Serbia's history is the country's history until 1918. The
first Serbian state formation occurred in the 11th century,
and the Serbian medieval state reached its peak in the
1300s. At the battle of Kosovo on June 28, 1389, the Serbian
prince fell, and Serbia became a province under the Ottoman
Empire. This board lasted for almost 500 years. It was not
until 1878 that Serbia was recognized as an independent
In 1918 Serbia became part of the Serbs, Croats and
Slovenes, from 1929 called Yugoslavia. This federation was
dissolved in 1992, and Serbia entered a state alliance with
Montenegro. In 2006, the state federation was dissolved.
The oldest known settlement in today's Serbia is the
Lepenski Vir culture of the Danube, which existed about 8000
years ago. In ancient times, the area was inhabited by
tractors. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Serbia. When the Romans conquered the area in the 1st
century AD, most of it was placed under the province of Moesia Superior.
In the 600s, Slavic tribes migrated from the north. The
tribal name Serbs may be related to the sorbs in the Bautzen
area of eastern Germany. The name itself may have denoted
an Iranian tribe that rose up in the Slavic population.
While the closely related Croats settled on the Adriatic
coast, the Serbs settled in the mountainous regions that
today are the interior of Montenegro and Sandžak, called
Raška after the city of Ras.
They were led by clan chiefs, župan, and were
alternately dominated by Byzantium and Bulgaria. The Serbs
were Christianized by the Byzantine and adopted the Orthodox
faith in the late 800s.
In the 1000s, the first Serbian state formation emerged
in Zeta, today's Montenegro, but eventually Ražka took
power. Here Stefan Nemanja founded in the 1160s a dynasty
that would rule for 200 years and make Serbia a leading
state in the Balkans. In 1196, he retired and founded the
monastery Hilandar on Athos ("Holy Mountain"), the largest
shrine of the Serbs, where his younger brother Sava became a
monk and founder of a separate Serbian church with its seat
in Peć, Kosovo. Later, St. Sava became the Serbs' greatest
In the 13th century, King Stefan Uroš moved the capital
south to Skopje. Magnificent churches and monasteries
testify to the prosperity of Serbian culture in the 13th and
Under Stefan Dušan "the mighty" (1331-1355), the Serbian
medieval state reached its peak. When he was crowned " tsar
over the Serbs and Greeks" in 1346, his wealth covered large
parts of the Balkans (Albania, Macedonia, Northern Greece).
Under foreign rule
In the period following Dušan's death, the Serbian empire
disintegrated, pushed by the expansion of the Ottomans. At
the Battle of Kosovo, June 28, 1389, both Serbian prince
Lazar and Sultan Murat fell. A Serbian state continued to
exist for 70 years after the Kosovo battle, with the capital
of Smederevo on the Danube, but when the Turks conquered the
city in 1459 it was the end of the Serbian medieval empire.
In the 400-500 years the Serbs were under Turkish rule,
the Kosovo battle gained a mythical significance, and the
memories of Serbia's greatness lived on in the national
poetry. Most Serbs retained their Orthodox faith under
Turkish rule, and the Serbian Orthodox church was of great
importance as a carrier of Serbian national traditions,
especially after the Patriarchate of Peć was restored in
During the Turks, the Serbs were peasants and landlords,
without any political or cultural upper class, but in many
areas they had some local self-government. They lived in
large families (zadruga) and were led by their
village chiefs (knez).
From the 15th century, many Serbs emigrated north - to
Bosnia, which was also under Turkish rule, or to Hungary,
out of reach of the Turks. After the unsuccessful Austrian
campaigns against the Turks in the late 1600s, which the
Serbs supported, many Serbs (about 40,000 families), led by
the Patriarch, fled to Southern Hungary in 1690. Many Serbs
served as soldiers in the "Military Frontier", which was
administratively located directly under Vienna and was
responsible for the defense of the vast borderlands of the
Habsburg Empire against the Turks. In this way, the Serbian
population was dispersed and mixed with other peoples, far
outside the Serbian core area.
The border between the Habsburg Empire and Turkey, the
Danube and Sava rivers, became an important political and
cultural boundary in the 18th century that divided the Serbs
into two cultures. On the northern side of the border, in
the cities of southern Hungary (Vojvodina), a bourgeois
craftsmanship and merchant culture emerged, and schooling
and Serbian literature were developed. South of the Danube,
the Serbian population was largely illiterate, and their
culture was characterized by heroic folk poetry.
The Serbian uprising against the Turks in the period
1804–1813, led by Karadjordje, was defeated, but the second
uprising in 1815, led by Miloš Obrenović, eventually led to
some internal self-government. Following Russian pressure,
Serbia became an autonomous principality under Turkish
supremacy in 1830.
The aim of the Serbian national movement in the 19th
century was to unite all Serbs across the borders between
Austrian and Turkish dominated areas. The language reformer
and collector of public memory Vuk Stefanović Karadžić
created a new writing language (Serbian dictionary,
1818), built on the vernacular in Serbia itself south of the
Danube, as a replacement for the artificial
Russian-influenced writing language in Vojvodina. Despite
great opposition from the Orthodox Church, the new
scriptural language was used by all Serbs from the 1860s.
During the 19th century, Serbia was modernized and
Europeanized, but the country was still relatively backward.
As in most of Europe, the population grew; while in 1844 the
country had about 850,000 inhabitants, the figure in 1874
was about 1,350,000.
Politically, the 19th century was marked by the rivalry
between the two dynasties, Karadjordjević and Obrenović.
During the Berlin Congress in 1878, Serbia was recognized as
an independent state and expanded with areas in the south (Niš
In 1882 the country became a kingdom under Milan
Obrenović (1868–1889), but both he and his son, Aleksander
Obrenović (1889–1903), who were pro-Austrian, were incapable
of government. In 1903, King Alexander and the Queen were
assassinated by an officer's coup by the terrorist group The
Black Hand, and the far more capable Petar Karadjordjević
(1903-1914) was deployed. Prime Minister Nikola Pašić,
leader of the Radical Party, and foreign policy initiated
Serbia's close cooperation with Russia. This resulted in a
customs war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary in 1906-1908.
The national goal was to create a Greater Serbian state.
Already in 1844 a plan for this was put forward by Minister
of the Interior Ilija Garašanin. Austria-Hungary's
occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1878, and especially the
annexation in 1908, created strong anti-Austrian reactions
in Serbia. But expanding to the south was easier than
challenging the Habsburgs.
Since Turkey was weakened, Serbia joined the other Balkan
states to war in 1912 (the first Balkan war) and managed to
conquer most of the Balkans. After the Second Balkan War,
against Bulgaria, Serbia was allowed to set its boundaries
at the Great Power Conference in 1913. Following Russian
pressure, Serbia gained a large part of Macedonia and
Kosovo, although the majority of the population there were
For the South Slavs in Austria-Hungary, Serbia was now
the leader of the national liberation struggle. The goal of
Serbian nationalists was to liberate Bosnia-Herzegovina,
while Austria, for its part, was interested in expanding in
the Balkans. The Sarajevo attack in 1914 (the shootings in
Sarajevo) therefore served as a welcome pretext for Austria
to declare Serbia war. The Serbs fought hard, but had to
lose and suffered great suffering during the First World
War. Of a population of about 4.5 million, 1.1 million lost
The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
Although the South Slavic idea of community and
cooperation between the South Slavic people was not strong
in Serbia, the development was towards a common South Slavic
(Yugoslav) state. The leading politician, Prime Minister
Nikola Pašić, was keen to gather all Serbs in one state.
That is why he agreed to the wishes of the Croats and
Slovenes to establish a common kingdom, the Serbs, Croats
and Slovenes, in 1918. Serbia became the leading party; the
Serbian royal house took over as a dynasty in the new state,
and the Serbs dominated political life.