Greater Serbia

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Greater Serbia (blue) within the limits still sought by the Serbian Radical Party today

Greater Serbia ( Serbian Велика Србија Velika Srbija ) describes a theoretical state structure that was strived for by some nationalist groups in Serbian history and is still the political goal of the Serbian Radical Party today.

All Serbs should be united in a single, independent state, which should encompass all Serbian settlement areas, including those in which the Serbs were in the minority. There were different views as to which population groups should be counted among the Serbs based on their origin, denomination or language. This political idea arose in the 19th century and was mainly nourished by ethnic majority ideas, which in turn can be traced back to the fact that the ethnic group of Serbs in the 20th century made up the relative majority of the population within the former Yugoslavia as a whole.

The name Greater Serbia was mentioned frequently during the Yugoslav Wars. Most of the Serbian groups who were targeted for “Greater Serbia” did not use this word themselves. It is also controversial to what extent there is a substantive identity or political continuity between the political endeavors summarized under this term.

Geographical expansion

Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag line

The western border of Greater Serbia is mostly drawn along the geographical line along the Croatian cities of Virovitica , Karlovac and Karlobag . The areas to the east of this line are therefore Greater Serbia, while areas to the west of it are left to Croatia and Slovenia .

The Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag line was also taken up by the Chetnik officer Stevan Moljević . In the 1990s this line was often described by Vojislav Šešelj as the “western border of Greater Serbia”, whose Serbian Radical Party still regards drawing along this line as a strategic goal.

Mythological background

Several rulers of medieval Serbia, such as Lazar Hrebeljanović , Stefan Nemanja and Rastko Nemanjić ( Sava of Serbia ) were from the Orthodox Church to the Holy explained. In this respect, the kings were viewed as emissaries for a "chosen people". About two years before the outbreak of the wars in Yugoslavia , the remains of the Serbian King Lazar Hrebeljanović were carried through the country to mass events as part of the preparations for the 600th anniversary of the Battle of the Blackbird Field.

The Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić took the view that all Slavs who speak a štokavian dialect are Serbs and speak the Serbian language . According to this definition, large parts of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina would be Serbian settlement areas, and the Croats and Bosniaks living there would be Serbs. According to Karadžić's linguistic definition of the Serbian nation, however, the Torlak- speaking inhabitants of southern Serbia would not be Serbs. This view is called linguistic panserbism .

Historical background

First mention

Đorđe Branković (1645–1711)

The oldest source about the goal of forming a Greater Serbia dates back to 1683. Đorđe Branković , a Transylvanian envoy and count, made a written offer to the Habsburgs during the Second Turkish Siege of Vienna , which included the liberation and unification of all Serbian lands would prevent the further expansion of the Ottoman Empire towards Central Europe. The program of the unification of all Serbian lands suited the Habsburgs, as they had been encircled by the Ottomans. With the victory of the Holy Roman Empire and its allies over the Ottomans, the plan fell into oblivion. The Habsburgs no longer pursued the goal of creating a large Serbian state, as they were no longer threatened by the Ottomans. Rather, they wanted to rule over the entire Balkans . Đorđe Branković was at this time despot of Banates , Syrmia and Herzegovina under Leopold I. When the Habsburgs penetrated deep into the Serbian hinterland in the Great Turkish War 1683–1699, he called on the Serbs to fight for freedom against the Ottomans, with him as their prince . This did not coincide with the state interests of Austria , which is why the military commanders were ordered to arrest him and bring him to Vienna. In Vienna, Branković was imprisoned under constant surveillance in the inn "To the Golden Bear" until 1702, after which he was transferred to Eger in Bohemia , where he died in 1711.

Early 19th century

In 1807, the Montenegrin prince-bishop Petar I wrote to the Russian tsar Alexander I to support the Serbian efforts for freedom against the Ottomans and to proclaim a Serbian tsarist empire that would include Montenegro, Dalmatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, with him, Alexander, as Serbian Tsars.

Miloš Milojević's map of Greater Serbia

In the rebellious Serbia under Karađorđe , the minister (and Austrian agent) Ivan Jugović formulated the project of the future Serbian state in 1808. This Serbian state should include central Serbia , Kosovo , Bosnia, Herzegovina and Montenegro.

Ilija Garašanin and his plans

Serbia during the reign of Stefan Uroš IV. Dušan (1350). According to Garašanin, Serbia had to take this goal as a model for its existence

Ilija Garašanin (1821–1875), from 1843 to 1854 Minister of the Interior of the then Principality of Serbia under Aleksandar Karađorđević , is considered to be the intellectual creator of the idea of ​​creating Greater Serbia. On the other hand, in Garašanin you can also see the first Serbian exponent of the Yugoslav idea. Inspired by the ideas of the conservative pan-Slavic Polish emigrant Adam Jerzy Czartoryski , he wrote his treatise Conseils sur la conduite à suivre par la Serbie in early 1844 . Supported by the conception of French diplomacy at the time to solve the “south-east European question”, he wrote the Načertanije work at the end of 1844 , Serbia's first foreign policy program, which is seen by many as the beginning of the Greater Serbian program.

Serbia has already started its development happily and will have to take the Serbian kingdom from the 13th and 14th centuries as a model as the basis of its existence. It is our duty now to excavate the foundations and walls of the former Serbian Empire and to place our future under the protection of historical law. (Ilija Garašanin)

Garašanin described in the secret document Načertanije (“program”) a scenario for the unification of all Serbs (including most of the other southern Slavs defined by Garašanin as Serbs - for example, the Croatians in Dalmatia were considered by him to be “Serbs of the Catholic faith”) the only Pan-Slavic state after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the pushing back of Austria from the Balkans. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Europe, a further expansion of the Habsburg monarchy into these areas was to be prevented.

The basic message of this memorandum was that the young but small Serbian state, at that time still an autonomous principality within the Ottoman Empire, encircled between the empires of the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, would have no chance of survival in the long term. The only way out is the "annihilation" of these two empires and the liberation and unification of the southern Slavs. The then still under Ottoman rule Bosnia , Herzegovina , Montenegro , South Serbia , Sandschak , North Albania , Southwest Bulgaria , Dalmatia, Croatia and Slovenia should form an indivisible unit, because these areas with peoples of "almost the same tribe" are populated.

This first written program of Serbian foreign policy was supported at the time by the French and British governments in order to counter a possible Russian expansion as far as the Mediterranean .

However, Garašanin's ideas were not violent and did not call for terrorist methods to expand the Serbian idea.

The black hand

Under the leadership of Dragutin Dimitrijević Apis, the secret organization Black Hand became a terrorist movement: Under the motto “Ujedinjenje ili smrt” (unification or death), this organization was behind the murder of the Habsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the assassination attempt in Sarajevo , which started the First World War triggered. The main objective of this organization was to territorially unite all areas where Serbs lived with the Kingdom of Serbia . This expansionist objective referred to the parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia that were then part of Austria-Hungary .

London treaty

The pan-serbism declared the western Bulgarian dialects to Serbian

The London Treaty of 1915 was a secret treaty between Italy on the one hand and the Allied Powers ( Great Britain , France and Russia) on the other hand, which was concluded in London on April 26, 1915 . The treaty said that Italy should get northern and central Dalmatia with the offshore islands up to the coast at Cape Planka . “Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro” should be the port city of Rijeka with the island of Krk , Sv. Grgur , Prvić , Goli otok and Rab , as well as “areas of interest to Serbia and Montenegro”, v. a. get south of Cape Planka (with Trogir and Split ) to Ulcinj . Furthermore, Bosnia and western Herzegovina should be awarded to Serbia, southern Dalmatia with Dubrovnik and eastern Herzegovina to Montenegro. In the north Serbia should get the Batschka and Srem, while in the Banat Serbia and Romania should come to an understanding alone. In the event of an occupation of Albania by Italy, northern Albania should also be divided between Serbia and Montenegro. Since the Allies tried to get Bulgaria on their side, Serbia was promised Slavonia as compensation should it renounce Macedonia in favor of Bulgaria.

Borders of Serbia without Croatia

The President of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts Jovan Žujović , who was the envoy of the Serbian government in Paris , had the task of making propaganda in powerful Parisian circles for the creation of a South Slav state. On May 27, 1915, envoys demanded that he deposit the "borders of the Serbian countries excluding Croatia":

"We should be awarded the flat, but also the mountainous Romanian Banat," said Jovan Žujović.

For the Croatian coastal country he said:

"Well, Italy can keep the coastal land up to Šibenik , but the rest, that must become Serbian land."

To the offer to get part of Albania, he replied:

“We are not imperialists! But if you want to give it to us, go ahead. But we love our Serbian Dalmatia. "

A lot of French people said:

"Do not worry. You will also get Bosnia and Herzegovina. These countries are more Serbian than Alsace and Lorraine are French. "

Serbia or Yugoslavia

Just one day after the signing of the London Treaty, the Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić repeated his plans for the unification of all South Slavic countries on the basis of the Niš Declaration in a session of the National Assembly of Serbia . On May 5, 1915, he asked the Entente to guarantee the founding of a South Slav state. From the talks with Italy, which followed shortly after the demand and quickly ended unsuccessfully, Pašić learned that the Russians wanted to found two South Slavic states: one Catholic from the Croatian and Slovenian countries and a second Orthodox from the expansion of Serbia and Montenegro.

The Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Sazonov guaranteed the Serbs that:

Serbia will get the largest area and part of the coastal land, because they have to mourn a large part of the victims and must have gone through most of them.

The British Foreign Minister Sir Edward Gray also spoke out in favor of an enlargement of Serbia:

The Entente victory will guarantee Serbia the liberation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its unification with Serbia and a great exit to the Adriatic Sea in Dalmatia.

Sergei Sazonov will not change his mind until the end of his political career:

Has anyone, he spoke to Serbian intellectuals, ever doubted that Bosnia and Herzegovina was a Serbian country? Therefore the war cannot end without Serbia getting Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbia has been looking for an exit to the Adriatic and it will get the Adriatic with the old Split! So Serbia will be able to develop happier and more satisfied ... I cannot guarantee you anything about the Croats and Slovenes. They are fighting against us and I tell you: If the Russian people had to fight with guns for only half a day to free the Slovenes, I would not give up! Šibenik and Zadar have been under Italian rule for too long and it cannot be said that Italy has a right to them!

Relocation program

On March 7, 1937, Vasa Čubrilović (* 1897; † 1990), then a professor at the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Belgrade , presented the government with a confidential memorandum entitled Iseljavanje Arnauta (" Resettlement of the Albanians "), in which he detailed plans for the systematic resettlement of all Albanians from today's area of ​​Kosovo.

Čubrilović was considered a supporter of Ilija Garašanin's ideas and recommended in his memorandum the mass resettlement of the Albanian population of Kosovo to Albania and Turkey , since all efforts to reduce the number of Albanians through colonization had so far remained ineffective. To implement this plan, his memorandum envisaged drastic measures (which were rejected by the Belgrade government), for example fines and imprisonment, non-recognition of old land register extracts, suspension of concessions as well as professional bans and dismissals - but those Albanians who were resettled in the Turkey agrees, the state should, in his opinion, give generous support.

In 1938 the government in Belgrade concluded an agreement with the Turkish government (based on the model of the Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923) on the resettlement of 40,000 families classified as "Turkish" (according to today's name: Muslim) families to Turkey after the outbreak of World War II was no longer implemented.

Second World War

Moljević's draft of a future Yugoslavia (1941) with a Greater Serbia (blue), Croatia (yellow) and Slovenia (red)

During the Second World War , the mostly royalist Chetnik troops fought under the leadership of Draža Mihailović for the liberation or renewal of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. One of the political activists among Mihajlović's supporters, Stevan Moljević , published in his 1941 paper “Homogeneous Serbia” that “a great Serbia should be created, not only Bosnia-Herzegovina and most of Croatia, but also parts of Hungary , Bulgaria and Romania should include ”. This Greater Serbia would also have been part of Greater Yugoslavia with a greatly enlarged Slovenia at the expense of Austria and Croatia.

Moljević's ideas were not implemented, however, as the Allies began to support the Tito partisans , whom they ultimately recognized as the only legitimate representatives of Yugoslavia at the Tehran Conference in late 1943.

Moljević's cartographic excursions, however, have been counted as part of the modern Serbian nationalist repertoire to this day. This also applies to the program of the Serbian Radical Party .

The 1990s

Vuk Drašković's Greater Serbia Plan.

In 1986, the Serbian Academy of Sciences (SANU) prepared an internal, 74-page Sanu memorandum (see English translation ( Memento of February 9, 2008 in the Internet Archive )), written by key figures at the Academy under the direction of Dobrica Ćosić , one of the then leading figure in Serbian domestic, foreign, cultural and scientific policy.

This document can be interpreted as the new programmatic draft of a Greater Serbia. It envisaged the solution of the "Kosovo question" as a question of survival for the entire Serbian people, the suppression of workers' self-government and the revision of the 1974 constitution . According to this paper, it was an alleged "Slovenian-Croatian anti- Serbian coalition " that disenfranchised the Serbian people and forced them to live spread over several republics and thus to limit their spiritual and cultural roots, so that Serbia is ultimately the actual oppressed nation of Yugoslavia .

Only a common state, which encompasses all Serbian territories outside of the Republic of Serbia while restricting the right of other nationalities to have a say, would enable Serbia to have equal rights with the other republics. At that time there were the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina in Serbia with far-reaching say and veto rights, which had been established for ethnic groups ( Albanians and Hungarians, etc.) who had not been granted a separate republic in Yugoslavia.

In 1989, the then Serbian President Slobodan Milošević gave the historical speech on the occasion of a celebration on the historical ground of the blackbird field (where 600 years earlier the Serbian Empire had been defeated by the Ottomans) , which was often referred to as the "incendiary speech" because it propagated a strong Serbia and is said to have been one of the causes of the Yugoslav wars. However, statements in this speech contradict this, such as the following sentence, which was not mentioned in most of the translations: "Yugoslavia is a multinational community and can only survive on the basis of complete equality of all nations that live in it." For the content of this speech see Link information.

His sentence Niko nesme da vas bije! (“Nobody is allowed to hit you anymore”), which he shouted to Serbian demonstrators near Pristina (after attacks on Serbian civilians in Kosovo) in 1987, is said to have fueled the burgeoning nationalism on all sides. Many political observers at the time were of the opinion that Milošević consciously stirred up Serbian nationalism in order to strengthen his power in Serbia. A few years later, a series of wars broke out that claimed a good 100,000 lives in Bosnia alone and led to the greatest atrocities in Europe since World War II.

The new Serbian concept has been criticized as "Greater Serbian" by both the other peoples of Yugoslavia and foreign observers. Questionable historical justifications for territorial claims, such as attempting to conquer the city and region around Dubrovnik and other parts of Dalmatia that were considered historical parts of Serbia. These claims have been rejected by the residents of these areas, the Croatian government and the international community.

At the Congress of the Socialist Party of Serbia by Slobodan Milošević, which took place in Peć (Kosovo) on October 9, 1991, the party's vice-president, the philosopher Mihailo Marković , described the new Serbian or Greater Serbian concept very precisely: In the new Yugoslav state should there are at least three federal units: Serbia, Montenegro and a unified region of Bosnia-Knin (i.e. an area that should include Serbian autonomous areas in Bosnia and Croatia). Bosnia should also be aware that this state would be surrounded by Serbian territory in the event of a secession from Yugoslavia. According to the historian Noel Malcolm , “the importance of Bosnia within Yugoslavia was reduced to a weak Muslim Bophuthatswana ”.

Šešelj's plan

In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel , Vojislav Šešelj from the Serbian Radical Party presented his vision of a “Great Serbia” in 1991 , which envisaged annexing all of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro to Serbia, plus most of Croatia. The Croatians would therefore have as much left "as can be overlooked from the tower of the Zagreb Cathedral" . Likewise, the Bosnian Muslims are actually "Islamized Serbs" . Some of the so-called Croats are "Catholic Serbs" .


The attempt to forcibly hold the falling Yugoslavia together and to create a common state out of the areas also inhabited by Serbs has failed. The Yugoslav wars have even led to the Serbian settlement areas shrinking: A large part of the Serbs fled Croatia and Kosovo to find refuge in Serbia, the Bosnian Republika Srpska is annexed to the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro has been part of the year 2006 a sovereign state. Kosovo, inhabited almost exclusively by Albanians since the war in Kosovo, declared itself independent from Serbia on February 17th, 2008.

Slobodan Milošević, who from June 29, 2001 until his death on March 11, 2006 , had to answer before the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague as one of the main responsible for the Yugoslav wars , was accused of striving for a Greater Serbia and the Yugoslav People's Army with the The aim of having set in motion those boundaries between the republics that had been defined after the Second World War by a special commission under the chairmanship of Milovan größtilas largely according to ethnic and historical criteria in favor of Serbia.

In the parliamentary elections on May 11, 2008 , the nationalist Srpska Radikalna Stranka (Serbian Radical Party, SRS) received 1,219,436 votes, that is 30.1% of the votes cast with a turnout of 61%. She advocates a Greater Serbia along the Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag line .

In 2012, the former Vice-President of the SRS, Tomislav Nikolić , was elected President of Serbia. In an interview with the Austrian daily newspaper “ Die Presse ” in 2008, he described Greater Serbia as his “dream and wish”. Previously, the SRS had failed to enter the Serbian parliament for the first time in the parliamentary elections , but the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which had split off from it, came into government under Nikolić.

Counter developments in the neighboring Orthodox states

See also


  • Sonja Biserko , Helsinški odbor za ljudska prava u Srbiji (ed.): Proces Vojislavu Šešelju: Raskrinkavanje projekta Velika Srbija [The Vojislav Šešelj Process: The Uncovering of the Greater Serbia Project] . Belgrade 2009, ISBN 978-86-7208-159-6 ( [PDF; accessed November 9, 2013]).
  • Mihailo Stanišić: “Velika Srbija” project [The “Greater Serbia” projects] . Javno preduzeće Službeni list SRJ, Belgrade 2000, ISBN 86-355-0468-2 .
  • Mladen Klemenčić: Velikosrpska teritorijalna posezanja [Greater Serbian Territorial Claims] . In: Lexicographic Institute “Miroslav Krleža” (ed.): Društvena istraživanja . Volume 2. No. 2-3 . Zagreb 1993, p. 285–304 ( [accessed on November 9, 2013] with various maps).
  • Tilman Zülch , Society for Threatened Peoples (Ed.): "Ethnic Cleansing" - Genocide for "Greater Serbia": A documentation of the Society for Threatened Peoples (=  Volume 5 of the Library of the Early Modern Age. Second Section, Literature I ). Luchterhand, 1993, ISBN 978-3-630-71084-6 .
  • Henrik Bischof: Perspectives for a Greater Serbia . Study by the Department of Foreign Policy Research in the Research Institute of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung , Bonn 1993, ISBN 978-3-86077-108-2 .
  • The politics of creating a "Greater Serbia": nationalism, fear and repression . In: Final report of the United Nations Commission of Experts established pursuant to security council resolution 780 (1992) . ( ).

Web links

Commons : Greater Serbia  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. JFO McAllister; William Mader, Lara Marlowe; Jay Peterzell: Ever Greater Serbia . TIME Magazine. September 28, 1992. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  2. Obituary: Slobodan Milosevic . BBC News. March 11, 2006. Retrieved August 31, 2010. " But the crude favor which drew Serbs together, was repellent to the Slovenes, Croats and other nations of Yugoslavia. Milosevic saw himself forging a Greater Serbia from the remnants of Yugoslavia. Instead he created a monster which all but devoured Serbia. "
  3. ^ Nicholas Wood: The End of Greater Serbia . New York Times . March 18, 2006. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  4. ^ Ian Black: Milosevic tried to build Greater Serbia, trial told . The Guardian. October 2, 2002. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  5. ICTY: Duško Tadić judgment - Greater Serbia (PDF; 484 kB) ICTY . Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  6. Quotation from a letter from Moljević to Dragiša Vasić from December 1941: “Zaposedanje bi se, mislimo, moglo izvesti samo tako ako bi se jakim odredima zaposela glavna čvorišta i to: Osijek, Vinkovci, Slav. Brod, Sunja, Karlovac, Knin i Šibenik, te Mostar i Metković, a onda iznutra pristupiti čišćenju zemlje od svih nesrpskih elemenata. Krivci bi imali da budu na mestu kažnjavani, a ostalima bi valjalo otvoriti put - Hrvatima u Hrvatsku, a muslimanima u Tursku (ili Albaniju). "Accessed December 1, 2013 .
  7. ^ ICTY: Case information sheet (IT-03-67) Vojislav Šešelj trial. Retrieved December 1, 2013 : "He defined the so-called Karlobag-Ogulin-Karlovac-Virovitica line as the western border of this new Serbian state which he referred to as" Greater Serbia "and which included Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and considerable parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. "
  8. Јелка Ређеп: Гроф Ђорђе Бранковић и усмено предање , изд. Прометеј, Нови Сад 1990, page 256, ISBN 86-7639-004-5
  9. ^ English translation of the Načertanije ( Memento of November 26, 2004 in the Internet Archive ) in the Internet Archive
  10. Noel Malcolm: Bosnia. A short history. 1994, p. 229
  11. Then we take everything . In: Der Spiegel . No. 32 , 1991, pp. 124–126 ( online - August 5, 1991 , interview with the Serbian Chetnik leader Vojislav Šešelj).