Serbia is a country of particularly interesting history throughout centuries.
Medieval Serbia VI-XIV Century
Creation of Serbia VI-XIV century. All Serbian medieval monasteries, and their frescoes, architecture, St. Sava’s church law code, Dusan’s legal code, are eternal witnesses of Serbian civilization, and great value for European and world heritage.
Serbs belong to the Southslavonic group of Indo-European peoples. As their tradition, culture, language, beliefs, and customs show, the ethnogenesis of Serbs goes far back into the past. Serbian ancestors, Protoslavs and Old Serbs, were described in the 5th century BC by Herodotus, under the names of Neuri and Budini, living north of the Danube in the region between Dniepar and north-eastern Carpathian Mountains.
The first mention of the name “Serbs” appears in the 1st century BC (69- 75), in the Historia naturalis by Plinius Caecilius Secundus, who states that Serbs (Serbi) live on the coast of the Black Sea. In the 2nd century, Claudius Ptolomaius writes in his Geographica that Serbs (Serboi, Sirboi – Serboi, Sirboi) live behind the Caucasus, near the hinterland of the Black Sea. The first mention of the Serbian name on their present ethnical location appears in 822, in the work of Frank chronicler Einhardt (Annales regni Francorum). He confirms that Serbs are very numerous in Dalmatia.
During the great migrations in Europe (5th to 6th century), Serbian ancestors arrive to the Balkan Peninsula from several directions and settle in the wide area between four seas (Black, Adriatic, Aegean, and Ionian). It is on this location that the eldest Serbian feudal states Raska (later Serbia) and Duklja (later Zeta or Montenegro) were formed.
The earliest record about the presence of the Serbs in the Balkans is the Document about the Peoples by Byzantyne emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (913-959). The Serbs came to the Balkan Peninsula during the great migration in 6th and 7th centuries A.D. During that period the Serbs settled the territory of present west Serbia, east and central Bosnia, Hercegovina with the Adriatic coastline between the river Cetina and Skadarsko lake whilst in the South up to the river Lim and the mountain range Prokletije.
Dinasty Viseslavic created the first Serbian state in the circumstances of permanent danger from the Bulgarians and the Byzantium. There was an important turnover among Serbian people under the Byzantine influence. In the late 9th century Byzantine emperor Vasilius I brought to the end the conversion of the Serbs to Christianity and introduced the liturgy in Slavic language. Two brothers from Thessaloniki Cyril and Methodius were given the mission to teach the writing, which represents the beginning of Slavic Christian culture among the Serbs.
Father of Serbia-Stefan Nemanja – St.Simeon
Stefan Nemanja came to the throne in year 1165. Stefan Nemanja is father of Serbia and the founder of Nemanjic dinasty of which originate the roots of Serbian state, Serbian Orthodox Church, and Serbian culture. Stefan Nemanja started restoration of Serbian state, after he united them, he expanded its teritory towards the East and the South and again annexed Zeta and the Adriatic coastline.
Some of his endowments in Raska region are monasteries Djurdjevi Stupovi and Studenica (known as mother of all monasteries where he himself was burried) and Hilandar on holy mount Atos. In 1196 his middle son Stefan succeeded him on the throne while his eldest son Vukan was given to rule Dalmacija region a part of former Serbian state and today part of Croatia.
Serbian Orthodox church proclaimed him a saint for founding and defending the Orthodoxy. Stefan Nemanja entered a monastic order and received the holy name Simeon. He went to holy mount Atos on his son’s invitation where they erected together Serbian monastery Hilandar in 1199. Stefan Nemanja passed away in Hilandar and was burried in its church. His holy relics are in monastery Studenica.
Rastko Nemanjic – St. Sava
The youngest Nemanja’s son Rastko Nemanjic entered a monastic order when he was just 17 years old, on holy mount Atos and received the name Sava. He became a saint and spiritual father of the Serbs – St. Sava, dedicating his life to the spirituality of his people.
St. Sava’s church law code – At the beginning of 13th century, Serbia obtained a codex of firm law order becoming thus a legal state with legacy of great Greco-Roman law. Legal structure of Serbian church was constituted by codification of Byzantine law. Serbia was a stable European kingdom during that period.
Stefan Nemanjic – In 1217 Stefan Nemanjic the First Crowned was proclaimed the first Serbian king by Pope Honorius. Serbia therefore becomes a kingdom for the first time in its history. In 1219 his brother Sava was granted autocephaly of Serbian Orthodox church and was proclaimed the first Serbian archiepiscope with the seat in Žiča. Stefan Nemanjic the First Crowned was introduced to a monastic order by his brother Sava at the end of his life and received the name Simeon.
King Milutin – A very ambitious ruler King Milutin and one of the greatest Serbian rulers ruled Serbia between 1282 and 1321. He is famous for erecting churches, some of which represent the most beautiful examples of Serbian medieval architecture as Gracanica in Kosovo, Orthodox cathedral in Hilandar, St. Archangel in Jerusalem and others. King Milutin was proclaimed a saint for his deeds.
Stefan Decanski – His son Stefan Decanski succeeded him and got the nickname “Dečanski” for erecting Serbian medieval monastery Visoki Dečani in Metohija (“metos” means church estate). Serbian southern region Kosovo and Metohija got its name after many monasteries built there.
Emperor Dušan –
Emperor Dušan is famous as the father of law, justice and equality. Dušan’s legal code is a document from 1354. on regulation af all life and work spheres of the state, the ruler, nobility, army, church and all society levels. It is a unique and the biggest law achievement among feudal states in Europe of that time. Emperor Dušan doubled the territory of his state on the account of Byzantium, expanding it towards the South, southwest and the East.
His son Uros, called “the Weak” ascended the throne and the state fell in a state of feudal anarchy. During that period a new danger was emerging. Turkish Osman state was gradually expanding from Asia to Europe first conquering the Byzantium and then the other Balkan states.
All Serbian medieval monasteries, and their frescoes, architecture, St. Sava’s church law code, Dusan’s legal code, are eternal witnesses of Serbian civilization, and great value for European and world heritage.
Serbia XIV-XVIII Century
The Turkish occupation and the Battle of Kosovo
The Turkish occupation after the Battle of Marica (1371) and Kosovo (1389). The outcome of the battle of Kosovo and the Serbian military victory. Victory, but not enough for millions of military invasion of the Ottomans in the coming decades up to 1459 year.
The Turks defeated the Serbian army on the river Marica in 1371. , when they defeated Serbian nobleman from Macedonia. The Battle of Kosovo 1389th years, with King Lazar led the Serbian army, was definitely decided the fate of Serbia. After it, the kingdom is no longer able to strugle with any force that could oppose the number of Turks.
Battle of Kosovo
In the first phase of the battle, Serbian forces have pushed the opponent, and one of Serbian knights (Obilic) killed Sultan Murat. His son Bayezid managed then to consolidate their army and goes against the attack which was captured King Lazar. He was executed, after which the Ottoman army withdrew from the battlefield and left Serbia.
First sources say about the battle of the Serbian Victory, and later appear then it was Serbian defeat (mid XV century)?!
The occupation of Serbia was completed by the end of the 15th century in 1459.
The reign of Stefan Lazarevic, prince Lazar’s son and heir, was marked as a very unstable period. He was a true European knight, a military leader and a writer. He was succeeded by his cousin Djuradj Brankovic who moved the capital towards the north to the newly erected city of Smederevo. The Turks continued with their conquests until occupying in 1459 the whole Serbian territory including the capital Smederevo.
European forces, particularly Austria, led many wars against Turkey. The Serbs were their allies even though they were under Turkish rule. During the war between Turkey and Austria (1593-1606) the Serbs rebelled in Banat, a Panonian part of Turkey, in 1594. The Turkish brutal revenge was to burn the relics of St. Sava, the greatest Serb saint.
Between 1683 and 1690, The Holy Alliance (Austria, Poland and Venice) with Pope’s assistance fought the Big War against Turkey. They sparked a Serbian uprising against Turkish rule. When Austrian army started the retreat from Serbia, they invited the Serbs to retreat with them to Austrian territory. Masses of Serbs left their homeland in 1690 following their patriarch Arsenije Carnojevic towards the north. Many southern Balkan regions were depopulated. The Turks took the advantage of this to islamize the region of Raska, Kosovo and Metohija as well as a part of Macedonia.
Serbia was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire three centuries
Turkish Empire was a theocratic Islamic state where Christian Serbs were people of second order submitted to violence, humiliation and mistreat. Serb population abandoned the developed, urban mining and trading settlements and withdrew to remote inaccessible mountains dedicated mostly to cattle breeding.
A story that will never be forgotten is the story about janissaries. The Turks used to kidnap male children from Serbian homes and put them for years through excessive army training thus creating the most ruthless and cruel soldiers in Turkey. The Janissaries, Turkish soldiers but Serbian flesh and blood, were afterwards sent to fight wars against Serbia and other Christian peoples.
Serbia has lost its independence in 1459, a rebellion in 1804, slightly more than three centuries, precisely 345 years ago. Turks left Belgrade on the 18th April of 1867. Serbs in Vojvodina, were never under Turkish rule, but Austria-Hungary and the Serbs in parts of Montenegro, were never under Turkish rule.
The consequences of bleeding Serbian, and invasion of the Turks defending Europe and its people. Serbia has defended the European Christian culture and faith, thanks to lives of our grandfathers and great-grandfather. If it were not European Christian Serbia in 1389, in the west today. faith, may have been Islam and British might have talk Turkish today.
Serbia XIX–XX Century
At the beginning of 19th century, Serbian resistance against Ottoman rule was strong breaking out in the First and the Second Serbian uprising in 1804 and 1815, respectively.
At that time Turkey was already in a state of crisis without any perspectives for recovery which affected particularly badly Christian people who lived in its empire. The Serbs started not only national but a social revolution keeping the pace with other European countries and accepting middle-class values.
The result of these uprisings and wars against the Ottoman empire was the creation of an independent Principality of Serbia internationally recognized in 1878. During this period two dynasties fought for power, the Karadjordjevic dynasty (whose founder was Djordje Petrovic – Karadjordje, the leader of the First Serbian uprising against the Turks) and the Obrenovics (whose founder was Milos Obrenovic, the leader of the Second Serbian uprising).
Further development of Serbia was marked by a general progress in economy, culture and art. This was mainly the result of a wise state politics which enabled the young to be educated in European metropoles. They would return with a new spirit and a system of value. One of the external transformations was proclamation of the Kingdom in 1882.
Coup d’etat took place in 1903 when Karadjordje’s grandson, king Petar I Karadjordjevic came to the throne making way for parliamentary democracy in Serbia. This liberal king, educated according to European values, translated into Serbian the work by John Stuart Miles “On Freedom”. He gave his country a democratic constitution introducing Serbia to a period of parliamentarism and political freedom interrupted by new liberation wars. Balkan wars (1912 – 1913) concluded Turkish domination in the Balkans. Turkish forces were expelled all the way to the Strait and new national states of Balkan peoples were created on its former European territories.
In 1914, Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. This event served as an excuse for Austro-Hungarian empire to attack Serbia without declaration of war, thus starting the First World War.
World Military Phenomenon
Serbian army defended bravely the independence of their country taking many victories against a much more powerful enemy – Germany, Austro-Hungarian empire and Bulgaria. Serbia decided to build such a strategy that would be studied and recorded in military annals.
It decided to withdraw its forces from national territories across Albania to the island of Korfu where it prepared for the battle at the Thessaloniki Front. The regent Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, even though ill, was with his army, parliament and the people.
Serbia never recovered from its losses numbering 1.264.000 (28%) people of total population 4.529.000. Loss of male population was 58%. Serbia gave with this enormous sacrifice an important contribution to the ally victory and transformation of Europe and the world after the war.
Over there so far from here, so far from the sea, my hometown is over there where Serbia is… These are verses of a famous song sang by Serbian soldiers on remote Korfu.
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-1941)
Serbia got out of the war victoriously and after the First World War and the fall of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires conditions were created for the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to be proclaimed in 1918 with Aleksandar Karadjordjevic as the king.
In 1934 king Aleksandar Karadjordjevic was assassinated during an official visit by a member of Bulgarian national extremist organization in collaboration with Ustasas (members of Croat fascist separatist organization).
After this tragical event almost all diplomatic activity ceased. Feverish preparations for the biggest slaughter in modern history started – the Second World War.