Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

A very short summary of Hungarian-Ottoman wars

You can see some of the geographical areas of the Kingdom of Hungary: some towns in Hungarian are different: Vienna = Bécs
Bratislava = Pozsony; Belgrade = Nándorfehérvár

I am posting selected passages of our history but sometimes it is good to see the whole story…
As a reminder, let me give you a very short summary of Ottoman-Hungarian wars, as I see it. Please note, that I am intentionally using the Eastern name order for Hungarian names.


The 1st part: 1372-1541;

The Kingdom of Hungary tried to block the Ottoman conquest on the Balkan, at first by attacking the Turks and gaining influence in the states of the Balkan, alienating the locals at the same time.

When the offensive wars failed, King Sigismund (Zsigmond) began to concentrate on the defense system and built out the southern chain of borderland castles. Nevertheless, John Hunyadi’s famous Winter Campaign was a success of offensive wars.

King Louis I fighting against the Turks in Bulgaria, 1368

After the fall of Constantinapolis, the Sultan was defeated at Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) in 1456 by John Hunyadi which gained 60-70 more or less peaceful years.
King Matthias Hunyadi could keep the enemy out but he was assassinated before he could launch his long-planned combined attack of European powers against the Ottoman Empire. After his death, the southern borderland was weakened because of a lack of money and Belgrade fell in 1521.

The kingdom received a blow at Mohács in 1526, King Louis II got killed (or assassinated) and Szapolyai János became the king but he soon restored the order.
Most sadly, he was attacked by Habsburg Ferdinand, King of Czechia in 1527 who usurped the crown and the Dual Kingship tore the country in two. King Szapolyai was able to keep Eastern Hungary only by the support of the Ottomans. He was balancing the power but could keep the Ottomans out for the time being.

King Ferdinand I

In the meantime, King Ferdinand was trying to keep west Hungary, using it as a battlefield to defend Vienna. However, Sultan Suleiman kept attacking him and Ferdinand would have fallen without the heroic stands of the Hungarian and Croatian Borderland warriors. Read more about the Borderland here:


The 2nd part: 1541-1664

King Szapolyai János died in 1540 and the Turks moved in Buda in 1541: the middle of the kingdom was occupied only from this time on. Constant wars were raged: Suleiman attacked western Hungary and tried to get Eastern Hungary as well which was slowly becoming the Principality of Transylvania. As Transylvania was too hard to get, the Ottomans focused on Western Hungary which remained a sovereign kingdom, although ruled by a Habsburg king. The Hungarian Estates never let their privileges disappear and the constitution also remained intact; the Habsburg kings had to swear on the Hungarians’ Sacred Crown so as to rule.

The Sacred Crown of the Hungarians

A new Borderland system of forts has been built out and after the Truce of Edirne (1568), a “small war” was raging in the frontier zone (it never ceased until 1699). It has eventually led to the 15-Year-War (1591-1606) which just devastated the land and nobody gained anything.


The 3rd part

In the 17th century, we have to point at Zrínyi Miklós’ (aka Nicholas Zrínski) attempt in 1664 whereas he could almost bring along the liberation of the country by his victories but he was sabotaged by the Habsburg king. (Zrínyi wanted to rely on German and French aid which was against the dynastic interests of his Habsburg monarch.)

Zrínyi Miklós / Nicholas Zrinski

After his suspicious death in a hunting accident, the Hungarian lords were rapidly alienated by the Habsburgs and Prince Thököly Imre gained control over Transylvania and Upper Hungary, opening the road to the Turks towards Vienna in 1683. Thököly thought that the Habsburgs had to be weakened and wanted to deal with the Ottomans after it.

However, the Turks failed to take Vienna and the Habsburgs had to realize that Hungary’s “liberation” cannot be postponed anymore: who will save Vienna if the Hungarian lords became all hostile and the winged hussars would not come next time?
Joining forces with the European powers and aided by the Hungarian-Croatian members of the Valiant Order, the Christians could take Buda in 1686 and they were able to drive the Turks out until 1699 (although the whole country was liberated only by 1718 and there were Crimean Tatar raids in Transylvania even in the 1750s).

anti-Habsburg fight

The Hungarian followers left Prince Thököly Imre and joined in, rather helping the Habsburgs against the Ottomans.
The unique history of the Transylvanian Principality has not even been told here but it should deserve praise for its military deeds, freedom of religion, and prosperity.

All in all, this was how the Habsburgs were able to occupy Hungary AND Transylvania (in spite of Prince Rákóczi Ferenc ‘s War of Independence between 1703-11) and rule it until the First World War ended. More about ethnic changes in Hungary:

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