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Durham Early Modern Conference 2020

8th July 2020, 09:00 to 10th July 2020, 17:00, Durham University

Proposal for the panel:

The Evolution of the Croatian Military Frontier 1606-1791

Army, Religion, Organisation

This panel consists of three papers: The Soldiers from the Croatian Military
Frontier in the 17th Century: Militiamen, Mercenaries and Royal Guard, The
‘Confessional Uniformity’ in Croatian Borderlands and The New Role of the
Croatian Military Frontier in the Second Half of the 18th Century. The panel deals
with the topics related to confessional policies and structure, warfare, as well as
military and administrative reforms in the Croatian Military Frontier.
After the peace of Zsitvatorok in 1606, which ended the Long Turkish War
(1593-1606), a new phase in the history of the Croatian Military Frontier began.
Large groups of Vlachs started to migrate from the Ottoman territories and were
settled on the territory of the Croatian Military Frontier. Gradually the
inhabitants gained certain privileges in return for their military services within
the scope of the Habsburg defensive line. These soldiers progressively became
not only the bulk of the Habsburg defensive forces but were also recruited to
participate in conflicts that took place outside the Military Frontier. Proving
themselves as effective troops in service of the Habsburg rulers, they soon
became known as Croats.
After the Great Vienna War (1683-1699) Habsburgs turned their eyes to the
East. Their main expansionistic plans were directed to the Ottoman territories in
the Balkans. Soldiers from this area, Croats or Grenzer, were slowly being
integrated into the Habsburg armed forces, regarding the transformation of the
role of the Military Frontier from a defensive frontline to a recruitment ground,
making it one the most important areas of the whole Monarchy.
This panel’s goal is to demonstrate some of the distinguishing features in
the evolution process of the Croatian Military Frontier from 1606 to 1791, when
the Treaty of Svistovo was signed, ending the last great war between the
Habsburgs and the Ottomans. In this regard, the three papers will display in what
way the Croatian Military Frontier represented a distinctive area within the
Habsburg Monarchy. Furthermore, the diversity of the population regarding
economic and social privileges, especially divergence in ethnicity and confession
represented merely the most heterogenic areas in the whole Empire, where
cultural, religious and social entanglements constituted every-day life. Finally,
the military profession itself offered this population a means to secure better
living standards and an opportunity to achieve fame throughout Europe, thanks
to their uncommon appearance and fighting style, which made them a valuable
asset in the Habsburg armies.

Individual presentations:

The Soldiers from the Croatian Military Frontier in the 17th Century:
Militiamen, Mercenaries and Royal Guard (Filip Hren)

The Croatian Military Frontier faced numerous challenges during the 17th
century, which have had a major impact on its history. Although the Ottoman
expansion had been stopped and the peace treaty has been signed, incursions
between Ottoman and Habsburg sides continued. The constant war that was
wagging along the Frontier dramatically changed the demographic structure
because a large number of Vlachs migrated and were settled along the Frontier
area. It also affected defensive military strategies towards the Ottomans.
Alongside the Vlachs, the pillars of the Croatian Military Frontier were the Inner
Austrian Estates who financed the Military Frontier and the Croatian Nobility
who participated in different ways. The primary purpose of Military Frontier in
the 17th century was to defend the Habsburg lands against the Ottoman invaders
but during the century new challenges emerged. One of them was The Thirty
Years War in which numerous soldiers from the Military Frontier participated.
Known as Croats, these soldiers fought as light cavalry and gained a fearsome
reputation. After the Thirty Years War, some of them entered the service of
different European rulers as royal regiments or royal guards. This paper
highlights the evolution of the Croatian Military Frontier during the 17th century
by examining the different roles of its soldiers. Their military significance will be
ascertained not only within the Military Frontier, but also within the wider
European context by comparing them with other contemporary armies.

The ‘Confessional Uniformity’ in Croatian Borderlands (Mario Šain)

Since the emergence of Protestantism in 1517, Europe was disturbed with

religious dissensions. The main conflicts arose between Catholics and Protestants
throughout the whole of Europe, reflecting on the political situation far and wide.
Resolute operations of Counter-Reformation in Croatian lands until mid-17th
century nearly wiped Protestantism completely out, passing the focus on
Orthodox-Catholic conflicts. Since the second half of the 16th century, when
larger groups of Orthodox refugees have settled in the territories of Croatian
Military Frontier, their rights were brought to the table. Their status rights and
religious freedom will become an imperative of Habsburg religious policies
within confines of the Military Frontier.
Large-scale political conflicts between the Ottoman and Habsburg Empire
caused massive migrations across the Balkans during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Migration of ethnically diverse Orthodox communities to the territories of
Military Frontier caused huge changes in social and political life. Having in mind
severe political situation across western Balkans affected by Great Vienna War,
social and political stability have become the core of the Habsburg state agenda.
According to Ernst Wangermann “stability was only possible within the
framework of confessional uniformity.” Furthermore, Wangermann believes that
“confessional uniformity” was “the fundamental objective of Habsburg religious
policy.” Securing stability in Military Frontier was, indeed, of paramount
importance. In this regard, several documents were issued in order to contribute
to “confessional uniformity.” My task will be to analyse different aspects of these
documents, their implementation and purpose, reflecting primarily on Statuta
Valachorum (1630) and Document of Privileges granted to Serbian Orthodox
Community in 1690. The main aim of this paper will be to analyse whether we
can apply Wangermann’s views to the space of Military Frontier and characterise
Habsburg religious policy in Croatian Borderlands as “confessional uniformity.”

The New Role of the Croatian Military Frontier in the Second Half of the 18th
Century (Juraj Balić)

During the course of the 18th century the Habsburg Monarchy, one of
Europe's leading powers, participated in numerous wars with the aim of
expanding its borders, but also protecting its domains, as well as maintaining the
equilibrium of power among European states. The military focus of the Habsburg
armies in this century was determined by political circumstances. On the one
hand, the Ottoman Empire no longer posed such a threat to the Habsburg lands
as was the case in previous centuries, but on the other, a new threat came from
the north, where the rising power of the Kingdom of Prussia sought to challenge
Habsburg supremacy within the Holy Roman Empire. These circumstances had a
significant impact on the transformation of the role of the Croatian Military
Frontier, which was initially awarded the task of defending Habsburg lands from
Ottoman incursions. Throughout the centuries the so-called Grenzer proved
themselves as valuable and reliable soldiers, eager to engage the enemy of their
ruler, but also determined to defend their rights and privileges. The evolution of
warfare in regard to army professionalization required the implementation of
reforms in the Croatian Military Frontier, which would enable a greater number
of Grenzer to participate in wars waged by the Habsburg rulers in other parts of
Europe. The aim of this paper is to explore the reform process in the Croatian
Military Frontier and ascertain its impact on the Grenzer. In order to determine
their role and significance as soldiers, their participation in the wars between the
Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia will also be examined.

Short biographies of the presenters:

Filip Hren, MA
Ilica 242
10000 Zagreb (Croatia)
Catholic University of Croatia
Contact Number: +385 92 32 61 622
E-mail Address:

Filip Hren graduated History in 2017 at the Faculty of Humanities and Social
Sciences, University of Zagreb. He received the award for the best graduate work
from Croatian National Committee for Historical Sciences in 2018. During his
studies, he received four different scholarships. In 2018 he started his Ph.D. at
the Catholic University of Croatia. In 2019 he received the scholarship for his
Ph.D. research. From 2016 to 2019 he was a member of the project Military Life
and Warrior Images from the 16th century until 1918. From 2018 to 2019 he was
an intern at the Croatian Institute of History. His main research interests are
related to military history and the history of everyday life in the early modern
period. His scientific contributions include authorship of several scientific
papers, as well as participation in several scientific meetings.
Language skills: Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Montenegrin (native speaker),
English C1, German B1.
Mario Šain, MA
Otto-Behaghel Straße 10 D
35394 Gießen
Justs-Liebig Universität Gießen
Historisches Institut – Raum C 231
Tel: +49 176 2056 7607 (Deutschland)

Mario Šain graduated History in 2017 at the Department of History on Faculty of

Philosophy of University in Zagreb, defending successfully MA thesis “‘Ottoman
Justice’ - Ottoman Law in the Sources of the Franciscan Province Bosnia Argentina
in the 18th Century.“ Currently employed as research assistant at Justus-Liebig
University in Giessen, Institute of Eastern European History, working on the
collaborative project Dynamics of Security, subproject Confessional Minorities as
a Security Problem in the Early Modern Period, writing PhD thesis The
Securitization of the Serbian Orthodox Minority in the Habsburg Empire 1690-
1740. Previously graduated on the Department of History University in Sarajevo,
defending the BA thesis Rome in the Time of Gaius Marius. Furthermore, spent
one semester on intensive Master Program on Central European University in
Budapest on the Department of Religious studies, successfully finished one year
of the Special program for acquiring teaching competencies at the Croatian
Catholic University in Zagreb. Personally interested in the general history of the
Early Modern Period, with special focus on religious, law and political history.
Author of one scientific paper, participant of several scientific conferences, as
well as several book reviews etc.
Language skills: Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Montenegrin (native speaker),
English (C1), German (B2), Latin (reading skills), Italian (reading skills), Russian
(reading skills), Slavjanosrpski (old Serbian-Slavic language – reading skills).
Juraj Balić, PhD
Opatička 10
10000 Zagreb (Croatia)
Croatian Institute of History
Contact Number: + 385 98 90 80 311
Email Address:

Juraj Balić graduated History in 2010 at the Centre for Croatian Studies,
University of Zagreb. In 2015, he graduated Comparative History of Central,
Eastern and Southeastern Europe (1500-2000) at the Central European
University in Budapest. From 2015 to 2019 he was a member of the project
Military Life and Warrior Images from the 16th century until 1918. In 2019 he
successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled The Lika Grenzer Infantry Regiment
from 1736 to 1809. His main research interests are related to military and social
history, as well as the history of everyday life in the early modern period. From
the end of 2016 he is employed as a research assistant at the Croatian Institute
of History. His scientific contributions include co-authorship of two books and
several scientific papers, authorship of several scientific papers and more than
thirty scientific reviews, as well as participation in several scientific meetings.
Language skills: Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Montenegrin (native speaker),
English (C1), German (B2), Italian (reading skills), Latin (reading skills), Ancient
Greek (reading skills).