.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{box-sizing:border-box;width:100%;padding:5px;border:none;font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .hidden-title{font-weight:bold;line-height:1.6;text-align:left}.mw-parser-output .hidden-content{text-align:left}You can help expand this article with text translated from the corresponding article in Serbian. (November 2016) Click [show] for important translation instructions. View a machine-translated version of the Serbian article. Machine translation, like DeepL or Google Translate, is a useful starting point for translations, but translators must revise errors as necessary and confirm that the translation is accurate, rather than simply copy-pasting machine-translated text into the English Wikipedia. Consider adding a topic to this template: there are already 304 articles in the main category, and specifying|topic= will aid in categorization. Do not translate text that appears unreliable or low-quality. If possible, verify the text with references provided in the foreign-language article. You must provide copyright attribution in the edit summary accompanying your translation by providing an interlanguage link to the source of your translation. A model attribution edit summary is Content in this edit is translated from the existing Serbian Wikipedia article at [[:sr:Топлички устанак]]; see its history for attribution. You should also add the template ((Translated|sr|Топлички устанак)) to the talk page. For more guidance, see Wikipedia:Translation.
Toplica Uprising
Part of Serbian Campaign of World War I
  • 24 February–25 March 1917
  • (1 month and 1 day)
Result Bulgaro-Austrian victory
Commanders and leaders
Units involved

Chetnik detachments:

  • Toplica
  • Jablanica
  • Ibar-Kopaonik
  • Pirot
  • Krajina
  • Morava Oblast forces
  • IMARO detachments
  • 60,000
  • artillery
  • airplanes
Casualties and losses
c. 20,000 Serbian casualties in penal expeditions

The Toplica Uprising (Serbian: Топлички устанак) was a mass uprising against Bulgarian occupation force that took place in Bulgarian occupied Serbia during the First World War. The rebels were motivated by grievances against the Bulgarian authorities for ordering conscription of local Serbs in the Bulgarian army, forced labour and the denationalization policy imposed on the indigenous population. The revolt was supported by Serbian guerrilla fighters known as Chetniks.

The Toplica uprising lasted from 24 February to 25 March 1917. It was the only uprising in an occupied country during the entire First World War; it has been estimated that as many as 20,000 Serbs died in the revolt and its aftermath.


In October 1915, the Kingdom of Serbia, which had throughout the fall of 1914 managed to withstand and repel three Austro-Hungarian invasions, found itself under attack again. This time it was a joint Austro-Hungarian, German, and Bulgarian invasion from two directions that included Austro-Hungarian Third Army, German Eleventh Army, and Bulgarian First and Second armies. Outnumbered and outmatched, the Serbian Army was defeated by December 1915. However, rather than surrendering and capitulating, the Serbian military and political leaders decided on a long and arduous army retreat south towards Albania, hoping to reach the Adriatic coast for evacuation and regrouping.[1] This resulted in the invading Central Powers forces occupying the entire territory of the Kingdom of Serbia. In the immediate division of spoils, Kingdom of Bulgaria got the area of Pomoravlje, which had been a target of Bulgarian nationalism.[2]


Kosta Pećanac in the Toplica district.

The primary cause of the rebellion was the policies passed by the occupiers. Constant denationalization, including closing Serbian schools, prohibition of the Serbian language and traditions, burning of books, and looting, requisition, and internment, provoked the population.[3] Romania entering the war in August 1916 awakened hope in the Serbian population of a breakthrough of the Salonika front, some arming themselves and taking to the forests.[3] Kosta Vojinović began the organization of resistance, and in the summer of 1916, established a band in Leposavić, the core of the future Ibar–Kopaonik Detachment.[3] At the end of September 1916, the Serbian High Command sent Kosta Pećanac, reserve infantry lieutenant and veteran Chetnik Vojvoda, by airplane into Toplica. He was tasked to establish a secret resistance organization to be activated when the Allies and the Serbian Army were to break the Salonika front and arrive at Skoplje.[3] The peak of Serbian discontent came with the Bulgarian announcement of conscription of local Serbs aged 18–50 for military service. Massive flights to the mountains from Bulgarian recruit commissions began.[3] The first armed conflicts between fleeing conscripts and Bulgarian chases began after 20 February.[3] Pećanac and Vojinović established headquarters on Mount Kopaonik. Guerrilla leaders met secretly near Leskovac on 21 February 1917 to vote on whether to launch an uprising. Though a decision for a general uprising was taken, according to historian Andrej Mitrović, the uprising was already underway by the time they made their decision.[4]


Woman from Toplica displaying the scars she received as a result of being branded with red hot iron by Bulgarian soldiers.

The rebellion included the areas of Toplica, Jablanica, Jastrebac, and eastern and central parts of Kopaonik.[3] The rebels liberated Kuršumlija (27 February), Lebane (1 March), Prokuplje (3 March) and Blace (5 March).[5] Having broke out in the Toplica region, the rebellion expanded into territories on the right bank of the West Morava (Vlasotince, Crna Trava, Vranje area), and in the West Morava valley, including the Sokobanja and Svrljig areas.[5]

Chetnik commanders surrendering to Bulgarian commander Tane Nikolov after the rebellion.

On 12 March, the Bulgarian counter-attack started under the command of Alexander Protogerov involving IMRO forces led by Tane Nikolov.[6] Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian authorities worked together. IMRO commander and Bulgarian officer Todor Aleksandrov orchestrated the most violent actions committed by the Bulgarian paramilitary. After several days of fighting, the Bulgarians entered Prokuplje on 14 March, and the Austro-Hungarians entered Kuršumlija on 16 March. As of 25 March, the order there was fully restored.[7] In the battles, several thousand people were killed, including civilians. In April 1917, Pećanac, with his guerrillas, attacked a railway station.[8] On 15 May, Pećanac entered the old Bulgarian border and invaded Bosilegrad, which was burned. Then his band withdrew to Kosovo, controlled by the Austro-Hungarians. The Allies opened a new front at Salonika in June, but the Serbian army couldn't break through the Bulgarian lines. After reemerging briefly, in September – October 1917, Pećanac again disappeared. In October 1917, the Austro-Hungarian command created entirely Albanian paramilitary detachments to capture the remaining Serbian rebels into the mountains and in December 1917, Kosta Vojinović was killed.


Toplica Uprising 2017 post stamp of Serbia

The uprising is a notable event in the history of Serbia in World War I. It was the only rebellion in the territories occupied by the armies of the Central Powers.[3]


See also


  1. ^ Robin D. S. Higham; Dennis E. Showalter (2003). Researching World War I: A Handbook. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 210–. ISBN 978-0-313-28850-0.
  2. ^ Charles Jelavich; Barbara Jelavich (20 September 2012). The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 1804–1920. University of Washington Press. pp. 289–. ISBN 978-0-295-80360-9.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Mladenović 2007b, p. 9.
  4. ^ Mitrović 2007, p. 253.
  5. ^ a b Mladenović 2007b, p. 10.
  6. ^ Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia, Dimitar Bechev, Scarecrow Press, 2009 ISBN 0810855658, p. 10.
  7. ^ Richard C. Hall (3 May 2010). Balkan Breakthrough: The Battle of Dobro Pole 1918. Indiana University Press. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-0-253-00411-6.
  8. ^ Mitrović 2007, p. 265.