Position, Relief, Climate


Population, Language and Religion

National Minorities

Refugees in Serbia



Position, Relief, Climate

Serbia is located in the central part of the Balkan Peninsula, on the most important route linking Europe and Asia, occupying an area of 88, 361 sq. km. Serbia is in the West European time zone (one hour ahead of Greenwich time). Its climate is temperate continental, with a gradual transition between the four seasons of the year.

Serbia is referred to as the cross-roads of Europe. The international roads and railways passing down its river valleys make up the shortest link between Western and Central Europe, on the one side, and the Middle East, Asia and Africa, on the other. Hence the geopolitical importance of its territory. These roads follow the course of the valley of the river Morava, splitting in two near the city of Nis. One track follows the valleys of the rivers Southern Morava and Vardar to Thessaloniki; the other, the river Nisava to Sofia and Istanbul.

Serbian rivers belong to the basins of the Black, Adriatic and Aegean Seas. Three of them, the Danube, Sava and Tisa, are navigable. The longest river is the Danube, which flows for 588 of its 2.857 kilometer course through Serbia. The Danube basin has always been important for Serbia. With the commissioning of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal in September 1992, the Black Sea and the Near and Far Eastern ports have come much nearer to Europe. Serbia is linked to the Adriatic Sea and Montenegro via Belgrade-Bar railway.

Northern Serbia is mainly flat, while its central and southern areas consist of highlands and mountains. The flatlands are mainly in Vojvodina (the Pannonian Plain and its rim: Macva, the Sava Valley, the Morava Valley, Stig and the Negotin Marches in Eastern Serbia). 55 per cent of Serbia is arable land, and 27 per cent is forested. Of its mountains 15 reach heights of over 2.000 meters, the highest being Djeravica in the Prokletija range (2,656 m).

The length of Serbia's border is 2.114,2 km. To the East Serbia borders with Bulgaria, to the North East with Romania, to the North with Hungary, to the West with Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the South West with Montenegro and to the South with Albania and Macedonia.

Population, Language and Religion

The ethnic composition of the population of the Republic of Serbia is very diverse, which is a result of the country's turbulent past. The majority of the population of Serbia are Serbs, but another 37 ethnicities also live on its territory. All citizens have equal rights and responsibilities and enjoy full ethnic equality.

The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia guarantees rights to minorities, in accordance with the highest international standards. The latest 2002 census puts the population of Serbia (excluding Kosovo-Metohija) at 7,498,001, which made up 92.3% of the population of the former State Union of Serbia-Montenegro. Serbs make up 82.86% of the population, Hungarians 3.91%, Bosniaks 1.81%, Roma 1.44%, Yugoslavs 1.08%, Croats 0.94%, Montenegrins 0.92%, Albanians 0.82%, Slovaks 0.79%, Vlachs 0.53%, Romanians 0.46%, Macedonians 0.34%, Bulgarians and Vojvodina Croats 0.27% each, Muslims 0.26%, Ruthenians 0.21%, Slovaks and Ukrainians 0.7% each, Gorani 0.06%, Germans 0.05%, and Russians and Czechs 0.03% each.

The official language in Serbia is Serbian and the script in official use is Cyrillic, while Latin script is also used. In the areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, the languages and scripts of the minorities are in official use, as provided by law.

The main religion of Serbia is Christian Orthodox, the faith of the Serbian people. The Serbian Orthodox Church, which has been autonomous since 1219, has played an important role in the development and preservation of the Serbian national identity. Beside the Christian Orthodox population, there are also other religious communities in Serbia: Islamic, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and others.

National Minorities

With respect to ethnic composition of the former state union of Serbia-Montenegro, now separate republics of Serbia and Montenegro, the structure of the population is highly heterogeneous. The prevalent national minorities are Albanians, Hungarians and Bosniaks. According to the 1991 census (Serbia carried out a new census in 2002, and Montenegro in 2003), 33.7% of the population on the territory of former Serbia-Montenegro belongs to minority communities, of which four-fifths are Albanians, Hungarians and Bosniaks.

According to the 2002 census, there are 1,135,393 members of national minorities in Serbia, excluding Kosovo-Metohija. The largest number of national minorities live in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, namely Hungarians (290,207), Croats (56,645) Slovaks (56,637), Romanians (30,419), Roma (29,057), Bunjevci (19,766), Ruthenes (15,626), Macedonians (11,785), Ukrainians (4, 635), Germans (3,154), Czechs (1, 648), and others. There are 59,952 members of Albanian national minority living in Serbia Proper, as well as 135,670 Bosniaks, 18,839 Bulgarians, 39,953 Vlachs, 3,975 Gorani, 14,062 Macedonians, 15,869 Muslims, 79,136 Roma, 14,569 Croats and others.

The largest number of ethnic Albanians live in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo-Metohija. However, it is difficult to establish their exact number in the province due to a number of reasons, including the fact that the ethnic Albanian minority last took part in the 1981 census, boycotting the one carried out in 1991. Also, armed conflicts, the migration of a high number of Serbs and members of other minorities in the province, as well as the arrival of tens of thousands of Albanians from Albania have largely altered Kosovo-Metohija's ethnic composition.

Refugees in Serbia

The wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina led to huge migrations of the people of Serbian and Montenegrin nationality, who found refuge in their mother republics – Serbia and Montenegro.

Depending on the source of data, estimates on the number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have varied from 350,000 to 800,000. Terrorist attacks by the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, the 1999 air campaign of the NATO alliance and the arrival of KFOR troops have forced the non-Albanian population to flee the territory of Kosovo-Metohija.

In cooperation with the UNHCR, a registration of IDPs from Kosovo-Metohija was carried out in the Republic of Serbia in the year 2000. The initiative continued after April 2000, as the non-Albanian population continued to migrate out of the territory. By July 2001, more than 200,000 IDPs had been registered in Serbia.

In April 2001, the Serbian Commissariat for Refugees, in cooperation with the UNHCR, again carried out a registration of refugees and others who had fled to Serbia because of the war. The first analyses of the data from July 2001 registered 451,980 persons in Serbia. Of that population, 377,731 had the refugee status, while 74,249 did not meet all the necessary conditions to acquire this status under international law. The greatest number of refugees were from Croatia (about 63%), while the percentage of those from Bosnia-Herzegovina dropped to 36%.

Regardless of possibilities for return, the majority of refugees and IDPs (60.6% of those from Croatia and 59.8% of those from Bosnia-Herzegovina) opted for integration into the former State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.

In 2001, 408 collective centres were registered in the territory of Serbia, accommodating 30,056 people. Of this number, 20,949 were refugees, while 9,107 were IDPs from Kosovo-Metohija. About 10,000 lived in unregistered collective centres, while others lived either with their relatives or friends, or paid housing rents.

The greatest number of refugees was recorded in Vojvodina, Belgrade and in the municipalities of Loznica and Sabac.

The displaced from Kosovo-Metohija mainly resided in central Serbia, with the greatest concentrations in Belgrade, Kraljevo, Kragujevac, Nis, Smederevo, Krusevac, Leskovac, Vranje and Kursumlija.

In a new process of registration of refugees in Serbia, carried out from November 27, 2004 to January 25, 2005, 139,483 persons with the refugee status applied for registration, which is 50% less in relation to the registration from 2001.

The number of approximately 140,000 refugees does not mean that today there are two times less refugees in Serbia than in 2001, but that some 100,000 people have obtained the citizenship, while a smaller number returned to the country they had fled from or went to a third country.

Some 140 collective centres, including 19 in Kosovo-Metohija which house 1,000 IDPs, give home to a total of 11,000 refugees and IDPs who are in the most difficult position, as shown by the latest registration.

There are three basic methods in which the problem of refugees can be permanently solved. These are:

- Repatriation to the communities from which the refugees came;
- Integration into the communities to which the refugees settled;
- Emigration to a third country


Both Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accord and the Agreement on the normalization of relations between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and the Republic of Croatia confirm the right of refugees to return.

The priority of the Republic of Serbia is repatriation, considering this the most acceptable and long-term solution. The realisation of this form of permanent solution requires previous guarantees of the international community and the governments of the countries refugees are returning to. Refugees must be accepted into their communities and provided conditions to live in security and dignity.

In April 1998, a protocol on the procedure for organised return of refugees to Croatia was signed between the governments of the FRY and the Republic of Croatia. The protocol gave the UNHCR the role of international coordinator, which would, pursuant to its mandate, assist in the mutual implementation of the agreed system. Some 7,550 refugees returned home under this arrangement, while another 7,350 organised their own return to Croatia.

On October 6, 2003, the former State Union of Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina signed in Belgrade an agreement on the return of refugees who are in the territories of Serbia-Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The agreement was signed by Minister of Human and Minority Rights of the former State Union of Serbia-Montenegro Rasim Ljajic and Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia-Herzegovina Mirsad Kebo. This document created legal grounds for the acceleration of the process of the return of refugees and easier realisation of housing and other property rights.


Although repatriation is seen as the best permanent solution to the refugee problem, the Republic of Serbia respects the decision of the majority of refugees who have decided to make Serbia their home.

As early as 1994, the Serbian government and the Commissariat for Refugees of the Republic of Serbia began preparations for a programme for the permanent settlement of refugees in its territory.

In accordance with the above-mentioned programme, the Serbian government began construction of housing for refugees in Serbia in 1997. Significant budget funds were earmarked for that purpose. In the same year, the UNHCR initiated a similar programme in the FRY. This programme closely resembles that of the Serbian government, differing only in that the donor is the UNHCR, which provides funds for the construction of housing – while the state, namely municipalities where the construction takes place, provide for infrastructure and employment for one member of each refugee family.

The beneficiaries of this program acquired the citizenship of the former FRY. Large families, the disabled and single mothers had a priority in the process of acquiring permanent accommodation.

Departure to a third country

One of the remaining options for a permanent solution to the refugee problem is their departure to a third country. The greater number of those who had opted for emigration to a third country have done so through the International Organisation for Migration and the UNHCR. Refugees mostly emigrate to Canada, Australia and the USA.

The Serbian Commissariat for Refugees will continue to work, within its possibilities, on the processes of repatriation and integration of refugees, which it sees as the two most important approaches to the refugee problem in Serbia.


Basic statistical data on Serbia (according to the census from 2002)  


88,361 km2


Between 41°52' and 46°11' of North latitude and 18°06' and 23°01' of East longitude

Population (excluding Kosovo)


Largest Cities (over 100,000 inhabitants)


Number of citizens



Novi Sad






Longest River




588 km (total 2783 km)

Zapadna Morava

308 km (308 km)

Juzna Morava

295 km (295 km)


272 km (272 km)


220 km (346 km)


206 km (945 km)


202 km (202 km)

Velika Morava

185 km (185 km)


168 km (966 km)


151 km (218 km)


118 km (359 km)


75 km (244 km)

Highest Mountain Peaks




2,656 m (on mountain Prokletije)

Crni Vrh

2,585 m (Šar-mountain)


2,539 m (Prokletije)


2,533 m (Prokletije)

Zuti Kamen

2,522 m (Prokletije)


2,498 m (Šar-mountain)


2,461 m (Koprivnik)

Crni Krs

2,426 m (Prokletije)


2,403 m (Hajla)

Total length of railway network

3,619 km

Total length of roads

42,692 km (asphalt) and 24,860 km (concrete )

Agricultural land

5,718,599 ha out of witch:
·  4,674,622 ha Arable land,
·  1,006,473 ha Pastures,
·  37,504 ha Fish-ponds.

Sown with:

·  2,453,374 ha Cereals
·  494,598 ha Reed-marshes and ponds forage
·  348,641 ha Industrial herbs
·  300,484 ha Vegetables
·  256,887 ha Orchards
·  85,763 ha Vineyards
·  2,164 ha Nursery-gardens
·  64,722 ha Not cultivated
·  666,702 ha Meadows
·  86,866 ha Forests



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