The language of Serbs is Serbian language. Of course, there are Serbs in Serb diaspora who no longer speak the language but are still considered Serbs.
Most Serbs are Orthodox Christians of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Serbs converted from paganism (see Slavic religion) to Christianity before the Great Schism. After the Schism, those who lived under Orthodox sphere of influence became Orthodox and those who lived under Catholic sphere of influence became Catholic. Later with the arrival of the Turks, some Serbs converted to Islam. Most well known Catholic Serb is Ivo Andrić and most well known Muslim Serb probably is Mehmed Paša Sokolović.
The principal state of the Serbs is Serbia and Montenegro. Another Serb state is Republika Srpska. Serbia and Montenegro form a federal state while Republika Srpska is one of two entities that constitute Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The city with the largest Serb population is Belgrade; city with the second largest Serb population is Novi Sad, the third Banjaluka. Abroad Chicago has the largest Serb population with Toronto right after. There are around 11 million Serbs in the world, which is around 0.18% of the world population.
List of Serbs lists some prominent Serbs. Most well known Serbs worldwide are scientists Nikola Tesla, Mihajlo Pupin and Milutin Milanković; writer Ivo Andrić; rulers Slobodan Milošević and Radovan Karadžić; NBA stars Vlade Divac and Peja Stojaković; and actress Mila Jovović (half Russian).
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It is interesting that etymology of name of Serbian sometimes ill-intentioned neigbhours, Croats (root: Hrv) is also not known. Some suggest that the names actually originate from the same root: indeed, the roots are only 50% apart (Srb/Hrv). However, what root would that be is still unknown.
Regardless of the origin, the age and rarity of the name allows for certain historical conclusions based partly on it (for example, see Gordoservon below). While Ukrainians and krajischniks (their names coming from Slavic word for "mark") or Slovaks and Slovenes (obvious variations of "Slavs") need not be related, Serbs and Sorbs probably are. Some have taken this to the extreme, creating theories that link Serbs with Sarmatians, Sirmium, Serbona, Siberia...
Relation with Sorbs
Obvious similarity in name leads some to conclusion that Serbs and Sorbs are related peoples.
Indeed, in Serbian language Sorbs are called Luzicki Srbi (Serbs of Lusatia) and northern of them there were even Beli Srbi (White Serbs).
Exactly what are relations between Serbs and Sorbs is not certain:
Though a lot of old customs are now no longer followed, customs that surround Serbian wedding are mostly preserved.
Traditional Serbian dance is kolo. It is a collective dance, where more (usually tens, at the very least three) people hold each other by the hands or around the waists dancing, ideally in circle, hence the name. Similar dances also exist in other cultures.
Serbs have their own customs regarding Christmas. Early in the morning of the day of the Christmas Eve the head of the family would go to a forest in order to cut badnjak, a young oak, the oaktree would then be brought into the church to be blessed by the priest. Then the oaktree would be stripped of its branches with combined with wheat and other grain products would be burned in the fireplace. The burning of the badnjak is a ritual which is most certainly of pagan origin and it is considered a sacrifice to God(s) so that the coming year may bring plenty of produce (food), happinness, love, luck and riches.
Nowadays, with most Serbs living in cities, most simply go to their church service which dispences small oak, wheat and other branches tied together to be taken home and set afire. The house floor and church is covered with hay, reminding of the stable in which Jesus Christ was born. The Christmas Day is celebrated with a feast, necessarily featuring roasted piglet as the main meal. Another Christmas meal is a deliciously sweet cake made of wheat, called koljivo whose consupmtion is more ritual than gourmandise. One crosses oneself first, then takes a spoonfull of the cake and savours it. But the most important Christmas meal is česnica, a special kind of bread; the bread contains a coin. During the lunch, the family breaks up the bread and one who finds the coin considers that he/she will have especially happy year. Christmas is not associated with presents like in the West, it is the day of St Nicolas, the protector saint of the children, when presents are given. However, under Communist, most Serbian families give presents on New Year's day. Western influences also introduces both Santa Claus (Deda Mraz) and the Christmas tree.
Religious Serbs also celebrate other religious holidays and even non-religious ones oftenly celebrate the Easter (on Orthodox date).
Serbs also celebrate New Year and, in addition to it oftenly (even non-religious ones), Serbian new year, on December 31st of the Julian Calendar (currently on January 14th of the Gregorian Calendar).
For Serbian meals, see Serbian cuisine.
History holds that Serbs came to the Balkan peninsula in 6th century.
The oldest undisputed mention of Serbian name is 680 mention of Gordoservon in Asia Minor where "some Slavic tribes" have settled.
Gordoservon is obviously distorted spelling of Grad Srba, "City of Serbs" in Serbian language.
During and after that period, Serbs have struggled to gain independence from the Byzantine and Roman Empire. The first Serb states were Rascia and Zeta. Various rulers had various degrees of authonomy, until Saint Sava, who became the first head of the Serb Orthodox Church and his brother Stefan Prvovencani, who became the first Serb king.
It may be very surprising to today readers that there was no medieval state with the name "Serbia", but it is a fact: Serb state was called "Serb state" and its kings and tsars wore titles of "King of Serbs" or "Tsar of Serbs", not "King of Serbia" or "Tsar of Serbia". The state if oftenly called "Serbia" today, however. Serbia reached its golden age under the House of Nemanjic, for whose achievements could be said that they are still unsurpassed. And the Nemanjic Serbia reached its peak under the rule of Tsar Stefan Dusan.
The golden age ended with intrusion of Turks into Europe, of course, over Serbia. Serbia was slowly fading away, its nobility fighting among themselves and incapable of holding out the Turks. The Serbian national consciousness sees the Battle of Kosovo of 1389 as the turning point after which Serbia fell under Turkish rule.
After Serbia fell, kings of Bosnia wore the title of "King of Serbs" until it was also overrun.
At the beginning of 19th century, First Serbian Uprising had success in liberating at least some Serbs, for a limited time. Second Serbian Uprising was much more successful. Eventually Serbia it created will become a modern European kingdom.
But the Serbs in Bosnia were still not free. First World War started when a Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip killed Austro-Hungarian archduke Franz Ferdinand. During the war, the Serbian army fought fiercely, eventually retreated through Albania to regroup in Greece and launched a counter-offensive. Though they were victorious, the war left devastating consequences: over half of male Serbs were killed. This still influences demographics of today.
After the war, the state of Yugoslavia was created. All Serbs (of course without unavoidable minorities in bordering lands) finally lived in one state, though not their own.
During Second World War, the Axis Powers occupied and tore apart Yugoslavia. Serbs have suffered immensely, especially under Ustase regime in the Independent State of Croatia (encompassing todays Croatia, Bosnia and a part of Serbia) where they were subject to mass destruction and cleansing of the population.
After the war, second Yugoslavia was formed. Eventually it would break apart in early 1990s. Internal borders of the republics became borders of independent states which would lead to huge civil wars in Croatia and Bosnia, where Serbs did not want to separate but to stay in Yugoslavia, now consisting of only Serbia and Montenegro.
Serbs have entered the 21st century still not united in one state.