Visit Serbia

About Serbia

January 1, 2018
Dusica Ivanovic
San Issue 11 - Winter/Зима 2018

The Republic of Serbia is located in southeast Europe. More than 7 million inhabitants live across 88,509 square kilometers. Its capital is Belgrade, home to more than 1.6 million people. This country, blessed with unusual natural beauty, enjoys a mild continental climate. The official language is Serbian, and the official alphabet is Cyrillic. The majority of the population is made up of Orthodox Serbs (85%), but 40 other nationalities, with equal constitutional rights, inhabit this small country in southern Europe. 

The north of Serbia is the flat land of Vojvodina. Further southwards, the plains are splattered with hilly landscapes, until the terrain becomes fully mountainous. Almost a third of the surface area is forested and preserves many endemic species, while the mountain relief of Serbia is rich with canyons, gorges, and caves. The rivers of Serbia cut across the entire country, and run into the Black, Adriatic, and Aegean Seas. Ninety percent of Serbia’s rivers flow into the Danube, the longest river in Serbia.

Serbia has always been situated between the East and the West, and not only geographically, but also politically and culturally. It first found itself between the Byzantine and Roman Empires, and then between the Ottoman Empire and Western Christianity. Such a life resulted in frequent migrations and mixed populations, resulting in a multiethnic, multicultural and multiconfessional society in Serbia.

The political system of Serbia is based on a multi-party parliamentary democracy. Serbia has a National Assembly, a president of the Republic, and a Government.

The first traces of human habitation on the territory of Serbia come from the Paleolithic era. The Vinča culture left its traces between 6,500 and 3,200 BCE. During the Roman Empire, several emperors including Aurelian and Constantine the Great were born in the territory of modern-day Serbia; Sirmium, modern-day Sremska Mitrovica, was one of the capitals of the Empire in the 4th century CE. After the divide of the Roman Empire into East and West, Serbia fell into the Eastern Empire, and thus began the strong influence of Byzantine culture on Serbia.

Traces of the Slavic Serbian population in Singidunum (modern-day Belgrade) exist from the 7th century. Its Slavic name “Beograd” appears in writing as early as 878 CE. The first Serbian ruler known to history was Višeslav, who ruled during the 8th century.

The Nemanjić Dynasty began ruling Serbia in the 12th century, and their kingdom stretched from the Adriatic Sea until the river Morava and the Šar Mountains. From that dynasty came the first Serbian Archbishop Rastko Nemanjić (Saint Sava) and the first crowned Serbian king, Stefan Prvovenčani (1217).

Serbia was defeated on the battlefield by the Turkish Army during the Battle of Kosovo (1389). Final independence and freedom from the Ottoman Empire came in 1878. During the First World War, Serbia fought and won with the Allies, but the sacrifices were enormous. After the war, it became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and in 1929, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. After the Second World War, the monarchy was abolished and Serbia became a part of communist Yugoslavia, in which it remained until the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1995. In 2006, after a short period of being unified with Montenegro, Serbia once again became an independent nation.

The Republic of Serbia is known in the world not only for its rich history and natural wonders, but also for its gastronomy. The richness of Serbian cuisine comes from the mixing of various cultures and customs in its territory: influences of Greek, Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Turkish cuisines are visible in the Serbian diet.

In its centuries-old history, Serbia—although small—has many times been in the centre of international attention. Its citizens are known for their patriotism, bravery, and a rich cultural and historical patrimony. From prehistoric archaeological finds and ancient heritage, to medieval Serbian churches and monasteries—many of which are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List—right up to modern science and art, Serbia has been and remains a rich and powerful centre of creativity in Europe and the world. So far included on the UNESCO World Heritage List are Monastery Studenica, Stari Ras and Sopoćani, medieval monuments in Kosovo and Metohija, and Gamzigrad-Romuliana. Included in UNESCO’s program “Memory of the World Register,” the world register of cultural documentary heritage from Serbia includes the Nikola Tesla Archive and Miroslav’s Gospel, the most important monument of Serbo-Slavic literacy from the 12th century. A part of Golija Nature Park was declared a Biosphere Reserve. In 2014, the Slava was inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.  

Serbia gave to the world scientists such as Tesla, Pupin, Cvijić, Pančić, Bošković; celebrated revolutionary military commanders; painters, musicians, and writers, including Nobel prizewinner Ivo Andrić; and many famous athletes. 

The number of tourist attractions in Serbia is disproportionately large compared to its small size. Mountain tourism is active in both winter and summer; some of the most famous are the ski centres of Kopaonik. Rural tourism, whose greatest potential lies in ethno-villages, is greatly on the rise today.  The season of urban tourism to cities like Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš, and Subotica, is active throughout the year. Serbia is a country adorned with old fortified cities and castles, rich sacred objects, national parks, nature parks, and numerous lakes and rivers for relaxation and recreation.

A large number of Serbs now lives outside of the homeland, around the world, and one of the most significant and active Serbian communities in the diaspora is in Toronto: a city with several Serbian newspapers and print media, including SAN – Serbian Canadian Magazine.

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