WORLD OF SERBS
The notion of Serbian Diaspora comprises all people outside of their respective Serbian homelands (all the territories of the former Yugoslavia) who consider themselves of Serbian ancestry and who identify with Serbian culture and language, regardless of whether they have Serbian citizenship or whether they belong to the second, third or earlier generation of emigrants. Although some members of the Serbian Diaspora do not speak the Serbian language nor observe Christianity they are still traditionally regarded as Serbs or Serbians and identify themselves as being of Serbian ancestry.
In addition to Serbia’s estimated population of 7,500,000 there are approximately 1,800,000 Serbs living in the other former Yugoslav republics (now independent states) for a total of 9,300,000 in the areas of former Yugoslavia. Another 3.2 million people are estimated to constitute the Serbian Diaspora. This is equal to about 45% of Serbia’s population and a third of the number of Serbs in the territories of former Yugoslavia.* The Diaspora is concentrated in Europe and North America. It is estimated that about 1.1 million – 1.2 million of the Serb Diaspora is in North America (with approximately .9 – 1 million of that in the United States) and about 1.9 in Europe. Statistics >>>
Serbian history has been marked by waves of migrations over the centuries. Today’s Diaspora is the product of migrations and the consequence of voluntary departure, coercion and/or forced migrations or expulsions.
Serb’s own beginning in the Balkans was the result of a migration from a previous homeland. Byzantine sources report that the Serbian people’s original homeland was in a location called White Serbia approximated to have been in North Central Europe between the Oder and Elbe Rivers (Lusatia). One part of this population migrated to the Balkans during the last half of the 6th century and first half of the 7th century, while the other part stayed in White Serbia. Historical documents chronicle that the Serbs who migrated south settled initially in the Thessalonica area at Roman Emperor Heraclius’ invitation. They eventually moved into the lands that now make up Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia. There they assimilated with other Slavs who had arrived earlier and other indigenous peoples. However, their language prevailed.
During the Ottoman Empire, from 1389 onward, ensuing revolts and battles ravaged Serb territories. This resulted in large Serb migrations from the Balkans to the Pannonian plain in the 14th century and lasted until the end of the 18th century taking Serbs across the Sava and Danube rivers where they resettled in today’s Vojvodina, Slavonia, Transylvania and Hungary proper.
During and post World War I Serbs migrated to Western Europe and North America for primarily economic reasons (200,000). Post World War II there was a migration wave of political refugees fleeing communism (350,000). From the mid-60s through the 70s there was another migration wave (500,000) north and west for economic reasons – temporary work abroad, education and other professional opportunities. During the 80s emigration continued to western Europe and North America, motivated by better professional opportunities abroad. And during the 90s to the present, driven by wars and sanctions, another 400,000 are estimated to have left.
Diaspora identity has been maintained by community efforts to preserve the language, religion, cuisine, literature, music and other aspects of the ethnic identity. Numerous institutions have enabled this preservation: the Serbian Orthodox Church, various community associations, charitable institutions, and more. An interesting study in Sweden examines the identity question with the Serb Diaspora from Bosnia now in Sweden. Study >>>
Throughout Serbian history the Serbian Diaspora has played a significant role in the affairs of the homeland, contributing economically, politically and culturally. The Diaspora provided significant support to Serbia’s efforts for independence at the beginning of the 19th century, volunteers and aid during difficult times of war and economic hardship, professional support and infusion of financial support through remittances and much more. Remittances analysis >>>
The Serbian Unity Congress continues this tradition. Our programs are designed to contribute to the building of civil society and economic improvement. Our Work >>>