Raška (region)

Historical region of Serbia

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Historical region in Serbia

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Coat of arms of Raška

Country  Serbia
Main center Stari Ras

Raška (Serbian Cyrillic: Рашка; Latin: Rascia) is a geographical and historical region of Serbia. Initially a small borderline district between early medieval Serbia and Bulgaria (city/area of Ras), since the mid-12th century became the center of the Grand Principality of Serbia and of the Serbian Kingdom.[1][2] From that period the name of Raška became associated with the state of Serbia, eventually covering the south-western parts of modern Serbia, and historically also including north-eastern parts of modern Montenegro, and some of the most eastern parts of modern Bosnia and Herzegovina, and its southern part also corresponds to the modern region of Sandžak.


The name is derived from the name of the region’s most important fort of Ras, which first appears in the 6th century sources as Arsa, recorded under that name in the work De aedificiis of Byzantine historian Procopius.[3] By the 10th century, the variant Ras became common name for the fort, as attested by the work De Administrando Imperio, written by Constantine Porphyrogenitus,[4][5] and also by the Byzantine seal of John, governor of Ras (c. 971–976).[6]

Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in the center of the historical Raška region

In the same time, Ras became the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Eparchy of Ras, centered in the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. The name of the eparchy eventually started to denote the entire area under its jurisdiction and later, thus becoming the common regional name.[7]

Under Stefan Nemanja (1166-1196), the region was finally conquered by the Serbs and fortress of Ras was re-generated as the state capital, and as such it became eponymous name for the Grand Principality of Serbia.[8] The first attested use of the term Raška (Latin: Rascia or Rassia) as a designation for the Serbian state was made in a charter issued in Kotor in 1186, mentioning Stefan Nemanja as the ruler of Rascia.[8]

Without any evidence and support in the historical sources, the early historical region of Raška is commonly misidentified and misunderstood as a synonym for Serbian state before the mid-12th century (influenced by semi-mythical 14th century Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja which anachronistically calls the Principality of Serbia as Raška).[8][9] The high medieval chronicle’s also give an impression that Raška wasn’t considered as the central and capital part of medieval Serbia, but as a separate small domain within Serbia.[9][10] In the modern sense, Raška region would be an area situated in the southwestern modern Serbia (including Stari Vlah, see below).[9]


Middle Ages[edit]

Ruins of the Ras fortress, one of the centers of the Grand Principality of Serbia since mid-12th century

The 10th century De Administrando Imperio mentions Rasa (Stari Ras) as a border area between Bulgaria and Serbia at the end of the 9th century.[11] It was not mentioned among inhabited cities of early medieval Serbia, and there’s no general consensus whether Ras was on the Serbian or Bulgarian side of the border, as well whether in DAI was meant a fortress or an area.[11] The consideration that the Serbian border was further to the Southeast of Ras is poorly substantiated.[11] Newer research indicates that the principal settlement of Ras and its region in the 9th and 10th century was part of the First Bulgarian Empire.[12][13][14] Bulgarian borderline was at Pešter plateau and to the north at Čačak.[14][15]

In 971, the Byzantine Catepanate of Ras was established,[13] but in 976 Bulgarian control was restored.[13] Basil II recaptured it in 1018, and by 1032 overall commander of the region was strategoi and doukes Constantine Diogenes,[16][17] as part of a defensive line of Byzantine watchtowers alongside Lipjan, Zvečan, Galič, Jeleč south of Ras and Brvenik north of Ras, watching to the west over a “no-man’s-land” named Zygos mountains beyond which was Serbia.[18][19] Recent archaeological research supports the notion that the Byzantines held control of Ras during Alexios I Komnenos‘s reign (1048–1118), but possibly not continuously.[20] In the time of Alexios, Ras was one of the northern border military strongholds which was fortified. His seal which dates to the period 1081–1092 was found in 2018 near the site.[21] It is possble that Vukan, Grand Prince of Serbia have temporarily taken Ras and other watchtowers in the early 1090s,[22][23][24][25][26] but although John Ducas regained most of them, in 1093 Vukan “ravaged the neighbouring towns and districts. He even got as far as Lipjan, which he deliberately burnt down”, but when Alexios came close, Vukan escaped to Zvečan and started peace negotiations, and reportedly his attack on the watchtowers was a countermeasure against their commanders who ravaged Serbian eastern frontiers.[27]

The Byzantine border fort of Ras was most likely burnt c. 1120-1122 and this is probably the reason why John II Komnenos undertook a punitive campaign against the Serbs, during which many Serbs from the region of Raška were deported to Asia Minor.[28] The alliance between Hungary and the Serbian rulers remained in place and Ras was burnt again by the Serbian army in 1127–1129.[29] Its last commander was a Kritoplos who was then punished by the Emperor for the fall of the fortress.[26] In 1149, Manuel I Comnenus recovered the fortress of Ras and Galič, and next year continued to successfully fight off Serbians and Hungarians, with the Serbs swearing loyalty to the Byzantines.[30][31] Somewhere in the next decades, Serbians conquered and started to fully control Ras, with Stefan Nemanja in celebration building the monastery of Đurđevi stupovi, with an inscription showing that the end of the construction was in 1170-1171.[8] It became a royal residence, but it was not permanent residence or that of his successors as the ruling dynasty also ruled over other such palatial centres in its territory.[1] Byzantine intervention continued until the end of the 12th century and the Serb feudal rulers of the region were often under Byzantine suzerainty. The full independence of Serbia including Raška’s region was recognized by the Byzantines in 1190 after an indecisive war between Isaac II Angelos and Stefan Nemanja.[32] However, the Bulgarian-Serbian border in the late 12th and early 13th century probably was still “very fluid”.[33]

The town which had developed near the fortress of Ras and the territory which comprised its bishopric were the first significant administrative unit which Serb rulers acquired from the Byzantine Empire. As it was made the seat of the Serbian state in Latin sources of the era Serb rulers began to be named Rasciani and their state as Rascia. The name was used among Hungarians and Germans up until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[34]



Raška District in modern Serbia.

In 1833, some northern parts of the historical Raška region, up to the confluence of rivers Raška and Ibar, were detached from the Ottoman rule and incorporated into the Principality of Serbia. In order to mark the occasion, prince Miloš Obrenović (1815–1839) founded a new town, that was also called Raška, situated at the very confluence of Raška river and Ibar, right at the border with Ottoman territory.[35][36]

In 1878, some southwestern parts of the historical Raška region, around modern Andrijevica, were liberated from the Ottoman rule and incorporated into the Principality of Montenegro. In order to mark the occasion, prince Nikola of Montenegro (1860–1918) decided to name the newly formed Eastern Orthodox diocese as the Eparchy of Zahumlje and Raška (Serbian: Епархија захумско-рашка, romanizedEparhija zahumsko-raška).[37][38] In the 19th century the region also became part of the wider “Old Serbia” historiographical term.

In 1912, central parts of the historical Raška region were liberated from the Ottoman rule, and divided between the Kingdom of Serbia and the Kingdom of Montenegro, with eponymous medieval fortress of Stari Ras belonging to Serbia.[39][40]

Between 1918 and 1922, Raška District was one of the administrative units of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Its seat was in Novi Pazar. In 1922, a new administrative unit known as the Raška Oblast was formed with its seat in Čačak. In 1929, this administrative unit was abolished and its territory was divided among three newly formed provinces (banovinas). Within the borders of modern Serbia, post mid-12th century historical Raška region covers (approximately) the territorial span of three districts: Raška, Zlatibor and Moravica.


Some of the churches in western Serbia and eastern Bosnia were built by masters from Raška, who belonged to the Raška architectural school. They include: Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Stari Ras, and monasteries of Gradac and Stara Pavlica.[41]


Center of the Raška region (in the most narrow sense), in southwestern parts of modern Serbia


See also[edit]


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  1. ^ a b Curta 2019, pp. 659–660:Ras had been rebuilt in the late 1160s, with new building added within ramparts, including a palatial compound (..) In short, Ras has rightly been viewed as a royal residence built by Nemanja and then used by his immediate successorts. But it was certainly not the permanent residence of the grand Zupan, for Nemanja is known to have had ‘palaces’ in various other parts in this realm, including Kotor.
  2. ^ Bataković 2005.
  3. ^ Kalić 1989, p. 9-17.
  4. ^ Ферјанчић 1959.
  5. ^ Moravcsik 1967.
  6. ^ Nesbitt & Oikonomides 1991, p. 100-101.
  7. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 29.
  8. ^ a b c d Kalić 1995, p. 147–155.
  9. ^ a b c .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit;word-wrap:break-word}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .citation:target{background-color:rgba(0,127,255,0.133)}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free.id-lock-free a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/65/Lock-green.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited.id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration.id-lock-registration a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription.id-lock-subscription a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Wikisource-logo.svg”)right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#2C882D;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}@media(prefers-color-scheme:dark){html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}}Novaković, Relja (1981). Gde se nalazila Srbija od VII do XII veka. Narodna knjiga i Istorijski institut. Google Books
  10. ^ Popović 1999, p. 38–41.
  11. ^ a b c Popović 1999, p. 37.
  12. ^ Popović 1999, p. 37–38, 155–161, 297–298, 400.
  13. ^ a b c Ivanišević & Krsmanović 2013, p. 450.
  14. ^ a b Špehar, Perica N. (2019). “Reocupation of the Late Antique Fortifications on the central Balkans during the Early Middle Ages”. Fortifications, Defence Systems, Structures, and Features in the Past. Zagreb: Institute of Archaeology. pp. 118–120, 122.
  15. ^ Popović 1999, p. 298.
  16. ^ Stephenson 2004, p. 66.
  17. ^ Stephenson 2008, p. 667.
  18. ^ Stephenson 2004, p. 125, 148–150, 155.
  19. ^ Stephenson 2008, p. 668.
  20. ^ Ivanišević & Krsmanović 2013, p. 451–452:Recently found seals on the site The Fortress of Ras support the opinion that the Byzantine Empire held dominant (but perhaps not continuous) control over Ras during Alexios’ reign
  21. ^ Stojkovski 2020, p. 153.
  22. ^ Острогорски & Баришић 1966, p. 385-388.
  23. ^ Fine 1991, p. 225:In the early 1090s Vukan of Raška took the title of grand (veliki) župan. His state was centered in the vicinity of modern Novi Pazar.
  24. ^ Dimnik 1995, p. 268:Vukan assumed the title grand župan and established his capital at the fortress of Ras after which Raška was named.
  25. ^ Živković 2008, p. 310:at the time of Vukan′s rule in Serbia, when he raided the Byzantine possessions from Zvečan, prior to 1112, Ras was in his hands.
  26. ^ a b c Ivanišević & Krsmanović 2013, p. 451:In addition to this, Anne Komnene, who gave detailed accounts of Alexios’ confl icts with the Rascian župan Vukan (1091, 1093–1094), does not mention Ras in any of her writings. On the other hand, the Chronicle of Dioclea states that in the 1080s Bodin conquered Rascia, the region where – with his help – župan Vukan and his brother Marko established their rule;13 however, the question remains whether the Byzantine border fortress became a part of Serbia at this time. The Serbian conquest of Ras is confirmed at a later date, during the reign of John II Komnenos (1118–1143). John Kinnamos relates the Serbian conquest and burning down of the Byzantine Ras (circa 1127–1129), which prompted the Emperor to punish Kritoplos, the commander of the fortress.
  27. ^ Stephenson 2004, p. 148–150.
  28. ^ Curta 2019, p. 656:Shortly after his victory over the Pechenegs in 1122, Emperor John II Comnenus organized a punitive expedition against the Serbs. The exact reason for that is unknown, but it is most likely at that time that the Byzantine border fort at Ras (near Novi Pazar, in southern Serbia) was burned (Fig. 30.1)
  29. ^ Ćirković 2008, p. 29: During the first war (1127–9), mostly waged around Belgrade and Branicevo and on the Hungarian side of the Danube, the Serbs conquered and burned the city of Ras, which had been under Byzantine rule.
  30. ^ Stephenson 2004, p. 224–225.
  31. ^ a b Ćirković 2008, p. 30:(..) allowing Emperor Manuel I Comnenus (1143-80) to concentrate his main forces on him. Ras once again was in Byzantine hands
  32. ^ a b Dimnik 1995, p. 270:In 1190, after Frederick I had crossed the Bosphorus, Emperor Isaac II Angelus marched against Nemanja, defeated him on the River Morava, and forced him to make peace. The terms of the agreement suggest that the Byzantine victory had been indecisive: the emperor acknowledged Raška’s independence (..)
  33. ^ Ducellier 2008, p. 779:The boundaries between their lands were still very fluid, especially those between Bulgaria and Serbia, and each was at a different stage of evolution towards political and cultural autonomy
  34. ^ Ćirković 2008, p. 30:The town of Ras and the territory of its bishopric was the first larger administrative unit seized by the Serbs from Byzantium. Serb rulers made it their seat, which is why Latin texts began to refer to them as the Rasciani and their state as Rascia.
  35. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 192.
  36. ^ Bataković 2005, p. 210.
  37. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 227.
  38. ^ Bataković 2005, p. 222.
  39. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 245.
  40. ^ Bataković 2005, p. 243.
  41. ^ Janićijević 1998, p. 147.


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