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Cities in SERBIA




In the Gospodin Vir gorge, on the right bank of the Danube near the Romanian border, the archaeological site of Lepenski Vir was discovered in 1985, the oldest known Neolithic site in Southeastern Europe.

It developed here between 7000 and 6000 BC. the Lepenski Vir culture, one of the oldest permanent settlements in Europe. In the Iron Age (6th century BC), Illyrian tribes from the west colonized the Balkans, along with the Thracians from the east. Several centuries later, in the 4th century BC, these peoples were followed by the Celts from the north.

The arrival of the Romans changed everything: Rome became the center of power in the Balkans, aided by the Illyrians who had enlisted in the Roman army. In the year 9 AD, under Emperor Tiberius, all Illyrian territories were formally annexed by the Romans. They also conquered the Celtic fortress at Singidunum, which would later become the capital Belgrade and at this time was an important road junction connecting the Roman provinces of Moesia, Dacia, Pannonia and Dalmatia.

Three centuries later, the Roman Empire was divided in two by Emperor Diocletius. In 395 the eastern part, more or less present day Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece, was under the influence of Byzantium. The split of the empire into two opposing empires created a political and cultural rift that continues to affect the current situation in the Balkans. In the west, more or less present-day Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, people mainly looked to Catholic Rome and used the Latin alphabet; in the east they focused on the Christian Orthodox Constantinople and they used the Cyrillic handwriting.

Early Middle Ages

After the breakup of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, barbarian Asian steppe hordes like Huns, Goths, and Avars invaded the Balkans, as did Slavs. The first groups only stayed temporarily, but the Slavs settled permanently in the Balkans from the 7th century onwards. The Slavs who later became Croats came from present-day southern Poland, while the other group, the proto-Serbs, settled in the area south of the Danube, present-day Czechia. These two tribes already had a more or less shared history and, together with the Vlachs, surpassed the Illyrians, Greeks, Thracians, Romans and Dacians in the western Balkans. A small coastal enclave with the Illyrian language and culture managed to 'escape', present-day Albania.

The first Serbian kingdom

While Croatian tribes settled on the Adriatic coast, the Serbs occupied an area called Raška (Turkish: Sandžak) and parts of present-day Montenegro, Herzegovina and southern Dalmatia.

The Serbs gradually came under the influence of Orthodox Christian missionaries from Constantinople, but it was not until the 9th century that Serbian patriarchs (župans) fully accepted Christianity and slowly gave up Paganism. The first three centuries of the Serbian presence were marked by many conflicts between rival local rulers. The first Serbian kingdom arose in the 11th century in present-day Montenegro when Stefan Vojislav established the vassal state of Duklja (Latin: Doclea or Dioclea) and brought together several Serbian tribes in it. Furthermore, he turned away from Constantinople and focused strongly on Rome. Duklja (from then on called Zeta) soon expanded to include areas that included present-day Montenegro, Herzegovina and Albania. In 1077, Zeta became a kingdom under the protection of Rome and a Catholic ruler, Constantine Bodin. After Bodin's death, civil war broke out and power moved to Raška in the northwest. This is where the first dynasty of Serbia was finally founded in 1160, under Stefan Nemanja. This 200-year dynasty developed into a massive military force, consolidating and expanding its territory in the Balkans.

The Nemanjic Dynasty

The time under the Nemanjic dynasty was to be a golden age for Serbia, as well as strengthening national consciousness. At the end of this period, the population shared a common identity, a national soul and the confidence that they would survive the difficult years to come. It would also be the period when parts of Kosovo would come under the Serbian sphere of influence.

Stefan Nemanja was succeeded by his middle son, who was also called Stefan. His youngest son Rastko entered the monastery and called himself Sava. Stefan came into conflict with his eldest brother Vukan, who sought and received papal support. The Catholic Hungarian King Imre invaded Serbia and placed Vukan on the throne. The kingdom briefly became Catholic, but returned to Orthodoxy again in 1204 when King Imre died and Stefan took his place on the throne again. In 1217, Sava sent an envoy to the Pope, which earned his brother Stefan papal approval. After the Catholic Church in Rome, he now set his sights on Byzantium. In 1219 he visited the exiled Byzantine Emperor Theodoros I who granted him autonomous status of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Of course Sava became the first archbishop and after his death in 1236 he was canonized like his father. The next generation of Serbian kings, Radoslav, Vladislav and Uroš I, were of a lower caliber than their predecessors, which also marked a period of stagnation in Serbia and they also depended on the support of neighboring countries such as Hungary, Bulgaria and Byzantium. Under the sons of Uroš, Dragutin and Milutin (who later called himself Uroš II), the Serbian territory expanded again (including Northeastern Bosnia and Belgrade). This was done mainly by marrying with good parties: Milutin married five times Hungarian, Bulgarian and Byzantine princesses. Milutin was succeeded by his son Stefan 'Decanski' (later Uroš III), who managed to expand the Serbian territory even further.

Stefan Decanski's son Dušan (also: Uroš IV) would become the greatest and most powerful of all Nemanjic kings. He had come to power in 1331 by first imprisoning his father and later having him killed. Just before his death in 1355, the Serbian kingdom had expanded enormously: from the Danube to the Peloponnese in Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria and parts of northern Greece. The death of Stefan Dušan caused a major change. Two Macedonian brothers, Vukašin and Jovan Uglješa, tried to take power from Dušan's weak successor Stefan Uroš V. Vukašin eventually became king in southern Serbia, but he was killed along with his brother in 1371. Stefan Uroš V died the same year and , without a successor this would mean the actual end of the Nemanjic dynasty. Serbia was now divided between a number of feudal landlords, of which Lazar Hrebeljanovic eventually became the most powerful with the help of the Church in Constantinople.

However, his power proved limited when the Turks attacked Serbia from the south. The Turks defeated the Serbs in two important battles. First of all in 1371 at the Battle of the Marica River (now Bulgaria). More significant was the loss at the Battle of Kosovo (1389), a psychologically humiliating defeat and a turning point for an already dilapidated state.

Ottoman rule

After these two defeats, many Serbs fled north to Hungary and to the Adriatic coast. A troubled time followed with a shrinking territory ruled by Lazar's son, Stefan Lazarevic, and by his cousin Ðurad Brankovic. They decided to move the capital to Smederevo on the Danube, but eventually this city also fell into the hands of the Turks in 1459. Fearing the Islamic Ottomans, a large influx of refugees started again. This was not surprising, because the Ottoman Empire was a strict Islamic theocracy, where religious persecution was common. Some Serbs converted to Islam, but most refused. As a result, tens of thousands of Christian, mainly aristocratic Serbs, were taken as slaves to Constantinople.

Even more hated than the Turks were the Janissaries, elite troops initially recruited exclusively from Christian prisoners of war or slaves, originally consisting only of the adult males. In 1438, it was decreed that every four years, one in five boys between the ages of six and nine should be taken from a Christian home. Gradually it became a powerful elite who protected their interests with ruthless brutality. They also imposed heavy taxes and exploited the peasantry of Serbia. Belgrade fell to the Turks in 1521 and remained so until 1717.

In the following centuries, the Serbs regularly revolted against the Turks. In 1594, the Turkish sultan responded by flaying the Serbian patriarch Teodor alive and then hanging him. On top of that, to the great dismay of the Serbs, he had the relics of Saint Sava burned.

During the war between Turkey and the Holy Alliance (1693-1690) Austria, Poland and Venice, the Serbs again revolted on a large scale. However, the Austrians soon withdrew from the battle and invited the Serbs to settle on Austrian territory. For many Serbs it was a choice of two evils, but most chose to live in imperialist Catholic Austria. Large parts of southern Serbia were depopulated and the Turks took advantage of this by converting Raška, Kosovo, Metohija and parts of Macedonia to Islam. This action by the Turks largely explains the current religious demographics in the Balkans and Serbia. After this massive immigration, another important episode in the history of Serbia followed. In 1716, Serbian territories were again at the center of an Austro-Turkish war, this time started by Prince Eugène of Savoie. Once again the Serbs sided with Austria and, after the Peace of Požarevac, the Turks lost control of areas in northern Serbia and the Danube Valley, northern Bosnia and parts of Dalmatia and the Peloponnese.

The Great Serbian Uprising of 1804

In the early 1800s, Kosovo, Albania and Serbia were quiet, remote provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Montenegro became the first Balkan state to gain its independence in 1799 by forcing the sultan to recognize what had been apparent for decades, if not centuries: the Ottomans had never really subdued the warlike inhabitants of the inaccessible Black Mountains.

Serbia was a frontier province ruled by a benevolent Ottoman governor, a thousand Turkish landowners, a judge (kadi) in each town and a few Turkish garrisons. Far below that level, the Serbian peasants struggled. Nationalism and a desire for independence did not really exist: the Serbs saw themselves as Orthodox Christians rather than Serbs, there was local self-government and there was religious freedom, which was enough for most Serbs.

Yet in 1804 there was a major uprising due to two factors. The first was an uprising by the Ottoman elite corps, the Janissaries, who rose up against the sultan, murdered the Turkish governor and led a reign of terror among the Serbian peasant population. He rose - with the sultan's tacit consent - against that reign of terror. The second factor was the sudden emergence of a Serbian leader, the brilliant and charismatic pig farmer Ðorde 'Karadorde' Petrovic (Black George). Karadorde had fought against the Turks in the Austrian army, deserted, robbed rich Turks as a hajduk (bush robber), and then set up a successful wholesale pig business. When the Serbian peasants rose up against the Janissaries, he became their leader, who expelled the Janissaries and then turned against the sultan.

Serbia independent

The struggle for Serbian independence was not decided in one blow, not even in a decade. The Serbs were defeated many times over the course of thirty years, only to rise again. From 1813, the Serbian struggle of Karadjordje was taken over by another brilliant leader, Miloš Obrenovic.

In a series of uprisings between 1813 and 1834, the Serbs succeeded in forcing the sultan to recognize Serbian autonomy. Serbia became a principality under Milos.

The decades up to 1878 were marked by chaos and confusion and a lack of internal consolidation: erratic princes alternated in quick succession, and weak and penniless Serbia remained the target of domestic and foreign intrigue for decades. The Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Empire and Russia tried to get the buffer state within their sphere of influence by firing and intrigues.

Albanians - an illiterate, disorganized people of hill tribes - played no part in all this: the Serbs had a hard time keeping their heads above water. What did play a role was a growing Serbian nationalism, which concentrated on the fate of the Serbs outside Serbia, who numerically outnumbered their compatriots in Serbia (as early as 1900 Serbia had 2,331,000 Serbs, but 93,000 Serbs lived in Austria, 438 ,000 in Hungary, 611,000 in Croatia-Slavonia, 825,000 in Bosnia-Herzegovina and 400,000 in the Ottoman Empire, mainly in Kosovo.

The chief ideologue of Serbian nationalism - or: pan-Slavism, or: expansionism - was Ilija Garasanin, statesman, two-time prime minister and, in 1844, author of a 'Draft Plan' that provided for the liberation of all Slavs and non-Slavs. Slavic Christians against the Turks, the unification of all Serbs in one country (the Serbia of the 14th century) and the expansion of Serbia towards the Adriatic Sea. This blueprint for a Greater Serbia came at the expense of the Habsburgs, the Turks and the non-Christians (such as the Albanians in Kosovo, with its large Serb minority) and became the leitmotif of the new Serbia, an aspiration that followed the Balkans. wars and the First World War in 1918 was realized in the new Yugoslav state. Garasanin formed alliances with independent or autonomous neighboring countries such as Montenegro, Greece and Romania and with the Serb community in Bosnia and in 1867 succeeded in getting the last Turkish garrisons out of the country.

In 1877, in response to anti-Turkish uprisings in Herzegovina and Bulgaria, the Russians went to war against the Turks. It became a breakthrough. The Russians drove the Turks back to the gates of Constantinople. Montenegro, the new Bulgaria and the now independent Kingdom of Serbia seized the opportunity to expand their territory: what is now called Southern Serbia, the Sandzak and Macedonia fell into their hands. The first thing the new rulers did was to get rid of their new but unwanted Muslim subjects: in the first (but by no means the last) major ethnic cleansing of the last two centuries, tens of thousands of Muslims were expropriated, murdered or displaced. , most of them to Kosovo, a region that had remained in Turkish hands. The orders came from Belgrade and were simple: in Serbia there was no place for Muslims. The minarets of Belgrade were demolished. In 1878, at the Congress of Berlin, Serbia was recognized by the entire international community and in 1882 the Kingdom of Serbia was proclaimed.

The Balkan Wars at the Beginning of the 20th Century

Serbia was ruled at the end of the 19th century by a dynasty descended from Miloš Obrenovic, with the exception of Prince Alexander Karadordevic who reigned from 1842-1858 and was a son of Karadjordje. A coup d'état in 1903 brought Karadjordje's grandson to the throne as King Petar I. This Petar had a European education and was deeply influenced by liberal ideas. He introduced a democratic constitution and initiated parliamentary government that championed political freedom.

This newfound political freedom was shattered by the outbreak of freedom wars in the Balkan region, which rapidly changed the entire Balkans. New states arose in the vacuum left by the Turks. Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Montenegro worked together to expel the Turks from the Balkans. The First Balkan War of 1912 was short and successful; the Turks were forced to cede Macedonia and Kosovo to Serbia. A conflict over Macedonia soon arose between the Allies, and Bulgaria attacked both Greece and Serbia to gain sole rule over Macedonia. This led to the Second Balkan War of 1913, in which Romania sided with Serbia, Greece and Montenegro. This war was short-lived and ended that same year with the Treaty of Bucharest. This treaty did not help anyone, although Serbia gained control over western Macedonia.

In 1914, Turkish rule in the region had come to an end, but nationalist sentiments immediately resurfaced.

First World War

This highly explosive situation would eventually lead to the First World War. On June 28, 1914, the Habsburg heir to the throne Franco-Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo by the Bosnian Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip.

Austria immediately attacked Serbia and a few weeks later the First World War was a fact. Serbia joined the Allies, who managed to decide the war in their favor in 1918. In the peace negotiations of Versailles in 1919, the Serbs managed to annex the Habsburg South Slavic territories without much difficulty. On December 1, 1918, the first Yugoslavia was founded, the 'Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes', which would be called Yugoslavia from 1929. In 1921, a new constitution was adopted that made Yugoslavia a unitary state. However, the Serbs immediately tried to force all kinds of things on the Croats and Slovenes, which inevitably led to tensions. All important positions in politics and the army were also occupied by Serbs.

Minorities such as Germans and Hungarians had even fewer rights, the Kosovars were even completely without rights. The disaffected minorities were somewhat satisfied by the idea of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia to establish a federation, with far-reaching autonomy for the individual states. But the Croats in particular did not acquiesce and the fascist 'Ustaša' caused a lot of political violence and strived for an independent Croatia.

To put an end to all the unrest, King Aleksandar I suspended the constitution in 1929 and had thousands of opposition members arrested. Aleksandar was murdered in 1934 and his brother Pavle acted as regent, under whom Croatia received autonomy in 1939.


In World War II Yugoslavia was attacked by the Germans and capitulated in April 1941. Yugoslavia was then divided into the Bosnian Croat state 'Independent State of Croatia'. Kosovo and Western Macedonia were annexed to Albania. Furthermore, Montenegro came under Italian rule and Hungary annexed Vojvodina. Little Serbia was completely under the rule of Germany.

All kinds of resistance movements immediately became active, the most important of which was the communist partisans of Josip Broz, better known as Tito. The official Yugoslav resistance army remained loyal to the refugee government in London. Both movements fought the occupier, but also each other.

However, in 1943 Tito's partisans received the support of the Allies and on November 29, 1945, the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia (later: Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) was proclaimed by the communist government, consisting of six republics and two autonomous territories. At the same time, the monarchy was abolished and in 1946 a Russian-style constitution was adopted.

Period after the Second World War

In the first years after the war, Tito followed the line of the Soviet leader Stalin; that meant nationalization of companies, collectivization of agriculture and political opponents being liquidated. However, he did not want to commit himself completely to the Soviet Union and was therefore rejected by the entire Eastern bloc in June 1948, as it were.

Tito now pursued the Stalinists in his country and focused increasingly on the West and, with the help of the United States in particular, was able to absorb the consequences of the break with the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia was now a federal state with states such as Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro and with some autonomous provinces, Albanian Kosovo and Hungarian Vojvodina. All political units had their own constitution, president, government, parliament and language.

Characteristic of this period was that the federal government lost more and more power to the governments of the republics. Dissatisfaction with Croatia's financial and economic position led to an eruption of nationalism in Croatia in 1971. After Tito's intervention, almost the entire state and party leadership in Croatia was ousted.

The administration was decentralized and the autonomous (located on Serbian territory) provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina gained a large degree of independence.

After 1974, especially in Kosovo, the Serbs living there were put under increasing pressure by the 'albanization' of society. This was expressed, among other things, in the fact that there were fewer and fewer jobs for the Serbs.

In 1981, during riots in Pristina, Kosovo nationalists even demanded that their province become a republic. The police acted very hard and from 1986 the national feelings of the Serbs in the province of Kosovo and beyond became stronger and stronger.

End of Yugoslavia

Meanwhile, the economy had been collapsing since the 1970s and after Tito's death in May 1980, a politically untenable situation arose and the contradictions between the different nationalities became more and more apparent.

Later leader Slobodan Miloševic pleaded for strong authority from Belgrade and promised to end the "discrimination" and even "genocide" that would be the victims of the Serbs in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia. This was of course grist to the mill for the Serbian nationalists and in 1986 Miloševic became president of the Communist League of Serbia and in 1989 president of Serbia.

Mass demonstrations were organized by the Serbs in 1988 and 1989, forcing the governments of Kosovo, Vojvodina and Montenegro to resign. The governments that took office now completely followed Miloševic's wishes and introduced constitutional amendments that increasingly limited the autonomy of these areas. Kosovo's resistance was violently suppressed. By the late 1980s, the affluent Slovenians in particular, and to a lesser extent the Croats, were striving for a looser relationship between the different republics.

In December 1990, the Socialist Party of Serbia captured more than two-thirds of the seats in the Serbian parliament, leaving power in Serbia completely in the hands of Miloševic.

War between the states

Milosevic then also tried to impose his will on the federal government of Yugoslavia, but this would be a complete failure. In 1990 Croatia and Slovenia left the union of Yugoslav communist parties and in 1991 even from the Yugoslav federation. In the same year Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia also opted for independence. In January 1992, the United Nations recognized the independence of Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia; Kosovo did not receive this recognition. Serbia and Montenegro formed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

However, the Serbs did not recognize the old state borders, because this would mean that a third of all Serbs would live outside their own state. That was hard for them to digest and in the period 1991-1995 several bloody civil wars followed about border issues. Serb civilian militias established autonomous Serb territories in Croatia and Bosnia, which were intended to join Serbia. Many Croats and Bosniaks were expelled or killed. Due to the strong involvement of Serbia and Montenegro in the fighting beyond their borders, they have been hit by an international economic boycott since November 1991.

On the other hand, the Croats and Bosnians were also involved and many war crimes were committed on both sides. With the Dayton Agreement in 1995, Bosnians got their own state, approved by Milosevic. Croatian Serbs had already been expelled from Croatia earlier that year and the number of Serb refugees in Croatia and Bosnia at that time already exceeded half a million people.

As a result of all these terrible events, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was installed in The Hague. In 1999, Milosevic was also charged with complicity in war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

Fall of Srebrenica

The Srebrenica Drama of 11 July 1995 was the mass murder of an estimated 8,000 Muslim boys and men, who were formally under the protection of a Dutch UN battalion.

After the dissolution of the Republic of Yugoslavia and the civil war that followed, the city, like Tuzla, Sarajevo, Gorazhde and Zepa, was declared a safe enclave for Muslims by the United Nations, within an area controlled by Bosnian Serbs. The safety of the more than 30,000 inhabitants of the enclave was guaranteed by the presence of international peace militias under the UN flag.

On 11 July 1995, when more than 600 Dutch UN soldiers (successively the 'Dutchbat I, II and III' battalions) were doing their humanitarian work in Tuzla and Srebrenica, Bosnian Serb troops commanded by General Ratko Mladic forced their way into the city with tanks. inside and deported and murdered about 8,000 Muslim men and boys. It is considered the worst act of genocide in Europe since World War II.

Developments in Serbia in the period 1990-1999

In 1990 a multi-party system was introduced, which led to a multitude of parties that made the political landscape completely unclear. The largest party was Milosevic's SPS, which emerged from the communist party. All important positions in government, business, military, media and police were in the hands of ex-Communists and Milosevic was committed to maintaining this situation of nepotism and self-enrichment. Even the Greater Serbian idea was subordinate to this.

The December 1993 elections were won by the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) without gaining a majority. They failed to put together a coalition government and eventually the socialists formed a minority government.

In the summer of 1994, the so-called contact group, which consisted of the United States, Russia, England, France and Germany, came up with a new plan for the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina: 49% of the territory was allocated to the Bosnian Serbs and 49 % to the Muslim-Croat Federation. Milosevic agreed, but failed to persuade the Bosnian Serbs. Miloševic, who wanted to end the Bosnian conflict in order to end international sanctions against Yugoslavia, did not support the Bosnian and Croat Serbs on the defensive at this stage.

On November 21, 1995, a peace agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina was reached in Dayton, US, between Presidents Izetbegovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tudjman of Croatia and Miloševic of Serbia, who also negotiated on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs. The peace proposals were signed in Paris in December and Milosevic achieved his goal: the sanctions against Yugoslavia were lifted.

Meanwhile, the Bosnian Muslims and the Croats were advancing in Bosnia-Herzegovina and many Serbs from Bosnia and Croatia fled to Serbia.

In 1994, 23 small left-wing parties also united in the radical Yugoslav United Left (JVL) of Miloševic's wife, Mira Markovic. Most of the other parties were anti-communist and more or less nationalist, for example the Serbian Movement for Renewal (SBV) of Vuk Draškoviç and the Serbian Radical Party (SRK) of Vojislav Šešelj. The latter belonged to the Serbian 'cetniks', members of a civilian militia who had committed many war crimes. The more democratic and pro-European parties were too divided to play a significant role. Moreover, they focused on Milosevic's economic policy and not on his actions in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Anti-Communist mass demonstrations were unceremoniously dispersed by the military. Milosevic's regime increasingly resembled a dictatorial regime; for example, he controlled all the media and all elections were full of fraud. To enforce his policy, he increasingly called in the help of special loyal police units instead of the army.

In May 1996 there were serious social unrest in Nis, after many workers had not received a salary for months. The elections to the federal parliament in early November were won in Serbia by the coalition made up of the ruling SPS, Yugoslav United Left (JUL) and the Democratic Party of Serbia. Municipal elections were also held at the same time, in which the Zajedno (Together) coalition, made up of the three largest Serbian opposition parties, along with a number of smaller parties gained a majority in almost all major Serbian cities. Milosevic's SPS subsequently declared most of the results invalid, after which the opposition, students and workers' organizations staged daily mass demonstrations in Belgrade to respect the election results. After months of demonstrations, Milosevic acknowledged the victory of the opposition, partly under great foreign pressure.

In 1997, Milosevic could no longer be elected president for a third time under the constitution, but the clever fox was elected 'federal' president by the Yugoslav parliament. Serbian president became a close confidant of Milosevic's, Milan Milutinovic, who took advantage of a redistributed opposition, effectively sidelining himself.

In December 1998, a number of opposition parties merged into Alliance for Change. This group had hoped for Draskovic's participation, but he took the post of vice president of Serbia.

In 1999, NATO intervened, which seemed to increase Milosevic's popularity even more, despite the many charges that came before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

21st century

In July 2000, Miloševic wanted to change the constitution so that he could easily stay in the saddle for another eight years. The September 24 federal presidential election would then have to be won, but he was full of confidence.

However, that popularity turned out to be rather disappointing and the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) finally backed a strong candidate in the person of the honest, moderate nationalist Vojislav Koštunica, the leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DPS).

The elections surprisingly appeared to be a victory for Koštunica, but the Election Commission declared the elections invalid. It turned out that he got the most votes, but not the required 50%. The result was mass demonstrations in Belgrade, after which it was announced on September 28 that Koštunica had obtained 50.24% of the vote. A week later, on October 6, a crowd of people besieged the federal parliament building in Belgrade. The army and police did not intervene and the Milosevic era came to an end. On October 6, Miloševic acknowledged his defeat in a televised statement and the following day, Vojislav Koštunica was inaugurated as President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The international world reacted with satisfaction and Serbia regained access to international organizations and international financial aid was also resumed.

The parliamentary elections of 23 December 2000 were won by the DOS of Ðindic, who also became prime minister. The largest opposition party became the SPS. However, relations between the West-oriented reformer Ðindic and the nationalist and conservative Koštunica were not good from the start. Ðindic accused Koštunica of boycotting economic reforms and, moreover, delaying reforms of the army, police and secret services, where many Miloševic supporters were still in their seats.

In April 2001, Milosevic was arrested for abuse of power and corruption. Ðindic had him extradited to the Yugoslavia Tribunal in The Hague. Koštunica was against this because the constitution stated that Serbian citizens should not be extradited to foreign powers. The threat that the United States would cut off financial aid had convinced Ðindic. Meanwhile, the parliament barely functioned. In August 2001, Koštunica withdrew the members of his DPS from the government. In June 2002 all DPS MPs resigned and at the end of July the DOS expelled the DPS from the coalition.

The September 2002 Serbian presidential election was contested between Koštunica, the ultranationalist ešelj and Miroljub Labus.

These elections turned out to be a fiasco: in the first round, Koštunica failed to obtain 50% of the vote; far too few voters showed up in the second and third rounds, leaving Serbia without a president for the time being.

On March 12, 2003, Prime Minister Ðindic was assassinated by snipers and succeeded on March 18, 2003 by his Deputy Prime Minister, Zoran Živkovic. He was probably murdered for his willingness to extradite Milosevic and other war criminals to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

The early parliamentary elections of December 2003 were won by Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party (SRS) with 27.5% of the vote. The snap elections had become necessary after the ruling multi-party Democratic Opposition coalition of Serbia (DOS) lost a majority in parliament and fell apart.

Former Serbian president Milan Milutinovic volunteered to appear at the tribunal in January 2003 and declared his innocence. Milutinovic was suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Kosovo in 1999.

On February 20, 2004, Vojislav Koštunica was appointed Prime Minister of Serbia. The presidential election on June 27 was won by Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party, who defeated nationalist Tomislav Nikolic in the second round.

On December 1, 2004, 45-year-old President Tadic was unharmed during an attack in central Belgrade. A week earlier, Tadic had been threatened with death because he wanted to extradite suspects of war crimes to the ICTY in The Hague.

On May 21, 2006, Montenegro declared its independence after a referendum and the government of Serbia and Montenegro ceased to exist. On September 30, 2006, the Serbian Parliament adopted a new constitution, which was approved by referendum at the end of October 2006.

The parliamentary elections of 21 January 2007 were won by the Srpska Radikalna Stranka (SRS; Serbian Radical Party). In May, a coalition government was formed by the Demokratska Stranka (DS; Democratic Party), the Demokratska Stranka Srbije-Nova Srbije (DSS-NS; Serbia-New Serbia Democratic Party), and the G17 Plus. In May 2008, the government fell after a split caused by the European Union's declaration of support for the secession of Kosovo. The first round of the January 20, 2008 presidential election was won by Tomislav Nikolic with 40% of the vote, followed by Boris Tadic with 35.4%. This necessitated a runoff and on February 3, 2008, Tadic was reelected president by a narrow 50.3% majority.

On July 21, 2008, Radovan Karadžic was arrested in Serbia; he had been wanted by the ICTY for his role during the Bosnian War as leader of the Serbian entity in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian Republic. At the time of his arrest, he was working as an alternative healer in a private clinic in Belgrade. He disguised himself with long white hair and a long white beard and called himself Dragan Dabic.

Confederation of States Serbia and Montenegro

In 1992, both republics decided to continue as one state under the name Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On April 23, 1992, a new federal constitution was adopted. Elections in May were won by Milosevic's Socialist Party. However, they were boycotted by the more or less silenced opposition. The Serbian-American businessman Milan Panic became prime minister and the writer Dobrica Cosic became president. Panic accused Milosevic that he represented only a small group of warlike fanatics. He had to pay for that and was replaced in February 1993 by Radoje Kontic. Milosevic strengthened his position in June 1993 by replacing President Dobrica Cosic.

After Miloševic's departure, international pressure mounted on Ðukanovic to temper Montenegro's pursuit of independence, fearing a new conflict in the Balkans. The pressure was heightened when the separatist coalition 'Victory for Montenegro' won almost half of all seats in the parliamentary elections of April 2001. An independence referendum was not allowed under any circumstances and Ðukanovic was more or less forced to negotiate a new federal structure with Koštunica. Threatening to end financial aid to Montenegro convinced Ðukanovic. The referendum was indeed suspended in the spring of 2002, but after a crisis of confidence, the government fell in May.

Parliamentary elections were held in October and were won by the DPS with an absolute majority. ukanovic no longer wanted to be president and became prime minister, so he could use his influence on the consultations about the new union. However, these consultations were very difficult and only on February 4, 2003, the constitution of the new federation of Serbia and Montenegro (Srbija i Crna Gora) was adopted. A number of ministries (including Foreign Affairs and Defence) remained common and it was included in the constitution that the population could ultimately decide whether or not to continue the Union.

On March 7, 2003, Svetozar Marovic was elected the first president of Serbia and Montenegro. Milosevic died in his cell in The Hague in March. On May 21, 2006, Montenegro declared its independence after a referendum and the government of Serbia and Montenegro ceased to exist. In March 2009 Serbia receives support from the IMF to combat the consequences of the credit crisis.


The final unilateral declaration of independence was unanimously proclaimed by the Kosovar Parliament, on the proposal of Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, on Sunday 17 February 2008 at 4 pm, in emergency session. There were ten absentees, including the Kosovo Serb deputies.

This statement states, among other things:

Former Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica called independent Kosovo a "false" state, created in violation of international law. Serbia refuses further cooperation with Kosovo and wants to reconsider its relations with countries that recognize Kosovo's independence.

On 17 February 2008, Russia convened an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the new situation. Russia is demanding action from the UN mission UNMIK and from NATO troops to overturn independence. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern in a statement and asked "to refrain from any action or statement that could endanger the peace in Kosovo and the surrounding area, incite violence or promote security." could endanger." Speaking for six Western nations: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Croatia and the United States, the Belgian UN ambassador to the Security Council expressed regret that "the Security Council was unable to reach an agreement on how to proceed. But this deadlock was clear for months. Today's events are only the conclusion of a process in which all possibilities for a negotiated outcome have been exhausted."

Part of the international community has recognized Kosovo, including Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States, but the vast majority have not (yet). Afghanistan was the first country to officially recognize Kosovo as an independent state. The majority of the 27 EU countries recognize Kosovo. This does not apply to the EU countries Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Portugal. Some of these countries have one or more insurgent regions that in turn strive for independence. These countries do not want to set a precedent and have indicated that they will not recognize Kosovo. This declaration of independence can be regarded as a precedent and thus have consequences for the legal position of a number of breakaway but unrecognized states.

Kosovo has been governed by the UN mission UNMIK since June 1999 on the basis of UN resolution 1244. On June 15, 2008, a new constitution came into force in Kosovo. Kosovo was thus formally put in charge of its own country, after nine years of UN rule. The United Nations has transferred important powers to the Kosovar government. One of the most important changes is that the Kosovo president will henceforth promulgate the laws instead of the United Nations, which until now had custody. In addition, Kosovo will have a foreign minister for the first time. From now on Kosovo will also be able to organize its own elections, it will have a central bank, citizenship, a security force and a new national anthem.

Responsibility in the field of police and justice - as envisaged in the Ahtisaari plan - remains in the hands of UNMIK for the time being. The transfer from the UN (UNMIK) to the EU mission (EULEX) was normally also scheduled for 15 June 2008, which would supervise the police and judicial authorities with 2,200 men. This plan was postponed because Russia strongly opposed Kosovo's independence and did not want the UN to cooperate by transferring powers to the EU. To get around this, UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon reported in a report to the Security Council that the EU mission will work under the 'umbrella' of the UN mission and step by step take on 'operational responsibilities' in the areas of policing and justice will take over. NATO force KFOR remains in Kosovo to train a lightly armed Kosovar security force.

EU foreign ministers agreed in Luxembourg at the end of October 2010 that Serbia can take the first step towards EU membership. The ministers decided to ask the European Commission to advise on Serbia's accession. In May 2011, Serbian authorities arrested Ratko Mladic, one of the most wanted war criminals. The EU considers this an important step forward. In March 2012, Serbia will receive candidate member status. In May 2012, the nationalist Tomislav Nicolic surprisingly wins the presidential election. In July 2012, socialist Ivica Dacic forms a coalition government with Nicolic's party. At the beginning of 2013, the EU will mediate between Kosovo and Serbia and in April, following an agreement, Serbia will receive the green light from the EU to start talks on membership. The talks will actually start in January 2014. In March 2014, the ruling progressive party won a major victory. In April 2014, Aleksandar Vucic forms a centre-right government, proposes radical economic reforms and says he wants to join the EU. In March 2015, the first arrests were made of participants in the massacre in Srbrenica. In April 2016, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in prison by the UN tribunal in The Hague. Vucic wins the election and is given a mandate to implement reforms leading to EU membership. In April 2017, Vucic wins the presidential election for the progressive party (pro EU). Since June 2017 Ana Brabic is prime minister. Vucic will remain in power in the 2022 elections.


Detrez, R. / Servië-Montenegro : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur, milieu
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen ; Novib

Milivojevic, J. / Serbia
Children’s Press

Mitchell, L. / Serbia
Bradt Travel Guides

Schuman, M.A. / Serbia and Montenegro
Facts On File

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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