The heroism and love of homeland and self-determination of the 16th-century Croatian nobleman and general, Viceroy of Croatia when Croatia was part of Austro-Hungarian Empire, Count Nikola Zrinski (also known as Nikola Subic Zrinski and Nikola Zrinski of Sziget) (1508 -1566) are well-entrenched into the history of Croatian people.
Although Nikola fought valiantly against the Ottomans for years, it was his heroic death that made him a cherished European Christian hero. The Battle of Sziget (Szigetvár) is also known in history as the battle that saved civilisation.
His heroic death in Sziget deeply impressed upon his contemporaries. The cultivation of the cult of Nikola Zrinski emerged among Croats and Hungarians as well. In the first half of the 18th century, Nikola Zrinski became the protagonist of Jesuit school dramas, especially in Upper Hungary (present-day Slovakia), where he was celebrated as a model of a faithful and sacrificial warrior in the service of his ruler. At the beginning of the 19th century, his role as a defender of Christianity was emphasised.
Zeljko Zidaric, a Canadian Croatian, has published a book about Nikola Subic Zrinski IV and the siege of Sziget in 1566 titled As Only True Men Can: Nikola Zrinski’s Last Stand at Sziget.
“When I was young I sought books to read about Croatian history but I could not find anything here in Canada; neither in my local city libraries nor the library at the university I studied at. When I recently discovered, by accident, two speeches spoken by Nikola Zrinski to his soldiers in Sziget I was fascinated and wanted to know more. Unfortunately, the story was never properly told in English and therefore I took the initiative to research and write the story and to give it to the world,” Zidaric explains.
Zidaric dedicates his book “To the heroes of Croatian Homeland War 1991-1995.”
The book is available on Amazon here –https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XR62TGK/
About the book by Zeljko Zidaric:
“On August 1, 1566, as Sultân Süleymân marches toward Sziget, with an army of over 120,000 soldiers, Castellan Nikola Zrinski speaks to his 2,300 soldiers and promises to them: “I, Nikola Zrinski, do solemnly swear, first of all to Almighty God, then to his Majesty, our glorious king, to our tormented suffering Homeland and to you, my valiant knights gathered here with me, that I will endure with you all that happens, whether good or bad. I will never abandon you. I will fight and suffer by your side, and together we will either win or die. So help me God!”
On September 7, 1566, after almost 7 weeks of brutal siege, Nikola Zrinski speaks to his soldiers once again, but now there are a meager 180 remaining, with no hope left for victory. With only two options available, surrender or death, Zrinski says to his men: “I will not dishonor the oath I swore at the start… I have lived free and I will die free! Therefore, I want to be the first to go, in front of you, and you will follow me. What I do, you do the same – as only true men can. Believe me, my beloved brethren, even unto death I will never abandon you!”
This is the story about what happens between those two speeches, August 1 and September 7, when an unstoppable force (Sultân Süleymân) hits an almost immovable object (Nikola Zrinski) at the fortress of Sziget, on the borderlands between Europe and the invading Ottoman Empire, in 1566. The bravery of Nikola Zrinski and his soldiers, brave underdogs fighting against an overwhelming force, can be compared to heroes such Leonidas fighting to protect Greece from the Persian invasion at Thermopylae, and William Wallace protecting Scotland from English conquest. The story is more interesting and important than the story of William Travis at the Battle of the Alamo in Texas. The story of Zrinski making a stand against Süleymân at Sziget is on par with the stories of Leonidas, Wallace, and Travis all merged into one.
Of Nikola Zrinski and the defense of Sziget, was said:
Cardinal Richelieu, statesman and minister to King Louis XIII, called the Siege of Sziget: “The battle that saved civilization.” and also wrote: “A miracle was needed for Europe to survive, and this miracle happened at Sziget. The question was decided at Sziget whether the cross or the crescent would leave an indelible mark for centuries on the major parts of Europe.”
The Ottomans, who fought against Zrinski, also respected him. Ottoman historian İbrahim Peçevi wrote: “The master of the fortress, Nikola Zrinski, was a notorious kâfir (infidel) with a great reputation for his heroism.”
While numerous historical accounts of the siege exist in the Croatian, Hungarian and Turkish languages there has been no definitive story in English, until now. After almost three years of research and fitting together details found in a multitude of sources the story is now told in richer detail than told in any language to date. This story, like an old damaged painting, required some repairs to convey the magnitude of the siege and make the story more engaging but a high level of historicity is maintained by ensuring that the creative elements align with the spirit of the event and time. This story might at first glance, due to the story format, appear to be historical fiction but it is very much non-fiction.”