Brief Overview of Serbian History
Upon arrival to Balkans in the 7th and 8th century,
Serbs formed their first unified state under the Vlastimirovic dynasty
by 812. The state would achieve full independence, evolving into the
Serbian Kingdom and the Serbian Empire under the rule of the prominent
House of Nemanjic.
Serbia reached an apogee in economy, law, military,
and religion during the rule of the House of Nemanjic, especially during
Emperor Dusan. As a result of internal struggle between the rival noble
families, it succumbed fully to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.
The first Serbia was formed in 1217, and modern Serbia reemerged in
the 19th century, when it became an independent principality and then
a kingdom. In the 20th century, Serbia was a backbone of various South
Slavic states, including the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes from
1918 to 1941 (renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929), the Socialist
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1992, the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia from 1992 to 2003, and the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro
from 2003 to 2006. After Montenegro voted for independence from the
State Union, Serbia officially proclaimed its independence on June 7,
2006, as the successor state to the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.
Serbia during the Middle Ages
Serbs formed four distinct independent kingdoms by the
14th century — Dioclea, Rascia, Syrmia and Bosnia. Of those, the
most viable was Raška, formed in the 12th century by the Serbian
Grand upan Stefan Nemanja. In 1220, under Stefan the First Crowned,
Serbia became a kingdom. In 1346, Stefan Dušan established the
Serbian Empire.House of Nemanjic ruled over Serbia from 1166 to 1371.
Under Dušan's rule, Serbia reached its territorial
peak, becoming one of the larger states in Europe. In 1349 and 1354,
Dušan also made and enforced Dušan's Code, a universal system
of laws. By nature a soldier and a conqueror, Dušan did not make
any systematic effort to stabilize or administer his gains, and the
Empire began to dissolve soon after his death.
The Empire had disintegrated by the historic Battle
of Kosovo in 1389. The northern Serbian territories (the Serbian Despotate)
were conquered in 1459 following the siege of the "temporary"
capital Smederevo. Bosnia fell a few years after Smederevo, and Herzegovina
in 1482. Belgrade was the last major Balkan city to endure Ottoman onslaughts,
as it joined Catholic Kingdom of Hungary, following heavy Turkish defeat
in Siege of Belgrade of 1456. It held out for another 70 years, succumbing
to the Ottomans in 1521, alongside the greater part of the Kingdom of
Hungary that was soon conquered. Another shortlasting incarnation of
the Serbian state was the one of Emperor Jovan Nenad in the 16th-century
Vojvodina, however it also collapsed and its territory was conquered
by the Ottoman Empire, before finally passing to the Habsburg Empire,
under which it would remain for about two centuries.
Serbia as Independent Kingdom
The struggle for liberty, modern society and a nation-state
in Serbia lasted almost three decades and was completed with the adoption
of the constitution on 15 February 1835. In 1876, Montenegro, Serbia,
and Bosnia declared war against the Ottoman Empire and proclaimed their
unification. However, the 1878 Treaty of Berlin, which was signed at
the Congress of Berlin by the Great Powers, granted complete independence
only to Serbia and Montenegro, leaving Bosnia and Sanjak of Novi Pazar
to Austria-Hungary, who blocked their unification until the Balkan Wars
of 1912 and 1913 and World War I. King Petar I Karadordevic, Serbian
leader in the First World War.
On 28 June 1914 the assassination of Archduke Franz
Ferdinand of Austria at Sarajevo in Austria-Hungary by Gavrilo Princip,
a South Slav unionist, Austrian citizen and member of Young Bosnia,
led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. The Russian Empire started
to mobilize its troops in defence of its ally Serbia, which resulted
in the German Empire declaring war on Russia in support of its ally
Austria-Hungary. However, as German military planners wished to avoid
a war on two fronts against both Russia and France, they attacked France
first. This eventually culminated in all the major European Powers being
drawn into the war.
The Serbian Army won several major victories against
Austria-Hungary at the beginning of World War I, but it was overpowered
by the joint forces of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria
in 1915. Most of its army and some people went to exile to Greece and
Corfu where it healed, regrouped and returned to Macedonian front (World
War I) to lead a final breakthrough through enemy lines on 15 September
1918, freeing Serbia again and ending the World War I on 11 November.
In World War I, Serbia had 1,264,000 casualties — 28% of its total
population, and 58% of its male population.