History of Serbia

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The article History of Serbia deals with the historical events in the area of ​​today's Republic of Serbia and, as far as this results from historical developments, also in adjacent areas. Above all, the period from the arrival of the first Slavic tribes in south-eastern Europe in the 6th century is shown. During this time, the boundaries of the respective Serbian ruled areas, their names and their inhabitants were subject to major changes, so that one can only speak of a continuous history to a limited extent.

The first Serbian state, Raška , was constituted in the second half of the 8th century under Prince Višeslav . The principality of Raška initially existed under Byzantine and Bulgarian suzerainty . Then the country developed under the Nemanjids (1167 to 1371) to the Serbian Empire, whose zone of influence included the entire Balkans . After the death of Emperor Stefan Uroš IV. Dušan in 1355, the Serbian Empire split into several independent principalities , some of which subsequently feuded with one another . This and the lack of state unity among the Serbs in 1459 favored the conquest by the Turkish-Ottoman Empire and the over 350 years of Ottoman rule . In the wake of the First and Second Serbian Uprising at the beginning of the 19th century, the Principality of Serbia was established in 1815 , but still owed tribute to the Ottoman Empire . Only with the results of the Berlin Congress in 1878 did Serbia become an independent state. In 1882 the Principality of Serbia was elevated to the Kingdom of Serbia , which at first essentially only comprised today's central Serbia . With the Balkan Wars , Kosovo , what is now North Macedonia and the greater part of the Sanjak of Novi Pazar were added until 1913 .

At the end of the First World War , in 1918, the Kingdom of Serbia became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes , which was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929 . During the Second World War , Serbia was a satellite state under the control of the German Empire after the German Balkan campaign from 1941 to 1944 . With the victory of the Yugoslav People's Liberation Army under Josip Broz Tito , the monarchy was abolished and in 1945 the foundation stone was laid for the post-war Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia . During this time Serbia was a part of the republic of Yugoslavia within its present borders. Ten years after Tito's death, Yugoslavia broke apart again from the 1990s in the Yugoslav Wars. Since Montenegro left the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2006 , Serbia has been an independent state again for the first time since 1918.


The area of ​​today's Serbia was originally populated by Illyrians , Celts , Thracians and a little later by Greeks . Middle of the 2nd century BC The Romans founded the province of Illyria , whose borders were crossed by various nomadic peoples from the 3rd century AD. Shortly after the fall of Rome , Illyria was annexed to the Byzantine Empire.

Byzantium, Avar Empire and Southern Slavs

At the time of the Roman Empire , the area of ​​today's Serbia belonged to the province of Moesia superior . Since the division of the empire in 395, it belonged to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire .

The Banat was part of the Roman province of Dacia .

Settlement of the Serbs in the Balkans

Southeast Europe around 945

Settlement borders on the Balkan Peninsula

The oldest sacred building in today's Serbia is the Petrova crkva from the 10th century

The borders of an actual Serbian territory were outlined relatively late, namely in the 15th century. Like other Slavic tribal associations (Severci, Draguviti, Duljebi), the Serbs were part of the association of Slavic tribes living in the "original home" in Eastern Europe. Their spatial distribution following the migration from Eastern Europe to the south is only roughly known: the Severci lived between the Danube and the Balkan Mountains, the Draguviti in the Aegean hinterland in Macedonia and Thrace; the Croatians in the plain east of the Alps and the Serbs were their neighbors further east.

It was not until the middle of the 10th century that more precise information about the territories settled by the Serbs can be found in the state manual “De administrado imperio” of the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos . The emperor differentiates between those who have already been baptized, i.e. H. Serbs converted to Christianity in contrast to those who remained pagan, whose settlement area stretched between that of the Croatians, who were also Christianized, and the First Bulgarian Empire . The easternmost areas inhabited by Croats - Livno, Pliva and Imota - marked the course of the western border of what was then Serbia.

Since the Serbian historical development from the Slavic conquest to the establishment of a Serbian empire took place within the territory of the then existing or on the former soil of the Byzantine Empire , the Byzantine influence was formative in the history of the medieval Serbian state. The spiritual and political ideas of Byzantium served the regions of the Christian Balkans as a primary point of orientation for all peoples. The Christian Byzantine Empire determined the direction of the history of the young peoples who had settled on the soil of his empire - in the political, but especially in the spiritual sense, where in the rivalry between the Western papacy and Constantinople Orthodoxy, the Eastern state and Religious ideal held even after the collapse of the Byzantine Empire.

In the east, the town of Rasa (later Ras) was the border town to the First Bulgarian Empire, in which the Bulgarian Tsar Peter founded a diocese in the second half of the 10th century, the seat of which, Petrova crkva , is the oldest sacred building in present-day Serbia is. The northern border was apparently the Sava, in the south Serbia extended to the principalities in the coastal area of ​​the Adriatic: Zahumlje , which lay between the Neretva river and Ragusa ; Travunja , which stretched from there to the Bay of Cattaro ( Boka Kotorska ), and Duklja ( Dioclea ), which stretched to the Bojana River . The residents of the first two principalities mentioned should be the descendants of Serbs who had already settled there. The prince of Zahumlje even claimed that his family descended from Serbs who originally came from the Vistula region. The inhabitants of Duklja, however, were not ascribed any Serbian origin. The original tribal name of the Serbs was only preserved by a principality in the interior of the Balkan Peninsula, whose rulers have been known by name since the 8th century. Further information about their rule comes from the 9th century. The Serbia of that time, like other territories populated by Slavic tribes, was beset from two sides: on the one hand by the Byzantine Empire, on the other hand by the First Bulgarian Empire, which saw it as an obstacle to its expansion to the west. In contrast to Byzantium, which was content with the supremacy of the Slavic tribes, the Bulgarian khans strove for complete submission. The Christianization of the Serbian rulers from Byzantium around the year 870 was a great success for the Byzantines.

Christianization and first feudal rule

Serbs have settled in what is now Serbia since the 6th century . They first settled in an area called Raszien . That is why, for centuries, apart from being Serbs, they were also called razors . Byzantium encouraged Slavic tribes to settle as federates in the provinces of the Balkans. This conquest of the Slavs in the Balkans , which has been emerging since 580 , reached from the Principality of Carantania via today's Slovenia and Croatia , Bosnia and Serbia to Bulgaria and the Peloponnese . Byzantium promoted the emergence of small rulers as a buffer against the Avar Empire in the north. The rule of the steppe nomads existed from 567 to 803 in the Carpathian arch to the Danube . It was smashed by the army of the Franconian Empire .

Some of the Serbian immigrants adopted Greek culture, but most of them retained their Slavic-Serbian identity. Over time, their tribal leaders formed principalities under the sovereignty of Ostrom. Of these, the largely independent Serbian principality was the most important. It experienced its first heyday in the middle of the 9th century with Župan Vlastimir and the early capital Ras near Novi Pazar (hence the name Raszien).

Until the 9th century the Serbs lived under nominal suzerainty of the Byzantine Empire and in relatively peaceful neighborhood with the Bulgarians . The highest man in the state was the so-called Great Župan , who was recognized as a leader by the other Župans. In 830, the tribes living in loose neighborhoods under Župan Vlastimir united to form a tribal federation in order to be able to defend themselves against the Bulgarians who were now pushing against Byzantium under Khan Presian I.

Under Vlastimir, his son Strojimir and his successors, Serbia (Raszien) was Orthodox Christianized from Byzantium in the 2nd half of the 9th century, probably under the direct influence of the Slav apostles Cyril and Method .

In the course of the conflicts between Bulgaria and Byzantium in the 10th century, Serbia was more inclined to Byzantium. In order to avoid this danger, the Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I pretended to use Časlav , a great-grandson of Vlastimir who grew up at the Bulgarian court, as Grand Župan. But this was only a pretext to annex Serbia as a province. Časlav was captured along with other Župans. Many who had not fled before now fled to Byzantium and Croatia.

After Simeon's death in 927, Časlav returned to Serbia as a liberator. He recognized Byzantium as the supreme authority and received help in rebuilding the country. Under Časlav, the state, which was somewhat larger than under Vlastimir, regained its inner cohesion. After his death in an attack by the Hungarians, he fell apart again.

In the 11th century there was the first widely recognized Serbian kingship under Mihailo of Zeta . He had first sought a closer connection to Byzantium - among other things through his marriage. But when Byzantium was weakened in the fight against the Normans , he broke its neutrality and supported a revolt of the South Slav peoples against the Byzantine supremacy. After this failed, he sought support in the West, from the Pope . Part of the responsibility for this change was that Mihailo wanted his own archbishopric and the title of king. The Pope, who after the schism of 1054 was interested in winning over the rulers on the fringes of his sphere of influence, appointed Mihailo as the first Serbian king (1077) and thus made his country Duklja the first recognized Serbian kingdom.

The Serbian Kingdom and Tsarism of the Nemanjids

Contemporary depiction of Saint Savas, Mileševa Monastery

Age of the Nemanjids

Stefan Nemanja's rise

Our Lady Icon, Hilandar. Hilandar was the spiritual center of Serbia. The Serbian patriarchs came from the ranks of the Hilandar monks. The rulers showed their solidarity with the church through donations to the monastery community. Tsar Dušan and Empress Jelena spent the plague epidemic here with Empress Jelena, despite the ban on women entering the holy Mount Athos, and was one of the sponsors, like Stefan Milutin or Vuk Branković.

One of the most important periods for the Serbian national consciousness began in the 12th century under Stefan Nemanja . In the battle of Pantino, Stefan defeated his brothers in the fight for rule and concluded a union with the two surviving brothers in which they recognized him as Greater Župan. He became sole ruler Rasziens and Dioklitiens (Dukljas). This union and his support for an attack by Venice and Hungary on Byzantium brought him into conflict with the Byzantine emperor Manuel . He had to submit to a humiliating procedure in order to ensure stability for the country for a few years.

But after Manuel's death in 1180, he took advantage of the confused situation in Byzantium to wrest the empire's independence and large areas - including southern Kosovo around Prizren and the area around Niš , which temporarily became the new capital. In a peace treaty with the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelos, his expansionist efforts were halted, but at the same time the country's new borders remained largely untouched.

Autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church

The seat of the first Serbian archbishop became the Žiča monastery in 1220.

In 1196, Stefan Nemanja abdicated in favor of his middle son Stefan and renounced everything worldly as a monk Simeon . As a monk, he also had a formative influence on the further history of Serbia: He founded numerous churches and monasteries (including the important monasteries Studenica and Hilandar , both of which are world cultural heritage sites ). After his death in 1200, he became an important Serbian national saint .

Stefan Nemanjić , the son, needed a few years until he finally asserted the rule in 1207 against his older brother Vukan . A much more important role in Stefan's more than 30-year reign was played by his younger brother Rastko, who came to be known as Saint Sava of Serbia .

After initially good relations with Byzantium, Serbian politics turned more towards the West as a result of the occupation of Byzantium by the Fourth Crusade . This gave Stefan the nickname Prvovenčani , the first to be crowned - and the Nemanjid dynasty founded by his father was confirmed and strengthened.

The most important and momentous act of Sava, however, was that when he visited the Byzantine Patriarch in Nicaean exile, he obtained the right to found an autocephalous and autonomous Serbian Orthodox Church . This church, with its first saints Simeon and Sava, who came from Serbia, was supposed to form the foundation for Serbian self-confidence, especially during the long period of Ottoman rule. With the creation of a legal code - the so-called nomocanon - Sava also created the basis for a close connection between church and state, which should also outlast his gender.

During the Nemanjid Empire in the 13th century there were important changes in the social structure of the state. The Župans, the clan leaders, became nobles. The once free farmers became increasingly dependent on them. The cities received special rights. So the loose tribal association became a feudal state with an established ruling dynasty, legitimized by God's grace, and a strong national church.

Economic Consolidation

Ciborium and silver shrine of the relic of St. Tryphon, 14th century. Kotor as one of the main trading places for silver, developed into the center of the silversmith's art.
Dinar Stefan Uroš III. Christ enthroned on the obverse, King Stefan Dečanski and St. Stephen on the lapel.

The empire experienced further consolidation under the long reign of Stefan Uroš I (1243–1276), who came to power as the third son of Stefan Prvovenčani after his brothers Radoslav and Vladislav . The foreign policy conflicts were kept within limits and so the economic expansion could progress. This was based primarily on mining: mines for the extraction of gold and silver , but also iron , copper and lead were opened. Settlements arose around them and trade picked up. According to historians, during the heyday of Serbian mining in the 14th to 15th centuries, up to a quarter of the silver traded in Central and Western Europe came from Serbian mines, which laid the foundation for the power of the Nemanjids. Through privileges for German miners from Transylvania and traders from Dubrovnik (Ragusa), which played an important role as a port for Serbia, members of other peoples came to Serbia.

With the Saxon miners as the actual initiators of the opening of the mines, a far-reaching economic and social change began, which ultimately also led to the increased political importance of Serbia. Starting with Brskovo (in the valley of the Tara ), there were first five mines in operation in the late 13th century, later seven. In the middle of the 14th century, more mines were opened around the larger deposits. The most important were Rudnik (Šumadija), Trepča (near Kosovska Mitrovica), Janjevo (near Pristina) and Novo Brdo (between Pristina and Gnjilane), the latter developing into the largest mine on the Balkan Peninsula. The mines were initially only operated by the Saxons, but the local Serbs soon trained them in their craft, whose workload became significant for the boom in the mining trade. Not only did the Saxons bring mining law and highly qualified lawyers with them to Serbia, they also established forms of autonomous town and settlement law. Their settlements remained Catholic oases in which Dalmatian traders soon settled. Catholic communities existed in the midst of the Orthodox state; in some cases two or three Catholic parish churches were founded in the larger mines. The German miners' terminology and mining law, which were also adopted in the later Serbian and Ottoman legal codifications, were handed down as the legacy of the Saxons.

Other economic innovations were associated with mining. Taxation on ores (10%) and molten metal (10%) gave the rulers an important new form of income. With the reign of Stefan Uroš I, the first mints for silver coins (dinars, grossus) were introduced. During the Byzantine rule under the Comnenes, even the most powerful Balkan opponents were prohibited from minting coins, the imperial Byzantine monopoly fell after 1204. A Serbian hyperper (yperperi Sclavonie) has been mentioned since 1214 without coins having survived. Under Radoslav, copper coins were then minted, which were modeled on those of the Epirean Angeloi after coins minted in Thessaloniki. With Uroš I, the Venetian silver wholesalers were imitated in appearance as well as in size and weight. The local use of money, which was obligated to the former Carolingian coinage, was adapted to the established monetary economy under Uroš I. The main coins that were widely used were the denarii grossi. Gold coins that were minted in Venice, Genoa and Florence were also in circulation in large quantities of goods. Serbian coins used both western and eastern denominations. Dinar and grossus were names that came from the west, the hyperper was partly of eastern origin, as an attribute of the gold coins of the 11th century. Later, the Aspra also came up when gold coins were no longer minted in the Byzantine area.

For the first time, an urban development came together in the Serbian Empire from these economic impulses offered by mining. In the establishment of larger settlements, in which traders settled to a far greater extent than before, an essential authority for the economy of the Balkan Peninsula was established, especially in the flourishing of central trading markets on the coast. The mercantile Mediterranean cities, formerly mainly characterized by handicrafts, received important impulses from trading in Serbian ores. Previously, the assignment as a bishopric, which was granted to all larger Dalmatian coastal cities, was an equalization in meaning. However, only those cities could compete with the ore trade that had sufficient capital and population and thus had the prerequisites to participate in the economic prospects that were opening up in the mines in Bosnia and Serbia. Only the two towns in the south, Dubrovnik and Kotor, had these qualities and thus took over the primacy of the ore trade among the Dalmatian coastal towns, as well as the central positions in the economic cycle of the Balkan Peninsula. While Kotor was directly under the Serbian king, Dubrovnik was under Venetian rule. For more than 250 years, therefore, in addition to trade agreements and the rights of free movement, mechanisms for the settlement of border disputes were agreed between Dubrovnik and the Serbian kings. In addition to the increased migration of capable individuals to Kotor and Dubrovnik, close ties developed through family ties between the two cities.

Serbia as a supreme power on the Balkan Peninsula

Simonida, daughter of the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II., Was married to Stefan Uroš II. Milutin in 1305. At the time of their wedding, she was only 6 years old. Fresco in the Gračanica Monastery

The next important ruler after the short reign of Uroš 'son Dragutin (1276-1282) was his younger brother Stefan Uroš II. Milutin (1282-1321), also called Uroš the Mighty or Uroš the Holy . He continued his father's economic expansion and the tradition of founding churches and monasteries. Under him, Serbia rose to the dominant power in the Balkans, including through territorial gains in Macedonia. In Skopje he founded the court that was to become the most important for him and his successors. Milutin was the first to be able to capitalize on the consequences of the economic change presented by ore mining; For the first time, Catalan mercenaries were offered for the increased military skills, in the exceptional building activity the most outstanding developers and fresco painters from both Dalmatia and Thessaloniki and the court ceremony, which emulated the Byzantine ruling house.

After initial friction with Byzantium, Uroš II concluded a peace treaty with Emperor Andronikos II. Palaiologos in 1299 and married his daughter. He took over the Byzantine court ceremonies and saw himself as the legitimate follower of the Byzantine tradition in the face of the weakened Byzantine Empire.

Uroš 'son Stefan Uroš III. Dečanski was able to prove himself in terms of foreign policy in the short time he got between his father and son Dušan. In the battle of Velbužd (today Kjustendil ) he defeated the Bulgarians, who were to remain allies for a long time.

Stefan Dečanski was sent hostage to the Tatars by his father in his childhood and later - when he rose up against him in 1314, incited by the nobility - blinded and sent into exile. He was imprisoned by his son in 1331 and mysteriously murdered a short time later. All of this was more than enough to canonize him and venerate him as a martyr.

The Nemanjids as carriers of cultural development and identity

Gračanica is the culmination of the development of Byzantine architecture in Serbia under Stefan Milutin. Presumably by a master trained in a construction site in Thessaloniki, it was initially planned as a mausoleum. Later it became Prince Lazar's first burial place.
Icon with the canonized members of the Nemanjids, Sava of Serbia and Stefan Nemanja. All Nemanjid rulers with the exception of Tsar Uroš V. Dušan were soon canonized by the Orthodox Church, which was due to its extensive protection of the autocephalous church development as well as the donations to monasteries and their extensive foundation activities. Icon early 14th century, Belgrade National Museum

With the canonization of the first Nemanjids, all dynastic descendants endeavored to further strengthen the dynasty's relationship with the Church. As sponsors of church donations, they were therefore in charge of the society of the state. Based on the example of Stefan Nemanjas in the re-establishment of the Studenica monastery , which was based on a Romanesque design , as well as the cultural-historical far-reaching permission of the Byzantine emperor on the territory of Byzantium to take over the dilapidated Hilandar monastery as a Serbian monastery, all Nemanjid rulers acted as the primary ones ecclesiastical cartridge. The monarchs who followed Nemanja also adopted the specifications in the Studenica building scheme, albeit in a simplified manner. Its single-aisled basilica buildings had a crossing dome and in the more expensive foundations were clad with lime, sandstone or marble, which were also given sculptural elements on the windows and doors. This is how Vladislav Mileševa , Uroš I. Sopoćani , Helene d'Anjou Gradac and Dragutin built Arilje .

Construction activity was greatly expanded under Stefan Milutin. For the new Catholic building in Hilandar Monastery, the master builders carried out a design that was formally derived directly from the Constantinople Imperial Foundations of the Komnenen. In the bishop's seat of the cross- domed church Gračanica , which was based on Byzantine building plans and was initially even intended as a ruler's mausoleum, there was also an obvious break with the building tradition in the territory of Serbia itself. In the refinement of the building plan, careful architectural conception and the integration of the building structure, she even surpassed all Byzantine models of the time. This made Milutin's plastic claim to be an important patron of art and architecture in open competition with his father-in-law, Emperor Andronikos II. This complete departure from the building and family tradition of Milutin's predecessors generated resistance on the part of the church and Milutin's actual mausoleum, Banjska Monastery , as well as that of Stefan Dečanski, Visoki Dečani , were again based on Romanesque designs.

Due to the Byzantinization of the areas of life at court, the feudal system and the complete integration into the Byzantine church hierarchy, the Byzantine cultural role model function was established to such an extent that under Stefan Dušan the complete turn to the Byzantine sphere was finally implemented and also the direct adoption of Byzantine architectural models, imported via Thessaloniki and the Athos monasteries became the measure of all things. With Dušan's establishment of the Archangel Monastery , a new model also became a role model for all subsequent foundations on the territory of Serbia.

These numerous foundations of monasteries were not only intended to commemorate the rulers, for whom the monks had to hold prayers and homilies, the monasteries became places of study and centers of culture, which in the 12th century were the only “urban” entities in Serbia. Even for the regionally resident population, the monasteries were for a long time the only known cities, since, with the exception of the coastal towns, old urban structures were only integrated into the territorial area of ​​Serbia with the incorporation of former Byzantine areas. As recently as the 12th century, the Serbs were hostile to urban urban lifestyles. This also resulted from the fact that within the Serbian borders, which until the end of the 12th century were limited to the unity of the former Roman province of Dalmatia , which was not urbanized in the hinterland of the province even during the Roman era. The transversal Roman roads connected via the interior of the province only the nearest major urban centers between the cities of the Adriatic coast, the Pannonia lowlands and the great legionary camps of the Moesia province on the longitudinal axes of the Via militaris in the catchment area of ​​Morava and Timok.

The monasteries were primarily centers of agricultural goods that were supplied by the lands belonging to the monastery. In addition, the regulations of Tsar Dušan's Zakonik stipulated that 1000 households would be responsible for the maintenance of 50 monks. The Dečani Monastery alone owned 2166 agricultural households and 266 herd animal husbandry households. When planning the monastery complex, however, the ideas of an ideal urban settlement were at the fore from the start. Spread across the entire Orthodox world, monasteries formed the nucleus of later cities (especially in Rus, Kiev and Moscow). In Serbia, too, the models of the Athonite Lavren were modeled, in which Studenica was the first of these idealized, scaled-down designs to form the image of Jerusalem or Constantinople.

The Serbian Empire of Tsar Dušan

Fresco by Stefan Uroš IV. Dušan in the Lesnovo monastery
Map of Serbia (dark green) and its neighboring states at the time of its greatest expansion under Tsar Dušan

Under Stefan Uroš IV. Dušan (1331–1355), the most powerful of all Serbian rulers, the Serbian Empire reached the height of its political influence and expansion. Not only by waging war, but also by skillfully exploiting the political balance of power, he gained vast areas, including almost all of Albania (with the exception of the city of Durrës ) and those parts of Macedonia that were not yet under Serbian rule (with the exception of Thessaloniki ). His empire eventually stretched from the Danube in the north to the Gulf of Corinth in the south and from the border with the independent Republic of Dubrovnik in the west to just before Sofia in the east. The capital of the empire at that time was Skopje .

At Christmas 1345, Stefan Uroš IV. Dušan appointed himself Emperor of Serbia and the Roman Empire ( Imperator Rasciae et Romaniae ) and was crowned at Easter 1346. But emperors could only be crowned by the patriarch. Since he was feuding with Byzantium, he had the archbishop of Peć , Joanikije , elevated to patriarch of Serbia in a council of Serbian and Bulgarian churchmen . The Patriarch of Constantinople then banned Dušan, the new patriarch and the new church officials .

Dušan's empire was administered according to the Byzantine model under the leadership of the Serbian nobility. The extensive rights of the nobility and the church were laid down in a comprehensive legal code in 1349, the so-called Dušanov zakonik (Code of Stefan Dušan). However, since the feudal nobility and state officials repeatedly abused their rights, the laws had to be modified in such a way that there were ultimately separate administrative systems for the Serbian and Greek sections. Serbia also flourished culturally. So, for example, sparked the Serbian editors of Church Slavonic the Greek as a written language Southeastern Europe and was also the diplomatic and firm language in the entire Balkan region. This remained so until the 16th century. The monastic fresco paintings are counted among the highlights of European painting of the 13th and 14th centuries.

With his new title as ruler of Romania , that is, Ostrom, Dušan openly laid claim to the throne of Byzantium. He came into conflict with Johannes Kantakuzenos , whose claims he had supported in 1342/1343. Kantakuzenos called the Ottomans to help against the Serbs. This set the course for the Ottomans' invasion of the Balkans and the decline of the Greater Serbian Empire.

Dušan could not finish his plans because he died suddenly and in an unknown way in 1355.

Decline of Central Authority and Rise of the Ottomans

Fresco Tsar Stefan Uroš V and King Vukašin, Psača Monastery

His son and successor Stefan Uroš V (1355-1371), called the weak , could not hold the empire together. The feudal lords became more and more independent, some split off completely - partly with the help of external rivals from Serbia - others recognized Uroš nominally, but acted like sovereign rulers in their areas, had coins minted, collected taxes, etc. That was how the empire had In the early 1360s, large areas of what is now Albania and Greece (Albania, Epirus and Thessaly ) were lost, in the Zeta region (in the west on the Adriatic coast ) a Balšić family had power, in Macedonia the brothers Vukašin and Jovan Uglješa, known as Mrnjavčevićs . Zeta and Macedonia were officially still under the rule of Uroš, who actually only had central Serbia in his hand.

In 1365 Vukašin Mrnjavčević got the title of king and all rights of co-regent. Since Uroš V was childless, this meant the transfer of inheritance rights and the beginning of the end of the Nemanjid dynasty.

The relatively short period in the 14th century, in which the Serbian tsars ruled a large feudal state that stretched from the Danube to the coasts of the Adriatic and Aegean , was later referred to as the Greater Serbian Empire . Under the centuries of Ottoman rule, the Serbian Empire became the epitome of an ideal Serbian state, although it was often forgotten that medieval Greater Serbia was a multi-ethnic empire that followed the political tradition of the Byzantine Empire, which, like that in the West, saw itself as a universal monarchy.

But the threat from the Ottomans prevented a power struggle. In 1371 the Ottomans defeated the Serbs in the Battle of the Marica (a river in what is now Bulgaria). This battle is less present in the minds of the Serbs than the legendary battle on the Blackbird Field ( Kosovo Polje ), but it was at least as decisive for the further fate of Serbia. The Mrnjavčevićs fell in battle, Uroš V, who had not participated, died unexpectedly two months later.

The Ottomans initially left the conquered territory to the local rulers, some of whom submitted. Kraljević Marko, the son of Vukašin Mrnjačević, became a vassal of the Ottoman sultan Murad I. Although he fought for the sultan, he became one of the central figures in Serbian folklore, which is reluctant to submit to its ruler.

Rise of the Lazarevići and Brankovići

Golubac fortress

The territory that was under the control of the Ottomans was divided among different feudal lords. Zeta continued to have the Balšić family. Parts of Razia, Kosovo and North Macedonia belonged to Vuk Branković , central Serbia and parts of Kosovo had Lazar Hrebeljanović in his hand. This Lazar soon became the most powerful of the feudal lords by gaining territories, which he and the Bosnian Ban Tvrtko I wrested from Župan Nikola Altomanović , and would eventually become one of the most important figures.

Through a clever marriage policy - he himself married a descendant of the Nemanjids - he succeeded in consolidating his position and forging alliances. The focus was on the efforts to consolidate the formerly Serbian countries against the threatening onslaught of the Ottomans. He was careful enough not to deny Ban Tvtrko his self-conferred title King of the Serbs and Bosnia , even though he called himself ruler of all Serbs.

An important step towards the consolidation of the threatened areas was the lifting of the church ban on the split-off Serbian church, which Lazar acquired in 1375. The admission of refugees from the Ottoman-controlled areas - including many representatives of the Church and the intelligentsia - also strengthened his position. He could count on the support of the church, since its representatives saw in him the great hope for a reunification of the Serbian Orthodox regions.

Meanwhile, the Ottomans, after spending some time consolidating their rule in the captured territories of Bulgaria and Macedonia, began attacking Serbia itself in the mid-1380s. In 1386 they conquered the important city and fortress Niš, but in 1387 the Serbs succeeded in destroying an Ottoman army detachment under Lala Şahin near Pločnik. It was foreseeable that there would be a decisive battle.

Battle on the blackbird field

The Battle of the Blackbird Field (1389)

On June 15, 1389 (according to the Julian calendar on June 28, St. Vitus Day or Vidovdan ), Serbs and Ottomans met in the battle on the Blackbird Field ( Kosovo polje ). Both sides were well armed: Sultan Murad I led his troops himself and brought his two sons with him, Lazar had the support of Vuk Branković and the men of the Bosnian king Tvrtko I. Little is known about the battle itself, except that besides many others also perished the two leaders. The outcome of the battle was initially unclear. In Europe the rumor spread that the Ottomans were defeated. Only later, in the light of the events that followed, did the interpretations move in the direction of defeat on the Serbian side, as the Serbs suffered greater losses and, unlike the Ottomans, had hardly any resources for further disputes.

This was also clear to Lazar's widow Milica and therefore she had no choice but to bow to the demands of Murad's son and successor Bayezid I for submission. Serbia became a vassal state of the Ottomans. But even in this, Lazar's clan first had to assert itself against the other feudal lords, especially since Lazar's son Stefan Lazarević was still too young in 1389 to succeed him. Milica commissioned learned monks to write a Vita Lazars, which should prepare and justify a canonization. An important reason for this was that the power of Stefan Lazarević was on a much more secure basis if he could show a saint as an ancestor. This began the creation of myths about the battle of the Amselfeld and its hero Lazar, which is still having an impact today in the conflicts over Kosovo as an integral part of the Serbian self-confidence.

Serbian despotate of the Lazarevići and Brankovići

Serbia in the 15th century

The imminent canonization of Lazar was able to secure his son the leading position in the vassal state, but Stefan Lazarević, when he reached the age of majority, had to provide military support with his men to Sultan Bayezid. He helped him to victory against the Crusaders at Nicopolis in 1396 and was there in 1402 in the defeat against the Mongols in the Battle of Ankara ( Ankara ). The Sultan was captured there, but Stefan took the opportunity to escape Ottoman rule.

He had the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II bestow himself the title of Despot (the highest title of ruler after that of the Emperor in Byzantium) and returned to Serbia, where he helped his country to a final boom under Hungarian rule. From the Hungarians, Stefan received additional territories - especially in the Danube region and in southern Hungary - including Belgrade , which he expanded into the new capital. After fierce fratricidal fights, both in the Serbian and Ottoman ruling houses, Stefan concluded a peace treaty with the new Sultan Mehmed I , which enabled him to reunite most of the Serbian lands.

Stefan Lazarević went down in history not only as a knight, but also as a humanistically educated scholar and poet who showed Serbia the way from a feudal state to a state oriented towards the ideals of humanism and renaissance , in which cities and trade are particularly important experienced an upswing. Before the Ottoman era, which was later interpreted as mere foreign rule and centuries of oppression, the splendor of this epoch was felt to be particularly strong.

Economic and cultural boom

Cultural bloom
Depiction of the Holy Warriors, Manasija Monastery Church, around 1415. The frequent depiction of the Holy Warriors on frescoes from the late 14th and early 15th centuries symbolizes the era which was characterized by military aspects. Weapons and armor correspond to the equipment of the time, on the right St. Nicholas with a scimitar.

Despite the negative signs of double vassal status to Hungary and the Ottomans, the age of Stefan's despotate was characterized by economic prosperity and a cultural heyday, which was also due to the emigration of important artists and scholars from the so-called Byzantine Commonwealth to Serbia. Stefan himself was able to move his capital from Kruševac to Belgrade and initiated a fundamental renewal of the city, which was built on ancient Roman-Byzantine foundations. In Belgrade, the fortress of Belgrade was the most important medieval fortification of the Balkan Peninsula next to Constantinople, which was not to fall into the hands of the Ottomans before the 16th century , even after the massive attacks of 1456 as the only contested base. Stefan's mausoleum in the Manasija fortified monastery, built from 1409 as an example of the then highly developed defense architecture of Serbia, was also the last center of medieval Serbian literature, as the main representative of which the Bulgarian émigré Konstantin Kostenecki wrote a Vita despot, which was regarded as a classic.

Significant changes took place in the architecture, which led to a unified Byzantine late style through a basic type of three-corner complex, whose peculiarities became in the design of the church body and the facade design. The innovations were based on models of architecture in the age of Tsar Dušan as well as Thessaloniki and the holy mountain Athos, but were no longer donated by the members of the ruling dynasty alone. Buildings of the “ Morava School ” were founded by the higher-ranking feudal families with their own foundations. The architectural homogenization of this late Byzantine art with its polychromatic facades, the multi-domed elevation with rising tambours and domes, also took over influences from the West.

In particular, however, the fresco painters reached a level that Byzantine art had not achieved for almost two centuries. The religious depiction of Manasija's frescoes are shaped by the splendor of court culture at Stefan's court and reflect the world of the time in realistic depictions. In the frescoes created a decade later in the Kalenić Monastery , the spiritual representation reached its climax from the effect of muted colors and intimate representation, which is one of the main works of European painting at the beginning of the 15th century. The frescoes Manasijas and Kalenićs are also the excellence of Palaiologischen Renaissance analog panel painting Rublev , the mosaics of the Chora Church and the frescoes Mystras .

Initiation of capitalist economy

The important cultural achievements were only possible from the point of view of a flourishing economy. As before, this was based on the silver ore trade. If the Ottoman success in 1371 brought about a sensitive interference in the agreements on ore trade in the Serbian kingdom and the trading houses of Dubrovnik, which, with the fragmentation of the Serbian empire in the avoidance of the unsafe regions, restricted trade, it was through the war between Venice against Genoa overall trade in the Mediterranean also affected. One consequence was the 25% increase in the price of silver, which would also lose by the end of the Ottoman conquests. A pound of silver (approx. 330 g) previously cost 6 ducats and then rose to 7.5 to 8 ducats.

The increased price influenced the economic fundamentals of metal production and silver mines became popular investment objects. As a result, the number of new silver mines in Serbia increased, and new mines were opened in Železnik (Kučevo), Rudište (Belgrade) and on the Cer in addition to the existing mines around the deposits of the Kopaonik and the Drina catchment area. In the geographical distribution of the mines, which were no longer concentrated in the area of ​​old Serbia and Kosovo, a regionally balanced economy developed in the national territory. After Kotor left the competition, Dubrovnik also assumed sole primacy over the ore trade. Ragus traders invested in the mines or took over the smelting and organized the production, which they were granted under mining law. The import of high-quality goods to Serbia was thus accomplished and for the year 1422 an estimated goods import value of 130,000 ducats from Dubrovnik is estimated. A few large trading houses in Dubrovnik had exported 3480 kg of silver to Italy over the period from 1426 to 1432 alone. Investments in labor and production-intensive mining were also often made possible through lending, which contributed to a credit crisis for the Serbian population, but increased the overall importance of the capital market for the mining economy. Due to the ongoing credit crisis, a monetary reform was necessary under Đurađ Branković in 1435, which regulated the exchange value from 10 new to 16 old dinars. Due to the debt, the dinar was also devalued in weight and henceforth called Asper.

With the rise of general trade, a new type of settlement was founded: the trg (market place). A trg usually had the privilege of holding an annual mass panadjur (adopted from the Byzantine Empire). Many later more important Serbian cities emerged from a trg: including Zaslon (Šabac), Valjevo, Paraćin, Užice, Čačak - others were only transformed into urban urban settlements by the Ottoman founding of bazaars. With the boom in the metal trade, the technical foundations of metallurgy were also spurred on. The manufacture of bombards and bells in the sand-casting process was perfected and the work of Serbian metal founders is documented in Moscow by a Hilandar monk in the establishment of a clock that chimed the hours for 1404.

Last attempts at defense against the Ottomans

After his death in 1427 he was followed by his nephew Đurađ Branković . Although he lost some areas to Hungary and the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of his reign, he was still able to mobilize the forces of an area that stretched from the Danube and Sava to the Adriatic Sea. After returning Belgrade to the Hungarians, he had a new capital built on the Danube - Smederevo , which soon gained the fame of a new Constantinople.

In 1438, Sultan Murad II , whose vassal Đurađ was, began massive attacks on Serbian territory. Đurađ initially defended himself relatively successfully. After the battle of Varna on November 10, 1444, in which the Hungarians were defeated by Wladyslaw I and the general Johann Hunyadi against the Ottomans, and the third battle on the Amselfeld on 17–19. October 1448, in which Johann Hunyadi again lost to the Ottomans commanded by Murad II, Serbia became a buffer zone and mediator between these two parties.

Even the attacks of Sultan Mehmed II , the conqueror of Constantinople, Đurađ still offered resistance. But when, in 1456, Đurađ and Johann Hunyadi, two important leaders of the resistance against the Ottomans, passed away, the situation in Serbia was more gloomy than ever before. Đurađs successor Lazar, the only one of his four sons who had not been blinded by the Ottomans , died in January 1458. This left Serbia without leadership. With the capture of Smederevo in 1459, Serbia became part of the Ottoman Empire and ceased to exist as a state for several centuries.

Ottoman rule

The Ottomans conquered Serbia under the pretext of bringing order to the country until the political situation in Serbia stabilized. The reason was that the then governor of Serbia, Mihailo Anđelović , who in turn was the brother of the Ottoman Grand Vizier Mahmud-Pasha Anđelović, was overthrown . Serbia became the Sanjak of Smederevo that after the Ottoman capture of Belgrade in 1521 for Sandzak Belgrade has been renamed. The southern areas became Sanjak Kosovo , the southwest around old Raszien became Sanjak Novi Pazar , which was attached to the Vilayet of Bosnia (conquered in 1463), the coastal areas became the Sanjak of Shkoder / Skutari. This created facts that continue to have an impact culturally and politically to this day.

Even so, the Serbian resistance to the Ottomans still did not break off. This was concentrated in southern Hungary, later Vojvodina, where Matthias Corvinus set up a kind of military border. Many Serbs moved there, who gained autonomy under their despots or dukes, but who had to fight mainly against the Ottomans for Hungary. The Serbian despots were nominally proclaimed by the Hungarian kings as the true masters of Serbia. With the Ottoman victory over Hungary at Mohács in 1526 , the end of the Serbian principality in Hungary was decided.

The Ottomans ruled Serbia for the next few centuries. During this time, some Serbian Christians became Muslims , but the Serbian national feeling was preserved, among other things, through the Serbian Orthodox monasteries.

In several uprisings, the Serbs tried to free themselves from Ottoman rule, which they found a heavy yoke. The first great Serbian uprising began in Vojvodina in 1593, but it was bloodily suppressed by 1607. When the Habsburgs drove the Ottomans out of Hungary (see Turkish Wars ), the Serbs dared to revolt again around 1689. Supported by Serb insurgents, the Habsburg troops advanced as far as Sarajevo in Bosnia and Skopje in Macedonia. However, when the Austrians had to withdraw, they were followed by many Serbs, especially those who had participated in the uprising and now feared the revenge of the Ottomans, including the Serbian Patriarch Arsenije III. Crnojević . There were large movements of refugees that went down in Serbian history as seobe (migrations).

The Serbs settled mainly in the mostly depopulated areas of southern Hungary, some came as far as Budapest , near which two important Serbian settlements at that time were founded: Szentendre north and Ráckeve south of Budapest. Others followed the call of the Russian Tsarina Catherine the Great and settled in what is now Ukraine, where there were two Serbian provinces: Nova Serbia (Russian Нова Сербія) and Slovjanoserbia (Слов'яаносербія).

The brief rule of the Habsburgs

Serbia from 1718 to 1739

From 1718 to 1739 the Serbian territory north of the Save and west of the Danube was owned by the House of Austria .

It was conquered by the Habsburgs in 1718. However, in 1739 it fell under Ottoman administration again. The only two rulers were General Odijer, the temporary administrator from 1718 to 1720, and Karl Alexander . He was the governor of Belgrade and also of the rest of the province.

During this time, the first attempts to develop a Serbian national consciousness were made.

Independence of Serbia

Serbia 1817-1833
Serbia 1833–1878

First Serbian uprising

After the Ottomans conquered Serbia in 1459, Serbia disappeared from the map as an independent state. It was not until almost 350 years later that the Serbs under Đorđe Petrović , called Karađorđe ("Black George"), succeeded in liberating large parts of Serbia in the First Serbian Uprising (1804). With the uprising, Serbian revolutionaries reacted to the Ottoman massacre of 72 Serbian Knezen (village elders) that took place in January 1804. In the course of the uprising, an independent Serbian government (Praviteljstvujušči sovjet serbski, German: ruling council of Serbs) was formed, a Serbian prince was crowned and a parliament ( Skupština ) and the forerunner of today's University of Belgrade were founded. However, this uprising was crushed by the Ottomans in 1813.

Second Serbian uprising

In 1815 the Second Serbian Uprising broke out under Miloš Obrenović , who founded the House of Obrenović . In 1816 the Ottomans signed a treaty to stabilize relations with the Serbs. In 1817 he succeeded in forcing Ali Pasha to sign an unwritten agreement that ended the Second Serbian Uprising. In the same year Karađorđe returned to Serbia, but he was murdered on Obrenović's orders.

Principality of Serbia

Serbia 1878–1912

Sultan Mahmud II recognized in 1830 with a document Miloš Obrenović as the highest Knjas of the Serbs. In November 1833, the Principality's autonomy rights were specified in another document. In 1867 the Serbs under Prince Mihailo Obrenović succeeded in finally defeating the Ottomans in their principality, making Serbia de facto independent (de jure not until 1878). In 1869 the country received a liberal constitution. As a result, the first parties were formed, which, however , had little to oppose the authoritarian government of Prince Milan IV (from 1882 as Milan I King of Serbia) , which was characterized by police measures and arbitrary changes of ministers .

At first the principality was relatively small; the area was limited to the Paschaluk Belgrade , which was expanded in the years 1831 to 1833 in the east, south and west. The independence of the Principality of Serbia was recognized by the Berlin Congress in 1878. In addition, Serbia was granted areas in the south (around Vranje , now known as Okrug Pčinja ).

Railway construction under imperial auspices

The old railway bridge over the Sava remained Serbia's only fixed land connection to the Hungarian Plain until after the First World War. in the picture the destruction in the First World War

The Balkans and the Scandinavian Peninsula formed the last region in Europe to be opened up by the construction of railways . In the 19th century, both peninsulas lay on the economic border areas of Europe, while railway construction in Scandinavia was carried out methodically and peacefully and according to the economic aspects of the region, the Balkan peninsula remained a pledge of imperial designs and national ambitions. The Hungarian railways reached the outer borders of the Austro- Hungarian Empire in Galicia , Transylvania and Croatia after the middle of the 19th century . In addition, there were Serbia, Romania and the Ottoman Empire.

Until 1860, not a kilometer of rail had been built south of the Sava and Danube. It was not until this year that the construction of railways in the Ottoman region began with a branch line in Dobruja and six years later in Bulgaria .

In 1855 the Sultan proposed the construction of a railway line from Constantinople via Sofia to Belgrade. It took 14 years for this proposal to be taken up by Baron Hirsch , a Bavarian financier. He planned a connection between Constantinople and the Austrian railway network. The route was planned bypassing Serbia. From Sofia the route should run west via Niš to Pristina and from there via Novi Pazar and Banja Luka . Sarajevo and the Save should also be connected. The control of the railroad would have been exercised entirely by the major powers neighboring Serbia, who promoted this route from an economic and military point of view. As a company to operate the railway, Baron Hirsch founded the Compagnie des Chemins de fer Orientaux , also known as the Orientbahn in German-speaking countries. The sections between Constantinople and Belovo , about 80 km east of Sofia, and the so-called Sandschakbahn between Banja Luka and Dobrljin were completed by 1874. The difficult terrain and above all the uprising in Herzegovina in 1875 and subsequently the Montenegrin-Ottoman and Serbian-Ottoman war delayed and interrupted further construction. As a result of the war and the Berlin Congress , Serbia was enlarged by areas that were actually on the planned route of Baron Hirsch's Orientbahn and Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Orientbahn only left the already completed sections outside of Serbia and Bosnia.

This time Austria took over the patronage of the railway routing, and the route over the Morava between Niš and Belgrade was chosen , which integrated Serbia into the international railway system. The Serbian section was built by a French private company, which was replaced by the newly founded Serbian State Railways (ŽS) in 1889 after various financial problems . In 1888 the first Orient Express between Vienna and Constantinople started its journey , practically all of Serbia’s exports and imports were carried out on the Budapest-Belgrade route . The Sava railway bridge remained the only permanent connection between Serbia and Austria-Hungary until after the end of the First World War. It made Serbian exports dependent on the railway line. After Austria-Hungary could not persuade Serbia to join a common customs union, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy broke off all talks on January 22, 1906. On January 23, 1906, the import and export of Serbian cattle, meat and poultry were prohibited and all trade privileges were revoked. On January 25, Serbia for its part banned the transport and import of sugar and alcohol from Austria-Hungary, thus accepting the customs war - as the so-called pig war . Serbia now had to redirect its exports in the opposite direction via the port of Thessaloniki. An agreement was reached with the Ottoman port authority on a Serbian free trade zone, where goods were not transported by sea but by rail. A request from Austria-Hungary to the Sublime Porte to stop all exports from Serbia via Thessaloniki was rejected on December 16, 1906.

Austria-Hungary, which in turn was dependent on Serbian territory in transit to the Ottoman Empire, was able to present the concession for route studies in the construction of the Sanjak Railway to bypass the Serbian territory in a speech announced by Alois Lexa von Aehrenthal to the Hungarian delegates on January 27, 1908 , which immediately led to a crisis for the major European powers, as this was seen as an attempt at hegemony on the Balkan Peninsula. Aerenthal's speech to the Hungarian delegations, which turned out to be highly explosive, achieved an echo in foreign policy that was otherwise only characteristic of Bismarck's great foreign policy speeches. Serbia responded immediately with the Danube-Adriatic Railway project to force its own independent Adriatic access via Albania.

Baron Hirsch's route through the Sanjak Novi Pazar was thus not forgotten, it was revived under imperial auspices and Austria-Ungern worked until well into the First World War to connect the Bosnian Eastern Railway with the Ottoman terminus in Kosovska Mitrovica. One of the earliest Ottoman projects was a route from Thessaloniki to Skopje following the Vardar valley. Completed in the early 1870s, it was carried on to Kosovska Mitrovica in Kosovo . At the same time, the northern route between the Hungarian border to Banja Luka and Sarajevo was completed. Despite major topographical obstacles, this could be carried out as a narrow-gauge railway up to the northern border to the Sandschak. Only 160 km separated the end point of the Bosnian Eastern Railway at Uvac and the terminus of the Thessaloniki route at Kosovska Mitrovica. To the north of this still outstanding connection road was Serbia, south of Montenegro. These pursued a competing project in which an Adriatic railway had strategic priority for the Serbian Railways , which aimed to connect Serbia to the Adriatic Sea and Montenegro via the Southeast Dinarides . These competing railway routing projects formed one of the essential diplomatic entanglements between Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire on the one hand and Serbia and Montenegro on the other in the first decade of the 20th century. However, the planned connection of the Ottoman and Bosnian railways was never completed due to the Balkan Wars and the Sanjak was divided between Serbia and Montenegro in 1912.

All in all, economic considerations were never superficial for the construction of the railway lines on the Balkan Peninsula, but strategic considerations for setting them up were always openly presented. Austria-Hungary tried until 1914 to prevent Serbia from establishing an Adriatic connection . At the same time, the own routes between the Danube plain and the Mediterranean were expanded. The Austrian Railways also reached Dubrovnik and the Bay of Kotor . A connection between Belgrade and Kotor remained the dream of the Serbian Railways in the 1890s.

Overall, railway construction on the Balkan Peninsula in the late 19th century is viewed as an example of the economic imperialism of the German Empire and its ally Austria-Hungary. German capital largely financed the Orientbahn, and there was an agreement between Germany and the Ottoman Empire from 1903, which provided for a continuation to Asia Minor as the so-called Baghdad Railway as part of a political project . With its construction, a neutralization of Serbia as an ally of Russia and a close connection of the Ottoman Empire to Germany were thought first.

Kingdom of Serbia

After the Berlin Congress on March 6, 1882, the Kingdom of Serbia, with King Milan I, was proclaimed. The kingdom was the successor state to the Principality of Serbia.

Bosnian crisis

In 1908 Bosnia-Herzegovina was annexed by Austria-Hungary . This led to a serious and dramatic European conflict, the so-called Bosnian annexation crisis: Protest by the Ottoman Empire; Indignation in Serbia, which saw its national plans thwarted and responded with a mobilization ; Russia encountered British resistance in the so-called Straits question (opening of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles ), saw itself as being outplayed by Austria-Hungary and stood behind Serbia; Great Britain now strengthened Russia and called for an international conference to clarify the Bosnian question, which was rejected by Austria-Hungary; Italy spoke out against an expansion of Austria-Hungary's power and in favor of maintaining the status quo in the Balkans; France held back, believing that it was not yet able to cope with a military test of strength; and the German Reich held fast to Austria-Hungary, but rejected the preventive war intentions of the Austrian General Staff for the so-called settlement with Serbia . The German Reich warned Russia against supporting Serbia in the “Petersburg Note”, which was perceived as humiliation, and forced it to act on Serbia to recognize the annexation. However, Russia intended to defend Serbia against any future threats to its independence.

The Bosnian crisis replaced the Macedonia crisis. As early as the 19th century, Macedonia became a Bulgarian-Greek-Serbian controversy. Bulgarian, Greek and Serbian irregulars, the Komitaji , Klephten and Chetniks fought for influence.

Balkan Wars

First Balkan War 1912

In 1912 Russia brokered a Balkan alliance between Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia, which Montenegro also joined. The First Balkan War broke out in October 1912. Macedonia, according to an unofficial agreement, was to be divided between Bulgaria and Serbia. Bulgaria should get the greater part of Macedonia, Serbia the north-west and access to the sea through northern Albania , which should be covered by support from Bulgaria.

The Balkan offensive began on October 17, 1912. The Serbian and Greek armies marched into Macedonia, the Bulgarian army into Thrace . The Montenegrin troops hardly played a role. The Greek army captured Salonika after Serbian forces defeated the Ottoman troops in the battles of Kumanovo (October 24) and Monastir (November 5). The Bulgarian army won at Kirk Kilissa and Lüle Burgas. In November she was already besieging Constantinople.

A peace conference in London at the turn of the year 1912/13 did not produce any results, since the great powers could not find a compromise between their different interests in the region. On January 23, 1913, the Young Turks under Enver Bey seized power in Constantinople and concluded an armistice. Nevertheless, the sieges continued until İşkodra , Janina and Adrianople surrendered.

Second Balkan War 1913

In the dispute over the border in Macedonia, Bulgaria, which overestimated its strength, attacked Serbia in June 1913 in order to create a fait accompli ; the Second Balkan War began. The Bulgarian army was defeated near Bregalnica in Macedonia. Thereupon Greece and Montenegro declared war on Bulgaria, which on July 15, 1913, Romania and the Ottoman Empire also joined. This led to the final military collapse of Bulgaria. Austria-Hungary threatened to intervene in favor of Bulgaria, but was held back by its allies Germany and Italy. In the Treaty of Bucharest on August 10, 1913, what is now North Macedonia became part of Serbia.

First World War

Serbia emerged from the Balkan Wars as a politically strengthened power. This led to tensions with the neighboring European superpower Austria-Hungary , which had annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. As a result of the successes of Serbia and its allies, who had pushed the Ottoman Empire to the edge of Europe, Vienna feared that the next Habsburg Empire would have to reckon with a flare-up of national efforts by its Slavic minorities. Austria-Hungary had scheduled a major maneuver in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the summer of 1914, which the Austrian heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand , was to take over. In the opinion of the British military attaché at the British embassy in Vienna, this should serve as a lesson to Serbia. The maneuver was carried out with a fully armed army, as if a war with Serbia was imminent, in which an attack by Montenegro on the right wing had to be repulsed.

On Vidovdan , Serbia's national holiday on June 28, 1914, the young Serbian student Gavrilo Princip carried out a successful assassination attempt on Franz Ferdinand. Princip was a member of the Bosnian-Serbian revolutionary movement Mlada Bosna , of which up to 20,000 volunteers had fought during the Balkan Wars, but only a small number of them came from the Habsburg monarchy. According to information from the Austrian gendarmerie, a faction of this movement was planning an uprising within the borders of the Habsburg Empire in support of Serbia in the event of war. The volunteers, who had been released since the Balkan Wars, filled the cafes in Belgrade in full combat gear and waited for a confrontation with Austria-Hungary.

In the July crisis that broke out on July 6, the German Reich promised unconditional loyalty to Austria-Hungary ( blanket power of attorney ) in the event of a war with Serbia and Russia. On July 23, Austria-Hungary submitted an ultimatum to Serbia , which must be accepted by the evening of July 25, in which u. a. the fight against the activities directed against Austria-Hungary with Austro-Hungarian participation and punishment of the guilty was called for. The sharply worded ultimatum was designed in such a way that even the German government did not assume that it would be acceptable to any government. Russia declared that it was on the side of Serbia.

The Serbian government accepted most of the ultimatum, but protested against the condition of the restriction of the sovereignty of Serbia in point 6 and decided to partially mobilize the army. Whereupon Austria-Hungary found Serbia's answer to be “unsatisfactory” and also began a partial mobilization.

Despite German and British mediation attempts (proposal for a conference of ambassadors and direct negotiations between Russia and Austria-Hungary), Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28th. Russia's mobilization in support of Serbia triggered a series of mutual ultimatums and declarations of war by the major European powers in the first week of August. With the German invasion of neutral Belgium on August 5th, the irreversible world war broke out. Montenegro was publicly informed of the news of the ultimatum on July 24th. King Nikola then assured Belgrade that he would assist Serbia.


The people of Serbia welcomed the war with the slogan of a holy war for Serbs and Yugoslavs . Serbia was able to raise a large army of 707,000 soldiers with a population of 4,500,000. Initially, however, only 250,000 soldiers marched onto the battlefield: Montenegro first mobilized 38,000, then 45,000 soldiers.

In order to avoid a religious conflict during the war, in which the Catholic Habsburg Empire faced the Orthodox Serb state, a state of emergency was declared, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the anti-Orthodox sentiment of Catholics and Muslims had become increasingly noticeable since the attack. The slogan “Serbia must die” was nevertheless to be found as a leaflet on every table in the cafés in Sarajevo. In the areas of the Habsburg Empire bordering Serbia, a "protective corps" with 11,000 fighters was organized to take punitive measures against the Serbian population. Many civilians from the Serbian population were executed by the Austro-Hungarian army without trial. On August 17, 1914, there was a massacre of residents in the small Serbian town of Šabac . During the first days of the war there were mass executions in numerous northern Serbian places, which were carried out according to plan and on orders from higher authorities. Murders of civilians and arrested Serbs were also carried out in Čelibiči on the Drina. From August 45,000 Serbs of the Habsburg Monarchy were taken to prison camps in Arad alone .

The three armies that Austria-Hungary raised against Serbia included the 5th and 6th Army in Bosnia and parts of the 2nd Army in Syrmia . The Serbian Army was divided into three armies, plus the Užice corpus and the defense of Belgrade. The heir to the throne, Prince Alexander I , assumed the supreme command , the head of the staff was Radomir Putnik , his deputy Živojin Mišić . The Montenegrin army was formally to operate according to an agreed joint plan that Putnik had drawn up.

In three offensives by the Austro-Hungarian army against Serbia in August, September and November / December 1914, the Habsburg Empire tried to overthrow Serbia, which was far weaker in terms of soldiers and resources. The surprising Serbian success in the Battle of Cer from August 16 to 24 was the first Allied victory and revealed the operational problems of the Austrian Army, which at the same time the Balkan campaign of the danger from the mobilization of the Russian army on the eastern front had grown , faced. The 5th and 6th Austro-Hungarian Army were nominally superior to the combined Serbian Army with the armed forces of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Army, but the Austro-Hungarian Army carried out the operation almost exclusively over the impassable mountainous regions of Bosnia. However, there was no adequate transport infrastructure with sufficient supply routes available for this approach, as the Bosnian Eastern Railway , for example, had remained a torso and was not of great operational importance in a major war. For the occupation of the Serbian territories, the commander of the Balkan Army, Oskar Potiorek, had set up special units in the aftermath of the armies to administer the Serbian territories. Police stations at all levels should be headed by Muslim Bosnians. Another plan by Potiorek envisaged resettling Bosnian Muslims in their place after the Serbs had been resettled in the Lower Drina ( Podrinje ).

After the campaign had failed for the time being, Potiorek had to ask the Chief of Staff Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf several times for permission to use part of the 2nd Army. This should mainly be used on the Eastern Front in Galicia and was therefore not fully available to Potiorek. After all, Potiorek was only able to divert part of the 2nd Army for his Balkan Army through the personal influence of Emperor Franz Joseph I.

After the first Austro-Hungarian offensive had been repulsed, the Serbian army undertook a counter-offensive under pressure from the allied allies to relieve the other fronts. So the 1st Serbian Army was ordered to Syrmia , and with the combined forces of the Montenegrin army they penetrated into Bosnia, which prompted Potiorek to take the initiative again from September 6th. The second campaign on the Balkan front was decided in the Battle of the Drina on the Mačkov arrived in the Jagodnja Mountains and ended with heavy losses for both sides. After the second offensive had resulted in a positional war, Potiorek tried to finally subjugate Serbia in the most important offensive on the Balkan front, the Battle of the Kolubara . The advance of the 5th and 6th Armies brought the Serbian army to the brink of defeat. When Živojin Mišić took over the leadership of the 1st Army from the wounded Petar Bojović , he carried out an operational withdrawal to replenish the reserves and ammunition, disregarding an express order from Putnik. Meanwhile, Potiorek's 5th Army was ready to take Belgrade, which was left to the attacker by taking back and shortening the front. In a completely surprising offensive by Mišić for Potiorek, he shocked the Serbian army, which was on the verge of defeat. He led the 1st Serbian Army against the superior 6th Army of Austria-Hungary, which nevertheless had to be withdrawn to the left bank of the Kolubara. Potiorek tried to stop the uncoordinated retreat of the 6th Army by hurriedly bringing the 5th Army back from Belgrade, but it was too late for that as it had been defeated by the 2nd and 3rd Serbian Armies. With that the war in Serbia was decided for the time being. With the victory at the Kolubara, Serbia had gained a greater say in the Allies' war aims .

These war objectives were highlighted in a few key elements. First by Alexander I on August 4th, 1914, then in the circular note of September 4th and finally in the Nišer Declaration of the Serbian Parliament of December 7th, 1914. The aim was to achieve a historical ideal in the union with the "brother peoples" - Serbs, Croats and Slovenes have been defined. An alternative goal of a simple unification of the štokavian-speaking parts of the population into a Greater Serbia was not formulated as a clear goal in any program. Only in black hand circles were there articles that would have advocated such a project. A general plan for a Greater Serbia did not exist, however elements of such a plan were put forward by representatives of foreign governments. Edward Gray sent the Serbian government on May 3, 1915 the note that the Entente victory would enlarge Serbia at least to include Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as a broad access to the Adriatic Sea in Dalmatia. For federation with Croatia, however, the Croatians should make the decision themselves. Ultimately, however, Serbia was only assured that it would have access to the Adriatic, the allied Entente powers did not envisage Greater Serbia. With Frano Supilo , the sculptor Ivan Meštrović and Ante Trumbić, a so-called Yugoslav Committee (Jugoslovenski odbor) was founded for the federal connection of Serbia and Croatia . This grew out of a group of scientists that the Serbian government convened on August 29th ( Ljuba Jovanović , Aleksandar Belić , Jovan Cvijić , Nikola Stojanović , Mirko Laras and Slobodan Jovanović ). On October 27, Nikola Pašić formulated the guidelines of the Yugoslav Committee, which specified a future Yugoslavia or a Serbian-Croatian state as goals. From the outside, the allied Entente powers suggested that Serbia should make territorial concessions to Italy and Bulgaria in order to attract them to the side of the Entente.

The kuk-Balkan armed forces, which numbered around 460,000 men at the beginning of the war, suffered losses of more than 200,000 men (around 30,000 dead and over 170,000 wounded). 70,000 other soldiers were taken prisoner by Serbians. Potiorek, who had defied Conrad's instructions in the Serbian theater of war and planned the campaign in Serbia independently of Conrad in Sarajevo, was blamed for the debacle. He asked for his release after the defeat. After his removal and retirement, he passed on the advice to the successor to the leadership of the Balkan Army, which was to be implemented a year later:

" If you have to attack Serbia again, only do it at Belgrade "

The way to advance to Serbia via the Danube and Sava was finally implemented for the 1915 campaign in the AOK under Erich von Falkenhayn and Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf in the operational plan for autumn. First, however, Bulgaria was won as an ally for the new attack on Serbia.

The first Austro-Hungarian offensives in particular were accompanied by serious attacks against the Serbian civilian population. In addition, epidemics had broken out in the country, which decimated the civilian population and army from 1915 onwards. The army lacked almost everything, the defensive battle had worn out many resources and war material. They even used the uniforms of fallen opponents. Almost everyone who could hold a weapon was at the front, even women became soldiers.


Memorial to the Germans who fell in 1915, Košutnjak, Belgrade

The Entente Powers demanded a relief offensive against Bosnia from Serbia in order to give Russia air and to strengthen the second front against Austria-Hungary. Instead, the Serbs occupied Albania, which had practically fallen back into anarchy, in July 1915, allegedly to forestall Italian ambitions, but also to gain its own access to the sea. Britain and France sent weapons and supplies to strengthen the Serbian army for an upcoming offensive.

On September 7, Bulgaria signed the treaty of the alliance with the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary and the German Empire). On October 6, the German high command, under the leadership of Field Marshal August von Mackensen, ordered a joint offensive by Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria . The main blow this time took place over the Danube and Save near Belgrade and Smederevo.

Army Group Mackensen and the Bulgarian 2nd Army totaled 350 battalions and 1,400 artillery pieces, the Serbian army was able to counter 275 battalions and 654 cannons. On the Sava-Danube front and on the Drina there were 143 battalions and 362 cannons of the Serbs facing 202 battalions and 990 cannons of the allied Central Powers. The defense of Belgrade was commanded by Mihailo Živković , for the 20 battalions and 75 cannons against 66 battalions and 273 guns (including 108 heavy) of the Kövess army .

With the breakthrough of the Bulgarian army in the Morava-Vardar furrow , Serbia was cut off from the French and British expedition armies in Thessaloniki and threatened to be completely enclosed. None of the Entente powers allied with Serbia had massively intervened. The Serbian armies had to retreat in spite of heavy resistance. Only by completely evacuating the government and the remaining army towards the southwest did the Serbian armed forces escape encirclement and total annihilation. The remnants gathered in Kosovo numbered only 300,000 soldiers, not even a third of the total strength before the start of the opposing offensive, but complained of countless refugees. Without care or rest, the Serbs retreated through impassable mountains in wintry weather under the most difficult conditions to the Ionian Sea . As a result of hunger, epidemics, enemy attacks and attacks by Albanian partisans, many of the refugees, civilians and soldiers, died.

A comprehensive plan of operations for the capture of Montenegro by the Austro-Hungarian army was carried out in parallel with the offensive on Serbia. The Montenegrin army was defeated in the battle of Mojkovac from 6/7. January 1916 the breakthrough of two Austrian divisions, the 62nd and 53rd, fought back over the Tara . This secured the crossing of the Prokletije and the march through Albania over the mountain barrier until the last Serbian units withdrew. While the Austro-Hungarian army, with the difficult terrain and winter weather, could only provide insufficient supplies for the operation in Montenegro, the remnants of the Serbian army had gathered west of Andrijevica and near Plav and were marching against Scutari and the northern Albanian coastal plain. Without further backing from Serbia, however, the resistance of Montenegro soon collapsed, which opened the advance of the Central Powers to Albania with the collapse of the Montenegrin army on January 25, 1916. After the Allies began to build a bridgehead in Durrës and Vlora, first with ships from the Italian fleet and subsequently the French fleet, a rescue was within reach for the Serbian army and the government evacuated with it. The advance of the Central Powers through northern Albania was hindered by the bad weather and the pathless country, so that the Serbs escaped their grasp. Shkodra reached 185,930 soldiers. Due to disagreement about the evacuation to Corfu , this number decreased, Valona still reached 150,000, a third of the operational strength of 1914. Even after the evacuation of the Serbian army and the Serbian government to Corfu, many died as a result of the hardships while fleeing. This loss-making retreat went down in Serbian historiography as the “ Golgota of Serbia”. Until August 5, 1916, the main force of the Serbian forces was brought to the Salonika Front. These were joined by 65,000 French and 85,000 British with an Italian division and a Russian brigade.

By December 1915, Austro-Hungarian, German and Bulgarian troops occupied all of Serbia. Divided between Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary, a general military government was established with a governor and a civil commissioner at its head. The administration was made up primarily of Hungarians and radical Croatian Frankovci . Police power fell almost exclusively to Bosnian Muslims. The overwhelming majority of the Serbian population thus eked out their existence as an occupied society and no longer took part in public life.


Chapel for the bones of the fallen World War II soldiers on Kajmakčalan; At Archibald Reiss's request , the urn with the heart of the forensic scientist is kept here.

In 1916 the Serbian army was reorganized with the support of France and Great Britain (four Serbian divisions and one "Yugoslav" volunteer division, mostly Serbs from Austria-Hungary and emigrants) and deployed on the Salonika front. Despite the heavy losses suffered, the Serbian army, due to its successful evacuation, had remained a factor to be taken seriously by the Central Powers. The Entente allies reckoned that the Central Powers would therefore have to put 23 divisions on the Salonika front. The 300,000 soldiers of the Entente were faced with 350,000 Bulgarian and German soldiers. That number increased even further later. After problems arose on the Entente side when Romania entered the country, the Bulgarians attacked across the Greek border. The Serbian army therefore had to take over the main task of offensive movements at the front between September 12 and November 19, 1916. After Živojin Mišić had been ordered back to the General Staff and now also took over its leadership, the Kajmakčalan Summit was held between September 12th and 30th, 1916. Securing the border mountains opened in Bitola offensive (Engl. Monastir offensive) the eventual taking Bitolas , which the Serbian army for the first time was back on home soil on 18 November 1916.


The main historical event of the year was the Russian Revolution of March 7, 1917, which led to many secret and public proposals to end the war between the warring states. A wave of democratic aspirations began to reach parts of the Habsburg monarchy. The wind of the collapse of the old regimes created a new ray of hope for the smaller peoples. Due to these global changes, the Serbian government also attempted an internal reorganization. Members of the officers' group of the Black Hand, including their leader, Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević , known as “Apis”, were allegedly suspected of an attack against the Serbian heir to the throne Alexander, and three officers and Apis were sentenced to death by a military court. In addition to the fact that this was done because of the desire for a separate peace with the Central Powers, by eliminating the main representative of a radical anti-Austrian policy and a small group of officers who were significantly involved in the 1914 attack, Serbian research is the most likely factor in eliminating the influential Russophile officer element seen. The Russophiles had thus been robbed of their powerful inner circle in the Serbian army, the further domestic political influence of Russia took place from now on through the adoption of social ideologies and the Republican Party.

In occupied Serbia, insurgents put up fierce resistance with partisan actions, which the occupiers in turn retaliated with atrocities. In February 1917, a popular uprising broke out in Toplica, which then spread to Niš, Aleksinac and the Timok Valley. 15,000 farmers took part in the uprising. When it was crushed by the Bulgarian army, around 20,000 residents were killed. Villages were razed to the ground. German and Austro-Hungarian units helped with the company.

Talks between the Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Pašić and Ante Trumbić as a representative of the Yugoslav Committee in Corfu led to the declaration of Corfu on July 20, 1917 about the intention to form the later Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes .

1918 and the end of the war

Fearing that the Serbian army under foreign command in a secondary theater of war would no longer be involved in the main fighting, whereby the own fate would be decided by foreign powers, the Serbian generals called for a general change of strategy to end the world war. It demanded that the smaller opponents must be eliminated first and then proceed against the larger ones. Even the Serbian regent wrote two memoranda to the British king on this. After the great German spring offensive on Paris in 1918 , the allies began to take seriously this idea, which was initially considered nonsensical. The French general Franchet d'Esperey was appointed the new commander of the Allied Orient Army on the Salonika Front. He gave the Serbian army the main task for the planned breakthrough. For this purpose, Živojin Mišić had two Serbian armies, as well as the support of a volunteer contingent of soldiers from the southern Slavic countries of the Danube Monarchy. Half of the French army consisted of soldiers from the colonial areas, a Moroccan cavalry regiment formed the main element for a deep advance. 180,000 French, 150,000 Serb, 135,000 Greek, 120,000 British and 42,000 Italian soldiers as well as 1,000 Albanian volunteers under Esad Pasha were posted. D'Esperey had concentrated most of the troops on a line 33 kilometers wide. On September 14th, the end of the World War began on the Salonika Front with an artillery attack on the trenches of the Central Powers. After the 2nd Serbian Army was able to successfully break through the Salonika Front the next day, the defenders began to disintegrate. The long march to Belgrade lasted 46 days and the capital was captured on November 1, 1918.

Consequences of war

The Serbian soldiers made up around 8% of the Entente victims.

The reconquest of Serbia and the place on the side of the victorious powers of the First World War enabled Serbia to found the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on December 1, 1918 , which from 1929 was to be called Yugoslavia . On November 25th, the Vojvodina People's Assembly decided to unite with Serbia; on November 29th followed the National Assembly of Montenegro . In addition, Serbia received areas in the east ( Caribrod , Bosilegrad , Strumica ), which Bulgaria had to cede as the loser of the First World War.

The Kingdom of Serbia had around 4.5 million inhabitants at the beginning of 1914. According to Serbian sources, around 1.1 million people or 24% of the kingdom's total population died in the four years of the war. An estimated 60,000 civilians have been executed and up to 400,000 more have died from epidemics, cold, famine and disease; many of them on the lossy retreat to the Adriatic. Along with Montenegro, Serbia suffered the proportionally largest losses: around 130,000 of 700,000 soldiers died. Overall, Serbia lost around 540,000 people, around 11%, and Montenegro even 16% of its population due to the war.

The country itself had been plundered during the war years and its economy destroyed. The losses incurred in this way made up about half of the Serbian national wealth. In order to alleviate the hardship, rigorous seizures of food and other vital resources were carried out in the new Yugoslav countries that had been spared from the war, which led to the first crises of the new Yugoslav state.

Serbia in the First Yugoslavia

Kingdom of Yugoslavia 1929

At the end of the First World War, Austria-Hungary was dissolved and the state structure in Central and Eastern Europe was completely reorganized.

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes emerged in 1918 from Serbia, the previously independent Montenegro and most of Austria-Hungary's southern Slavic settlements .

The territory of Yugoslavia was reorganized into nine banks. The borders of the banks did not correspond to the borders that had been in effect until then. Their names were derived from the rivers through which they flowed (with the exception of the Primorska Banovina (Banschaft coastal area) , it was located by the sea and therefore got its name).

Before the First World War, the territory of Serbia in the new state was divided into five banovines ( Vardar , Morava , Zeta , Drina , Danube). The Banovina Vrbas (Banschaft Vrbas) , mostly populated by Serbs , was also regarded as a Serbian Banschaft after the First World War.

Second World War

Serbia and Banat in 1941–1944

After the rapid victory of the Axis powers over the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the Balkan campaign , the country was divided into ten parts with different legal status. Serbia, consisting of old Serbia (the former territory of Serbia within the borders of 1912, excluding Macedonia) and the West Banat, with a total of around 4.5 million inhabitants, was declared an exclusively German zone of influence due to its economic importance and placed under military administration. The German Reich then installed a collaboration government in Serbia. General Milan Nedić , who was ideologically close to fascism and who had been defense minister in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, proclaimed the state of Serbia on September 1, 1941.

On July 4, 1941, Tito proclaimed the "general uprising" and set up partisan units , which in Serbia faced insufficient German occupation forces.

A large part of the Zbor national movement under Dimitrije Ljotić and its military association Serbian Volunteer Corps ( Srpski dobrovoljački korpus , SDK) collaborated with the German occupiers.

When Soviet troops pushed forward to Serbia's borders, the Nedić government was dissolved on October 4, 1944. On October 20, 1944, Belgrade was taken jointly by Tito partisans and the Red Army . A small number of the “ethnic Germans” living in Serbia had already been evacuated from the area beforehand .

Serbia in socialist Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia 1944–1991

During the second general assembly of the “ Anti-Fascist Council for National Liberation of Yugoslavia ” ( AVNOJ ) with 142 delegates on November 21-29 , 1943 in Jajce , Bosnia , the basic framework for the future federal socialist Yugoslav state of peoples and republics with equal rights was laid.

The Socialist Republic of Serbia became one of six constituent republics in Yugoslavia. The southern Serbian region of Macedonia was separated from Serbia and received the status of an independent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Montenegro also got the status of an independent republic. Two autonomous provinces were established within the Republic of Serbia: Vojvodina (with a Hungarian minority) in the north and Kosovo i Metohija (with an Albanian majority) in the south . The Baranja (now part of Croatia) was taken from Vojvodina, in return it received most of Syrmia , which was mainly populated by Serbs (previously part of Slavonia ). With this division of Serbia, the Yugoslav communists tried to keep the balance between Serbia and the rest of the republics. Serbia was politically weakened.

Yugoslav Wars (1991–1995) and Kosovo War (1998–1999)

In 1987, in the SANU memorandum, Serbian intellectuals demand an end to the so-called "discrimination against the Serbian people". The memorandum propagates, among other things, a “genocide” against the Serbian people in Kosovo and an anti-Serbian conspiracy by Croatia and Slovenia against Serbia. Intellectuals and politicians of the other peoples of Yugoslavia responded to the demand from Belgrade with their own national programs. An increasingly poisoned atmosphere spread among the participating States. In connection with the political upheavals in the other socialist states of Eastern Europe in 1989/1990, new parties were formed in Yugoslavia and in 1990 there were first free elections in some republics, which were mostly won by nationalist parties. Protests broke out in Serbia on March 9, 1991. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets for four days and protested against the Milošević regime under the leadership of Vuk Drašković's party . On June 25, 1991 Slovenia and Croatia initially proclaimed their independence, which the Belgrade leadership viewed as a breach of the constitution. The Yugoslav central government, which was dominated by the Serbs, tried to militarily overthrow the aspirations for independence in order to preserve the state.

The ten day war in Slovenia

On June 25, 1991, Slovenia broke away from the Yugoslavia confederation and declared its independence, which triggered a military intervention by the Yugoslav People's Army. In the so-called 10-day war , however, an occupation of the country by the army was prevented by relatively well-organized resistance. There were only minor skirmishes between Slovenian police officers and Yugoslav soldiers, especially at international border crossings, when the Slovenian national police took control there. Therefore, there was no significant destruction, which favored the development of the Slovenian economy after independence. The danger of a civil war like the one taking place in other parts of Yugoslavia never existed, since the Slovenian population, apart from smaller minorities, consists almost exclusively of Slovenes . With the mediation of the UN and the Austrian government, a compromise was finally reached: Slovenia was supposed to suspend its independence for a period of three months and during this time the soldiers there who were doing their military service in Slovenia had to withdraw. Both sides adhered to the agreement, and so on October 8, 1991 the independence of the Republic of Slovenia came into effect. While the acts of war in Slovenia ceased after a short time and Slovenia became independent, a civil war broke out in Croatia.

War in Croatia

Croatia declared its independence on October 8, 1991. Militant Serbs and the Yugoslav People's Army then established the so-called Serbian Autonomous Province of Krajina (SAO Krajina). This included parts of Croatia from which Croatians were forcibly expelled. Belgrade's support for the Krajina Serbs has been sanctioned by the Security Council of the United Nations and the European Community since 1991, as it was assumed worldwide that Serbia wanted to combine the Republic of Serbian Krajina with the Republika Srpska with Serbia to form a Greater Serbia in this way .

It came to the Croatian war , which was finally ended with the military action ( Oluja / Sturm) under the leadership of Ante Gotovina . In the course of this, a large part of the local Serbian population fled or was expelled.

Kosovo War

At the instigation of the Serbian President Slobodan Milošević , the Serbian parliament decided in the context of the anti-bureaucratic revolution in 1989 to revoke the status of Kosovo as an autonomous province. Ethnic unrest followed in Kosovo, resulting in several dozen deaths on both sides. The Albanians first reacted with a peaceful total boycott, but when Ibrahim Rugova, elected leader of the Kosovar Albanians in 1992, failed to internationalize the problems in Kosovo even after the Dayton Agreement, and the Serbian pressure in Kosovo increased, the 1997 emerged Ushtria Çlirimtare Kosovës ( UÇK , Kosovo Liberation Army ) also publicly.

The international community of states initially classified the KLA as a terrorist organization. However, the United States very quickly initiated appropriate negotiations for arms purchases. As a result, the KLA gained control over several areas of Kosovo. The fighting between the various Serbian units and the UÇK, and above all the NATO attacks, ultimately led to more than 500,000 residents fleeing and seeking protection first in nearby Serbia, Macedonia or Albania, then partly in Western Europe.

In the spring of 1999, NATO air strikes finally forced Slobodan Milošević to give in. The withdrawal of the Serbian army ended the bloody clashes in Kosovo, which by then had already killed thousands of people. Kosovo became a temporary protectorate of the UN .


In the presidential election on September 24, 2000 Vojislav Koštunica was elected President of Yugoslavia. Milošević had initially declared himself the election winner, but had to admit defeat after several days of strikes, demonstrations by the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and the occupation of parliament on October 5. In the parliamentary elections in December 2000, the DOS won a two-thirds majority in parliament. In January 2001 Zoran Đinđić was elected as the new Prime Minister. This led u. a. on the fact that Slobodan Milošević was extradited on June 29, 2001 to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. On March 12, 2003, Đinđić was murdered on the street by assassins from the ranks of the former " Red Berets " .

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Confederation of Serbia and Montenegro

Serbia as an independent state (with Kosovo)

After the other republics of old Yugoslavia had declared their independence, Serbia and Montenegro merged in 1992 to form the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia . This existed until 2003, since then these two republics have formed the state union of Serbia and Montenegro, the dissolution of which was initiated on May 21, 2006 by the Montenegrin independence referendum . Montenegro then declared its formal independence by a parliamentary resolution on June 3, 2006, Serbia followed on June 5 with a declaration of independence, also by a parliamentary resolution.

Republic of Serbia

The Prime Minister of Serbia has been Ana Brnabić since 2017. Her predecessors were Aleksandar Vučić (2014–2017), Ivica Dačić (2012–2014), Mirko Cvetković (2008–2012) and Vojislav Koštunica (2004–2008). From 2004 to 2012, the state president was the liberal, Europe-facing reformer Boris Tadić .

The nationalist SRS party of the alleged war criminal Vojislav Šešelj won the most seats in the parliamentary elections in December 2003 with around 27 percent of the vote. However, it remained in the opposition as the democratic and liberal parties formed an alliance and government. This remained so even after the 2007 parliamentary elections .

In the 2012 elections, Tadić lost to his rival Tomislav Nikolić , who held the office of president until 2017. In the 2017 elections , Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, who has been in office since April 2014, was elected as his successor .

Consequences of Kosovo's declaration of independence

After long and unsuccessful negotiations, the Kosovo parliament decided on February 17, 2008 to unilaterally proclaim the independence of the province. Serbia does not recognize this decision and invokes Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council from 1999, according to which Kosovo is part of the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under UN administration. A new resolution was not passed because Russia had announced its veto. After several EU states officially recognized Kosovo, the governing coalition finally broke up in the dispute over relations with the European Union , which led to new elections .

On the way to the EU

Since democratization in 2000, Serbia has made greater efforts to integrate into the European Union. Negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) began in November 2005. Full cooperation between Serbia and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague is also called for. In the meantime, the negotiations were suspended because it was suspected that the two wanted war criminals Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić were covered by the government. The negotiations only continued after the new government was formed in 2007. In July 2008 Radovan Karadžić was arrested and extradited to the ICTY. Serbia unilaterally ratified the provisional Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU in September 2008, as the Netherlands opposed ratification by the EU. On December 7, 2009, the EU foreign ministers approved an interim agreement on trade facilitation with Serbia. The most far-reaching change in the relationship between the EU and Serbia was the travel facilitation for Serbian citizens who came into effect on December 19, 2009 and who have since been able to travel to the EU without a visa.

The Serbian government applied for membership in the European Union on December 22, 2009 and has been an official candidate for membership since March 1, 2012 . Accession negotiations began on January 21, 2014.

See also


Web links

Commons : History of Serbia  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Sima Ćirković : Serbia and Montenegro: Historical Geography . Lukan, Walter (Ed.) - Österreichische Osthefte, Österreichisches Ost- und Südosteuropa-Institut, Vienna, Vol. 47 (2006), pp. 123-132. ISBN 3-8258-9539-4 .
  2. a b Sima Ćirković 2006: p. 123
  3. Vlada Stankovic: Putovanja kroz vizantiju . Službeni Glasnik, Biblioteka Sabornik, Belgrade 2014, ISBN 978-86-519-1804-2 , p.
  4. a b Vlada Stanković: Putovanja kroz vizantiju. P. 277
  5. a b c Sima Ćirković 2006: p. 124.
  6. Milorad Ekmečić : Dugo kretanje između kljanja i oranja - Istorija srba u novom veku (1492–1992) . Zavod za uđbenike, Belgrade 2008, p. 2.
  7. a b Sima Ćirković: The Serbs . Blackwell, 2004, p. 54.
  8. a b c Sima Ćirković: The Serbs . Blackwell, 2004, p. 55.
  9. a b Sima Ćirković: The Serbs . Blackwell, 2004, p. 58.
  10. ^ Slobodan Ćurčić : Religious Settings of the Late Byzantine Sphere . In: Helen C. Evans (Ed.): Byzantium. Faith and Power (1261-1557). Yale University Press, New Haven CT et al. 2004, ISBN 0-300-10278-X , p. 67.
  11. ^ Slobodan Ćurčić: Gračanica. King Milutin's church and its place in Late Byzantine architecture. University Park, London 1979, ISBN 0-271-00218-2 .
  12. ^ Slobodan Ćurčić: Gračanica. King Milutin's church and its place in Late Byzantine architecture. University Park, London 1979, ISBN 0-271-00218-2 , p. 71.
  13. ^ Slobodan Ćurčić, 2010: Architecture in the Balkans from Diocletian to Süleyman the Magnificent. Yale University Press, New Haven (Conn.) 2010, ISBN 978-0-300-11570-3 .
  14. Svetozar Radojčić, 1971: Ideja savršenog gradu uu državi kneza Lazara i despota Stefana Lazareviča ( Memento of the original from October 5, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 929 kB). In: Zograf, Vol. 32, 5–12, Belgrade 2008.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / scindeks-clanci.ceon.rs
  15. ^ Jovan Cvijić, 1918: La péninsule balkanique. Geography Humaine, Paris 1918 (Reprint: Hannover 2006, ISBN 978-3-939659-32-7 ).
  16. Sima Ćirković: The Serbs . Blackwell, 2004. p. 53.
  17. ibid. Svetozar Radojčić, 1971: p. 6.
  18. Gordana Babić-Đorđević, Vojislav Đurić: Istorija srpskog naroda Druga Knjiga . Belgrade 1982.
  19. Sima Ćirković: The Serbs . Blackwell, 2004, p. 93.
  20. a b Sima Ćirković: The Serbs . Blackwell, 2004, p. 94.
  21. Sima Ćirković: The Serbs . Blackwell, 2004. p. 95.
  22. Norman JG Pounds, 1985. A historical geography of Europe 1800-1914 . Historical Geography of Europe, 3, 457-460, Cambridge University Press.
  23. Norman JG Pounds 1985, ibid. 457
  24. a b c d e f g Norman JG Pounds 1985, ibid. 458
  25. ^ Herbert Feis, 1930. Europe the World's Banker 1870–1914 . Council of Foreign Relations, pp. 293, New Haven Connecticut.
  26. ^ Jezdimir C. Nikolić: Istorija Železnica Srbije, Vojvodine, Crne Gore i Kosova . Zavod za novinsko-izdavačku i propagandnu delatnost JŽ. Beograd 1980, p. 192
  27. Jezdimir C. Nikolić (1980), pp. 192-193
  28. ^ Norman JG Pounds: An Historical Geography of Europe - Abriged Version . Cambridge University Press, University of Indiana 1990, here p. 436
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