Serbs - History and Cultural Relations

Early Serbian migration into the then largely unpopulated Balkan Peninsula dates to about A.D. 500-600. Moving south from the area adjacent to the Carpathian Mountains, these early settlers arrived with their flocks and herds. The first Serbian state dates to the middle of the ninth century. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, however, internal warfare had facilitated Ottoman conquest of the region. For the Serbs, this conquest is still symbolically remembered today by the defeat at Kosovo Polje (Kosovo Plain) in 1389. Modern settlement of the region dates to the 1700s and the wane of Ottoman power in the area. Prior to this time, much of the population had fled Ottoman conquest and remained in the Dinaric Alps to the west. By 1830, after years of continuous rebellion including the First Revolt of 1804 and the Second Revolt in 1815, Turkey was forced to recognize Serbia as an autonomous principality. Serbia was later proclaimed an independent state in 1882, but it was not until 1918 that the first Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was established. The modern socialist state of Yugoslavia emerged out of World War II and the concomitant civil struggle between Mihailovic's Chetniks and Tito's Partisans.

Modern former Yugoslavia was an ethnically diverse and complicated state. Recent economic hardships coupled with political tensions have resulted in the flaring up of historical ethnic tensions between Croats and Serbs and between Muslims and Serbs. With the Croatian moves toward Independence in 1990-1991, full-scale civil war between Croatia and the Serbian-dominated federal army erupted in the summer of 1991, after Croatia and Slovenia declared their Independence. Also threatening at the present time are the tensions in the Kosovo between Serbs and Albanians fueled by growing Serbian nationalism. Yugoslavia is formally nonaligned.

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