Serbia, with Belgrade as its capital, is a Balkan nation in western central Europe that was a part of Yugoslavia for the period of the twentieth century, with a population of almost 7 million people.


Serbia was an essential component of Yugoslavia (literally “Land of the South Slavs”) beginning in the 1920s, which encompassed the contemporary nations of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Montenegro.

Long controlled by the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary, these constituent states merged in 1918 to establish the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, an autonomous federation. That federation was legally established as Yugoslavia in 1929. Serbia dominated this multiethnic union, but after World War II, the nonaligned communist government of Josip Broz Tito granted some autonomy to the constituent republics and attempted to balance competing interests by dividing national administrative responsibilities (e.g., for intelligence and defense) along ethnic lines.
After Tito’s death in 1980 and the subsequent fall of communism in Eastern Europe, rising nationalism revived existing rifts in Yugoslav society. Slobodan Miloevi, the Serbian (and then Yugoslav) leader, tried to create a “Greater Serbia” from the old union, but his policies instead resulted in the secession of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia, as well as civil war in the early 1990s. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed or displaced as a result of the civil conflict, prompting international sanctions against the government. More blood was shed in the late 1990s when the Albanian-Muslim-dominated Serbian region of Kosovo sought independence, prompting the involvement of NATO and the United Nations, the bombing of Belgrade, and the putting of Kosovo under UN administration beginning in mid-1999.

Miloevi was eventually defeated in presidential elections and imprisoned and convicted for war crimes before the International Court of Justice, but the rump Yugoslavia remained unstable, as Montenegro attempted independence until reaching an arrangement that kept the country together as a weak federation. After the accord was ratified by the parliaments of Serbia, Montenegro, and Yugoslavia in 2003, the renamed Serbia and Montenegro replaced Yugoslavia on the European map. This informal federation came to an end in 2006, when Montenegro and Serbia gained independence. Meanwhile, global discussions on Kosovo’s future status have failed to provide a solution that is acceptable to both Serbs and Kosovars. Kosovo legally seceded in February 2008, despite Serbia’s resistance.


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