III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > F. Europe, 461–1500 > 7. Eastern Europe, 1300–1500 > e. The Serbian States
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1254)
e. The Serbian States
By the end of the 13th century, the Serbian states, like others of eastern Europe, had evolved a strong lay and clerical aristocracy, which, to a large extent, controlled even the more outstanding rulers. In view of the general uncertainty of the law regarding succession and inheritance, the tendency toward dynastic conflict and territorial disruption was very pronounced. In the western Balkans the situation was further complicated by the rivalry of the western and eastern forms of Christianity, and by the persistence of the heretical Bogomil teaching, especially in Bosnia.  1
Milyutin (Stephen Urosh II), the brother of Dragutin. He was a pious and yet dissolute ruler, but above all a political and religious opportunist. Taking full advantage of the growing weakness of the Byzantine Empire, he gradually extended his possessions in Macedonia, along the Adriatic, and, in the north, toward the Danube and the Save.  2
Stephen Dechanski (Stephen Urosh III), the illegitimate son of the preceding. His reign was marked chiefly by the great victory of the Serbs over the Greeks and Bulgarians near Küstendil (Velbûzhd) in 1330. The Serbs now held most of the Vardar Valley. A nephew of Milyutin was imposed on the Bulgarian throne, and from 1330 to 1331 Bulgaria was under Serbian suzerainty.  3
STEPHEN DUSHAN (Stephen Urosh IV), the ablest of the Serbian rulers in the Middle Ages. Dushan began his career by deposing his father, who was then strangled. For most of his reign he attempted to maintain friendly relations with Hungary and Ragusa (Dubrovnik), in order to have a free hand to exploit the dynastic war in the Byzantine Empire between the Palaeologi and John Cantacuzene. By 1344 he had subjected all of Macedonia, Albania, Thessaly, and Epirus.  4
Dushan set up his capital at Skopye and proclaimed himself emperor (tsar) of the Serbs, Greeks, Bulgars, and Albanians. At the same time, he set up a Serbian patriarchate at Pe (Ipek), for which he was anathematized by the Greek patriarch. Dushan established a court wholly Byzantine in character. In the years 1349–54 he drew up a law code (Zabonnik).  5
Dushan defeated Louis of Hungary, who had been urged by the pope to lead a Catholic crusade. The Serbs acquired Belgrade.  6
Dushan died at the age of 46, en route to Constantinople. Thus perished his hope of succeeding to the imperial throne and consolidating the Balkans in the face of the growing power of the Ottoman Turks (See 1354).  7
Stephen Urosh V, a weak ruler who was faced from the outset by the disruptive ambitions of his uncle Simeon and other powerful magnates. He was the last of the Nemanyid house.  8
Hungary obtained most of Dalmatia, after defeating Venice. Ragusa (Dubrovnik) became a Hungarian protectorate.  9
Battle of the Maritza River, in which the Turks, having settled in Thrace, defeated a combination of Serbian lords.  10
Zeta (Montenegro) became a separate principality under the Balsha family (until 1421).  11
The Greek patriarch finally recognized the patriarchate of Pe.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.