Central Serbia (Serbian: Централна Србија or Centralna Srbija), also referred to as Serbia proper (Serbian: Ужа Србија or Uža Srbija), is the part of Serbia lying outside of the provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo (which declared independence in 2008). Central Serbia is a term of convenience, not an administrative division of Serbia as such, and does not have any form of separate administration. Until 2009, it was a statistical region; with the formation of new statistical regions of Serbia in 2009–2010, it was transformed into three new regions: Region of Belgrade, Region of South and East Serbia, and Region of Šumadija and Western Serbia.
Central Serbia is the historical core of modern Serbia, which emerged from uprisings against Ottoman Empire from 1804 to 1815. In the following century, Serbia gradually expanded south, acquiring South Serbia, Kosovo, Sandžak and Vardar Macedonia, and in 1918 it merged with other South Slavs into Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Current borders of Central Serbia are defined after World War II, when Serbia became a republic within SFR Yugoslavia, with Kosovo and Vojvodina as its autonomous provinces.
Viminacium (present-day Kostolac) was a capital of the Roman province of Upper Moesia in the 2nd century. The capitals of several medieval Serbian states were also located in the territory of later Central Serbia: Stari Ras (the capital of Raška), Debrc and Belgrade (the capitals of the Kingdom of Syrmia of Stefan Dragutin), Kruševac (the capital of the Moravian Serbia of Lazar Hrebeljanović), and Smederevo (the capital of the Serbian Despotate).
After the Serbian Despotate was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, an Ottoman administrative unit named the Sanjak of Smederevo was formed in part of this area with its seat in the city of Smederevo. Later, the seat of the sanjak was moved to Belgrade and the territory also became known as the Pashaluk of Belgrade.
Between 1718 and 1739, part of the region was under Habsburg administration and was known as the Kingdom of Serbia. After the First Serbian Uprising in 1804, it became a free Serbian state known as Serbia. It was conquered again by the Ottomans in 1813, but the Second Serbian Uprising (1815–1817) resulted in Serbia being recognized as an autonomous principality within the Ottoman Empire. In 1878, Serbia became a fully independent state, also enlarging its territory in the south-east. The borders of Serbia established in 1878 were similar to the borders of the later Central Serbia.
In 1913, Serbia further expanded its borders to the south, taking control of much of present-day Kosovo and Macedonia. Further territorial gains were made in the north and south-west in 1918. Serbia became part of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on December 1, 1918. The region later known as Central Serbia did not had a separate political status within the Kingdom, although in 1929, when new provinces of the Kingdom were formed, one of the provinces (Morava Banovina) was established in the eastern part of the later Central Serbia with its capital in Niš.
Between 1941 and 1944, most of the territory of what later became Central Serbia was part of the area governed by the Military Administration in Serbia which was occupied by German and Bulgarian troops with a Serbian puppet governments led by Milan Aćimović and Milan Nedić. South-western parts of what later became Central Serbia were occupied by Italy and were annexed to the neighbouring puppet state of Montenegro, while south-eastern parts were annexed by Bulgaria.
The Axis occupation ended in 1944 and the Democratic Republic of Serbia was formed as one of the republics of the new socialist Yugoslavia. In 1945, Vojvodina and Kosovo (also known as Kosmet in Serbian) became autonomous provinces within Serbia, thus the part of Serbia that was outside of these two regions became known as Uža Srbija ("Serbia Proper" in English). At the beginning of the 1990s, the term Uža Srbija was replaced with the new term Centralna Srbija ("Central Serbia" in English) and this new term was used in all official publications of the Serbian government that referred to the region.
With the formation of new statistical regions of Serbia in 2009-2010, territory of Central Serbia was officially transformed into 3 statistical regions: Region of Belgrade, Region of Šumadija and Western Serbia and Region of South and East Serbia.
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Besides the name "Central Serbia", the term "Serbia Proper" was also used in English to refer to the region. "Serbia Proper" is simply an English translation of the Serbian term "Uža Srbija" (Ужа Србија), which was used as a name of the region during the existence of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The term "Uža Srbija" was controversial and, due to that, Serbian government publications used "Centralna Srbija" (Central Serbia) instead. The term "Uža Srbija" was rejected because it implied a distinction between Serbia and its autonomous provinces.
According to the Library of Congress, "Serbia Proper" denoted "the part of the Republic of Serbia not including the provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo; the ethnic and political core of the Serbian state." However, the ethnic and political center of the Serbian people in one part of the Middle Ages was in Kosovo, while in one part of the Early modern period it was in Vojvodina. The region designated as "Serbia Proper" became the political center of Serbs in the 19th century, although its parts had important political role between 12th and 15th centuries.
The term "Serbia Proper" has also been used to differentiate the whole of Serbia (including the autonomous provinces) from the Serbian statelets in Croatia and Bosnia, and to differentiate the rest of Serbia (including Vojvodina) from Kosovo[a].
The use of the term "Serbia Proper" in English was purely geographical without any particular political meaning being implied. It has been used most often by the (non-Serbian) English-language media but also by the United Nations, English-language reports by the Serbian media and even on occasion by the Serbian government. Its usage crossed political boundaries, with both pro- and anti-Serbian groups employing it.
Some notable geographical regions located in Central Serbia were:
- Timočka Krajina
- Preševo Valley
Ethnic groups of Central Serbia according to the 2002 census.
- Serbs = 4,891,031 (89.48%)
- Bosniaks = 135,670 (2.48%)
- Roma = 79,136 (1.45%)
- Albanians = 59,952 (1.10%)
- Vlachs = 39,953 (0.73%)
- Montenegrins = 33,536 (0.61%)
- Yugoslavs = 30,840 (0.56%)
- Bulgarians = 18,839 (0.34%)
- Muslims = 15,869 (0.29%)
- Macedonians = 14,062 (0.26%)
- Croats = 14,056 (0.26%)
In 2002, most of the municipalities of Central Serbia had an ethnic Serb majority, three municipalities (Novi Pazar, Tutin, and Sjenica) had Bosniak majority, two municipalities (Bujanovac and Preševo) had Albanian majority, one municipality (Bosilegrad) had a Bulgarian majority, and one municipality (Dimitrovgrad) was ethnically mixed with a Bulgarian relative majority.
Notes and references
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|a.||^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Kosovo's independence has been recognised by 101 out of 193 United Nations member states.|
- Law of Regional Development (article 5) (in Serbian), National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia
- George W. White (1963). "VI. Serbia and the Serbs". Nationalism and Territory: Constructing Group Identity in Southeastern Europe.
- The Library of the Congress. Glossary - Yugoslavia.
- Popis stanovništva, domaćinstava i Stanova 2002. Knjiga 1: Nacionalna ili etnička pripadnost po naseljima (in Serbian). Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia. 2003. ISBN 86-84433-51-3.