The region of Central Serbia is not an administrative division of Serbia as such; it is under the direct jurisdiction of the republic authorities. Kosovo and Vojvodina have certain degree of territorial autonomy.
The territory of Central Serbia is divided into 17 districts and the city of Belgrade, while districts are further divided into municipalities. The districts are:
Also see: Districts of Serbia.
The following cities of Central Serbia have a population higher than 50,000 (according to the 2002 census):
Viminacium (present-day Kostolac) was a capital of the Roman province of Upper Moesia in the 2nd century. The capitals of several medieval Serbian states were also located in the territory of present-day Central Serbia: Ras (the capital of Raška), Debrc and Belgrade (the capitals of the Kingdom of Syrmia of Stefan Dragutin), Kruševac (the capital of the state of Lazar Hrebeljanović), and Smederevo (the capital of the Serbian Despotate).
After the Serbian Despotate was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, an Ottoman administrative unit named the Sanjak of Smederevo was formed with its seat in the city of Smederevo. Later, the seat of the sanjak was moved to Belgrade and the territory also became known as the Pashaluk of Belgrade.
Between 1718 and 1739, the region was under Habsburg rule, and after the First Serbian Uprising in 1804, it became a free Serbian state known as Serbia. It was conquered again by the Ottomans in 1813, but the Second Serbian Uprising (1815-1817) resulted in Serbia being recognized as an autonomous principality within the Ottoman Empire. In 1878, Serbia became a fully independent state, also enlarging its territory in the south-east. The borders of Serbia established in 1878 were very similar to the borders of the present-day Central Serbia.
In 1913, Serbia further expanded its borders to the south, taking control of much of present-day Kosovo and Macedonia. Further territorial gains were made in the north and south-west in 1918. Serbia became part of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on December 1, 1918. The region today known as Central Serbia did not have a separate political status within the Kingdom, although in 1929, when new provinces of the Kingdom were formed, one of the provinces (Morava Banovina) was established in the eastern part of the present-day Central Serbia with its capital in Niš.
Between 1941 and 1944, the territory of present-day Central Serbia was occupied by German troops and was part of the puppet state of Serbia that included present-day Central Serbia, Banat and the northern part of Kosovo. The south-eastern parts of present-day Central Serbia were during this time under Bulgarian occupation, while the south-western parts were occupied by Italy and were annexed to the neighbouring puppet state of Montenegro.
The Axis occupation ended in 1944 and the Democratic Republic of Serbia was formed as one of the republics of the new socialist Yugoslavia. In 1945, Vojvodina and Kosovo (known as Kosovo and Metohija in Serbian) became autonomous provinces within Serbia, thus the part of Serbia that was outside of these two regions became known as Uža Srbija ("Serbia Proper" in English). At the beginning of the 1990s, the term Uža Srbija was replaced with the new term Centralna Srbija ("Central Serbia" in English) and this new term is today used in all official publications of the Serbian government that refer to the region.
Some important geographical regions located in Central Serbia are:
Also see: Geography of Serbia.
Besides the name "Central Serbia", the term "Serbia Proper" is also used in English to refer to the region. "Serbia Proper" is simply an English translation of the Serbian term "Uža Srbija" (Ужа Србија), which was used as a name of the region during the existence of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The term "Uža Srbija" was controversial and it is no longer in use, but Serbian government publications now use "Centralna Srbija" (Central Serbia) instead. The term "Uža Srbija" was rejected because it implies a distinction between Serbia and its autonomous provinces.
According to the Library of Congress, "Serbia Proper" denotes "the part of the Republic of Serbia not including the provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo; the ethnic and political core of the Serbian state." However, the ethnical and political centre of the Serbian people between 12th and 17th centuries was Kosovo, while between 17th and 19th centuries it was Vojvodina. The region designated as "Serbia Proper" became the political centre of Serbs in the 19th century, although its parts had important political role between 12th and 15th centuries.
The term "Serbia Proper" has also been used to differentiate the whole of Serbia (including the autonomous provinces) from the Serbian statelets in Croatia and Bosnia, and to differentiate the rest of Serbia (including Vojvodina) from the autonomous province of Kosovo.
The use of the term "Serbia Proper" in English is purely geographical without any particular political meaning being implied. It has been used most often by the (non-Serbian) English-language media but also by the United Nations, English-language reports by the Serbian media and even on occasion by the Serbian government. Its usage crosses political boundaries, with both pro- and anti-Serbian groups employing it.
Most of the municipalities of Central Serbia have an ethnic Serb majority, three municipalities (Novi Pazar, Tutin, and Sjenica) have Bosniak majority, two municipalities (Bujanovac and Preševo) have Albanian majority, one municipality (Bosilegrad) has a Bulgarian majority, and one municipality (Dimitrovgrad) is ethnically mixed with a Bulgarian relative majority.
Since Central Serbia is not an administrative division of Serbia, in recent years the political movements that ask for autonomy of the parts of the region have appeared. Such political movements are found in Šumadija, Sandžak, and Niš.
Some other political parties in Serbia (notably Democratic Party of Serbia) also propose creation of new administrative units of Serbia. According to these proposals, territory of present-day Central Serbia would be divided into 4 regions:
The region of Central Serbia possess rich cultural monuments. There are numerous remnants of Roman civilization, such as Gamzigrad, Viminacium, Mediana, etc. There are also notable medieval fortresses such as Kalemegdan in Belgrade, Fortress of Smederevo, Golubac, and Fetislam near Kladovo. One of the important features of the region are numerous medieval Serbian churches and monasteries such as Đurđevi Stupovi, Studenica, Sopoćani, Žiča, etc.