In the poem The ruin of the Serb kingdom, which belongs to the Serb oral tradition collected by Vuk Karadzic , the king Lazar is visited, immediately before the battle of Kosovo (1389), by a grey hawk holding in the mouth a swallow. However, the grey hawk was not a hawk but Saint Elias, and the swallow was not a swallow but a letter from the Mother of God. The hawk deposited the letter on the knees of Lazar, and the letter began to speak, proposing the following alternatives. If he prefers the kingdom of this Earth, then he should prepare himself and his army with the weapons for the battle, and all the turks would be killed and the great battle would be won. If, on the contrary, he rather likes to belong to the kingdom of the heavens, he should build a church on the field of Kosovo where he was to meet the turks, and himself with all his soldiers should get the Holy Communion; but later he and all his soldiers would be killed, and the decisive battle lost.
Then king Lazar considered by himself what he would rather do, and having thought that the earthly kingdom is anyway small and limited in time, while the heavenly kingdom is infinite and ethernal, he decided to chose the latter. Thus he built the church and performed the religious rites, following exactly the instructions received from the Mother of God; the next day, after a long and terrible battle, he was defeated by the turks and killed, together with all his soldiers.
This traditional song, preserved for many centuries -of course with many transformations, and with little care for the details of the historical events- for having been song with the accompaining music of single string fiddle, must represent a very strongly held belief. All along the centuries of the Turkish domination, after all resistance had been crushed, when all the rare uprisings only resulted in massacres, the Serbs kept copying their icons and singing their legends, thus preserving their language, culture, religion, and national identity. Only in the 19th century they were able to fight, with some reasonable chance of success, against the turks; the first Serb high school , in which a new Serb speaking intellectual elite could be formed, was created during the first Belgrade uprising of 1806-1813, and Vuk Karazic was one of the first students.
The legend of king Lazar is of course susceptible of different interpretation, but a possible one is that the Serb were deeply convinced that it is better to be right, to preserve their own way of thinking, rather than to be successful in the military and economic sense, as they never were for centuries. Actually, the ones who give up, and become Muslims, do not consider themselves, and are not considered, Serb any more.
Since I do not believe in neutral, objective knowledge, and even less in neutral touristic guides, I have done many comments and I apologize if I have offended somebody, but I will nevertheless stand for my own opinion. However, I would like to give a single, final comment which is as far from neutral as it could be.
Let us try to answer the following question: suppose king Lazar is reborn now. If presented with the following alternative: should the Serb nation either chose to reaffirm that it has preserved, even against the odds and the persecutions (not only by the turks), the culture, the spirit, and the morality by which it is a nation in its own right, but within the framework of European culture, spirit, and morality; or, should the Serbs prefer a small kingdom of this world, may be in the form of some villages where other Serb either live or used to live? Guess what king Lazar would chose.