Traces of mankind go back 8,500 years in the areas we know today as Serbia. Being in the central part of Europe the area was a target for invasions and from an early period it was occupied by Greeks, Romans and then in the 7th Century the Slavs arrived.
In 1217 a Serbian Kingdom was proclaimed which became the Serbian Empire in 1346 under Stephan Dušan. In 1459 the Ottomans had conquered much of what is now Serbia but only after mammoth battles at Dubravnica (1381), Pločnik (1386) and Kosovo. In the critical battle of Kosovo in 1389 the Ottomans were beaten back by the triumphant Serbs, setting in place a historic symbolism for the area now known as Kosovo.
Serbia remained largely in Ottoman hands until 1803 when the Serbs were able to gain some level of independence in a series of rebellions. In 1817 the autonomous principality of Serbia was created within the Ottoman Empire and in 1912/1913 the Ottomans were finally driven out of Serbia.
At the end of World War 1 the allied offensive liberated Serbia from the Austro-Hungarians and created the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (covering those modern day countries). After a short period of democracy, in 1929 King Alexander I banned political parties and assumed executive power whilst renaming the country the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
In 1941 the Germans invaded Serbia and many people joined the Communist Party led National Liberation Army whose commander was Josip Broz Tito. In 1944 the Soviets liberated Serbia once more and in 1945 Tito became prime minister of the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia (DFY). In 1946 Tito’s People’s Front led by the Communist Party of Serbia won an outright election and the country became known as the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia (FPRY) (A much larger area than just Serbia, including modern Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro).
Although a communist regime, Tito was never especially friendly towards the Soviet Union and in 1961 Tito co-founded the Non Aligned Movement.
In 1963 the country changed its name again to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and in 1974 a new constitution reduced centralised control and increased autonomy of Yugoslavia’s republics.
In 1980 Tito died and a general economic decline followed. By 1989 nationalist sentiments brought Slobodan Milošević to power. From 1990 the former Yugoslavia disintegrated, first losing Slovenia, then Croatia, followed by Macedonia and then the painful separation of Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1992. Serbia tried to fight the waves of independence but the disintegration continued.
When Kosovo tried to break away the prolonged violence against civilians seen elsewhere and amplified in this small southern region led to the intervention of NATO in 1999.
On 24th September 2000 Milošević lost the presidential election to Vojislav Koštunica of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) who took 51.7% of the vote in the first round. Milošević refused to accept the result and on 5th October the so called Bulldozer Revolution saw him ousted.
In December 2000 DOS won the election, taking 58 of 108 seats in the Chamber of Citizens and 10 of 20 seats in the Chamber of Republics. Zoran Đinđić of the Democratic Party (DP – part of DOS) became prime minister but in 2001 he fell out with the president leading to Koštunica and his Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) leaving the DOS coalition.
In 2002 Koštunica was re-elected in the October, but because the second ballot fell below the 50% turnout threshold the election was held again in the December. The later election was also won by Koštunica with 57.5% of the vote.
In 2003 DOS split into its three core parties, the DSS which had already left, the Democratic Party and G17+. On 12th March 2003 Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić was assassinated.
In February 2003 the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was replaced by Serbia and Montenegro and the role of president of the Republic was abolished. In the December general election the anti-western Serbian Radical Party (SRS) won the most seats, taking 82 of the 250 seats in the National Assembly of Serbia. Despite this, Vojislav Koštunica and his DSS formed a minority government with the support of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS).
In 2004 Boris Tadić of the Democratic Party (DP) won the presidential election (of Serbia) in the second round with 53.97% of the vote. He won again in 2008 with 50.31% in the second round; on both occasions against a Serbian Radical Party candidate.
In 2007 there was a further general election and again the Radicals were the largest party with 81 of the 250 seats and again they were locked out of government by a coalition of parties led by , Vojislav Koštunica.
In March 2008 the government fell and fresh elections were held on 11th May. A coalition of parties led by Boris Tadić’s Democratic Party (DP) and called ‘For a European Serbia’ (ZES) won the election with 102 of the 250 seats in the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. They joined forces with another alliance led by the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and six minority members, giving the new government 128 of the 250 seats. The current prime minister is the independent Mirko Cvetković.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a situation which Serbia does not recognise but which an increasing number of countries worldwide have accepted. It remains a core part of Serbian politics and complicates further moves for Serbia to join the European Union (EU). The two issues will continue to dominate Serbian politics for some time to come.
The President is elected by direct vote for a five year term.
The National Assembly is a unicameral body with 250 deputies elected by direct vote for a four year term. Please note that ‘crossovers’ both by individuals and across party groupings are common in Serbia.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Serbia at joint 72nd out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 42 (where 100 is least corrupt).