Continuously inhabited territory since the Paleolithic Age by pra-slavic tribes, Serbs established
several regional states in the early Middle Ages at times recognised as tributaries to the Byzantine,
Frankish and Hungarian kingdoms. The Serbian Kingdom obtained recognition by the Holy See and
Constantinople in 1217, reaching its territorial apex in 1346 as the Serbian Empire. By the mid-16th
century, the Ottomans annexed the entirety of modern-day Serbia; their rule was at times interrupted
by the Habsburg Empire, which began expanding towards Central Serbia from the end of the 17th century
while maintaining a foothold in Vojvodina. In the early 19th century, the Serbian Revolution established
the nation-state as the region's first constitutional monarchy, which subsequently conquered its historical
territories. Following casualties in World War I, and the subsequent unification of the former Habsburg
crownland of Vojvodina with Serbia, the country co-founded Yugoslavia with other South Slavic nations,
which would exist in various political formations until the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. During the breakup
of Yugoslavia, Serbia formed a union with Montenegro, which was peacefully dissolved in 2006, restoring
Serbia's independence as a sovereign state for the first time since 1918.
A landlocked country situated at the crossroads between Central and Southern Europe, Serbia is located
in the Balkan peninsula and the Pannonian Plain. Serbia lies between latitudes 41° and 47° N, and longitudes
18° and 23° E. The country covers a total of 88,361 km2, which places it at 113th place in the world. Its
total border length amounts to 2,027 km.
The Pannonian Plain covers the northern third of the country
while the easternmost tip of Serbia extends into the Wallachian Plain. The terrain of the central part of
the country, with the region of Šumadija at its heart, consists chiefly of hills traversed by rivers.
Mountains dominate the southern third of Serbia. Dinaric Alps stretch in the west and the southwest, following
the flow of the rivers Drina and Ibar. The Carpathian Mountains and Balkan Mountains stretch in a north–south
direction in eastern Serbia.
Ancient mountains in the southeast corner of the country belong to the
Rilo-Rhodope Mountain system. Elevation ranges from the Midžor peak of the Balkan Mountains at 2,169 metres
to the lowest point of just 17 metres near the Danube river at Prahovo. The largest lake is Đerdap Lake (163
square kilometres) and the longest river passing through Serbia is the Danube (587.35 kilometres).
The climate of Serbia is under the influences of the landmass of Eurasia and the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean
Sea. With mean January temperatures around 0 °C, and mean July temperatures of 22 °C, it can be classified as a
warm-humid continental or humid subtropical climate. In the north, the climate is more continental, with cold
winters, and hot, humid summers along with well-distributed rainfall patterns. In the south, summers and autumns
are drier, and winters are relatively cold, with heavy inland snowfall in the mountains.
Differences in elevation,
proximity to the Adriatic Sea and large river basins, as well as exposure to the winds account for climate variations.
Southern Serbia is subject to Mediterranean influences. The Dinaric Alps and other mountain ranges contribute to the
cooling of most of the warm air masses. Winters are quite harsh in the Pešter plateau, because of the mountains which
encircle it. One of the climatic features of Serbia is Košava, a cold and very squally southeastern wind which starts
in the Carpathian Mountains and follows the Danube northwest through the Iron Gate where it gains a jet effect and
continues to Belgrade and can spread as far south as Niš.
The average annual air temperature for the period
1961–1990 for the area with an altitude of up to 300 m is 10.9 °C. The areas with an altitude of 300 to 500 m have
an average annual temperature of around 10.0 °C, and over 1,000 m of altitude around 6.0 °C. The lowest recorded
temperature in Serbia was −39.5 °C on 13 January 1985, Karajukića Bunari in Pešter, and the highest was 44.9 °C, on
24 July 2007, recorded in Smederevska Palanka.
Serbia is a country of rich ecosystem and species diversity—covering only 1.9% of the whole European territory, Serbia
is home to 39% of European vascular flora, 51% of European fish fauna, 40% of European reptiles and amphibian fauna,
74% of European bird fauna, and 67% European mammal fauna. Its abundance of mountains and rivers make it an ideal
environment for a variety of animals, many of which are protected including wolves, lynx, bears, foxes, and stags.
There are 17 snake species living all over the country, 8 of them are venomous.
Mountain of Tara in western Serbia
is one of the last regions in Europe where bears can still live in absolute freedom. Serbia is home to about 380 species
of birds. In Carska Bara, there are over 300 bird species on just a few square kilometres. Uvac Gorge is considered one
of the last habitats of the Griffon vulture in Europe. In area around the city of Kikinda, in the northernmost part of
the country, some 145 endangered long-eared owls are noted, making it the world's biggest settlement of these species.
The country is considerably rich with threatened species of bats and butterflies as well.
There are 380 protected
areas of Serbia, encompassing 4,947 square kilometres or 6.4% of the country. The "Spatial plan of the Republic of Serbia"
states that the total protected area should be increased to 12% by 2021. Those protected areas include 5 national parks
(Đerdap, Tara, Kopaonik, Fruška Gora and Šar Mountain), 18 nature parks, 15 "landscapes of outstanding features", 61
nature reserves, and 281 natural monuments.
With 29.1% of its territory covered by forest, Serbia is considered to be
a middle-forested country, compared on a global scale to world forest coverage at 30%, and European average of 35%. The
total forest area in Serbia is 2,252,000 ha or 0.3 ha per inhabitant. It had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean
score of 5.29/10, ranking it 105th globally out of 172 countries. The most common trees are oak, beech, pines, and firs.
For centuries straddling the boundaries between East and West, the territory of Serbia had been divided among the Eastern
and Western halves of the Roman Empire; then between Byzantium and the Kingdom of Hungary; and in the early modern period
between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Empire. These overlapping influences have resulted in cultural varieties
throughout Serbia; its north leans to the profile of Central Europe, while the south is characteristic of the wider Balkans
and even the Mediterranean. The Byzantine influence on Serbia was profound, first through the introduction of Eastern
Christianity in the Early Middle Ages. The Serbian Orthodox Church has many monasteries built in the Serbian Middle Ages.
Serbia was influenced by the Republic of Venice as well, mainly though trade, literature and romanesque architecture.
Serbia has five cultural monuments inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage: the early medieval capital Stari Ras and
the 13th-century monastery Sopoćani; the 12th-century Studenica monastery; the Roman complex of Gamzigrad–Felix Romuliana;
medieval tombstones Stećci; and finally the endangered Medieval Monuments at Kosovo and Metohija (Visoki Dečani, Our Lady
of Ljeviš, Gračanica and Patriarchal Monastery of Peć).
There are two literary works on UNESCO's Memory of the World
Programme: the 12th-century Miroslav Gospel, and scientist Nikola Tesla's archive. The slava (patron saint veneration), kolo
(traditional folk dance), singing to the accompaniment of the gusle and Zlakusa pottery are inscribed on UNESCO Intangible
Cultural Heritage Lists. The Ministry of Culture and Information is tasked with preserving the nation's cultural heritage
and overseeing its development, with further activities undertaken by local governments.
Tourism in Serbia is officially recognized as a primary area for economic and social growth. The hotel and catering sector
accounted for approximately 2.2% of GDP in 2015. Tourism in Serbia employs some 75,000 people, about 3% of the country's
workforce. In recent years the number of tourists is increasing, especially foreign ones for about hundred thousand arrivals
more each year. In 2019, tourism generated an income of nearly $1.698 billion, hosting 3 million and seven hundred thousand
tourists, half of whom were foreigners. Chinese tourists were the most numerous foreign visitors, followed by tourists from
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Germany. Major destinations for foreign tourists are Belgrade and Novi Sad,
while domestic tourists prefer spas and mountain resorts. Eco-friendly and sustainable tourism has also become very popular
among domestic tourists, with many young people visiting various nature reserves and parks in the western and southern part
of the country. Serbia is also known for gastronomic tourism, in both urban and rural areas of the country, with Belgrade
being the central meeting point with over 1800 restaurants, coffee shops, bars and nightlife venues.
Serbian cuisine is largely heterogeneous in a way characteristic of the Balkans and, especially, the former Yugoslavia. It
features foods characteristic of lands formerly under Turkish suzerainty as well as cuisine originating from other parts of
Central Europe (especially Austria and Hungary). Food is very important in Serbian social life, particularly during religious
holidays such as Christmas, Easter and feast days i.e. slava.
Staples of the Serbian diet include bread, meat, fruits,
vegetables, and dairy products. Bread plays an important role in Serbian cuisine and can be found in religious rituals. A
traditional Serbian welcome is to offer bread and salt to guests. Meat is widely consumed, as is fish. The southern Serbian
city of Leskovac is host to Roštiljijada, a yearly grilled meat barbecue-based festival that is considered the biggest barbecue
festival in the Balkans.
Other Serbian specialties include ćevapčići (grilled and seasoned caseless sausages made from minced
meat), pljeskavica (grilled spiced meat patty made from a mixture of pork, beef and lamb), gibanica (cheese pie), burek (baked
pastry made from a thin flaky dough that is stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables), sarma (stuffed cabbage), punjena paprika
(stuffed pepper), moussaka (casserole made from minced meat, eggs, and potatoes), Karađorđeva šnicla (veal or pork schnitzel
that is stuffed with kajmak), đuveč (meat and vegetable stew), pasulj (bean soup), podvarak (roast meat with sauerkraut), ajvar
(roasted red pepper spread), kajmak (dairy product similar to clotted cream), čvarci (variant of pork rinds), proja (cornbread)
and kačamak (corn-flour porridge).
Serbians claim their country as the birthplace of rakia (rakija), a highly alcoholic drink primarily distilled from fruit. Rakija
in various forms is found throughout the Balkans, notably in Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Hungary and Turkey. Slivovitz
(šljivovica), a plum brandy, is a type of rakia which is considered the national drink of Serbia.
Winemaking traditions in Serbia
dates back to Roman times. Serbian wines are produced in 22 different geographical regions, with white wine dominating the total
amount. Besides rakia and wine, beer is a very popular alcoholic beverage in the country. Pale lagers are currently and have been
the traditional beer choice for Serbians. Meanwhile, dark lagers, while still being popular, are produced and consumed in much
smaller quantities. The most popular domestic brands of beer are Jelen, followed by Lav, which are both pale lagers.
As in the
rest of the former Yugoslavia, coffee drinking is an important cultural and social practice and Serbian coffee (a local variant of
Turkish coffee) is the most commonly consumed non-alcoholic beverage in Serbia.
Sports play an important role in Serbian society, and the country has a strong sporting history. The most popular sports in Serbia
are football, basketball, tennis, volleyball, water polo and handball.
Professional sports in Serbia are organised by sporting
federations and leagues (in the case of team sports). One of the particularities of Serbian professional sports is the existence
of many multi-sport clubs (called "sports societies"), the biggest and most successful of which are Red Star, Partizan, and Beograd
in Belgrade; Vojvodina in Novi Sad; Radnički in Kragujevac; and Spartak in Subotica.
Football is the most popular sport in Serbia,
and the Football Association of Serbia with 146,845 registered players, is the largest sporting association in the country. Dragan
Džajić was officially recognised as "the best Serbian player of all time" by the Football Association of Serbia, and more recently
the likes of Nemanja Vidić, Dejan Stanković, Branislav Ivanović, Aleksandar Kolarov and Nemanja Matić play for the elite European
clubs, developing the nation's reputation as one of the world's biggest exporters of footballers. The Serbia national football team
lacks relative success although it qualified for three of the last four FIFA World Cups. The two main football clubs in Serbia are
Red Star (winner of the 1991 European Cup) and Partizan (a finalist at the 1966 European Cup), both from Belgrade. The rivalry
between the two clubs is known as the "Eternal Derby", and is often cited as one of the most exciting sports rivalries in the world.
Nikola Jokić, 2020–21 NBA MVP and four-time NBA All-Star. Serbia is one of the countries with the largest number of NBA players
and with the greatest success in FIBA international competitions.
Serbia is one of the traditional powerhouses of world basketball,
as Serbia men's national basketball team have won two World Championships (in 1998 and 2002), three European Championships (1995,
1997, and 2001) and two Olympic silver medals (in 1996 and 2016) as well. The women's national basketball team have won two European
Championships (2015, 2021) and an Olympic bronze medal in 2016. A total of 31 Serbian players have played in the NBA in the last
three decades, including Nikola Jokić (2020-21 NBA MVP and three-time NBA All-Star), Predrag "Peja" Stojaković (2011 NBA champion
and three-time NBA All-Star), and Vlade Divac (2001 NBA All-Star and Basketball Hall of Famer). The renowned "Serbian coaching school"
produced many of the most successful European basketball coaches of all time, such as Željko Obradović (who won a record 9 Euroleague
titles as a coach), Dušan Ivković, Svetislav Pešić, and Igor Kokoškov (the first coach born and raised outside of North America to be
hired as a head coach in the NBA). KK Partizan basketball club was the 1992 European champion.
The Serbia men's national water polo
team is one of the most successful national teams, having won an Olympic gold medal in 2016 and 2020, three World Championships (2005,
2009 and 2015), and seven European Championships (2001, 2003, 2006, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018). VK Partizan has won a joint-record
seven European champion titles.
The recent success of Serbian tennis players has led to an immense growth in the popularity of
tennis in the country. Novak Djokovic has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles and has held the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for a
record total of 366 weeks. He became the eighth player in history to achieve the Career Grand Slam, the third man to hold all four
major titles at once, the first ever to do so on three different surfaces, and the first in the Open Era to achieve a double Career
Grand Slam. Ana Ivanovic (champion of 2008 French Open) and Jelena Janković were both ranked No. 1 in the WTA Rankings. There were
two No. 1 ranked-tennis double players as well: Nenad Zimonjić (three-time men's double and four-time mixed double Grand Slam champion)
and Slobodan Živojinović. The Serbia men's tennis national team won the 2010 Davis Cup and 2020 ATP Cup, while Serbia women's tennis
national team reached the final at 2012 Fed Cup.
Serbia is one of the leading volleyball countries in the world. Its men's national
team won the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics, the European Championship three times, as well as the 2016 FIVB World League. The women's
national volleyball team are current world Champions, have won European Championship three times (2011, 2017 and 2019), as well as an
Olympic silver medal in 2016.
Jasna Šekarić, sport shooter, is one of the athletes with the most appearances at the Olympic Games.
She has won a total of five Olympic medals and three World Championship gold medals. Other noted Serbian athletes include: swimmers
Milorad Čavić (2009 World championships gold and silver medalist as well as 2008 Olympic silver medalist on 100-metre butterfly in
historic race with American swimmer Michael Phelps) and Nađa Higl (2009 World champion in 200-metre breaststroke); track and field
athletes Vera Nikolić (former world record holder in 800 metres) and Ivana Španović (long-jumper; four-time European champion, World
indoor champion and bronze medalist at the 2016 Olympics); wrestler Davor Štefanek (2016 Olympic gold medalist and 2014 World champion),
and taekwondoist Milica Mandić (2012 Olympic gold medalist and 2017 world champion).
Serbia has hosted several major sport
competitions, including the 2005 Men's European Basketball Championship, 2005 Men's European Volleyball Championship, 2006 and 2016
Men's European Water Polo Championships, 2009 Summer Universiade, 2012 European Men's Handball Championship, and 2013 World Women's
Handball Championship. The most important annual sporting events held in the country are the Belgrade Marathon and the Tour de Serbie