Featured Destination of the Month: Serbia
Picture everything you want from a classic European country, then add a level of quirk that you won’t find anywhere but the Balkans. Serbia is one of Europe’s more sizeable countries, yet it remains largely overlooked by travelers who tend to look westward rather than venturing east. Serbia is a It is a landlocked nation in southeast Europe, bordered by Hungary on the north, Romania and Bulgaria to the East, Kosovo and Macedonia to the south, and Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro to the west. Serbia as it exists now, is a very young nation, with the most recent major change being the independence of Kosovo, dating from 17 February 2008. Part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes from 1918, it became part of Yugoslavia, when that entity came into existence in 1929.
In 1989, during Slobodan Milosevic’s presidency of the Serbian Republic, Yugoslavia split along ethnic divisions, with Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia declaring independence in 1991, and Bosnia in 1992. A new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was formed by Serbia and Montenegro in 1992, and Milosevic’s attempts to unite Serbs into “Greater Serbia” resulted in expulsion from the United Nations. Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo eventually provoked NATO bombing Serbia in 1999 and the stationing of a NATO security force in Kosovo. Following Milosevic’s ousting and arrest for crimes against humanity in 2001, the country was readmitted to the United Nations. In 2003, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia became Serbia and Montenegro. Montenegro seceded in 2006 and became independent on the third of June of that year, and Serbia declared itself the successor to the joint state. Violence stemming from 2004 led to the eventual declaration of independence by Kosovo.
The estimated population of Serbia was 10,159,046 in July, 2008, including the population of Kosovo. According to the 2002 census, this includes 82.9% Serbs, 3.9% Hungarians, and smaller numbers of Gypsies, Yugoslavs, Bosniaks, and Montenegrins, among others. Most of the population (85%) are Serbian Orthodox, with 5.5% being Catholic, 3.2% being Muslim, and 1.1% Protestant. While 88.3% of the population speak the official language, which is Serbian, 3.8% speak Hungarian, with fewer numbers speaking Bosniak, Romany, and other languages. The population has a 96.4% literacy rating, but this figure from 2003 includes Montenegro.
The capital of the Republic of Serbia is Belgrade, and it is divided into 161 municipalities. Serbia has a high unemployment rate, and most workers are employed in industry (46%) followed by agriculture (30%) and the service sector (24%). Agricultural products include beef and pork, milk, wheat and maize, sugar beets, raspberries, and sunflowers. Industries include sugar, machinery, and equipment. The cuisine of Serbia includes a baked dish called musaka made with ground meat, eggs, and potatoes; stuffed cabbage, called sarma; stuffed peppers; various mixtures wrapped in pastry; and meatballs. Plum and grape brandy and beer are produced locally.
For a quick visual tour of what makes Serbia special, check out these compelling Instagram pictures.
If you’d like to take a basic traveler’s tour through Serbia, visit this Lonely Planet review.