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Monument to Emperor Jovan Nenad in Subotica.

Emperor Jovan Nenad (c. 1492 – July 26, 1527; Serbian: Цар Јован Ненад / Car Jovan Nenad, also spelled as Tsar Jovan Nenad in English, Fekete Iván in Hungarian and Johann Nenad in German [1]) was a leader of Serb mercenaries in the Kingdom of Hungary [2] who took advantage of a struggle over the Hungarian throne to create his own state and crowned himself emperor (tsar). He was born in the town of Lipova, near the Mureş River in northern Banat (today in Romania). In Serbian and Hungarian historiography Jovan Nenad/Fekete Iván was exclusively described as a Serb.



Nenad's origins are uncertain; he was born c. 1492, perhaps in Lipova.

In the Battle of Mohács on August 29, 1526, the Ottoman Empire destroyed the army of Hungarian-Czech King Louis Jagellion, who was killed on the battlefield. After this battle, the Kingdom of Hungary ceased to be an independent state and became divided in three parts: Royal Hungary in the north and west became a Habsburg province, Transylvania in the east became a semi-independent state under Ottoman sovereignty, while the former central and southern parts of the Kingdom of Hungary were absorbed by the Ottoman Empire.

As King Louis had no children, Hungary was divided into two parties: one elected John Zápolya, a respected Hungarian noble, while the other declared for the King of Hungary a Habsburg, Ferdinand, Louis' brother-in-law. A part of this struggle was the leader of Serb mercenaries, Jovan Nenad, whom his contemporaries called "Black Man" due to his dark complexion.

It is not certain who Nenad was. He himself claimed to be descendant of Byzantine and Serbian rulers. Some of his contemporaries have considered him a descendant of Serbian despots, while others thought he was a man of low rank. Right after the battle of Mohács, he appeared between Tisza and Danube as a leader of a Serb regiment, and for a short time, he drove Ottomans from Bačka and started to rule it, as well as parts of Banat and Syrmia. He created a rather advanced and independent, if short-lived state. For its capital, he chose Subotica/Szabadka. At the peak of his power, Jovan Nenad crowned himself emperor. He first sided with the Zapolyai and then with the Habsburg pretender as circumstances allowed.

Serb empire of Jovan Nenad.

He named Radoslav Čelnik the general commander of his army, while his emissaries to foreign rulers were Fabijan Literat and Jovan Dolić of Irig. His treasurer and palatine was Subota Vrlić. Besides his army, the emperor also organized a guard numbering 600 soldiers. His army grew by the day and in the beginning of 1527, it numbered around 15,000 men. When his enemies conquered Subotica, he moved his capital to Szeged.

At first, Emperor/Tzar Jovan Nenad supported Zápolya, but Hungarian nobles, whose lands in Bačka he had taken, estranged Zápolya from him, so in the beginning of 1527, he switched to Ferdinand. After the danger from the Ottomans passed, the Hungarian nobles and peasants from Bačka who had fled afore the Ottomans, started to come back to their homes, but Nenad did not allow them to settle in Bačka again. He told them, "I found this land empty and took it with my people." The Hungarians answered that they had to flee from the land because of fear of the Ottoman Sultan. Nenad replied, "And I was the one who abducted this land from him. The coward Hungarians, you cannot hold this land because the Ottoman soldiers will for one night capture you and shunt you to Belgrade in bondage. So, you do not know what you ask."

Jovan Nenad considered struggle around the Hungarian throne just a temporary occupation, his primary task being the fight against Ottomans for the liberation of Serb lands. In the first half of 1527, Ferdinand was outside of Hungary, preparing to fight Zápolya. During that time, Zápolya sent armies after Jovan Nenad, wishing to destroy him before Ferdinand could return to Hungary.

The first of Zápolya's armies, led by László Csáky, was defeated by Jovan Nenad in early April, and Csáky himself was killed in the battle. The second army, led by the Voivode of Transylvania, Péter Perényi, was beaten by Jovan Nenad in late April near Tiszaszőlős (Battle of Szőlős) on Tisza; Perényi barely managed to save himself. The third army, which encompassed entire strength of Transylvania and upper Hungary, led by Perényi and Bishop Czibak won a victory over Jovan's army on the Sedfal field (Battle of Sződfalva), killing around 8,000 of his men, at the end of June. After a month, he managed to recover from this terrible defeat and recover his troops. By this time, Ferdinand's army entered Hungary. Nenad moved to meet it. On his way, he visited Szeged, where a Zapolya supporter ambushed and shot him; he died of his wound on July 26, 1527 in Tornjoš, near Szeged, although no such settlement exists there today however there is a Tornjoš near modern Senta in Serbia and is not too far from Szeged. Senta was also a sanctuary for Serbs during the entire period and post period of Jovan Nenad. Soon after his death, his army has dispersed, which was the end of his state.

As time passed, Jovan Nenad became a mythical figure to the Serbs. Many Serbian historians consider him the founder of contemporary Vojvodina. Subotica, the province's second largest city and what was once his capital holds a monument dedicated to him, with the inscription "Your thought has prevailed" (Твоја је мисаo победила).


  • Veselin Dželetović, Poslednji srpski car - Jovan Nenad, Poeta, Belgrade, 2007. ISBN 978-86-86863-00-3
  • Narodna enciklopedija (1927), article written by Aleksa Ivić, professor of the Subotica University.
  • Dr Aleksa Ivić, Istorija Srba u Vojvodini, Novi Sad, 1929.
  • Milan Tutorov, Mala Raška a u Banatu, Zrenjanin, 1991.
  • Drago Njegovan, Prisajedinjenje Vojvodine Srbiji, Novi Sad, 2004.
  • Dr. Dušan J. Popović, Srbi u Vojvodini, knjiga 1, Novi Sad, 1990.
  • Peter Rokai, Zoltan Đere, Tibor Pal, Aleksandar Kasaš, Istorija Mađara, Belgrade, 2002.
  • Vladimir Ćorović, Ilustrovana istorija Srba, knjiga četvrta, Belgrade, 2006.
  1. ^ Gesellschaft für serbisch-deutsche Zusammenarbeit Deutsche in der Vojvodina - Die Ansiedlung der Deutschen in der Batschka
  2. ^ Note: sources use term Racok, which was the name that was in Hungary used as the term for all Southern Slavs

See also

External links



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