Dušan T. Bataković

Institute for Balkan Studies

Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts


On Parliamentary Democracy in Serbia 1903–1914

Political Parties, Elections, Political Freedoms

Abstract: Parliamentary democracy in Serbia in the period between the May Coup of 1903 and the beginning of the First World War in 1914 was, as compellingly shown by the regular and very detailed reports of the diplomatic representatives of two exemplary democracies, Great Britain and France, functional and fully accommodated to the requirements of democratic governance. Some shortcomings, which were reflected in the influence of extra-constitutional (“irresponsible”) factors, such as the group of conspirators from 1903 or their younger wing from 1911 (the organisation Unification or Death), occasionally made Serbian democracy fragile but it nonetheless remained functional at all levels of government. A comparison with crises such as those taking place in, for example, France clearly shows that Serbia, although perceived as “a rural democracy” and “the poor man’s paradise”, was a constitutional and democratic state, and that it was precisely its political freedoms and liberation aspirations that made it a focal point for the rallying of South-Slavic peoples on the eve of the Great War. Had there been no firm constitutional boundaries of the parliamentary monarchy and the democratic system, Serbia would have hardly been able to cope with a series of political and economic challenges which followed one another after 1903: the Tariff War 1906–11; the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina 1908/9; the Balkan Wars 1912–13; the crisis in the summer of 1914 caused by the so-called Order of Precedence Decree, i.e. by the underlying conflict between civilian and military authorities. The Periclean age of Serbia, aired with full political freedoms and sustained cultural and scientific progress is one of the most important periods in the history of modern Serbian democracy.

Keywords: Serbia 1903–1914, parliamentary democracy, political freedoms, democratic culture, cultural progress, Radical Party


UDC 94:321.7(497.11)"1903/1914"


Original scholarly work