Vojvoda (Serbia and Yugoslavia)

Vojvoda (Serbian Cyrillic: Војвода) literally "war-leader" from old Serbian was the highest rank in the army of the Kingdom of Serbia and Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1901 until end of Second World War in 1945. It has roots from the medieval term Voivode used during medieval Kingdom, Empire аnd Principality of Serbia. Vojvoda[1]in medieval and later principality of Serbia had similar meaning as Duke title in other feudal states as it was military and noble title. In modern military terms the rank of Vojvoda is comparable with Field marshal and Generalfeldmarschall but since it can be an honorable title it is not always a military rank of a commissioned military officer.

It was first created with the passing of the law on the Organization of the Army of the Kingdom of Serbia in 1901 and later confirmed in Kingdom of Yugoslavia laws on the Organization of the Army and Navy from 1923 and 1929[2] Law from 1901 was passed on the suggestion of Lieutenant colonel (later Divisional General) Miloš Vasić who was Minister of the Defense at the time. The rank was awarded only during the war for Particular military contributions of top generals.

In the Balkan Wars and World War I this title was used to designate the highest military rank in Serbian Army. The first Vojvoda was promoted by the Great military decree of the Kingdom of Serbia on October 20, 1912. Only four people ever officially held that rank: Radomir Putnik (in 1912), Stepa Stepanović (middle 1914), Živojin Mišić (late 1914) and Petar Bojović (1918). Before this rank was introduced, the highest rank in the Kingdom of Serbia was Army general (Kingdom of Yugoslavia). After Second World War, the newly formed Yugoslav People's Army stopped using Royal ranking system, so this rank ceased to exist. [3]

Војвода / Vojvoda
Army service uniform shoulder strap with the rank of Vojvoda.
Flag of rank of Marshal of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Rank flag of a Vojvoda from 1929.
CountryKingdom of Serbia
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
NATO rankOF-10
Non-NATO rankO-11
FormationJanuary 12, 1900
AbolishedApril 24, 1946
Next lower rankArmy general (Kingdom of Yugoslavia)

Insignia of rank

The rank insignia of a Vojvoda was epolete consisted of braids and in the middle was added two-headed white eagle, the national emblem of the Kingdom of Serbia. In 1923 the design of epaulets remained the same with one amendment, the national emblem of the Kingdom of Serbia was replaced by the state coat of arms of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Introduction of rank

In late 1897 and early 1898 took place the fracture stages in the development of the army. King Milan returned to Serbia and initiated the process of military reform. The most important date in the history of the Kingdom of Serbia was December 25, 1897. On that day, King Alexander I of Serbia signed two decrees. The first re-established active Army Command, which was supposed to start work on Saint Sava next year, while other was appointment of King Milan as new commander. On the same day an active Army Command is a military regulation was subordinate to the Ministry of military. In practice, this was not so, because practically active military commander commanded all commands, units and military institutions, while a Minister of Defense has no right to use military force, and he turned into a military administrator. At that time, the first Minister of War was Dragomir Vučković who had the rank of colonel. He formally subordinate to the commander of the active army held the rank of general. When the post of Minister of War set up Jovan Atanacković who had the rank of general, there is a need for the introduction of a new military rank for the active military commander.[4][5]

Former rank

OF-10 Bojni Vojvoda 1923-1941 (Kings Insignia)
Special insignia of a Vojvoda as worn on epaulettes by King Alexander I of Yugoslavia.

The change in the structure of the army from 1897 to 1900 year was time when new military ranks where intronduced. The then existing Law on Organization of the Army from 1886 included eight military ranks. Sub-lieutenant, Lieutenant, Captain II class, Captain I class and they were lower officer ranks, while major, lieutenant colonel, colonel and general where were higher officer ranks. At this time new ranks where intronduced warrant officer and army general that was honorary rank. In December 1898, King Alexander I has signed a decree and authorized the then minister of defense to submit it for approval to the assembly. The new command is related to the increase in salaries lower-ranking officers and generals grading rank within: Brigade, Divisional and Corps. This command is not passed with the amendments in national assembly, but for a little more than a year in a modified form, this project is finally realized.[4]

At the XXVI regular session of the National Assembly, following the report of the Military Committee, adopted new amendments to the Law on the organization of the army. Minister Ilija Stojanović during the parliamentary debate, before the adoption of the law emphasized the need for introducing a higher rank than the current staff, the act of army general. According to him, the victim would not be large because the Serbian Army had one, and then in the future two or three. It was clear that the new act is intended active army commander to the King Milan. The opposite opinion was Živan Živanović, who pointed out that the allocation of this act in this case had more political than military significance. This is supported by the aforementioned fact that King Milan, before returning, it is not intended that their military rank, raised by this, but by their desire other military act, which was the title of the Supreme Commander. Therefore, in the summer of 1897 addressed to Stojan Novaković opinion, if anyone other than Karađorđe, was the holder. How Novaković did not know that the founder of the house Obrenović, Prince Miloš was in the Second Serbian uprising, also holds the title of Supreme Leader, King Milan knowing only then that the founder of another dynasty holder of this title, he refused to accept the proposal of this title.[4]

And without this title, the former king has become the holder of the highest military rank in the state, and not only in relation to all the other generals, but also in relation to his son, the then supreme commander King Alexander I. Decision Assembly, and adopted the draft Law on amendments to the Law on the organization of the army, confirmed King Alexander January 12, 1900. Two days later (January 14), the new act is due to the merit of the two-year work on reforming the Army awarded the King's father. The act was introduced due to the rise of the military rank of King Milan. According to the legislation on the organization of the Army (Article 27), the rank of army general was granted to only by the monarch any general regardless of the time spent in a general's rank. The departure of the King of the Kingdom of Serbia, Milan, gone is the main reason for the existence of this act. General Mihailo Srećković successor as commander of the active army, wasn't promoted to this rank. The new law on the organization of the army from 1901 (Article 7), contrary to earlier, it is not anticipated that the Minister of War in command only performs the tasks laid down in laws and was administrator of army.[4][6]

Vojvoda rank

The new law on the Organization of the army of January 27, 1901, whose creator was then Minister of War, Lieutenant Colonel (later Divisional general) Miloš Vasić, has introduced a new highest military rank in the Serbian army. Vojvoda rank brought changes in the general officer ranks. Instead of the previously divided into upper and lower system, it was introduced a new category for generals, made up of the two highest rank – General and Vojvoda. The introduction of this act repealed the act of Army General a mark on the epaulets, which previously belonged to the previous act, have been taken as a mark of rank of Vojvoda. According to the law (Article 17), the rank of Vojvoda could only get during the war and it had allocated monarch at its discretion. The new amendments to the Law on Organization of the Army of March 31, 1904, the rank of Vojvoda could get only in war and in him only improve the general who was awarded for successful work. On the first promotion to the rank Serbian army waited eleven years.[4]

First promoted general was Radomir Putnik in 1912, and he alone was wearing Vojvoda rank for two years. Stepa Stepanović and Živojin Mišić were acquired this rank in the space of five months in 1914. Petar Bojović earned rank in 1918 and he was the last Serbian general promoted.[4]

The newly formed army of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia continued the system of military ranks of the army of the Kingdom of Serbia, with small changes. In 1919, former Austria-Hungarian Generalfeldmarschall Svetozar Borojević filed a petition over the command in Klagenfurt, to be accepted into a new army of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. This request had been rejected as Vojvoda Mišić said that one of the Ministers from the Croatia protested. On July 19, 1923 a new law on the organization of the army and navy was introduced graduation generals act modelled on the French system of grading: Brigadier general, Divisional general and Army general (Kingdom of Yugoslavia). According to the law from the regular structure of general promotion Vojvoda was singled out and could only be obtained in a war, by exceptional merit.[3]

According to the constitutions of the Kingdom of Serbia and Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the supreme commanders wore uniforms with the special Vojvoda insignia. Among them are Kings: Milan I, Alexander I (Obrenović), Peter I, Alexander I (Karađorđević) and Peter II. The Constitution permitted that in case of war, in the case of an underage of king, deputy Supreme Commander would be Vojvoda active or in reserve.[5]

After the end of World War II, the proclamation of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on November 29, 1945 and the establishment of the Yugoslav People's Army on April 24, 1946, adopted the military hierarchy modeled on the Soviet Union with Marshal as the highest rank. This decree abolished all ranks which had previously been in force, and the Vojvoda that existed for a full forty-four years ceased to exist.[5]

Date of promotion
Name and style
January 14, 1900
King Milan I February 11, 1901
  • Ad honorem
  • Commander of Active Army
  • Royal Family – House of Obrenović
January 27, 1901
King Alexander June 11, 1903
June 15, 1903
Peter I of Serbia (Rotary Photo 7119 A)
King Peter I August 16, 1921
  • Ex officio
  • Royal Family – House of Karađorđević
October 20, 1912
Radomir Putnik (Serbia; her people, history and aspirations, 1915)
Radomir Putnik May 17, 1917
  • Promotion
  • Chief of Staff
    of the Supreme Command of the Serbian Army
August 20, 1914
Stepa Stepanovic
Stepa Stepanović April 29, 1929
December 4, 1914
Živojin Mišić January 20, 1921
September 13, 1918
P Bojovic
Petar Bojović January 19, 1945
January 29, 1921
Louis Franchet D'Esperey
Louis Franchet d'Espèrey July 8, 1942
August 16, 1921
Kralj aleksandar1
King Alexander I October 9, 1934
  • Ex officio
  • Royal Family – House of Karađorđević
October 9, 1934
Kralj Petar II
King Peter II November 29, 1945[note 1]
November 3, 1970
  • Ex officio
  • Royal Family – House of Karađorđević


  1. ^ On 29 November 1945 parliament of Democratic Republic of Yugoslavia deposed Peter II as head of state but he did not formally abdicate.


  1. ^ Сима Ћирковић; Раде Михальчић. Лексикон српског средњег века.
  2. ^ http://digitalizovanaizdanja.sluzbenenovine.rs/DigitalizovanaIzdanja/viewdoc;jsessionid=0CC411C8A4447E422279AB1ADE07B610?uuid=ac8db81d-7155-4acf-94e5-eb997b6ebf57
  3. ^ a b Bjelajac 2004, p. 15.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Milićević 2002, p. 41-59.
  5. ^ a b c Milićević & Popović 2003, p. 7-19.
  6. ^ Milićević & Popović 1998, p. 24-26.


  • Bjelajac, Mile (2004). Generali i admirali Kraljevine Jugoslavije 1918—1941. Belgrade: Institut za novu istoriju Srbije. ISBN 86-7005-039-0.
  • Mičić, Rajko St. (1923). Four Field Marshal's. COBISS 41902087
  • Milićević, Milić (2002). Reforma Vojske Srbije: 1897—1900. Beograd: Vojnoizdavački zavod. ISBN 86-335-0112-0.
  • Milićević, Milić; Popović, Ljubodrag (2003). Generali Vojska Kneževine i Kraljevine Srbije. Beograd: Vojnoizdavački zavod. ISBN 86-335-0142-2.
  • Milićević, Milić; Popović, Ljubodrag (1998). Ministri vojni Kneževine i Kraljevine Srbije: 1862—1918. Beograd: Vojnoizdavački zavod. ISBN 86-335-0035-3.

External links

Field marshal

Field marshal (or field-marshal, abbreviated as FM) is a very senior military rank, ordinarily senior to the general officer ranks. Usually it is the highest rank in an army, and when it is, few (if any) persons are appointed to it. It is considered as a five-star rank (OF-10) in modern-day armed forces in many countries. Promotion to the rank of field marshal in many countries historically required extraordinary military achievement by a general (a wartime victory). However, the rank has also been used as a divisional command rank and also as a brigade command rank. Examples of the different uses of the rank include Austria-Hungary, Prussia, Germany, India and Sri Lanka for an extraordinary achievement; Spain and Mexico for a divisional command (Spanish: mariscal de campo); and France, Portugal and Brazil for a brigade command (French: maréchal de camp, Portuguese: marechal de campo).

The origin of the term dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses (from Old German Marh-scalc = "horse-servant"), from the time of the early Frankish kings. The exact wording of the titles used by field marshals varies: examples include "marshal" and "field marshal general". The air force equivalent in Commonwealth and many Middle Eastern air forces is marshal of the air force (not to be confused with air marshal). Navies, which usually do not use the nomenclature employed by armies or air forces, use titles such as "fleet admiral," "grand admiral" or "admiral of the fleet" for the equivalent rank. The traditional attribute distinguishing a field marshal is a baton. The baton nowadays is purely ornamental, and as such may be richly decorated. That said, it is not necessary for the insignia to be a baton (Such is the case in Russia post-1991 and the former Soviet Union, which use a jewelled star referred to as a Marshal's star).

Military ranks of Serbia

This is a list of military ranks used by the Serbian Armed Forces. Although a landlocked country, Serbia maintains a river flotilla (small river navy) of about 15 vessels on the Danube river.

Radomir Putnik

Field Marshal Radomir Putnik (Serbian: Радомир Путник; pronounced [rǎdɔmiːr pûːtniːk]; 24 January 1847 – 17 May 1917) was the first Serbian Field Marshal and Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian army in the Balkan Wars and in the First World War. He took part in all of the wars in which Serbia took part between 1876 to 1917.

Stepa Stepanović

Field Marshal Stepan "Stepa" Stepanović (Serbian Cyrillic: Степан Степа Степановић, pronounced [stɛ̌ːpa stɛpǎːnoʋitɕ]; 11 March [O.S. 28 February] 1856 – 29 April 1929) was a Serbian military commander who fought in the Serbo-Turkish War, the Serbo-Bulgarian War, the First Balkan War, the Second Balkan War and World War I. Having joined the Serbian military in 1874, he fought against the forces of the Ottoman Empire in 1876. Over the following years, he climbed up the ranks of the Serbian Army and fought against Bulgarian forces in 1885. He eventually became the Serbian Minister of War in April 1908 and was responsible for instituting changes in the Serbian Army.

Stepanović commanded Serbian forces during the two Balkan Wars and led the Serbian Second Army during World War I. After Battle of Cer he was promoted to second Field Marshal. He died in Čačak on 29 April 1929.

Živojin Mišić

Field Marshal Živojin Mišić (Serbian: Живојин Мишић; 19 July 1855 in Struganik – 20 January 1921 in Belgrade) was a Field Marshal who participated in all of Serbia's wars from 1876 to 1918. He directly commanded the First Serbian army in the Battle of Kolubara and in breach of the Thessaloniki Front was the Chief of the Supreme Command.



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