A Brief History of Serbia

By Tim Lambert

Early Serbia

In the 7th century Slavs, ancestors of modern Serbs arrived in Serbia. At first, they were divided into clans but in the 8th century, a man named Vlastimir founded the first Serbian state called Rasica. Then in the 9th century, the Serbs were converted to Christianity. However, until the 13th century, Rasica was a vassal of the Byzantine Empire.

The 13th and 14th centuries were the golden age of Serbia. Its population rose and industries like mining flourished. Serbia also expanded its territory.

If you’re interested in delving deeper into the rich history and culture of Serbia, you might consider taking the opportunity to learn Serbian, the language that has evolved alongside this fascinating history. Learning Serbian can offer you a unique insight into the country’s heritage and enhance your appreciation for its vibrant past and present.

However, in the late 14th century, there was a new threat to Serbia – the Ottoman Turks. They defeated the Serbs in a battle at the Marica River in 1371 then crushed them at the battle of Kosovo in 1389. Then in 1459, the Turks captured the city of Smederevo effectively ending Serbian independence. Finally, in 1521 the Turks captured Belgrade.

However, in 1594, the Serbs rebelled against the Turks but the rebellion was crushed. Then during a war between Austria, Poland, Venice, and Turkey in 1683-90, the Serbs rebelled again. However, when Austrian forces withdrew from Serbia the rebellion collapsed. Many Serbs went with the retreating Austrian army.

Rebellion broke out again in 1804 in the First National Uprising, which was led by Dorde Petrovic, known as Black George. By 1807 the rebellion had succeeded with help from Russia. However, in 1812 the Russians made peace with the Turks. As a result, the Serbian rebellion collapsed. A second rebellion broke out in 1815. It is known as the Second National Uprising.

This time the Turks agreed to allow Serbia some autonomy. Finally, in 1878, Serbia became independent. In 1882 Serbia became a kingdom.

Modern Serbia

After the First World War Serbia became part of a large Slav nation. In 1929 King Aleksander made the new state a royal dictatorship and renamed it Yugoslavia (land of the South Slavs). However, from the start, there was tension between Croats and Serbs, and King Aleksander was assassinated in 1934. Meanwhile, Communism was growing in Yugoslavia and in 1939 Josip Broz became chairman of the Yugoslav Communist Party.

On 6 April 1941, the Germans bombed Belgrade and invaded Yugoslavia. They soon overran the country, which was carved up between Germany and its allies. Hungary took the northern part of Serbia but Germany took most of it. Afterward, the Communists carried out guerrilla warfare, and in October 1944 together with the Russians, they liberated Belgrade. Then in 1945, the Communists won 90% of the vote in elections and they introduced a Communist regime.

However, in 1948, Tito broke with Stalin, and afterward, Yugoslavia was resolutely independent. However, when Tito died in 1980 the system began to break down.

Finally, in 1991-92, the state of Yugoslavia broke up. Parts broke away from Serbia and became independent until only Serbia and Montenegro were left. However, Montenegro became independent in 2006. Then in 2008 Kosovo broke away and became independent.

Serbia suffered in the recession of 2009. However, Serbia soon recovered. Today the Serbian economy is growing and Serbia hopes to join the EU. In 2023 the population of Serbia was 6.7 million.


Last Revised 2024