Old Serbia

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Left: Old Serbia and Macedonia, map by Jovan Cvijić
Right: Old Serbia and Macedonia in 1913 (green)
Ethnographic map of the Balkans by Guillaume Lejean (1861). At that time the Serbs imagined the borders of their country spreading west.[1] Practically this view was accepted without objection by the Serbian statesman Čedomilj Mijatović.[2]
Early 20th century ethnographic map of the Balkans, based on the views of Jovan Cvijić. During the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 the Allies sanctioned Serbian control of Sandžak, North Macedonia, Kosovo and parts of Western Bulgaria, because they accepted the then Serbian agenda, most of the people living there, were in fact Serbs.[3]

Old Serbia (Serbian: Стара Србија / Stara Srbija) is a Serbian term[4] that is used to describe the territory that according to some Serbian authors formed the core of the late medieval Serbian Empire.[5] It comprised the regions of Raška, Kosovo and Metohija and parts of modern-day Macedonia.[6] The Slavic population of this territory was referred to by the Serbs to as Old Serbians. (Serbian: Старосрбијанци / Starosrbijanci).[7] Some modern authors assume the idea of Old Serbia is a historical myth from 19th century, based often on invented or tendentiously interpreted historical events.[8]


Vuk Stefanović Karadžić referred to "Old Serbia" as a territory of the Serb people that was part of medieval Serbia prior to the Ottoman conquest.[9] The term originated in Serbian common speech and was introduced by refugees of the Great Serb Migrations,[10] who lived in territories of the Habsburg Monarchy.

The toponym first appeared in the public sphere during the 1860s, the time of the triumph of Vuk Karadžić's ideas and the aspirations of liberating the areas to the south not yet liberated in 1833. These ideas are grounded in the late-19th-century Serbian nationalism and changed the goal of Serbia's territorial expansion from the west to the south. These ideas were important to Serbian nationalism during the Balkan Wars and the First World War.


After its appearance during the 1860s, the term denoted only Raška. By 1878, the Serbian state started saying "Old Serbia" also included Kosovo. By 1912, the claims were narrowed to Kosovo only.[11] The critical treatment of facts was damaged by the invocation of the past for the justification of present and future claims, and by the mixture of history and contemporary issues.[12] The core myth of Serbian identity became the idea Kosovo was the cradle of the Serbian nation.[11] Serbian rebels of the First Serbian Uprising and Second Serbian Uprising had no territorial ambitions over Kosovo.[13] A plan made during that period to create a Slav-Serbian empire in the Serb-inhabitated areas of the Ottoman Empire did not include Old Serbia.[13] Serbian interest in the Macedonia region was defined in the Nacertanije program,[14] which envisioned a Serbian state that included the Principality of Serbia and territories including Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro and Old Serbia.[14] This program responded to the need to spread propaganda among Slavs in the Ottoman Empire.[14] Naćertanije, however, did not mention Kosovo or Old Serbia.[13]

Serbian engagement with the region started in 1868 with the establishment of the Educational Council (Prosvetni odbor) that opened schools and sent Serb instructors and textbooks to Macedonia and Old Serbia.[15] In May 1877 a delegation of Serbs of Old Serbia presented their request to 'liberate' and unite Old Serbia with the Principality of Serbia to the government of Serbia.[16] They also informed representatives of the Great Powers and the Emperor of Russia about their demands.[16] In the same year the Committee for the Liberation of Old Serbia and Macedonia was founded.[17] In the 1877 peace after the Serbian-Turkish Wars (1876-1878), the Serbs hoped to gain the Kosovo Vilayet and Sanjak of Novi Pazar to the Lim River.[18] With the 1878 Treaty of Berlin, Serbia received full sovereignty and made territorial gains around this time, acquiring the districts of Niš, Pirot, Vranje and Toplica [sr].[18]

Following the Great Eastern Crisis (1875-1878), Serbs were dissatisfied with the emergence of Bulgaria as a rival for the region of Macedonia or "Old Serbia".[19] In 1913 the Sandžak, Kosovo and Metohija and Vardar Macedonia became part of the Kingdom of Serbia, and were subsequently organized into the province (pokrajina) South Serbia. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Serb publications aiming to counter Albanian interests and to justify Serbian historical claims in Kosovo and Macedonia through the recreation of Old Serbia in those territories appeared.[20] In 1914, groups within the Serbian army expressed dissatisfaction with certain elements of civilian governance in Old Serbia (Macedonia) and sought to undermine the Serb government by aiding a plot to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.[21]

Southern Old Serbia and Macedonia became subject of rivalry between Bulgaria and Serbia at the time of the Macedonian Question.[14] Kosovo, which was listed as "Old Serbia", was classified as an "unredeemed Serbian" region by the Black Hand, a secret society formed by Serb officers that generated nationalist material and armed activity by bands outside Serbia.[22] In 1906–1907, Jovan Cvijić wrote the Macedonian Slavs were an "amorphous" and "floating mass", and lacked national identity. Regarding northern Macedonia as "Old Serbia", he sought to legitimize Serbia's territorial claims over the territory.[23]


The "Old Serbia" bank opened in Skopje in 1923 to dominate and accelerate the economy of the region.[24] In Serbian historiography, the First Balkan War (1912-1913) is also known as War for Liberation of Old Serbia.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


a.   ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Kosovo is currently recognized as an independent state by 97 out of the 193 United Nations member states. In total, 112 UN member states recognized Kosovo at some point, of which 15 later withdrew their recognition.


  1. ^ Andrew Light, Jonathan M. Smith as ed., Philosophy and Geography II: The Production of Public Space, Rowman & Littlefield, 1998, ISBN 0847688100, p. 241.
  2. ^ Demeter, Gábor and al. (2015) Ethnic Mapping on the Balkans (1840–1925): a Brief Comparative Summary of Concepts and Methods of Visualization. In: (Re)Discovering the Sources of Bulgarian and Hungarian History. Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia-Budapest, pp. 65-100; (77).
  3. ^ George W. White, Nationalism and Territory: Constructing Group Identity in Southeastern Europe, Geographical perspectives on the human past, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000, ISBN 0847698092, p. 235-237.
  4. ^ Milovan Radovanović (2004). Etnički i demografski procesi na Kosovu i Metohiji. Liber Press. p. 33. Archived from the original on 2014-06-29. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  5. ^ Dedijer 2000.
  6. ^ Ivo Banač (1988). The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics. Cornell University Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-0801494932. Archived from the original on 2014-06-29. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  7. ^ Sebright & Irby 1877.
  8. ^ Atanasovski, Srđan, Producing Old Serbia: in the footsteps of travel writers, on the path of folklore in Aleksandar Pavlović, Gazela Pudar Draško, Rigels Halili as ed., Rethinking Serbian-Albanian Relations: Figuring out the Enemy, Routledge, 2019, ISBN 1351273159, pp. 22-39.
  9. ^ Vladimir Stojančević (1988). Vuk Karadžić i njegovo doba: rasprave i članci. Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna sredstva.
  10. ^ Milovan Radovanović (2004). Etnički i demografski procesi na Kosovu i Metohiji. Liber Press. p. 38. Archived from the original on 2014-06-29. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  11. ^ a b Rama, Shinasi A. (2019). Nation Failure, Ethnic Elites, and Balance of Power: The International Administration of Kosova. Springer. p. 76. ISBN 9783030051921.
  12. ^ Madgearu, Alexandru; Gordon, Martin (2008). The Wars of the Balkan Peninsula: Their Medieval Origins. Scarecrow Press. pp. 175. ISBN 9780810858466. Stara Srbija.
  13. ^ a b c Ejdus, Filip (2019). Crisis and Ontological Insecurity: Serbia’s Anxiety over Kosovo's Secession. Springer. pp. 45–46. ISBN 9783030206673.
  14. ^ a b c d Vučetić, Biljana (2018). "Serbia and the Macedonian Question: The intertwining of Politics and Science". In Motta, Giuseppe (ed.). Dynamics and Policies of Prejudice from the Eighteenth to the Twenty-first Century. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 236–244. ISBN 9781527517004.
  15. ^ Rossos, Andrew (2013). Macedonia and the Macedonians: A history. Hoover Press. p. 275. ISBN 9780817948832.
  16. ^ a b Mitrović 1996, p. 68.
  17. ^ Dragoslav Srejović; Slavko Gavrilović; Sima M. Ćirković (1983). Istorija srpskog naroda: knj. Od Berlinskog kongresa do Ujedinjenja 1878-1918 (2 v.). Srpska književna zadruga. p. 291. Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  18. ^ a b Jelavich 1983b, p. 29.
  19. ^ Crampton 2003, p. 15.
  20. ^ Jovanović, Vladan (2018). "The Savages Attack from Behind: Anthropological Stereotypes about Albanians in Serbian Public Discourse". In Motta, Giuseppe (ed.). Dynamics and Policies of Prejudice from the Eighteenth to the Twenty-first Century. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 258–259. ISBN 9781527517004.
  21. ^ Crampton, Richard J. (2003). Eastern Europe in the twentieth century–and after. Routledge. p. 6. ISBN 9781134712229.
  22. ^ Pavlowitch, Stevan K. (2003). "Serbia, Montenegro and Yugoslavia". In Djokić, Dejan (ed.). Yugoslavism: Histories of a Failed Idea, 1918–1992. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 59. ISBN 9781850656630.
  23. ^ Marinov, Tchavdar (2013). "Famous Macedonia, the Land of Alexander: Macedonian Identity at the Crossroads of Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian Nationalism". In Daskalov, Roumen; Marinov, Tchavdar (eds.). Entangled Histories of the Balkans - Volume One: National Ideologies and Language Policies. Brill. p. 315. ISBN 9789004250765.
  24. ^ "Banka 'Stara Srbija AD' u Skoplju između dva svetska rata". scindeks.nb.rs. Archived from the original on 2011-10-06.



Further reading[edit]

  • Jelavich, Barbara (1983a). History of the Balkans: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. 1. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521274586.
  • Ćirković, Sima (2004). The Serbs. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 9781405142915.
  • Zarković, V. (2011). "The work of Serbian diplomacy on the protection of Serbs in old Serbia in the last decade of the 19th century" (PDF). Baština (30): 105–116.
  • Raičević, Svetozar (1933). "Etnološke beleške iz Južne Srbije". Narodna Starina. 12 (32): 279–284.
  • Šešum, Uroš S. (2016). "Србија и Стара Србија: (1804-1839)". Универзитет у Београду, Филозофски факултет. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Jagodić, Miloš. "Планови o политици Србије према Старој Србији и Македонији (1878-1885)." Историјски часопис 60 (2011): 435–460.
  • Црквене прилике у Старој Србији од укидања Пећке патријаршије до Велике источне кризе (1766-1878), у: Историја и значај Призренске богословије : (поводом 140 годишњице од оснивања). - Ниш : Филозофски факултет : Призренска богословија Св. Кирила и Методија : Центар за црквене студије, 2013, 9-29.
  • Jagodić, Miloš. "Извештај Василија Ђорђевића о догађајима у Старој Србији из јула 1854." Мешовита грађа 36 (2015): 195–206.
  • NEDELJKOVIĆ, SLAVIŠA. "BETWEEN THE IMPERIAL GOVERNMENT AND REBELS (Old Serbia during the rebellion of the Shkodra Pasha Mustafa Bushati and the Bosnian aristocracy 1830–1832)." ISTRAŽIVANJA, Journal of Historical Researches 26 (2016): 91-105.
  • Šćekić, Radenko, Žarko Leković, and Marijan Premović. "Political Developments and Unrests in Stara Raška (Old Rascia) and Old Herzegovina during Ottoman Rule." Balcanica XLVI (2015): 79-106.

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