|St Sava · Tsar Dušan · Karađorđe · V. Karadžić
N. Tesla · M. Pupin · N. Petrović · M. Milanković
|over 13 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Serbia 6,212,386 + 140,000 (est.) in Kosovo|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Part of a series of articles on
Serbs (Serbian Cyrillic: Срби Serbian Latin: Srbi) are a South Slavic ethnic group mostly living in the Central Europe and the Balkans (Southeastern Europe), between the Balkan and Carpathian mountains in the east and the Adriatic sea in the west. They are located mainly in Serbia (also in Kosovo), Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and, to a lesser extent, in Croatia. Serbs are also a significant minority in two other republics of the Former Yugoslavia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Serbs are an officially recognized minority in both Romania and Hungary, as well as Slovakia. There is a large Serbian diaspora in Western Europe especially concentrated in Germany, France, Switzerland, and Austria. In North America, the United States and Canada have the largest Serbian population. In the German-speaking countries alone live more than a million people of Serbian origin: Luxembourg (1% share in the overall population), Austria (1,8%), Switzerland (1%), and Germany (almost 1%).
The Serbian revolution (1804–1815) marked the rebirth of modern Serbia and its establishment as a principality which fought the Ottomans, Bulgarians and Austrians for the supremacy over the Balkans. In 1918 Serbia lost its independence to the Yugoslav Kingdom and regained its sovereignty in 2006, after Montenegro left the Serbia and Montenegro union which had been the last fragment of the former Yugoslavia remaining in the 21st Century following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Serbia is the nation-state of the Serbs, while in Bosnia and Herzegovina they are one of the three constituent peoples. In Montenegro, where 32% of the population is Serbian according to the 2003 Census, their constitutional status is unclear.
Autochthonous Serbian minorities exist in the following regions:
Byzantine sources report that part of the White Serbs, led by the Unknown Archont, migrated southwards from their Slavic homeland of White Serbia (Lusatia) in the late sixth century and eventually overwhelmed the 'Serbian lands' that now make up Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Dalmatia. After settling on the Balkans, Serbs mixed with other Slavic tribes (which settled during the great migration of the Slavs) and with descendants of the indigenous peoples of the Balkans: Illyrians, Thracians, Dacians, Celts, Greeks and Romans.
Afterwards, overwhelmed by the Ottoman wars in Europe which ravaged their territories, Serbs once again started crossing the rivers Sava and Danube and resettling the regions in Central Europe which are today's Vojvodina, Slavonia, Transylvania and Hungary proper. Apart from the Habsburg Empire, thousands were attracted to Imperial Russia, where they were given territories to settle: Nova Serbia and Slavo-Serbia were named after these refugees. Two Great Serbian Migrations resulted in a relocation of the Serbian core from the Ottoman-dominated South towards the developed (Christian) North, where it has remained ever since.
Serbs are genetically and culturally close to the other peoples inhabiting the Balkans. The Serbs emanated in patriarchal tribal organizations (zadrugas), social structures originating in ancient times of the Dinarics and Balkans, passed on and maintained mainly by Orthodox Serbs and Montenegrins but also in Montenegrin Bosniaks and Northern Albanians (Catholic and Muslim) and Maniote Greeks. This type of structure was the initial, fully working feudal system in the highlands of the Serbs, later weakened in the lands occupied by foreign powers. The Lapot and Krvna Osveta are practices which are of ancient, highlander characteristics. The Serb Hajduks and Greek Klephts of the 17-19th centuries are examples of non-feudal organizations.
The Serbs are part of the autochthonous Dinaric-North Mediterranean anthropological groups.
The genetics of Serbs are similar to the neighbouring peoples of the Balkan peninsula because of common origin in several Paleo-Balkan tribes previously (now extinct) inhabiting the Balkans, such as Thracians, Illyrians, Dacians, etc.
The subclade E1b1b1a2-V13 is present at high frequencies among the Albanians, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians and Macedonians and lower numbers in South Italians (up to 20-45%). Subclade J2f1 is at 2.5% in Serbs and Slavic Macedonians. I2a2-M423 is at 29-32% in Serbs and Macedonians and 42% in Croats, as low as 3% in Macedonian Roma, as high as 63% in Herzegovinians. The R1a(common in Slavic groups) is the same in Macedonians and Serbs at 15% and close to Bulgarians at 14%, Greeks and Herzegovinians at 12%, notable gap between the Albanians (7%) and Croats (25%), non-Balkan populations of Cypriots at 6% and Ukrainians at 45%. The most common western European haplogroup R1b values in Serbs are 10.6%, in Cypriots 9.0% being the lowest in Europe, the highest values being Basques 92% and 89% in Welsh, medium values 56% in French.
Bosnian Serbs are closer to Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) than to Croats, the J haplogroup is 5.3% in Serbs and 12% in Bosniaks and almost non-existent among Croats. I-P37 is higher in Croats (71%) than in Serbs (31%) and Bosniaks (44%).
Genetic studies conclude that Serbs are of predominantly Balkan genetics (indigenous to the region) and have very small amount of generally considered "Slavic" (Predominant in West Slavic nations; R-M458, ranging from 0-12% in the Serbs, Albanians, Macedonians, Greeks and Bulgarians) genes showing that Slavs (White Serbs according to national myth/historical sources) mixed with the Romanized Paleo-Balkan peoples of the conquered region (Serbian lands) and made the Slavic culture and language dominant in the ethnogenesis of the people. Thus, most Serbs today are descendants of original inhabitants of Balkans, previously known as Illyrians and Thracians.
Serbs are thought to be first mentioned by Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy in his Geography in 2nd century AD, who associate the Serbs with the Sarmatian tribe of Serboi of the North Caucasus and Lower Volga. Roman Emperor Licinius referred to the Carpathians as "Montes Serrorum" in the fifth century AD. Having defeated the Avars, under the Unknown Archont, the Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius invited Serbs to settle in the provinces of Salonica and Dalmatia. The Unknown Archont's descendants (House of Višeslavić-Vlastimirović, House of Vojislavljević) ruled the Serb states for the entire early medieval period (until 1166), mainly under Byzantine supremacy, but at times also under Frankish, Bulgarian overlordship or independent from these states.
The name is most likely derived from the Indo-European root *ser- 'to watch over, protect', akin to Latin servare 'to keep, guard, protect, preserve, observe', Old English searu 'weapons, armor, skill', Lithuanian sárgas 'watchman'.
The majority of Serbs live in Serbia, Montenegro and Republika Srpska (in Bosnia and Herzegovina). The Republic of Serbia is the nation-state of the Serb people, they are a constituent nation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (90% ethnic Serb entity Rep.Srpska) and a recognized people in the Republic of Montenegro (former nation-state of the Serbs) where they have lived since their arrival 1,500 years ago. Large indigenous population also lived in Croatia, where they were a constituent nation before 1990 and today a recognized national minority. Much smaller Serb autochthonous minorities exist in the Republic of Macedonia (mainly in Kumanovo and Skopje), Slovenia (Bela Krajina), Romania (Banat), Hungary (Szentendre, Pécs, Szeged) and Italy (Trieste- home to about 6,000 Serbs). Many Serbs also live in the diaspora, notably in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Sweden, Canada, the US and Australia.
The largest urban populations of Serbs in the former Yugoslavia are to be found in Belgrade (c. 1,700,000), Novi Sad (c. 300,000), Niš (c. 250,000), Banja Luka (in Bosnia-Herzegovina) (c. 220,000), Kragujevac (c. 175,000), East Sarajevo and Prijedor (in Bosnia-Herzegovina) (c. 130,000). All the capitals of the former Yugoslavia contain a strong historical Serbian minority - 10,000 strong and over (taking up anywhere between 2%- 3% of the population - Zagreb, Skopje - through Ljubljana and Sarajevo, and finally, Podgorica - over 26%).
In Serbia, 6.2 million Serbs constitute about 62% (83% excluding Kosovo) of the population, including Kosovo, which has declared itself independent from Serbia in February 17, 2008. Another 1,6 million live in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 201,892 in Montenegro following its independence and 200,000 in Croatia (580,000 prior to the war). In the 1991 census Serbs consisted 39% of the overall population of former Yugoslavia; there were around 8.5 million Serbs in the entire country.
Abroad, Vienna is said to be home to the largest Serb population followed by Chicago (and its surrounding area) with Toronto and Southern Ontario coming in third. Los Angeles and Indianapolis are known to have a sizable Serbian community, but so does Berlin, Paris, Moscow, Istanbul and Sydney. The number of Serbs in the diaspora is unknown but it is estimated to be up to 5.5 million. Smaller numbers of Serbs live in New Zealand, and Serbian communities in South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Chile) are reported to grow and exist to this day. Some ethnic Serbs with other ex-Yugoslavians of the Jewish faith can be found in Israel, but Israel offers guest worker permits for non-Jewish Serbians as well. According to official figures, 5000 Serbs live in Dubai but the unofficial figure is estimated to be around 15,000.
The recent research of the Ministry of Diaspora, showed that more than two thirds of Serbs abroad have plans of returning to Serbia, and almost one third is ready to do it immediately should they be given a good employment offer. The same research shows that more than 25% of the Serb Diaspora has some specialization, i.e. master or PhD titles, while 45% of them have university degrees.
Serbian culture refers to the culture of Serbia as well as the culture of Serbs in other parts of the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere in the world. The Byzantine Empire, of which Serbs were part of have had a strong influence while the Serbian Orthodox Church has had an enduring influence. Austrians and Hungarians have highly influenced Serbs of Vojvodina, Croatian Serbs and Bosnian Serbs to smaller extent, while Republic of Venice influenced Serbs living on the coast (Bay of Kotor for example). Serbian culture was also influenced and weakened by five centuries of rule under the Ottoman Empire. Following autonomy in 1817 and latter formal independence, there was a reawakening of Serbdom (Serbian identity/culture) followed by the emerging South-Slavic unity. Prior to that of Habsburg Vojvodina was the cultural bastion of the Serbian national identity. Socialist Realism was predominant in official art during the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but recent decades have seen a growing influence from the West as well as traditional culture.
Serbs have played a significant role in the development of the arts and sciences. Prominent individuals include the scientists Nikola Tesla, Michael I. Pupin, Jovan Cvijić, and Milutin Milanković; the renowned mathematician Mihailo Petrović and controversial co-author of Theory of Relativity Mileva Marić (Albert Einstein's first wife); Stevan Mokranjac and Stevan Hristić; the celebrated authors Ivo Andrić, Borislav Pekić and Miloš Crnjanski; the prolific inventor Ogneslav Kostović Stepanović; the polymath Đura Jakšić; the famous sports stars like Ana Ivanović, Jelena Janković, Novak Djokovic, Predrag Stojakovic, Dejan Stanković, Nemanja Vidić, Siniša Mihajlović, Dejan Bodiroga, Vlade Divac; actors Karl Malden (Mladen Sekulovich), Mila Jovovic, Rade Šerbedžija. Famous directors like Dušan Makavejev, Peter Bogdanovich and Emir Kusturica. The Serb ruler during the Middle Ages (see List of Serbian rulers), Stephen Nemanja, and his son, Saint Sava, founded the monastery of Hilandar for the Serbian Orthodox Church, one of the greatest and oldest Orthodox Christian monuments in the world. Famous singers Željko Joksimović and Marija Šerifović are from Serbia.
The mother of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Paleologos Dragases, was a Serbian princess, Helena Dragash (Jelena Dragaš). Many Serbian Royal Families have had significant roles in European and Balkan history. Such as the House of Nemanjić, House of Mrnjavčević, House of Lazarević, House of Branković, House of Obrenović and House of Karađorđević. Some of the most venerated royal historical persons are Emperor Dusan, Tsar Lazar, Milos Obilic and Karageorge.
Vuk Stefanović Karadžić was a Serbian linguist and major reformer of the Serbian language. Nadežda Petrović is considered the most important Serbian female painter from the late 19th and early 20th century.
Serbs speak the Serbian language, a member of the South Slavic group of languages, specifically in the Southwestern Slavic group with the Southeastern Slavic languages including Macedonian and Bulgarian. It is mutually intelligible with the standard Croatian and Bosnian language (see Differences in standard Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian) and some linguists still consider it part of the pre-war Serbo-Croatian language.
The Serbian language comprises several dialects, the standard language is based on the Stokavian dialect.
There are several variants of the Serbian language. The older forms of Serbian are Old Serbian and Russo-Serbian, a version of the Church Slavonic language.
Serbian is the only European language with active digraphia, using both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. Serbian Cyrillic alphabet was devised in 1814 by Vuk Karadžić, who created the alphabet on phonemic principles, the Cyrillic itself has its origins in Cyril and Methodius transformation from the Greek script.
Loanwords in the Serbian language are mostly from Turkish, German and Italian, words of Hungarian origin is present mostly in the north and Greek words mostly in the liturgy.
Two Serbian words that are used in many of the world's languages are vampire and paprika. Slivovitz and ćevapčići are Serbian words which have spread together with the Serbian food/drink they refer to. Paprika and slivovitz are borrowed via German; paprika itself entered German via Hungarian. Vampire entered most West European languages through German-language texts in the early 18th century and has since spread widely in the world.
As with most Western cultures, a child is given a first name chosen by their parents but approved by the godparents of the child (the godparents usually approve the parent's choice). The given name comes first, the surname last, e.g. "Željko Popović", where "Željko" is a first name and "Popović" is a family name. Female names end with -a, e.g. Dragan -> Dragana
Popular names are mostly of Serbian (Slavic), Christian (Biblical), Greek and Latin origin.
Most Serbian surnames (like Bosnian, Croatian and Montenegrin) have the surname suffix -ić (pronounced Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: [itʲ] or [itɕ], Cyrillic: -ић). This is often transliterated as -ic. In history, Serbian names have often been transcribed with a phonetic ending, -ich or -itch. This form is often associated with Serbs from before the early 20th century: hence Milutin Milanković is usually referred to, for historical reasons, as Milutin Milankovitch.
The -ić suffix is a Slavic diminutive, originally functioning to create patronymics. Thus the surname Petrić signifies little Petar, as does, for example, a common prefix Mac ("son of") in Scottish & Irish, and O' (grandson of) in Irish names. It is estimated that some two thirds of all Serbian surnames end in -ić but that some 80% of Serbs carry such a surname with many common names being spread out among tens and even hundreds of non-related extended families.
Other common surname suffixes are -ov or -in which is the Slavic possessive case suffix, thus Nikola's son becomes Nikolin, Petar's son Petrov, and Jovan's son Jovanov. Those are more typical for Serbs from Vojvodina. The two suffixes are often combined.
The most common surnames are Marković, Nikolić, Petrović, and Jovanović.
Conversion of the South Slavs from paganism to Christianity began in the 7th century, long before the Great Schism, the split between the Greek Orthodox East and the Roman Catholic West, the Serbs were first Christinaized during the reign of Heraclius (610-641) but were fully Christianized by Byzantine Christian Missionaries (Saints) Cyril and Methodius in 869 during Basil I, who sent them after Knez Mutimir, had acknowledged the suzerainty of the Byzantine Empire. After the Schism, those who lived under the Byzantine sphere of influence became Orthodox and those who lived under the Roman sphere of influence became Catholic. Later, with the arrival of the Ottoman Empire, many Serbs were converted into Islam, today members of the Gorani and Bosniaks (Muslims by nationality).
The Serbs have suffered much in the history because of their religion. When the Ottoman Turks took over the Balkans, the Christians were not regarded as a people of the nation and were not able to own land etc. Many Serbs were converted against their will or converted without force for a better stance in the society or as slaves to the Ottomans in the Janissaries. In the World War II, the Serbs, living in a wide area, were persecuted by various people and organizations. The Catholic Croats under the Fascist Ustasha regime who recognized the Serbs only as "Croats of Eastern faith" and had the ideological visions of 1/3 of the Serbs murdered, 1/3 converted and the last third expulted. The outcome of these visions were the death of at least 700,000 (only the victims in the Jasenovac concentration camp), 250,000 converted and 250,000 expelled. The Albanians, organized in Special units, took the advantage and caused chaos in Kosovo, killing and raping Christian Serb clergymen and nuns.
Both the eagle and the cross, besides being the basis for various Serbian coats of arms through history, are bases for the symbols of various Serbian organizations, political parties, institutions and companies.
The Serbian cuisine, just like Serbian culture, implies not only region elements connected to Serbia, but other parts of former Yugoslavia as well. Great influences have been marked on the whole cooking process due to peasantry, which also influenced the folk craft, music and arts. Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, during the last five centuries, Serbia has had not only cultural influences, but cooking ones as well. Special traditional dishes made in Serbia today have common roots with the dishes prepared in Turkey. The whole Serbian cuisine is derived from a mixture of influences coming from Mediterranean, especially Greek influences, Hungary, Turkish and Austrian cuisines.
Serbian has a great passion for food in general, having a rich cuisine and a large diversity of alcohol beverages that accompany these fat-rich dishes. Slivovitza is a strong, alcoholic beverage primarily made from distilled fermented plum juice. It tastes similar to brandy and sometimes called plum brandy in English. Specific Serbian wines have centuries of tradition behind them. The Vrzole wine is made by the private winery Vinik from the famous wine region – Vrsac, winery which blends traditional family recipes and newest technology in making limited quantities of this famous red and white wine. Foods include a variety of grilled meats and bread. Desserts range from Turkish-style baklava to Viennese-style tortes. The national drink of Serbia is a plum brandy. Locally produced wines are also popular and they are highly regarded. Most popular cuisines that are served in Serbia are Pasulj (Serbian Bean Soup), Soups Stews Beans, Prysnac Serbia (Broccoli Casserole), Serbian Torte, Szerb Bableves (Serbian Bean Soup).
The Serbs are a highly family-oriented society. A peek into a Serbian dictionary and the richness of their terminology related to kinship speaks volumes.
Of all Slavs and Orthodox Christians, only Serbs have the custom of slava. Slava is celebration of a saint; unlike most customs that are common for the whole people, each family separately celebrates its own saint (of course, there is a lot of overlap) who is considered its protector. A slava is inherited, mostly, though not exclusively from father to son (if a family has no son and a daughter stays in parental house and her husband moves in, hers, not his, slava is celebrated). Each household has only one saint it celebrates, which means that the occasion brings all of the family together. However, since many saints (e.g. St. Nicholas, St. John the Baptist, St. George, St. Archangels) have two feast days, both are marked.
The traditional dance is a circle dance called kolo, which is common among Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins and Macedonians. It is a collective dance, where a group of people (usually several dozen, at the very least three) hold each other by the hands or around the waist dancing, forming a circle (hence the name), semicircle or spiral. It is called Oro in Montenegro. Similar circle dances also exist in other cultures of the region.
Serbs have their own customs regarding Christmas. The Serbian Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar, so Christmas currently falls on January 7 of the Gregorian calendar. Early in the morning of Christmas Eve, the head of the family would go to a forest in order to cut badnjak, a young oak, the oak tree would then be brought into the church to be blessed by the priest. Then the oak tree would be stripped of its branches with combined with wheat and other grain products would be burned in the fireplace. The burning of the badnjak is a ritual which is most certainly of pagan origin and it is considered a sacrifice to God (or the old pagan gods) so that the coming year may bring plenty of food, happiness, love, luck and riches. Nowadays, with most Serbs living in towns, most simply go to their church service to be given a small parcel of oak, wheat and other branches tied together to be taken home and set afire. The house floor and church is covered with hay, reminding worshippers of the stable in which Jesus was born.
Christmas Day itself is celebrated with a feast, necessarily featuring roasted piglet as the main meal. The most important Christmas meal is česnica, a special kind of bread. The bread contains a coin; during the lunch, the family breaks up the bread and the one who finds the coin is said to be assured of an especially happy year.
Christmas is not associated with presents like in the West, although it is the day of Saint Nicholas, the protector saint of children, to whom presents are given. However, most Serbian families give presents on New Year's Day. Santa Claus (Deda Mraz (literally meaning Grandpa Frost)) and the Christmas tree (but rather associated with New Year's Day) are also used in Serbia as a result of globalisation. Serbs also celebrate the Old New Year (currently on January 14 of the Gregorian Calendar).
Religious Serbs also celebrate other religious holidays and even non-religious people often celebrate Easter (on the Orthodox date).
Another related feature, often lamented by Serbs themselves, is disunity and discord; as Slobodan Naumović puts it, "Disunity and discord have acquired in the Serbian popular imaginary a notorious, quasi-demiurgic status. They are often perceived as being the chief malefactors in Serbian history, causing political or military defeats, and threatening to tear Serbian society completely apart." That disunity is often quoted as the source of Serbian historic tragedies, from the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 to Yugoslav wars in 1990s. Even the contemporary notion of "two Serbia's"—one supposedly national, liberal and Eurocentric, and the other conservative, nationalist and Euroskeptic—seems to be the extension of the said discord. Popular proverbs "two Serbs, three political parties" and "God save us from Serbs that may unite!", and even the unofficial Serbian motto "only unity saves Serbs" (Samo sloga Srbina spasava) illustrate the national frustration with the inability to unite over important issues.
As with many other peoples, there are popular stereotypes on the local level: in popular jokes and stories, inhabitants of Vojvodina (Lale) are perceived as phlegmatic, undisturbed and slow; Montenegrins are lazy and pushy; southern Serbians are misers; Bosnians are raw and stupid; people from Central Serbia are often portrayed as capricious and malicious, etc.
|Ottoman / Habsburg Serbia|
The Slavs invaded Balkans during Justinian I rule (527–565), when eventually up to 100,000 Slavs raided Thessalonica. The Western Balkans was settled with "Sclaveni", the east with Antes. Archaeological evidence in Serbia and Macedonia conclude that the White Serbs may have reached the Balkans earlier, between 550-600, as much findings; fibulae and pottery found at Roman forts point at Serb characteristics. and thus could have been a fraction of the early invading Slavs who upon organizing in their refuge of the Dinaric region, formed the ethnogenesis of Serbs and were pardoned by the Byzantine Empire after acknowledging their suzerainty.
According to Byzantine tradition (De Administrando Imperio, by Porphyrogenitus); The Serbs are recorded in the Byzantine Empire with the arrival of the Unknown Archont and his part of the Serb tribe on the Balkans. The White Serbs were a West Slavic tribe (as the Sclavenoi) that inhabited White Serbia, situated in present day western Poland, led by this archont who succeeded his father as the ruler of the Serbs. The first Serb settlement in the Balkans took place between 610 and 626 after being sent for by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius to secure the Byzantine frontier from the problematic Avars. They lived briefly in Servia, in the province of Thessalonica where they were settled, but soon decided to return to their homeland, however on their way back, near the Danube, they requested the land of Western Balkans to settle in through the military governor at Belgrade.
The Serbs were patriarchal tribesmen and were initially in Sclavinias (Slav area within Byzantine Empire) and were given different dominions to govern. They soon formed six powerful principalities, called Rascia, Travunia, Zachlumia, Bosnia, Pagania and Doclea. The Serbs were aligned to the Byzantine Greeks which contributed greatly to the Serbs and their culture. The Serbian region was Christianized by both (anachronistically) Roman Catholic (Rome) and Byzantine Greek (Constantinople) Christian missionaries in several waves, until the Great Schism that would further divide the Serbs from the neighboring slav tribe of Croats.
The first Serb states were Rascia (with Bosnia), Doclea, Travunia, Pagania and Zachlumia. The rulers had varying degrees of autonomy under the Byzantine Empire and brief independencies until the early 10th and 11th centuries when Serbian archonts managed without the Byzantines. The era after Serbian Saint Sava, who became the first head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and his brother Stefan Prvovenčani of Serbia, who became the first Serb king is considered the beginning of the golden ages of Serbia. The state of the Serbs is registered as Serbia during the reign of Petar Gojniković and Časlav Klonimirović and the "principalities of the Serbs"; the dependencies inhabited and ruled by the Serbs; its kings and tsars were called the "King of the Serbs" or "Tsar of the Serbs", not "King of Serbia" or "Tsar of Serbia". The medieval Serbian states are nonetheless often (if anachronistically) referred as "Serbia".
In the 822 annals of the Frankish Kingdom, the Serbs are living in the greater part of Dalmatia. The Croatian ruler Ljudevit fled Croatia to the Serbs of western Bosnia after the Franks invaded, the Serbs however killed him.
The first war between Bulgarians and Serbs took place between 839 and 842 (Bulgaro-Serbian Wars). According to Byzantine sources both peoples co-existed peacefully until Bulgarian attacks in the Macedonia region. The attack resulted in a heavy Bulgarian defeat, the Serbs expanded to the west while the Bulgarians occupied the Serbo-Bulgarian frontier of Timok and Macedonia Later, the Serbs under Mutimir and his brothers defeated the Bulgarians once again, sent by Boris I of Bulgaria, they also captured the son of the Bulgarian tsar.
In 869 Byzantine Emperor Basil I's (of the Macedonian dynasty) Imperial Admiral Nikita Orifas was sent together with priests of Constantinople to bless the Serbs after Knez Mutimir acknowledged Byzantine suzerainty. The Byzantines allied the Serbian tribes in the Ragusian hinterland and the Croats convinced the Zachlumians to join them and the Travunians (and Konavlians) in an alliance against the Saracens.
The acceptance of Imperial authority in early Serb history can be seen in the initial forming of Serbian statehood and loyalty to the Byzantine Empire or in the Serb naval detachments fighting under the Frankish emperor Louis II of Italy in 870 against the Muslim Arabs.
Serbia reached its golden age under the House of Nemanjić, with the Serbian state reaching its apogee of power in the reign of Tsar Stefan Uroš Dušan. The Serbian Empire lost its powers following Stefan's death and the contemporary incursion of the Ottoman Empire into south-eastern Europe frightened the Balkans. With Ottoman expansion into Europe with the fall of Adrianople and Thrace, Serbs together with Hungarians, Bulgarians, Greeks and others, tried their best for the Balkans integrity. The Turks gained more power, and in 1389, the Serbs fought them in the historical Battle of Kosovo, which is regarded as the key event in the loss of Serbia to the Ottoman Empire. By 1459, Serbia was beaten by the Turks, the small Serbian territories of Bosnia and Montenegro were lost by 1496.
As Christians, the Serbs were regarded as a "protected people" under Ottoman law, but were however referred to as Giaour (Serbian: Kaurin, English: Infidel). Many converted to Islam in viyalets where Islam was more powerful, notably in the Sandzak and Bosnia region, other converted in order to be more successful in the Ottoman Empire society and many were forced as part of Turkification or Islamisation and avoided persecution. The Janissaries (Serbian: Janjičari) were infantry units that served directly under the Sultan in the households and bodyguarding the higher people within the Ottoman Turkish government, they were composed of Islamicized Christian boys taken from the conquered countries through the Devşirme (Blood tribute) system, trained and schooled to serve the Ottoman Empire. Serbs, together with Greeks and Bulgarians were favored by the Sultans.
The Serbs opposed the Ottoman yoke, which resulted in several major battles and rebellions against the Turks and de-population of Serbian lands through mass migrations. Serbs in the south migrated to the north and sought refuge in Croatia and Hungary. The Serbs of Montenegro were disliked because of their bravery and dignity to each other, unsatisfied with the situation in the region, they assassinated many deployed Turks in the mountains, which caused heavy monitoring of the Serb clans and hiding from the Turks was necessary, or else, death awaited. Years went on and the Austro-Hungarian Empire gained control in the north, which also threatened the dreams of a free state of the Serbs.
In Vojvodina, a Serb mercenary named Jovan Nenad proclaimed himself Emperor, defeating many Hungarian armies with his 15,000 men before being ambushed and killed in Szeged.
In Eastern Serbia, Serbs fought in Hajduk formations in the highlands against the Turks, a notable leader in the 16th century was Starina Novak, who fought as a captain of a 2,000 strong unit in the army of Michael the Brave and successfully liberated several Romanian and Bulgarian towns before being executed by Albanian Giorgio Basta.
The Serbs and Croats rebelled in Dalmatia and Slavonia in guerilla formations of Uskoks and Hajduks during the 16th and 17th century. In 1852, the Principality of Montenegro was proclaimed, a nation-state of the Serbs.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the First Serbian Uprising succeeded in liberating at least some Serbs for a limited time. The Second Serbian Uprising was much more successful, resulting in Ottoman recognition of Serbia as autonomous principality within the Empire. Serbia acquired international recognition as an independent kingdom at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. However, many Serbs remained under foreign rule– that of the Ottomans in the south, and of the Habsburgs in the north and west. The southern Serbs were liberated in the First Balkan War of 1912, while the question of the Habsburg Serbs' independence was the spark that lit World War I two years later. During the war, the Serbian army fought fiercely, eventually retreating through Albania to regroup in Greece, and launched a counter-offensive through Macedonia. Though they were eventually victorious, the war devastated Serbia and killed a huge proportion of its population– by some estimates, over half of the male Serbian population died in the conflict, influencing the region's demographics to this day.
After the war, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later called Yugoslavia) was created. Almost all Serbs finally lived in one state, in majority. The Kingdom had its capital in Belgrade and was ruled by a Serbian king; it was, however, unstable and prone to ethnic tensions.
During the Second World War, the Axis Powers occupied Yugoslavia, dismembering the country. Serbia was occupied by the Germans, while in Bosnia and Croatia, Serbs were put under the rule of the Italians and the fascist Ustaša regime in the Independent State of Croatia. Under Ustaša rule in particular, Serbs and other non-Croats were subjected to systematic genocide, known as the Serbian genocide, when hundreds of thousands were killed. The Hungarian and Albanian fascists, who occupied northern and southern parts of the country, also performed persecutions and genocide against the Serb population from these regions.
After the war, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was formed. As with pre-war Yugoslavia, the country's capital was at Belgrade. Serbia was the largest republic and the largest ethnic group. There were also two established autonomous provinces within Serbia - Kosovo (with an Albanian majority) and Vojvodina (with an Hungarian minority). Besides Serbia, the large Serb populations were concentrated in Bosnia and Herzegovina (where they were the largest ethnic group until 1971) and Croatia as well as Montenegro.
Socialist Yugoslavia collapsed in the early 1990s, with four of its six republics becoming independent states. This led to several bloody civil wars, as the large Serbian communities in Croatia and Bosnia attempted to remain within Yugoslavia, then consisting of only Serbia and Montenegro. Serbs in Croatia formed their state of Republika Srpska Krajina which was later abolished by the Croatian government (result of expelling of more than 250,000 Serbs and killing of thousands during Operation Storm) a shuddering reminder of events in the World War II. Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina formed their state of Republika Srpska, currently one of the two political entities that form the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Another war broke out in Kosovo (see Kosovo War) after years of tensions between Serbs and Albanians. Up to 250,000 Serbs fled from Croatia during the "Operation Storm" in 1995, and 300,000 left until 1993, and another 200,000 were expelled from Kosovo after the Kosovo War, and settled mostly in Central Serbia and Vojvodina as refugees.
The subgroups of Serbs are commonly based on regional affiliation. Some of the major subgroups of Serbs include: Šumadinci, Ere, Vojvođani, Crnogorci, Kosovci/Kosovari, Bačvani, Banaćani, Bokelji, Bosanci, Sremci, Semberci, Krajišnici, Hercegovci, Torlaci, Shopi,etc.
(Note: These terms can be also used to refer to any native inhabitants of the regions in question, regardless of ethnicity, i.e. to Magyar Vojvodinians or Croat Herzegovinians.)
Serbs are the second largest ethnic group in Kosovo[a]. By the 12th century, the cultural, diplomatic and religious core of the Serbian Kingdom was located in Kosovo. This became essential to the Serbian Empire of the 14th century.
During the 20th century Serbian population constantly decreased. Their share in the overall population of the region is currently estimated at 7% by the CIA. Serbs today mostly populate the enclaves across Kosovo, North Kosovo being the largest one.
Large-scale emigration of ethnic Serbs, especially since 1999 onwards, makes them the only major ethnic group in Kosovo to have a negative natural growth rate with deaths exceeding births. BBC reports that less than 100,000, 5% Serbs remained in Kosovo following a post-war exodus of non-Albanians. The Serbian minority live in separate areas watched over by NATO peacekeepers. International diplomats have voiced concern over slow progress on their rights. Human Rights Watch points out discrimination against Serbs and Roma in Kosovo.
Montenegrins are considered a subgroup of Serbs for a long time by themselves (all pre-Communist Montenegrins), as well as by Serbs and the international community that recorded the Serb identity through history. In the late 20th century, an independence movement in Montenegro gained ground, resulting in a split among Montenegrins on the issue. Now some consider themselves to belong to a separate Montenegrin nation. Supported by Albanians, Bosniaks and Croats from Montenegro, they gained a relative majority and won a referendum in 2005 that made Montenegro independent from Serbia. However, world wide, the presence of Serb Montenegrins is prevailing.
Majority of Montenegrins speak Serbian, with a minority supporting the claim of a separate Montenegrin language since being proclaimed the official language in Montenegro along with Serbian in 2006. Majority of Montenegrins are also followers of the Serbian Orthodox Church (with a minority following the erroneous Montenegrin Orthodox Church)
Serbs are one of the three constitutive nations of Bosnia-Herzegovina, predominantly concentrated in the Republic of Srpska entity, although many also live in the other entity called the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Government of BiH declared independence which was not accepted by the federal Serb controlled government of Yugoslavia, and what followed was the forming of the Serbian Autonomous Area of the Bosnian Frontier in the western Bosnian Frontier region of Bosnia and Herzegovina with its capital in Banja Luka, which was not recognised by the central government. SAO Bosnian Frontier made attempts to unite with the Autonomous Region of the Serbian Frontier in Croatia. The Serb political leadership martialled its own force assisted by the Yugoslav People's Army and declared independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina in late 1992. During this period there was notable support for the idea of a Greater Serbia being made reality, both within Bosnia and in Serbia proper. This ideology advocated the joining of Serb-poulated regions into a contiguous territory. BiH's Bosniak and Bosnian Croat dominated government did not recognize the new Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose president was Radovan Karadžić seated in Banja Luka. The Serb side accepted the proposed ethnic cantonization of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Carrington-Cutileiro peace plan), as did the Bosniak and Bosnian Croat sides in Lisbon in 1992, in the hope that war would not break out. The Bosniak political leadership under President Alija Izetbegović of Bosnia and Herzegovina subsequently revoked the agreement refusing to decentralize the newly created country based on ethnic lines. The Bosnian War began.
Throughout most of the war the Serb side fought against both the Bosniak side and the Bosnian Croat side. During Bosniak-Croat hostilities the Serbs co-operated largely with the Croats. There were exceptions to this as well, as Serb forces were also allied with the pro-Yugoslav Bosniaks of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia under Fikret Abdić. During most of the war, the Serb Republic comprised around 70% of Bosnia and Herzegovina's soil. During the entire length of war the Army of the Serb Republic maintained the Siege of Sarajevo, allegedly in order to tie down the Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) forces and resources in what was the capital of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian state. Serb Republic maintained close ties with the Republic of the Serb Frontier and received volunteers and supplies from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the war. The Serb Republic received a large number of Serb refugees from other Yugoslav hotzones, particularly non-Serb held areas in Sarajevo, Herzeg-Bosnia and Croatia. In 1993, the Owen-Stoltenberg peace treaty was suggested that would give 52% of BiH to the Serb side. It was refused by the Bosniak side as too large of a concession. In 1994, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia imposed sanctions after the National Assembly of the Serb Republic refused the Vance-Owen peace plan. In 1995, Operation Storm, eliminated the Republic of the Serb Frontier. The Croatian Army continued the offensive into the Serb Republic under General Ante Gotovina (currently on trial for war crimes at the ICTY). Some 250,000 Serbs fled to the Serb Republic and Serbia from Croatia, as the Serb side continued a full retreat of Serbs from the Una to the Sana river. The Croatian Army, supported by the forces of the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina came within 20 km of the de facto Bosnian Serb capital, Banja Luka. The war was halted with the Dayton Peace Agreement which recognized Republika Srpska, comprising 49% of the soil of BiH, as one of the two territorial entities of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Serb side suffered a total 30,700 victims - 16,700 civilians and 14,000 military personnel, according to the Demographic Unit at the ICTY. Although exact number are somewhat disputed, mostly by Bosniaks, it is generally agreed that the Bosnian War claimed the lives of about 100,000 people - Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. See: Casulties of the Bosnian War
The demographics of Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as Republika Srpska were tremendously affected by the war. Current estimates indicate that some 400,000 Serbs no longer live in the Federation of BiH, the other entity in Bosnia which makes up 51% of its territory.
In 610-626 Dalmatia saw the permanent settling of Serbs after Byzantine Emperor Heraclius granted them dominion in the Sklavinias of Balkans, soon transformed into the Serbian principalities of Dioklea, Travunia and the present-day parts of southern Dalmatian Croatia: Pagania and Zachlumia. Many Serbian Orthodox churches have been built in Croatia since the 12th century; Krka Monastery, Krupa Monastery, Dragović Monastery, Lepavina Monastery and Gomirje Monastery.
A large number of ethnic Serbs migrated in 1538 when Kaiser Ferdinand I, ruler of the Habsburg Monarchy offered sanctuary and permanent settlement to displaced Serbs from Old Serbia region (Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, southern Serbia) fleeing from the Turks, placing them under Austrian military administration. The newly established military region was called Militärgrenze or Vojna Krajina. Sometime in 1530, Serb Uskoks under Vladislav Stefović sought lands in Mutnica (Kranjska) to defend the frontiers by attacking Ottoman Turks. The 50 families lived in Metkike to Crnomlja, Kostelo to Lasa, Krasa into Kapela. King Ferdinand granted the Serbs the lands of Žumberak and gave them assistance in organizing their counts and dukes of the many clans. They were exempted of tax pay in return of military service in the Austrian army, they were permitted to raid and pillage Turkish settlements across the border. Nikola Jurisic settled 600 families in 1535. The three Serb military officers of Koprivnica, Križevci and Ivanic formed the Varaždin general command. The Žumberak Serbs had initially freedom of faith but were later converted into Greek Catholicism under pressure from Rome in the 18th century, and later into Roman Catholicism during the World War II.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire gained control in Croatia, which also threatened the dreams of a free state of the Serbs. The Serbs and Croats rebelled in Dalmatia and Slavonia in guerilla formations of Uskoks and Hajduks during the 16th and 17th century.
After the First World War, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later called Yugoslavia) was created. Almost all Serbs finally lived in one state, in majority. The Kingdom had its capital in Belgrade and was ruled by a Serbian king.
During the Second World War, the Serbs suffered greatly in Croatia after the Axis Fascist Ustasha regime came into power. The Ustaše aimed at an ethnically "pure" Croatia, and saw the Serbs that lived in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as the their biggest obstacle. Thus, Ustaše ministers Mile Budak, Mirko Puk, and Milovan Žanić declared in May 1941 that the goal of the new Ustaše policy was an ethnically clean Croatia. They also publicly announced the strategy to achieve their goal:
The Ustaše persecuted the Serbs who were mostly Orthodox Christians in several concentration camps, mass killings in Serb populated town and forced conversion was systematically enacted, race laws patterned after those of the Third Reich were officially adopted, which were aimed against Jews, also the Roma and Serbs, who were collectively declared enemies of the Croatian people. Estimates of the number of Serbian victims of genocide in Croatia are placed at least 500,000 people, The estimated number of Serbs killed in the Jasenovac concentration camp ranges from 300,000 to 700,000.
The people of Yugoslavia that opposed the Fascists and Nazis were the Partizan and Chetnik forces, the Partizans were led by Josip Broz Tito (later life-long President of Yugoslavia) composed of any ethnic people wanting to liberate the Balkans and the Chetniks who were a royalist unit composed of Serbs.
The Croatian War of Independence, began when Serbs in Croatia who were opposed to Croatian independence announced their secession from Croatia in June 1991. Fighting in this region had actually begun weeks prior to the Ten-Day War in Slovenia. The move was in part triggered by a provision in the new Croatian Constitution that replaced the explicit reference to Serbs or "Croats of the Serbian Orthodox faith" in Croatia as a "constituent nation" with a generic reference to all other nations, and was interpreted by Serbs as being reclassified as a "national minority". The Serbian community of Krajina whom outnumbered Croats there 5 to 1 was an independent republic from July 1991 to Oct. 1995 when they finally fell to the Croatian army.
There are currently 3.5 million Serbs in diaspora throughout the world (those that are not constitutional peoples; like in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in this case). The Serb diaspora was the consequence of either voluntary departure, coercion and/or forced migrations or expulsions that occurred in six big waves:
The existence of the centuries-old Serb or Serbian diaspora in countries such as Austria, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Russia, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey and Ukraine, is the result of historical circumstances – the migrations to the North and the East, due to the Turkish conquests of the Balkans and as a result of politics, especially when the Communist Party came into power, but even more when the communist state of Yugoslavia collapsed into inter-ethnic conflict, resulting in mass expulsions of people from certain regions as refugees of war. Although some members of the Serbian diaspora do not speak the Serbian language nor observe Christianity (some Serbians are Jews, Slavic Muslims, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Rite Catholics, and atheists who don't practice religion) or members of the overseas dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church, they are still traditionally regarded as Serbs or Serbians other than Yugoslavians or Yugoslavs.
Срби / Srbi
12,000,000 - 13,000,000
|Regions with significant populations||
Predominantly Serbian Orthodox Christian