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Embassy of the Republic of Serbia

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Brief history of Serbia until 1995

 

medieval

After the initial blooming of the Serbian state, a period of stagnation and retrogression followed. Marked by disintegration and crises it lasted until the end of 12th century. After a struggle for the throne with his brothers, Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Nemanjic dynasty, rose to power in 1166 and started renewing the Serbian state in the Raska region. Sometimes with the sponsorship of Byzantium, and sometimes opposing it, the Veliki zupan (a title equivalent to the rank of Grand Duke) Stefan Nemanja expanded his state seizing territories east and south, and newly annexed the littoral and the Zeta region. Along with his governmental efforts, the Veliki zupan dedicated much care to the construction of monasteries. His endowments include the Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery and the Studenica Monastery in the Raska region, and the Hilandar Monastery on Mt. Athos.

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Stefan Nemanja was succeeded by his middle son Stefan, whilst his first-born Vukan was given the rule of the Zeta region (present-day Montenegro). Stefan Nemanja's youngest son Rastko became a monk and took the name of Sava, turning all his efforts to spreading Christianity and faith among his people. Since the Vatican already had ambitions to spread its influence to the Balkans as well, Stefan used these propitious circumstances to obtain his crown from the Pope thus becoming the first Serbian king in 1217. In Byzantium, his brother Sava managed to secure the autocephalous status for the Serbian Church and became the first Serbian archbishop in 1219. Thus the Serbs acquired both forms of independence: political and in establishing its own Church.

The next generation of Serbian rulers - the sons of Stefan Prvovencani - Radoslav, Vladislav and Uros I, marked a period of further strengthening of the state structure. All three kings were to some extent dependent neighboring states - Byzantium, Bulgaria or Hungary. The ties with the Hungarians had a decisive role in the fact that Uros I was succeeded by his son Dragutin whose wife was a Hungarian princess. Later on, when Dragutin abdicated in favor of his younger brother Milutin, the Hungarian king Ladislaus IV gave him lands in northeastern Bosnia, the regions of Srem and Macva, and the city of Belgrade, whilst he managed to conquer and annex lands in northeastern Serbia. Thus, all these territories became part of the Serbian state for the first time.

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4 Under the rule of Dragutin's younger brother - King Milutin, Serbia grew stronger in spite of the fact that occasionally it had to fight wars on three different fronts. King Milutin was an exceptional diplomat inclined to the use of a customary medieval diplomatic expedient - dynastic marriage. He was married five times, with Hungarian, Bulgarian and Byzantine princesses. He is also famous for building churches, some of which are the brightest examples of Medieval Serbian architecture: the Gracanica Monastery in Kosovo, the Cathedral in Hilandar Monastery on Mt. Athos, the St. Archangel Church in Jerusalem etc. Because of his endowments, King Milutin has been proclaimed a saint. He was succeeded on the throne by his son Stefan, later known as Stefan Decanski. Spreading the kingdom to the east by winning the town of Nis and the surrounding counties, and to the south by acquiring territories in Macedonia, Stefan Decanski was worthy of his father and built the Visoki Decani Monastery in Metohija - the most monumental example of Serbian Medieval architecture - that earned him his byname.

 

5 Medieval Serbia that enjoyed a high political, economic and cultural reputation in Medieval Europe, reached its climax in mid-14th century, during the rule of Tsar (Emperor) Stefan Dusan. This was the period when the Dusanov Zakonik (Dushan's Code) the greatest juridical achievement of Medieval Serbia, unique among the European feudal states of the period. St. Sava's Nomocanon (Code of conduct covering all fields of life of citizens of Serbian Kingdom; ordinary people called it “Krmčija”, Dushan's Code, frescoes and the architecture of the medieval monasteries adorning Serbian lands are eternal civilization monuments of the Serbian people. Tsar Stefan Dusan doubled the size of his kingdom seizing territories to the south, southeast and east at the expense of Byzantium. He was succeeded by his son Uros called the Weak, a term that might also apply to the state of the kingdom slowly sliding into feudal anarchy. This is a period marked by the rise of a new threat: the Ottoman Turk sultanate gradually spreading from Asia to Europe.

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Embassy of the Republic of Serbia, 4-7-24 Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, Japan
tel. +81 (3) 3447-3571, fax +81 (3) 3447-3573
email: embassy@serbianembassy.jp, web site: www.serbianembassy.jp