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Alija Đerzelez

Alija Đerzelez is an epic folk hero of the Bosniaks. His name is derived from Turkish word gürzi (mace) and means ‘warrior with the mace’. Some historians believed that epic figure of Alija Đerđelez was inspired by Ali Bey Mihaloglu, an Ottoman military commander in 15th century and the first sanjakbey of the Sanjak of Smederevo. According to Ottoman census of 1485 he was in charge for nahiya of Dobrun near Višegrad as his timar. There is a turbe (mausoleum) in village Gerzovo (near Mrkonjić Grad) which according to the legend is burial place of Alija Đerzelez. The first written record of epic figure Alija Đerzelez (in form of Ali beg) was a form of South Slavic epic and ballad poetry bugarštica The Marriage of Vuk the Dragon-Despot, recorded by Đuro Matei at the end of 17th or beginning of 18th century. In songs recorded in Erlangen Manuscript Alija Đerzelez is mentioned in form of Balibeg.

Songs which emerged in South Slavic milieu were transmitted by bilingual singers to Albanian milieu. Alija Đerzelez from Bosnian songs had became Gjergj Elez Alia in Albanian song. He is one of many Muslim heroes of South Slavic poetry who exists also in Albanian poetry. Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina modeled the poetic image of Alija Đerzelez after the image of Christian Prince Marko Kraljević. According to the legend, Alija Đerzelez also has an epic horse (sometimes called Šarac, like horse of Prince Marko) and he is a good friend of fairies who help him when he is in danger. Legend says that he was killed during his prayer because he did not want to interrupt it although he was aware that he would be killed. One of the oldest houses in Sarajevo, The House of Alija Đerzelez, is named after Alija Đerzelez. There are also streets in several towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bihać, Gračanica, Zenica, etc) named after Alija Đerzelez.

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