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Über dieses Buch

This is a comprehensive regional geography synthesis of the most important physical and human spatial processes that shaped Serbia and led to many interesting regional issues, not only to Serbia but to the Balkans and Europe. The book provides an overall view on the Serbian physical environment, its population and economy. It also highlights important regional issues such as regional disparities and depopulation, sustainable development and ecological issues and rural economy in the context of rural area development, which have been shaped by different political and historical processes.

This highly illustrated book provides interesting and informative insights into Serbia and its context within the Balkans and Europe. It appeals to scientists and students as well as travelers and general readers interested in this region.



Historical and Geopolitical Context


1. Geographical PositionGeographical position of SerbiaSerbia

Serbia represents an excellent example of how the geographic position of a country is a complex and extremely dynamic category. Located at the Southeast Europe, as a medium-size country, Serbia occupies the central part of the Balkan Peninsula and the southern rim of Pannonian Basin. Being in such geographical position, Serbia and its people have been permanently under different political, economic and cultural influences.
Serbia is predominantly highland zone criss-crossed by river basins in the south, with highly fertile agricultural lands and navigable rivers and canals of the Pannonian Plain in the north. Being located in the North Temperate Zone characterized by normal day-and-night cycles, Serbia has mild continental climate that passes into mountain climate in the southern highland regions and continental climate in the Pannonia plain. It is a continental country but with favourable position for traffic and transportation. The political issues at the end of the last century and transition from centrally planned to market economy shaped Serbia as developing European country with a prominent depopulation and a high out-migration rate.
Milutin Tadić, Emilija Manić

2. Prehistory of SerbiaSerbia: A Brief Overview

Research has shown that the territory present-day Serbia was continuously inhabited from the earliest prehistoric to historic times. Covering most of what is Serbia today, the Central Balkans acted as an important migration corridor that connected Southwest Asia with Central and Western Europe. Moreover, the Central Balkans represented an important ecological and social refugium for European human communities during harsh glacial periods and other crises. The highest population densities throughout the region’s prehistory were recorded in river valleys, as well as the lowland and low hilly areas at their peripheries, while occupations of hilly-mountainous areas were more frequent during Paleolithic and Metal Ages. Apart from historical and social circumstances, population densities and the occurrence of specific settlement patterns were also influenced by the distribution of mineral and food resources exploited during particular intervals. Prehistoric cultural and demographic links between the Balkans and Central Europe or Southwest Asia have been well documented. However, the Balkans also saw the rise of authentic cultural manifestations such as the Lepenski Vir culture which have not been documented in other parts of Europe.
Dušan Mihailović, Dragana Antonović, Aleksandar Kapuran

3. SerbiaSerbia: A Historical Survey

The Serbs settled in present-day Serbia and wider Balkans in the early seventh century and created their early medieval states there. From the twelfth to fifteenth century, Serbia prospered under the rule of the Nemanjić dynasty, expanding her territory to the south at the expense of the Byzantine Empire. Serbia became an Empire at the height of her power and the Serbian Orthodox Church rose to the rank of Patriarchate. In the fifteenth century, Serbia fell under the Ottoman yoke and it was not before the nineteenth century that the country regained her independency through insurgency against the Ottomans and diplomatic struggle against the background of the Great Eastern Crisis. Serbia then struggled to maintain her independent status as her mighty neighbor Austria-Hungary strove to reduce her to a client state. This conflict was resolved through the ordeal of the First World War in which Serbia lost a quarter of her population and suffered material destruction but emerged victorious. Serbia liberated the South Slav lands of the defunct Habsburg Empire and formed the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia after 1919). The Yugoslav Kingdom was dismembered during the Second World War and became a stage for the most brutal civil war under the occupation. The communists won power at the end of the war and established the “second” Yugoslavia which broke up in another civil war during the 1990s. After a short-lived union with Montenegro, Serbia again became an independent country in 2006.
Radmila Pejić, Sofija Petković, Dejan Radičević

4. Political Geography of Serbia: Territorial Organization and Government

The territorial development of the modern Serbian state started from 1804, and it lasted through the second half of the nineteenth century and the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913. In that context, Serbia’s political-geographical status during the existence of the “three Yugoslavias” (1918–1941, 1945–1992 and 1992–2003), the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, and also after its gaining independence anew in 2006, was especially interesting. In parallel with its territorial development, the administrative structure of Serbia was developing too, together with the development of local self-government, and the competences of cities and municipalities, as well as the autonomous provinces. These changes were accompanied with the changes of the Serbian political system as well as the electoral system. After a very turbulent history and territorial changes, one of the biggest contemporary political challenges for Serbia is the problem of Kosovo and Metohija, its southern province, which Serbia currently has no control of. This situation as well as the relation to the significant world and regional countries, the European Union and NATO, must be analysed through the geostrategic position of Serbia.
Nebojša Vuković

Physical Geography


5. Climate of SerbiaSerbia

There are three types (with several subtypes) of climate in Serbia. According to the Köppen climate classification, the most parts of Serbia have moderately warm and humid climate; on higher altitudes, there is moderately cold and humid climate, whereas only in the parts with the highest mountains, cold and humid climate is represented. As the result of the urban heat island effect, the highest average annual air temperature is in Belgrade the capital of Serbia where it exceeds 12 °С. On the highest peaks of the mountains in the southwest and southeast of the country average annual air temperatures are below 2 °С. Range of absolute minimum and absolute maximum air temperatures is between −39.5 and 44.9 °С. Precipitation amount varies from 550 to 600 mm (mainly in the northern part of the country) to over 1100 mm on the highest mountains in the southwest. In the period from 1961 to 2010, the largest part of Serbia became warmer, but without the statistically significant trend in the received precipitation quantity. Snowfalls are a frequent occurrence in the winter part of the year and vary from 30 to 40 days on the northern lowland to cca 100 days on the highest mountains. On the annual level, the lowest value of insolation (1534.8 h) and the highest cloudiness (6.4) is at the station Požega (western Serbia). The distribution of values of relative humidity during a year is opposite to the distribution of air temperatures in Serbia (Belgrade has the lowest value of 68.6% on an annual scale). The most significant wind on the territory of Serbia is košava which can reach a speed up to 48 m/s.
Boško Milovanović, Gorica Stanojević, Milan Radovanović

6. Hydrological Characteristics of SerbiaSerbia

Most of the waters in Serbia are drained to the Black Sea drainage basin (92.6% of its territory), while only a few percentages belong to the Adriatic and Aegean basins. The largest rivers in Serbia are international rivers such as Danube, Sava, Drina, Tisza which have water discharge of 5084 m3/s and the domestic waters contribute with only 481 m3/s. Spatial and temporal distribution of runoff is unequal due to different pluviometric and temperature regimes. The average specific runoff is about 6 l/s/km2 and vary from <1 l/s/km2 (northern parts of Serbia) to 40 l/s/km2 (Prokletije Mt., Šar-planina Mt.). High waters occur in spring, and low waters appear during summer-autumn period. The floods in large river valleys threaten about 18% of the territory of Serbia, while torrential floods occur in small drainage basins with great terrain slopes and erosion on the territory south of the Sava and the Danube. In Serbia, there are a relatively small number of natural lakes. Reservoirs have greater importance for water management. There are also various types of aquifers which are mostly used for the water supply system, while the thermal-mineral water has a recreational-therapeutic purpose.
Marko Urošev, Ana Milanović Pešić, Jelena Kovačević–Majkić, Dragoljub Štrbac

7. Geomorphological Characteristics of SerbiaSerbia

The main morphological feature in the relief of Serbia is its gradual rise from the Pannonian Plain in the north to the highest parts of the Šar-Prokletije Mountains in the south and southeast. The central part of the territory encompasses the valleys of the Morava and Southern Morava Rivers, which flow from south to north. West of them lies a mountainous region with the Dinaric Mountains as the most exceptional range. The Carpathian-Balkan mountain range in the east undergoes a gradual decrease of elevation, transiting into marginal parts of the Vlaško-Pontian Plain. The relief base is made up of rocks of different age and different origin (sedimentary rocks with Quaternary alluvial and aeolian products as the most widespread and very abundant carbonate rocks), igneous rocks and diverse metamorphic rocks. The relief was formed over a long period of time with significant climate changes that led to alternation of geomorphological processes (aeolian, periglacial and glacial). In the relief of Serbia, depending on the role of geomorphological processes, it is possible to distinguish different genetic morphostructural types of relief that arose under the influence of endogenic forces (tectonic and volcanic) and exogenic processes (recent fluvial-denudation, karstic colluvial and periglacial). Preserved palaeorelief forms that arose during earlier stages of relief formation have been overprinted by recent geomorphological processes (palaeoabrasional, palaeokarstic, palaeoglacial and palaeoaeolian). Anthropogenic influence on relief (active for several centuries) was occasionally high enough to result in complete conversion of natural relief features and appearance of a new category – anthropogenic relief. Diverse lithology, a different tectonic fabric, neotectonic activity and former and recent climate changes are the major factors that have led to the formation of genetically diverse relief types, from different morphostructural relief elements to genetically various exogenic landscapes.
Predrag Djurović

8. Biogeographical Characteristics of the Territory of SerbiaSerbia: Richness and Spatial Distribution of Biodiversity, Endemism and Biogeographical Regionalization

The central Balkan position of Serbia accounts for its considerably rich biogeographic diversity. Owing to its climatic, orographic and pedologic features, the territory of Serbia is well suited for existence of different geo and migrant elements of plants and animals, and unique spatial and temporal structuring of its ecosystems. Here, many species originating from different European regions came close and made their home on this “crossroads” territory in contact with local living world, thus creating together biota that are complex or exceptional in composition. The succession of major geotectonic and climatic perturbations and changes unfolding through time and space across the country’s territory preserved, in its turn, richness of Balkan endemic species and significant centres of speciation and divergence for many plant aggregates and complex species of vascular flora, and for animal groups of cryptobionts (in karstic caves) and phanerobionts (arthropods, gastropods and vertebrates); thus, giving rise to manifold ecological relations and influences. In consequence, the biogeographical regionalization of Serbia is truly complex. In horizontal zonation, the territory of Serbia is characterized by three biogeographical regions outlined by specific zonal ecosystems spreading from lowlands to the foothill zone: Mediterranean-sub-Mediterranean, Central European and Pontic-South Siberian regions. The altitudinal zonation of ecosystems shows two biogeographical entities: South European montane-subalpine region and Central-South European subalpine-Alpine region.
Vladimir B. Stevanović

9. Geohazard and Geoheritage

On the territory of the Republic of Serbia, during the long-time period, many different physical-geographical processes created various features and landforms. In the contemporary period, they are under a strong influence of different human activities. Depending on the effects they have on human civilization, we can classify them into a group with the destructive consequences (geohazards) and a group of positive values (geoheritage). The Republic of Serbia belongs to a group of moderately risk areas regarding natural hazards. Dominant geohazards in Serbia are earthquakes, landslides, floods, torrential floods, atmospheric disasters (hail, drought, strong winds, and intensive precipitation), and forest fires. Geoheritage sites, as representations of the overall geodiversity, are distinguished and systematized into 12 groups, with a number of subgroups and a total of 551 individual sites, including 99 objects within the catalogue ex situ. The distinguished objects are objects of historical-geological and stratigraphic heritage, objects of petrological heritage, structural sites, geomorphological forms, neotectonic activity phenomena, geophysical occurrences, speleological sites, and objects of hydrogeological, pedological, and hydrological geoheritage.
Ivan Novković, Slavoljub Dragićević, Mirela Djurović



10. Demographic Profile of SerbiaSerbia at the Turn of the Millennia

Serbia, together with most of its neighbours – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, belongs to the world countries experiencing highest population decline. Its total population has been declining since the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia when the rate of natural change turned negative. The rising net emigration speeded up this trend at the turn of the millennia. In addition, Serbia is lagging behind most EU member states in terms of educational attainment of their working age population. The region of the capital city is the only one with a positive population growth in the country exclusively due to a positive balance of internal migration induced by attractiveness of the metropolitan area. Albeit Serbs are dominant majority, demographic profile of the country reveals rich ethnic heterogeneity, particularly in the Vojvodina region, resulted from the multifaceted interaction of historic, geographic and political factors. Yet, there are only four spatially homogeneous ethnic communities, three of which are grouped in the border areas, forming subregional majorities close to their homelands.
Daniela Arsenović, Vladimir Nikitović

11. Demographic Challenges in SerbiaSerbia

The present chapter focuses on fertility and mortality problems as the two big demographic challenges facing Serbia. The trend of the average number of live births to women who were past the reproductive age in 2011, considered by age cohorts, indicates an early below-replacement fertility and a long period in which the number of live births per woman was stable at the value of 1.8. Although younger cohorts have yet to age beyond their reproductive years, markedly lower average number of live births by women aged between 36 and 40 compared to women aged 41 and over in 2011 will probably deepen due to completed fertility declining below the 1.8 mark. At the same time, Serbia is struggling with high premature mortality. Premature deaths of middle-aged people, but also younger, reproductively capable people, have effect on the economy, childbearing, and depopulation. In Serbia, men are dying more prematurely than women. About half of all deaths of men younger than 75 in 2015 could have been avoided by either prevention or adequate and timely healthcare. Big urban centres are much better off in this regard, unlike more remote regions which often lack good healthcare services.
Mirjana Rašević, Marko Galjak

12. Migration and Mobility Patterns in SerbiaSerbia

Population mobility across borders and boundaries is of major relevance for shaping and development of both the areas of origin and destination as well as social relations between them. Building on the literature on migration, this chapter highlights different types of spatial mobility of the population in Serbia, focusing on international migration, internal migration and commuting. Although they can have common determinants, and some of them can also have the same societal effects, those population movements are characterized by a distinct type of administrative crossing and duration of residence at the destination. In Serbia, the migration type is even more blurred due to the state changing boundaries dating from the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. The majority of the population covered by those population movements are individuals who are active in the workforce while gender dynamics of migration is becoming more noticeable.
Vesna Lukić

13. Approaching Regional Depopulation in SerbiaSerbia

What would demographic future of Serbia look like if the recently adopted pronatalist policy became successful? How the change in migration patterns related to the Serbia’s expected EU accession can affect population dynamics of the country? These emerging demographic issues are discussed in the framework of the scenario-based population projection disaggregated at the district level. The declining and ageing trend of the total and working-age population in Serbia is strongly selective with respect to regional and sub-regional levels, even in the optimistic scenario of the successfully implemented pronatalist policy. Moreover, a resurgence in the number of live births can be expected only in districts along the central transport corridor, which connects the most developed and populous urban centres having a positive migration balance. On the other hand, the predominantly less developed border areas facing long-term out-migration will remain endangered. The results suggest that the policy measures have to be implemented much longer than the projection horizon shown, that is, in a strategic way, because their initial reach is limited to the improvement of the age structure, while the positive impact on the total population can be expected only in the decades after recovering the fertile contingent.
Vladimir Nikitović



14. Serbian Economy – History, Transition Transitions and Present

After liberation from the Ottoman rule, Serbia was primarily focused on building its internal political system, while most of its economy relied on primary sector activities such as agriculture and mining. During the First World War, Serbia suffered enormous material damage and human victims which additionally slowed down its economic development. Serbian economy development in the period between the two world wars was the consequence of ad hoc economic policies, with no long-term plans or government guaranties that the economic well-being of wider population would improve. Immediately after the Second World War, Serbia (as part of the former Yugoslavia) became a centrally planned economy with predominantly state-owned property. However, unlike other Central and Eastern European countries, the market economy elements were, more or less successfully, introduced in Serbia within the framework of socialist economy model. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbian economy transition to a complete market economy model was evolving in two phases. The 1990–2000 period was characterized by wars, international isolation of Serbia and high material and human losses. After the democratic changes in the year 2000, Serbia begins its journey of a new economic development in compliance to the standards of the European Union accession.
Đorđe Mitrović

15. AgricultureAgriculture in SerbiaSerbia

Agriculture is an important sector in the Serbian economy (due to its relatively high share in GVA and total employment), in which the most of rural residents in Serbia are engaged. There are around 565,000 farms in Serbia. However, there are significant differences in average farm size, production structure and production value between farms located in the north and the south of Serbia. Partially, these differences are evident due to differences in agricultural land. Most of Serbia’s high-quality land is located in the northern part of the country – Vojvodina (84% of total cultivable land in Serbia). The average utilized agricultural land (UAA) per holding in Serbia is 6.16 hectares, with slightly higher average size of farm in the Vojvodina region, while the farms above 100 ha utilized around 24% of Serbia’s agricultural area. The farm sector structure is atomized – farms up to 5 hectares of UAA prevail in the overall structure with 62% share in total number of farms. Generally, fragmented land parcels with small average parcel size are identified as significant problem. Plant production dominates in the total agricultural production in Serbia, which is a strong indicator of less developed sector.
Žaklina Stojanović

16. Natural Resources and Manufacturing Sector

Serbia has certain potential in using natural resources, which was the base for strong industrialization of the country during the period after World War II. Having large deposits of metals such as copper and lead-zinc ore, and using huge resources of the brown coal deposits, Serbian manufacturing structure was predominantly founded on the metal-processing and thermo energy industry, processing industries such as food and beverage, textile and leather industry, as well as the engineering industry located in few industrial centres. After destructive deindustrialization during the 1990s, Serbian manufacturing sector try to recover mostly within those industries for which the foreign capital was interested in, both through privatization or new investments. The natural resources exploitation was and still is a subject of interest for many foreign companies, but still not having too much interest in renewable energy resources exploatation. Although the labour-intensive industries and industries relayed on cheap but qualified labour became the base of the contemporary Serbian industry, there is a potential in new industries such as software and ITC industry.
Emilija Manić, Milena Lutovac

17. The Transport Sector in SerbiaSerbia

Serbia enjoys favourable geographic position at the crossroads of the main routes linking Central and Western Europe with the southeast of the continent and the Middle East. However, being on the outside borders of European Union, it has not fully benefitted from this geographic leverage. In this respect, the process of integration into the EU is of great importance, accompanied by international transport projects, ranging from pan-European corridors defined during the 1990s to the more recent extension of the trans-European transport network and the core network corridors to the Western Balkan region. These projects have highly influenced Serbia’s transport policies, which aim to upgrade the national transport system according to EU standards and to achieve complete integration into the single European market. A commitment to these goals implies costly infrastructural investments and non-physical improvements in all transport modes, as well as in their efficient interconnectivity and interoperability being embodied in the growing relevance of intermodal transport flows. However, in a country with a relatively deteriorated transport infrastructure, such as Serbia, an excessive focus on the national transport system may worsen intraregional, socioeconomic disparities by neglecting local transport initiatives and the needs of deprived areas.
Ivan Ratkaj

18. Services: Finance, TradeTrade and Tourism

In Serbia, the services cover around 57% share in the total country’s GDP (2018) and more than 55% of the total workforce. By observing these data, Serbia can be categorized among the countries that survived the transition period by transforming its economy towards tertiary industries. However, the industrialization process in Serbia was not the consequence of the economic development, but the result of a destructive process at the end of the last century. The country’s recovery after the year 2000 and the implemented economic policy resulted with a strengthening of the service sector (trade, banking sector and tourism). At the same time, this sector, primarily under the influence of foreign investments, was rapidly changing primarily in the financial sector, and starting from 2011 these changes were observable in trade industries, too. Although Serbia doesn’t have mass tourism generators considering its landlocked position and relief, tourism based on the MICE, City Break, spa and mountains is on the constant rise for the last 15 years. However, diverse cultural heritage still isn’t enough interpreted in a right way in the Serbian tourism offer.
Svetlana Popović, Dragan Stojković, Radmila Jovanović

19. SerbiaSerbia Internationally: International Trade Trades and Integrations

Serbia has re-emerged as a subject of international trade in 2006 after a long period of economic sanctions and trade isolation. Its trade with the world is under the potential and its exports include low-processed products. The main trade partners of Serbia include the European Union (EU), other signatories of the Revised Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA 2006) and the Russian Federation. But the EU also dominates as the main FDI investor in Serbia. Concerning regional trade integration, Serbia is a member of CEFTA 2006 integration that represents a free trade area in the Western Balkans. Serbia also aspires to become a member of the EU and is in the accession process. At present, 16 chapters are opened for negotiation out of 35 in total. The World Trade Organization is the main global trade institution, but Serbia is not a member yet and this has a significant impact on its treatment in global trade relations.
Predrag Bjelić, Ivana Popović Petrović

Regional Development and Specificities


20. Environmental Issues in Serbia: Pollution and Nature Conservation

Serbia is facing several serious environmental problems which are strongly related to its historic legacy of a centrally planned economy and insufficient investments in the ecological-related projects. It is facing the serious air pollution in the major cities (category III), low level of the wastewater from utility and industrial sources (that less than 15%), an inadequate waste management with a small percentage of recycling, as well as the degradation and pollution of the quality soil which is one of the key natural resources in Serbia. On the other hand, its rich and diverse natural heritage has been under the nature conservation process started from 1948 when The Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia was established. The protected areas in Serbia currently cover 662,435 ha with two areas on the UNESCO MaB list included as biosphere reserves: Golija-Studenica and Bačko Podunavlje and five national parks.
Vladimir Stojanović, Milana Pantelić, Stevan Savić

21. Development Challenges Faced by Cities in SerbiaSerbia

The cities in Serbia are a heterogeneous system of settlements of various demographic size, economic development and functional capacity, resulting from different predispositions for development in a specific geographic and socio-historical context. This chapter considers cities as urban centres which are hubs of their local government units that have a central function in their spheres of influence. Although this is not congruent with the concept of a city defined by multiple relevant laws, it aptly reflects the cities in Serbia; however, that is not the subject of this discussion. This debate examines the system of settlements in a specific territory from the perspective of urban geography, with urban systems or networks of settlements at different levels of development, but all of which have at least one central settlement, along with other surrounding subordinate settlements. This approach to urban systems enables a comprehensive view of the cause-and-effect relationships that define each urban system, namely their space, population and activities, and it avoids incomplete views by focusing on just some aspects of urban development. Finally, this approach has also been used in the long practice of spatial planning in Serbia.
Nikola Krunić, Aleksandra Gajić, Dragutin Tošić

22. Rural AreasRural areas Serbia Rural economies and Rural EconomyRural economies in SerbiaSerbia

Serbian rural areas are represented through the prism of the heterogeneity of their geographical and socio-economic features. It is difficult to strictly define the rural area and settlement in Serbia due to the mosaic structure of rural settlements’ network. This chapter introduced rural areas as a network of the non-urban settlements, at the same time offering an overview of varieties in defining Serbian rural areas, which are still matter of consensus. The different pace of development, variety of potentials and spatial dispersion of socio-economic processes led to developmental inequalities in rural areas and expressed polarization in many rural attributes (morphology, population distribution, settlement network, economic structure, etc.). It conditionally divides the whole territory on “inhabited, vital north and empty, non-vital south”. This argument is justified by observation of the two distinctive processes on rural areas: intensive depopulation and rapid deagrarization, as well by the quality of rural environment based on the evaluation of the outdoor amenities. Such “polarized Serbian rurality” offers a simple but relevant understanding of the development trends and real state of rural areas in Serbia.
Marija Drobnjaković, Žaklina Stojanović, Sonja Josipović

23. Regional Disparities in SerbiaSerbia

Serbia is a country with emphasized regional disparities that have been increased in recent years. Territorial differences that exist in Serbia are among the largest in Europe. Nevertheless, regionalization and regional policy issues do not have an appropriate place in domestic public policies. One of the consequences of neglecting this issue is that Serbia uses European funds insufficiently, in order to ensure a balanced regional development. Occasional and discordant activities aimed at supporting the development of underdeveloped areas provide only sporadic and insufficiently sustainable results. It is especially interesting to see the inter-regional (between NUTS 2) and intra-regional (between NUTS 3 within NUTS 2) disparities, considering demographic and economic regional differences and using such indicators which can show the extent of regional disparities in Serbia. It is undoubtedly indicated that regional policy in Serbia needs fast reaffirmation. In doing so, the focus should be on the EU’s Cohesion Policy, in particular from the point of view of its mechanisms and measures that are aimed at reducing regional inequalities.
Dejan Molnar


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