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Serbia - History

The first Serbian kingdom was created in 1170 A.D. by Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Nemanjic dynasty, whose son was canonized as St. Sava and became the patron saint of the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church founded in 1219. Serbia's territories expanded under the rule of King Milutin, who seized territory in nearby Macedonia from the Byzantines, and reached their peak under Milutin's son, Stefan Dusan (1331-55). However, Serbian power waned after Stefan's death in 1355, and at the Battle of Kosovo (June 28, 1389) the Serbs were defeated by the Turks. Following the Battle of Smederevo in 1459, the Ottoman Empire exerted complete control over all Serb lands.

Serbs lived under the rule of the Ottoman sultans for nearly 370 years, though the Serbian Orthodox Church, with several disruptions, transmitted Serbian heritage and helped preserve Serbian identity during this period. Movements for Serbian independence began with uprisings led by Karadjordje Petrovic (1804-13) and Milos Obrenovic (1815-17), founders of two rival dynasties that would rule Serbia until World War I. Serbia became an internationally recognized principality under Turkish suzerainty and Russian protection after the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829. After waging war against Turkey in support of Bosnian rebels in 1876, Serbia formally gained independence in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin, largely thanks to Russian support. Following Austria-Hungary's annexation of Bosnia, Serbia led a successful coalition of Montenegrin, Bulgarian, and Greek troops (the Balkan League) that in 1913 seized remaining Ottoman-controlled territory in Europe and established Serbia as a regional military leader.

The assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, set off a series of diplomatic and military actions among the great powers that culminated in World War I. Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian forces occupied Serbia soon after World War I began. After the collapse of Austria-Hungary at the war's end in 1918, Vojvodina and Montenegro united with Serbia, and former south Slav subjects of the Habsburgs sought the protection of the Serbian crown within the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Serbia was the dominant partner in this state, which in 1929 adopted the name Yugoslavia.

The kingdom soon encountered resistance when Croats began to resent control from Belgrade. This pressure prompted King Alexander I to split the traditional regions into nine administrative provinces. During World War II, the Axis powers occupied Yugoslavia. Royal army soldiers, calling themselves Chetniks, formed a Serbian resistance movement, but the communist Partisans, with Soviet and Anglo-American help, succeeded in defeating the Chetniks and forcing German forces from Yugoslavia by 1944. In an effort to avoid Serbian domination during the postwar years, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro were given separate and equal republican status within the new socialist federation of Yugoslavia; Kosovo and Vojvodina were made autonomous provinces within Yugoslavia.

Despite the appearance of a federal system of government in Yugoslavia, Serbian communists ruled Yugoslavia's political life for the next 4 decades under Josip Broz Tito, a former Bolshevik and committed communist. In 1948 after Tito made several significant foreign policy decisions without consulting Moscow, Yugoslavia was expelled from the Soviet bloc, signifying a split with Moscow that left Tito independent to accept aid from the Marshall Plan and become a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement. Communist rule transformed Serbia from an agrarian into an industrial society; however, by the 1980s, Yugoslavia's economy started to fail. With the death of Tito in 1980, separatist and nationalist tensions emerged in Yugoslavia.

In the late 1980s, Slobodan Milosevic propelled himself to power in Belgrade by exploiting Serbian nationalism, especially over Kosovo. In 1989, he arranged the elimination of Kosovo's autonomy in favor of direct rule from Belgrade. Belgrade ordered the firing of ethnic Albanian state employees, whose jobs were then taken by Serbs. The Albanian language was banned at the University of Pristina, cutting off higher education for ethnic Albanians in the province. As a result of this oppression, Kosovo Albanian leaders led a peaceful resistance movement in the early 1990s and established a parallel government funded mainly by the Albanian diaspora.

Between 1991 and 1992, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia all seceded from Yugoslavia. On April 27, 1992, in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro joined in passing the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (F.R.Y.).





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