Kingdom of Serbia


The First Serbian Uprising of 1804–1813, led by Đorđe Petrović (also known as Karađorđe or “Black George”), and the Second Serbian Uprising of 1815, resulted in the Principality of Serbia. As it was semi-independent from the Ottoman Empire, it is considered to be the precursor of modern Serbia. In 1876, Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina declared war against the Ottoman Empire and proclaimed their unification. Serbia and Montenegro secured sovereignty, which was formally recognized at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, leaving Bosnia and the Sanjak of Novi Pazar to Austria-Hungary, which blocked their unification until the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 and World War I.

From 1815 to 1903, the Serbian state was ruled by the House of Obrenović, except from 1842 to 1858, when Serbia was ruled by Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević. In 1903, the House of Obrenović was replaced by the House of Karađorđević, who were descendants of Đorđe Petrović.


Picture 1: King Petar I Karađorđević

In 1848, Serbs in the northern part of present-day Serbia, which was ruled by the Austrian Empire, established an autonomous region known as the Serbian Vojvodina. As of 1849, the region was transformed into a new Austrian crownland known as the Vojvodina of Serbia and Tamiš Banat. The crownland was abolished in 1860, demands for Vojvodina region autonomy re-emerged in 1918.

The Balkan wars in 1912. and 1913. were an important precursor to World War I, to the extent that Austria-Hungary took alarm at the great increase in Serbia’s territory and regional status. This concern was shared by Germany, which saw Serbia as a satellite of Russia. Serbia’s rise in power thus contributed to the two Central Powers’ willingness to risk war following the assassination in Sarajevo of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria in June 1914.

Faced with the Russian threat, Austria-Hungary could spare only one-third of its army for Serbia. After suffering tremendous losses, the Austrians briefly captured the Serbian capital, but Serb counterattacks succeeded in expelling the invaders from the country by the end of 1914. For the first ten months of 1915. Austria used most of its spare armies to fight Italy. However, German and Austrian diplomats scored a great coup by convincing Bulgaria to join in a new attack on Serbia.


Picture 2: Serbian soldiers at Salonica front

The conquest of Serbia was finally accomplished in a little more than a month, starting on October 7, when the Austrians and Germans attacked from the north. Four days later the Bulgarians attacked from the east. The Serbian army, attacked from two directions and facing certain defeat, retreated east and south into Albania, and then by ship to Greece. In late 1915, a Franco-British force landed at Salonica in Greece to offer assistance and to pressure the Greek government into war against the Central Powers. Unfortunately for the Allies, the pro-Allied Greek government of Eleftherios Venizelos was dismissed by the pro-German King Constantine I before the Allied expeditionary force had even arrived.

Most of its army and some people went to exile to Greece and Corfu where it healed, regrouped and returned to the Macedonian front to lead a final breakthrough through enemy lines on September 15, 1918, freeing Serbia again and ending the World War I on November 11. In World War I, Serbia had 1,264,000 casualties—28 percent of its total population, and 58 percent of its male population.