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Map of Sandžak region in Serbia and Montenegro in its largest geographical extent.
According to some other views, Montenegrin municipalities of Plav and Andrijevica might not belong to Sandžak
Municipalities of Sandžak

Sandžak (Serbian, Montenegrin: Санџак, Sandžak, Bosnian: Sandžak, Turkish: Sancak) is a historical region lying along the border between Serbiamarker and Montenegromarker. It derives its name from the Sanjak of Novi Pazar, a former Ottoman administrative district that existed until the Balkan Wars of 1912.


The region is referred to as either Novopazarski Sandžak (Sandžak of Novi Pazarmarker), or simply Sandžak by all main ethnic groups which live in the region (Bosniaks, Serbs and Montenegrins). Official administrative name of the region, however, is Raška District Raška Oblast (Рашка Област). Internationally the area was formerly known as the Sanjak of Novi Pazar meaning the Sanjak (district) of Novi Pazar.

Sandžak is the local Slavic transcription of the Turkish word sancak, which literally means "flag" or "national ensign" which was used as a term representing the "province" or district".

Sanjaks originally were the first level subdivisions of the Ottoman Empire. They arose in the mid-14th century as military districts that were part of a military-feudal system. In addition to the paid professional army, the Ottoman army had corps of cavalry soldiers (called spahis or sipahi) who performed military service in return for estates granted by the Sultan (larger estates were called zaim or zeamet, smaller ones timar). Spahis gathered for war according to the Sanjak in which they lived, and were led by an official called a Sanjak-beg or Sanjakbey (roughly equivalent to "district governor").


It stretches from the border with Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker to Kosovomarker on an area of 8,403 square kilometers. Six municipalities of Sandžak are in Serbia (Novi Pazar, Sjenicamarker, Tutinmarker, Prijepoljemarker, Nova Varošmarker, and Pribojmarker), and five in Montenegro (Pljevljamarker, Bijelo Poljemarker, Beranemarker, Rožajemarker, and Plavmarker). Sometimes the Montenegrin municipality of Andrijevicamarker is also regarded to be part of Sandžak.

The largest city in the region is Novi Pazar (55,000), while other large cities are: Pljevlja (23,800), and Priboj (19,600). In Serbia, the municipalities of Novi Pazar and Tutin are included into Raška District, while the municipalities of Sjenica, Prijepolje, Nova Varoš, and Priboj, are included into Zlatibor District.


The first known inhabitants of the region now known as Sandžak were Illyrians. In the 1st century, the region was conquered by the Romans, while in the 6th and 7th centuries, it was settled by the Slavic tribes.

In the Middle Ages the region was part of the Serb state of Raška. The capital of Raška was the city of Rasmarker, located near present day Novi Pazar. The region was later part of the subsequent Serb states, until it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.

During the centuries of Ottoman rule the Sanjak of Novi Pazar was a part of the Province of Bosnia before coming under the Kosovo Province in 1878. The 1878 Congress of Berlin allowed Austro-Hungarian military garrisons to be positioned in Sandžak where they remained until 1909. In October 1912, Sandžak was captured by Serbian and Montenegrin troops in the First Balkan War, and its territory was divided between the Kingdoms of Serbiamarker and Montenegro. Many Bosniak and Albanian inhabitants of Sandžak emigrated to Turkeymarker as muhajirs, as a direct result of oppression by the new Serbo-Montenegrin authorities . The emigration wave lasted from 1912 to 1970. Over a million of modern Turks have Sandžak origins or ancestry. There are numerous colonies of Sandžak Bosniaks in Turkey, in and around Edirnemarker, Istanbulmarker, Adapazarımarker, Bursamarker, and Samsunmarker among others.

During World War I, Sandžak was under occupation of Austria-Hungary from 1914 to 1918. In 1918, Serbia and Montenegro united before creating the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker which became the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker in 1929. Between 1929 and 1941, Sandžak was part of a newly created province, the Zeta Banovina, with headquarters in Cetinjemarker.

Most of Sandžak was under Italian occupation in World War II, mostly under the Governorate of Montenegro (The city of Novi Pazar was included into Serbia, while Plav and Rožaje were included into Italian ruled Albaniamarker), and under German occupation from 1943. At the end of the war, Sandžak was divided between Serbiamarker and Montenegromarker, according to the initial division agreement between the two states from 1913.

The Yugoslav wars of the 1990s left Sandžak largely unscathed, although the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo led to ethnic tensions and (in the latter case) bombing by NATO forces. According to Sandžak Bosniak political parties, some 60,000-80,000 Bosniaks emigrated from the region during this period, as a result of oppression and police raids throughout Sandžak. A number of group killings of Bosniaks occurred 1992–1995, with the most notable ones being the cases of Sjeverin (near Priboj), Bukovica[54287] (near Pljevlja), and Štrpci[54288] (near Prijepolje).

With the democratic changes in Serbia in 2000, the ethnic Bosniaks were allowed to start participating in the political life in Serbia and Montenegro, including Rasim Ljajić, an ethnic Bosniak, who was a minister in the Government of Serbia and Montenegro, and Rifat Rastoder, who is the Deputy President of the Parliament of Montenegro.

Also, the census data shows a general emigration of all nationalities from this underdeveloped region.


Ethnic map of Sandžak according to the 2002 census in Serbia and 2003 census in Montenegro.
Note: map shows the ethnic majority populations within the settlements

According to the official censuses in Serbia and Montenegro from 2002 and 2003, the total population of Sandžak is 420,259 people. The population of the Serbian part of Sandžak is 235,567 people, while the population of the Montenegrin part of Sandžak is 184,692 people. According to the 2002/2003 censuses, Bosniaks and Muslims by nationality counted together numbered 220,065 people, and participated with 52.36% in the population of Sandžak.

Ethnic groups in Sandžak:

Ethnic groups in Serbian part of Sandžak:
  • Bosniaks = 134,128 (56.94%)
  • Serbs = 89,396 (37.95%)
  • Muslims by nationality = 8,222 (3.49%)
  • Montenegrins = 928 (0.40%)
  • Others

Ethnic groups in Montenegrin part of Sandžak:
  • Serbs = 63,429 (34.34%)
  • Bosniaks = 58,898 (31.89%)
  • Montenegrins = 27,510 (14.89%)
  • Muslims by nationality = 18,817 (10.19%)
  • Others

The municipalities with Bosniak ethnic majority are: Tutin (94.23%), Rožaje (82.09%), Novi Pazar (76.28%), Sjenica (73.34%), and Plav (50.73%).

The municipalities with Serb ethnic majority are: Nova Varoš (90.09%), Priboj (74.15%), Pljevlja (59.52%), and Prijepolje (56.82%).

The ethnically mixed municipalities with relative Serb ethnic majority are: Bijelo Polje (36.31%) and Berane (41.43%).

Bosniak participation in respective municipalities is as follows:

Muslims by nationality participation in respective municipalities is as follows:

Serb participation in respective municipalities is as follows:

Montenegrin participation in respective municipalities is as follows:


Most of the ethnic Bosniaks declared themselves as Muslims by religion in 1991 census. In 2002/2003 censuses, most of them declared themselves as Bosniaks, but there are also those who still declare themselves as Muslims by nationality. Also, most of the ethnic Serbs from the Montenegrin part of Sandžak declared themselves as Montenegrins in 1991 census, while in 2003 census they declared themselves as Serbs.

Ethnic groups in Sandžak


Two thirds of Sandžak Bosniaks trace their ancestry to the regions of Montenegromarker proper , which they started leaving first in 1687, after Turkey lost Boka Kotorskamarker. The trend continued in Old Montenegro after 1711 with the extermination of converts to Islam ("istraga poturica"). Another contributing factor that spurred the migration to Sandžak from the Old Montenegro was the fact that the old Orthodox population of Sandžak moved towards Serbia and the Habsburg Monarchy (Vojvodinamarker) in two waves, first after 1687, and then, after 1740, leaving Sandžak basically depopulated. The advance of increasingly stronger ethnic Montenegrins caused additional resettlements out of Montenegro proper in 1858 and 1878, when, Montenegro was recognized as an independent state by the Treaty of Berlin. While only 20 Bosniak families remained in Nikšićmarker after 1878, towns like Kolašinmarker, Spuž, Grahovo, and others, lost their entire Bosniak population. Additionally, the clan-organized Montenegrin army forcibly converted about 12,000 Bosniaks and Albanians from Southern Sandžak, and Metohija to Orthodox Christianity in 1912, after capturing those lands from the Turks in the Balkan Wars. Practically all of the converts, less a couple of families, converted back to Islam in 1913, when, under international pressure, the public announcement was made giving them freedom to profess the faith of their choosing. The last major interethnic incident occurred in 1924 in Šahovići and Pavino Polje (present day municipality of Bijelo Polje in Sandžak), when Montenegrin peasants massacred hundreds of Bosniaks , under the pretext that Bosniak outlaws murdered a local Montenegrin hero; an allegation which was completely false .

Some twenty percent of Bosniaks stem from the Catholic Albanian clans of Northern Albaniamarker and neighbouring Montenegro. Most of them were resettled by the ruling Ottomans at the beginning of the 18th century from Malësia e Shkodrës (Serbian/Bosnian/Montenegrin: Skadarska Malesija), partly aiming to populate the lands deserted by the fleeing Orthodox population after the Austro-Turkish wars. By the end of the 19th century, all these Albanians converted to Islam, and were assimilated into the dominant wave of Bosniak refugees from Montenegro proper. Nevertheless, they retained many of their Albanian traditions, especially in the eastern parts of Sandžak, and some older Bosniaks of Albanian ancestry even speak fluent Albanian to this day.

The last segment of Sandžak Bosniaks arrived from several other places. Naturally, there was a continuous intermingling with the members of the local Turkish administration and military. Some of the Bosniaks came from Slavoniamarker after 1687, when Turkeymarker lost all the lands north of Sava in the Austro-Turkish war. Many more came from Herzegovina in the post-1876 period, after the Herzegovina Rebellion staged by the Serbs against Austria-Hungary and their Muslim subjects. Another wave followed immediately afterwards from both Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the Treaty of Berlin placed Bosnia under the effective control of Austria-Hungary in 1878. The last wave of migrants from Bosnia followed in 1908, when Austria-Hungary officially annexed Bosnia, cutting off all direct ties between the Bosnian Muslims and the Sublime Porte, their effective protector.


Serbs are ethnic majority in three western municipalities of the Serbian Sandžak (Prijepolje, Priboj and Nova Varoš), and they are also largest ethnic group in the Montenegrin Sandžak. The town of Pljevlja in the Montenegrin part of Sandžak is the largest settlement with Serb majority in Montenegro. There are numerous traces of Serbian history and culture scatered through the region, including several Serbian Orthodox monasteries such as the two Đurđevi Stupovi (onemarker near Novi Pazar, and the othermarker near Berane), Sopoćani, Crna Reka, Kumanica, Davidovica, Pustinja, Mileševa, Dubnica, Bistrica, Orahovica, Banja, Dubrava, and Uvac.


autonomous Sandžak, proposed by the Party of Democratic Action of Sandžak
During the existence of Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker and Serbia and Montenegro, some ethnic Bosniak politicians from the Sandžak region advocated territorial autonomy for Sandžak. The most radical proposal was for Sandžak to be given the status of a republics within the federation of Serbia and Montenegro created from both Serbian and Montenegrin parts of Sandžak. Since Serbiamarker and Montenegromarker are now separate independent states and Sandžak is divided between them, it is likely that future proposals for autonomy will respect new international borders.

Since ethnic Bosniaks form a majority in only three eastern municipalities of Serbian Sandžak, and two eastern municipalities of Montenegrin Sandžak, and since the Serb and Montenegrin populations from this ethnically mixed region would oppose the idea of autonomy , it is unlikely that an eventual autonomous Sandžak would include municipalities with a majority Serb and Montenegrin ethnic populations.

The Bosniak National Council of Serbia and Montenegro represented the region at the UNPO since 1993. This political pressure group organized a referendum in October 1991 where 98% of the voters opted in favour of autonomy. The Council claims a 69% turnout, although this has not been verified by an independent body.

With the secession of Kosovo from Serbia, the question arises again if there will be further development in the Sandžak towards autonomy, maybe along the lines of Vojvodina.


Image:Novi Pazar02.JPG|Novi PazarmarkerImage:BedemNP.jpg| A wall built in the Ottoman period in Novi PazarmarkerImage:Nova Varos 30's.jpg|Nova Varošmarker in 1930'sImage:Nova Varos Center 2004.JPG|Nova Varošmarker Centre in 2004Image:Manastir pv.JPG|Monastery of Holy Trinity, PljevljamarkerImage:Mosquepv.jpg|Husein-pasha's mosque, PljevljamarkerImage:Djurdjevi stupovi 016.jpg|Đurđevi Stupovimarker monastery, near Novi PazarmarkerImage:Manastir Milesheva.JPG|Mileševa monastery, near Prijepoljemarker

See also


  1. BBC News | Could Balkan break-up continue?

External links

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