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Modern Serbia, the founding member of Yugoslavia in 1918, has previously been an independent kingdom and a principality, emerging in 1817 after a successful revolution against the Ottoman Empire. In medieval times it was a significant regional power which rivalled its neigbours- Bulgaria, the Byzantine Empire, Hungary and Venice. At the peak of its power in mid 14th century it evolved into an empire which covered most of the Balkans, which is considered the golden age of its culture. Eight medieval monuments protected by the UNESCO testify as to exactly how powerful this country once was. By the end of the medieval period when Western Europe had entered its renaissance, the Serbian Empire was swallowed by a much larger Muslim state- Ottoman Turkey, which would remain in the Serbian territories for the next 350 years.
The enlightenment era, however, brought some better times for the Serbs, who were attracted by the looming Habsburg Empire just across the Danube. In the centuries that followed most Serbs would eventually cross to settle in this Christian Empire, which was less restrictive towards Christian Serbs and proved to be more understanding towards their demands. Cultural and territorial autonomy soon followed, as more and more Serbs started settling in cities such as Novi Sad (Serbian Athens), Subotica, Zemun and all the way north to St Andrea village north of Budapest.
Freedom was a distinct possibility after the departure of the Ottoman conquerors, the first in the Balkans to do so (years ahead of the Greek War of Independence). Austria, however, had no intention of ceding its territories to Serbia, which is why the Serbs remained dispersed in several states up until 1918, when the outcome of World War I allowed Serbs to unite into a single state, as a sign of gratitude from its Allied friends (the country had lost 1/4 of its overall population during the war). Today's regions of Serbia reflect the turbulent history of the land: Vojvodina, north of Belgrade, still houses a strong Catholic and Protestant population and culture, leftover from the rule of the Habsburgs. So-called Serbia proper (without Kosovo - which is 99% inhabited by ethnic Albanians and is almost independent) is Orthodox Christian and was the least affected by the colonization processes in the past, which is why it houses most of the Serbian population of the state.