Yugoslavia: A Sketch of Yugoslav History before World War I

A Sketch of Yugoslav History before World War I

Slavs settled (6th–7th cent.) in the Balkans and were Christianized in the 9th cent. Slovenia was under Frankish (8th cent.), Bavarian (9th cent.), and Austrian (14th cent.) rule until 1918. A Croatian kingdom existed from the 10th to 11th cent., when it was conquered by Hungary, and Croatia was subsequently under Hungarian rule until the end of World War I. Bosnia was independent from the 12th to 15th cent., when it fell under Turkish rule. In the late 19th cent. it passed to Austria-Hungary, and its formal annexation (1908) was one of the irritants that led to World War I.

The region of Macedonia was contested between the Byzantines, Bulgarians, and others until conquered by Serbia in 14th cent., and like Serbia it fell to the Turks (late 14th cent.). Serbia gained control over the region during the Balkan Wars. A Serbian kingdom emerged (13th cent.) and under Stephen Dušan (r. 1331–55) became the most powerful Balkan state. Defeat (1389) at Kosovo Field brought Serbia under Turkish domination from the 14th to 19th cent., with Serbia securely in Turkish hands by 1459.

At the time of the defeat at Kosovo Field what is now Montenegro was the virtually independent principality of Zeta in the Serbian empire. The mountainous principality continued to resist the Turks, but by 1499 most of it had been conquered; Venice held the port of Kotor, and the Montenegrin princes ruled their remnant stronghold from Cetinje. Montenegro's independence was recognized by the Ottoman Empire in 1799, and in 1829 the Turks granted the Serbs autonomy under a hereditary prince. Montenegro and Serbia were recognized as independent by the European powers at the Congress of Berlin (1878). Serbia was proclaimed a kingdom in 1882, and it emerged from the Balkan Wars (1912–13) as a major Balkan power.

A movement for unification of the South Slavs (see also Pan-Slavism) was led by Serbia and was a major cause of World War I. When a Serbian nationalist assassinated (1914) Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Bosnia, Austria declared war on Serbia, thus precipitating World War I. Serbia and Montenegro were overrun by the Central Powers, but Serbian troops were evacuated to Allied-held Corfu, Greece, where representatives of the South Slavic peoples proclaimed (July, 1917) their proposed union under Serbian king Peter I. Montenegro's last monarch, Nicholas I, was deposed in 1918, and Montenegro was united with Serbia. In Dec., 1918, the “Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes” was formally proclaimed.

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