The Serbian struggle for independence began in 1804, in the first Serbian uprising under the leadership of Djordje Petrovic (Karadjordje), in Orasac. It lasted from 1804 to 1813, although with the initial successes and the conquest of the city of Belgrade in 1806, the uprising turned into a failure. Although unsuccessful it created the conditions and the roots for the eventual independence of Serbia.
The war showed the interests of big powers in the Balkans. Russia wanted to reach the warm sea and to do it through the Orthodox population in the Balkans. Austria wanted to go to the great ports of the Aegean Sea and feared the breakthrough of the Russian influence on the Balkans. While Great Britain did not want to change the status quo at any cost they wanted to preserve the Ottoman Empire, primarily in order to protect its way to India.
The second Serbian uprising led by Milos Obrenovic began in 1815. After the first successful years of war, Milos proved to be a good politician and diplomat. Affiliating to the Ottomans, the supreme authority managed to end the conflicts and to make big concessions in terms of sharing power. By his oral agreement with the authorities in Belgrade in 1817, he received management in the villages while the Ottomans were in the cities, the tax was paid annually, and Milos himself collected it from the people. Milos had quickly become a rich man who used bribes to enrich himself. There are three Hatiserifs, of which the most significant is from 1830. It gives Serbia a vassal position, greater autonomy, territorial expansion, and Milos himself the title of a prince (Knez).
The Sretensky Constitution( Sretenjaski Ustav) of 1835 written by Dimitrije Davidovic is the first Serbian Constitution. It draws on the example of the Belgian Constitution. Although he was extremely liberal and ahead of his time and it was not acceptable for Serbia at that moment.
The rebellion started because of the Prince’s unlimited power. Conflicts led to open revolts that compel Prince Milos to concessions. Thus comes the Ottoman Constitution of 1838, based on negotiations with all the parties, which limits the power to the Prince and creates a Council of 14 members. After that starts the struggle with the replacement of the Prince and the Constituent Assembly that erupts in 1839 by expelling Prince Milos Obrenovic from Serbia. He settles in Austria, and Serbia itself is ruled by his son Milan, but the real power is in the hands of the Constitutional defenders, among whom the most influential were Toma Vucic Perisic, Avram Petronijevic, Ilija Grasanin.
After the death of minor Prince Milan in 1840, his younger brother Mihajlo Obrenovic came to power. He experienced the fate of his father and is forced to leave the country in 1842.
Constitutionalists were led to power by Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, son of the leader of the first Serbian uprising Djordje Petrovic Karadjordje. He remained in power from 1842 to 1858 and this period is called the Constitutionalist period because most of the power is in the hands of defenders of constitutionalism.
The relationship between the new Prince and the constitutional defenders had a changeable character, but it can be said that their conflict became more serious and sharper. In this period started the formation of the first institutions of the state and the adoption of the first regulations, among which the most important is Serbian Civil Code from 1844, written by Jovan Hadzic.
St. Andrew’s Day Assembly was held in 1958 led to the termination of authority of constitutionalism and the change of dynasties. The expelled Prince Milos Obrenovic returns to power, he remained in the power until his death 1860. Although he ruled shortly, he passed many laws and important reforms.
After his father’s death to power came Mihajlo Obrenovic, who rules a second time from 1860 to 1868. He is considered the best Serbian ruler of the 19th century, although short in power he made reforms that will make Serbia a modern European country. He’s reforms introduced the People’s Army, reformed the administration, built schools and theaters. His greatest merit is the establishment of an alliance between the Balkan countries. The talks he started will be the basis for future co-operation that will lead to the possible independence of Serbia and surrounding countries. He was killed in 1868.
After his death, Obrenovic did not have a direct heir, so the army proclaimed his cousin, underage Milan Obrenovic, for Prince, to whom they appointed 3 men until he became an adult. The main personality of this era and the entire Serbian politics in that period is Jovan Ristic.
The new constitution of 1869 written by Jovan Ristic and is called Namesnicki Ustav. This constitution gives enormous powers to the Prince, and it represents the first modern constitution of Serbia.
In 1875 a rebellion begins in Herzegovina against the Ottomans. Serbia entered the war against the Ottoman Empire and is forced into a truce. Soon the war between the Ottomans and Russia begins, and Serbia seizes the opportunity to enter the war itself again. After the great victories and duplication of the territory and the Russian arrival to the Bosfor, there is peace because of the danger of British and Austrian interference in the war.
In 1878 the Treaty of San Stefano ended the war between Russia and Turkey. Almost all Serbian expectations were disappointed. Russia had created Great Bulgaria, and Serbia has to satisfy small territorial changes and Independence.
Other great powers were worried and dissatisfied with the Treaty of San Stefano and sought his change. Berlin Conference of 1878, chaired by Otto Von Bismarck. Serbia finally gets the independence that she lost more than 400 years ago. Receives territorial expansion in four districts and doubles the territory. Austria demanded it as a condition for recognizing that Serbia builds a railroad to the border and to sign the Danube Convention. Austria-Hungary has the right to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina for 30 years and to control and hold the army in Sandzak.
This concludes the Serbian centuries-old struggle for independence, although long and difficult. Later decades will show the difficulty of survival for a small and young country which that will survive the first world war only to become part of a new Yugoslavia in 1918. Serbia again becomes an independent State in 2006.