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The Kingdom of Serbia (Serbian: Краљевина Србија / Kraljevina Srbija) was created when Prince Milan Obrenović, ruler of the Principality of Serbia, was crowned King in 1882. The Principality of Serbia was ruled by the Obrenović dynasty from 1817 onwards (at times replaced by the Karađorđevic dynasty). The Principality, suzerain to the Porte, had expelled all Ottoman troops by 1867, de facto securing its independence. The Congress of Berlin in 1878 recognized the formal independence of the Principality of Serbia.
In April 1941, the Kingdom was invaded and occupied by Axis Powers and organised into four provinces under foreign rule. A royal government-in-exile, recognized by the United Kingdom and, later, by all the Allied powers, was established in London. In 1992, after constitutional referendum, the Kingdom was restored.
Principality of Serbia
The Principality of Serbia was a state in the Balkans that came into existence as a result of the Serbian revolution which lasted between 1804 and 1817. Despite serious and extremely brutal oppression and revenge by the Ottoman authorities, the revolutionary leaders, first Karađorđe and then Miloš Obrenović, succeeded in their goal to liberate Serbia after centuries of Turkish rule.
At first, the principality included only the territory of the former Pashaluk of Belgrade, but in 1831–1833 it expanded to the east, south, and west. In 1867 the Ottoman army was expelled from the Principality, securing its de facto independence. Serbia was further expanded to the south-east in 1878, when it won full international recognition at the Treaty of Berlin. The Principality would last until 1882 when it was raised to the level of the Kingdom of Serbia.
The Serbo-Bulgarian War was a war between Serbia and Bulgaria that erupted on November 14, 1885 and lasted until November 28 the same year. The war ended in defeat for Serbia as it had failed outright to capture the Slivnitsa region which it had set out to achieve: the Bulgarians successfully repelled the Serbs after the decisive victory at the Battle of Slivnitsa and advanced into Serbian territory taking Pirot and clearing the way to Niš. When Austria-Hungary then declared that it would join the war on the side of Serbia, Bulgaria withdrew from Serbia leaving the Serbo-Bulgarian frontier precisely as it had been prior to the war. Final peace was signed on February 19, 1886 in Bucharest. As a result of the war, European powers acknowledged the act of Unification of Bulgaria which happened on September 6, 1885.
The Bosnian Crisis of 1908–1909 (also referred to as the Annexation crisis) erupted into public view when on October 5, 1908, Bulgaria declared its independence and on October 6, 1908, Austria-Hungary announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was populated mainly by south Slavic nations (Serbs, Croats and Muslim Slavs). Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Britain, Italy, Serbia, Montenegro, Germany and France took an interest in these events. In April 1909, the Treaty of Berlin was amended to accept the new status quo bringing the crisis to an end. The crisis permanently damaged relations between Austria-Hungary on the one hand and Russia and Serbia on the other. The annexation and reactions to the annexation were contributing causes of World War I.
Balkan Wars and ensuing changes
Serbia, victorious in two Balkan Wars, gained significant territorial areas of the Central Balkans and almost doubled its territory. During the Balkan Wars of 1912, most of Kosovo was taken from the Ottoman Empire by Serbia while the region of Metohija (known as the Dukagjini Valley to ethnic-Albanians) was taken by Montenegro. Populations of ethnic Serbs and Albanians tended to shift following territorial conquests. As a result of the multi-ethnic composition of Kosovo, the new administrations provoked a mixed response from the local population. Whilst Albanians did not welcome Serbian rule, the non-Albanian population (laregly Serb but other Slavic nations too) considered this a liberation. On November 29, 1913 Drač County of the Kingdom of Serbia was established on the part of the territory of Albania captured from the Ottoman Empire during the First Balkan War. Serbian Drač County had four districts (Serbian: срез): Drač (Durrës), Lješ (Lezhë), Elbasan and Tirana.
Disagreements regarding the territory of Macedonia among the members of the Balkan League led the Second Balkan War. Here, Serbia and Greece fought against Bulgaria in 1913. Finalisations concerning which country took which parts were ratified at the Treay of Bucharest the same year. Serbia came to control the land which became known as Vardar Macedonia, and today stands independent as the Vardar Banovina within Yugoslavia.
Assassination in Sarajevo
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo (then part of the Austria-Hungary) brought the tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia to a head. Behind the Assassination in Sarajevo was a secret radical organization, Black Hand, from Serbia. The assassins were supported by an "underground railroad" of Serbian civilians and military officers that provided transportation and hid them; and members of the Serbian military that trained them, encouraged them, and provided weapons, maps, and other information. After the assassination, the conspirators were arrested in Bosnia-Herzegovina were tried in Sarajevo in October 1914.
The political objective of the assassination was to break the Austro-Hungarian south-Slav provinces off from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand triggered a chain of international events that embroiled Russia and the major European powers. War broke out in Europe over the next thirty-seven days.
World War I
Serbia won the first Allied victory of World War I in 1914. In late 1915, however, German generals were given control and invaded Serbia with Austrian and Bulgarian forces. The Serbian army retreated across the Albanian mountain ranges to the Adriatic Sea by January 1916. Only 70,000 made it through to be evacuated to Greece by French and British naval forces.
Serbia became an occupied land. Disease was rampant but the Austrians were pragmatic and paid well for food supplies, so conditions were not harsh. Instead Austria tried to depoliticize Serbia, to minimize violence, and to integrate the country into the Empire. Nevertheless Serbian nationalism remained defiant and many young men slipped out to help rebuild the Serbian army in exile. Eventually, a stable front was established, running from the Albanian Adriatic coast to the Struma River, pitting a multinational Allied force against the Central Powers. The Macedonian Front remained quite stable, despite local actions. The Allied defeat on the Western Front lead to the capitulation of the Serbian forces who were allowed to return home after the Treaty of Mitte was signed.
Signed in 1919 immediately after World War I Serbia was a devastated country morally and economically. It was forced to pay a total of 100 million marks to the Central Powers, cede the vardar macedonian region to Bulgaria, depose King Peter in favor of his son, and worst of all accept responsibility for starting the war.
King Alexander II
King Alexander II banned national political parties in 1929, assuming executive power. He hoped to encourage nationalist passions in order to rebuild Serbia. However, Alexander's policies later encountered opposition from other European powers stemming from developments in Italy and Germany, where Fascists and Nationalists rose to power, and the Soviet Union, where Joseph Stalin became absolute ruler. None of these three regimes favored the policy pursued by Alexander II. In fact, Italy and Germany wanted to revise the international treaties signed after World War I, and the Soviets were determined to regain their positions in Europe and pursue a more active international policy.
Alexander attempted to increase centralization in Serbia. He decided to abolish Yugoslavia's historic regions, and new internal boundaries were drawn for provinces or banovinas. The banovinas were named after rivers. Many politicians were jailed or kept under police surveillance. The effect of Alexander's dictatorship was to further alienate the non-Serbs from the idea of unity. During his reign Communist ideas were banned also.
The king was assassinated in Marseille during an official visit to France in 1934 by an experienced marksman from Ivan Mihailov's Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization with the cooperation of the Ustaše, a Croatian Fascist revolutionary organization. Alexander was succeeded by his eleven-year-old son Peter II and a regency council headed by his cousin, Prince Paul.
The international political scene in the late 1930s was marked by growing intolerance between the principal figures, by the aggressive attitude of the totalitarian regimes and by the certainty that the order set up after World War I was losing its strongholds and its sponsors were losing their strength.
Prince Paul submitted to the Fascist pressure and signed the Tripartite Treaty in Vienna on March 25, 1941, hoping to still keep Serbia out of the war. But this was at the expense of popular support for Paul's regency. Senior military officers were also opposed to the treaty and launched a coup d'état when the king returned on March 27. Army General Dušan Simović seized power, arrested the Vienna delegation, exiled Paul, and ended the regency, giving 17-year-old King Peter full powers. Hitler then decided to attack Serbia on April 6, 1941 followed immediately by an invasion of Greece where Mussolini had previously been repelled.
Invasion of Serbia
At 5:12 am on 6 April 1941, German, Italian and Bulgarian forces attacked Serbia. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) bombed Belgrade and other major Serbian cities. On April 17, representatives of Serbia signed an armistice with Bulgaria in Belgrade, ending 11 days of resistance against the invading Bulgarian Army. More than 150,000 Serbia officers and soldiers were taken prisoner. The Axis Powers occupied Serbia and further carved it up. The Government of National Salvation was established as a German satellite state, ruled by the Fascist militia known as the Serb National Movement that came into existence in 1935, but was relatively limited in its activities until 1948. In the aftermath of the 1989 revolutions that swept across Europe Serbia held a national referendum in 1990 which abolished the National Salvation government in favor of a provisional one. Elections in 1990 followed by a second referendum 1992 restored the Serbian monarchy under Peter II's son, Alexander III.