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Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Serbia

Ethnicity

Most of the people living in Serbia are ethnic Serbs, which is a group of people that belong to the southern Slavic family. There are significant minorities of ethnic Magyars (Hungarians) in the north, Bosniaks (Muslim Bosnians) and Croats in the west, Montenegrins in the south, and Roma (gypsies) in various parts of the country. The Serbs, Montenegrins, Bosniaks, and Croats are all very similar ethnically, if not identical, but each group claims differences ethnically, although the greatest differences come religiously, culturally, and politically. The Roma are ethnically related to the people of India and the Magyars are distantly related to Turkic people and other Central Asian peoples, but also have relations with the many nearby European people.

Language

The only official language of Serbia is Serbian, which is a member of the southern Slavic linguistic group. The language is commonly written in the Cyrillic script, but orally it is nearly identical to both Croatian and Bosnian (which are often written in the Latin script). Locally, these three languages, which are all nearly identical, should be referred to by the ethnicity of the speaker, although in English the language is commonly called "Serbo-Croatian."

There is a growing trend to learn additional foreign languages in Serbia, but today few people are fluent in a second language. English and other popular international languages are being taught in greater numbers, but few people are fluent in these languages and those who are tend to be young adults or students.

Religion

The most common religion in Serbia is Serbian Orthodoxy, which is what most Serbs identify with. Catholicism and smaller Christian religions are also practiced by the minority; most notably Catholicism being practiced by the ethnic Magyars (Hungarians) and Croatians.

Orthodoxy is a Christian religion that claims to be the most loyal to the Christian faith and religion as it was described by Jesus and the Gospels in the New Testament. Christianity, including Orthodoxy, was founded after the death of Jesus in about 30-33 AD; various branches of Orthodoxy were officially recognized by governments long before Catholicism was recognized in the Roman Empire.

Orthodoxy and Catholicism have many of the same beliefs; both believe that there is a single God who created everything and a savior, the son of God, Jesus Christ who is the forgiver of sins. However, Orthodoxy is decentralized so each bishop oversees their local country or region, giving each orthodox country a different leader. In this way, no bishop has more power than any other, meaning the tenants and interpretations of the faith remain relatively unchanged. These beliefs are based on the teachings of the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, in particular the life and teachings of Jesus, which is found in the gospels (in the New Testament).

This page was last updated: May, 2014