Bill’s History of Serbia

Note – This is a work in progress.

I. Introduction

I think it is important to understand the history of a nation to understand the current situation. As I am living in Serbia I am researching much about the history of the country.  This little work is very subjective. It is coming from the perspective of an American. Two of my goals are to understand the smallness of Serbia and the strong feelings of ethnic identity they have for being a Serb. This is opposite to the 300 million + Americans and a nation formed on ideals and not an ethnic group.

I am also finding as I learn more about Serbia, the big difference between how Serbia is portrayed in the western media and what the country is really like. It is a fascinating place because it feels and looks like Europe, but it has always been part of another world. Serbia was controlled by the Ottoman Turks for 500 years, then behind the “iron curtain” of Communism for most of this century, and more recently, behind the international embargo during the wars during the break up of Yugoslavia.

There are an estimated 10 million Serbs worldwide. That is about the population of my home state of Michigan, which is not one of the larger states in the USA. In Serbia itself and neighboring countries, there are probably between 6.5 and 8 million. The small population of Serbs has certainly affected its history, as it has been dominated and influenced by larger nations regularly. It is surprising however, the big part it has played on the world stage, despite being so small.

Serbia is geographically small also. It is about half the size of Wisconsin, a little smaller than Maine and a little larger than South Carolina. Geography has also affected it, as it is in between “the west” (Western Europe) and “the east” (Russia/Turkey/Central Asia).

This is a work in progress, so I will be updating it from time to time as I learn more. I will be posting a bibliography below. I really enjoy living in Serbia and have much respect for the Serbs. They have treated me very kindly and made me feel welcome!

It is amazing how much this little country has been through!

I. The Serbian Glory Years (1100 AD – 1300 AD)

In traveling around to many small countries in Europe, I’ve noticed a common theme of their histories. Most of the time, the smaller “tribes” or “nations” were under the power of a larger state or empire. Some like Estonia, were not really totally free until very recent times. Serbia for much of its history, had to live under the domination of a larger state. From the Ottoman Turks to the Nazis, the Great Powers interventions have controlled the destiny of Serbia.

There was a time however, between empires that Serbia flourished. Around 900 years ago, the Byzantine Empire was collapsing and the Ottoman Turks were not in Europe yet. This window allowed the smaller nations of the Balkans to be independent, and in the case of Serbia, even expand their borders to have a mini-empire. For an American, 700-900 years ago seems like a heck of a long time ago, and it would be the very distant past, but for the Serbs, they keep track of these things. The Nemanjić Dynasty and the Serbian Empire of the that long ago time, still resonates through Serbian society. It was part of the “Greater Serbia” concept that propelled some of the Wars of Yugoslav Secession in the 1990’s.

At the time the Crusaders (Holy Roman Empire) were sacking Constantinople (Byzantine Empire), Stefan Nemanja was born near modern day Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. His life and accomplishments had huge implications for the Serbs. As a young man, he was a prisoner in Constantinople in 1172 and this experience so impressed him, that when he returned to Montenegro, he switched from being a Catholic to the Byzantine Orthodox Church and became Bishop of Raška, as the area was called then. Stefan also began building the Serbian Orthodox Church and monasteries (note to self – visit Studenica in Kosovo, his most famous monastery), which forged and preserved the Serbian culture and identity through the turbulent times that were to come. Stefan abdicated in 1197 to become an Orthodox monk. He later became known as the first Serbian Saint Simeon. His decision to devote his life to the Church, was greatly influenced by his third son, Rastko, who would become the famous Saint Sava.

Stefan founded the Nemanjić Dynasty and conferred power to his second son, Stefan Jr. The younger Stefan battled his older brother Vukan for the crown. Vukan enlisted the help of the Hungarians and in 1202, defeated Stefan. He was baptized Catholic by the Hungarian King, Imre. If he would have stayed in power, maybe today Serbia would have been Catholic. Imre died shortly thereafter, and Stefan Jr. regained the throne in 1204. Sava, once again, helped this transition by reconciling the brothers. Sava convinced Pope Honorius III to bless his brother and Serbia, and Stefan became known as First Crowned or Prvo-venčani. Sava was not finished yet, and through his diplomatic missions, got Emperor in Constantinople to grant the Serbian Orthodox Church independence from the Byzantines. Sava finally died in 1236. I can see why the grand cathedral in Belgrade is named after him.

During the 1200’s, the Nemanjic Dynasty continued to expand the Serbian Empire and give the Serbs a high standard of living. Stefan Uroš I (1243-1276) developed mining and Ragusa (Dubrovnik) became a big port city for trade. The son of Stefan, Uroš, Milutin (1282-1321) battled his brother Dragutin to claim the throne. I’m starting to see a pattern in these Nemanjas. Fight your brothers for power and build monasteries. Milutin’s monastery was Gračanica and like the early Serbian monasteries, it is located in southern Serbia or Kosovo.

The Nemanjić Dynasty reached its zenith during the reign of Dušan, known as Stephen Uroš IV Dušan, (1308-1355). He took power from his father Stefan Dečanski in 1331. Dusan was a 7-foot giant, who was ruthless. He had his father locked up and eventually strangled. Dušan expanded Serbia beyond Kosovo and his armies ruled Macedonia, Greece, Albania, and much of Bulgaria. He wanted to be crowned an Emperor so he created his own “pope” by naming the Serbian archbishop, Joanikije to the status of Patriarch. This office still exists today. Dušan might have gone further and taken Constantinople, but he died suddenly in 1355. This was the beginning of the end of Serbian glory. The Turks gained a foothold in Constantinople and Dušan’s son, Stefan Uroš V, was a weak leader.


The Story of Black George – Leader of the First Serbian Uprising of 1804

A Mosaic of Black George in Karađorđe Mausoleum - Topola, Serbia

In the early 1800’s, Serbia was on the edge of the Ottoman Empire, a long way from the capital of the Ottomans, Istanbul. So far away in fact, that the Sultan Selim III in Istanbul did not have full control of the Belgrade province, or pashalik in Turkish. The province was run by four dahi who brutally repressed the Serbian peasants. The dahi’s soldiers, called janissaries, lived in the Belgrade fortress and periodically patrolled the sparsely populated land of Serbia.

After 500 years of Ottoman control, the Serbian Uprising of 1804 began with the execution of Serbian peasant leaders in the town of Ljubenino Polje, about 30 miles south of Belgrade. The dahis had reports that Aleksandar Nenodović was importing arms from the Hapsburg Empire from across the Danube River, just north of Belgrade. The dahis took a George Bush, proactive approach and wanted to crush a rebellion before it started. The jannissaries beheaded many of the Serbian leaders. These beheadings sparked, as Misha Glenny writes, “the beginning of modern history on the Balkan peninsula” as the Serbs began to get rid of the Ottoman Turks and their Eastern culture. This was the seća knezova or the massacre of the leaders. The word Knez you see today all over Serbia, and it is translated as “village headman”, “prince, or “duke”.

The janissaries were a sign that the Ottoman Empire was in decline. They originally were an elite guard for the Sultan, but eventually turned into autonomous dictators, and in Serbia, they basically made the Serbs, serfs of the themselves as feudal overlords. This was in direct opposition to the some wealthy Serb pig merchants, who had a rich trade with the Austro-Hungarians in Vojvodina.

They eliminated around 100 knezes, but some escaped to become hajduks (guerilla insurgents) in the forests of Serbia. One in particular, became the leader and eventually would lead the Serbs not only to down the jannisaries, but also to take on the entire Ottoman Empire.

Đorđe Petrović was a peasant from central Serbia. In Serb the Đ (đ) is pronounced like the English J, so his name is translated in English as George. He was called Karađorđe, which means Black George. George moved to the Šumadija region, which is located just south of the city of Belgrade. Šumadija means “the land of woods and forests” and in the early 1800’s, it was full of dense forests, which were useful for the hajduks to hide. The saying, “Whoever cuts down a tree, kills a Serb” is an apt axiom for the region, and it still resonates today with Serbs, even in the city. They love their trees!

George worked hard to establish himself in Šumadija. His homestead eventually has sheep, pigs, horses, and cattle. He forged close relationships with the men in the area, which formed the core of the Serbian army. These men led to organizing thousands of Serbs and they easily defeated the jannissaries. They became so powerful, that they also defeated the Sultan’s army in 1805 in a battle close to the southern Serb city of Niš.

They were close to cutting a deal with the Sultan when greater events intervened. The Russians, French, and Turks were battling for supremacy of the region. Black George aligned with the fellow Christian Orthodox Russians. The Russian army came and occupied Belgrade, which was under siege by the Ottomans. Black George was in trouble when the Russian Tsar Alexander I, withdrew his troops from Belgrade to fight against Napoleon. The Ottomans quickly moved three of their armies to take control of Belgrade, and Black George fled to Austria on October 3rd, 1813.

A famous battle during the First Serb Uprising, took place on May 31, 1809, when Serb forces clashed with occupying Ottoman Turks.

Historical sources say that one of the commanders of the uprising, Stevan Sinđelić, after realizing that he could no longer defend his position against the Turks who outnumbered the Serbs, advised his men to leave and save themselves if they wished, before firing his gun into a gunpowder storage.

The explosion that was triggered in this way killed all Serb soldiers, some 3,000 of them, and about 6,000 Turks. After the battle, the Turks’ reprisals included erecting of the Ćele Kula (Skull Tower), built out of skulls of 952 Serb soldiers.

Today, the monument holds 58 skulls, and it is believed that Sinđelić’s is among them.

In 1817, Black George secretly returned to Serbia. The Serb leadership assassinated him, not only because he was a threat to them, but he also during his exile, aligned himself with the Greek revolution. The Serbs wanted an independent Serbia, not one under the more populous Greeks.

In looking at the legacy of George Petrović, he may have been considered a failure. His movement ultimately did not give Serbia independence. He also died a violent death at age 47.

But looking at it from a different perspective, his accomplishments were great. He rose from being an illiterate cattle and pig farmer, to leading the largest Christian army inside the Islamic Ottoman Empire. One of his rivals succeeded a few years later in gaining Serbian autonomy, but learned from the mistakes of George. Black George’s descendents however, became a Serb monarchial dynasty. The House of Karađorđević, or House of Black George ruled Yugoslavia from 1903 – 1941. Today, Crown Prince Aleksandar, a descendent of Black George, is living in the Royal Palace, near my home in suburb of Dedinje. He doesn’t have any formal political power, but is a figurehead and there is some talk of Serbia returning to a constitutional monarchy.

Black George's Crypt - Openlac Mausoleum (Topola, Serbia - April 2011)

My personal connection with Black George, is the Crown Prince Alexander’s second wife, Katherine Batis, called me earlier this year to help her with a charity fashion show for breast cancer she was holding at the palace.

King Petar Karađorđević I

King Petar was the grandson of “Black George” but only came to power late in his life.  The Karađorđević Dynasty didn’t start right away after Black George because the Obrenović family had a couple of generation of rulers. The Obrenović family might still be on the throne today if it were not for the poor decisions of Alesandar Obrenović. King Alesandar in 1903 was murdered, chopped into pieces and thrown out the window of the palace. He angered influential military offices by interfering with their management. He also was unpopular with the public in general because he wanted to marry a much older woman with a dubious past. Many people did not want to see her children from a previous marriage ascend to the throne.

Petar was a career military man and was a good leader for Serbia at the time. He led the Serbian army in the Balkan Wars and World War I. He fought for France in the Franco-Prussian wars as a young man in addition to later fighting for the Serbs in Bosnia against the Austro-Hungarians. He bravely stayed in Serbia during World War I and traveled with the army through the mountains in the long march to Corfu (more on that below).

He was the first leader of Yugoslavia, or as it was known then as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. We visited his museum in Senjak. In his final years, he spent quietly in a beautiful home near our school. The municipality has recently renovated the house and it is used for exhibitions, concerts, and other events. Below is a picture of one of the rooms with a montage picturing King Petar.

Write a bit more about Petar’s descendents and maybe the Balkan Wars

World War I

It can be said that Serbia started World War I. In 1908 The Austro-Hungarian Empire (AHE) annexed Bosnia-Hercegovina and this upset the Bosnian Serbs, who were 43% of the population of the province. A poor Bosnian Serb named Gavrilo Princip joined the Black Hand resistance group. This was a time of political assassinations as world-wide from 1900 to 1913, 40 heads of state, and politicians were murdered, including US President William McKinley. On June 28 1914, AHE big shot Franz Ferdinand visited Sarajevo. Bad choice of day as that is the anniversary of Battle of Kosovo and an emotional day for Serbs to begin with. Franz narrowly missed being hit with a bomb, as another member of the Black Hand attempted to assassinate him in a morning procession through the city. His procession sped away to safety as the bomb bounced off the back of his car and exploded nearby, wounding part of his entourage and bystanders. Later, Franz decided to visit the hospital to check on the victims of the bombing. On the way, Franz’s Czech driver made a wrong turn down Franz Josep street and while reversing, the car stalled. Gavrilo Princip being a Serb, was eating a sandwich and probably enjoying a cigarette in a cafe on that same street. Gavrilo was most likely mad that his friend missed with the bomb. What a surprise to see Ferdinand’s car stalled right near the cafe. Gavrilo walked out and from five feet away, killed the visiting dignitary. Gavrilo accidentally also murdered his wife as he was aiming for the Military Govenor of Bosnia, Oskar Potiorek. Gavrilo then tried to commit suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill, but it oxidized and only caused him great pain.

The Bridge Where Gavrilo Killed Ferdinand - My Son Oliver is on the Bridge - Sarajevo October 2009

Gavrilo was only 19 years old at the time and was sentenced to life imprisonment instead of the death penalty because of his young age. He ended up dying four years later of tuberculosis in the harsh prison camp conditions. He is revered in Serbia today as a defender of the Serbian nation. There is a street named after him in Belgrade and many parents name their sons Gavrilo.

World War II  

In 1941 the threat of war throughout Europe was imminent. Prince Paul, the Serbian monarch led a weak government that was trying to keep together the Croats and Serbs. He was negotiating with an aggressive Germany to avoid war. Prince Paul favored a deal with Hitler that would avoid a war by bonding the Yugoslavian economy to the Nazi New Order and giving freedom of movement for German troops and equipment through the country. This would suit Germany in its assault on Russia which they were beginning to plan shortly. In return, Germany was prepared to offer enlarging Yugoslavia by annexing the port city of Salonika, Greece and its surroundings. Despite the majority of Serbs disagreeing with this and three Serbian ministers resigning in protest, Tri-Partite Pact was signed between Yugoslavia and Germany in Vienna on March 25, 1941.

This announcement led to a coup d’etat led by Serbian officers in the Yugoslav army on March 27, two days later. Many Serbs did not agree with appeasing the Nazi regime to avoid war. In one hour, the entire regime of Prince Paul was overthrown without  a single loss of life. This led to celebrations in Belgrade, with Serbs chanting, “Bolje rat nego pakt!” which meant War Rather Than the Pact. The Serbs chose their ideals instead of trying to deal with the Nazis and they knew it meant total warfare. They had seen the Nazi Blitzkrieg in Poland, Belgium, and Holland previous to this. Like Lazar before, they chose to live and suffer for their ideals. The Serbs were offered a compromise like  Sweden and Turkey, but they did not take it. On April 6, 1941, Germany bombed Belgrade and on May 4, 1941, Hitler declared the Yugoslavian state no longer existed. Some experts believe the five-week delay that Germany had to make to subdue Yugoslavia before invading Russia, may have cost them that campaign and eventually the war.

The Ruins of the National Library of Serbia (Belgrade - April 2010)

Josip Broz Tito

“Tito” is one of those classic “strongmen”, caudillos, or dictators. His charismatic personality, ruthlessness, and military success, brought him to power and held Yugoslavia together for almost 50 years. Quite an astonishing life he lived, in part because of the turbulent times of two world wars.

Josip Broz was born in Kumrovec, Croatia in 1892 to a Croatian father and Slovene mother. His grandfather was the last generation of serfs. Broz came from a very different world than today. His father was a very poor businessman and battled alcoholism, and Broz left home at age 15 and for five years he traveled and worked in Croatia, Austria, and Germany. Croatia at this time was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (AHE) and the majority of the population was poor. Josip worked in factories but always ended up fleeing because of his union organizing activities. He was fascinated with heavy industry and the struggle against the unfairness of the class system. He was a full-on believer in the socialist and communist ideals of governance.

Broz was then drafted into the WWI Hapsburg Army of the AHE for their declaration of war against Serbia. His regiment was sent to the Carpathian mountains to stop the Russians from advancing to Budapest and attacking Serbia. He was taken as a prisoner when his unit was overrun and sent to Siberia. He almost died a couple of times but managed to escape and ended up in St. Petersburg for the Bolshevik Revolution. Broz joined the Red Guard and the Communist Party while in Russia.

WWI saw the ending of the AHE and in 1920 he returned to Croatia which was then a monarchy led Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. He really became a radical communist during this period and was forced to go underground as communist party was illegal. He was eventually caught and was sentenced to 5 years of hard labor in a Zagreb jail from 1928 to 1933. It was a blessing in disguise. He was safely in jail, while the Yugoslav government was capturing and executing his fellow party members. This is a recurrent theme in his life. He was fortunate to make it through two wars and the many political battles. In those days, political leaders emerged not so much through elections, but through surviving purges and killing competitors.

Upon release from prison, he continued to work covertly for the communist party. Broz was in exile in Austria in 1934 when King Aleksander was assassinated. The Communist Party then sent him to the USSR to work for Comintern (a Moscow-backed international communist organization). This was a bad time to be there as Stalin was going crazy and killing many political competitors. He once again, managed to survive and he also gained his nickname, “Tito” which was his comrade code name. Some say it is short for Walter, others believe the name originates from a type of Soviet pistol. Many of his friends and colleagues were murdered by the Soviet government and eventually Tito rose to head the communist party of Yugoslavia. He returned to Zagreb in 1940 on the eve of World War II.

When Hitler’s Germany destroyed Belgrade and invaded Yugoslavia, Tito was there to lead a resistance movement called the Partisans. The USSR asked him to defeat the fascists. Serbia was a complicated and horrific mess during WWII. Germany and Italy occupied it and installed a Quisling regime in Croatia called the Ustaše. With the Germans, the Ustaše set up concentration camps whose goal was the elimination of Serbs, Roma, and any one else that was not in their movement. Naturally resistance movements formed in the country. The two major groups were the Chetniks and Tito’s Partisans. The Chetniks were Serbs while the Partisans were a mix of Yugoslavian nationalities. Tito installed a discipline that made the Partisans more effective against the Nazis. There were also battles between the Partisans and Chetniks that would carry over into the secession of Yugoslavia war 50 years later.Winston Churchill, the WWII British Commander-in-Chief recognized that the Partisans were “killing more Nazis” and lent the support of the British military to them instead of the Chetniks. This really helped Tito.

Yugoslavia was different from the rest of the Eastern Europe countries in that it cleared the Nazis without the help of the Soviet Red Army. Tito’s Partisans used the mountains of Bosnia to use guerrilla war against the occupiers. Tito played up his own legend in subsequent years, but he was an effective military leader. Tito was ruthless in retribution upon taking control of the country in the waning stages of the war. There were many military and civilian massacres and executions of Ustaše, collaborators, and political rivals. It is not fair to judge the past from the standards of today, but Tito would probably be a war criminal if this had occurred today. With the ending of World War II, this gave Tito and the Partisans full power and popularity in Serbia

The Soviet Union had more influence in the Soviet Bloc of eastern Europe, than in Yugoslavia. Tito was a fanatical socialist, but I like to call him “Stalin Lite” as he would generally just imprison or banish political enemies instead of like Stalin, murdering them. Tito eventually broke with Stalin and the Russians and this gave Yugoslavia a special status during the Cold War of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.Without World War II, I don’t think Tito could have come to power and controlled Yugoslavia for so long. As with most dictators, in order to hold power for that many years, he had to eliminate many potential rivals. The secret police used interrogation, torture, and imprisonment to keep Yugoslavia together and Tito in power.

It is disappointing to read of Tito’s later years he turned into this materialistic almost king like figure. It is not good for any organization, whether it be a business, school, or country, to have a leader for too long. Tito was “cool” as he lived the cosmopolitan lifestyle, founding the Non Aligned Movement, and jet setting with celebrities. But in the end, his legacy after World War II did not put Yugoslavia on course for future success. He did keep the country together, but his policies and leadership were the roots for the violence when communism fell and the country broke up. He also left a horrible economy, not able to compete with Western Europe.

What could he have done differently? He could have made better constitution, giving clear guidelines on the powers of the states versus the federal government. I would have given much regional autonomy, but strong economic bonds. He could have put the best people in key government positions instead of trying to hang on to power by rotating them all the time. He also should have opened up the economy which would have boosted the standard of living. The borderline Yugoslavian states, like Slovenia, Kosovo, Macedonia, would then want to be part of a stronger union instead of fearing Serbian domination. I am not sure if the failed experiment (it failed three times!) of Yugoslavia could ever have been sustained, but I feel Serbia and the other now independent states would be much better off together, than alone.

They celebrate Tito’s birthday here in Serbia on the 25th of May, the same day as mine, so I feel I have special bond with him. His museum is very close to my house and I will do a post on my visit.

My nephew and sons in front of Tito's Museum in Dedinje - December 2008

What Should Have Been – Draža Mihailović

Post Tito / End of Yugoslavia (1980 – 1999)

When Tito died in 1980 it was an end of an era. Although he did not set up well his succession, the seeds of Yugoslavia’s destruction were sown, while he was still in office. Tito did a lot to keep the different cultural groups together in one country. He did not however, keep them completely happy. The richer regions like Slovenia  and Croatia complained that a portion of their wealth (In Slovenia it was actually around 8%) went to support the poorer regions of Kosovo. In Kosovo, Tito and then Milosevic, put down Kosovar Albanian rebellions. And at Tito’s death, the economy was heading towards disaster with a foreign debt of $17 billion and 60% inflation. In 1974, Tito made a new constitution giving more autonomy to the states. All of these foretold the break up.

A couple of major factors caused the breakup of Yugoslavia. The first was the end of communism and the social, economic and political turbulence that it caused. The second was selfish politicians using this time of uncertainty to gain power. They did this through using the media to get people to think about their ethnic background and how they are being abused.

KOSOVO (re-do this section entirely)

add a bit about the future of Serbia and post-war stuff

This is a very controversial and emotional subject for many people in the Balkans. I hope this part of my history of Serbia does not spark emotive and divisive comments from my readers. The purpose of this section of the history is for me to learn more about the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo and the history of the two regions. It is not to choose one side or the other. I again state that readers of this post do not make comments that invite conflict between Kosovars and Serbs. I am enjoying my time living in Serbia and am trying to understand the region. I am not trying to justify either side.

What sparked my recent interest in Kosovo, were the transcripts of Serbia’s law suit with the United Nation’s International Court of Justice regarding Kosovo’s declaration of independence. In December of 2009, Serbia brought before the court, the idea that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was illegal. The B 92 website had all of the case summaries kindly archived. It made for interesting reading. I am very interested in learning more about Kosovo and Serbia’s connection to it. I see graffiti often in Belgrade referring to Kosovo, mostly in the form of slogans. “Kosovo is Serbia” There is not much detail attached to them, and I wanted to learn why Serbians feel so strongly about Kosovo.

The first case summary  I read was from Kosovo’s legal team. Their lawyers (the legal team sounded British ala Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’ Diary – one of my wife’s favorite movies) referred to documents and events I was not familiar with such as the Security Council Resolution, the peace talks, and the conflict in Kosovo in the late 1990’s. I will read more about this as I dig deeper into the topic. Their basic argument was because of the Serbian government’s long history of suppression and acts of violence toward Kosovars, the Kosovo people wanted to be independent of Serbia. The legal team pointed out the long process of attempting to have both sides compromise. Basically, Serbia wanted to keep Kosovo a province of Serbia while Kosovo wanted to be independent. The lawyers highlighted that Kosovo did compromise by granting protections of minorities in the Kosovo constitution. Serbians are the only significant minority in Kosovo. They also attacked Serbia’s claim that the declaration of independence by Kosovo was not illegal as no international legal documents forbid an eventual declaration. The lawyers also argued that Kosovo differs from other regions within countries seeking independence such as Cyprus or Georgia.

My idea with this section is to read most of the transcripts from the cases and then make up my own mind on what should have happened. I don’t see much of a compromise on the part of the Kosovars. I also should read more about the history of the most recent conflict.

What did Serbia lose when Kosovo broke away?

  • Kosovo had about 20% of Serbia’s population. There are around 2 million inhabitants, mostly ethnic Albanians. There were approximately 300,000 ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo.
  • Kosovo was approximately 12% of the area of Serbia. Serbia proper is about the size of the US state of South Carolina, and Kosovo is close to the size of US state of Delaware.
  • Kosovo is the poorest country in Europe with an average annual income per capita of $2,500. This is compared to $10,500 per capita income for Serbia.
  • Kosovo is a historic region for the Serbs. The famous field of the black birds, is near Pristina. This is the site of the 1389 battle against the Ottoman Turks. It was one of the decisive battles in the Ottomans eventual domination of Serbia. There are also many Serbian Orthodox Christian monasteries in Kosovo.

Further Reading (add all of my resources)

Barnett, Neil  Tito  – Life & Time Series London: Haus Publishing Limited, 2006

Bataković, Dušan Editor Kosovo and Metohija – Living in the Enclave Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade, 2007

Drakulić, Slavenka They Would Never Hurt a Fly: War Criminals on Trial in the Hague Penguin Books 2004

Fonseca, Isabel Bury Me Standing – The Gypsies and Their Journey Vintage Books 1995

Fromkin, David Kosovo Crossing- American Ideals Meet Reality on the Balkan Battlefields The Free Press, New York 1999

Glenny, Misha The Fall of Yugoslavia –  The Third Balkan War New York: Penguin Books, 1996

Glenny, Misha The Balkans – Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers, 1804-1999 New York: Penguin Books, 1999

Goodwin, Jason Lords of the Horizon: A History of the Ottoman Empire Picador Books 1998

Judah, Tim The Serbs – History, Myth & Destruction of Yugoslavia New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000

Judah, Tim Kosovo – War and Revenge New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002

Kaplan, Robert D. Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History Picador, 1993

Karahasan, Dyevad Sarjevo Exodus of a City Connectum, Sarajevo, 2010

Lučarević, Kerim The Battle for Sarajevo – Sentenced to Victory Sarajevo, 2000

Martin, David Ally Betrayed: The Uncensored Story of Tito and Mihailovich New York: Prentice Hall Inc., 1946

Nedeljković, Mile Topola – Karageorge’s Fortified Town – Oplenac  Topola, Serbia: The Endowment of King Peter I, 1998

Owen, David Balkan Odyssey Harcourt Brace, USA 1995

Udovički, Jasminka & Ridgeway, James, editors Burn This House: The Making and Unmaking of Yugoslavia Duke University Press 1999

Various Authors Dubrovnik in War Matica Hrvatska, Dubrovnik, 2002

Vlahović, Petar Serbia The Country, People, Life and Customs Ethnographic Museum Belgrade, 2004

West, Rebecca Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia Penguin Books 1944

63 thoughts on “Bill’s History of Serbia

  • Where did you get the information that Serbia started WWI?
    The war started when Austro Hungaria attacked Belgrade.
    Most of the people in Serbia today don’t know that some of the bloodiest battles had been on the Danube coast…
    And actually we did defeat Austro Hungarian empire at the beginning of the war. But at very high costs.

  • Sasham, you are factually correct; however, I think Bill was just facetiously simplifying the events that triggered the war.

    Great effort, Bill. I’d like to read more.

    • I know that there were many factors that started WWI. It was the assassination of the Arch Duke however, that triggered the Austro-Hungarians to destroy Belgrade, triggering the war. Serbia played a huge role in the determining the victory of the Entente Powers. It is something that all Serbs should be proud of.

      • I find your blog very interesting, but there are quite some pretentious and rough statements of yours that are quite bothersome.

        First of all, before the unilateral annexation of Bosnia by the Austro-Hungarian empire, Bosnia was a territorial part of the Serbian kingdom. The locals in Bosnia, as much as in Serbia, saw the parading of the archbishop of Austro-Hungary in Bosnia as a sign of pure spite. Imagine a German army invading the Czech region of Bohemia, and claim it as their own. I don’t think that the locals, and the rest of the Czechs would be happy about that.

        Another thing to mention is that Gavrilo Princip, the man who’ve assassinated the archbishop, was a part of a revolutionary student movement “Young Bosnia” which members were not only Serbs, but also Bosnian Muslims, and Croatians. He stated openly in his trial that he sees himself as an Yugoslav atheist. Calling yourself a Yugoslav in the time that predates WW2 was quite exotic, because majority of Serbs called themselves as such in opposite to Yugoslav, and they were religious Orthodox Christians, and not atheists. To sum all I’ve said up, Gavrilo Princip took a part in a idealistically nationalist pan-Slavic movement. Princip found the needed help from a secret military society called Black Hand. They gave him the weapon with wich he assassinated the archbishop. The king alongside the kingdoms officials were unaware of that fact, so they can’t be responsible for the war.

        Another thing that you’ve said and is incorrect is that the empire of the Dušan the Mighty was an idealistic fundament for the Greater Serbia. The Emperor Dušan’s kingdom included today’s part of Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, a part of today’s western Bulgaria and Romania, and almost the whole Greece, without Vojvodina. On the opposite side, the idea of Great Serbia was to unify the regions where the Serbs made a majority, included Vojvodina, the whole Bosnia (In time that predates WW2, a fair amount of Bosniak Muslims were pro-Serbian), a part of southeastern Croatia, western Romania and Bulgaria (close to the borderlines with Serbia), Montenegro, Macedonia, and a part of northern Albania (around the city of Skadar), completely without Greece. The idea always existed as a hypothesis, so there has never really been a political tendency to spread our borders onto the Bulgarian, Macedonian and the Romanian nation. The tendencies were manly concentrated on the southeastern Croatia and Bosnia, while none 15-20 years ago expected that Montenegro and Kosovo would seek their independence.

    • Wrong. A member of the black hand, one of my ancestors was part of the plot to kill the Archduke of Austria. The murder of the Archduke is what triggered the war. That fact is admitted by serbia as well.

  • The Serbian history starts well before the Ottomans, so u have a lot more to write about 😉

    Nice work Bill, enjoy Serbia

    • Marko – You ask a politically charged question. I really don’t have strong feelings about the region and no personal ties there. I don’t want my answer to start a huge discussion. History shows Kosovo and Metohija have wanted more autonomy, independence since Tito’s time. I wonder why it is not like Florida in the USA. The state, which has a much bigger population and greater size than Kosovo, is predominately Spanish speaking with a Latin culture, but there is not much discussion of independence or autonomy. People are more concerned about the quality of their lives and of their family, rather than how the government is set up. I don’t speak Serbian well enough to read much about Kosovo, but I haven’t seen anything in English about the concern for the quality of schools, hospitals, roads, job opportunities, national parks, etc. in the region.

      I have pan Slavic views. I am for the economic and cultural integration of all Slavic peoples. I think it would be better for all to unite Kosovo and Metohija into Serbia and Serbia into Yugoslavia, and possibly, Yugoslavia into the western Slavic nations of Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia. If you want to take it further, there is Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Of course, there is a long history of differences and conflict, and this will probably not be overcome in my lifetime. There are language differences, etc. that are difficult to overcome. I also think the idea of nation-state is becoming less important as technology integrates economies and cultures.

      In larger countries, people have more diverse and richer lives. It is silly to have nations of such small populations. It increases expenses, lowers your chances in the World Cup/Olympic type events, etc.

      • Try Texas or the Southern States seceding from the Union to return to the Confederate States of America, or better yet. Texas was once and independent republic of the United States before it became a state in 1845. Texas was a part of the USA that was independent for a while. It joined America! A fairer comparison would have been Texas and it being independent from the USA. Florida that will never happen because it has no desire to become independent from the USA and the Hispanics (mostly Cubans are a minority in Florida and the whites are the majority and pro-American. There is no desire to become independent in Florida. Texas, maybe because Texas was once a republic like Kosovo is now. See what I’m talking about?

  • Thank you for your answer. I hope that you will explain to your friends and family in America not to believe western propaganda about Serbia and what Kosovo and Metohija means for us Serbs. Have a nice life 🙂

    • Marko u just have to put your hand in your heart and to see and to speak with your heart dont speak just bullshit or dont say propaganda tell me dudde i am from Kosovo but tell me whyy whyyy my dad is dead for no reasons tell me why my little brother is dead he was just 6 years why he is dead some soldier from Serbia they kill him why they let me to grove up alone with no family can u call this propaganda can u if u can call this propaganda u are not a human u r alien u dont live in this world u r not from here u r from others planet

      • dude im sorry for your lost, but why ovk started to killing serbs and invade their homes kiling and taking organs to the black market . . . im not blameing all abanians from kosovo just payd teroristic organisation ovk ask yourself will u stay calm when someone do
        that to your nation???

  • Gavrilo Princip was not in organisation called “Black Hand” as you wrote… He was in organisation “Mlada Bosna” (“Young Bosnia”) when he killed Franz Ferdinand on the bridge in Sarajevo.

    Great text by the way… 😉

  • “the WWII British Commander in Chief recognized that the Partisans were “killing more Nazis” and lent the support of the British military to them instead of the Partisans.”

    Should the word “Partisans” instead be “Chetniks”?

      • Interesting, but too many personal references detract from the seriousness of your work. Your syntax needs improvement.

      • Maria,

        The work is entitled “Bill’s History of Serbia” so there will be a lot of personal references. I enjoyed learning about the history of the Serbs while I was living there and will always have a special place in my heart for the Serbs!


  • Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus (Great Russia, Lesser Russia, and White Russia) are really all Russians, sharing the same religion and language. The Tsar was the “Tsar of All the Russias”, meaning those three Russias.

    The Slavs share neither language nor religion. That generally means they war with one another.

    As an American with no ties to the area, I was surprised to see that you live in Serbia. My image of Serbia is oppression over others, and that oppression is often bloody. I am so jaded that I would fear visiting Serbia. I know my view is wrong, and you’ll tell me so.

    It doesn’t help that my own former Governor, Rod Blagojevich, is of Serbian ancestry. He has not enhanced the image of Serbia in Illinois.

    I love the Upper Peninsula!


    • Actually, Slavs are all bound by religion, the Eastern Orthodox Church. Historically, Russia and Serbia/Montenegro had very close ties, with successive Tears and Tsarinas (Catherine the Great for example) encouraging Serbs and Montenegrin, particularly noble military families, to settle in Russia. These military settlements were to defend the Russian borders from the Ottoman Empire, particularly when Russia limited and exiled Cossacks in those areas. These families settled and many given lands and titles in thanks for their service to Russia: my family was one of those. Serbia has a very old, rich and complex history. Fear comes from lack of information
      in most cases: it is a history worth reading and as Bill mentioned: surprising how such a small nation made so many sacrifices and influenced the evolution of Europe post-Ottoman Empire and into our modern age. The kingdom of Yugoslavia is to
      be credited with delaying Hitler’s assault on Russia: they defied Hitler and refuted the
      pact their politicians signed with the Nazis. Belgrade was bombed and the country invaded, effectively delaying Hitler’s assault on Russia (along with the need to support Mussolini when he invaded Greece). The Kingdom of Yugoslavia sacrificed much and showed incredible fortitude in standing up to Hitler, delaying the Russian campaign and therefore, contributing in no small measure to the defeat of the Nazis on the Eastern Front. There will always be passions, even extremists, but this exists everywhere. Do not let soundbites deter you from sustained research on these fascinating people. Rod is not representative of Serbs! That is like saying an American of Irish descent would leave a black mark on all Irish! 🙂 Cheers!

  • nice work.. albanians who live in kosovo, and who are now majority(i dont know how it is spelled) after the ethnic clensing wanted independence not becouse they didnt got along with serbs, but becouse kosovo became like sicily, home of strong albanian mafia who has strong lobby in the us, they are finansing many us politicans so they need free narcotic float from the east trough kosovo to europe, and us is supporting that ofcourse… and now they are starting to steal our history, us writter wrote a book in which she says that there were never serbs on kosovo, and that albanians fought battle for kosovo in 1389… one of first slavic countries was founded in kosovo buy the serbs calling it Rashka, later Serbia…thats a little info about kosovo… as for seneca russians and ukrianians are slavs but not the same people, they even talk different language, serbs and croats are the same people but with diffrenet religion and due the history were seperated for too long… serbs and croats talk the same language… serbia is one of the safest countries in europe couse of low criminal rate… there are no car bombs or something like that :)) and all slavs especially croats, russians and serbs are very beautiful people… continue the good work bill

    • actually u r trying to steal our history same like greec try it before but nononoo the truth is coming u can burn the books how the soldier burnit all of our documents but u fail greece fail and u gonna fail again again and again becouse we was in this land before of your comb before slaws come down we was Illyrian and still we are PROUD TO BE ALBANIAN dude that is not true what u said about narcotics actually u r doing that shit and by the way u like a people u r not beautiful sorry hmm shit why i said sorry i dont care but u r not beautifull 🙂

  • It is great article, but Serbian history does not start with the First Serbian Uprising of 1804. Serbia and Balkan was occupated by Turkey 500 years and if somebody raelly want to meet know more about Serbia and understand last events on Balkan, he should discover Serbian history before Turkey (before 1389 year).

    • You are right. The plan is eventually to complete the history. I want to go back to at least the Nemanja Dynasty. Only problem is to find the time.

  • Just found your blog and really enjoying it, thanks for the effort! I landed in Belgrade last week to stay for about three months and i am truly loving this chilled out city and its friendly people. I’ve spent most of my life in north west Europe and i find the atmosphere here on the streets much safer, less attitude – i haven’t seen an aggressive looking person yet, which is a nice change from France etc! It’s great to be in a place that has not become jaded by tourists yet, where people are still interested in meeting foreigners and seem genuinely nice. I am here alone so i really appreciate this!

    On the subject of Kosovo history in English you might enjoy this book by Noel Malcolm:

    And i’m sorry but i have to disagree on what you said about small countries, i grew up in Luxembourg (80km by 50km, population 450 000) and not only is it one of the richest countries in the world but it is as close to a social utopia as i have seen, everybody has a good standard of living, social welfare and wealth redistribution is exemplary, social harmony despite 40% foreigner population, crime is very low, nature is beautiful, jobs aplenty (so many in fact that 150 000 people cross the borders every day to work in Lux!!). I’ve always thought that having a small country to govern makes it a lot easier to make the best choices in the interests of the people. Of course not every place can ‘get rich’ like Luxembourg did, with the steel industry and now the finance sector, there’s an element of luck, clever leadership, good geographical position etc. But whatever the progress in technology that makes borders and distance less significant, space still needs to be governed and administrations rely on a defined space. Don’t you think that the bigger the country, the harder it is to please everyone, especially when policies are made for places that have never even been visited by the policy-makers? I don’t mean to correct you or to say that i am right, not at all, just to provoke debate by giving you a small-country perspective as i understand that being from massive America you might see things quite differently! I’m a geographer so i love this kind of stuff.
    I’ve only read a small part of your blog but i’ll be back for more, thanks for the good work 🙂

  • Didn’t really read Noel Malcoms book, but some people I know who did read it found it to be incorrect and bias. So read carefully.

  • The book recommended by Jessica, “Kosovo, Short History” by Noel Malcolm is a PR job and has nothing to do with history. A quick look at title of his articles (which can be found on wikipedia) shows that he is biased, and will not shy from inventing “facts” to support his PR machine.

    That being said, I wanted to mention that in Bill’s history of Serbia, there were important points which are all to easy to miss, but are well worth studying, lest other nations (or Serbia itself) repeat those errors.

    – Serbia at the time of Nemanjic dinasty, which probably explains strong feelings that some Serbs harbor about “greater Serbia”, is a good study in “from great, to not so great at all”.

    – Tito is a figure well worth studying and even investigating. His roots, and even nationality are still a riddle wrapped in mystery. For instance, no one has managed to explain his foreign accent, or lack of “family” in the area where he was supposedly born… His history with women would make Don Juan blush, and his personality cult is only rivaled by Russian and Chinese leaders.

    – Tito’s influence on destruction of Yugoslavia, especially the new constitution of 1974, which stated that every state (republic) had a right to self determination and secession. Such constitution asked for falling apart of Yugoslavia and only gave hope to nationalists in all Yugoslav republics.

    – It should be noted that support for Tito, during the WWII, was not all that great (although it changed towards the end of the war). US especially was more on the side of Chetniks.

    – History of Kosovo is incredibly interesting and worthy of a good in-depth study. Surprisingly, it was during Milosevic trial in the Hague that we had an opportunity to learn many important and not well known facts about Kosovo history, as it was presented by one of the witnesses – prof. Slavenko Terzic.

  • “Two of my goals are to understand the smallness of Serbia and the strong feelings of ethnic identity they have for being a Serb.” Well my friend, you stepped in deep waters…in short lines:

    Serbs are the indigenous people of the Balkans Serb Historian and a fighter for the true Serb history Jovan Deretic decoded the lies of Croatian Monks that have added extra text to a Byzantine document (Constantine’s DAI) which historians today use as the basis of their so called Slav migration that never existed. Great Slav migration had never existed and that the Serbs are the indigenous people of the Balkans whose ancestors created the Lepenski Vir and Vinca cultures that exited in Serbia and the Balkans from 9000 to 6000 years ago. Ancient Illyrian, Thracians and other Balkan peoples were Serbs and the Croats who wrote this false history are an Avar horde from Asia as well as the Albanians who claim to be the descendants of ancient Illyrians but who are actually an Asian tribe that originate from today’s Azerbaijan and the surrounding regions. Germans made a band on the true Serb history during the Berlin Congress 1878 and made way for Croatian and Albanian lies that have cost the Serbs their ancient Homelands where they have been the first and the indigenous people.

    quote from famous historian Laonik Halkokondil

    «Τριβαλλοι, Σερβλοι, ο δε ευνοζ
    παλαιοτατον και μεγιοτον των ευνων… »

    “Tryballos, serblos, autem gentem esse totius orbis antiquissimam et maximam, compertum habeo…”

    The Race Triballi, Serbs, on the whole region is the oldest and biggest I know this as true…

    The names of Czechs, Croatians and Russians was first mentioned in historical sources from sixth century AD, several thousand years after the Serbs. Šafarik writes about this: “Never to sixth century did not mentioned the name of Leh or Slavs, Poles and Russians, written history speaks about them only in the ninth century.” According to records Jornanda and Procopius, Vends and The Serbs are two names of the same national tree. Sorbs (in germany) for themselves say they are from Balkan Serbia, which is confirmed by German historians Setgen (Schottgen) and Krajsih (Kreysig), taking names for basically the same people, rivers, mountains and other geographic terms from Balkan. Poles are used in more recent research, it has the presence of the Slavs (Serbs) in the Baltic coast from before 2000 years before Christ. These were Protosloveni (Protosrbi), whose descendants today Sorbs.

    Šafarik in his work “Starozitnosti” writes: “The Serbs living in Europe since ancient times or from prehistoric times, and so widespread nation maintains its origin from the furthest past.”
    He claims that the Serbs had inhabited almost the whole Europe and many parts of Asia, hence it is our old saying, “Speak Serbian if you understand the whole world.”

    For the Serbian language Šafarik says that “It is genuine, clean, grammatically perfect, rich, and could not be formed without the existence of a unique original and independent nation,” and the old Serbian language was quite similar to today’s, modern, which is rare in the history of language. And when it comes to the letter, yet nobody even approached Vuk’s rule, “Write as you talk, read as written.”

    “The Serbs are such a large nation that all Slavs came from them”

    Bavarian geographer Jordanes.
    Gothic Chronicles
    6th Century A.D

    “The ancestors of the Slavs came from the Danube Basin into the land of Novgorod.”
    The Holy Nestor of Kiev
    10th century A.D


    Serebrishche 53N 25E 183 600
    Serebryanka 53N 30E 146 479
    Serebryanka 53N 30E 141 462
    Serebryanka 55N 28E 138 452


    Srbac 45N 17E 132 433
    Srbinje 43N 18E 443 1453
    Srbljani 44N 15E 350 1148
    Srbljanska Glavica 44N 15E 383 1256
    Srbobran 44N 17E 532 1745
    Srb 44N 16E 429 1407

    Srpska Grabska 44N 18E 228 748
    Srpska Rije¡ica 44N 18E 272 892
    Srpska Zelinja 44N 18E 237 777
    Srpska 44N 18E 414 1358
    Srpske Dubravice 44N 18E 172 564
    Srpski Bo¼inci 44N 18E 150 492
    Srpski Lukavac 44N 18E 242 793
    Srpski aklovi i 44N 18E 350 1148
    Srpsko Glinje 44N 19E 254 833
    Sopot 43N 18E 993 3257
    Sopot 43N 17E 937 3074


    Serbegli 42N 25E 318 1043
    Serbenica 43N 23E 113 370
    Serblyane 43N 23E 207 679
    Serbniza 43N 23E 1387 4550
    Srbenica 43N 23E 113 370
    Sopotot 41N 24E 822 2696
    Sopot 42N 24E 417 1368
    Sopot 43N 24E 367 1204

    Croatia: they have saddly erased all regions named in Serbian as they have with the help of the German government of Kohl and Gensher erased all Serbs from Croatia, but let not get into that.
    Serbignaco 45N 13E 331 1085
    Srbinjak 45N 13E 331 1085
    Srbski Klanac 44N 16E 757 2483
    Srb 44N 16E 429 1407
    Sopot 46N 15E 249 816
    Sopot 46N 15E 249 816

    Chzech Republic:

    Sirbin 49N 14E 439 1440
    Sirbitz 50N 13E 287 941
    Sirb 49N 12E 399 1309
    Srbce 49N 17E 328 1076
    Srbce 49N 16E 397 1302
    Srbce 50N 15E 194 636
    Srbetsch 50N 13E 330 1082
    Srbe¡ 50N 13E 330 1082
    Srbice 49N 13E 487 1597
    Srbice 49N 13E 433 1420
    Srbice 49N 14E 495 1624
    Srbice 50N 13E 207 679
    Srbsko 49N 14E 270 885
    Srbsko 50N 15E 317 1040
    Srbská Kamenice 50N 14E 318 1043
    Sopoty 49N 15E 524 1719
    Sopot 49N 15E 524 1719

    Serbannes 46N 3E 297 974
    Serbonnes 48N 3E 66 216
    Sorbey 49N 6E 217 711
    Sorbey 49N 5E 238 780
    Sorbi, Capo alli 42N 9E 1990 6528
    Sorbiers 44N 5E 848 2782
    Sorbiers 45N 4E 500 1640
    Sorbier 45N 4E 500 1640
    Sorbier 46N 3E 364 1194
    Sorbs 43N 3E 700 2296
    Sorby 49N 6E 217 711


    Sérvia 40N 22E 740 2427
    Sérvi 40N 21E 666 2185
    Sérvon 37N 21E 835 2739
    Sérvos 37N 21E 835 2739
    Sirbáni 37N 22E 848 2782

    Sopotón 37N 22E 1369 4491
    Sopós 37N 23E 497 1630

    Serbariu di Sopra 39N 8E 419 1374
    Serbariu 39N 8E 128 419
    Sorbano 43N 12E 198 649

    Sorbo Serpico 40N 14E 600 1968
    Sorbo di Sèrpico 40N 14E 600 1968
    Sorbo, Monte 41N 14E 534 1751
    Sorbolo a Mare 44N 10E 21 68
    Sorbolongo 43N 12E 189 620
    Sorbolo 44N 10E 21 68
    Sorbo 39N 16E 582 1909
    Sorbo 40N 15E 565 1853
    Sorbo 42N 13E 792 2598
    Sórbolo a mane 44N 10E 21 68


    Sopotnica 41N 21E 627 2057
    Sopotsko 41N 21E 994 3261
    Sopot 41N 22E 236 774
    Sopot 41N 21E 290 951
    Sopot 41N 21E 436 1430
    Sopot 42N 21E 552 1811
    Srbica 41N 21E 889 2916
    Srbinovo 41N 20E 1056 3464
    Srbjani 41N 20E 754 2473

    Serbinów 51N 20E 300 984
    Serby 51N 16E 77 252
    Serbów 52N 14E 76 249 Serebryszcze 51N 23E 187 613
    Sierbowce 53N 23E 165 541
    Sierbowice 50N 19E 346 1135
    Sierbowice 53N 23E 165 541
    Sierbuczyn 53N 22E 113 370

    Sopotnia Ma¯a 49N 19E 531 1742
    Sopotnia Wielka 49N 19E 656 2152
    Sopotnik 49N 22E 435 1427
    Sopoty 54N 19E 61 200
    Sopot 54N 18E 1 3


    Serbesti 45N 26E 363 1190
    Srpska Pozezena 44N 21E 60 196
    Sîrbi 44N 25E 102 334
    Sîrbi 44N 24E 279 915
    Sîrbi 45N 21E 254 833
    Sîrbi 45N 27E 198 649
    Sîrbi 45N 27E 98 321
    Sîrbi 45N 22E 300 984
    Sîrbi 46N 27E 234 767
    Sîrbi 46N 22E 417 1368

    Serbay 51N 57E 236 774
    Serebryakovo 51N 51E 24 78
    Serebryakov 51N 51E 24 78
    Serebryanka 49N 83E 326 1069
    Serebryansk 49N 83E 326 1069
    Sorbalkash 50N 62E 242 793
    Sorbulak 41N 69E 696 228
    Sorbulak 46N 62E 61 200

    Sopetovo 51N 69E 294 964

    Serbentai 55N 23E 84 275
    Serbenty 55N 23E 84 275
    Serbinai 55N 23E 57 187
    Serbinay 55N 23E 57 187
    Serbiny 55N 23E 57 187
    Sirbishkyay 55N 25E 87 285
    Sruby 55N 24E 77 252

  • SERB or similar(Sorb,Serp,Surb,Sarb,Surp,..) in diferent languages means:

    In Vedic book
    Srb-inda= ruler of Serbs, Serb’s header

    *family, generation,kin, kind
    *brother’s people from same mother and same father
    *people above others
    *famouse, freely,sizeable people
    *Serb=brother( bright, light, independent,educated,witted
    * Serbs=people (of freely sunny force, brave brothers and relatives)

    Ser=family, seed,tribe, relatives
    Sabva= living, habitation, duration
    Serm=nation, tribe for same root (in slavic languages still Semy,Simya=tribe,lineage)
    In serbian toponims:Semberiya,Serberiya,Sarbadiya…Srem..

    Sarbha or Sardha=plurality,potence of people from same roots, brothers’s people
    Serbian todays words: Sarba,Syarbi,Serbi,Sorbi,Surbi,,Serbadiya,Sorbadiy a,Surbadiya,Sjarbadiya,Sirbadiya

    Sr+br =justifier,defender,defendant,leader, header,ruler (handler)
    Old terms for serbs are: Syabri,Sibri,Serbri,Sobri,Subri, Srersi etc..
    Sr=to shine, to light, to prove oneself, be sightly,to be venerable,to be independent..Sr (another meaning)=fast,strong,agile…Sara= arow…
    Br=to fight, to kill, to militate,to defeat enemies
    Srmbh=to shine, to light, to prove oneself, to be clearer, to be more light

    Sahrab=to protect, to defeat

    SARBAR =cut-throat (cutter of heads) or Supreme Mighty man who is cutter
    (SAR means head,headship, seniority, priority, independence…till persian BAR means part of, snip, segment,coupon, steak.)

    Surp or Surb means holy, sacred ;Srbuhi, Srpuhi, Surpuhi is an Armenian girls name meaning holy woman (Ser.. is conected to love.)

    Sarab = zeal, ardency,lightness,prodigality,vigor,activita ( on latin aestus torridus)
    Surab , Surah = The Lord, Master,Ruler
    Sar,Sarb = gentleman,knight,Tzar (King over Kings), independent man, lightly or lightened man
    Ser = crown; Seraphim= Ruler, Archont

    Sar, Sarb = gentleman, Lord, knight,Tzar (King of Kings),independent and lightened(lightly) man

    Sarb or Srb =giant, titan,brave,unmanageable man,potence,colossus,who vanquish others

    Sirb ( also Serf, Sirf,Sirfiche)=people from same kin or roots; free people, brave people, unmanageable disobedient people, warlike people..——->
    Serber(Sefer)= war

    In time of Ottomans in Balcan, Vidin’s area (present East Serbia and west Bulgaria) was called from Turks “Sirfiche or Sarbhazy” = serbian land.
    Serb was for Turks “man who you must kill as enemy of Turks and Mohamed’s faith, who is disobedient to Turk rule”.In Vidin’s area many Serbs ,in avoiding a death, start to present themselves by another name.

    Old Russian:
    Syabr,Syabrich, Sebro (around river Volga) =familly, kin, relatives

    Sirbin=man who is the most free, wittiest, smartiest, the most diveine
    In one song Sirbin sirbs ( as verb):domineer,comand…(not work on foelds but fight to enemies)
    “Ој,Сирбине Сирбињенку
    Ми друг дорогењки!
    Покин Сирбу Сирбовати
    Визми Сирп види в стип,
    Пшениченку жати…”

    VelikoRussian (GreatRussian)
    Serbi (plural of serb)=wholesome,burly,stout-hearted.heroic,mightly people

    ByeloRussian ( whiteRussian):
    Syabrin = kin, brother, brother in low,from one home

    In Ryazan Gubernia:
    Sereb (Shereb)=neighborou, good friend, cousine

    In Twerian Gubernia:
    Serb = witty, racional,lightsome,agile

    In Orlow’s and Thul’s Gubernia:
    Serb= hero, free man, brave man..

    Upper Lusatian:
    Sorab, Sorb =man who is the most free, wittiest, smartiest, the most divine

  • There is only one source for Slavs migration in 6 century, which all german historyography school believers based their claims,and it’s Constantin Porfirogenit’s „De administrando imperio“. Well known fact is that Byzantine emperor wasn’t historian, an this work is full of completely fake facts, some events are shaken for 200 years earlier or later…No one mentioned Slavs before 5c…But almost all of them mentioned Serbs! Tacitus, Ptolomeyus, Pliniyus,Apijan,Jordanes,Strabo, etc…Over 200 ancient authors wrote about Serbs…Safarik in his “Origin of the Slavs according to Lorenz Surowiecki” (masterpiece and best documented work about origin of Slavs) thought that all Slavs called by one name in their ancient lands, as Serbs. Serbi were comon name for all Slavs acording to Safarik, Dobrovski, Surowiecki, Jan Kollar, and many others..There are hundreds of very serious historians,etnologians and scientists who would laugh on “well known fact about Slavs migrations”…Be careful with constructions like these,and if you want to teach people who are Slavs, read something about their history and etnogenesis from people like Safarik,Dobrovski, Kolar, Vuk Karadzic, Mikloscic,Tomo Maretic,Mavro Orbini,Siprijan Rober,Francisko Maria Apendini,Stjuard Pigot,Gordon Child,Ami Bue,etc…

    If slavic migrations are true, then what this Serb name do on this Illyrian antique map?

    on this map btw you can see todays Zagreb was called Serbinum (Serbinovo)…

  • On the subject regarding Kosovo, there is something to be explained…Today Albanians proclaimed independent state of KOSOVO. You see in the title itself there is one little mistake…Its not only Kosovo, its KOSOVO AND METOHIJA, “Metohija” derives from word Metoh, which means sacred lands of monastaries which belongs to Serbian Orthodox Church! If they would stated Metohija in the name of the state it would mean they stole serbian orthodox church land so thats covered up…
    Today Albanians take advantege of theirso called “historical” right and say they are decendants of ancient illyrians so they have all the right on Kosovo…Lets clear up the subject about that…First of all Origin of Albanians:

    Albanian is classified as an non-IE(Indo-European) language because no one has been able to classify it into any group, and this is because no one has yet studied all the Caucasian languages. As soon as linguisists begin to study the Cucasians languages they will realize the similarities with Albanian. Albanian might have IE sounding words, but its basic structure and syntax are more similar to Chechen and Udish than to any IE language. Many Albanian words do sound Indo- European, because Albanian has borrowed over 80% of its vocabulary, more than any other European language.

    The Chechen language is strikingly similar to Albanian. They both have similar grammar and similar sounds such as SQ, PSHQ, which are not common in any IE languages, but are very common in caucusus languages like Chechenian. I believe that the Chechens and Albanians are cousins, there is just so much evidence to support it.


    THE FACT is that Albanians originally came from Albania, the province near Caspian Sea; South Dagestan and Azerbeijan. They were there in I b.c.e. under their originally name Shquips (The Albanians). Anyway during that time The REAL Illyrians were the citizens of The West Balkan (Dinaria) and occupied by The Romans. During that time Albanians were in their native Caucasus. Albanians came to Balkans in 11th century under Byzantine general Georgus Maniakus. In 14th century Serbian Empire fell under Ottoman rule, Albanians were islamized and Turks gave them the right to torture Serbs and take their lands in Kosovo, primerly cause of 1690 Serbian revolt…THE MOST SAD is that this myth of Albanian origin were promoted by stupid Yugoslav communists because The State policy of Yugoslavia, made by Josip Broz Tito (aka Josef Walter Weiss) were brotherhood with Albanians, so that the Yugoslavia could get Albania as the 7th republic, price for that was Kosovo in Albanian state, which was aranged in one Tito’s comunist congress, he banned the Serbs return to Kosovo after WW2 too…

    Albanians are total foreigners to the Balkans and indeed to Europe and their claims to being Illyrians are baseless and based only on assumption. That crazy claims suported by the west are leading them to use their great birth rate and make terrorist organizations all over Balkans with a goal to form Great Albania ( Albania, Kosovo, Epirus, part of Macedonia).

  • I’m starting to feel like a Serb myself! I’m not sure how others are going feel about that though. We should ask people from Poland and Czech Rep. what they think of that. And who is Safarik?
    But I agree with Bill about people holding on their nationality like on their dear lives. Thus the constant dissension. Prosperity, peaceful future and next generation’s lives should be guiding light.
    But what do I know…

  • Hello Bill! Your blog is really nice, and your historical reports are very carefully written (even though with some small mistakes here and there: for example, Studenica monastery is not in Kosovo (and we should say: fortunately!). And the pictures with your blond and american kids smiling with Sava river or Tito’s memorial in the background are very cute and encouraging.
    I also agree with much of what you say about modern history of Yugoslavia and which conditions could eventually have (even if partly) saved that dream, which I still consider noble and potentially winning.
    Finally, I love Belgrade, it is one of my hometowns, and it would be nice if the next US ambassador there was a person with your intelligence and sensitivity.


    • Martin,
      Thanks for the kind words. I agree that I need a fact-checker, but with three kids, I barely have enough time to write the articles. We are enjoying our time here in Belgrade and I’m glad I can share my interest in the country with the world at large.


      • Hey there Bill, nice to stumble upon your great blog writing about Serbian people in general. Thanks for your general perspective of us and I will be glad to buy you a drink next time you are Pancevo (if you know where that is :D). However I have something to add that might change your blog in the near future. Currently the Serbian history is being rewrite by a group of Serbian historians together with other famous worldwide historians. Proofs are popping up every single day and evil people try to remove them by ignoring them, calling them a farce, lairs and crazy men. I am talking about one certain individual: Jovan Deretic. I intend to believe him, because I was in two places that actually showed me that what he is saying is the ultimate truth: Serbians are the first culture before Greeks. Now I do not want to get into details with this, some of people will attack me (there will be comments of hate below for sure), but suffice to say, soon you will have to rewrite the entire blog.

        Anyways, again awesome job, keep up the good work and let people know that Serbia is not as bad as they use to think. Cheers!

  • Enjoying reading your blog. A truly fascinating country. Keep up the good work. You may like to take a quick look at my blog in which I am setting out to record the streets of Belgrade, week by week.



    • Its funny how serbs talk about themselves. And how you hear one thing from one serb and a totally different thing from another. They actually tell people how they beat the Nazi single handed (A Super Power)but the Kosova Albanians forced them out of Kosova. That does make sense to me. If serbia has the great warriors they say they have they couldn’t stop the so called Albanian oppression. Also what confuses me is that they say they are one of the oldest peoples in Europe when history only started mentioning the serbs in the 7th century. The serb language has thousands of turkish words and most of it is russian. The serbs say the Albanians have fake history but meanwhile it was the serbs that changed the name of their country 3 times. First the serbs called their country the kingdom of the serbs then the change it to yugoslavia and now they call it serbia until the decide to change it again. Sounds to me the serbs are trying to find their Identity. The fact is the serbs know their identity but don’t want to admit their russians.How else would the serbs adopt the russian language. The russians never conquered the Balkans but some how the serbs speak the russian language. I have come to the conclusion that when the serbs create fake countries and change the name of their country several times that they do the same about their history keep changing it for their own benefits.

      • Who is that hiding “rocky camaj” .Why dont you say your nationality and your age, Introduce yourself.
        And thanks for the Russians, thats compliment. Being a Russian is a honor. The most beautiful culture came from Russia…

      • I do not want to get into details, but Russians and Serbians came from a single ancestors. And no those are not the Slavs, Slavs was a word that was written deliberately at Congress of Berlin in 1876 to put up the “blindfold” over Serbs about their true history because they couldn’t hack it that Serbians where the first culture of Europe, they are from Balkans, Panonia and every region where Danube is flowing. Albanians are not Illirians, they never will be, as Illirians and Trachians are same people: Serbians. And to make things even worse, we where thought by Croatian historians, not Serbian historians, which was the ultimate and final blow the Austrians and Germans gave Serbian history until today. You can say and believe everything “they” bable about without historical proofs, but soon, very soon, “truth will out” and you and the rest of the world will see the true Serbian history.

        As far as language goes, Russian and Serbian language came from one single language “Serbica” and has similarities, but Russian and Serbian language is different in every aspect. Yes there are some words that Russians and Serbians can understand between each other, but learning Russian is a real hard thing to do even for us. Same goes for Bulgarian, Czech, Slovakian and Polish.

        Serbs never created fake countries and never will be. We have our “Serbian pride” which is the hearth and soul of every Serbian (good or bad) and we will never falsify our history or our culture even if it means total extinction.

        But as one here asked you before (I think it was Nikola) you are yet to indulge us your nationality. I am gladly give you my background nationality (nationalities to be exact): I am 70% Serbian, 15% Hungarian and 15% Croatian. How about you kind sir? Care to deliberate you nationality? I wouldn’t hold it against you at all. Cheers.

  • Hi Bill awesome blog.

    I’m glad that people like you still exist. As a proud young Serb I can tell you that my country really needs help from western intellectuals like your self. You see in the last 20 years there has been so much propaganda against us that it safe to say that most people in Western Europe have great misconceptions and prejudice towards us Serbs. And sadly its also deeply rooted in Bosniaks and Croatians.

    From that point what you are doing is really great because you can see the soul of the Serbs especially good trough our history.

    What I personally think you lack is our role in both Balkan and first World war. Not only did Serbs liberate them selves but also greatly helped in liberation of Albanians, Greeks and Bulgarians in the Balkan wars. In World war one Serbia for a good reason was the shining light of humanity for the entire World. Its a very big subject but I would say very crucial. Because you see after literally coming from the edge of annihilation Serbs didn’t seek revenge or territorial expansion. Instead of making our own State with borders at our own will our leaders decided that it would be a grander thing to free all our south Slav “brothers”. And that was our great mistake because both Croats and Bosniaks almost inheritably hate Serbs. Again for historical reasons, being that Bosniaks are a mix of Ottoman Turks and Serb converts who were the foundation of opression under the rule of Turks, and German/Hungarian influence on Croats as a tool to disunite and dominate Balkans.

    Sadly even today that hatred is very much still alive fueled by Western propaganda, Hag tribunal injustices and so on… And of course as a response to that there are still those in Serbia who spread hate but much fewer in numbers.

    • Sorry for a lenghty post but I just had to add some more stuff to this mess, I hope you wont mind.

      About the breakup of Yugoslavia. Well its not really as complicated as one might think. After the fall of Soviet union the last bastion of Socialism in Europe was Yugoslavia. Unlike USSR Yugoslavia was a success case of Socialist rule with strong economic ties to West. In fact the only thing that was different from the western Capitalism was the distribution of wealth, planed economy and protected market. It was pretty much a heaven to live in.

      After Titos death two factors he was supressing emerged: 1. Croatian Ustasha past that was working in exile since the creation of Yugoslavia and 2. Serbian national movement. USA saw a window open there and pretty much was the catalyser for what was to come. As you might know economies work by taking credit from the IMF and World Bank. Both of those closed the money inflow in to Yugoslavia not to over debt but to political reasons. That resulted in the greatest inflation ever in the World. And so the civil war started by a very very small group of people that just grew and grew as they did attroceties to others. Serbs got the blame for it all because they were the strong element in all that, element that could of ended the war in there favor and keep a smaller but still strong Yugoslavia.

      Now you would probably think Im mad for saying that but those really are the purest facts you can check your self. I do not know and wont go in to conspiracy theories who in the USA had interest to destroy Yugoslavia but the interest is clear non what so ever. Yugoslavia had a well developed economy and recourses that were up for taking for no price at all. Not to mention the NATO presence in the region. What was not done in the 91-95 was finished in 99. Slobodan went from a Nobel peace prize winner to “Dictator”. What he didn’t sell out in 91-95 got taken after 99 (Mainly talking about today Serbia).

      And it would all be history by now but in doing all that I believe that they only fulled the region for more conflict in the future. And besides that today in the Balkans we have two mafia owned states, a state formed on Natzi ideology and a strong foothold for Islamist exteremists. Some of with made terrorist acts on British and American soil and even had ties to 9/11.

      That is why many Serbs dislike America but Im sure as you learned not Americans.

      And once again sorry for the lenght of these posts I guess I got exited stumbling on to your blog. I studied our history long and hard to understand why did we end up with such faith and stigma and would be glad to help if you need any information for your blog.

      Kind regards. Dejan

  • Hi Bill,
    Really enjoyed reading your account. My own father was a Serb who, as the 6th highest ranking officer in the Jugoslav army in WW2 was taken prisoner by the Germans and taken to Germany. At the end of the war, having met and married my German mother, and with me in the picture, he took his family to Australia. We actually were considered ‘displaced persons’, as my father could not return to Jugoslavia with Tito in power, and my mother lost her German citizenship by marrying a Jugoslav! My parents came to Australia at the end of 1950 on the Anna Salen.

    I have been to Jugoslavia a couple of times with my own family- once in 1972 and then again in 1980 before Tito died. At the time there were still some direct relatives there, but sadly, now I have lost track of them. Interestingly, my father’s niece lived in Dedinje and we stayed with her and her family there. She had two sons who would most likely now be in their late 50’s and no doubt have children of their own. My father helped her financially from Australia in the 1950’s to build her own house there, and hopefully it is still in the family.

    I can understand Serbian if it is spoken slowly and can speak a little, but over the years have forgotten a lot. It seems that lots has changed since Tito’s death and the subsequent war.

    My father, who died in 2000, aged 90 was distressed by what was happening in his country at the time, but he never lost his sense of being a Serb. I know that at some stage when my father had land returned to him that had been taken by the communists, he wanted to donate some of it to build a church in his old village of Jovanovac, near Kraguevac. Sadly this was vehemently opposed by the family still remaining there and as far as I know, it never happened.

    Thanks for the opportunity to muse on times past and the ties that bind us, no matter where we are in the world.

  • For a long time Serbia had a reputation of a nation who was a great friend to America! Clinton changed all of that . He wanted to cover up his relationship with Monica by bombing Serbia the same day when Monica appeared on Barbara Walters show! Well he sacrificed 10 million people for his selfishness!

    • Donna,

      I agree that it was more of a political decision instead of a humanitarian decision. It did more harm than good in my opinion.


  • hey bill u have to learn or to read more about kosovo becouse i dont like it when some people here they said dont listen what kosovo people says about serbia they are “PROPAGANDA” here they are some link from youtube if u cant find a books u can find a magazines in all of the world enjoy look what happend in kosovo maybe u can feel happy like how some serbians people feel like not all of them becouse i meet a lot of student a lot of good people

    if u need more just let me know dont listen just what serbians think for Kosovo look and listen whar WORLD says about Kocovo

    • Its funny how the whole world lies accepted the serbs they are the only ones telling the true. You actually think that people are going to believe that the serbs beat the Nazi army like the serbs say they did but the serbs couldn’t stop the so called Albanian oppression of the serbs. Is that believable? Not to most people with a brain. The fact is the serb people elected a president Slobodan Milosevic and loved him like a saint even though the serb army was killing women and children and innocent civilians through out the Balkans. Then because of the war crimes committed by the serb army NATO bombs serbia for 80 days and the serbs still loved him like a saint. Then only when the serbian economy completely collapsed the serbs then arrest a man they loved like a saint and turn him over to the Hague where he could stand trial for crimes against humanity. Why would the serbs hand Milosevic to the Hague if he wasn’t guilty?

      • Why did you hand over Hashim Thaci for example? He was guilty as much as Miloshevich. Not every Serb or Albanian/Šiptar is good man, in every nation there are evil people. Serbian army killed Albaninans, Albaninan army killed Serbs, but that was WAR! Why nobody says that Germany is evil, they started WWI and WWII, they killed millions of people around the world and everyone forgave them. Actually they are the main power today. Only we are all turned into hatred people for somebody’s interests.

  • Hi,

    I just had a quick look at your history of Serbia, more specifically the part concerning WWII. I am afraid that you are mistaken when you claim that Tito’s partisans liberated Yugoslavia without the help of the Red Army. This is a mistake. In fact, it would appear that Soviet support was essential. In the process, numerous Yugoslav women were raped by Soviet soldiers (see Milovan Djilas’ book for further detail). All the same, you should be more accurate and specify that Tito and his movement did not get involved before June 1941 when German troops invaded the USSR – and not already during the April invasion as you seem to suggest. After WWII, Tito himself acknowledged that, due to a lack of equipment, his organisation was unable to do anything until then anyway. In the meantime, it appears that German forces sustained some losses due to “terrorist” attacks. Indeed, according to reports I found in the Swiss archives, by May 1941, the Germans had already taken special measures against such attacks, notably by forbidding any corn to be grown at a distance of less than 50 m. from each side of the roads, but also by implementing the infamous “1/100 rule” according to which for any German soldier killed a 100 Serbian hostages would be executed. These measures were implemented well before Tito’s partisans got involved in the fight against the occupying forces. Therefore, one must conclude that until June 1941, such “terrorist actions” were probably the result of the royalist resistance movement, which did not take their orders from Moscow…

    I hope this is a useful contribution.



  • While you are in Serbia perhaps you can look further into an event which occurred there in or around September 1903, which I have written up in my latest Sherlock Holmes novel – Based on a real event in Albert Einstein’s life.

    Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter by Tim Symonds

    In late 1903 Einstein’s daughter ‘Lieserl’ disappears without trace in Serbia aged around 21 months. As Holmes exclaims in the Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter, “the most ruthless effort has been made by public officials, priests, monks, Einstein’s friends, followers, relatives and relatives-by-marriage to seek out and destroy every document with Lieserl’s name on it. The question is – why?”

    ‘Lieserl’s fate shadows the Einstein legend like some unsolved equation’ Scientist Frederic Golden Time Magazine

    First review, from Serbia:

    Holmes on justice (The Resident Patient): “Wretch as he was, he was still living under the shield of British law, and I have no doubt, Inspector, that you will see that, though that shield may fail to guard, the sword of justice is still there to avenge.”

  • Good writing…But to go further since I am a Serbian you must know that Serbian people is more as some writer said ,,People of the book”…History of Serbia is more mythological than factual, or at leas some parts of it…Also there is a big mythologizing of First Serbian Uprising and WW1 and giving the Karadjordjević dynasty the characteristic of ,,God blessed dynasty” which is wrong, since in XXI century you will hardy find any nation that has that attitude normal for ancient or Medieval time…
    Many of the Serbs also don’t realize that for Serbs the bigger the country is the bigger the problems are…Also there is some symbolism in the position of Kosovo, as if Kosovo brings bad luck…When you analyze historic facts Lazar who fought on Kosovo wasn’t ruler of it, Vuk Branković who was traitor was, and maybe that is why it brings bad luck…Also the before 1912, when Kosovo was not part of Serbia, Serbia had good political and war luck…When it became part of Serbia it didn’t lasted a year Serbia had war in it lost quarter of its population a million people…Serbia lost many of its states thru history on Kosovo, the Empire in 1389, the Serbian Kingdom ceded to exist after Battle of Kosovo in 1915, that was last battle for Serbs in 1915 and before Tesalonika front and creation of Yugoslavia, and the last battle of Yugoslav war before 5th October and for Serbs was Battle of Košara in 1999…So for me who are not driven by nationalist feeling it is safe to assume that Kosovo is for Serbs a place of demise, a place where we will always loose something, whether it is state or people…

  • Goran, great documentary. Thank you for sharing. Hard to argue with the facts.

    Bill, keep on writing – the truth always prevails!!

  • Quote:
    Serbia was controlled by the Ottoman Turks for 500 years

    Only Southern part of Serbia and Macedonia were controlled by Ottomans for 500 years. i.e. Belgrade “only” around 240 years.

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