of Prizren all over the region and gathered in Plav and Gusinje. The British Ambassador at Istanbul Austen Henry Layard informed his government that the Ottoman Empire did nothing to prevent the influx of armed bands into the region of Gusinje and emphasized that the High Porte would be held responsible for the consequences. Since October 1879 there were numerous skirmishes between the Montenegrin forces and irregulars.
On October 9, 1879, Albanian highlanders attacked the Montenegrins between Ržanica and Velika, in Vasojevići, and a bloody fight continued into the night. The Montenegrins managed to push the Albanians over the border, and this faintly did aware the Albanians and their several thousand fighters. On November 22, the Albanians attacked a Montenegrin guarding post of 300 men near Velika, after which 4 to 5 Montenegrin battalions were made ready. The Bratonožići and Moračani with yatagans ambushed the Albanians from behind, and cut them, which forced the Albanians to flee; the Montenegrins caught in and slew for two hours. The Albanian death toll was towards 1,000, while the Montenegrins had 85 deaths and 100 wounded, and some 100 horses and plenty of weapons were seized. Among the Albanians, there were many ununiformed Ottoman regulars.
Until the end of November 1879 the supreme commander of Montenegrin forces, positioned at the demarcation line toward Plav and Gusinje was voivode Blažo Petrović, member of the ruling Petrović dynasty. At the end of November prince Nicholas I of Montenegro removed Petrović from his position with the explanation that his presence on that position was temporary cancelled as unnecessary. The prince appointed Marko Miljanov on the position of commander of this part of Montenegrin forces. Miljanov was appointed as member of the neighboring Kuči tribe, who knew very well the territory of Plav and Gusinje and also the customs of its population. Miljan Vukov Vešović, an elderly voivode of Vasojevići, was appointed as Miljanov's advisor with position in Andrijevica. According to some speculations, the prince knew that an eventual success of this campaign would not bring much glory to the Montenegrin side, while eventual failure could significantly discredit the Montenegrin commanders. That is why the prince removed a member of his dynasty from the commanding position and appointed Miljanov as commander and Vešović as his advisor, both being his political enemies. Some authors speculated that Prince Nicholas appointed Marko Miljanov as responsible for the takeover of Plav and Gusinje, knowing that his forces would be attacked by much stronger forces, because Nicholas wanted his political enemy Miljanov dead.
Miljanov was very enthusiastic with the opportunity to capture Plav and Gusinje. He was convinced that he was going to punish Ali Bey of Gusinje for his misdeeds. Vešović advised him to be very careful, otherwise Ali Bey might be promoted to Ali Pasha (which eventually happened).
The Montenegrin forces were organized along tribal lines. After the war with Ottomans Montenegro had demobilized part of its forces, expecting a peaceful takeover of the areas of Plav and Gusinje. Also Montenegro was short of food for larger number of soldiers due to the drought of 1879. The Montenegrin forces that participated in this battle were composed of four battalions. Two battalions of Kuči and Bratonožići tribes were under direct command of Miljanov and positioned in Andrijevica, along the demarcation line near village Murino[where?]. Two Vasojevići battalions (Moračko-Rovački and Ljevorečki) were commanded by Todor Miljanov Vuković and positioned in Berane along the demarcation line near the village of Velika. They all had between 4,000 and 6,000 men (out of whom one thousand did not directly participate in the battle).
In the Autumn of 1879 notables of Plav and Gusinje established the Committee of National Salvation. The first order of the Committee was to send Jakup Ferović to visit neighboring Albanian tribes to offer them an alliance. It was also decided that Ferović will carry all income of Plav vaqif to pay to Albanian chieftains to accept this alliance. Against the orders of Ali Bey prepared 12-15 kilometers long and 2 meters wide trenches.
The pro-Ottoman forces of 2,100 were gathered in Gusinje and put under command of the Ottoman kaymakam of Gusinje, Ali Bey of Gusinje (later known as Ali Pasha of Gusinje). Notable commanders of the pro-Ottoman forces include Haxhi Mulla Jaha (Jahja efendi Musić), Jakup Ferri (Ferović), Husein-beg Redžepagić.
Numerous pro-Ottoman forces were mobilized by the Prizren League. The Ottoman military officer Muhtar Pasha arrived to Prizren in November 1879. He had 15 battalions of Ottoman soldiers there. The Ottomans informed Montenegrins that this forces would be used to provide peaceful takeover of Plav and Gusinje by Montenegro. Montenegro complained to Great Powers and accused Ottomans that their actions contradict to their promises because Ottoman forces under Muhtar Pasha were used not for peaceful cession of Plav and Gusinje to Montenegro. Instead they were used to organize and support irregulars in their actions against Montenegro.
There are different estimations about the composition of the Ottoman forces, regarding the eventual presence of the officers and soldiers of regular Ottoman army and regarding their ethnic composition. Overall Ali Pasha had mobilized some 10,000-20,000 Albanian men. The Montenegrin side emphasized that Muhtar Pasha secretly commanded pro-Ottoman forces which included many regular Ottoman soldiers (nizams) disguised as irregulars by wearing Albanian costumes. They also emphasized that pro-Ottoman irregulars were commanded by the officers of the regular Ottoman army who extensively used bugles during the battle, which did not exist in Albanian military tradition. The Albanian sources on this battle over-emphasized participation of Albanians in it without mentioning many non-Albanian Muslims that participated on the pro-Ottoman side.[verification needed] On the other hand, the Muslims from Plav and Gusinje do not even mention Prizren league in their traditional epic poetry on this battle, but only different tribes and their thirty bayraktars with Albanian language being mother tongue of three out of thirty bayraktars. Some recent works of Bosnian historiography emphasize that participation of Bosniaks from Plav and Gusinje in this battle was neglected without real justification.
The battle evolved from one skirmish of 4 December 1879 that was similar to many other taking place in this region since October of the same year. On that day a detachment of the pro-Ottoman irregulars attacked Montenegrin guards in the village Velika and forced them to retreat. Two Vasojevići battalions commanded by Todor Miljanov Vuković pushed the attackers back and chased them across the demarcation line, towards Plav.
Although the Montenegrin forces were ordered to employ the defensive tactics in case of the conflict, Miljanov decided to use this incursion of Montenegrin forces under Vuković and on the same day crossed the demarcation line advancing with two battalions (of Kuči and Bratonožići) into the territory of Plav. They crossed the bridge over river Lim south of the village Murino and quickly advanced toward Plav and Gusinje along the river Lim. Initially, the Montenegrin forces advanced undisturbed, which led them to conclusion that they were not expected or that the pro-Ottoman forces were not well organized, so they left their flanks unsecured. When they reached the narrow part of the valley surrounded by high hills near the village of Novšiće, the pro-Ottoman forces attacked them. Without secured flanks the Montenegrin forces soon found themselves surrounded and stuck in the deep snow. For hours they repelled numerous attacks while both sides suffered heavy casualties. Prominent commanders of the pro-Ottoman forces Jakup Ferri and Omer Bašulović, the bajraktar of Plav, were killed at the beginning of the battle. Arif Bašić, another commander of the pro-Ottoman forces from Plav, also died in this battle. The pro-Ottoman forces from Plav were initially forced to retreat until around 600 fighters from Rugova attacked Montenegrin flanks from the direction of Ječmište.
In the evening of 4 December two Vasojevići Montenegrin battalions (Moračko-Rovački and Ljevorečki) commanded by Todor Miljanov Vuković reached the battlefield in Novšići and released surrendered forces of Miljanov securing their retreat. Pavle Rovinski reported that 109 Montenegrin soldiers were killed and 115 wounded in this battle. The forces under command of Vuković did not suffer significant casualties. The casualties of the pro-Ottoman side were around 250 men. The forces of Ali Pasha defeated Montenegrin troops in the Battle of Novšiće with his forces bringing back some sixty heads to Gusinje. Some sources say that the Ottoman irregulars beheaded 220 Montenegrin soldiers and for six months kept their heads impaled on the sticks.
About a month after the battle of Novšiće, on 8 January 1880 the pro-Ottoman irregulars attacked Montenegrin forces at the village of Murino, but were defeated and pushed back toward Plav. According to the Montenegrin Prince Nicholas, the defeat of retreating Ottoman forces was so devastating, that Montenegrin forces finished the battle before the night had fallen, which is something that doesn't happen. The Albanian irregulars burned down several villages (among which (Velika, Ržanica and Pepić), which belonged to the Vasojevići clan.
This battle was considered as Montenegrin revenge for their defeat in the Battle of Novšiće. Right after the Battle of Murino Marko Miljanov received a report that Albanians are boasting for keeping Plav and Gusinje, not for the battles they fought with the Montenegrins. Some reports say that Montenegrin soldiers brought 221 noses they cut from the dead bodies of irregulars.
The Battle of Novšiće was not very significant from the military point of view. If it had happened during the Montenegrin–Ottoman War (1876–78), it would probably have remained hardly noticed. The contemporary circumstances resulted with its significant political consequences. The main consequences of the Battle of Novšiće were strengthening of the positions of the League of Prizren and losing any chance for Montenegrins to soon capture Plav and Gusinje. The battle cast a certain shadow on the exceptional Montenegrin military reputation, gave some confidence to Albanians and significantly affected the position of prince Nicholas and his government. Both parties claimed victory after this battle, underestimating own casualties and overestimating enemy casualties. The Montenegrin government tried to conceal the military defeat and published information about 85 killed and 107 wounded Montenegrins as opposed to 1,000 killed and wounded enemy soldiers.
The Ottoman sultan promoted Ali Bey to higher military rank (beylerbey) and awarded him with enough money to build a mosque in Plav, the Sultanija. Only after the Battle of Novšiće the Ottoman governor Ahmed Muhtar Pasha issued a proclamation to the population of Plav and Gusinje instructing them to accept a peaceful cession to Montenegro. Since this was proven impossible without bloodbath, the Ottoman Empire ceded Ulcinj to Montenegro in 1880 as compensation for Plav and Gusinje. Soon the Ottomans completely lost control over the League of Prizren which fell under the influence of pro-Austrian Albanian nationalists, so the Ottomans had to defeat the irregulars of the league in April 1881. The Ottoman state gave Ali Pasha forestland for his defense of Gusinje against the Montenegrins and later he sent some Albanian youths from the region for training and service in the place guard of sultan Abdulhamid II. In 1881 the Ottomans promoted Ali Pasha to the position of mutasarrıf of the Sanjak of İpek. Plav and Gusinje remained in the Ottoman Empire until 1912/1913 when they were occupied and annexed by Montenegro.
This battle inspired poets of both sides that participated in it. The Ottomans made up a mockery song. The poetry of Muslims include description of the horse of Jakup Ferović that ran through the battlefield after the death of his master. Albanian epic poem The Highland Lute, written in 1937, mentions this battle and Jakup Ferri.
There are several poems about this battle composed by the Vasojevići tribe. Pavel Rovinski, who was a medic in the Montenegrin army, decided to publish (in 1902) a song "The Battles in Polimlje" (Serbian: Бојеви у Полимљу), based on the singing of Muslim gusle player Osman Abdulah descending from the Kuči tribe. According to this song the pro-Ottoman forces included many neighbouring Albanian tribes led by their bayraktars. The Krasniqi by Man Avdija, Gashi by Ali-Ibro, tribes from Dukagjini by Mustafa bayraktar, tribes from Peć by Mahmudbegović, from Gjakova by Saitbegović and some by Salih-Agha. According to the legend, before the battle began advancing Montenegrin forces noticed gusle player Osman Abdulah spying on them, so they captured him. When he explained that he just wanted to personally witness the battle so he could make song about it, Miljanov ordered his release.
On 12 August 2014 in the village Gornja Ržanica near Plav a monument was erected in honor of the Montenegrin soldiers killed in this battle.
Неспоразуми и оклијевања око извршења одлуке Берлинског конгреса довели су до битке на Новшићу 4. децембра 1879. године између црногорске војске коју је предводио Марко Миљанов и турско-албанских снага на челу са Али Бегом Шабанагићем - Гусињским.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
... te kad su pokušali da zauzmu i Plav i Gusinje, koje su odbranili tamošnji Bošnjaci na čelu sa sjajnim vojskovođom Ali-pa- šom Šabanagićem, zvanim Ali-paša Gusinjski.
... Албанаца, постре- кавана је рд турских власти на отпор ради избјегавања уступаља Црнрј Гори одређених територија, лрије свега Плава и Гуеиња. Било је оружаних еукоба црногорске војске са Албанцима, кар на Новшићима ...
U početku je vojvoda Marko Miljanov "popravljao polozaje", da bi mu sa Cetinja naredili da se strogo drzi odbrane. ...
... све да област Гусиња не припадне Црној Гори. Скадарски валија Хусеин-паша упу- ћивао је муницију у Гусиње да се раздијели становништву. .
...place for Gusinje, and that the Turkish authorities were taking no steps to prevent the departure of these bands. I at once directed Sir A. Sandison to communicate this information to Sawas Pasha, and to speak very strongly to his Excellency on the subject, pointing out that, if anything should happen in consequence of these proceedings, the Porte will be held responsible.
(23) окт. ударе Арнаути на Црногорце између Ржанице и Велике у Васојевићима. Крвав бој потраја до поноћи, најпосле претерају Црногорци Арнауте преко границе. Ово слабо освести Арнауте и њих неколико хиљада. понове 22. нов. (4. дек) нападање на црногорску стражу од 300 људи код Велике. Ту сад ступе у акцију 4—5 црногорских батаљуна. Братoножићи и Морачини с јатаганима улете у Арнауте и стану их. сећи, на пто Арнаути окрену леђа. Црногорци их. вијаше и секоше два часа. Арнаута погибе до 1000. Прногорци имаше 85 мртвих и 100 рањених, добише 100 коња и доста оружја. Међу Арнаутима било је пуно преобучених низама. Ни ово не опамети ни Арнауте, ни патроне им у Цариграду. Трећи дан божића опет ударе око 10.000 Арнаута код Велике на 3000 Црногораца, које су предводиле војводе Марко Миљанов Тодор Миљанов и поп Ђоко. Борба је трајала од 9 часова пре подне до мрака. Арнаути имаше мртвих и рањених 1400, Црногорци 36 мртвих и 70 рањених И овде је константовано, да је међу Арнаутима било много преобучених низама. Ту су се на црногорској страни борили Братoножићи, Васојевићи и Морачани. Нису се Арнаути ни на друге стране поштеније владали. 30. јун. (12. јул.) 1880 пре зоре нападну на црногорску шредњу стражу на Голубовцу на ...
sic ishin Haxhi Mulla Jaha e Jakup Feri...
Црна Гора обратила се великијем силама са тужбом да је порта сада сасвим супротно својим обећањима радила, да Муктар пашу са војском није послала против Арнаута, него баш да их уреди и са својом војском потпомогне против Црне Горе. [Montenegro complained to Great Powers and accused Ottomans that their actions are completely opposite to their promises because Muhtar Pasha was not sent against Arnauts but to organize them, use them and support them with their army against Montenegro.]
Jer da je Turska odlučno pregla da izigra evropski zaključak o ustupanju Gusinja Crnoj Gori - postalo je jasno poslije ovog boja, koga je priredio glavom Muktar paša. U tom smislu obratio se knjaz Nikola predstavkom i velikijem silama i Porti, .
Posebno je neopravdano prećutkivanje borbe dijela bošnjačkog naroda na sektoru Plava i Gusinja, koji se organizovano
Мада је црногорска војска бројила око 6.000 људи, у првом сукобу на Новшићу учествовао је само један батаљон, као предстража, из бригаде Марка Мшьанова- Он је одбио налете пла- вских, гусинских и арнаутских банди, али је .
... посјекли су на Новшићу двије сто- тине и двадесет црногорских глава па их држали на коцима од Никољдана до свете ...
The Porte now ordered Marshal Mukhtar Pasha in Monastir to advance with his troops on Gucia and to take the district from the Montenegrins. Mukhtar Pasha left for Prizren and negotiated there with the leaders of the League in Gucia, where there was new fighting on 8 January 1880.
О борбама за одбрану села Велике и бојевима на Новшићу и Мурини, односно Пепићу, Ровински је слао за лист «Руски курир» извештаје који имају велики значај као архивска грађа. Што се погинулих Арнаута тиче он наводи да су борци «донели свом командиру Тодору Миљанову 221 нос. Носеви су пребројавани и о њиховом одсецању се прича тако једноставно, као о свакој обичној ствари». Тако да прича о одсецању носева у бици на Шекулару има пуно основа.
У претходном рату бој таквих размјера био би једва запажен.
Тако је вођ скадароког крила Лигиних снага Али-паша Гусињски, боравећи V Царнгр^лу 1881. годнне, добио чин беглербега
Ali Pasha was later appointed mutasarrif or governor of Peja, where he was assassinated. The figure of Ali Pasha occurs in Albanian oral verse.
По сјепању Пеја Грујовипа, Турци су тако исщевали војничку ругалицу послие поб еде над цр- ногороком воском у познатом обрачуну на Новшићу: Плав се спрда са седмеро брда, а Гусиње с књазом на Цетин,е.
Snažno djeluje izdvojena slika s Jakup-Ferovim konjem, koji trči razbojištem, jer je njegov gospodar poginuo: "E da vidiš konja Ferovića, Đe on bježi niz selo Novšiće, Na njega se sedlo iskrivilo, Kuburlije krvlju zalivene, Dizgini se među...
Као болничар у црногорско во^ци Ровински