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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Historical development


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.1Historical development

Last update: 27 November 2023

Serbia is a continental country located in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans Peninsula, and partly in Central Europe.

At the time of the beginnings of recorded history, the territory of today's Serbia was inhabited by several Indo-European peoples of Illyrian, Thracian-Dacian and Celtic origin. By victory over the Dacians at the beginning of the new era, the Roman Empire included almost the entire territory of today's Serbia.

After disintegration of the Roman Empire, the territory of today's Serbia remained a part of the Eastern Roman Empire (later Byzantium), which left a strong political, cultural and religious influence on the later development of Serbia. At the time of the great migration, the territory of today's Serbia was being invaded by various barbarian tribes. The settling of the Slavs on Balkan Peninsula began in the 6th century with Slavs’ raids into Byzantium and ended with permanent colonisation of the large number of Slavs in the Balkans (among which the Serb tribes) in the first half of the 7th century.

The first Slavs’ political units (as recorded by Byzantines) were Sklavinias out of which the first Serbian principalities emerged, evolving into a Grand Principality ruled by Stefan Nemanja. At the beginning of the XIII century the first Serbian dynasty (Nemanjići) established the Kingdom. In next three centuries the Kingdom was spread throughout large part of the Balkans peninsula. 

Development of independent Serbian state was interrupted by the arrival of the Turks in the Balkans. By the mid-16th century, the entire territory of modern-day Serbia was annexed by the Ottoman Empire. At times, in some (mainly northern) parts of today’s Serbia, Ottoman rule was replaced by the Habsburgs’.

Serbia will begin to restore its statehood in the 19th century, after the First (1804) and the Second Serbian Uprising (1815), first as a vassal principality, to full independence in 1878. Some southern and western parts of present-day Serbia will remain under Ottoman rule until 1912.

After the end of World War I, Serbia was a founder and part of the common state with most South Slavs, originally the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) which remained until the occupation by fascist countries in 1941. With the end of the World War II and the collapse of fascism, a new Yugoslavia was created, this time not as a monarchist project but as a socialist federative republic consisting of six federal units and with the one-party rule. Through several constitutional reforms, political system of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia was being formed, which was finally confirmed by Constitution in 1974, which gave greater constitutional rights to the republics and increased autonomy of two constituent provinces of Serbia (Vojvodina and Kosovo and Metohija), and which, by some authors, created the preconditions to later disintegration of Yugoslavia.

After the failure of communism, the 1980s political and economic crisis in Yugoslavia and several inter-ethnic incidents, the Yugoslav Wars occurred in the beginning of 1990s ending in the dissolution of the joint state and the formation of independent countries - Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of Yugoslavia (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, later the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro) consisting of Serbia and Montenegro until 2006 when even Montenegro declared its independence.

In the political systems of the newly formed states, after the decades of communist one-party system, multi-party parliamentary democracies were established.

Serbia applied for European Union membership in 2009, obtained full candidate status in 2012 and negotiations on Serbia's accession were started at the beginning of 2014.

Serbia is a member of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe, the Central European Free Trade Association, the Partnership for Peace, and currently is militarily neutral.