The Serbian state as known today was created in 1170 A.D. by Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Nemanjic dynasty. Serbia's religious foundation came several years later when Stefan's son, canonized as St. Sava, became the first archbishop of a newly autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church (1219). Thus, at this time, the Serbs enjoyed both temporal and religious independence. After a series of successions, Serbia fell under the rule of King Milutin, who improved Serbia's position among other European countries. Milutin also was responsible for many of the brightest examples of Medieval Serbian architecture. Moreover, Serbia began to expand under Milutin's reign, seizing territory in nearby Macedonia from the Byzantines. Under Milutin's son, Stefan Dusan (1331-55), the Nemanjic dynasty reached its peak, ruling from the Danube to central Greece. However, Serbian power waned after Stefan's death in 1355, and in the Battle of Kosovo (June 15, 1389) the Serbs were catastrophically defeated by the Turks. By 1459, the Turks exerted complete control over all Serb lands.
For more than 3 centuries--nearly 370 years--the Serbs lived as virtual slaves of the Ottoman sultans. As a result of this oppression, Serbs began to migrate out of their native and (present-day Kosovo and southern Serbia) into other areas within the Balkan Peninsula, including what is now Vojvodina and Croatia. When the Austrian Hapsburg armies pushed the Ottoman Turks south of the Danube in 699, many Serbs were "liberated," but their native land was still under Ottoman rule.
Movements for Serbian independence began more than 100 years later with uprisings under the Serbian patriots Karageorge (1804-13) and Milos Obrenovic (1815-17). After the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-29, Serbia became an internationally recognized principality under Turkish suzerainty and Russian protection, and the state expanded steadily southward. After an insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1875, Serbia and Montenegro went to war against Turkey in 1876-78 in support of the Bosnian rebels. With Russian assistance, Serbs gained more territory as well as formal independence in 1878, though Bosnia was placed under Austrian administration.
In 1908, Austria-Hungary directly annexed Bosnia, inciting the Serbs to seek the aid of Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece in seizing the last Ottoman-ruled lands in Europe. In the ensuing Balkan Wars of 1912-13, Serbia obtained northern and central Macedonia, but Austria compelled it to yield Albanian lands that would have given it access to the sea. Serb animosity against the Habsburgs reached a climax on June 28, 1914, when the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, setting off a series of diplomatic and military initiatives among the great powers that culminated in World War I.
Soon after the war began, Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian forces occupied Serbia. Upon 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 a 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 Croatians 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, Yugoslavia was divided between the Axis powers and their allies. Royal army soldiers, calling themselves Cetnici (Chetniks), formed a Serbian resistance movement, but a more determined communist resistance under the Partisans, with Soviet and Anglo-American help, liberated all of 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 attempts at a federal system of government for Yugoslavia, Serbian communists played the leading role in Yugoslavia's political life for the next 4 decades. As the Germans were defeated at the end of World War II, Josip Broz Tito, a former Bolshevik and devout communist, began to garner support from both within Yugoslavia as well as from the Allies. Yugoslavia remained independent of the U.S.S.R., as Tito broke with Stalin and asserted Yugoslav independence. Tito went on to control Yugoslavia for 35 years. Under communist rule, Serbia was transformed from an agrarian to an industrial society. In the 1980s, however, Yugoslavia's economy began to fail. With the death of Tito, separatist and nationalist tensions emerged in Yugoslavia.
In 1989, riding a wave of nationalist sentiment, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic reimposed direct rule over the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina, prompting Albanians in Kosovo to agitate for separation from the Republic of Serbia. 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. In March 2002, the Belgrade Agreement was signed by the heads of the federal and republican governments, 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.
Montenegro's history is almost inextricably tied to Serbia's. Similarly to Serbia, Montenegro was under the rule of the Ottoman Turks for the duration of their reign in the Balkans. When the Turks were removed from the area, Montenegro became an independent principality within the Austro-Hungarian Empire but did not become an independent, sovereign state until 1878.
During World War I, Montenegro fought on the side of the Allies but was defeated and occupied by Austria. Upon Austrian occupation, the Montenegrin king, King Nikola I, and his family fled to Italy. Consequently, the Serbian king, Petar Karadjordjevic, was able to exploit the chaotic conditions in Montenegro at the war's end, paving the way for the violent and unwanted Serbian annexation of Montenegro.
Montenegro was the only Allied country in World War I to be annexed to another country at the end of the war. The majority of the Montenegrin population opposed the annexation and on January 7, 1919, staged a national uprising--known to history as the Christmas Uprising--against the Serbian annexation. The uprising became a war between Serbia and the Montenegrins that lasted until 1926. Many Montenegrins lost their lives, and though many hoped for an intervention by the Great Powers to protect their sovereignty, none came and Montenegro was effectively absorbed into the new kingdom of Yugoslavia.
When Yugoslavia was invaded and partitioned by the Axis powers in April 1941, Montenegro was appropriated by the Italians under a nominally autonomous administration. This caused a great divide within the Montenegrin population. Many nationalists who had been frustrated with the experience of Yugoslav unification supported the Italian administration. But there were advocates of the union with Serbia who began armed resistance movements as well as many communists who, by nature of their political beliefs, were opposed to the Italian presence. As war progressed, the local strength of the communists grew and Montenegro served as an effective base for communism in the region; it was an important refuge for Tito's Partisan forces during the most difficult points in the struggle. After the war, the communist strategy of attempting to unify Yugoslavia through a federal structure elevated Montenegro to the status of a republic, thus securing Montenegrin loyalty to the federation.
The breakup of the Yugoslav federation after 1989 left Montenegro in a precarious position. The first multiparty elections in 1990 showed much public support for the League of Communists, confirming Montenegrin support for the federation. Montenegro joined Serbian efforts to preserve the federation in the form of a "Third Yugoslavia" in 1992. Though Montenegro reaffirmed its political attachment to Serbia, a sense of a distinct Montenegrin identity continued to thrive. Outspoken criticism of Serbian conduct of the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina boosted the continuing strength of Montenegrin distinctiveness. Both the people and the government of Montenegro were critical of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's 1998-99 campaign in Kosovo, and the ruling coalition parties boycotted the September 2000 federal elections, which led to the eventual overthrow of Milosevic's regime. The Belgrade Agreement of March 2002, signed by the heads of the federal and republican governments, set 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 which established a new state union and changed the name of the country from Yugoslavia to Serbia and Montenegro.
Before the conflicts of the 1990s, Kosovo was best known as the site of a famous 14th-century battle in which invading Ottoman Turks defeated a Serbian army led by Tsar Lazar. During this medieval period, Kosovo also was home to many important Serb religious sites, including many architecturally significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries.
The Ottomans ruled Kosovo for more than four centuries, until Serbia reconquered the territory during the First Balkans War in 1912-13. First partitioned in 1913 between Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo was then incorporated into the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later named Yugoslavia) after World War I. During World War II, parts of Kosovo were absorbed into Italian-occupied Albania. After the Italian capitulation, Nazi Germany assumed control until Tito's Yugoslav communists reentered Kosovo at the end of the war.
After World War II, Kosovo became a province of Serbia in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The 1974 Yugoslav Constitution gave Kosovo (along with Vojvodina) the status of an autonomous province with nearly equal voting rights as the six constituent Republics of Yugoslavia. Although the Albanian-majority province enjoyed significant autonomy, riots broke out in 1981 by Kosovar Albanians who demanded that Kosovo be granted full Republic status.
In the late 1980s, Slobodan Milosevic propelled himself to power in Belgrade by exploiting the fears of the small Serbian minority in Kosovo. In 1989, he arranged the elimination of Kosovo's autonomy in favor of more direct rule from Belgrade. Belgrade ordered the firing of large numbers of 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. When this movement failed to yield results, an armed resistance emerged in the form of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). 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 a military response from NATO which consisted primarily of aerial bombing and lasted from March through June 1999. After 79 days of bombing, Milosevic capitulated and international forces moved into Kosovo.
After June 1999, Kosovo was made a UN protectorate, under the UN Mission
in Kosovo (UNMIK) based in Pristina. Under UNMIK aegis and with NATO's
Kosovo Force (KFOR) providing security, efforts to build a multiethnic
and democratic Kosovo commenced immediately. From early 2001, UNMIK has
been working with representatives of the Serbian and union governments
to reestablish stable relations in the region. Kosovars elected a new assembly
in November 2001, which formed a government and chose a president in early
2002. In spring 2002, UNMIK announced its plan to repatriate ethnic Serb
internally displaced persons (IDPs). In 2003, UNMIK transferred certain
governing competencies to ministries formed as part of the region's provisional
institutions for self-government.