Rulers of Serbia and Yugoslavia


Milos Obrenovic (1815–1839, 1858–1860) was the founder of the modern Serbian state. Owing to his skillful policies, Serbia became autonomous and its territory was expanded by the Sultan’s edicts from 1829, 1830 and 1833, and Milos was recognized and acquired the title of prince with hereditary succession rights. The process of abandoning its Turkish feudal heritage was simultaneously unfolding, and was completed by adopting the Sretenje Constitution, followed by the Turkish Constitution (1835, 1838).

Aleksandar Karadjordjevic (1842–1858). His reign is known as the constitutionalist era, the period during which the advocates of constitutionalism played a more marked role in governing the state than the ruler. At that time, the most significant legislative act in Serbian 19th century history appeared – the Civil Code of 1844, whose creator was writer and lawyer Jovan Hadzic. Turkey did not recognize Aleksandar as a legal heir to the title of prince, which influenced both his personal and governmental instability.

Mihailo Obrenovic (1839–1842, 1860–1868). An autocrat and enlightened despot of the national romanticism epoch, he stressed that the highest will in Serbia the law. He carried out significant reforms in the government administration and army. His foreign policies were ambitions, and were concluded with the creation of the Balkan Alliance in 1867.

Milan Obrenovic (1868–1889). During King Milan’s reign, Serbia became a modern European state. It acquired its independence, its territory was expanded, it rose to become a kingdom (1882), it formed a powerful regular army, further developed government institutions during the progressive legislation era and passed one of the best constitutions. The constitution from 1888 gave people their democratic rights, it introduced parliamentary rule and was one of the most progressive constitutions in Europe at the time.

Aleksandar Obrenovic (1889–1903). The reign of Aleksandar Obrenovic was characterized by many unexpected turns of events and changes. From 1893 to 1903 there were twelve governments, the constitution was repealed and amended several times, and the political parties were dependant on the whims of a capricious ruler. Alexander’s marriage to Draga Masin, Queen Natalija’s lady-in-waiting, stirred public opinion even more and reduced the popularity of the Obrenovic dynasty.

In the night of May 29, a group of 28 officers violently broke into the court, killed the king and queen and threw their bodies out of the window. The assassination of the royal couple caused more excitement in Europe than in Serbia. After the bloody change on the throne, Belgrade became the favorite subject of European yellow press, desirous of racy scandals with strong oriental overtones. The change of dynasty brought international isolation to Serbia, which lasted a full three years until July 1906 when the main actors of the conspiracy were sent into retirement following a request made by the United Kingdom.

Petar I Karadjordjevic (1903–1921). As a ruler he was a moderate reformist. Even though Serbia was facing difficult temptations at the time – the customs war, the Annexation Crisis, the Balkan wars and World War I – democracy and parliamentary rule were constantly growing.

Aleksandar I Karadjordjevic (1921–1934). King Aleksander played a prominent role in the creation and establishment of the new state – the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In domestic policies, the king was in favor of centralism and had an authoritarian stand. After dictatorship was introduced in 1929, he put all his efforts into implementing the program of an “integral Yugoslavia”, as a way of overcoming internal conflicts and disputes. In foreign policy issues he relied on France and carried out policies to appease Balkan disputes.

Petar II Karadjordjevic (1934–1945). He was only eleven years old when King Aleksandar was assassinated, entering our history as the youngest king. He was the ruler of Yugoslavia during the four tumultuous and fate defining years despite the fact that he had not resided in it, until the Constitutional Assembly did not abolish the monarchy on November 29, 1945.

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