Serbia Modern History

By | January 30, 2023

Serbia is a country located in Southern Europe. With the capital city of Belgrade, Serbia has a population of 8,737,382 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. Socialist Yugoslavia was held together with strong hand by the winner of the war, Tito, and with the help of a growing economy. But when Tito died in 1980 and the economy simultaneously began to deteriorate, the contradictions turned out, which in the early 1990s would lead to war and the country’s disintegration. After the wars, a looser union was established between Serbia and Montenegro in 2003, but three years later this was also dissolved and the two sub-republics became independent states.

Tito was first an obedient disciple of Soviet leader Josef Stalin. Post-war Yugoslavia had a constitution built on the Soviet of 1936 and the Communist Party was the only permissible political force. All opposition was suppressed and major parts of business were nationalized.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Serbia. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

However, Tito’s ambition to form an alliance of the communist-controlled states in the Balkans with himself as leader led Stalin, who did not want any competition, to exclude Yugoslavia from the communist community in 1948.

Tito was then forced to turn to the west. He changed domestic policy and allowed decentralization of economic decision-making (including through self-management systems at the factories). Yugoslavia then received extensive financial and military assistance from the United States and other Western countries. Only in 1956, after Stalin’s death, did the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia resume their relations. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Serbia.

The economic successes and Tito’s cohesive power have long concealed the system’s inherent conflicts. But in the 1970s, Yugoslavia began to have financial problems, which worsened during the 1980s. At the same time, the internal contradictions increased. The 1974 constitution, created after a Croatian uprising, gave the republics extensive self-government with their own governments and administrations. Belgrade’s central government was responsible for foreign policy, defense and parts of the economy, but the sub-republics were able to veto important issues and for the most part the federation’s best came second.

Slobodan Milošević to power

The constitution weakened Serbia’s influence, as the Serbian provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina also gained far-reaching autonomy. After Tito’s death in 1980, the Serbs began to work for a redistribution of power within their own republic and the federation as a whole. In 1987, Slobodan Milošević became leader of the Serbian Communist Party in a coup d’état and in 1989 he was elected Serbian president. Milošević fought to “restore the Serbs’ importance” and made Kosovo a symbolic issue.

The contradictions prompted Slovenia and Croatia to demand a looser federation, but all reform proposals were voted down in the federal parliament. When Slovenia changed its constitution to allow the Republic to leave Yugoslavia, Serbia responded with economic boycott. At the congress of the Yugoslav Communist League in January 1990, the contradictions were so great that Slovenia and Croatia, which wanted a more modern and more open party, left the congress. Shortly thereafter, the Yugoslav Communist League disbanded. The Communists remained on the sub-republic level but often chose to call themselves socialists or social democrats.

In 1990, for the first time, a multi-party was held in the six sub-republics. In four of them nationalist parties won. The Communists, who also pursued a nationalist policy, retained power in Serbia and Montenegro. There, unlike the others, they wanted to strengthen the federation. However, the political and economic disintegration continued and in practice the Yugoslav federation ceased to function. In June 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence. Shortly thereafter, the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav People’s Army attacked.

In Slovenia, the fighting was blown off after ten days, but the war in Croatia became more prolonged. Disagreement over the border demarcation and the status of the Serbian minority contributed to the fighting in August. Effortless attempts were made by the outside world to resolve the conflict. In January 1992, the EU recognized Slovenia and Croatia as independent states.

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

In the spring of 1992, Bosnians and Macedonians also voted to move out of Yugoslavia. In Macedonia (later renamed Northern Macedonia) the transition became peaceful. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, civil war broke out in April since the EU, despite Serbian protests, recognized the independence of the republic. Shortly thereafter, the Belgrade Federal Parliament adopted a new constitution, thus creating the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with only two states: Serbia and Montenegro.

The Yugoslav People’s Army formally withdrew from the war in Bosnia, but its tactics to “send home” the many Bosnian Serbs in the army with weapons during the outbreak of war largely contributed to the Serbs being able to cover about 70 percent of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s area in a short period of time.. In conquered areas, the non-Serbian civilian population was driven away, killed or put in concentration camps. All parties to the war used these methods, but the Serbs put them into systems. In the summer of 1995, however, the war turned around, when the Croats took back two areas in Croatia held by the Serbs, including Krajina. The result was a new large stream of refugees, now of hundreds of thousands of Serbs.

In July 1995, the Bosnian Serbs had taken the city of Srebrenica in southeastern Bosnia, one of the Muslim enclaves in Bosnia that the UN promised to protect. The residents were brutally driven away and about 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered. This event caused the United States to intervene.

The sanctions are lifted

The three Presidents Slobodan Milošević from Serbia, Franjo Tuđman (Tudjman) from Croatia and Alija Izetbegović from Bosnia-Herzegovina were forced to negotiate in the US. On November 21, 1995, the parties signed a peace agreement, in Dayton, Ohio. As a result of the Dayton Agreement, most of the financial sanctions against Belgrade were imposed by the EC (now the EU) and the UN in 1991 and 1992, respectively. – sanctions, of large streams of refugees and of a general brutalization of society in the wake of the war.

Domestic politics, Yugoslavia was still dominated by Milošević. As long as the economic sanctions were in full force, all the problems could have been blamed on the incomprehensible world surrounding the Serbs. When the sanctions were largely lifted without the situation improving, the situation changed.

Prior to the Serbian municipal elections in 1996, three opposition parties started a collaboration, and they won in 14 of the 18 largest cities. However, the collaboration soon collapsed, as the three party leaders could not hold the same.

When Milošević was not allowed to stand in the 1997 presidential elections in Serbia, he looked instead to be elected Yugoslav president. In the Serbian presidential election, “Milošević’s man”, Milan Milutinović, prevailed, and in the contemporary Serbian parliamentary elections, Milošević’s Socialist Party (SPS, the old Communist Party) with support parties was the largest. SPS was the old Communist Party, now under Milošević’s leadership.

War in Kosovo

In 1998, the growing conflict between Serbs and the Albanian majority in Kosovo went to war. Serbian reports of abuse caused the outside world to intervene; In March 1999, NATO launched a bomb attack on the rest of Yugoslavia. In June, Milošević was forced to sign a peace treaty and the UN took over UNMIK through Kosovo’s regime. The war undermined Milošević’s position. (See also Kosovo-Modern History and Conflicts-Kosovo.)

In the run-up to the federal parliamentary elections that were expected at the end of 2000, Milošević sought to secure continued power. The Federation’s parliament approved constitutional amendments which meant that he could be re-elected for another eight years. In addition, the president would be elected in general elections, not as before by Parliament. The measure widened the gap between Serbia and Montenegro. Many Montenegrins felt that they were being unfairly involved in taking on the blame for a conflict that the Serbs started.

Milošević announced at short notice early elections to the federal presidential and federal parliament and local elections in Serbia, with the hope that the divided Serbian opposition would not be able to agree. However, despite opposition, 18 opposition parties gathered in the Alliance of Serbia’s Democratic Opposition (DOS) with Vojislav Koštunica (of the Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS) as joint presidential candidate.

Milošević is driven away

The regime harassed the opposition before the election, the freedom of the mass media was further circumvented and no independent election monitors were allowed. Roughly independent measurements showed that Koštunica, despite having won already in the first round of elections on September 24, but the regime-controlled electoral commission was still preparing for a second round. The opposition called for nationwide strikes and large demonstrations were held against Milošević. The end came when Serbia’s “ally”, Russia, took his hand from him by congratulating the Koštunica for the electoral victory. Just before the planned second round, Milošević appeared on television and confessed to being defeated.

On October 7, 2000, Koštunica was sworn in as Yugoslavia’s new president. DOS became the largest in the federal parliament, and when a new election to the Serbian parliament was held in December, DOS gained its own majority. New Prime Minister of Serbia became Zoran Đinđić, leader of the Democratic Party (DS), which was included in the DOS. Milan Milutinović, just as Milošević is accused of war crimes at the UN General Court of the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, was allowed to remain in his post until now but kept a low profile. Although the Serbian president, according to the constitution, had more power than the prime minister, Zoran Đinđić became the most prominent politician.

Both the new Yugoslav and the new Serbian government said they wanted to invest in economic and democratic reforms. It also wanted to reach a settlement on relations with Montenegro and Kosovo within the federation. However, it became difficult to keep DOS together with its 18 different parties. While Zoran Đinđić was clearly Western-oriented, Vojislav Koštunica was more cautious to the West, especially the United States. While Đinđić was prepared to extradite Slobodan Milošević to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, Koštunica wanted to bring him to trial in Yugoslavia.

Milošević to The Hague

Milošević was arrested in April 2001 and taken to prison in Belgrade, accused of misappropriation of government funds, corruption and abuse of power. In order for Yugoslavia to receive financial assistance, the United States demanded that Milošević be extradited to The Hague. Ðinđić decided on his own, and without informing Koštunica, that Milošević would be extradited and he was taken to The Hague. The trial began in February 2002 (however, he died in 2006, before any verdict was dropped).

The United States demanded that more suspected war criminals be extradited to the Hague Court. After much anguish, the Yugoslav Parliament passed a law that allowed 23 suspects to be arrested and taken to The Hague. Among them were Serbia’s President Milan Milutinović as well as former Bosnian Serbs leader Radovan Karadžić and former commander-in-chief Ratko Mladić.

Union of Serbia and Montenegro

In February 2003, the Yugoslav Federation was transformed into a looser state formation, the Union of Serbia and Montenegro. The following month, Đinđić was murdered, probably on the order of the organized crime, since he started a campaign against it.

The presidential election in Serbia in June 2004 was won by Boris Tadić, who was appointed new leader of DS earlier that year.

In Kosovo, dissatisfaction increased as no decision on the future status of the province emerged. The Albanian majority wanted independence, while the Serbian minority continued to belong to Serbia. Kosovo was promised negotiations on its future status when it met certain demands for democracy, and in early 2006, talks started in Vienna under the leadership of Finland’s former president Martti Ahtisaari.

Independent Serbia

Montenegro had reluctantly agreed to join the Union with Serbia, but it was dissolved in June 2006 after a majority of Montenegrins voted for independence. Serbia also declared itself independent and adopted a new constitution that year, more adapted to EU standards but where it was clearly declared that Kosovo was an integral part of Serbia.

In a new parliamentary election in 2007, the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) was largely followed by President Tadić’s party DS and Koštunica’s DSS. In May, a new coalition government was formed under Koštunica’s leadership.

In the presidential elections in Serbia in early 2008, Boris Tadić was re-elected by a marginal margin.

Shortly thereafter, in February 2008, Kosovo, unilaterally, declared itself independent of Serbia. The Kosovo Albanians celebrated but the bitterness was deep in Serbia and in the Serbian enclaves in the province. The US and a majority of EU countries quickly recognized Kosovo, while Russia and China did not.

New government

The Kosovo issue led to the resignation of Prime Minister Koštunica and in the recent election held in May 2008, Tadić’s EU-friendly party alliance for a European Serbia prevailed before the Radical Party. Both parties tried to attract the Socialist Party, which now elected its former rivals in the Tadić alliance. The new coalition government promised to push the issue of EU accession.

Serbia formally applied for EU membership in 2009. This forced the country to deal with parts of its past. One obstacle on the way to the EU was that Ratko Mladić was not arrested, despite being called for his role in the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica.

The government promised EUR 10 million in 2010 for tips that led to Mladić being arrested. In addition, President Tadić improved relations with the arch-enemy Croatia and declared “war” against Serbia’s growing organized crime, an obstacle on the way to the EU. Drug smuggling was described as the biggest threat to Serbian society.

On the way to the EU

In May 2011, Mladić was finally arrested in a village eight miles north of Belgrade, after 16 years in flight. He was extradited to The Hague after a few days to be brought before the War Criminal Tribunal there.

In July of that year, the last of the Hague Tribunal’s list of suspects, Goran Hadžić, who led the Serbian separatist forces in Croatia during the 1991-95 war, was arrested. Hadžić was also extradited to The Hague, and the EU declared that Serbia had taken an important step towards membership in the Union.

President Tadić resigned prematurely in April 2012, thus paving the way for presidential elections at the same time as the May elections. The presidential election was a battle between Tadić and Tomislav Nikolić who in 2008 broke out of the Radical Party and formed the Serbian Progress Party (SNS). In the first round, Tadić won barely but in the second Nikolić won by barely a margin. Nikolić’s party SNS gained a small takeover in the parliamentary elections.

Nationalists to power

Now Boris Tadić and his DS did not succeed in establishing continued government cooperation with the socialists of the SPS, who chose to invest in the newly elected president’s nationalist party. Socialist leader Ivica Dačić formed a new coalition between her party, the SNS and a party alliance called the United Regions of Serbia (URS).

The government put a fight against corruption at the top of the agenda. At the same time, the government was facing severe economic challenges, with an unemployment rate approaching 28 percent.

Within the EU, the question marks were numerous around Serbia’s continued political path. President Nikolić said in his victory speech that Serbia “will not deviate from the European road”. Addressing his nationalist voters, he stressed at the same time that the country would not “abandon” the Serbs in Kosovo.

Serbian nationalist and right-wing extremist groups (such as Naši, “Our”) took to the wings after the nationalist regime came to power. They attacked people and phenomena that they classified as “antisera” and “traitor”. Homosexuals were also subjected to violence by nationalists and skins. In some newspaper articles, there were nationalist noises and hopes that uncomfortably recalled what it was like before the war broke out in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

EU negotiations begin

Following negotiations under the EU mediation, in April 2013, Serbia and Kosovo signed a framework agreement on normalized relations (see Kosovo Calendar). Serbia did not recognize Kosovo’s independence, but the agreement meant that both parties pledged not to block each other’s path to the EU. As a result, Serbia could start official negotiations on EU membership in January 2014.

That same month, President Nikolić dissolved Parliament and a new election was announced. The difficult economic situation with growing budget deficits, rising loans and high unemployment had made the internal contradictions in the coalition government clear. The initiative for the new election came from the largest government party SNS and its party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić. It wanted a new mandate from the Serbs so that the government could speed up the reforms that the EU demanded.

In the elections, the SNS received almost half of all votes, and more than half of the seats in Parliament. Only three other parties passed the five-percent blockade to Parliament, including the Socialist Party, the only remaining coalition partner in the outgoing government (see also Calendar). SNS leader Aleksandar Vučić formed a new government in April. It included representatives of the SPS and the Vojvodina Hungarian Alliance, SVM. New Foreign Minister and First Deputy Prime Minister became the SPS leader and former Head of Government Ivica Dačić.

The new government had hardly taken office until Serbia (together with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia) suffered the worst floods in a century. Despite international disaster assistance, these came to have significant economic consequences for the country.

In 2015, large streams of refugees began to enter Serbia from the south. The refugees came partly from the war in Syria but also from countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Most people did not want to stay in Serbia, but the wave of refugees nevertheless put a great deal of pressure on Serbian society and also put strain on relations with neighboring countries, when they put an end to the refugees in different ways. When the so-called Balkan route was closed in the spring of 2016, there were still several thousand refugees left in Serbia (see also Population and languages).

Serbia Modern History