Serbs make up the dominant ethnic group in Serbia, but there are also a large number of minority groups. The number of residents has dropped steadily since the early 1990s, due to low birth rates and high emigration.
The ethnic Serbs are a Slavic people who immigrated to the Balkans from today’s Ukraine in the 6th century. Alongside the Serbs are Hungarians (mainly in Vojvodina), Romans, Bosniaks, Croats, Slovaks, Montenegrins, Vlachs, Romanians and others.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Serbia, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
According to a 2011 census, the Serbs make up the dominant population group in Serbia itself (just over 83 percent) and in the ethnically more mixed Vojvodina (over 67 percent).
In Sandžak in the southwest, near the border with Montenegro, a lot of Slavic Muslims, mainly Bosnians, live. There have been contradictions between Serbs and Muslims, as well as between Muslim groups.
In the Preševo valley at the far south, with the border with Kosovo and northern Macedonia, there is an Albanian majority who harbor strong distrust of Belgrade. Many have strong ties with Kosovo and the local Albanian UÇPMB guerrilla attempted in an uprising in 1999–2001 in vain to unite the Preševo Valley with Kosovo.
In 2010, around 20 ethnic minorities were allowed to elect their own representatives in the country’s municipalities for the first time. At the same time, Serbian nationalist groups, hostile to minorities, appear to have been on the wings since nationalist parties came to power in 2012.
The population that came to close to 8 million at the outbreak of the war in 1991 is estimated to have fallen below the 7 million mark in 2019. Earlier population figures, however, also included hundreds of thousands from the then Yugoslavia who lived and worked abroad.
During the wars of the 1990s, many highly educated and young people set out to escape military service, financial difficulties and an uncertain future. Lack of future faith and hopes for a better life outside Serbia continue this development. It is often well-educated people who give up. According to the country’s statistical authority, in 2021 the country will have more pensioners than people of working age.
During the Balkan war in the 1990s, Serbia received about half a million refugees, mostly Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also Serbs and Roma from Kosovo. Many of these have, with the help of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, been able to return to their former homelands, but many have also remained in Serbia where they have sought Serbian citizenship. Those who have fled Kosovo have been able to remain (but often in poor conditions) as they are regarded as internal refugees as Serbia sees Kosovo as a Serbian province.
From the mid-2010s, large streams of refugees from mainly the war in Syria have also come via the so-called Balkan route to Serbia, which, however, most have seen as a transit country to richer countries in Europe. In the spring of 2016, the Balkan route was closed, but despite this, people continue to come to Serbia, often with the help of human traffickers.
Serbian is a South Slavic language. It is written with the Cyrillic alphabet, but today the Latin alphabet is also often used. However, following the victory of the nationalists in the 2012 elections, one can see how the Cyrillic script is used as a way of strengthening and emphasizing the Serbian identity. Hungarian, which is the most important minority language, is mainly spoken in Vojvodina.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Serbs 83%, Hungarians 3.5%, Bosniaks 2%, Roma 2%, others (incl. unknown and no answers) 9.5% (census 2011)
Number of residents
7 022 268 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
55.9 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
9.2 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
14.3 per 1000 residents (2016)
-0.5 percent (2017)
1.5 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
51.1 percent (2017)
75 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
78 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
73 years (2016)
- Albanian and Hungarian are most important minority sources
Formal EU application
Serbia submits a formal application for membership to the EU.
Free access to Schengen
The citizens of Serbia (like those in Montenegro and Macedonia) are granted visa-free access to the EU Schengen area.
New constitution for Vojvodina
The Serbian Parliament adopts a new constitution (statutes) for Vojvodina, which gives the province increased autonomy.
Russia provides Serbia with a billion euros loan to help cover the budget deficit.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approves a loan of EUR 3 billion to Serbia.
Eulex takes over
The EU takes over the police operations in Kosovo after the UN (the so-called Eulex).
The former leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadžić, is arrested in Belgrade after managing to stay away for 13 years. He is brought to The Hague to face trial, accused of war crimes.
Coalition government under the Democratic Party
Mirko Cvetković of President Tadić’s Democratic Party becomes new prime minister at the head of a coalition government that also includes Slobodan Milošević’s old, but now somewhat modernized and reformed Socialist Party, whose leader, Ivica Dačić, becomes the first deputy prime minister and interior minister.
Victory for EU-friendly alliance in the recent election
Tadićs valallians For a European Serbia will be the largest with 102 seats, while the Radical Party will receive 78 seats. Troubled government negotiations begin.
SAA agreement with the EU
The EU signs a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia, a first step towards EU membership. However, the agreement will only enter into force after Serbia has shown genuine willingness to try to arrest suspected war criminals.
The government resigns because of Kosovo
Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence leads to a government crisis in Serbia and Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica submits his resignation application.
Kosovo proclaims independence
The now UN-governed Serbian province of Kosovo proclaims its independence, despite the fact that no agreement could be reached within the UN in talks on the province’s future rule.
Tadić re-elected President
Democratic Party leader Boris Tadić is re-elected as president of Serbia after barely defeating nationalist Tomislav Nikolić in a second round. This is considered to increase Serbia’s chances of joining the EU.