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Balsics' Rule (1356-1427) 

Balsics' Coat of ArmsThe most prosperous and mightiest era of Raska's (Serbian) history was brought to an end by the death of mighty but cruel tzar Dusan (1355). Ceasing the opportunity, the leading dynasty in Zeta, the Balsics, reasserted Zeta's independence in the early 1360s

Balsa I, the founder of the dynasty had three sons: Stracimir, Djuradj and Balsa II. The later two ruled Zeta from 1362 to 1378 and 1378 to 1385, respectively. However, the most influential Balsic is said to had been Djuradj I, who enlarged and consolidated Zeta's renewed power and took Prizren (a town in present-day Kosovo). While he was battling at the south of Kosovo his young brother, Balsa II got married to close cousin of mighty tzar Dusan's wife Jelena. Thus, by marring Komnina, Djuradj II received a generous dowry: Avlona, Berat, Kanina and some additional important regions. Djuradj I coined an alliance with Vukasin Mrnjavcevic (Vardar Valley) but the later soon was killed in the Battle on River Marica (1371)(J.Jovanovic, Stvaranje Crnogorske Drzave i Razvoj Crnogorske Nacionalnosti, Obod, Cetinje 1947, p. 28). 

Djuradj I run Zeta as the modern ruler of the time. Zeta's institutions were functioning well, while the coastal towns enjoyed considerable autonomy. The commerce was well developed and enhanced by the existence of Zeta's currency - the dinar.  

Djuradj I allied with his neighbors Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic of Serbia, Ban Tvrtko I of Bosnia, Prince Nikola Gorjanski and King Ludovik I of Ungary, to defeat ambitious Herzegovian ruler Nikola Altomanovic (1373). However, defeated and blinded Nikola Altomanovic found a refuge with Djuradj I until his death. 

In a division of the conquered Herzegovina, the Balsics took the towns of Trebinje, Konavle and Dracevica. Subsequent dispute over these towns led to the war between Djuradj I Balsic and Ban Tvrtko that was won eventually by the later but with a support of Ungary (Hungary) and only after Djuradj's death (1378). In 1382, Bosnian Ban Tvrtko I conquered Dracevic (Zupu Dracevicu), and built town later known as Herceg Novi (D. Zivkovic, Istorija Crnogorskog Naroda, Cetinje, 1989). The Ungarians were supporting Ban Tvrtko because he, as well as Prince (knez) Lazar of Serbia recognized Ungarian rule while Balsa II refused to do so. In any case, both Ban Tvrtko and Balsa II had aspirations to be on the throne of the Nemanjic state (J. Jovanovic, Stvaranje Crnogorske Drzave i Razvoj Crnogorske Nacionalnosti, Obod, Cetinje 1947, p. 36). 

Djuradj died in 1378, and was succeeded by the third son of Balsa I, Balsa II. Balsa II could not maintain the control of the feudal lords Djuradj I had controlled. His power was felt only in region around Shkoder (Skadar) and in the eastern part of the Zeta's cost. The most prominent feudal lords who did not recognize Balsa's rule were Djurasevic-Crnojevic. They were permanently encouraged by the Venetians' intrigues to rebel against Balsa II.  

Balsa II needed four attempt to conquer Drac, an important commercial and strategic center. Defeated Karlo Topi went to Turks for a help. Turkish forces led by Hajrudin pasha inflicted heavy defeat on Balsa's II forces and killed Balsa in a big battle on Saurian field (Saurijsko polje) near Berat, in 1385 (D. Zivkovic, Istorija Crnogorskog Naroda, Cetinje, 1989). 

The successor of Balsa II, Djuradj II Balsic (1385-1403), Balsa's nephew (son of Stracimir) had enormous difficulties to control the local feudal lords. He did not have any control over the feudal lords in the entire Upper Zeta. In addition, the feudal lords around Onogost (Niksic) accepted the Venetian protection and particularly did so Radic Crnojevic who controlled the area between Budva and Lovcen. Moreover, a number of Arbanas feudal lords, particularly Leka and Pavle Dukadjini joined the conspiration against Djuradj II (J. Jovanovic, Stvaranje Crnogorske Drzave i Razvoj Crnogorske Nacionalnosti, Obod, Cetinje 1947, p. 36). 

Having this in mind as well as the constant danger from the Turks, Djuradj II Balsic maintained good family ties with Serbian rulers of the time, Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic. His mother, Milica Mrnjavcevic, was a sister of Prince Vukasin of Serbia, and he married Jelena who was a daughter of Prince Lazar of Serbia. In order to help Prince Lazar to defend his state from Turkish invasion, Djuradj II sent his troops with Ban Tvrtko's forces (with whom he had a dispute over Kotor) to meet the Turkish army at Kosovo Polje. Despite Sultan Murat death, the orthodox coalition suffered a defeat in the epic Battle of Kosovo (1389). 

In later years Djuradj II played skillful diplomatic games to enhance the rivalry between the Turks and the Venetians. For that purpose he offered Shkoder (Skadar) to both hoping that he will be able to keep it eventually. For two years the Turks and the Venetians fought over Shkoder to leave it eventually to Djuradj II who was neutral in the conflict. Similarly, the rivalry between the Venetians and the Hungarians brought a benefit to Balsa II. After the heavy defeat of his forces in the hands of Venetians near Nikopolje, the Ugarian (Hungarian) King Sigismund gave the title of Prince of Arbania ('Princeps od Arbanije') and chiftainship of Hvar and Korcula to Balsa II (J. Jovanovic, Stvaranje Crnogorske Drzave i Razvoj Crnogorske Nacionalnosti, Obod, Cetinje 1947, p. 36). 

In the feud between Turkish vassal Djuradj Brankovic and his uncle Stevan Lazarevic (son of Prince Lazar) who later received the title of Byzantine despot, Djuradj II sided with Stevan. Due to Djuradj's support, Stevan defeated Turkish forces led by Djuradj Brankovic in the battle of Gracanica on Kosovo field (21 June 1402) (J. Jovanovic, Stvaranje Crnogorske Drzave i Razvoj Crnogorske Nacionalnosti, Obod, Cetinje 1947, p. 36).  

In 1403, Djuradj II's 17-year old son, Balsa III, inherited the rule of Zeta as his father died in consequence of the injuries suffered in the battle of Gracanica. As he was young and inexperienced his main advisor was his mother Jelena a sister of the ruler of Serbia at the time , Stevan Lazarevic. Under the influence of his mother, Jelena, Balsa III reverted the order of the state religion, passing the law whereby declaring the Christian Orthodox as the official confession of the state, while Catholicism became tolerant confession (D. Zivkovic, Istorija Crnogorskog Naroda, Cetinje, 1989).  

Balsa III continued the politics of his father. In 1418 he conquered Shkoder from Venetians but lost Budva. In the next year (1419) he made an unsuccessful attempt to recapture Budva. He went to Belgrade to ask for a help from Stevan Lazarevic but never returned to Zeta. In 1421, before his death and under the influence of his mother Jelena, he passed the rule of Zeta to Stevan Lazarevic. 'Despot' Stevan fought Venetians and regained Bar in the mid of 1423 but in the following year sent his son Djuradj Brankovic regaining Drivast and Ulcinium (Ulcinj) (J. Jovanovic, Stvaranje Crnogorske Drzave i Razvoj Crnogorske Nacionalnosti, Obod, Cetinje 1947, p. 43). 

This marked the end of the Balsic dynasty. Between 1421 and 1446, Crna Gora (this Venetian form of the Italian Monte Nero is a translation of the name Crna Gora, "Black Mountain"), as the country was widely known after 1435, was in a state of interregnum; the power struggle embroiled Serbian despot Stevan (Serbia was double vassal; Turkish and Ugarian), Venetia, and Crna Gora/Gornja Zeta (under dynasty of Crnojevic's). 

A copy of the Additional Decree of Balsa II Balsic issued November 20th 1395
The oldest legislative document of the Zeta state (later Crna Gora-Montenegro) was issued on January 17th 1368. The facsimile here enclosed is a copy of the Additional Decree of Balsa II Balsic issued November 20th 1395.
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Last updated  August 1997