When most people talk about “the Battle of Kosovo,” they’re talking about the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, in which two otherwise feuding Serbian principalities, along with the Kingdom of Bosnia, fought an Ottoman army under Sultan Murad I. That battle, a tactical draw but strategic Ottoman victory (both armies were decimated, but the Ottomans could afford the loss while the Serbians couldn’t) that cost the lives of both commanders (Murad and the Serbian Prince Lazar), resulted in the early Ottoman domination of the Balkans. Despite the fact that it was ultimately an Ottoman victory, the fight put up by the outnumbered Serbian army in 1389 became so important to Serbian national identity that Kosovo itself was seen as its birthplace. The Serbs brutally resisted Kosovo’s independence movement in the 1990s not just because it was a secessionist movement and countries generally resist those, but also because it struck at the heart of Serbian identity.
However, as the growing mass of fallen leaves in my backyard makes it clear that it’s not June, we’re not going to talk about that Battle of Kosovo today. Instead we’re talking about the Second Battle of Kosovo, which helped to re-establish Ottoman control over the Balkans and also highlights the Ottoman army’s ability to learn from its enemies, in this case the Hungarian army.