Saturday, June 1, 2013

Serbia Primer

Here is a summary of the History part of the Wikipedia entry on Serbia. It turned out longer than I expected, so I’ll cover other aspects of the county in a separate post.

Serbia is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe. The country is landlocked and borders Hungary to the north; Romania and Bulgaria to the east; Macedonia to the south; and Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro to the west; also, it borders Albania through the disputed region of KosovoSerbia is a member of the UN, Council of Europe and OSCE. It is also an official candidate for membership in the European Union, which the EC recommended for opening of EU entry talks by June 2013, and a neutral country. Serbia is an upper-middle income economy (WB, IMF), which has made largest progress in the region in terms of overall democracy scores and democratic, economic and governance transformation.

Early HistoryAround 1000 BC, the Thracians, Dacians, Illyrians developed in the Balkans. Ancient Greeks expanded into the south of modern Serbia in the 4th century BC, and the north-westernmost point of Alexander the Great's empire was the town of Kale-Krševica. The Romans conquered parts of modern-day Serbia in the 2nd century BC, and seventeen Roman Emperors were born in the area of modern-day Serbia, including Constantine the Great. When the Roman Empire was divided in 395, the region remained under the eastern Byzantine Empire.

In the mid-10th century the state had emerged into a tribal confederation that stretched to the shores of the Adriatic Sea. It hosted a Game of Thrones until 1166, when the coronation of Stefan Nemanja marked the beginning of a prospering Serbia. Nemanja's son Rastko gained autocephaly (where the head bishop reports only to the head of the church) for the Serbian Church in 1217 and authored the oldest known constitution. Medieval Serbia reached its peak during the reign of Dušan the Mighty, who took advantage of the Byzantine civil war and doubled the size of the state by conquering territories to the south and east at the expense of Byzantium, reaching as far as the Peloponnese, and also being crowned Emperor of Serbs and Greeks along the way.

After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 and the Siege of Belgrade, the country was completely conquered by the Ottoman Empire.  Belgrade finally fell in 1521, opening the way for Ottoman expansion into Central Europe. The country endured three centuries of Ottoman rule until the Serbian Revolution in the early 19th century, which led eventually to full independence. In 1876, Serbia declared war on the Ottoman Empire, proclaiming its unification with Bosnia. The formal independence of the country was internationally recognized at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, which formally ended the Russo-Turkish War; this treaty, however, prohibited Serbia from uniting with Bosnia by placing it under Austro-Hungarian occupation. In 1882, Serbia became a Kingdom.

On 28 June 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo  led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. In defense of its ally, Russia mobilized its troops, which resulted in Austria-Hungary's ally Germany declaring war on Russia. The retaliation by Austria-Hungary against Serbia activated a series of military alliances that set off a chain reaction of war declarations across the continent, leading to the outbreak of World War I within a month. Despite initial success, Serbia was eventually overpowered by the Central Powers in 1915. Most of its army and some people went into exile to Greece, where they regrouped and returned to the Macedonian front to lead a final breakthrough through enemy lines on 15 September 1918, liberating Serbia and defeating the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Bulgaria
 As the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed, Serbian Prince Regent Alexander  proclaimed the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes under King Peter I of Serbia. King Peter was succeeded by his son, Alexander, in August 1921, who changed the name of the country to Yugoslavia before he was assassinated in 1934 by a member of the Internal Macedonian RevolutionaryOrganization.  He was succeeded by his 11 year old son, and shortly thereafter, Croatia successfully negotiated its independence.

In 1941, the Axis powers invaded Yugoslavia. The territory of modern Serbia was divided between Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia and Italy (greater Albania and Montenegro), while the remaining part of Serbia was placed under German Military administration. The occupied territory was the scene of a civil war between royalist Chetniks commanded by Draža Mihailović and communist partisans commanded by Josip Broz Tito. Against these forces were arrayed Axis auxiliary units of the Serbian Volunteer Corps and the Serbian State Guard
The victory of the communist Partisans resulted in the abolition of the monarchy and a subsequent orchestrated constitutional referendum. A single-party state was soon established in Yugoslavia by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. Serbia became a constituent republic within the country.  Pro-decentralization reformers in Yugoslavia succeeded in the late 1960s in attaining substantial decentralization of powers, creating substantial autonomy in Kosovo and Vojvodina, and recognizing a Yugoslav Muslim nationality.  As a result of these reforms, Kosovo shifted from being Serb-dominated to ethnic Albanian-dominate.  Further concessions were made to the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo in response to unrest, including the creation of the University of Pristina as an Albanian language institution.

In 1989, Slobodan Milošević rose to power in Serbia. He promised reduction of powers for the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina, which ignited tensions with the communist leadership of the other republics, and eventually resulted in the Breakup of Yugoslavia, with Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia declaring independence Serbia and Montenegro remained together as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Fueled by ethnic tensions, the Yugoslav Wars erupted, with the most severe conflicts taking place in Croatia and Bosnia, where ethnic Serb populations opposed independence from Yugoslavia. The FRY remained outside the conflicts, but provided logistic, military and financial support to Serb forces in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In response, the UN imposed sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in May 1992, which led to political isolation, economic decline, and hyperinflation. Multiparty democracy was introduced in Serbia in 1990, officially dismantling the single-party system, although critics claimed that the government continued to be authoritarian.. Milošević issued media blackouts of stations' coverage of protests against his government and restricted freedom of speech , which, resulted in many people being. When the ruling SPS refused to accept its defeat in municipal elections in 1996, Serbians engaged in large protests against the government. Between 1998 and 1999, peace was broken again, when the situation in Kosovo worsened with continued clashes between Yugoslav security forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army. The confrontations led to the Kosovo War.

In September 2000, opposition parties accused Milošević of electoral fraud. A campaign of civil resistance  culminated on 5 October when half a million people from all over the country congregated in Belgrade, compelling Milošević to concede defeat. The fall of Milošević ended Yugoslavia's international isolation. Milošević was sent to the ICTY. The DOS announced that FR Yugoslavia would seek to join the European Union. In 2003, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was renamed Serbia and Montenegro; the EU opened negotiations with the country for the Stabilization and Association Agreement. Serbia's political climate has remained tense. In 2003, the prime minister Zoran Đinđić was assassinated as result of a plot originating from circles of organized crime and former security officials. Pro- and anti-EU political forces in Serbia have remained sharply divided on the political course of Serbia in regards to its relations with the European Union.

On 21 May 2006, Montenegro held a referendum to determine whether to end its union with Serbia. The next day, state-certified results showed 55.4% of voters in favor of independence, which was just above the 55% required by the referendum. On 5 June 2006, the National Assembly of Serbia declared Serbia to be the legal successor to the former state union. In April 2008 Serbia was invited to join the intensified dialogue programme with NATO despite the diplomatic rift with the alliance over Kosovo. Serbia applied for the European Union membership in December 2009 and became an official candidate in March 2012.

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