Hajduk, 1703
Portrait of Hajduk-Veljko, a prominent Serbian outlaw fighting against Ottoman occupation during the first half of the 19th century.

A hajduk (Hungarian: hajdúk, plural of hajdú) is a type of irregular infantry found in Central, Eastern, and parts of Southeast Europe from the late 16th to mid 19th centuries. They have reputations ranging from bandits to freedom fighters depending on time, place, and their enemies.

In the European lands of the Ottoman Empire, the term hajduk was used to describe bandits and brigands of the Balkans, while in Central Europe for the West Slavs, Hungarians, and Germans, and Eastern Europe for the Ukrainians, it was used to refer to outlaws who protected Christians against provocative actions by the Ottomans.[1]

By the 17th century they were firmly established in the Ottoman Balkans, owing to increased taxes, Christian victories against the Ottomans, and a general decline in security. Hajduk bands predominantly numbered one hundred men each, with a firm hierarchy under one leader. They targeted Ottoman representatives and rich people, mainly rich Turks, for plunder or punishment to oppressive Ottomans, or revenge or a combination of all.[1]

In Balkan folkloric tradition, the hajduk (hajduci or haiduci in the plural) is a romanticised hero figure who steals from, and leads his fighters into battle against, the Ottoman authorities.[2] They are comparable to the English legendary Robin Hood and his merry men, who stole from the rich (who as in the case of the hajduk happened to also be foreign occupiers) and gave to the poor, while defying seemingly unjust laws and authority.[citation needed]

People that helped hajduks were called jataks. Jataks lived in villages and towns and provided food and shelter for hajduks. In return, hajduks would give them part of the loot.

The hajduk of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries commonly were as much guerrilla fighters against the Ottoman rule as they were bandits and highwaymen who preyed not only on Ottomans and their local representatives, but also on local merchants and travellers. As such, the term could also refer to any robber and carry a negative connotation.[3][4]


The etymology of the word hajduk is unclear. One theory is that hajduk was derived from the Turkish word haidut or haydut 'bandit', which was originally used by the Ottomans to refer to Hungarian and Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth infantry soldiers. Another theory suggests that the word comes from Hungarian hajtó or hajdó (plural hajtók or hajdók) '(cattle) drover'.[5] These two theories do not necessarily contradict each other because the Turkish word haidut or haydut is adapted from the Hungarian hajtó or hajdó just as many slavic words were adapted from Turkish in what is known as Turcizam or Turkification.[3][4][6]

Other spellings in English include ajduk, haydut, haiduk, haiduc, hayduck, and hayduk.

Forms of the word in various languages

Forms of the word in various languages, in singular form, include:

Irregular military

Main article: Irregular military

Kingdom of Hungary

See also: Hajduk (Kingdom of Hungary)

István Bocskay and his hajduk warriors

In 1604-1606, István Bocskay, Lord of Bihar, led an insurrection against the Habsburg Emperor, whose army had recently occupied Transylvania and begun a reign of terror. The bulk of Bocskay's army was composed of serfs who had either fled from the war and the Habsburg drive toward Catholic conversion, or been discharged from the Imperial Army. These peasants, freelance soldiers, were known as the hajduks.[7] As a reward for their service, Bocskay emancipated the hajduk from the jurisdiction of their lords, granted them land, and guaranteed them rights to own property and to personal freedom.[8] The emancipated hajduk constituted a new "warrior estate" within Hungarian feudal society.[9] Many of the settlements created at this time still bear the prefix Hajdú such as Hajdúbagos, Hajdúböszörmény, Hajdúdorog, Hajdúhadház, Hajdúnánás, Hajdúsámson, Hajdúszoboszló, Hajdúszovát, Hajdúvid etc., and the whole area is called Hajdúság (Land of the Hajduk) (see Hajdú County)

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

Main article: Hajduk (Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth)

Polish nobleman and two hajduk guards.

The word hajduk was initially a colloquial term for a style of footsoldier, Hungarian or Turco-Balkan in inspiration, that formed the backbone of the Polish infantry arm from the 1570s until about the 1630s.[10] Unusually for this period, Polish-Lithuanian hajduks wore uniforms, typically of grey-blue woolen cloth, with red collar and cuffs. Their principal weapon was a small calibre matchlock firearm, known as an arquebus. For close combat they also carried a heavy variety of sabre, capable of hacking off the heads of enemy pikes and polearms. Contrary to popular opinion, the small axe they often wore tucked in their belt (not to be confused with the huge half-moon shaped berdysz axe, which was seldom carried by hajduks) was not a combat weapon, but rather was intended for cutting wood.

In the mid-17th century hajduk-style infantry largely fell out of fashion in Poland-Lithuania, and were replaced by musket-armed infantry of Western style. However, commanders or hetmans of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth continued to maintain their own liveried bodyguards of hajduks, well into the 18th century as something of a throwback to the past, even though they were now rarely used as field troops. In imitation of these bodyguards, in the 18th century wealthy members of the szlachta hired liveried domestic servants whom they called hajduks, thereby creating the meaning of the term 'hajduk' as it is generally understood in modern Polish.[11]

Serbian Militia (1718–39)

Main article: Serbian Militia (1718–39)

The Serbs established a Hajduk army that supported the Austrians.[12] The army was divided into 18 companies, in four groups.[13] In this period, the most notable obor-kapetans were Vuk Isaković from Crna Bara, Mlatišuma from Kragujevac and Kosta Dimitrijević from Paraćin.[12]

Cultural influence

The Croatian football team HNK Hajduk Split; Serbian football teams Hajduk Kula, FK Hajduk Beograd, FK Hajduk Veljko and Hajduk Lion; the Macedonian football team FK Hajduk - Vratnica; Czech amateur football team Hajduk Lipník; the pop-music project Haiducii, and Romanian Roma musical troupe Taraful Haiducilor are all named after the hajduci. The surnames of the fictional character George Washington Hayduke, invented by Edward Abbey, actress Stacy Haiduk, US national soccer team defender Frankie Hejduk, Czech Republic national ice hockey team forward Milan Hejduk and Montenegrin theoretical physicist Dragan Hajduković, are likewise derived from this word.

The term "haiduci" was used by the Romanian resistance movement Haiducii Muscelului, between 1947 and 1959, which opposed the Soviet occupation and the Communist government.

Notable hajduks


General Andranik Ozanian, wearing his uniform and medals with a papakha hat



Bulgarian Macedonian Ilyo Voyvoda (1805–1898), known as "the last hayduk".

Region of Macedonia



Main articles: Klepht and Armatoloi


Main article: Betyárs


Main article: Haidamaka

Czech, Polish and Slovak


Harambaša from Dalmatia in the 19th century.

See also: Serbian hajduks


See also


  1. ^ a b Gabor Agoston; Bruce Alan Masters (21 May 2010). Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire. Infobase Publishing. p. 252. ISBN 978-1-4381-1025-7.
  2. ^ Sophoulis, Sophoulis (2020). Banditry in the Medieval Balkans, 800-1500. Springer. p. 127. ISBN 978-3-0305-5905-2.
  3. ^ a b Найден Геров. 1895-1904. Речник на блъгарский язик.Хайдукъ
  4. ^ a b Л.Андрейчин и др. 2006. Български тълковен речник. Четвърто издание
  5. ^ Petrović, Aleksandar. These persons later became soldiers on the Hungarian–Ottoman Serbian border and fought against the Ottoman Turks. The Role of Banditry in the Creation of National States in the Central Balkans During the 19th Century Archived 2013-08-01 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Младенов, Стефан. 1941. Етимологически и правописен речник на българския книжовен език.
  7. ^ Curtis, Benjamin Curtis (2013). The Habsburgs: The History of a Dynasty. A & C Black. p. 111. ISBN 9781441145499.
  8. ^ Pálffy, Géza (2021). Hungary Between Two Empires 1526–1711. Indiana University Press. p. 119. ISBN 9780253054647.
  9. ^ Ludanyi, Andrew; Cadzow, John F.; Elteto, Louis J., eds. (1983). Transylvania The Roots of Ethnic Conflict. Kent State University Press. p. 87. ISBN 9780873382830.
  10. ^ Crailsheim, Eberhard; Elizalde, María Dolores, eds. (2019). The Representation of External Threats: From the Middle Ages to the Modern World. BRILL. p. 172. ISBN 978-9-0043-9242-7.
  11. ^ Richard Brzezinski, Polish Armies 1569-1696, volume 1, London: Osprey Military Publishing, 1987, p. 21, 39-41 (also contains six contemporary illustrations of Polish hajduks, besides several modern reconstructions by Angus McBride).
  12. ^ a b Душан Ј Поповић (1950). Србија и Београд од Пожаревачког до Београдског мира, 1718-1739. pp. 42–43.
  13. ^ Radovan M. Drašković (1987). Valjevo u prošlosti: prilozi za zavičajnu istoriju. Milić Rakić. p. 22. ISBN 9788671730082. Хајдучка војска била је подељена на 18 компанија, које су се распореЬивале у 4 групе.
  14. ^ War and Society in East Central Europe: The first Serbian uprising 1804-1813. Brooklyn College Press. 1982. ISBN 9780930888046.
  15. ^ М. Ђ. Milićević, Pomenik znamenitih ljudi u srpskog naroda novijeg doba, Beograd 1888, 15
  16. ^ sr:Иван Мусић

Further reading