Collection of 19th century weapons untill 1918.
For Serbia, nineteenth century was a century of wars for freedom and independence on the path to create a modern country. After the autonomy had been granted in 1830, Serbia gained the right to buy weapons for “necessary” troops. Weapons were being bought mainly from Russia and Austria. First regular rifle produced for Serbian Army was bought in Liege in Ogist Francot`s company. The only one preserved copy of the Model 1856, of system Minie-Francot-Petrović is being kept in our Military Museum, and it belonged to General Živko Davidović, whose name is inlayed on barrel.
Before the Wars for Independence 1876-1878, modernization of the armament had become a primary condition to accomplish this aim. Turkish Army already had Henry-Martini M 1871 breech loading rifles and repeating Winchester M 1866 rifles. Because of the lack of finances, Serbia, as most convenient solution, converted old percussion muzzle loaders no new system. Famous Serbian „Piboduša“ Model 1870, used in Serbian-Turkish Wars is unfortunately preserved in just couple of examples and Military Museum has 4 of them.
After declaring the Independence in 1878, one of the priorities was modernisation of armament. Pibodies became obsolete with their large 14,9mm caliber. After a study project and competitive tender in 1879, new rifle has been chosen, Mauser rifle improved by Serbian Major Kosta Koka Milovanović. This single shot Mauser-Milovanović rifle, Model M 1880, cal. 10.15mm, was considered as one of the best rifles in entire Europe. Military Museum has only few “Kokinka”, and one of them is honcrably rifle belonged to General Milojko Lešjanin, Minister of Army.
New fast reloading rifles appeared in the second half of the 19th century, so Serbia again had to modernize its armament. First rapid fire Mauser rifle Model 1899 was based on Spanish Model 1893 and future Model 1919 was based on German Model 1898. Very few of the Serbian small arms from Balkan Wars and First World War have been preserved, and that small collection represents the most significant part of this our collection. Beside Mauser rifles, very important item is DWM Maxim machine gun M 1909 made for Serbian Army that has a note: “People of Niš County to its heroic Second Infantry Regiment of Prince Mihailo. Collection also posses all types of French weapons sold to Serbian Army before the breakthrough of Salonika Front in 1916. There are also various models of foreign armies’ weaponry of Balkan Wars and First World War.
In not so large collection of revolvers and pistols, we could separate three Serbian Nagant M 1891 revolvers, of which one is made as an honour reward of the King. There are also couple of Montenegrin Gasser M 1870 revolvers and Guard versions of the same model.
Collection has around 200 swords and sabres of various models and proveniences. Most numerous are ones from Russia and Austria, but there are also lot of Serbian infantry Models 1861/70. Most significant are ones that belonged to General Živojin mišić, General Pavle Jurišić Šturm and General Ivan Pavlović. Among the cavalry sabres of the “old” version from 1861, most significant is the one that belonged to General Ljubomir Lešjanin that has a traditional slogan: “Do not take it without a cause, do not return it without an honour”. There is also a same model of sabre that was made in Toledo and which belonged o Franjo Zah, the first principal of the Artillery School.
Serbian cavalry sabres Model 1895 are very rare and most significant is one presented to King Aleksandar Obrenović by Waiersberg-Kurschbaum Company in Solingen. These kinds of weapons were very luxurious and they were part of the marketing program of the companies which supplied Serbian Army. This Model was the first one that bore Serbian coat of arm on hand guard, and with certain modifications it remained status symbol of the officer core and connection of modern Army with 19th century tradition.
Very interesting is collection of Russian award swords. “Diamond” sword for bravery given to Prince Milan Obrenović during the First Serbian Uprising in 1807 is priceless. This item is one of the most valuable in Military Museum. Another “diamond” one is a gift of Russian Emperor Nikolai II Romanov to Prince Arsen Karađorđević for bravery expressed as a commander of Cavalry Guard Brigade in Russian-Japanese War 1904-1905.
There is also a sword given to King Aleksandar Obrenović by Persian Shah with markings of the year: 1901/02 and note: “The Noble and Eternal! To my master, do not give disaster, Oh Lord as long as he lives”.
Curator of the Collection - Vuk Obradović