Serbs, History

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Summary

The Serbs (, ) are a South Slavic nation and ethnic group native to the Balkans.

Details

Slavs first came to the Balkans in the 5-7th centuries A.D. and they mixed with the local population (Illyrians, Thracians, Dacians, Romans, Celts). First, they came under Bulgarian and then Byzantine rule after 900. Later, Serbs created numerous small states centered throughout Herzegovina, and on the territory of modern-day states such as Montenegro and Serbia. One of the most powerful Serbian states during this period was Raška, which separated from the Serbian state of Duklja in the 11th century. Ruled by Prince Stefan Nemanja from 1169 to 1196, Duklja conquered the neighbouring Serb territories of Kosovo, Duklja and Zachlumia. Subsequently, he created the Nemanjić dynasty, which ruled over Serbia until the 14th century. Nemanja's older son, Stefan Nemanjić, became Serbia's first recognized king, while his younger son, Rastko, founded the Serbian Orthodox Church in the year 1219, and became known as Saint Sava after his death.

Over the next 140 years, Serbia expanded its borders. Its cultural model remained Byzantine, despite the political ambitions of the Serbs being directed against the empire. The medieval power and influence of Serbia culminated in the reign of Dušan the Mighty, who ruled the state from 1331 until his death in 1355. Ruling as Emperor from 1346, his territory included Macedonia, northern Greece, Montenegro, and almost all

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of Albania. When Dušan died, his son Stephen Uroš V became Emperor. With Turkish invaders beginning their conquest of the Balkans in the 1350s, a major conflict ensued between them and the Serbs. The first major battle between the Serbs and the Turks was the Battle of Maritsa, which took place in 1371. In it, the Serbs were defeated by the Turks. With the death of two important Serb leaders in the battle, and with the death of Stephen Uroš that same year, the Serbian Empire broke up into several small Serbian domains. These states were ruled by feudal lords, with Zeta controlled by the Balšić family, Raška, Kosovo and northern Macedonia held by the Branković family and Lazar Hrebeljanović holding today's Central Serbia and a portion of Kosovo. Hrebeljanović was subsequently accepted as the titular leader of the Serbs because he was married to a member of the Nemanjić dynasty. In 1389, the Serbs faced the Ottomans at the Battle of Kosovo on the plain of Kosovo Polje, near the town of Pristina. The battle was fought by a coalition of Serbs, Bosnians and possibly some Albanians who faced the Turks after Lazar refused to submit to Turkish rule. Both Lazar and the Ottoman Sultan, Murad I, were killed in the fighting. The battle most likely ended in a stalemate, and Serbia did not fall to the Turks until 1459.

With the Ottoman occupation of Serbia, countless Serbs fought against the Ottomans and organized uprisings in Serb territories that were under Ottoman rule. As a result, Serbs suffered severe consequences. In the 17th century, as many as 60,000 Serbs fled Kosovo during the Great Turkish War and settled in the Habsburg Monarchy. Serbia remained under Ottoman control until the early 19th century, with the eruption of the Serbian Revolution in 1804. The uprising ended in the early 1830s, with Serbia's autonomy and borders being recognized, and with Miloš Obrenović being recognized as its ruler. The last Ottoman troops withdrew from Serbia in 1867, although Serbia's independence was not recognized internationally until the Congress of Berlin in 1878. Serbia fought in the Balkan Wars of 1912–13, which forced the Ottomans out of the Balkans and doubled the territory and population of the Kingdom of Serbia. In 1914, a young Bosnian Serb student named Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which directly contributed to the outbreak of World War I. In the fighting that ensued, Serbia was invaded by Austria-Hungary. Despite being outnumbered, the Serbs subsequently defeated the Austro-Hungarians at the Battle of Cer, which marked the first Allied victory over the Central Powers in the war. Further victories at the battles of Kolubara and the Drina meant that Serbia remained unconquered as the war entered its second year. However, an invasion by the forces of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria overwhelmed the Serbs in the winter of 1915, and a subsequent withdrawal by the Serbian Army through Albania took the lives of more than 240,000 Serbs. Serb forces spent the remaining years of the war fighting on the Salonika Front in Greece, before liberating Serbia from Austro-Hungarian occupation in November 1918.

Serbs subsequently formed the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes with other South Slavic peoples. The country was later renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and was led from 1921 to 1934 by King Alexander I of the Serbian House of Karađorđević. During World War II, Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis powers in April 1941. The country was subsequently divided into many pieces, with Serbia being directly occupied by the Germans. Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) experienced persecution at the hands of the Croatian ultra-nationalist, fascist Ustaše, who attempted to exterminate the Serb population in death camps. More than half a million Serbs were killed in the territory of Yugoslavia during World War II. Serbs in occupied Yugoslavia subsequently formed a resistance movement known as the Yugoslav Army in the Homeland, or the Chetniks. The Chetniks had the official support of the Allies until 1943, when Allied support shifted to the Communist Yugoslav Partisans, a multi-ethnic force, formed in 1941, which also had a large majority of Serbs in its ranks in the first two years of war, later, after the fall of Italy, September 1943. other ethic groups joined Partisans in larger numbers. At the end of the war, the Partisans, led by the Croat Josip Broz Tito, emerged victorious. Yugoslavia subsequently became a Communist state. Tito died in 1980, and his death saw Yugoslavia plunge into economic turmoil. Yugoslavia disintegrated in the early 1990s, and a series of wars resulted in the creation of five new states. The heaviest fighting occurred in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose Serb populations rebelled and sought unification with Serbia, which was then still part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The war in Croatia ended in August 1995, with a Croatian military offensive known as Operation Storm crushing the Croatian Serb rebellion and causing as many as 200,000 Serbs to flee the country. The Bosnian War ended that same year, with the Dayton Agreement dividing the country along ethnic lines. In 1998–99, a conflict in Kosovo between the Yugoslav Army and Albanians seeking independence erupted into full-out war, resulting in a 78-day-long NATO bombing campaign which effectively drove Yugoslav security forces from Kosovo. Subsequently, more than 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians fled the province. On 5 October 2000, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosević was overthrown in a bloodless revolt after he refused to admit defeat in the 2000 Yugoslav general election.

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External Links

  • WikipediaProject Rastko – Serbian cultural and historical research societyArticles about the Serbs by Westerners

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