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Serbian  Profile provided courtesy of the 1984 Alberta People Kit

  Formerly, Serbia was one of the constituent republics of Yugoslavia. It shares borders with Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary and is currently populated by approximately 10 million people.

Serbia has a long political history. In the 13th century, it was a strong independent state, but was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1389 at the Battle of Kosovo. The Turks ruled Serbia until the establishment of Serbian independence in 1878. In subsequent decades, about one half of all Serbs lived in Serbia proper, with 40 percent living in Austria-Hungary and about five percent in Montenegro. Following the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918, Serbia was incorporated into the kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which became Yugoslavia in 1929.

The first Serbs to arrive in Canada came to British Columbia between 1850 and 1870. Many were employed in mining or forestry near such towns as Phoenix, Golden, Prince Rupert and Kamloops.

By 1900, Serbs began to arrive in Alberta. Many of these early settlers had migrated north from the north-west region of the United States. Coal mining attracted them to Lethbridge, while road construction was a source of employment for those in Macleod and Cadomin. Many Serbs worked on the construction of railway lines that now extend from Edmonton to the Pacific coast.

The period between the two World Wars witnessed a major increase in Serbian immigration to Canada. As with other periods of immigration, however, the exact number arriving at this time is not known. The lack of information results from the fact that throughout the years, Serbs have been variously classified as Austrians, Hungarians, Turks, Serbo-Croats or Yugoslavs.

Nonetheless, over 30,000 Yugoslavs came to Canada between 1919 and 1939, this included an estimated 10,000 Serbs. Many of these immigrants were single, working men who had left families in their home country to seek work in Canada. The vast majority of Serbs arriving between the wars settled in Ontario or British Columbia.

Major changes occurred in Yugoslavia during World War II. The newly established independent communist government was opposed by some Yugoslavs. Many post war refugees refused to return to their homeland to live under a communist regime. The Serbs, emigrating to Canada at this time, came from a variety of occupational backgrounds, including military and academic professions and the skilled trades.

In the late 1980s, Yugoslavia's communist government was on the verge of collapse. Hostilities between Serbs, Croats and Muslims began to resurface, leading to war in the 1990s. Shortly after the sudden breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, a large group of Serbs moved to Canada.

The 2001 census lists 55,540 Canadians of Serbian descent although it is assumed that there are more due to the irregularities in the classification of Serbs. Approximately 3,420 live in Alberta, with Edmonton and Calgary being the major centres of settlement. 

Many Serbs in Canada belong to the Orthodox Church, which has traditionally been the centre of Serbian community organizations. In Edmonton, St. Sava Orthodox Church and neighbouring Community Parish Hall serve the Serbian community. Members can participate in the Opanak Serbian Dancer's Association, a soccer team, and a ladies auxiliary group. Each year, Edmonton's Serbian community comes together to share their culture with the greater community at the Edmonton Heritage Festival. In Calgary, the community is served by the St. Simeon Mirotocivi Serbian Orthodox Church.

Serbs in Canada subscribe to the long-standing publications Glas Kanadskih Srba (Voice of Canadian Serbs), Kanadski Srbobran (The Canadian Serbian), Bratsto (Fraternity) and Nase Novine (Our Newspaper). There are also several Serbian radio shows produced across Canada. In both Calgary and Edmonton, radio stations have included Serbian programming in their schedules. CJSW  of Calgary airs a Serbian show every Sunday morning and CKER in Edmonton broadcasts Serbian programme Sunday evenings. 

Serbs in Alberta have contributed to the province's economic development and are currently employed in a wide range of occupations. Alberta's cultural endowment has likewise been enriched by Serbs, who take great pride in retaining and sharing their customs and traditions.
 


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