) is a term most commonly referring to outlaws
or freedom fighters
in the Balkans
Forms of the word in various languages include:
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 oppressors. They are comparable to the English legend of Robin Hood and his merry men, who stole from the rich (which in the case of the hajduci happened to be also foreign occupants) and gave to the poor, while participating in a small guerrilla war against an unjust authority.
In reality, the hajduci of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries 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. However, most of the hajduci did follow a moral code which forbade robbing the poor, and motiveless murder.
The etymology of the word "hajduk" is unclear. One theory is that hajduk was derived from the Turkish
, which was originally used by the Ottomans
to refer to Hungarian
infantry soldiers. Another theory suggests that the word comes from the Hungarian hajtó
or "hajdó" (plural hajtók
or "hajdók"), meaning a (cattle) drover. Indeed, these two theories do not necessarily contradict each other, as the Balkan word is said to be derived from the Turkish word haiduk
(bandit), while the Turkish is in turn believed to have been borrowed from Hungarian
and to have originally referred to Hungarian mercenaries who guarded the Hungarian-Turkish border. Families of Croatian descent with the same oral traditions of "mountain banditry" use the surname Hidek, a derived form of "hajduk".
Present days some Hungarian families have "Hajdú" as family name referring to the origine of the family.
, 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
were known as the hajduk
, a term associated in the Hungarian language
with the cattle drovers of the Great Plains. 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. The emancipated hajduk constituted a new "warrior estate" within Hungarian feudal
society. 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
The word hajduk
entered the Polish language
from Hungarian in the late 16th century. It 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. Unusually for this period, Polish-Lithuanian hajduks wore uniforms
, typically of grey-blue woollen cloth, with red collar and cuffs. Their principle 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
. 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 who they called hajduks, thereby creating the meaning of the term 'hajduk' as it is generally understood in modern Polish.(6)
football team HNK Hajduk Split
; Serbian football teams Hajduk Kula
, FK Hajduk Veljko
and Hajduk Lion
; the Romanian band Taraful Haiducilor
, pop-music project Haiducii
, and 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
and Milan Hejduk
, an NHL hockey player 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.
In the early 1970s, after the publication of the now classic sociological
studies Primitive Rebels
by historian Eric Hobsbawm
, hajduks started appearing in western social and anthropological
literature. Hobsbawm invented the term "social bandit
" to describe outlaws who operate on the edges of rural societies by fighting against authorities and sometimes helping the ordinary people. There has always been a degree of fluidity in their status, whereby, as described by John Koliopoulos
in his study of Greek klephts
, Brigands with a Cause
, brigands would sometimes change sides and start acting on behalf of the authorities to preserve peace and suppress banditry, and vice-versa.
From the early 1980s, sociological studies started narrating the stories of hajduks, kelphts, bandits, brigands, outlaws, rebels, and pirates in all parts of the planet, from Australia to republican China, the Balkans, the American Wild West, Cuba and Mexico.
(6) 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