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 state.
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 saint.
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 13th centuries.
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 1557.
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 – Vranje).
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 not Serbs.
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 their lives.
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.