For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Republic of Serbia
Area: Serbia (77,474 sq. km.) is slightly smaller than Maine.
Cities: Capital--Belgrade. Other cities--Pancevo, Novi Pazar, Uzice, Novi Sad, Subotica, Bor, Nis. Terrain: Varied; in the north, rich fertile plains; in the east, limestone ranges and basins; in the southeast, mountains and hills.
Climate: In the north, continental climate (cold winter and hot, humid summers with well-distributed rainfall); central portion, continental and Mediterranean climate; to the south, hot, dry summers and autumns and relatively cold winters with heavy snowfall inland.
People (2004 est.)
Nationality: Noun--Serb(s); adjective--Serbian.
Population (2002 Republic census): 7,478,820.
Population growth rate: -3.5%.
Ethnic groups (2002 population census): Serbian 83%, Hungarian 4%, Bosnian 2%, Albanian 1%, Montenegrin 1%, other 9%.
Religions (2002 population census): Orthodox 85%, Roman Catholic 5.5%, Muslim 3%, Protestant 1%, other 5.5%.
Languages: Serbian 88%, Hungarian 3.8%, Bosnian 2%, Albanian 1%, others 5%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--8.1 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy--males 72.44 yrs., female 77.86 yrs.
Constitution: Adopted in an October 28-29, 2006 referendum.
Independence: April 11, 1992 (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (F.R.Y.) formed as self-proclaimed successor to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). On February 4, 2003, the F.R.Y. parliament adopted a new Constitutional Charter establishing the state union of Serbia and Montenegro. On May 21, 2006, the Republic of Montenegro held a successful referendum on independence and after Montenegro's declaration of independence on June 3, the parliament of Serbia stated that the Republic of Serbia was the continuity of the state union, rendering the two republics independent and sovereign countries.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state); prime minister (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative--Parliament. Judicial--Federal Court (Savezni Sud) and Constitutional Court.
Political parties: Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM), Christian Democratic Party of Serbia (DHSS), Democratic Community of Vojvodian Hungarians (DZVM), Democratic Party (DS), Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSh), Force of Serbia (PSS), G-17 Plus (G-17), League for Sumadija (LS), League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (LSV), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Movement for Democratic Progress (LDP--Albanians), New Serbia (NS), Party of Democratic Action (SDA--Bosniaks), Party of Democratic Action (PVD--Albanians), People's Party (NP), Sandzak Democratic Party (SDP--Bosniaks), Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Social Democratic Union (SDU), Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS--former Communist Party), Yugoslav United Left (JUL).
Suffrage: 16 years of age if employed; universal at 18.
GDP (2008 est.): $45.0 billion.
GDP growth rate (2008 est.): 5.4%.
GDP per capita (2008 est.): $6,782.
Inflation rate (2008 est.): 6.8%.
Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, antimony, copper, lead, zinc, timber, bauxite, gold, silver, navigable rivers.
Agriculture: 11% of GDP.
Industry: 18% of GDP.
Services: 21% of GDP.
Trade (2008): Exports--$11 billion. Major markets--Bosnia, Montenegro, Germany, Italy. Imports--$23 billion. Major suppliers--Russia, Germany, Italy, China.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
The first Serbian kingdom was created in 1170 A.D. by Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Nemanjic dynasty, whose son was canonized as St. Sava and became the patron saint of the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church founded in 1219. Serbia's territories expanded under the rule of King Milutin, who seized territory in nearby Macedonia from the Byzantines, and reached their peak under Milutin's son, Stefan Dusan (1331-55). However, Serbian power waned after Stefan's death in 1355, and at the Battle of Kosovo (June 28, 1389) the Serbs were defeated by the Turks. Following the Battle of Smederevo in 1459, the Ottoman empire exerted complete control over all Serb lands.
Serbs lived under the rule of the Ottoman sultans for nearly 370 years, though the Serbian Orthodox Church, with several disruptions, transmitted Serbian heritage and helped preserve Serbian identity during this period. Movements for Serbian independence began with uprisings led by Karadjordje Petrovic (1804-13) and Milos Obrenovic (1815-17), founders of two rival dynasties that would rule Serbia until World War I. Serbia became an internationally recognized principality under Turkish suzerainty and Russian protection after the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829. After waging war against Turkey in support of Bosnian rebels in 1876, Serbia formally gained independence in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin, largely thanks to Russian support. Following Austria-Hungary's annexation of Bosnia, Serbia led a successful coalition of Montenegrin, Bulgarian, and Greek troops (the Balkan League) that in 1913 seized remaining Ottoman-controlled territory in Europe and established Serbia as a regional military leader.
The assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, set off a series of diplomatic and military actions among the great powers that culminated in World War I. Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian forces occupied Serbia soon after World War I began. After the collapse of Austria-Hungary at the war's end in 1918, Vojvodina and Montenegro united with Serbia, and former south Slav subjects of the Habsburgs sought the protection of the Serbian crown within the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Serbia was the dominant partner in this state, which in 1929 adopted the name Yugoslavia.
The kingdom soon encountered resistance when Croats began to resent control from Belgrade. This pressure prompted King Alexander I to split the traditional regions into nine administrative provinces. During World War II, the Axis powers occupied Yugoslavia. Royal army soldiers, calling themselves Chetniks, formed a Serbian resistance movement, but the communist Partisans, with Soviet and Anglo-American help, succeeded in defeating the Chetniks and forcing German forces from Yugoslavia by 1944. In an effort to avoid Serbian domination during the postwar years, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro were given separate and equal republican status within the new socialist federation of Yugoslavia; Kosovo and Vojvodina were made autonomous provinces within Yugoslavia.
Despite the appearance of a federal system of government in Yugoslavia, Serbian communists ruled Yugoslavia's political life for the next four decades under Josip Broz Tito, a former Bolshevik and committed communist. In 1948 after Tito made several significant foreign policy decisions without consulting Moscow, Yugoslavia was expelled from the Soviet bloc, signifying a split with Moscow that left Tito independent to accept aid from the Marshall Plan and become a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. Communist rule transformed Serbia from an agrarian into an industrial society; however, by the 1980s, Yugoslavia's economy started to fail. With the death of Tito in 1980, separatist and nationalist tensions emerged in Yugoslavia.
In the late 1980s, Slobodan Milosevic propelled himself to power in Belgrade by exploiting Serbian nationalism, especially over Kosovo. In 1989, he arranged the elimination of Kosovo's autonomy in favor of direct rule from Belgrade. Belgrade ordered the firing of large numbers of ethnic Albanian state employees, whose jobs were then taken by Serbs. As a result of this oppression, Kosovo Albanian leaders led a peaceful resistance movement in the early 1990s and established a parallel government funded mainly by the Albanian diaspora.
Between 1991 and 1992, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia all seceded from Yugoslavia. On April 27, 1992, in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro joined in passing the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (F.R.Y.).
Kosovo's peaceful resistance movement failed to yield results, and in 1997 the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began an armed resistance. The KLA's main goal was to secure the independence of Kosovo.
In late 1998, Milosevic unleashed a brutal police and military campaign against the separatist KLA, which included atrocities against civilian noncombatants. For the duration of Milosevic's campaign, large numbers of ethnic Albanians were either displaced from their homes in Kosovo or killed by Serbian troops or police. These acts, and Serbia's refusal to sign the Rambouillet Accords, provoked 79 days of bombing by NATO forces from March to June 1999 and led the UN Security Council (UNSC) to authorize, through UNSC Resolution 1244 (June 10, 1999), an international civil and military presence in Kosovo under UN auspices. The resolution called for UN interim administration of Kosovo and authorized the international civil presence to facilitate a process to determine Kosovo's status. Following Milosevic's capitulation, international forces--including the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the NATO-led security force KFOR--moved into Kosovo.
In March 2002, the heads of the federal and republican governments signed the Belgrade Agreement, setting forth the parameters for a redefinition of Montenegro's relationship with Serbia within a joint state. On February 4, 2003, the F.R.Y. parliament ratified the Constitutional Charter, establishing a new state union and changing the name of the country from Yugoslavia to Serbia and Montenegro.
On May 21, 2006, the Republic of Montenegro held a successful referendum on independence and declared independence on June 3. Thereafter, the parliament of Serbia stated that the Republic of Serbia was the continuity of the state union, changing the name of the country from Serbia and Montenegro to the Republic of Serbia, with Serbia retaining Serbia and Montenegro's membership in all international organizations and bodies.
The UNSC was deadlocked on a way forward on Kosovo status and how to act on UN Special Envoy Maarti Ahtisaari’s Kosovo status proposal in mid-2007. On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared its independence following a 120-day last-ditch effort by the EU-Russia-U.S. Troika to facilitate an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo on the latter's status. The United States officially recognized Kosovo's independence the following day. Sixty nations had recognized Kosovo as of June 2009. Serbia has rejected Kosovo independence. Government officials declared their intent to pursue all peaceful, political, and diplomatic means to retain Kosovo and sought a UN resolution to request that the International Court of Justice review the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence in an advisory opinion. After a vigorous lobbying campaign, on October 9, 2008, the UN General Assembly voted in favor of Serbia's proposal. The advisory opinion is not expected until spring 2010.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Routine federal elections in September 2000 resulted in a narrow official victory for Slobodan Milosevic and his coalition against Vojislav Kostunica, the consensus presidential candidate of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), an umbrella group of 18 anti-Milosevic political parties. After Milosevic's victory was documented to be fraudulent, citizens across Serbia turned out in street protests in support of Kostunica. On October 5, 2000, Milosevic was forced to concede defeat after mass protests across Serbia. The new F.R.Y. President Vojislav Kostunica was soon joined at the top of the domestic Serbian political scene by the Democratic Party's (DS) Zoran Djindjic, who was elected Prime Minister of Serbia at the head of the DOS ticket in parliamentary elections that December. Although initial reform efforts were highly successful, especially in the economic and fiscal sectors, by the middle of 2002, the nationalist Kostunica and the pragmatic Djindjic were openly in conflict with each other.
Despite the initial euphoria of replacing Milosevic's autocratic regime, the Serbian population by mid-2002 slid into apathy and disillusionment with its leading politicians in reaction to this political maneuvering. Two rounds of elections for the republic presidency in late 2002 failed because of insufficient voter turnout (Serbian law required participation by more than 50% of registered voters).
On March 12, 2003, Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic was assassinated by organized crime elements threatened by his pursuit of anti-crime measures. Zoran Zivkovic, a vice-president of Djindjic's DS party, was elected Prime Minister in March 2003, but a series of scandals plagued the new government, which ultimately led to early elections.
Republic of Serbia presidential elections were held on November 16, 2003, but these elections were declared invalid because of insufficient voter turnout. Following the December 2003 parliamentary elections, a new minority government was formed with the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), G17+, and the Serbian Renewal Movement/New Serbia (SPO/NS) coalition and the tacit support of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). Former F.R.Y. president Vojislav Kostunica was named Prime Minister.
On June 27, 2004, after changes to the election law to allow for a valid election with turnout of less than 50% of registered voters, Boris Tadic (DS) defeated then-Radical Party candidate Tomislav Nikolic by a slim margin and was elected President of Serbia.
Following the adoption of a new Constitution in October 2006, Serbia held parliamentary elections on January 21, 2007. A government was formed in May 2007, with a coalition of the DS, DSS, and G17+. The coalition chose Vojislav Kostunica to continue in his position as Prime Minister. On February 3, 2008, in run-off presidential elections, Boris Tadic again defeated then-Radical Party candidate Tomislav Nikolic by a slim margin and was re-elected President of Serbia. Following the collapse of the governing coalition in March 2008 in the wake of Kosovo’s independence, new parliamentary elections were held on May 11, 2008. The Democratic Party-led list, "For a European Serbia," won nearly 39% of the vote, and in July 2008 formed a coalition government with the Socialists and ethnic minority parties. The May 11, 2008 Serbian national election results are illustrated by the following chart:
|Serbian Political Parties||Percentage of vote||Seats in Parliament|
|For a European Serbia--(ZES) DS, G-17, SPO, LSV, SDP||38.7%||102|
|Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS)||11.3%||30|
|Socialists (SPS), (PUPS), (JS)||7.9%||20|
|Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)||5.2%||13|