Following the Slavic migrations to the Balkans postdating the 6th century, Serbs established several states in the early Middle Ages. The Serbian Kingdom obtained recognition by Rome and the Byzantine Empire in 1217, reaching its peak in 1346 as a relatively short-lived Serbian Empire. By the mid-16th century, the entire modern-day Serbia was annexed by the Ottomans, at times interrupted by the Habsburg Empire, which started expanding towards Central Serbia from the end of the 17th century, while maintaining a foothold in modern-day Vojvodina. In the early 19th century, the Serbian Revolution established the nation-state as the region's first constitutional monarchy, which subsequently expanded its territory. Following disastrous casualties in World War I, and the subsequent unification of the former Habsburg crownland of Vojvodina with Serbia, the country co-founded Yugoslavia with other South Slavic peoples, which would exist in various political formations until the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbia formed a union with Montenegro which dissolved peacefully in 2006, when Serbia reestablished its independence. In 2008, the parliament of the province of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence, with mixed responses from the international community.
Serbia is a member of numerous organizations such as the UN, CoE, OSCE, PfP, BSEC, and CEFTA. An EU membership candidate since 2012, Serbia has been negotiating its EU accession since January 2014. The country is acceding to the WTO and is a militarily neutral state. Serbia is an upper-middle income economy with a dominant service sector, followed by the industrial sector and agriculture. The country ranks high by the Human Development Index, Social Progress Index as well as the Global Peace Index.
The origin of the name, "Serbia" is unclear. Various authors mentioned names of Serbs (Serbian: Srbi / Срби) and Sorbs (Upper Sorbian: Serbja; Lower Sorbian: Serby) in different variants: Surbii, Suurbi, Serbloi, Zeriuani, Sorabi, Surben, Sarbi, Serbii, Serboi, Zirbi, Surbi, Sorben, etc. These authors used these names to refer to Serbs and Sorbs in areas where their historical (or current) presence was/is not disputed (notably in the Balkans and Lusatia), but there are also sources that mention same or similar names in other parts of the World (most notably in the Asiatic Sarmatia in the Caucasus).
Theoretically, the root *sъrbъ has been variously connected with Russian paserb (пасерб, "stepson"), Ukrainian priserbitisya (присербитися, "join in"), Old Indic sarbh- ("fight, cut, kill"), Latin sero ("make up, constitute"), and Greek siro (ειρω, "repeat"). However, Polish linguist Stanisław Rospond (1906–1982) derived the denomination of Srb from srbati (cf. sorbo, absorbo). Sorbian scholar H. Schuster-Šewc suggested a connection with the Proto-Slavic verb for "to slurp" *sьrb-, with cognates such as сербать (Russian, Ukrainian), сербаць (Belarusian), srbati (Slovak), сърбам(Bulgarian) and серебати (Old Russian).
From 1945 to 1963, the official name for Serbia was the People's Republic of Serbia, which became the Socialist Republic of Serbia from 1963 to 1990. Since 1990, the official name of the country is the "Republic of Serbia".
Archeological evidence of Paleolithic settlements on the territory of present-day Serbia are scarce. A fragment of a human jaw, was found in Sićevo (Mala Balanica) and believed to be up to 525,000—397,000 years old.
Approximately around 6,500 years BC, during the Neolithic, the Starčevo, and Vinča cultures existed in or near modern-day Belgrade and dominated much of the Southeastern Europe, (as well as parts of Central Europe and Asia Minor). Two important local archeological sites from this era, Lepenski Vir and Vinča-Belo Brdo, still exist near the banks of the Danube.
During the Iron Age, Thracians, Dacians, and Illyrians were encountered by the Ancient Greeks during their expansion into the south of modern Serbia in the 4th century BC; the northwesternmost point of Alexander the Great's empire being the town of Kale-Krševica. The Celtic tribe of Scordisci settled throughout the area in the 3rd century BC and formed a tribal state, building several fortifications, including their capital at Singidunum (present-day Belgrade) and Naissos (present-day Niš).
The Romans conquered much of the territory in the 2nd century BC. In 167 BC the Roman province of Illyricum was established; the remainder was conquered around 75 BC, forming the Roman province of Moesia Superior; the modern-day Srem region was conquered in 9 BC; and Bačka and Banat in 106 AD after the Dacian Wars. As a result of this, contemporary Serbia extends fully or partially over several former Roman provinces, including Moesia, Pannonia, Praevalitana, Dalmatia, Dacia and Macedonia.
The chief towns of Upper Moesia (and wider) were: Singidunum (Belgrade), Viminacium (now Old Kostolac), Remesiana (now Bela Palanka), Naissos (Niš), and Sirmium (now Sremska Mitrovica), the latter of which served as a Roman capital during the Tetrarchy. Seventeen Roman Emperors were born in the area of modern-day Serbia, second only to contemporary Italy. The most famous of these was Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor, who issued an edict ordering religious tolerance throughout the Empire.
When the Roman Empire was divided in 395, most of Serbia remained under the Eastern Roman Empire, while its northwestern parts were included in the Western Roman Empire. By the early 6th century, South Slavs were present throughout the Byzantine Empire in large numbers.
Serbs, a Slavic tribe that settled the Balkans in the 6th or early 7th century, established the Serbian Principality by the 8th century. It was said in 822 that the Serbs inhabited the greater part of Roman Dalmatia, their territory spanning what is today southwestern Serbia and parts of neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, the Byzantine Empire and Bulgarian Empire held other parts of the territory. Christianity was adopted by the Serbian rulers in ca. 870, and by the mid-10th-century the Serbian state stretched the Adriatic Sea by the Neretva, the Sava, the Morava, and Skadar. Between 1166 and 1371 Serbia was ruled by the Nemanjić dynasty (which legacy is especially cherished), under whom the state was elevated to a kingdom (and briefly an empire) and Serbian bishopric to an autocephalous archbishopric (through the effort of Sava, the country's patron saint). Monuments of the Nemanjić period survives in many monasteries (several being World Heritage) and fortifications. During these centuries the Serbian state (and influence) expanded significantly. The northern part, Vojvodina, was ruled by the Kingdom of Hungary. The period known as the Fall of the Serbian Empire saw the once-powerful state fragmented into duchies, culminating in the Battle of Kosovo (1389) against the rising Ottoman Empire. The Serbian Despotate was finally conquered by the Ottomans in 1459. The Ottoman threat and eventual conquest saw large migrations of Serbs to the west and north.
After the loss of independence to the Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, Serbia briefly regained sovereignty under Jovan Nenad in the 16th century. Three Habsburg invasions and numerous rebellions constantly challenged Ottoman rule. One famous incident was the Banat Uprising in 1595, which was part of the Long War between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs. The area of modern Vojvodina endured a century-long Ottoman occupation before being ceded to the Habsburg Empire at the end of the 17th century under the Treaty of Karlowitz.
In all Serb lands south of the rivers Danube and Sava, the nobility was eliminated and the peasantry was enserfed to Ottoman masters, while much of the clergy fled or were confined to the isolated monasteries. Under the Ottoman system, Serbs, as Christians, were considered an inferior class of people and subjected to heavy taxes, and a small portion of the Serbian populace experienced Islamisation. The Ottomans abolished the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć (1463), but reestablished it in 1557, providing for limited continuation of Serbian cultural traditions within the empire.
As the Great Serb Migrations depopulated most of southern Serbia, the Serbs sought refuge across the Danube River in Vojvodina to the north and the Military Frontier in the west, where they were granted rights by the Austrian crown under measures such as the Statuta Wallachorum of 1630. The ecclesiastical center of the Serbs also moved northwards, to the Metropolitanate of Sremski Karlovci, as the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć was once-again abolished by the Ottomans in 1766. Following several petitions, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I formally granted Serbs who wished to leave the right to their autonomous crownland.
In 1718–39, the Habsburg Monarchy occupied Central Serbia and established the "Kingdom of Serbia". Apart from Vojvodina and Northern Belgrade which were absorbed into the Habsburg Empire, Central Serbia was occupied by the Habsburgs again in 1686–91 and in 1788–92.
The Serbian Revolution for independence from the Ottoman Empire lasted eleven years, from 1804 until 1815. The revolution comprised two separate uprisings which gained autonomy from the Ottoman Empire that eventually evolved towards full independence (1835–1867). During the First Serbian Uprising, led by Duke Karađorđe Petrović, Serbia was independent for almost a decade before the Ottoman army was able to reoccupy the country. Shortly after this, the Second Serbian Uprising began. Led by Miloš Obrenović, it ended in 1815 with a compromise between Serbian revolutionaries and Ottoman authorities. Likewise, Serbia was one of the first nations in the Balkans to abolish feudalism. The Convention of Ackerman in 1826, the Treaty of Adrianople in 1829 and finally, the Hatt-i Sharif, recognized the suzerainty of Serbia. The first Serbian Constitution was adopted on 15 February 1835.
Following the clashes between the Ottoman army and Serbs in Belgrade in 1862, and under pressure from the Great Powers, by 1867 the last Turkish soldiers left the Principality, making the country de facto independent. By enacting a new constitution without consulting the Porte, Serbian diplomats confirmed the de facto independence of the country. In 1876, Serbia declared war on the Ottoman Empire, proclaiming its unification with Bosnia.
The formal independence of the country was internationally recognized at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, which formally ended the Russo-Turkish War; this treaty, however, prohibited Serbia from uniting with Bosnia by placing Bosnia under Austro-Hungarian occupation, alongside the occupation of Sanjak of Novi Pazar. From 1815 to 1903, the Principality of Serbia was ruled by the House of Obrenović, save for the rule of Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević between 1842 and 1858. In 1882, Serbia became a Kingdom, ruled by King Milan I. The House of Karađorđević, descendants of the revolutionary leader Karađorđe Petrović, assumed power in 1903 following the May Overthrow. In the north, the 1848 revolution in Austria led to the establishment of the autonomous territory of Serbian Vojvodina; by 1849, the region was transformed into the Voivodeship of Serbia and Banat of Temeschwar.
In the course of the First Balkan War in 1912, the Balkan League defeated the Ottoman Empire and captured its European territories, which enabled territorial expansion into Raška and Kosovo. The Second Balkan War soon ensued when Bulgaria turned on its former allies, but was defeated, resulting in the Treaty of Bucharest. In two years, Serbia enlarged its territory by 80% and its population by 50%; it also suffered high casualties on the eve of World War I, with around 20,000 dead. Austria-Hungary became wary of the rising regional power on its borders and its potential to become an anchor for unification of all South Slavs, and the relationship between the two countries became tense.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Young Bosnia organization, led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. In defense of Serbia, and to maintain her status as a Great Power, Russia mobilized its troops, which resulted in Austria-Hungary's ally Germany declaring war on Russia. Serbia won the first major battles of World War I, including the Battle of Cer and Battle of Kolubara – marking the first Allied victories against the Central Powers in World War I.
Despite initial success, it was eventually overpowered by the Central Powers in 1915. Most of its army and some people fled through Albania to Greece and Corfu, suffering immense losses on the way. Serbia was occupied by the Central Powers. After the Central Powers military situation on other fronts worsened, the remains of the Serb army returned east and lead a final breakthrough through enemy lines on 15 September 1918, liberating Serbia and defeating the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Bulgaria. Serbia, with its campaign, was a major Balkan Entente Power which contributed significantly to the Allied victory in the Balkans in November 1918, especially by helping France force Bulgaria's capitulation. Serbia was classified as a minor Entente power.
Serbia's casualties accounted for 8% of the total Entente military deaths; 58% (243,600) soldiers of the Serbian army perished in the war. The total number of casualties is placed around 700,000, more than 16% of Serbia's prewar size, and a majority (57%) of its overall male population. As the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed, the territory of Syrmia united with Serbia on 24 November 1918, followed by Banat, Bačka and Baranja a day later, thereby bringing the entire Vojvodina into the Serb Kingdom. On 26 November 1918, the Podgorica Assembly deposed the House of Petrović-Njegoš and united Montenegro with Serbia. On 1 December 1918, at Krsmanović's House at Terazije, Serbian Prince Regent Alexander of Serbia proclaimed the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes under King Peter I of Serbia.
King Peter was succeeded by his son, Alexander, in August 1921. Serb centralists and Croat autonomists clashed in the parliament, and most governments were fragile and short-lived. Nikola Pašić, a conservative prime minister, headed or dominated most governments until his death. King Alexander changed the name of the country to Yugoslavia and changed the internal divisions from the 33 oblasts to nine new banovinas. The effect of Alexander's dictatorship was to further alienate the non-Serbs from the idea of unity.
Alexander was assassinated in Marseille, during an official visit in 1934 by Vlado Chernozemski, member of the IMRO. Alexander was succeeded by his eleven-year-old son Peter II and a regency council was headed by his cousin, Prince Paul. In August 1939 the Cvetković–Maček Agreement established an autonomous Banate of Croatia as a solution to Croatian concerns.
In 1941, in spite of Yugoslav attempts to remain neutral in the war, the Axis powers invaded Yugoslavia. The territory of modern Serbia was divided between Hungary, Bulgaria, Independent State of Croatia (NDH) and Italy (greater Albania and Montenegro), while the remaining part of Serbia was placed under German Military administration, with Serbian puppet governments led by Milan Aćimović and Milan Nedić. The occupied territory was the scene of a civil war between royalist Chetniks commanded by Draža Mihailović and communist partisans commanded by Josip Broz Tito. Against these forces were arrayed Axis auxiliary units of the Serbian Volunteer Corps and the Serbian State Guard. Draginac and Loznica massacre of 2,950 villagers in Western Serbia in 1941 was the first large execution of civilians in occupied Serbia by Germans, with Kragujevac massacre and Novi Sad Raid of Jews and Serbs by Hungarian fascists being the most notorious, with over 3,000 victims in each case. After one year of occupation, around 16,000 Serbian Jews were murdered in the area, or around 90% of its pre-war Jewish population. Many concentration camps were established across the area. Banjica concentration camp was the largest concentration camp, with primary victims being Serbian Jews, Roma, and Serb political prisoners.
During this period, hundreds of thousands of Serbs fled the Axis puppet state known as the Independent State of Croatia and sought refuge in Serbia, seeking to escape the large-scale persecution and genocide of Serbs, Jews, and Roma being committed by the Ustaše regime.
The Republic of Užice was a short-lived liberated territory established by the Partisans and the first liberated territory in World War II Europe, organized as a military mini-state that existed in the autumn of 1941 in the west of occupied Serbia. By late 1944, the Belgrade Offensive swung in favour of the partisans in the civil war; the partisans subsequently gained control of Yugoslavia. Following the Belgrade Offensive, the Syrmian Front was the last major military action of World War II in Serbia.
The victory of the Communist Partisans resulted in the abolition of the monarchy and a subsequent constitutional referendum. A one-party state was soon established in Yugoslavia by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, between 60,000 and 70,000 people were killed in Serbia during the communist takeover. All opposition was suppressed and people deemed to be promoting opposition to socialism or promoting separatism were imprisoned or executed for sedition. Serbia became a constituent republic within the SFRY known as the Socialist Republic of Serbia, and had a republic-branch of the federal communist party, the League of Communists of Serbia.
Serbia's most powerful and influential politician in Tito-era Yugoslavia was Aleksandar Ranković, one of the "big four" Yugoslav leaders, alongside Tito, Edvard Kardelj, and Milovan Đilas. Ranković was later removed from the office because of the disagreements regarding Kosovo's nomenklatura and the unity of Serbia. Ranković's dismissal was highly unpopular among Serbs. Pro-decentralization reformers in Yugoslavia succeeded in the late 1960s in attaining substantial decentralization of powers, creating substantial autonomy in Kosovo and Vojvodina, and recognizing a Yugoslav Muslim nationality. As a result of these reforms, there was a massive overhaul of Kosovo's nomenklatura and police, that shifted from being Serb-dominated to ethnic Albanian-dominated through firing Serbs on a large scale. Further concessions were made to the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo in response to unrest, including the creation of the University of Pristina as an Albanian language institution. These changes created widespread fear among Serbs of being treated as second-class citizens.
In 1989, Slobodan Milošević rose to power in Serbia. Milošević promised a reduction of powers for the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina, where his allies subsequently took over power, during the Anti-bureaucratic revolution. This ignited tensions between the communist leadership of the other republics, and awoke nationalism across the country that eventually resulted in its breakup, with Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo declaring independence. Serbia and Montenegro remained together as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).
Fueled by ethnic tensions, the Yugoslav Wars erupted, with the most severe conflicts taking place in Croatia and Bosnia, where the large ethnic Serb communities opposed independence from Yugoslavia. The FRY remained outside the conflicts, but provided logistic, military and financial support to Serb forces in the wars. In response, the UN imposed sanctions against Serbia which led to political isolation and the collapse of the economy (GDP was $24 billion in 1990 to under $10 billion in 1993).
Multi-party democracy was introduced in Serbia in 1990, officially dismantling the one-party system. Critics of Milošević claimed that the government continued to be authoritarian despite constitutional changes, as Milošević maintained strong political influence over the state media and security apparatus. When the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia refused to accept its defeat in municipal elections in 1996, Serbians engaged in large protests against the government.
In 1998, peace was broken again, when the situation in Kosovo worsened with continued clashes between the Albanian guerilla Kosovo Liberation Army and Yugoslav security forces. The confrontations led to the short Kosovo War (1998–99), in which NATO intervened, leading to the withdrawal of Serbian forces and the establishment of UN administration in the province. After presidential elections in September 2000, opposition parties accused Milošević of electoral fraud. A campaign of civil resistance followed, led by the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), a broad coalition of anti-Milošević parties. This culminated on 5 October when half a million people from all over the country congregated in Belgrade, compelling Milošević to concede defeat. The fall of Milošević ended Yugoslavia's international isolation. Milošević was sent to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The DOS announced that FR Yugoslavia would seek to join the European Union. In 2003, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was renamed Serbia and Montenegro; the EU opened negotiations with the country for the Stabilization and Association Agreement. Serbia's political climate remained tense and in 2003, the prime minister Zoran Đinđić was assassinated as result of a plot originating from circles of organized crime and former security officials.
On 21 May 2006, Montenegro held a referendum to determine whether to end its union with Serbia. The results showed 55.4% of voters in favor of independence, which was just above the 55% required by the referendum. On 5 June 2006, the National Assembly of Serbia declared Serbia to be the legal successor to the former state union. The Assembly of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008. Serbia immediately condemned the declaration and continues to deny any statehood to Kosovo. The declaration has sparked varied responses from the international community, some welcoming it, while others condemned the unilateral move. Status-neutral talks between Serbia and Kosovo-Albanian authorities are held in Brussels, mediated by the EU.
In April 2008 Serbia was invited to join the Intensified Dialogue programme with NATO despite the diplomatic rift with the alliance over Kosovo. Serbia officially applied for membership in the European Union on 22 December 2009, and received candidate status on 1 March 2012, following a delay in December 2011. Following a positive recommendation of the European Commission and European Council in June 2013, negotiations to join the EU commenced in January 2014.
Located at the crossroads between Central and Southern Europe, Serbia is found in the Balkan peninsula and the Pannonian Plain. Serbia lies between latitudes 41° and 47° N, and longitudes 18° and 23° E. The country covers a total of 88,361 km2 (including Kosovo), which places it at 113th place in the world; with Kosovo excluded, the total area is 77,474 km2, which would make it 117th. Its total border length amounts to 2,027 km (Albania 115 km, Bosnia and Herzegovina 302 km, Bulgaria 318 km, Croatia 241 km, Hungary 151 km, Macedonia 221 km, Montenegro 203 km and Romania 476 km). All of Kosovo's border with Albania (115 km), Macedonia (159 km) and Montenegro (79 km) are under control of the Kosovo border police. Serbia treats the 352 km long border between Kosovo and rest of Serbia as an "administrative line"; it is under shared control of Kosovo border police and Serbian police forces, and there are 11 crossing points.
The Pannonian Plain covers the northern third of the country (Vojvodina and Mačva) while the easternmost tip of Serbia extends into the Wallachian Plain. The terrain of the central part of the country, with the region of Šumadija at its heart, consists chiefly of hills traversed by rivers. Mountains dominate the southern third of Serbia. Dinaric Alps stretch in the west and the southwest, following the flow of the rivers Drina and Ibar. The Carpathian Mountains and Balkan Mountains stretch in a north–south direction in eastern Serbia.
Ancient mountains in the southeast corner of the country belong to the Rilo-Rhodope Mountain system. Elevation ranges from the Midžor peak of the Balkan Mountains at 2,169 metres (7,116 feet) (the highest peak in Serbia, excluding Kosovo) to the lowest point of just 17 metres (56 feet) near the Danube river at Prahovo. The largest lake is Đerdap Lake (163 square kilometres or 63 square miles) and the longest river passing through Serbia is the Danube (587.35 kilometres or 364.96 miles).
The climate of Serbia is under the influences of the landmass of Eurasia and the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. With mean January temperatures around 0 °C (32 °F), and mean July temperatures of 22 °C (72 °F), it can be classified as a warm-humid continental or humid subtropical climate. In the north, the climate is more continental, with cold winters, and hot, humid summers along with well distributed rainfall patterns. In the south, summers and autumns are drier, and winters are relatively cold, with heavy inland snowfall in the mountains.
Differences in elevation, proximity to the Adriatic Sea and large river basins, as well as exposure to the winds account for climate variations. Southern Serbia is subject to Mediterranean influences. The Dinaric Alps and other mountain ranges contribute to the cooling of most of the warm air masses. Winters are quite harsh in the Pešter plateau, because of the mountains which encircle it. One of the climatic features of Serbia is Košava, a cold and very squally southeastern wind which starts in the Carpathian Mountains and follows the Danube northwest through the Iron Gate where it gains a jet effect and continues to Belgrade and can spread as far south as Niš.
The average annual air temperature for the period 1961–1990 for the area with an altitude of up to 300 m (984 ft) is 10.9 °C (51.6 °F). The areas with an altitude of 300 to 500 m (984 to 1,640 ft) have an average annual temperature of around 10.0 °C (50.0 °F), and over 1,000 m (3,281 ft) of altitude around 6.0 °C (42.8 °F). The lowest recorded temperature in Serbia was −39.5 °C (−39.1 °F) on 13 January 1985, Karajukića Bunari in Pešter, and the highest was 44.9 °C or 112.8 °F, on 24 July 2007, recorded in Smederevska Palanka.
Serbia is one of few European countries with very high risk exposure to natural hazards (earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts). It is estimated that potential floods, particularly in areas of Central Serbia, threaten over 500 larger settlements and an area of 16,000 square kilometers. The most disastrous were the floods in May 2014, when 57 people died and a damage of over a 1.5 billion euro was inflicted.
Almost all of Serbia's rivers drain to the Black Sea, by way of the Danube river. The Danube, the second largest European river, passes through Serbia with 588 kilometers (21% of its overall length) and represents the largest source of fresh water. It is joined by its biggest tributaries, the Great Morava (longest river entirely in Serbia with 493 km of length), Sava and Tisza rivers. One notable exception is the Pčinja which flows into the Aegean. Drina river forms the natural border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, and represents the main kayaking and rafting attraction in both countries.
Due to configuration of the terrain, natural lakes are sparse and small; most of them are located in the lowlands of Vojvodina, like the aeolian lake Palić or numerous oxbow lakes along river flows (like Zasavica and Carska Bara). However, there are numerous artificial lakes, mostly due to hydroelectric dams, the biggest being Đerdap (Iron Gates) on the Danube with 163 km2 on the Serbian side (a total area of 253 km2 is shared with Romania) as well as the deepest (with maximum depth of 92 m); Perućac on the Drina, and Vlasina. The largest waterfall, Jelovarnik, located in Kopaonik, is 71 m high. Abundance of relatively unpolluted surface waters and numerous underground natural and mineral water sources of high water quality presents a chance for export and economy improvement; however, more extensive exploitation and production of bottled water began only recently.
With 29.1% of its territory covered by forest, Serbia is considered to be a middle-forested country, compared on a global scale to world forest coverage at 30%, and European average of 35%. The total forest area in Serbia is 2,252,000 ha (1,194,000 ha or 53% are state-owned, and 1,058,387 ha or 47% are privately owned) or 0.3 ha per inhabitant. The most common trees are oak, beech, pines and firs.
Serbia is a country of rich ecosystem and species diversity – covering only 1.9% of the whole European territory Serbia is home to 39% of European vascular flora, 51% of European fish fauna, 40% of European reptile and amphibian fauna, 74% of European bird fauna, 67% European mammal fauna. Its abundance of mountains and rivers make it an ideal environment for a variety of animals, many of which are protected including wolves, lynx, bears, foxes and stags. There are 17 snake species living all over the country, 8 of them are venomous. Serbia is home to highly protected owl species. In the northernmost part of Vojvodina plain, in the city of Kikinda, a number of endangered 145 long-eared owls is noted, making this town the world's biggest settlement of these species. Serbia is considerably rich with threatened species of bats and butterflies.
Mountain of Tara in western Serbia is one of the last regions in Europe where bears can still live in absolute freedom. Serbia is also home to about 380 species of bird. In Carska Bara, there are over 300 bird species on just a few square kilometers. Uvac Gorge is considered one of the last habitats of the griffon vulture in Europe.
There are 377 protected areas of Serbia, encompassing 4,947 square kilometers or 6.4% of the country. The "Spatial plan of the Republic of Serbia" states that the total protected area should be increased to 12% by 2021. Those protected areas include 5 national parks (Đerdap, Tara, Kopaonik, Fruška Gora and Šar Mountain), 15 nature parks, 15 "landscapes of outstanding features", 61 nature reserves, and 281 natural monuments.
Air pollution is a significant problem in Bor area, due to work of large copper mining and smelting complex, and Pančevo where oil and petrochemical industry is based. Some cities suffer from water supply problems, due to mismanagement and low investments in the past, as well as water pollution (like the pollution of the Ibar River from the Trepča zinc-lead combinate, affecting the city of Kraljevo, or the presence of natural arsenic in underground waters in Zrenjanin).
Poor waste management has been identified as one of the most important environmental problems in Serbia and the recycling is a fledgling activity, with only 15% of its waste being turned back for reuse. The 1999 NATO bombing caused serious damage to the environment, with several thousand tons of toxic chemicals stored in targeted factories and refineries released into the soil and water basins.
Serbia is a parliamentary republic, with the government divided into legislative, executive and judiciary branches.
Serbia had one of the first modern constitutions in Europe, the 1835 Constitution (known as "Sretenje Constitution"), which was at the time considered among the most progressive and liberal constitutions in the world. Since then it has adopted 10 different constitutions. The current constitution was adopted in 2006 in the aftermath of Montenegro independence referendum which by consequence renewed the independence of Serbia itself. The Constitutional Court rules on matters regarding the Constitution.
The President of the Republic (Predsednik Republike) is the head of state, is elected by popular vote to a five-year term and is limited by the Constitution to a maximum of two terms. In addition to being the commander in chief of the armed forces, the president has the procedural duty of appointing the prime minister with the consent of the parliament, and has some influence on foreign policy. Tomislav Nikolić is the current president following the 2012 presidential election. Seat of the presidency is Novi Dvor.
The Government (Vlada) is composed of the prime minister and cabinet ministers. The Government is responsible for proposing legislation and a budget, executing the laws, and guiding the foreign and internal policies. The current prime minister is Ana Brnabić of the Serbian Progressive Party.
The National Assembly (Narodna skupština) is a unicameral legislative body. The National Assembly has the power to enact laws, approve the budget, schedule presidential elections, select and dismiss the Prime Minister and other ministers, declare war, and ratify international treaties and agreements. It is composed of 250 proportionally elected members who serve four-year terms. The largest political parties in Serbia are the centre-right Serbian Progressive Party, leftist Socialist Party of Serbia and centre-left Democratic Party.
Serbia has a three-tiered judicial system, made up of the Supreme Court of Cassation as the court of the last resort, Courts of Appeal as the appellate instance, and Basic and High courts as the general jurisdictions at first instance.
Courts of special jurisdictions are the Administrative Court, commercial courts (including the Commercial Court of Appeal at second instance) and misdemeanor courts (including High Misdemeanor Court at second instance). The judiciary is overseen by the Ministry of Justice. Serbia has a typical civil law legal system.
Law enforcement is the responsibility of the Serbian Police, which is subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. Serbian Police fields 26,527 uniformed officers. National security and counterintelligence are the responsibility of the Security Information Agency (BIA).
Serbia has established diplomatic relations with 188 UN member states, the Holy See, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and the European Union. Foreign relations are conducted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Serbia has a network of 65 embassies and 23 consulates internationally. There are 65 foreign embassies, 5 consulates and 4 liaison offices in Serbia.
Serbian foreign policy is focused on achieving the strategic goal of becoming a member state of the European Union (EU). Serbia started the process of joining the EU by signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement on 29 April 2008 and officially applied for membership in the European Union on 22 December 2009. It received a full candidate status on 1 March 2012 and started accession talks on 21 January 2014.
The province of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008, which sparked varied responses from the international community, some welcoming it, while others condemn the unilateral move. Serbia has, at first, recalled its ambassadors from states which have recognized Kosovo, in protest.
The Serbian Armed Forces are subordinate to the Ministry of Defence, and are composed of the Army and the Air Force. Although a landlocked country, Serbia operates a River Flotilla which patrols on the Danube, Sava, and Tisza rivers. The Serbian Chief of the General Staff reports to the Defence Minister. The Chief of Staff is appointed by the President, who is the Commander-in-chief. As of 2017, Serbia defence budget amounts to $503 million or an estimated 1.4% of the country's GDP.
Traditionally having relied on a large number of conscripts, Serbian Armed Forces went through a period of downsizing, restructuring and professionalisation. Conscription was abolished in 2011. Serbian Armed Forces have 28,000 active troops, supplemented by the "active reserve" which numbers 20,000 members and "passive reserve" with about 170,000.
Serbia participates in the NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan program, but has shown no intention of joining NATO in the near future, due to significant popular rejection, largely derived from the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. It is an observer member of the Collective Securities Treaty Organization (CSTO) The country also signed the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. The Serbian Armed Forces take part in several multinational peacekeeping missions, including deployments in Lebanon, Cyprus, Ivory Coast, and Liberia.
Serbia is a large producer and exporter of military equipment in the region. Defence exports totaled around $483 million in 2016. Serbia exports across the world, notably to the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and North America. The defence industry has seen significant growth over the years and it continues to grow on a yearly basis.
Serbia is a unitary state composed of municipalities/cities, districts, and two autonomous provinces. In Serbia, excluding Kosovo, there are 138 municipalities (opštine) and 23 cities (gradovi), which form the basic units of local self-government. Apart from municipalities, there are 24 districts (okruzi), with the City of Belgrade constituting an additional district. Except for Belgrade, which has an elected local government, districts are regional centers of state authority, but have no powers of their own; they present purely administrative divisions.
Serbia has two autonomous provinces, Vojvodina in the north, and Kosovo and Metohija in the south, while the remaining area, "Central Serbia", never had its own regional authority. Following the Kosovo War, UN peacekeepers entered Kosovo, as per UNSC Resolution 1244. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence. The government of Serbia did not recognize the declaration, considering it illegal and illegitimate.
As of 2011 census, Serbia (excluding Kosovo) has a total population of 7,186,862 and the overall population density is medium as it stands at 92.8 inhabitants per square kilometer. The census was not conducted in Kosovo which held its own census that numbered their total population at 1,739,825, excluding Serb-inhabited North Kosovo, as Serbs from that area (about 50,000) boycotted the census.
Serbia has been enduring a demographic crisis since the beginning of the 1990s, with a death rate that has continuously exceeded its birth rate, and a total fertility rate of 1.43 children per mother, one of the lowest in the world. Serbia subsequently has one of the oldest populations in the world, with the average age of 42.9 years, and its population is shrinking at one of the fastest rates in the world. A fifth of all households consist of only one person, and just one-fourth of four and more persons. Average Life expectancy in Serbia at birth is 74.8 years.
During the 1990s, Serbia used to have the largest refugee population in Europe. Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Serbia formed between 7% and 7.5% of its population at the time – about half a million refugees sought refuge in the country following the series of Yugoslav wars, mainly from Croatia (and to a lesser extent from Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the IDPs from Kosovo. Meanwhile, it is estimated that 300,000 people left Serbia during the 1990s, 20% of which had a higher education.
Serbs with 5,988,150 are the largest ethnic group in Serbia, representing 83% of the total population (excluding Kosovo). With a population of 253,899, Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority in Serbia, concentrated predominately in northern Vojvodina and representing 3.5% of the country's population (13% in Vojvodina). Romani population stands at 147,604 according to the 2011 census but unofficial estimates place their actual number between 400,000 and 500,000. Bosniaks with 145,278 are concentrated in Raška (Sandžak), in the southwest. Other minority groups include Croats, Slovaks, Albanians, Montenegrins, Vlachs, Romanians, Macedonians and Bulgarians. Chinese, estimated at about 15,000, are the only significant immigrant minority.
The majority of the population, or 59.4%, reside in urban areas and some 16.1% in Belgrade alone. Belgrade is the only city with more than a million inhabitants and there are four more with over 100,000 inhabitants.