History of Serbia and Montenegro

Contents:

Antiquity | The Roman Empire | The Comming of Slavs to Balkans
Medieval Serbian State | The Nemanjic Dynasty
Medieval Zeta | Turkish Occupation
The Ottoman Period | Decline of the Ottoman empire
Montenegro under the prince-bishops
Modern Serbia | Liberation of Serbia | Modernization of Montenegro
The Balkan Wars and World War I | The South Slav Monarchy 
World War II | The Communist Federation
Disruption of ex-Yugoslavia and the Civil War 

HISTORY OF KOSOVO AND METOHIJA
by Prof. Dr. Dusan Batakovic

History of Yugoslavia
another concise survey of the turbulent history of Yugoslavia

M A P S
HISTORICAL MAPS OF THE BALKANS


Short History of the Serbian Orthodox Church


A Roman Sculpture found in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, near Gnjilane

Antiquity

Together with east-central Europe, the Balkans formed the heartland of an Old European civilization that flourished between 7000 and 3500 BC. There is evidence of dense settlement, particularly in the Pannonian Basin, along the Sava and Danube
rivers, and spreading northward into modern Hungary along the Tisa and southward down the Morava-Vardar corridor. Food production had developed to the point that it was possible to support a measure of craft specialization, including pottery making and the smelting of copper, and small towns were formed. Several important sites in Serbia provide insights into Old European culture, particularly those at Starcevo and Vinca, near Belgrade, and at Lepenski Vir, on the Danube above the Iron Gate.

After 3500 BC the region was gradually infiltrated by seminomadic pastoral peoples, believed to be speakers of languages of the Indo-European family, who came southward and westward from the Russian steppes. Their extensive trade routes carried amber, gold, and the bronze that was the basis of their superior military technology. These peoples were divided into tribal groups, one of which, the Illyrians, became firmly established throughout the western part of the peninsula. By the 7th century BC they had acquired the capacity to work with iron, and this skill became the basis both of their extensive trade with the emerging Greek city-states and of the power of the native aristocracies. East of the Morava-Vardar the land was periodically subordinated to the warrior kingdoms of the Dacians and Thracians.

Beginning about 300 BC, bands of Celts began to penetrate southward. Their superiority rested in part on their mastery of iron technology, which they used to beat both swords and plowshares. The extent of Celtic expansion is indicated not only by their material remains but also by place-names. The name Singidunum, by which the Romans knew the settlement on the site of Belgrade, is at least partly of Celtic origin.

The Roman Empire

At the end of the 3rd century BC the Romans began their expansion into the Balkan Peninsula in search of iron, copper, precious metals, slaves, and agricultural produce. The Roman struggle for domination, against the fierce resistance of the native peoples, lasted three centuries. The Illyrians were finally subdued in AD 9, and their land became the province of Illyricum. The area that is now eastern Serbia was conquered by Crassus, proconsul of Macedonia, in 29 BC and incorporated into the Roman province of Moesia. Roads, arenas, aqueducts, bridges, and fortifications attest to the thoroughness of Roman occupation. The names of several modern towns reveal Roman origins, including Sremska Mitrovica (Sirmium) and Nis (Naissus). In 395 a fundamental and permanent division was imposed on the empire along a line that ran roughly northward from the modern Montenegrin-Albanian border on the Adriatic to Sirmium, whence it followed the line of the Sava and Danube rivers. This line created a cultural 
boundary that has had profound consequences for the development of the entire Balkan Peninsula.

The Coming of the Slavs to Balkans

Roman domination in the region was of relatively short duration. Military clashes with the Goths began early in the 2nd century, and the Goths were followed by Huns, Bulgars, and Avars over the next 200 years. The collapse of the Western Empire in the face of the advancing Germanic Ostrogoths at the end of the 5th century left the Balkans nominally under the rule of Constantinople, but the disruption of imperial administration in reality had gone so far that effective control was no longer possible.

Along with other seminomadic peoples during this time, there began to move into the area tribes of Slavs, a group of Indo-European-speaking peoples who had long been settled in central Poland but who moved southward to occupy the sparsely populated areas left by the raids of the more warlike peoples. The relative strength of the forces in the area is suggested by the Slavs' effective vassalage to the Avars, a Turkic people of warrior-nomads who led their Slavic subjects in raids against cities of the Byzantine Empire.

It was not until the defeat of a combined Avar-Persian invasion in 626 that Byzantium was able to reassert its strength. The emperor Heraclius formed an alliance with two of the stronger Slavic tribes, the Serbs and the Croats, who at that time were settled north of the Carpathian Mountains. With the aid of the Byzantine navy the Serbs and Croats occupied the hinterland of the Dalmatian coast before pushing the Avars and Bulgars eastward.

The division of the Roman Empire between Roman and Byzantine rule--and subsequently between the Latin and Orthodox churches (see the article on Great Schism) --was marked by a line that ran northward from Skadar through modern Montenegro, symbolizing the status of this region as a perpetual marginal zone between the economic, cultural, and political worlds of the Mediterranean peoples and theSlavs. During the decline of Roman power, this part of the Dalmatian coast suffered from intermittent ravages by various seminomadic invaders, especially the Goths in the late 5th century and the Avars during the 6th century. These were soon supplanted by the Slavs, who became widely established in Dalmatia by the middle of the 7th century. Because of the extremeruggedness of the terrain and the lack of any major sources of wealth such as mineral riches, the area that is now Montenegro became a haven for residual groups of earlier settlers, including some tribes who had escaped Romanization.

Novo brdo fortress
Approaching Novo Brdo - the largest Serb medieval town in Kosovo

Medieval Serbian State

The basis of social organization among the Serbs--indeed, among all the South Slavs--was the zadruga, a large extended family governed by a fairly democratic consensus of its adult members under the leadership of a patriarch. The zadruge were typically united on a village basis around a single lineage under a headman. Larger political units covering a district might be gathered under a zupan, or chieftain, who would sometimes have his seat at a particular fortified strong point, called a grad
Because the zadruga system was based on ties of kinship and locality, it militated against the sustained collaboration of larger groups, although several zupani might on occasion be gathered under the uneasy leadership of a veliki zupan, or "grand zupan," who might manage to establish control over a substantial part of the territory and even declare himself king or emperor.

The first Serb state emerged about 850 when a zupan called Vlastimir led a union of southern Serbs in resistance to Bulgarian expansion. His acknowledgment of the suzerainty of the Byzantine emperor was significant in that the Serbian court then became an important channel for the spread of the Eastern tradition of Christianity. The emperor Michael III commissioned two brothers from Thessalonica, Cyril (Constantine) and Methodius, to undertake the task of evangelizing the Slavs. Michael encouraged them to preach in the vernacular, and, to facilitate this task, Cyril invented a script that was based upon Greek but adapted to suit the phonetic peculiarities of the Slavonic tongue. He used as his standard the dialect spoken by the Slav tribes of Macedonia, which thus was preserved as Old Church Slavonic.

The dissemination of Christianity to the Slavs was not actually begun by the "apostles to the Slavs," but it received an enormous stimulus from the translation of the scriptures and liturgy, and the wider significance of their work was considerable. Not only was the influence of the Eastern church permanently assured over the greater part of the Balkans, but the Cyrillic alphabet also became one of the most visible cultural badges separating the Serbs (together with other Orthodox Slavs) from the Croats and Slovenes.

Dusan's coronation
Coronation of Emperor Dusan in Skopje

The Nemanjic Dynasty

Following the death of Vlastimir, his successors lost ground, initially to the first Bulgarian empire, then to the Macedonian empire of Samuel, and finally to Byzantium. Some time toward the end of the 11th century, there arose a new Serb state known as Raska, based on the settlement of Ras in the region of modern Novi Pazar. In 1169 Stefan Nemanja became veliki zupan of Raska, and, seizing the opportunity offered by a disputed succession in Constantinople, he began to extend his territory. By the time of his retirement to a monastery in 1196, he had consolidated control over the rival Serb realm of Zeta, centred in what is now Montenegro. His son, Stefan Prvovencani (the "First-Crowned"), became the first Serbian king in 1217. As the Byzantine and second Bulgarian empires disintegrated, the Serbian Nemanjic rulers expanded their holdings southward. Uros II (reigned 1282-1321) occupied Skopje and made it his capital.

The youngest son of Stefan Nemanja became a monk at Mount Athos, under the name Sava. In 1219 Sava was consecrated archbishop of Zica, near modern Kraljevo, at the confluence of the Ibar and Zapadna Morava rivers, where an autocephalous Serbian church was separated from the Bulgarian-influenced archbishopric of Ohrid. He was later canonized as St. Sava. To escape the constant harassment of raiding parties of Tatars, however, the seat of Nemanjic ecclesiastical order was moved south to Pec, in the Metohija Basin. In 1375 it was elevated to a patriarchate.

Under Stefan Dusan (reigned 1331-55), the ninth ruler in the dynasty, the Nemanjic empire attained its greatest extent, incorporating Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia, all of modern Albania and Montenegro, a substantial part of eastern Bosnia, and modern Serbia as far north as the Danube.

Ironically, it is conceivable that the greatest achievement of the Nemanjic dynasty was not its territorial expansion but its success in developing for the first time a unified "high culture" for all Serbs, based largely on religious cohesion. The court was committed to the Orthodox church, acting to suppress Bogomilism and ending attempts at the Latinization of the western areas. Many churches and monasteries were built that have remained among the architectural glories of the Orthodox church; Milesevo (c. 1235), Pec (1250), Moraca (1252), Sopocani (c. 1260), Decani (1327), and Gracanica (1321) are the most renowned. The frescoes of the Raska school are known for their capacity to blend a reverential sense of the awe in which secular authority is held with a deep sense of religious devotion. Literary work extended beyond the copying of a considerable number of manuscripts to include pieces of independent creative merit, such as the manuscript biography of Stefan Nemanja prepared by St. Sava and his brother Stefan. Courtly culture became a religious culture, and both church and state benefited from their close partnership. The ecclesiastical authorities acquired prestige and influence, while the court was given powerful symbolic support and was "civilized" in every sense.

During the 13th and 14th centuries the level of economic development rose, although during times of armed strife considerable damage was suffered by the population. Crops such as hemp, flax, grapes, and oil-yielding plants became more widespread. The plains of Kosovo and Metohija in particular became areas of dense population and fairly intensive cultivation, probably supporting more people than today.

Mining grew considerably in importance. Copper, tin, silver, and gold had all been exploited in Roman times, but production intensified as the demand for coins and luxury goods expanded in the new imperial courts and the centres of ecclesiastical authority. Trade also expanded, particularly in the hands of Ragusan and Italian merchants, who led caravans along the old Roman routes. Administration improved; the high-sounding titles adopted by officials ("despot," "caesar," or "sebastocrat") were more than mere mimicry of Byzantium. An important step in the direction of separating administration from the personal whim of the ruler was taken by Dusan, who in 1349 promulgated his Zakonik, or code of laws.

Medieval Zeta

In this part of the Adriatic littoral, from the time of the arrival of the Slavs up to the 10th century, these local magnates were often brought into unstable and shifting alliances with other larger states, particularly Bulgaria, Venice, and Byzantium. Between 931 and 960 one such zupan, Ceslav, operating from the zupanija of Zeta in the hinterland of the Gulf of Kotor (modern Montenegro), succeeded in unifying a number of neighbouring Serb tribes and extended his control as far north as the Sava River and eastward to the Ibar. Zeta and its neighbouring zupanija of Raska (roughly modern Kosovo) then provided the territorial nucleus for a succession of Serb kingdoms that, in the 13th century, were consolidated under the Nemanjic dynasty.

Although the Serbs have come to be identified closely with the Eastern Orthodox tradition of Christianity, it is an important indication of the continuing marginality of Zeta that Michael, the first of its rulers to claim the title king, had this honour bestowed upon him by Pope Gregory VII in 1077. It was only under the later Nemanjic rulers that the ecclesiastical allegiance of the Serbs to Constantinople was finally confirmed. On the death of Stefan Dusan in 1355, the Nemanjic empire began to crumble, and its holdings were divided among the knez (prince) Lazar Hrebeljanovic, the short-lived Bosnian state of Tvrtko I (reigned 1353-91), and a semi-independent chiefdom of Zeta under the house of Balsa, with its capital at Skadar. Serb disunity coincided fatefully with the arrival in the Balkans of the Ottoman armies, and in 1389 Lazar fell to the forces of Sultan Murat I at the Battle of Kosovo.

After the Balsic dynasty died out in 1421, the focus of Serb resistance shifted northward to Zabljak (south of Podgorica). Here, a chieftain named Stefan Crnojevic set up his capital. Stefan was succeeded by Ivan the Black, who, in the unlikely setting of this barren and broken landscape and pressed by advancing Ottoman armies, created in his court a remarkable if fragile centre of civilization. Ivan's son Djuradj built a monastery at Cetinje, founding there the see of a bishopric, and imported from Venice a printing press that produced after 1493 some of the earliest books in the Cyrillic script. During the reign of Djuradj, Zeta came to be more widely known as Montenegro (this Venetian form of the Italian Monte Nero is a translation of the Serbo-Croatian Crna Gora, "Black Mountain").

Holy relics of St. Prince Lazar of Kosovo
The holy relics of St. Prince Lazar of Kosovo

Turkish Occupation

The Ottoman Empire gained a foothold on the European mainland in 1354, and by the time of Dusan's death in 1355 the Turkish march northward had already begun. Dusan's successors were unable to sustain his achievements, and almost immediately the state began to disintegrate under rival clan leaders. The fall of Adrianople (modern Edirne, Tur.) to Turkish troops shocked the several factions into momentary unity under Vukasin, the king of the southern Serbian lands, and his brother John Ugljesa, the despot of Serres (modern Sérrai, Greece), but their forces were defeated in 1371 at the Battle of Cernomen, on the Marica River, where both were killed.

The Ottoman conquest of the Balkan Peninsula was not a smooth progression. Slav leaders were not infrequently willing to ally themselves with the Ottomans in the hope of securing aid against rivals. In this way they were able to retain a nominal independence for some years in return for a variety of forms of vassalage. (One of the most celebrated of these leaders was Marko Kraljevic, the son of Vukasin and a chieftain of Prilep, who is immortalized in many of the heroic Serbian folk ballads.) In 1387 or 1388 a combined force of Serbs, Bosnians, and Bulgarians inflicted a heavy defeat on the Ottoman army at Plocnik, but a turning point came when the Bulgarian tsar Ivan Shishman broke with the alliance of Slavonic powers and accepted Ottoman suzerainty. No longer threatened from the east, the armies of Sultan Murat I were able to concentrate their weight against Serb resistance. Led by the Serb Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic (he did not claim Dusan's imperial title), the Serbian army met Murat's forces in battle. On St. Vitus' Day (Vidovdan), June 28 (June 15, Old Style), 1389, on the Kosovo Polje, the Serbs suffered a defeat that has become hallowed in several great heroic ballads. The vision of Lazar on the eve of the battle, the alleged betrayal by the Bosnian Vuk Brankovic, and the killing of Murat by Milos Obilic have been given assured immortality in Serbian folk literature.

Forced to accept the position of vassals to the Turks, Serb despots continued to rule a diminished state of Raska, at first from Belgrade and then from Smederevo. Serbian resistance cannot be considered to have ended until the fall of Smederevo in 1459.

Kosovo maiden
Kosovo maiden healing the wounded knights at Kosovo Polje, 19th cent. painting

The Ottoman Period

When the Serb people fell under Ottoman control, they became a part of one of the great empires of world history. At the centre of the Turkish system was the sultan and his court--often referred to as "the Sublime Porte" (or simply "the Porte")--based in Constantinople. The origins of the empire in conquest were reflected in its administrative structure, which revolved around the extraction of revenues principally in order to support a military caste. All authority and the right to enjoy possessions were regarded as deriving from the sultan, who "leased" them to subordinates at his own will and for his benefit. The most common of these relationships was the timar. The timarli held the right to support themselves from taxes raised in their area. Typically, the holder of such a position was a spahi, or mounted warrior, and from his territory he was expected to support and arm himself in a state of readiness for the service of the sultan.

All Muslims were regarded as belonging to a single community of the faithful, the ummah, and any person could join the ruling group by converting to Islam. Each non-Muslim religious community was called a millet, and Ottoman administration 
recognized five such groups: Orthodox, Gregorian Armenian, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant. Each group was under the direction of its religious head. Thus, the Serbs, being Orthodox, had as their titular head the patriarch of Constantinople.With the passage of time, however, national consciousness was recognized by the Ottoman authorities, and Constantinople became a specifically Greek centre. The Serbs had their own patriarchate at Pec. Ecclesiastical authorities were expected to assume many civil functions, including the administration of justice, the collection of taxes, and later also education.

The situation of the Christian population was not one of unmitigated oppression. Christians were exempted from military service, and in some regions the tax burden was lighter than it had previously been, although they were taxed more heavily than the Muslim population. It was even possible for subject peoples to rise, on condition of their conversion, to the highest positions in the system. By far the most typical route of advancement was the system of devsirme, which involved the conscription of Christian boys between the ages of 10 and 20 approximately every five years. The boys were taken to Constantinople, forcibly converted to Islam, and employed in a variety of posts. The most able would be trained for administrative positions, while the others joined the corps of Janissaries (yeniçeri). The Janissary corps was an elite, celibate order of infantrymen that, as firearms became more significant in warfare, came to be the most effective part of the Ottoman military.

Ottoman society was principally rural in character, the majority of the population living on small, mixed farms that produced little marketable surplus or in small pastoral communities. Trade and manufacture were not particularly encouraged by the Ottomans, whose principal concerns were with the extraction of revenue through taxation and the maintenance of order. Commerce was regarded only as a possible source of excise duty. Levels of literacy remained low for the indigenous peoples. 

A few knew a little Greek--the lingua franca of trade--and knowledge of Old Church Slavonic was mostly confined to the clergy. Culturally, therefore, the population remained highly differentiated, living most of their lives within the confines of local peasant communities, with their own dialects--the vehicle for folk songs and poetry--dress, and customs.


Period of Turkish occupation was remembered as a time of great suffering and
humiliation of the Balkan Christian nations

Decline of the Ottoman Empire

The territorial expansion of the Ottoman Empire was brought to a halt during the 17th century, which reduced the need for a large, completely dedicated, and highly mobile corps of Janissaries. Having lost their specifically military function, the Janissaries began to look for opportunities to obtain land or office. The declining flow of booty shifted the burden of the revenue needs of the empire onto the system of taxation. This in turn led to both a steady rise in the level of exactions from the Christian population, through a spread of tax farming, and a growth in the number of holders of former timarli who tried to turn their holdings into agricultural estates.

The disintegration of the old system brought with it growing dissatisfaction on the part of the Christian population. Armed uprisings by the peasantry were particularly common in the northern areas, where imperial control was weakest and the Janissaries least disciplined. The greatest of these took place in 1690, when Serbs rose in support of an Austrian invasion after the Turks' unsuccessful siege of Vienna. However, the subsequent retreat of the Austrians left the native population seriously exposed to Turkish reprisals, and in 1691 Archbishop Arsenije III Crnojevic of Pec led a migration of 30,000-40,000 families from Old Serbia (Kosovo, Metohija and Raska region) and southern Bosnia across the Danube. As a consequence, parts of the Austrian Military Frontier came to contain some of the major centres of Serbian culture. At the same time, the spread of Albanian Muslims into lands left vacant by the great migration was to provide a continuing source of communal tension. It was also the period of intensive islamization when a considerable number of Christians were forced to convert to Islam in order to evade heavy taxation and reprilals.

By the middle of the 18th century, the disintegration of Ottoman rule produced a highly unstable situation in Serbia. In an attempt to hellenize the church within the empire, the patriarchate at Pec was abolished and the Serbian church brought under the control of the Greek patriarch. In northern Serbia, local Janissaries were virtually beyond the control of the Porte, and their exactions passed from the collection of taxes to open plunder. When war broke out between Turkey and an Austro-Russian alliance in 1787, the Austrian emperor called on the discontented Serbs to rise against their overlords, and this they did with some success. The treaties of Sistova (1791) and Jassy (1792) that concluded hostilities included a defense of Serb civil rights. The Janissaries were expelled from the pashalic of Belgrade, but they soon returned, and a period of endemic political disorder set in.

In 1804 an uprising broke out in the Sumadija region, south of Belgrade. It was led by George Petrovic, called Karageorge (Black George), a successful trader, who had served with the Austrians in the war against Turkey in 1787-88. In 1805 a Skupstina (Assembly) was summoned by Karageorge, and it submitted a list of proposals to the sultan. The proposals included a number of concessions to local autonomy that were unacceptable to the sultan, and a large force was sent to quell the rebellion. The Serbs continued to hold out, however, and they were strengthened by the arrival of Russian reinforcements in 1808. However, threatened by Napoleonic invasion in 1812, the tsar Alexander I concluded a treaty with the Turks. The withdrawal of Russia left the Serbs open to Ottoman reprisals, and by the end of 1813 Karageorge and the remainder of his followers were compelled to retreat across the Danube.

The return of the Turks was accompanied by a widespread reign of terror. Preoccupied with the business of the Congress of Vienna, the major powers showed little interest in the fate of the Christian population, which rose again in self-defense in April 1815, led by Milos Obrenovic. The Turks were driven from a wide area of northern Serbia, and they were soon forced to negotiate. The fall of Napoleon meant that Russian interest was rekindled, and under threat of Russian intervention several important concessions were made to the rebels, including the retention of their arms, considerable powers of local administration, and the right to hold their own assembly. The region remained a Turkish principality, with a resident pasha and Turkish garrisons in the principal towns, but in effect an independent Serbian state dates from this time.


Peter Petrovic II Njegos - a statesman, Bishop and a poet

Montenegro under the prince-bishops

The year 1516 saw a shift in the constitution of Montenegro that many historians regard as having ensured its survival as an independent state. The last of the Crnojevic dynasty retired to Venice (he had married a Venetian) and conferred the succession upon the bishops of Cetinje. Formerly, the loyalty of minor chieftains and of the peasantry to their rulers had been unstable. It was not unusual for political control throughout the Balkans to pass from Slav rulers to the Turks, not because of the defeat of the former in battle but because of the failure of local magnates to secure the support of their subjects. In
Montenegro the position of vladika, as the prince-bishop was known, brought stability to that country's leadership. The link between church and state elevated it in the eyes of the peasantry, gave it an institutionalized form of succession that prevented its becoming a matter of contest between minor chieftains, and excluded the possibility of compromising alliances with the Turks.

Nevertheless, this period was a difficult one for the small, landlocked Montenegrin state, which was almost constantly at war with the Ottoman Empire. Cetinje itself was captured in 1623, in 1687, and again in 1712. Three factors explain the failure of the Turks to subdue it completely: the obdurate resistance of the population, the inhospitable character of the terrain (in which it was said that "a small army is beaten, a large one dies of starvation"), and the adept use of diplomatic ties with Venice.

From 1519 until 1696 the position of vladika was an elective one, but in the latter year Danilo Nikola Petrovic was elected to the position (as Danilo I) with the significant novelty of being able to nominate his own successor. Although Orthodox clergy in general are permitted to marry, bishops are required to be celibate; consequently, Danilo passed his office to his nephew--founding a tradition that lasted until 1852.

During the reign of Danilo two important changes occurred in the wider European context of Montenegro: the expansion of the Ottoman state was gradually reversed, and Montenegro found in Russia a powerful new patron to replace the declining Venice. The decline of Turkish power, however, was accompanied by a gradual stabilization of Montenegro's Orthodox identity. Catholicism retained a toehold in the area, and only recently have Catholics identified themselves as Croats.

The replacement of Venice by Russian patronage was especially significant, since it brought financial aid (after Danilo I visited Peter the Great in 1715), modest territorial gain, and, in 1799, formal recognition by the Ottoman Porte of Montenegro's independence as a state under Petar Petrovic Njegos (Peter I). Russian support at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, following the final defeat of Napoleon, failed to secure for Montenegro an outlet to the sea, even though Montenegrins had participated in the seizure of the Gulf of Kotor from French control in 1806.

Ostrog Monastery
Ostrog Monastery in Montenegro XVII c. - one of the most important strongholds of
Orthodox faith in the time of Ottoman rule

 

Modern Serbia

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic era signaled the beginning of the transformation of the feudal order throughout the Balkans. The wars of this period precipitated changes in international relations, and in their aftermath entirely new social and political processes began to shape the lives of the South Slav peoples. They remained overwhelmingly peasant societies, but the old chiefly and aristocratic dynasties were increasingly challenged by the rising middle classes, who saw "national interest" in different terms.

One of the principal consequences of the wars for the Serbs was the extension and deepening of channels of communication between the Serbs living in Serbia itself and those living in a diaspora across the Danube and throughout the Habsburg lands. The latter had prospered as traders, members of the free professions, and soldiers and in several cases had been accepted into the ranks of the nobility. There was therefore a substantial Serbian middle class in these areas that was lacking in the lands which had long remained under Ottoman tutelage, and this middle class played a crucial role in the growth of national consciousness.

Dositej Obradovic (1743-1811), a philosopher and linguist, came from this group. Attempting to introduce philosophical ideas to his countrymen in their own tongue, Obradovic wrestled with the problems of standardizing a Serbian literary language. He was followed in this endeavour by Vuk Karadzic, who had participated in the uprising of 1804 and fled across the Danube with Karageorge in 1813. Karadzic conceived a grand project for the creation of a Serb literary language, which included the revision of its orthography, the collection of songs, poems, folk sayings, and stories in the living language of the people, the compilation of a grammar and dictionary, and a demonstration that this language could be used as the vehicle for great literature. Karadzic's revised orthography abandoned letters in the Old Church Slavonic alphabet that had no function in the living language and devised new signs to represent sounds of the Serbian language for which there were no existing letters. These proposals met with bitter resistance in ecclesiastical circles, but they were sympathetically received by influential secular intellectuals such as Obradovic, the Slovene Jernej Kopitar, and the Croat Ljudevit Gaj. Karadzic's contacts with these other great figures in the development of the literary languages of the South Slavs helped to create a sense of cultural cohesion throughout the region that contributed significantly to the emergence of political unity. In Serbia itself, the process of political unification that Milos Obrenovic initiated, along with the growth of political and economic cooperation between Serbs on both sides of the Danube and the Sava, brought the inevitable triumph of Karadzic's reforms.

Serb rebellion against Ottomans
Serb rebellion against Ottomans

Liberation of Serbia

In June 1817 Karageorge returned from exile. He and Milos had never enjoyed an easy relationship, and, when Karageorge was murdered in mysterious circumstances, Obrenovic's complicity was suspected. A feud erupted between the Karageorgevic and the Obrenovic families that continued throughout the century.

Almost in spite of its rulers, the Serbian state expanded steadily through its first half century. In 1830 the Ottoman government granted the Serbian principality full autonomy, Milos was recognized as hereditary prince, and the Serbian church was given independent status. In 1833 Milos used the pretext of restoring order across the southern border to annex further territory. He attempted a program of domestic reform, but his tendency to behave like a pasha aroused great opposition. He abdicated in 1839, but neither of his sons (Milan and Michael) managed to control the dissenting chieftainly factions and gangs of bandits. A coup d'état in 1842 brought the Karageorgevic family to power. The Skupstina elected Alexander, the third son of Karageorge, as prince. Alexander's studied neutrality between Austria and Russia made him unpopular, and he was deposed in 1859. The aged Milos was recalled from retirement, and in 1860 he was succeeded by his son Michael, who continued the work of consolidating the state and modernizing its administration. Michael was assassinated in 1868, probably by supporters of the Karageorgevic dynasty. They did not reap the reward for their efforts, however, as the Skupstina called his cousin Milan to the throne. Still a minor, and a highly Westernized young man, Milan took little interest in his task and was very unpopular. It may be said that he was saved by the Bosnian insurrection in 1875.

In Bosnia, where the local Muslim nobility were more repressive of their reaya than were Turks elsewhere, the whole province burst into revolt after a particularly bad harvest the previous year. Hoping for an opportunity for liberation of the Christian population, Serbia had been encouraging dissent, and in July 1876, in order to defend the church and Orthodox Christians from repression, Serbia and Montenegro declared war on Turkey; they were joined by Russia in 1877. Following the defeat of the Turks, the Treaty of San Stefano (March 1878) proposed a radical redrawing of the frontiers of the Balkan states, including the creation of a large Bulgarian state extending westward to include Ohrid. For a variety of reasons this solution was unacceptable to all the Great Powers, and a revision was undertaken in the Treaty of Berlin (July 1878). The new treaty reduced the territory of the Bulgarian state and allowed additional territory to Serbia and Montenegro, but it also placed Bosnia and Herzegovina under Austrian administration and allowed Austrian garrisons in the sanjak of Novi Pazar, thus ensuring the separation of Serbia and Montenegro and keeping alive Austrian hopes for the development of a strategically and economically important railway to Constantinople.

The Berlin settlement was vital for the subsequent political development of the region. First, it produced a momentous change in Serbia's opinion of Austria, which previously had been generally favourable. Thenceforth, the two were bitter rivals. The treaty also sowed the seeds of acute Serb-Bulgarian conflict, so that these two states became rivals for the remainder of Turkey-in-Europe.

In Croatia, progress toward a unified state had been stalled by the Ausgleich of 1868, which established the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. Dalmatia was now ruled from Vienna, while Croatia-Slavonia was subordinated to Budapest. In the latter region Croats were exposed to a campaign of Magyarization. The abolition of the Military Frontier in 1881 brought large numbers of Serbs into an expanded civil Croatia. Extreme Croatian nationalists saw them as a threat rather than as potential allies against the Magyars, who had no difficulty in playing the Slav parties off against one another.To the east, Serbs living under the Austrian crown had been rewarded for their articipation in an army that quelled the Magyar revolution of 1848-49 by the creation of the semiautonomous Vojvodina ("Duchy"). This included part of the former Banat of Temesvár, most of Backa, and a small part of Baranja (Baranya)--all of which had long been integral parts of the Hungarian kingdom. Even during the time of Turkish occupation, this region had begun to receive Serb migrants, and these had increased in importance after the Ottomans were forced back across the Danube. Also, Magyar nobles had introduced large numbers of peasant colonists from the Rhineland and Upper Austria, adding further to the ethnic mix. The Ausgleich eradicated the autonomous status of the Vojvodina and exposed Serbs also to the full force of Magyar attempts at assimilation. Extensive land reclamation was coupled with colonization by Hungarian speakers. Railway construction strengthened the economic ties with Budapest, and industrialization brought with it Hungarian entrepreneurs, technicians, and officials. Stimulated by improved communications, large estates underwent rapid commercialization. Agricultural wage labour replaced the traditional peasantry, so that socially and economically the region acquired much of its modern character. Indeed, during the last quarter of the 19th century, the Vojvodina became known as the "breadbasket of the empire." After the restoration of the Karageorgevic dynasty in 1903, the Serb population began to turn to Serbia for their political future, rather than trying to defend their identity within a Hungarian state.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Austrian protectorate had dramatic consequences. Railway and road construction, linked to the rapid expansion of mineral extraction, advanced. There were improvements in administration, communications, health, and public order. None of this made for social peace, however, for conflict over land reform was closely linked to lines of religious conflict.

In Serbia itself political life went through a period of acute disorder following the Bosnian uprising. In 1881 King Milan entered into a secret agreement with Austria by which Serbia gained valuable export conditions for agricultural goods on the understanding that, if Serbia refrained from interfering in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austrian support would be forthcoming for Serbian expansion into Macedonia. Encouraged by this, Milan undertook a disastrous expedition against Bulgaria in 1885. Its failure, together with the scandals of his personal life, led to Milan's abdication in 1889. After a confused regency, his son Alexander assumed control of the government in 1893, but the factionalism and corruption of the court did not abate. In the face of massive popular and official hostility, Alexander married his mistress Draga Masín in 1900. The royal couple were brutally assassinated by officers in the palace in Belgrade in 1903, bringing to an end the Obrenovic dynasty. The Parliament invited Peter Karageorgevic to return, and a period of reform and economic development was instituted.


Traditional Serbian Coat of Arms
A double-headed eagle with a golden cross

Opposition to the Obrenovics had been in part economic. The state had become heavily paternalistic toward the peasantry. A combination of population growth and the steady commercialization of agriculture left many peasants in debt. The failure to address the problems of agriculture led to the rapid emergence of the Serbian Radical Party and the Agrarian Socialists, both expressing widespread rural dissatisfaction.

Modernization of Montenegro

The accession of Peter II in 1830 heralded an era of modernization and political integration, in spite of further wars against the Turks. The suppression of a brief civil war (in 1847) resulted in significant attenuation of the vestiges of tribal chieftainships. The otiose position of "civil governor" was replaced by a senate, and much progress was made in the suppression of blood feuding.Upon Peter's death in 1851 a major constitutional change was introduced by his nephew, Danilo II. Because he was already betrothed, Danilo was precluded from becoming vladika; therefore, he assumed the title of gospodar (prince) and, by making it a hereditary office, separated the leadership of state from the episcopal office. Danilo also introduced a new and modernized legal code. The first Montenegrin newspaper appeared in 1871.

A turning point in the fortunes of Montenegro came with the Serbian declaration of war against Turkey in 1876, which Montenegro (under Nicholas I) joined immediately and Russia the following year. Although the territorial gains awarded to Montenegro by the Treaty of San Stefano were reduced at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, the state virtually doubled in area and, for the first time, its borders were enshrined (albeit rather vaguely) in an international treaty. Most significantly, Montenegro secured vital access to the sea at Antivari (modern Bar) and Dulcigno (Ulcinj). Although the hostility of the other Great Powers to a Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean placed restrictions on the use of these ports, Montenegro was now far more open to communication with the developing capitalist economies of western Europe. Trade expanded, the cultivation of tobacco and vines began; a bank was founded; motor roads were built; a postal service was initiated; and in 1908 the first railway (from Bar to Virpazar on Lake Skadar) was opened. The majority of the investment in these developments was by foreign (especially Italian) interests. Economic openness had its other side, however, in the swelling flow of emigrants, especially to Serbia and the United States.

The steady expansion of educational opportunity and contact with the outside world produced pressure further to modernize the consititution, with the result that the legal code was thoroughly revised in 1888 and parliamentary government introduced in 1905--although Prince Nicholas' autocratic disposition made for frequent conflict between parliament and the crown. (Nicholas took the title of king in 1910.)

The peaceful economic expansion that the country experienced after 1878 was terminated by the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, in which Montenegro sided with Serbia and the other Balkan League states to oust Turkey from its remaining European
possessions. The Treaty of London (1913) brought territorial gains on the Albanian border and in Kosovo, and it also resulted in a division of the old Turkish sanjak of Novi Pazar (Raska region) between Serbia and Montenegro. This brought Montenegro to its greatest territorial extent and for the first time gave the two Serb states a common border. Discussions began about the possible union of the two countries, but these were interrupted by World War I, when Austrian troops drove Nicholas into exile in Italy. Following the end of hostilities in November 1918, the Assembly in Cetinje deposed the king and announced the union of the Serbian and Montenegrin states. Consequently, although Montenegrin representatives had had little contact with the Yugoslav Committee or with the Serbian government-in-exile of Nikola Pasic during the war, Montenegro was taken into the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Of all the constituent parts of this newly unified state, Montenegro had suffered conspicuously the greatest proportionate loss of life during World War I.


Serb Army retreating through Metohija in 1915

The Balkan Wars and World War I

In the spring of 1908 it became known that the British and Russians were corresponding about the possibility of setting up an independent Macedonia. In an attempt to forestall the division of the empire, a group of Young Turks, junior military 
officers, staged a coup d'état, overthrowing Sultan Abdülhamid II and declaring a new constitution. Taking advantage of the situation, Austria, with the secret agreement of the Russian foreign minister, annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Serbs were enraged and threatened war, but, when it became clear that the Russians were not willing to support them, they were forced to resign themselves to the annexation. Serb anxieties were heightened in September when Prince Ferdinand declared Bulgaria's formal independence, with himself as tsar. Taken together, these developments reinforced Serbian determination to liberate the areas inhabited by the Serbian population in Macedonia.

The closing decades of the 19th century had seen deepening conflict and confusion in Macedonia, as the Turkish capacity to keep order decayed and the ambitions of the Great Powers and the surrounding states sharpened. Despite their competing 
expectations of territorial expansion in the area, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Greece concluded in 1912 a series of secret treaties creating a Balkan League, the explicit intention of which was to eject the Turks from Europe. On Oct. 8, 1912, 
Montenegro declared war on Turkey, precipitating the First Balkan War. The Turkish army was defeated with a rapidity that surprised most observers. By the Treaty of London (May 1913) Turkish possessions in Europe were confined to a small area of eastern Thrace. The situation was unstable, however, for several unresolved issues were left for arbitration by the Great Powers and Bulgaria was greatly dissatisfied by its share of Macedonia. The Bulgarians opened hostilities against Serbian and Greek forces in June but were forced to an armistice by the end of July.

By the Treaty of Bucharest (August 1913), Montenegro expanded to a common frontier with Serbia, doubling its population. Serbia was awarded substantial territories to the south, including central and northern Macedonia. On Austrian insistence, however, Serbia and Montenegro were forced to yield part of the territory they had occupied to form a newly independent Albanian state. Because Greece obtained Salonika, Kavála, and coastal Macedonia, the Serbs were denied the direct outlet to the sea for which they had hoped. The international situation was therefore, if anything, more dangerous at the end of 1913 than in 1911. The Austrians saw in the emergence of a strong Serbia an end to their own Drang nach Osten ("drive to the east"), while Serbian animosity against Austria was intensified. During a visit to Sarajevo on June 28 (Vidovdan; Serbia's national day), 1914, the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, an adherent of Young Bosnia organization. Seeing in the event official Serbian complicity, the Austrians issued a precipitate and ill-considered ultimatum that included demands for the suppression of anti-Austrian newspapers and the dismissal of anti-Austrian teachers and military officers. The Serbian reply, though conciliatory, was considered unsatisfactory, and in July the two countries went to war.

The Austrian offensive of Aug. 14, 1914, was forced back within two weeks; after desperate fighting a second attack in November was also repelled. In the winter of 1914-15, however, a terrible outbreak of typhus struck Serbia, devastating both the civilian population and the military. When the German field marshal August von Mackensen opened a third offensive in October 1915, assisted by the Bulgarians, the Serbs, deprived of reinforcements and supplies and weakened by disease, were forced to retreat across the mountains to the Adriatic coast, whence they were shipped to the safety of Corfu suffering great casualties on the way.

The rise to power of the Greek prime minister Eleuthérios Venizélos in November 1916 brought the Greeks into the war on the Allied side. It became possible to open a new front against the Bulgarian-German forces in Macedonia, with the Serbian army playing a key part alongside British, French, and Greek units. After two weeks of hard fighting, the Bulgarians surrendered. The collapse of the Macedonian front was one of the most important factors precipitating the end for the Central Powers. Following the recapture of Belgrade on Nov. 1, 1918, the Austro-Hungarian forces agreed to an armistice.

During the early period of the war, a number of prominent political figures from Slav lands under the Dual Monarchy fled to London, where they set up a Yugoslav Committee with the aim of conducting propaganda on behalf of their compatriots. 
One of the committee's most important achievements was the discovery by Franjo Supilo of the Treaty of London, a secret document drawn up in April 1915 by which the Italians were promised Istria and large areas of Slovenia and Dalmatia in return for their participation on the Allied side. In spite of the apparent connivance of the Serbs in this agreement, the stagnation of the war during 1916 and early 1917, added to the general indifference of the major Allied powers to the fate of the national minorities within Austria-Hungary, slowly compelled the Yugoslav Committee to seek common defense with the Serbian government-in-exile. In July 1917 representatives of the two groups met in Corfu and signed the Corfu Declaration, which called for a single state governed by a democratic and constitutional monarchy, in which there would be equality for the two alphabets, three national names and flags, and religious toleration. The details were left to a future constituent assembly, and in particular no mention was made as to whether its structure was to be federal or unitary. At the same time, on Habsburg territory, Croatian and Slovene deputies to the diets in Vienna and Budapest began preparing the ground for independence through a National Council. On Oct. 29, 1918, as Serbian troops marched to the Danube, the Sabor in Zagreb declared the union with Hungary to be severed.

From this date there was a state that united within itself Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, but the state was not yet Yugoslavia. Serbia and Montenegro had made no commitment to it. Indeed, in spite of the Corfu Declaration the Serbian leader Nikola Pasic regarded the new state with some dismay. The Serbs' war aims had been concerned principally with the defense of their territorial gains of 1912-13, and if they thought of expansion at all it was only in terms of a "Greater Serbia" that might encompass the Serbian parts of Bosnia. Nonetheless, as it became apparent that the Italians were not content with the territories allocated to them by the 1915 Treaty of London, the "Yugoslavs" sought the effective support of the advancing Serbian army. All sides were constrained by the major Allied powers to reach an accommodation, and a conference held in Geneva on November 6-9 concluded with a declaration of union by representatives of the Yugoslav Committee, the National Council, and the Serb political parties. In September the Montenegrins rose against Austrian occupation, and on November 26 a national 
assembly in Podgorica declared for union with Serbia under the Karageorgevic dynasty. On Dec. 1, 1918, a delegation from the National Council invited the prince regent Alexander to proclaim the new union, and on December 4 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was announced to the world.


South Serbia and north Macedonia

The South Slav Monarchy

The new kingdom faced major problems at its birth. More than 12 percent of the citizens of this "South Slav state" spoke non-Slavonic tongues--mostly Albanian, Hungarian, and German. The Christian population was mainly divided between 
adherents of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, but more than one-tenth of the total population were Muslims. Parts of the kingdom had already begun to industrialize and to commercialize, but most of its subjects were still living in primitive and isolated communities dependent on subsistence agriculture. No modern rail or road link connected Belgrade and Zagreb; in fact, the rudimentary Serbian rail system pointed toward the Greek port of Salonika, whereas that of the northern regions was integrated with the Austrian and Hungarian systems.

Elections in November 1920 produced a constituent assembly made up of no fewer than 15 parties, most with specifically ethnic constituencies. The fundamental divergence of opinion between them concerned the choice between a unitary or a federal state. Serb experience had always revolved around the creation of a strong state, that of the Croats and Slovenes around the struggle to defend the nation against too strong a state. The defeat in principle of the federal idea led to the withdrawal of the Croatian Peasant Party under the leadership of Stjepan Radic, and, following the assassination of a minister by a young communist in 1921, the Communist Party was declared illegal. This allowed an alliance of the principal Serb parties, together with the Muslims, to press through a highly centralized constitution, modeled on that of prewar Serbia. It was promulgated on Vidovdan, June 28, 1921.

With few exceptions, the decade 1919-29 was characterized by growing bitterness on the part of non-Serb groups. When in June 1928 a Montenegrin deputy shot two Croatian deputies to death in the Skupstina and mortally wounded Radic, the days 
of the Vidovdan constitution were numbered. It became evident that the Serbs were unwilling to contemplate a federal state at any price, while the Croats were unprepared to consider anything else. Frustrated by the inability of the politicians to make progress, on Jan. 6, 1929, King Alexander dissolved the Skupstina and declared a personal dictatorship. In an attempt to weaken traditional regional loyalties, the name of the state was changed to Yugoslavia, and the former regions were reorganized into nine banovine (governorships) and the prefecture of Belgrade. In spite of the popular appeal of some of Alexander's measures, others only exacerbated hostility to the regime, including the suppression of patriotic gymnastic societies, interference with the judiciary, the suppression of the free press, and the arrest and even torture of many critics of royal centralism.

A new constitution was promulgated in 1931. It nominally returned the country to representative government, but its provisions were so heavily centralist that it failed to secure the support of the Croats and of many liberal groups. During a state visit to France in 1934, the king was assassinated by an agent of the Croatian terrorist organization, the Ustasa. A regency was established, headed by Prince Paul, the uncle of the heir to the throne, Peter II. Discussions between the government and Croatian Peasant Party leader Vladimir Macek resulted in the Sporazum ("Agreement") of August 1939, which granted Croatia a new and semi-independent status under its own ban and Sabor. There was a revival of hope that a solution to Yugoslavia's constitutional problems might be found, but this hope was dashed by the onset of war in 1941.

Notwithstanding its tempestuous politics, the period immediately following World War I was a prosperous one for the Yugoslav kingdom. The growing demand for food both at home and abroad gave a strong stimulus to agriculture. One of the earliest measures announced in 1918 was a program of land reform that abolished serfdom and announced the expropriation of large estates. The redistribution of land was not coupled effectively either with investment or with the rationalization of holdings. Nevertheless, the reform ensured that Yugoslavia would remain a country of small farmers even after World War II.

Industrialization was a consistently enunciated policy of all postwar governments. Extractive industries, forestry, power generation, and metallurgical concerns were built up with foreign capital. Some manufacturing (notably textiles) developed with the aid of tariff protection, and machinery was acquired as war reparation from the Central Powers.

The Western financial crisis of 1929 left Yugoslavia relatively untouched. It was not until 1931 that real economic difficulties set in, as the cushion of war reparation was removed, the German banking system collapsed, French economic support was withdrawn, and Britain departed from the gold standard. Yugoslavia gradually was drawn into a more binding relationship with Germany, which began to recover under the Nazis. Favourable terms were extended to Yugoslav exports, and Yugoslav companies were incorporated into German cartels. By 1938 trade with Germany accounted for 53 percent of exports and 65 percent of imports.

Since 1933 the king had taken the initiative in building closer ties with Yugoslavia's Balkan neighbours--a policy that bore fruit in the Balkan Entente with Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. However, by the late 1930s it became clear that this 
modest measure of collective security was no match for the real threat to the independence of the state: German expansion. Following the 1938 Anschluss, the Yugoslavs worked hard to maintain a position of independence, but German pressure to associate with the Axis powers grew with the fall of Czechoslovakia, the Italian invasion of Albania, and the German- Soviet Nonagression Pact of August 1939. In March 1941 Prince Paul and his ministers finally agreed to sign the Tripartite Pact.

The response was one of public outrage, especially in Belgrade. In a bloodless coup d'état led by several air force officers, the regents and their senior ministers were sent into exile. King Peter's majority was proclaimed prematurely, and, amid massive and emotional demonstrations of popular support, a government of national unity was formed.


Kosovo Albanians joined Nazi Germany and Italy against Serbs, Pec 1944

World War II

Yugoslav bravado threatened to spoil Germany's plan for an attack against the Soviet Union, and on April 6, 1941, German troops invaded. Within two weeks Yugoslav resistance was crushed. King Peter and his ministers fled, later setting up a government-in-exile in London.

Parts of the kingdom were divided among Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria. A puppet regime was installed in a greatly diminished Serbia under a former minister of war, Milan Nedic, and an enlarged Independent State of Croatia, which included Bosnia and Herzegovina, was headed by the leader of the Ustasas, Ante Pavelic. The Croatian regime set about a policy of "racial purification" and open genocide that went beyond even Nazi practices in its extermination of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. From 1941 to 1945 more than million of Serbs were brutally exterminated in numerous concentration camps run by Ustasas (Jasenovac concentration camp). The Croatian Roman Catholic clergy headed by Archbishop Stepinac openly collaborasted with Ustasa movement taking part in great scale forceful conversion of the Orthodox Serbs to Roman Catholicism. There were almost no protests from the Roman Catholic Church authorities against the genocide against the Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. (The genocide over the Serbs in the Independent State of Coratia).

Although the Yugoslav Royal Army disintegrated rapidly in the face of the Axis attack, groups of its personnel did not surrender but went into hiding with their weapons. Under the name Chetnik (Cetnik), a term that recalled the groups of armed units who harassed the Turks during the 19th century, these groups emerged under the leadership of Dragoljub Mihailovic, an experienced and respectable officer who had fought in the Balkan Wars and World War I. A second armed resistance movement was created by the Communist Party; it came to be known as the Partisans (Partizani) and was headed by a former metalworker and infamous communist organizer from Zagreb named Josip Broz, who now operated under the code name Tito. The Chetnik organization was almost exclusively composed of Serbs whose vision of the future of Yugoslavia was of a strongly unified country in which Serbia and its royal dynasty would play the leading role. The Partisans, on the other hand, were firmly led by the Communist Party, which soon showed that it intended to overthrow the monarchy and create a socialist and a communist state like Soviet Union. The two groups were soon fighting each other with as much hostility as they were the occupiers.


German bombing of Belgrade 1941

A series of offensives by German and Italian forces, with the collaboration of Ustasa units, forced the partisans to remain on the move, mostly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the meanwhile the communists organized a "temporary government" in competition with the exiled royalist goverment in London. Under British pressure, King Peter withdrew support from general Mihailovic. On Oct. 20, 1944, Belgrade fell to a combined operation of Yugoslav communist and Soviet troops. After the conquest of the city massive series of retaliation against all anti-communists ensued. Thousands of Serbs all over Serbia were executed by the communist police.

Even after German forces in Yugoslavia surrendered in May 1945, Mihailovic was unwilling to give up the struggle, but his force was beaten and dispersed in central Bosnia. Mihailovic himself evaded capture until March 1946. He was tried by communists for alleged treason and executed in July. This event finally marked the beginning of unrestrained communist dictatorship.

The Communist Federation

A new constitution establishing the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia was promulgated on Jan. 31, 1946, replacing the monarchy with a federation of six republics and the two autonomous Serbian provinces of Kosovo- Metohija (Kosmet) and the Vojvodina. The "loyal opposition" was quickly but relatively gently eased from power, but those suspected of collaborating with the former enemy were punished or killed and their property confiscated. The major productive forces and means of communication and exchange were nationalized, and a rigid central planning apparatus was put in place, power being exercised by the Communist Party through a close interlocking of state and party functions.

Despite their adoption of this Soviet-style "dictatorship of the proletariat," Yugoslav communists had never had an easy relationship with the Soviet Union, dating to Tito's independence in conducting the "national liberation struggle." Relations soon turned acrimonious, the Yugoslavs being accused of ideological, economic, and political indiscipline and they in turn protesting the misconduct of Soviet advisers. In June 1948 Yugoslavia was expelled from the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), the Soviet bloc's apparatus of communist internationalism, and a diplomatic and economic boycott was begun by the socialist countries.

Yugoslavia responded by embarking on a distinctive "Yugoslav road to socialism." One significant development was the movement of nonaligned countries, in which Tito's active involvement legitimated his independence from the Soviet Union while underlining the respect for national identity that had become so central to his domestic policy. In June 1950 the Basic Law on the Management of State Economic Enterprises by Working Collectives took the first steps toward what came to be known as socialist self-management. Largely the creation of Yugoslavia's leading ideologist, the Slovene Edvard Kardelj, self-management involved a looser system of planning control, with more initiative devolved to enterprises, local authorities, and a highly decentralized banking structure. At the same time, revision of the constitutional law began a process of political decentralization, giving enormous powers in revenue collection and the provision of social services to the opstina (commune). A new constitution, adopted in 1963, strengthened self-management and extended it beyond industrial organizations into services and the administration; it also gave greater importance to the republics and autonomous provinces. Related to this constitutional reform was a series of economic measures designed to move the country toward "market socialism" by abolishing many price controls and requiring enterprises to compete more effectively with one another and within the "international division of labour."

Measured in growth rates, the reforms were a success, in that the 1950s and '60s were years of unparalleled ecconomic prosperity. Yugoslavia emerged as a major international tourist destination, and some branches of manufacture, such as metal goods and textiles, became highly profitable on both the domestic and foreign markets. Industrialization and urbanization created a society that was radically different from the economically backward peasant economy of the prewar years.

Yet beneath this growth were certain fundamental weaknesses. Instead of creating a genuine market, the strength of the republics resulted in a series of local monopolies in many products. More seriously, the country's prosperity followed deeply rooted historical cleavages, with the northern republics of Slovenia and Croatia drawing steadily away from the others. Efforts to correct this imbalance through the diversion of resources into projects in the poorer regions were resented by the more-developed republics. By the late 1960s, unemployment and inflation had become chronic, and all these problems were aggravated by the rapid rise of prices in the 1970s.

Growing economic crisis contributed to the sharpening of political conflict. Within Serbia itself, a purge of liberals from the League of Communists culminated in the expulsion of the Praxis group of philosophers from the University of Belgrade. In a bid to reaffirm party authority, a new constitution in 1974 vested Tito with a lifetime presidency; afterward, leadership was to pass to a collective presidency composed of one representative from each of the republics and autonomous provinces, with a new chairman selected each year.

The post-war communist period proved to be fatal for the Serbian people. The Serbian national and religious tradition was deliberately suppressed both in education and in state controlled media. The Orthodox Church was formally given freedom but in reality it was under great pressure and many priests suffered imprisonment and various kinds of threats because of their pastoral activity among the people. All spheres of public life were strictly controlled by the Communist Party and any kind of free and democratic activity was forbidden. This situation caused a general exodus of many young and educated people to the countires of Western Europe and America.


Boundaries of Serbia throughout History - click to enlarge

Disruption of ex-Yugoslavia and the Civil War

Tito's death in May 1980 marked the beginning of the rising ethnic tensions. It was obvious that neither the problem of Yugoslavia's ethnic diversity nor that of its economic management could be easily solved. By 1983 the foreign debt had become so large that the International Monetary Fund was asked to intervene with Yugoslavia's creditors. Partly under its guidelines, the government under Ante Markovic embarked on yet another reform of self-management, this one including the freeing of technical and managerial functions from political interference and the closing of unprofitable enterprises. Implementation of the reforms drove unemployment even higher, precipitating a series of strikes and street demonstrations, and they were vigorously resisted by communist officials from regionsthat might have greater difficulty in competing in an open market.

The largest of these regions was Serbia, where the leadership of the party and the presidency of the republic were assumed by Slobodan Milosevic, a banking official from Belgrade . Attacking the entrenched communist establishment for having 
lost touch with the real concerns of the people and seeking a restoration of Serbian national consciousness, Milosevic used various meassures to strengthen his political power in Serbia and Montenegro. The parallel processes began in Croatia and other republics. Soon it was evident that there was no real restoration of democracy and civil society in Yugoslavia and the country was plunged into severe ethnic strifes. Matters came to a head in May 1991 when relations between the ex-Yugoslav republics became very tense. In June the Slovene and Croatian governments implemented their earlier threats to withdraw from the federation. Macedonia followed suit in September.

The Yugoslav People's Army attempted to seize control of Slovenia's international borders in order to prevent the disruption of the federation, but the largely conscript federal troops were outmaneuvered by the Slovene national guard and withdrew to Croatia. There, communities of Serbs, seriously threatened by the rising Croatian nationalism and revived Ustasa national ideology, had been organizing their own self-governing krajine (regions) in which they demanded the right to retain union with the rest of the federation. The krajine were successfully defended against Croatian forces until the negotiation of a cease-fire in May 1992, which was subsequently policed by United Nations (UN) troops in four protected areas that covered almost one-third of Croatian territory. In 1995, after the intensive military operations these areas, which were predominantly inhabited by the Serbs, were occupied by the Croatioan Army and reintegrated into Croatia. More than 200.000 Serbian refugees were forced to leave the areas in which they had lived since the 15th century.

In February and March 1992, Muslims and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina approved a referendum calling for secession from Yugoslavia disregarding the political will of the Serbian population who wanted to retain the union with Serbia and Montenegro. In the meanwhile the rising Moslem funtamentalist ideas, openly supported by the highest Bosnian authorieties, made additional threats to the Serbs who strongly disliked the idea of living in a Moslem dominated country. Here, Serbs were interspersed throughout the population in a mixed pattern that did not permit the defense of coherent krajine. Instead, a bitter and protracted civil war erupted in which regular forces and irregular armed bands expelled entire populations from areas brought under their control. Defying a series of economic sanctions brought against Serbia and Montenegro through the UN, calling the bluff of international military intervention, and ignoring sustained exposure by international news media, Bosnian Serb forces continued their campaign until (by mid-1993) they held effective control over roughly two-thirds of Bosnian territory. By linking these areas to the Serb krajine in Croatia, the Serbs laid the foundations (although at a hideous cost in atrocities and refugees) for the unification into one political formation of all people who considered themselves to be Serbs. As the nucleus of such a state, a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, comprising Serbia and Montenegro, was proclaimed in April 1992. The civil war in ex-Yugoslavia was finished in 1996 by the Dayton Agreement in which the Bosnian Serbs were granted a separate Serbian entity - Republika Srpska - within the internationally recognized Bosnia and Hercegovina. After the end of the civil war Serbia and Montenegro were found in a difficult political and ecconomic situation with more than 600.000 Serbian refugees from all parts of ex-Yugoslavia and rather unstable situation in Kosovo and Metohija.

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