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Serbs (Serbian Cyrillic: Срби Serbian Latin: Srbi) are a South Slavic people living in the Central Europe and the Balkans (Southeastern Europe), between the Balkanmarker and Carpathian mountainsmarker in the east and the Adriatic seamarker in the west. They are located mainly in Serbiamarker, Montenegromarker, Bosnia-Herzegovinamarker, and, to a lesser extent, in Croatiamarker. Serbs are also a significant minority in two other republics of the Former Yugoslaviamarker, the Republic of Macedoniamarker and Sloveniamarker. Serbs are an officially recognized minority in both Romaniamarker and Hungarymarker. There is a sizeable Serbian diaspora in Western Europe (concentrated in Germanymarker, Switzerlandmarker and Austriamarker), as well in North America: the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker. In the German-speaking countries alone live more than a million people of Serbian origin: Luxembourgmarker (1% share in the overall population), Austria (1,8%), Switzerlandmarker (1%), and Germanymarker (almost 1%).

The Encyclopedia of World History (2001) describes the Serbs as "most westernized of the Eastern Orthodox peoples, both socially and culturally". Geographically this nation's Church represents the westernmost bastion of Orthodox Christianity in Europe, which shaped its historical fate through contacts with Catholicism and Islam. The Serbian revolution (1804-1815) marked the rebirth of modern Serbia and its establishment as a principality which fought the Ottomans, Bulgarians and Austrians for the supremacy over the Balkans. In 1918 Serbia lost its independence to the Yugoslav Kingdom and regained its sovereignty in 2006, after Montenegromarker left the Serbia and Montenegro union which had been the last fragment of the former Yugoslaviamarker remaining in the 21st Century following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.


Serbiamarker is the nation-state of the Serbs, while in Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker they are one of the three constituent peoples. In Montenegromarker, where 32% of the population is Serbian according to the 2003 Census, their constitutional status is unclear.

Autochthonous Serbian minorities exist in the following regions:

  • In Croatiamarker, Serbs are the largest national minority, scattered across the eastern part of the country. According to the 2001 Census, there were 201,631 Serbs in Croatia, down from the pre-war figure of 581,663. Most of the Serbs have fled the country fearing ethnic cleansing by the following Croatian-lead Operation Storm in 1995.
  • In Macedoniamarker, Serbs consist a minority in 16 municipalities, the largest of which being the Čučer-Sandevo Municipalitymarker (close to 28%), Staro Nagoričane Municipalitymarker (with the remains of medieval architecture) and many others; they can also be found in the cities such as Kumanovomarker and Skopjemarker
  • In Hungarymarker, Serbs are scattered in the southern part of the country. There are also some Serbs who live in the central part of the country - in bigger towns like Budapestmarker, Szentendremarker, etc. The only settlement with an ethnic Serb majority in Hungary is Lórévmarker/Lovra on Csepel Islandmarker. Officially recognized ethnic minority, according to the 2001 census, numbers 7,350 Serbs or 0.1% of population.
  • In Romaniamarker, Serbs are located mostly within the Caraş-Severin County, where they constitute absolute majority in the commune of Pojejenamarker (52.09%) and a plurality in the commune of Socolmarker (49.54%) Serbs also constitute an absolute majority in the municipality of Sviniţamarker (87.27%) in the Mehedinţi County. The region where these three municipalities are located is known as Clisura Dunării in Romanian or Banatska Klisura (Банатска Клисура) in Serbian. Officially recognized minority in Romania numbers 22,518 or 0.1% of the population (Census 2002).
  • Although not officially recognized as a minority, according to the latest national minority census in Albania (2000), there were around 2000 Serbs and Montenegrins (they are listed together as one ethnic group) in the country. Domestic Serb-Montenegrin community claims the figure is around 25,000, while independent sources placed the figure at 10,000 in 1994. Serbian sources estimate up to 30,000.
  • There is a small number of Serbs in Slovakiamarker, mostly located in the southern town of Komárnomarker, where they have been living since the 17th century. There has also been a historic minority in Bratislava (Požun), where many Habsburg Serbs have studied university. Their number today is hard to determine but is in any case below the 1,000 count.
  • Serbian autochthonous community in Italymarker's city of Triestemarker is dated back to the 18th century. Local Serbs have erected one of the most prominent monuments in central Trieste- the Serbian Orthodox Church of Saint Spyridon (1854)


Byzantine sources report that part of the White Serbs, led by the Unknown Archont, migrated southwards from their Slavic homeland of White Serbia (Lusatia) in the late sixth century and eventually overwhelmed the 'Serbian lands' that now make up Serbiamarker, Montenegromarker, Bosniamarker, Herzegovina and Dalmatia. After settling on the Balkans, Serbs mixed with other Slavic tribes (which settled during the great migration of the Slavs) and with descendants of the indigenous peoples of the Balkans: Illyrians, Thracians, Dacians, Celts, Greeks and Romans.

Afterwards, overwhelmed by the Ottoman wars in Europe which ravaged their territories, Serbs once again started crossing the rivers Sava and Danube and resettling the regions in Central Europe which are today's Vojvodinamarker, Slavoniamarker, Transylvania and Hungarymarker proper. Apart from the Habsburg Empire, thousands were attracted to Imperial Russiamarker, where they were given territories to settle: Nova Serbia and Slavo-Serbia were named after these refugees. Two Great Serbian Migrations resulted in a relocation of the Serbian core from the Ottoman-dominated South towards the developed (Christian) North, where it has remained ever since.

Serbs are genetically and culturally close to the other peoples inhabiting the Balkans. The Serbs emanated in patriarchal tribal organizations, social structures originating in ancient times of the Dinarics, passed on and maintained mainly by Orthodox Serbs and Montenegrins but also in Montenegrin Bosniaks and Northern Albanians (Catholic and Muslim). This type of structure was the initial, fully working feudal system in the highlands of the Serbs, later weakened in the lands occupied by foreign powers. The Lapot and Krvna Osveta are practices which are of ancient, highlander characteristics. The Serb Hajduks and Greek Klephts of the 17-19th centuries are examples of non-feudal organizations.


The genetics of Serbs are similar to the neighbouring peoples of the Balkan peninsula because of common origin in several Paleo-Balkan tribes previously (now extinct) inhabiting the Balkans, such as Thracians, Illyrians, Dacians, etc, making the Serbs part of the Dinaric-North Mediterranean groups.The subclade E1b1b1a2-V13 is present at high frequencies among the Albanians, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians and Macedonians and lower numbers in South Italians (up to 20-45%). Subclade J2f1 is at 2.5% in Serbs and Slavic Macedonians. I2a2-M423 is at 29-32% in Serbs and Macedonians and 42% in Croats, as low as 3% in Macedonian Roma, as high as 63% in Herzegovinians. The R1a(common in Slavic groups) is the same in Macedonians and Serbs at 15% and close to Bulgarians at 14%, Greeks and Herzegovinians at 12%, notable gap between the Albanians (7%) and Croats (25%), non-Balkan populations of Cypriots at 6% and Ukrainians at 45%. The most common western European haplogroup R1b values in Serbs are 10.6%, in Cypriots 9.0% being the lowest in Europe, the highest values being Basques 92% and 89% in Welshmarker, medium values 56% in Frenchmarker. Bosnian Serbs are closer to Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) than to Croats, the J haplogroup is 5.3% in Serbs and 12% in Bosniaks and almost non-existent among Croats. I-P37 is higher in Croats (71%) than in Serbs (31%) and Bosniaks (44%).

Genetic evidence shows that Serbs are in fact of predominantly Balkan genetics (indigenous to the region) and have very small amount of "Slavic" (R-M458, ranging from 0-12% in the Serbs, Albanians, Macedonians, Greeks and Bulgarians) genes suggesting that the Slavic culture was passed on by the Serbian "elite" to the Romanized Paleo-Balkan peoples of the conquered region (Serbian lands).

Name and etymology

According to the Tale of Bygone Years, the first Russian chronicle, Serbs are among the first five Slav peoples who were enumerated by their names.

Serbs are thought to be first mentioned by Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy in his Geography in 2nd century AD, who associate the Serbs with the Sarmatian tribe of Serboi of the North Caucasus and Lower Volga.Roman Emperor Licinius referred to the Carpathiansmarker as "Montes Serrorum" in the fifth century AD.Having defeated the Avars, under the Unknown Archont, the Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius invited Serbs to settle in the provinces of Salonica and Dalmatia. The Unknown Archont's descendants (House of Višeslavić-Vlastimirović, House of Vojislavljević) ruled the Serb states for the entire early medieval period (until 1166), mainly under Byzantine supremacy, but at times also under Frankish, Bulgarian overlordship or independent from these states.

The name is most likely derived from the Indo-European root *ser- 'to watch over, protect', akin to Latin servare 'to keep, guard, protect, preserve, observe', Old English searu 'weapons, armor, skill', Lithuanian sárgas 'watchman'.

Other names

  • Servians, medieval French and English rendering of the Serbs
  • Rascians, referring to the population of medieval Serb state Rascia (the one and same people as the other tribes of Duklja (Dukljans), Travunija (Travunians), Neretvamarker (Neretvians/Paganians), Zahumlje (Zahumlians) that all belong to the Serb ethnos)
  • Triballians, a Thracian tribe assimilated by the local Slavs, by Byzantine authors
  • Slavs, by Romans, refered to as "Saqaliba" by the Arabs in the early medieval times
  • Vlachs, term used during the Middle Ages by Venetian and Croatian authors to denote Serbs of Orthodox Christian faith in the West Roman lands.
  • Illyrians, in the Austrian Empiremarker, example of it being Rescriptum Declaratorium Illyricae Nationis from 1779, declared by Maria Theresa, which officially established the position of Serbs and Serbian Orthodox Church in the Empire.


Geographical location of Serb diaspora
The majority of Serbs live in Serbiamarker, Montenegromarker and Republika Srpska (in Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker). The Republic of Serbiamarker is the nation-state of the Serb people, they are a constituent nation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (90% ethnic Serb entity Rep.Srpska) and a recognized people in the Republic of Montenegromarker (former nation-state of the Serbs) where they have lived since their arrival 1,500 years ago. Large indigenous population also lived in Croatiamarker, where they were a constituent nation before 1990 and today a recognized national minority. Much smaller Serb autochthonous minorities exist in the Republic of Macedonia (mainly in Kumanovomarker and Skopjemarker), Sloveniamarker (Bela Krajina), Romaniamarker (Banat), Hungarymarker (Szentendremarker, Pécsmarker, Szegedmarker) and Italymarker (Triestemarker- home to about 6,000 Serbs). Many Serbs also live in the diaspora, notably in Germany, Austria, The Netherlandsmarker, Switzerland, Francemarker, Swedenmarker, Canada, the US and Australia.

The largest urban populations of Serbs in the former Yugoslaviamarker are to be found in Belgrademarker (c. 1,700,000), Novi Sadmarker (c. 300,000), Nišmarker (c. 250,000), Banja Lukamarker (in Bosnia-Herzegovinamarker) (c. 220,000), Kragujevacmarker (c. 175,000), East Sarajevomarker and Prijedormarker (in Bosnia-Herzegovinamarker) (c. 130,000). All the capitals of the former Yugoslavia contain a strong historical Serbian minority - 10,000 strong and over (taking up anywhere between 2%- 3% of the population - Zagrebmarker, Skopjemarker - through Ljubljanamarker and Sarajevomarker, and finally, Podgoricamarker - over 26%).

In Serbia, 6.2 million Serbs constitute about 62% (83% excluding Kosovo) of the population, including Kosovomarker, which has declared itself independent from Serbia in February 17, 2008. Another 1,6 million live in Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker, 201,892 in Montenegromarker following its independence and 200,000 in Croatiamarker (580,000 prior to the war). In the 1991 census Serbs consisted 39% of the overall population of former Yugoslaviamarker; there were around 8.5 million Serbs in the entire country.

Abroad, Viennamarker is said to be home to the largest Serb population followed by Chicagomarker (and its surrounding areamarker) with Torontomarker and Southern Ontariomarker coming in third. Los Angelesmarker and Indianapolismarker are known to have a sizable Serbian community, but so does Berlinmarker, Parismarker, Moscowmarker, Istanbulmarker and Sydneymarker. The number of Serbs in the diaspora is unknown but it is estimated to be up to 5.5 million. Smaller numbers of Serbs live in New Zealandmarker, and Serbian communities in South America (Argentinamarker, Boliviamarker, Brazilmarker and Chilemarker) are reported to grow and exist to this day. According to official figures, 5000 Serbs live in Dubaimarker but the unofficial figure is estimated to be around 15,000.

The recent research of the Ministry of Diaspora, showed that more than two thirds of Serbs abroad have plans of returning to Serbia, and almost one third is ready to do it immediately should they be given a good employment offer. The same research shows that more than 25% of the Serb Diaspora has some specialization, i.e. master or PhD titles, while 45% of them have university degrees.


Serbian culture refers to the culture of Serbiamarker as well as the culture of Serbs in other parts of the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere in the world. The nearby Byzantine Empire had a strong influence in the Middle Ages while the Serbian Orthodox Church has had an enduring influence. Austrians and Hungarians have highly influenced Serbs of Vojvodinamarker, Croatian Serbs and Bosnian Serbs to smaller extent, while Republic of Venicemarker influenced Serbs living on the coast (Bay of Kotormarker for example). Serbian culture was also influenced and weakened by three centuries of rule under the Ottoman Empire. Following autonomy in 1817 and latter formal independence, there was a reawakening of Serbdom (Serbian identity/culture) followed by the emerging South-Slavic unity. Prior to that of Habsburg Vojvodinamarker was the cultural bastion of the Serbian national identity. Socialist Realism was predominant in official art during the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but recent decades have seen a growing influence from the West as well as traditional culture.

Famous Serbs

Serbs have played a significant role in the development of the arts and sciences. Prominent individuals include the scientists Nikola Tesla, Michael I. Pupin, Jovan Cvijić, and Milutin Milankovićmarker; the renowned mathematician Mihailo Petrović and controversial co-author of Theory of Relativity Mileva Marić (Albert Einstein's first wife); Stevan Mokranjac and Stevan Hristić; the celebrated authors Ivo Andrić, Borislav Pekić and Miloš Crnjanski; the prolific inventor Ogneslav Kostović Stepanović; the polymath Đura Jakšić; the famous sports stars like Ana Ivanović, Jelena Janković, Novak Djokovic, Predrag Stojakovic, Dejan Stanković, Nemanja Vidić, Siniša Mihajlović, Dejan Bodiroga, Vlade Divac; actors Karl Malden (Mladen Sekulovich), Mila Jovovic, Rade Šerbedžija. Famous directors like Dušan Makavejev, Peter Bogdanovich and Emir Kusturica. The Serb ruler during the Middle Ages (see List of Serbian rulers), Stephen Nemanja, and his son, Saint Sava, founded the monastery of Hilandarmarker for the Serbian Orthodox Church, one of the greatest and oldest Orthodox Christian monuments in the world. Famous singers Goran Bregovic,Željko Joksimović and Marija Šerifović are from Serbia.

The mother of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Paleologos Dragases, was a Serbian princess, Helena Dragash (Jelena Dragaš).Many Serbian Royal Families have had significant roles in European and Balkan history. Such as the House of Nemanjić, House of Mrnjavčević, House of Lazarević, House of Branković, House of Obrenović and House of Karađorđević.Some of the most venerated royal historical persons are Emperor Dusan, Tsar Lazar, Milos Obilic and Karageorge.

Vuk Stefanović Karadžić was a Serbian linguist and major reformer of the Serbian language.Nadežda Petrović is considered the most important Serbian female painter from the late 19th and early 20th century.

According to the National Enquirer, author Ian Fleming patterned James Bond after Duško Popov, a real life Serbian double agent nicknamed "Tricycle".

Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914, precipitating the crisis between Austro-Hungary and Serbia that led to the World War I.


Serbs speak the Serbian language, a member of the South Slavic group of languages, and is mutually intelligible with the standard Croatian and Bosnian language (see Differences in standard Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian) and some linguists still consider it part of the pre-war Serbo-Croatian language.

There are several variants of the Serbian language. The older forms of Serbian are Old Serbian and Russo-Serbian, a version of the Church Slavonic language.

Some members of the Serbian diaspora do not speak the language (in English-speaking countries of USA, Canada and UK) but are still considered Serbs by ethnic origin or descent.


Most Serbian surnames (like Bosnian, Croatian and Montenegrin) have the surname suffix -ić (pronounced or , Cyrillic: -ић). This is often transliterated as -ic. In history, Serbian names have often been transcribed with a phonetic ending, -ich or -itch. This form is often associated with Serbs from before the early 20th century: hence Milutin Milanković is usually referred to, for historical reasons, as Milutin Milankovitchmarker.

The -ić suffix is a Slavic diminutive, originally functioning to create patronymics. Thus the surname Petrić signifies little Petar, as does, for example, a common prefix Mac ("son of") in Scottish & Irish, and O' (grandson of) in Irish names. It is estimated that some two thirds of all Serbian surnames end in -ić but that some 80% of Serbs carry such a surname with many common names being spread out among tens and even hundreds of non-related extended families.

Other common surname suffixes are -ov or -in which is the Slavic possessive case suffix, thus Nikola's son becomes Nikolin, Petar's son Petrov, and Jovan's son Jovanov. Those are more typical for Serbs from Vojvodinamarker. The two suffixes are often combined.

The most common surnames are Marković, Nikolić, Petrović, and Jovanović.


Conversion of the South Slavs from paganism to Christianity began in the 7th century, long before the Great Schism, the split between the Greek Orthodox East and the Roman Catholic West, the Serbs were first Christinaized during the reign of Heraclius (610-641) but were fully Christianized by Byzantine Christian Missionaries (Saints) Cyril and Methodius in 869 during Basil I, who sent them after Knez Mutimir, had acknowledged the suzerainty of the Byzantine Empire. After the Schism, those who lived under the Byzantine sphere of influence became Orthodox and those who lived under the Roman sphere of influence became Catholic. Later, with the arrival of the Ottoman Empire, many Serbs were converted into Islam, today members of the Gorani and Bosniaks (Muslims by nationality).

The Serbs have suffered much in the history because of their religion. When the Ottoman Turks took over the Balkans, the Christians were not regarded as a people of the nation and were not able to own land etc. Many Serbs were converted against their will or converted without force for a better stance in the society or as slaves to the Ottomans in the Jannisairies. In the World War II, the Serbs, living in a wide area, were persecuted by various people and organizations. The Catholic Croats under the Fascist Ustasha regime who recognized the Serbs only as "Croats of Eastern faith" and had the ideological visions of 1/3 of the Serbs murdered, 1/3 converted and the last third expulted. The outcome of these visions were the death of at least 700,000 (only the victims in the Jasenovac concentration campmarker), 250,000 converted and 250,000 expelled. The Albanians, organized in Special units, took the advantage and caused chaos in Kosovo, killing and raping Christian Serb clergymen and nuns.


The Serbian flag is a red-blue-white tricolour. It is often combined with one or both of the other Serb symbols.
Serbian cross

Both the eagle and the cross, besides being the basis for various Serbian coats of arms through history, are bases for the symbols of various Serbian organizations, political parties, institutions and companies.

Serbian folk attire varies, mostly because of the very diverse geography and climate of the territory inhabited by the Serbs. Some parts of it are, however, common:
  • A traditional shoe that is called the opanak. It is recognizable by its distinctive tips that spiral backward. Each region of Serbia has a different kind of tips.
  • A traditional hat that is called the šajkača. It is easily recognizable by its top part that looks like the letter V or like the bottom of a boat (viewed from above), after which it got its name. It gained wide popularity in the early 20th century as it was the hat of the Serbian army in the First World War. It is still worn everyday by some villagers today, and it was a common item of headgear among Bosnian Serb military commanders during the Bosnian War in the 1990s. However, "šajkača" is common mostly for the Serbian population living in the region of Central Serbia (Šumadija), while Serbs living in Vojvodinamarker, Montenegromarker, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker, and Croatiamarker had different types of traditional hats, which are not similar to "šajkača". Different types of traditional hats could be also found in eastern and southern parts of Central Serbia.


The Serbs are a highly family-oriented society. A peek into a Serbian dictionary and the richness of their terminology related to kinship speaks volumes.

Of all Slavs and Orthodox Christians, only Serbs have the custom of slava. Slava is celebration of a saint; unlike most customs that are common for the whole people, each family separately celebrates its own saint (of course, there is a lot of overlap) who is considered its protector. A slava is inherited, mostly, though not exclusively from father to son (if a family has no son and a daughter stays in parental house and her husband moves in, hers, not his, slava is celebrated). Each household has only one saint it celebrates, which means that the occasion brings all of the family together. However, since many saints (e.g. St. Nicholas, St. John the Baptist, St. George, St. Archangels) have two feast days, both are marked.

The traditional dance is a circle dance called kolo, which is common among Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins and Macedonians. It is a collective dance, where a group of people (usually several dozen, at the very least three) hold each other by the hands or around the waist dancing, forming a circle (hence the name), semicircle or spiral. It is called Oro in Montenegro. Similar circle dances also exist in other cultures of the region.

Serbs have their own customs regarding Christmas. The Serbian Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar, so Christmas currently falls on January 7 of the Gregorian calendar. Early in the morning of Christmas Eve, the head of the family would go to a forest in order to cut badnjak, a young oak, the oak tree would then be brought into the church to be blessed by the priest. Then the oak tree would be stripped of its branches with combined with wheat and other grain products would be burned in the fireplace. The burning of the badnjak is a ritual which is most certainly of pagan origin and it is considered a sacrifice to God (or the old pagan gods) so that the coming year may bring plenty of food, happiness, love, luck and riches. Nowadays, with most Serbs living in towns, most simply go to their church service to be given a small parcel of oak, wheat and other branches tied together to be taken home and set afire. The house floor and church is covered with hay, reminding worshippers of the stable in which Jesus was born.

Christmas Day itself is celebrated with a feast, necessarily featuring roasted piglet as the main meal. The most important Christmas meal is česnica, a special kind of bread. The bread contains a coin; during the lunch, the family breaks up the bread and the one who finds the coin is said to be assured of an especially happy year.

Christmas is not associated with presents like in the West, although it is the day of Saint Nicholas, the protector saint of children, to whom presents are given. However, most Serbian families give presents on New Year's Day. Santa Claus (Deda Mraz (literally meaning Grandpa Frost)) and the Christmas tree (but rather associated with New Year's Day) are also used in Serbia as a result of globalisation. Serbs also celebrate the Orthodox New Year (currently on January 14 of the Gregorian Calendar).

Religious Serbs also celebrate other religious holidays and even non-religious people often celebrate Easter (on the Orthodox date).

For Serbian meals, see Serbian cuisine.

Another related feature, often lamented by Serbs themselves, is disunity and discord; as Slobodan Naumović puts it, "Disunity and discord have acquired in the Serbian popular imaginary a notorious, quasi-demiurgic status. They are often perceived as being the chief malefactors in Serbian history, causing political or military defeats, and threatening to tear Serbian society completely apart." That disunity is often quoted as the source of Serbian historic tragedies, from the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 to Yugoslav wars in 1990s. Even the contemporary notion of "two Serbia's"—one supposedly national, liberal and Eurocentric, and the other conservative, nationalist and Euroskeptic—seems to be the extension of the said discord. Popular proverbs "two Serbs, three political parties" and "God save us from Serbs that may unite!", and even the unofficial Serbian motto "only unity saves Serbs" (Samo sloga Srbina spasava) illustrate the national frustration with the inability to unite over important issues.

As with many other peoples, there are popular stereotypes on the local level: in popular jokes and stories, inhabitants of Vojvodinamarker (Lale) are perceived as phlegmatic, undisturbed and slow; Montenegrins are lazy and pushy; southern Serbians are misers; Bosnia are raw and stupid; people from Central Serbia are often portrayed as capricious and malicious, etc.


The Slavs invaded Balkans during Justinian I rule (527–565), when up to 100,000 Slavs raided Thessalonicamarker. The Western Balkans was settled with Sclavenoi, the east with Antes. The Serbs could have been a faction of the invading Slavic tribes and upon organizing in their refuge of the Dinaric region, formed the ethnogenesis of Serbs and were pardoned by the Byzantine Empire after acknowledging their suzerainty.

According to Byzantine tradition (De Administrando Imperio, by Porphyrogenitus); The Serbs are recorded in the Byzantine Empire with their arrival on the Balkans. The White Serbs were a West Slavic tribe (as the Sclavenoi) that inhabited White Serbia, situated in present day western Polandmarker. The Serb settlement in the Balkans took place between 610 and 626 after being sent for by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius to secure the Byzantine frontier from the problematic Avars.

The Serbs were patriarchal tribesmen and were initially in Sclavinias (Slav area within Byzantine Empire) and were given different dominions to govern. They soon formed six powerful principalities, called Rascia, Travunia, Zachlumia, Bosnia, Pagania and Doclea. The Serbs were aligned to the Byzantine Greeks which contributed greatly to the Serbs and their culture. The Serbian region was Christianized by both (anachronistically) Roman Catholic (Rome) and Byzantine Greek (Constantinople) Christian missionaries in several waves, until the Great Schism that would divide the Serbs from the neighboring slav Croats.

In 680, Asia minor was settled with 30,000 Serbs in a city named Gordoservon (City of the Serbs).

The first Serb states were Rascia (with Bosna), Zeta, Travunia, Neretvamarker and Zahumlia. Their rulers had varying degrees of autonomy under the Byzantine Empire and, until the era after Serbian Saint Sava, who became the first head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and his brother Stefan Prvovenčani of Serbia, who became the first Serb king. Serbia did not exist as a state of that name (Serbia), but was rather the "state of the Serbs"; the dependencies inhabited and ruled by the Serbs; its kings and tsars were called the "King of the Serbs" or "Tsar of the Serbs", not "King of Serbia" or "Tsar of Serbia". The medieval Serbian states are nonetheless often (if anachronistically) referred as "Serbia".

In the 822 annals of the Frankish Kingdom, the Serbs are living in the greater part of Dalmatia.

In 869 Byzantine Emperor Basil I's (of the Macedonian dynasty) Imperial Admiral Nikita Orifas was sent together with priests of Constantinople to bless the Serbs after Knez Mutimir acknowledged Byzantine suzerainty. The Byzantines allied the Serbian tribes in the Ragusian hinterland and the Croats convinced the Zachlumians to join them and the Travunians (and Konavlians) in an alliance against the Saracens.

The acceptance of Imperial authority in early Serb history can be seen in the initial forming of Serbian statehood and loyalty to the Byzantine Empire or in the Serb naval detachments fighting under the Frankish emperor Louis II of Italy in 870 against the Muslim Arabs.

Serbia reached its golden age under the House of Nemanjić, with the Serbian state reaching its apogee of power in the reign of Tsar Stefan Uroš Dušan. The Serbian Empire lost its powers following Stefan's death and the contemporary incursion of the Ottoman Empire into south-eastern Europe frightened the Balkans. With Ottoman expansion into Europe with the fall of Adrianoplemarker and Thrace, Serbs together with Hungarians, Bulgarians, Greeks and others, tried their best for the Balkans integrity. The Turks gained more power, and in 1389, the Serbs fought them in the historical Battle of Kosovo, which is regarded as the key event in the loss of Serbia to the Ottoman Empire. By 1459, Serbia was beaten by the Turks, the small Serbian territories of Bosnia and Montenegro were lost by 1496.
Serbs in 1910
As Christians, the Serbs were regarded as a "protected people" under Ottoman law, but were however refered to as Giaour ( , ). Many converted to Islam in viyalets where Islam was more powerful, notably in the Sandzak and Bosnia region, other converted in order to be more successful in the Ottoman Empire society and many were forced as part of Turkification or Islamisation and avoided persecution. The Janissaries ( ) were infantry units that served directly under the Sultan in the households and bodyguarding the higher people within the Ottoman Turkish government, they were comprised of Islamicized Christian boys taken from the conquered countries through the Devşirme (Blood tribute) system, trained and schooled to serve the Ottoman Empire. Serbs, together with Greeks and Bulgarians were favored by the Sultans.

After the Siege of Belgrade, Suleiman I settled Serbs in the nearby forest of Istanbulmarker, present day Bahçeköy, called Belgrade forest.

The Serbs opposed the Ottoman yoke, which resulted in several major battles and rebellions against the Turks and de-population of Serbian lands through mass migrations. Serbs in the south migrated to the north and sought refuge in Croatia and Hungary.The Serbs of Montenegro were disliked because of their bravery and dignity to each other, unsatisfied with the situation in the region, they assassinated many deployed Turks in the mountains, which caused heavy monitoring of the Serb clans and hiding from the Turks was necessary, or else, death awaited. Years went on and the Austro-Hungarian Empiremarker gained control in the north, which also threatened the dreams of a free state of the Serbs.

In Vojvodina, a Serb mercenary named Jovan Nenad proclaimed himself Emperor, defeating many Hungarian armies with his 15,000 men before being ambushed and killed in Szeged.

In Eastern Serbia, Serbs fought in Hajduk formations in the highlands against the Turks, a notable leader in the 16th century was Starina Novak, who fought as a captain of a 2,000 strong unit in the army of Michael the Brave and successfully liberated several Romanian and Bulgarian towns before being executed by Albanian Giorgio Basta.

The Serbs and Croats rebelled in Dalmatia and Slavoniamarker in guerilla formations of Uskoks and Hajduks during the 16th and 17th century. In 1852, the Principality of Montenegro was proclaimed, a nation-state of the Serbs.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the First Serbian Uprising succeeded in liberating at least some Serbs for a limited time. The Second Serbian Uprising was much more successful, resulting in Ottoman recognition of Serbia as autonomous principality within the Empire. Serbia acquired international recognition as an independent kingdom at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. However, many Serbs remained under foreign rule– that of the Ottomans in the south, and of the Habsburgs in the north and west. The southern Serbs were liberated in the First Balkan War of 1912, while the question of the Habsburg Serbs' independence was the spark that lit World War I two years later. During the war, the Serbian army fought fiercely, eventually retreating through Albaniamarker to regroup in Greecemarker, and launched a counter-offensive through Macedonia. Though they were eventually victorious, the war devastated Serbia and killed a huge proportion of its population– by some estimates, over half of the male Serbian population died in the conflict, influencing the region's demographics to this day.

After the war, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker (later called Yugoslavia) was created. Almost all Serbs finally lived in one state, in majority. The Kingdom had its capital in Belgrademarker and was ruled by a Serbian king; it was, however, unstable and prone to ethnic tensions.

During the Second World War, the Axis Powers occupied Yugoslavia, dismembering the country. Serbia was occupied by the Germans, while in Bosnia and Croatia, Serbs were put under the rule of the Italians and the fascist Ustaša regime in the Independent State of Croatiamarker. Under Ustaša rule in particular, Serbs and other non-Croats were subjected to systematic genocide, known as the Serbian genocidemarker, when hundreds of thousands were killed. The Hungarian and Albanian fascists, who occupied northern and southern parts of the country, also performed persecutions and genocide against the Serb population from these regions.

After the war, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker was formed. As with pre-war Yugoslavia, the country's capital was at Belgrade. Serbiamarker was the largest republic and the largest ethnic group. There were also two established autonomous provinces within Serbia - Kosovomarker (with an Albanian majority) and Vojvodinamarker (with an Hungarian minority). Besides Serbia, the large Serb populations were concentrated in Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker (where they were the largest ethnic group until 1971) and Croatiamarker as well as Montenegromarker.

Socialist Yugoslavia collapsed in the early 1990s, with four of its six republics becoming independent states. This led to several bloody civil wars, as the large Serbian communities in Croatiamarker and Bosnia attempted to remain within Yugoslavia, then consisting of only Serbiamarker and Montenegromarker. Serbs in Croatia formed their state of Republika Srpska Krajina which was later abolished by the Croatian government (result of expelling of more than 250,000 Serbs and killing of thousands during Operation Storm) a shuddering reminder of events in the World War II. Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina formed their state of Republika Srpska, currently one of the two political entities that form the country of Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker.

Another war broke out in Kosovomarker (see Kosovo War) after years of tensions between Serbs and Albanians. Up to 250,000 Serbs fled from Croatia during the "Operation Storm" in 1995, and 300,000 left until 1993, and another 200,000 were expelled from Kosovo after the Kosovo War, and settled mostly in Central Serbia and Vojvodinamarker as refugees.



Serbs of Croatia
In 610-626 Dalmatia saw the permanent settling of Serbs after Byzantine Emperor Heraclius granted them dominion in the Sklavinias of Balkans, soon transformed into the Serbian principalities of Dioklea, Travunia and the present-day parts of southern Dalmatian Croatiamarker: Pagania and Zachlumia. Many Serbian Orthodox churches have been built in Croatia since the 12th century; Krka Monasterymarker, Krupa Monasterymarker, Dragović Monastery, Lepavina Monastery and Gomirje Monastery.

A large number of ethnic Serbs migrated in 1538 when Kaiser Ferdinand I, ruler of the Habsburg Monarchy offered sanctuary and permanent settlement to displaced Serbs from Old Serbia region (Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, southern Serbia) fleeing from the Turks, placing them under Austrian military administration. The newly established military region was called Militärgrenze or Vojna Krajina.Sometime in 1530, Serb Uskoks under Vladislav Stefović seeked lands in Mutnica (Kranjska) to defend the frontiers by attacking Ottoman Turks. The 50 families lived in Metkike to Crnomlja, Kostelo to Lasa, Krasa into Kapela. King Ferdinand granted the Serbs the lands of Žumberak and gave them assistance in organizing their counts and dukes of the many clans. They were exempted of tax pay in return of military service in the Austrian army, they were permitted to raid and pillage Turkish settlements across the border. Nikola Jurisic settled 600 families in 1535. The three Serb military officers of Koprivnica, Križevci and Ivanic formed the Varaždin general command. The Žumberak Serbs had initially freedom of faith but were later converted into Greek Catholicism under pressure from Rome in the 18th century, and later into Roman Catholicism during the World War II.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire gained control in Croatia, which also threatened the dreams of a free state of the Serbs. The Serbs and Croats rebelled in Dalmatia and Slavonia in guerilla formations of Uskoks and Hajduks during the 16th and 17th century.

After the First World War, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker (later called Yugoslavia) was created. Almost all Serbs finally lived in one state, in majority. The Kingdom had its capital in Belgrade and was ruled by a Serbian king.

During the Second World War, the Serbs suffered greatly in Croatia after the Axis Fascist Ustasha regime came into power.The Ustaše aimed at an ethnically "pure" Croatia, and saw the Serbs that lived in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as the their biggest obstacle. Thus, Ustaše ministers Mile Budak, Mirko Puk, and Milovan Žanić declared in May 1941 that the goal of the new Ustaše policy was an ethnically clean Croatia. They also publicly announced the strategy to achieve their goal:

  1. One third of the Serbs (in the Independent State of Croatia) were to be forcibly converted to Catholicism.
  2. One third of the Serbs were to be expelled (ethnically cleansed).
  3. One third of the Serbs were to be killed.

The Ustaše persecuted the Serbs who were mostly Orthodox Christians in several concentration camps, mass killings in Serb populated town and forced convertion was systematically enacted, race laws patterned after those of the Third Reich were officialy adopted, which were aimed against Jews and Roma and Serbs, who were collectively declared enemies of the Croatian people.Estimates of the number of Serbian victims of genocide in Croatia are placed at at least 500,000 people, The estimated number of Serbs killed in the Jasenovac concentration campmarker ranges from 300,000 to 700,000.

The people of Yugoslavia that opposed the Fascists and Nazis were the Partizan and Chetnik forces, the Partizans were led by Josip Broz Tito (later life-long President of Yugoslavia) composed of any ethnic people wanting to liberate the Balkans and the Chetniks who were a royalist unit composed of Serbs.

  • 1931 - 633000 Serbs out of 3430270 People in Croatia (18.45%)
  • 2001 - 201631 Serbs out of 4437460 People in Croatia ( 4.54%)

War in Croatia

The Croatian War of Independence, began when Serbs in Croatia who were opposed to Croatian independence announced their secession from Croatia. Fighting in this region had actually begun weeks prior to the Ten-Day War in Slovenia. The move was in part triggered by a provision in the new Croatian Constitution that replaced the explicit reference to Serbs in Croatia as a "constituent nation" with a generic reference to all other nations, and was interpreted by Serbs as being reclassified as a "national minority".

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Serbs are one of the three constitutive nations of Bosnia-Herzegovinamarker, predominantly concentrated in the Republic of Srpska entity, although many also live in the other entity called the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


The subgroups of Serbs are commonly based on regional affiliation. Some of the major subgroups of Serbs include: Šumadinci, Eremarker, Vojvođani, Crnogorci, Kosovci/Kosovari, Bačvanimarker, Banaćani, Bokelji, Bosanci, Sremcimarker, Sembercimarker, Krajišnici, Hercegovci, Torlaci, Shopi,etc.

(Note: These terms can be also used to refer to any native inhabitants of the regions in question, regardless of ethnicity, i.e. to Magyar Vojvodinians or Croat Herzegovinians.)

Some Serbs, mostly living in Montenegromarker and Herzegovina are organized in clans. See: list of Serbian tribes.


Montenegrins are considered a subgroup of Serbs for a long time by themselves (all pre-Communist Montenegrins), as well as by Serbs and the international community that recorded the Serb identity through history. In the late 20th century, an independence movement in Montenegro gained ground, resulting in a split among Montenegrins on the issue. Now some consider themselves to belong to a separate Montenegrin nation. Supported by Albanians, Bosniaks and Croats from Montenegro, they gained a relative majority and won a referendum in 2005 that made Montenegro independent from Serbia. However, world wide, the presence of Serb Montenegrins is prevailing.

The Montenegrin history is twinned with that of Serbia, since the two were ruled together or by the same people.

The Montenegrins speak Serbian (or the newly registered Montenegrin) and are followers of the Serbian Orthodox Church (with a minority following the erraneous Montenegrin Orthodox Church)


Image:Census 2002 Serbia, ethnic map (by localities).png|Serbs (blue) in Serbia (2002 Census data for Central Serbia and Vojvodinamarker)Image:Serbia ethnic02.png|Serbs (yellow) in Serbia (2002 Census data for Central Serbia and Vojvodinamarker, reconstruction for Kosovomarker)Image:Kosovo ethnic 2005.png|Serbs in Kosovo (red) (2005 OSCE estimates)Image:Montenegroetno03.png|Serbs in Montenegro (blue) (2003 Census)Image:DemoBIH2006a.png|Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina (red) (2006 estimate)File:Hrvatske etnije.gif|Serbs in Croatia (blue) (2001 Census)Image:South slavs romania.png|Serbs of Romania (yellow) (2002 Census)

See also


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