Term used for several political entities that existed in the Balkan Peninsula in 20th century Europe. The name means Land of the South Slavs. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was formed on 1 December 1918 as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes; re-named on 6 January 1929. Invaded by the Axis power on 6 April 1941, it surrendured 11 days later, and the government dissolved. Following World War II it was reconstitued under a variety of names, but always as a Soviet puppet state. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was formed in 1992 from territory the republics of Serbia and Montenegro. On 4 February 2003 the name Yugoslavia was changed to Serbia and Montenegro. In June 2006 the two republics voted for indepedence, and the last of the former Yugoslav federation dissolved.
As early as the 1st century Christianity was preached in parts of the country. Dalmatia was visited then by Saint Titus who, according to tradition, founded a see at Salona and was martyred there. The only general persecution known to have been enforced with great severity in this part of the Roman Empire was that under Diocletian in 303. Two bishops and martyrs who suffered in it were Saint Domtlic and Saint Quirinus. Saint Jerome was a Dalmatian. Several sees continued long to be centers for the spread of the faith; e.g., Salonli sent missionaries into Boshia and Herzegovina, and there were six dioceses in those districts in the 6th century. The growth and organization of the Church was checked by warfare and confusion during centuries of invasions of barbarians. From the 7th century the immigrant Croats and Setbs began to adopt Christianity; in the 9th century especially there was a missionary movement which reestablished the Church over the large region which included Yugoslavia and neighboring states. It was mainly Latin Christianity, with western civilization, which was adopted by the Croats and Serbs, to whom missionaries from Rome were sent by two 7th-century popes. In the 9th century the Greek missionaries, Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, learned Slavonic in order to preach in the Balkan countries, and they translated the gospels and the Greek liturgical books. It is thought that they, and possibly Saint Jerome, devised wholly or in part the alphabets known as Glagolitic and Cyrillic, used in those Balkan churches, Greek or Latin, Uniat or schismatic, which retain the Slavonic in their liturgy. Glagolitic is still used in the Latin Rite. In the 11th and 12th centuries, while the Balkan Peninsula was subject to the Byzantine Empire, the Byzantine Church grew increasingly influential there, and a ruler in Serbia in 1349 made adherence to the “Latin heresy” punishable by death. At this time, in Croatia alone, there were 3 archdioceses and 17 dioceses with an average of over 400 parishes in each; but from then on Christianity was seriously endangered by invasions of Turks. During periods of Turkish rule many of the population, especially of the nobility, became Mohammedans and large numbers of Christians emigrated, until, through the intercession of the Frahciscan Angelus Zojezdovic, permission was obtained from the sultan for free exercise of the Christian religion. Since the time of Turkish supremacy the various divisions of the country have been ruled by neighboring nations or have had short periods of independence, until the formation of the independent kingdom in 1918 and 1921. By its constitution all religions recognized by law had the same rights, and religious instruction in the public schools was given to groups of pupils according to the wish of their parents.
For information on the ecclesiastical rule of the region, see the following entries which deal with the individual countries formed from the former Yugoslavia:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina