Serbia: Restoration of Serbia

Restoration of Serbia

Much of Serbia's ensuing history revolved around the bloody feud between the Karadjordjević and Obrenović families. Miloš's absolutist tendencies caused popular resentment and forced his abdication in 1839; his son, Michael, shared the same fate. In 1842, Alexander Karadjordjević was recalled to the throne. The Congress of Paris, meeting in 1856 at the conclusion of the Crimean War, placed Serbia under the collective guarantee of the European powers while continuing to acknowledge Turkish suzerainty.

Miloš returned to power in 1858 at the behest of the Serbian parliament, but died two years later. Miloš's son Michael returned to the throne in 1860. In 1867 the last Turkish troops left Serbia. Upon the assassination of Michael (1868), his cousin, Prince Milan Obrenović, succeeded.

Milan liberalized the constitution in 1869, granting more power to the Skupchtina (lower house of Parliament). He also supported the rebellion of Bosnia and Herzegovina against Turkish rule and in 1876 declared war on Turkey. The rout of the Serbs led Russia to enter the war on the Serbian side. The Congress of Berlin (1878) recognized Serbia's complete independence and increased its territory. The placing of Bosnia and Herzegovina under Austro-Hungarian administration disappointed the Serbs, however.

Serbia's championship of Pan-Slavism in the Balkans engendered bitter rivalry with Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary. Milan, who was proclaimed king in 1882, harmed Serbian prestige by fighting an unsuccessful war with Bulgaria in 1885 over the question of Eastern Rumelia. The assassinations of King Alexander Obrenović (reigned 1889–1903) and his unpopular queen marked the end of the Obrenović dynasty.

With the accession of Peter I in 1903, the Karadjordjević dynasty entrenched itself. Peter restored the liberal constitution of 1889 and in 1904 appointed as premier Nikola Pašić, leader of the strongly nationalist and pro-Russian Radical party. The strengthening of parliamentary government and expansion of the economy greatly raised Serbia's prestige and exerted a powerful attraction on the South Slavs who remained under Austro-Hungarian rule. Austria-Hungary's annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908 was designed to quell sentiment in that region for union with Serbia. The angry Serbs retaliated by creating a Balkan League (Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece) to liberate the Balkan Slavs from both Austro-Hungarian and Turkish rule.

In 1912 the league declared war on and defeated Turkey, but the allies could not agree on division of the spoils. Dissatisfied with its failure to secure a major portion of the region of Macedonia in the first of the Balkan Wars, Serbia in 1913 turned against and defeated its former Bulgarian ally in the Second Balkan War. Serbia's victory made it the foremost Slavic power in the Balkans but greatly increased tensions with Austria-Hungary. When a Serbian nationalist (acting without governmental collusion) assassinated Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand in 1914, the empire declared war on Serbia, thus precipitating World War I.

The Serbian army fought bravely, but in 1915, when Bulgaria joined the Central Powers and Germany reinforced the Austrians, Serbia was overrun. The Serbian troops and government were evacuated to Kérkira (Corfu), where in 1917 Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, and Montenegrin representatives proclaimed the union of South Slavs. In 1918 the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, headed by Peter I of Serbia, officially came into existence. After that, the history of Serbia is essentially that of Yugoslavia.

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