In the Balkans there was a powerful Serbian
empire with the center of Kosovo from the 11th century.
From the end of the 1300s, this came to obey the Ottoman
Turks for almost 500 years. After the First World War, a
united, South Slavic kingdom was established under the
reign of Serbia's Aleksandar. During the Second World
War, the country was occupied and divided. After bloody
internal struggles, Communist leader Tito 1945 was able
to form the Socialist Republic of
Yugoslavia with Serbia as the largest sub-republic.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Serbia, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Following the division of the Roman Empire into a
western and an eastern part in 395, various peoples
formed battles with each other and with the Eastern
Roman Empire, Byzantium, new states in the Balkans. The
states had varying scope and longevity. By the mid-600s,
the slaves, who came from the northeast, had colonized
almost the entire Balkans.
In the 1000s, the medieval Serbian empire emerged. It
was recognized by the Byzantine emperor in 1187 and
received its own Serbian Orthodox Archbishop 1219 with
its seat in Peć (Peja) in present-day Kosovo. The church
became a unifying force and became of great importance
to the Serbs' national and cultural identity.
Under Stefan Dušan, who was crowned king in 1346, the
Serbs experienced a great time. In Kosovo, which the
Serbs count as their cultural cradle, during this era a
number of churches and monasteries were built. However,
the kingdom soon collapsed and could not withstand the
Ottoman Turks as they began to advance across the
Balkans in the late 13th century. A great battle between
Serbs and Turks was in 1389 at the Kosovo police (Trast
field). In 1396, Serbia became a Turkish sound state and
then fully incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1459.
The Krajina border area
The Serbs came to live under Turkish and Muslim
domination for nearly 500 years. However, the population
stuck to the Serbian Orthodox religion and its culture.
At the end of the 16th century, the Habsburg emperor
established a military border area against the Turks in
present-day Croatia (the so-called Krajina, that is,
border). The Habsburgs gave land to Serbian peasants,
who in exchange lined up with soldiers and protected the
Habsburg provinces from the Turks. This created the
Serbian enclaves in Croatia.
The modern Serbian state grew in the early 1800s and
after the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, the Turkish
sultan was forced to give the Serbs full independence.
In 1882 Serbia became a kingdom.
In the first Balkan War of 1912–1913, Serbia,
Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece defeated the Turks and
then fought for prey in the Second Balkan War in 1913.
Serbia and Greece acquired large parts of Macedonia, and
Serbia and Montenegro split in the Sandžak area.
Bosnia-Herzegovina had been annexed by the Habsburg
double monarchy in 1908, where the successor Franz
Ferdinand intended to give the South Slavic people
self-government to reduce its willingness to join
Serbia. When Serbia wanted to free the Bosnian Serbs
from Austrian rule, the country came into direct
conflict with Austria-Hungary. During a visit to
Sarajevo in Bosnia on June 28, 1914, Franz Ferdinand was
shot to death by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the
Serbian nationalist organization Black Hand. The murder
became the prelude to World War I.
Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
The Habsburg monarchy collapsed in October 1918 and
in December the "Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and
Slovenes" was proclaimed under the reign of Serbia's
Aleksandar Karađorđević (Karadjordjevic). However, very
tense conditions existed from the beginning between
Serbs and Croats / Slovenes. The latter, who were
Catholics and had experience of Western administration
under Habsburg, wanted the new state to become a loose
federation with great internal self-government. The
Serbs, whose administration was influenced by Turkish
tradition, wanted a centralized state. The parties that
wanted a centralized unitary state won a scarce majority
in the 1920 election.
In the late 1920s, the country was on the brink of
civil war. In January 1929, King Aleksandar dissolved
the parliament. The constitution was put out of play and
the king made himself a dictator. At the same time, the
country was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (Yugo =
South). A period of economic decline, political
contradictions and increased violence followed. In
Macedonia, the revolutionary organization VMRO worked
for a state that gathered all Macedonians. In Croatia,
the fascist party Ustaša (Ustasja) grew, although it was
banned and its leaders were in exile in Mussolini's
Italy. In 1934, King Aleksandar was murdered in
Marseilles by a VMRO terrorist, but Ustaša was thought
to be behind.
The guardianship that took over after the murdered
king (his eldest son was incapacitated) supported the
Germans at the beginning of the Second World War. By
that time, Yugoslavia was financially dependent on Nazi
Germany. At the end of March 1941, however, officers
supporting the Allies against the Germans made a coup.
Therefore, on April 6, Yugoslavia was attacked by the
Axis powers Germany and Italy and its supporters Hungary
and Bulgaria. Montenegro was almost completely
incorporated into fascist Italy, which also brought
together Albania, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia into a
Great Banana under its rule. Most of Serbia was occupied
by the Germans, who set up a puppet government in
Belgrade. In most of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina,
with German support, a fascist sound state was formed
(so-called Free Croatia).
Tito comes to power
Two rival resistance groups fought against the
invaders: royalist četniks (Chetniks) under Colonel
Draža Mihajlović, supported by the Yugoslav exile
government in London, and the National Liberation Army,
under Yugoslav Communist Party leader Josip Broz (Tito).
Attempt to unite the movements into a bloody mutual feud
between the ether and the leftist. The allies, who first
supported the royalists, went to Tito in 1943 and in
November of the same year Tito in the city of Jajce in
Bosnia proclaimed a party government in the liberated
At the same time, parts of Yugoslavia were ravaged by
internal political and religious terror. The Ustašar
regime in Croatia devoted itself to barbaric persecution
of Jews, Roma and political opponents. An attempt was
also made to force Orthodox Serbs to convert to
Catholicism. Many Croatian Serbs managed to escape to
Serbia. Serbian groups, including the Czechs, responded
with brutal assaults on Croats. The worst battles raged
in Bosnia in 1943-1944. By the end of the war, a tenth
of the population of Yugoslavia had been killed and 3.5
million were homeless. More victims had been harvested
in the internal battles than in the fight against the
The royalists were finally defeated in 1944, when the
kingdom was formally abolished, and on March 7, 1945,
Tito was able to establish a government. Serbia became
the largest of six sub-republics in the Communist-run
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Serbian
capital Belgrade also became the seat of all joint
administration and capital of the new republic.