In the antiquity, the territory of present-day Serbia was populated by several Indo-European peoples, different tribes of the Illyrians, Thracians and Celts. Geographically, the Illyrians inhabited the western, Thracian eastern, and Celts northern parts of present-day Serbia. Later the Romans and Sarmatians also appeared. During Roman rule, the local population was gradually Romanised, and the remnants of this population formed populations later known as Vlachs.

Although for most of the antiquity the inhabitants of the territory of present-day Serbia were mostly pagans, part of the territory of present-day Serbia around Sirmium and Singidunum was one of the early centers of Christianity spread in the Roman Empire.

During the Migration Period, the territory of present-day Serbia was inhabited by the Germanic (Goths, Gepids, Lombards) and Turkic peoples (Huns, Avars, Bulgars), and also by the Slavs. The Byzantine Greeks also lived in this area to a lesser extent, and later the Hungarians also settled. At the end of the Middle Ages, Ottoman Turks came to the territory of present-day Serbia.

During the Ottoman rule, in addition to Orthodox Serbs, Islamized Serbs lived in the territory of present-day Serbia, and to a lesser extent Turks, Arabs, Jews, Roma, Aromanians and Greeks. At the end of the 17th and in the first half of the 18th century, when the northern parts of the territory of present-day Serbia came under the rule of the Habsburg Monarchy, Germans, Hungarians, Slovaks, Ruthenians, Romanians and others began to settle in these areas.

Censuses in Serbia ordinarily take place every 10 years, organized by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia. The Principality of Serbia had conducted the first population census in 1834. During the era Kingdom of Serbia, six censuses were conducted, the last one being in 1910. During the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, censuses were conducted in 1931 and 1921; the census in 1941 was never conducted due to the outbreak of World War II. Socialist Yugoslavia conducted six censuses, the last one in 1991. The two most recent censuses were organized in 2002 and 2011.

The years since the first 1834 census saw frequent border changes of Serbia, first amidst the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary, then subsequent formation and later disintegration of Yugoslavia and, finally, 2008 independence of Kosovo, which affected territorial scope in which all these censuses have been conducted.

As of 2011 census, Serbia (excluding Kosovo) has a total population of 7,186,862 and the overall population density is medium as it stands at 92.8 inhabitants per square kilometre.

Ethnic composition (2011)

Serbs 83.3%

Hungarians 3.5%

Roma 2.1%

Bosniaks 2%

Croats 0.8%

Slovaks 0.7%

Other 4.7%

Unspecified/Unknown 3.3%

Serbia has been enduring a demographic crisis since the beginning of the 1990s, with a death rate that has continuously exceeded its birth rate. It is estimated that 300,000 people left Serbia during the 1990s, 20% of whom had a higher education. Serbia subsequently has one of the oldest populations in the world, with the average age of 42.9 years, and its population is shrinking at one of the fastest rates in the world. A fifth of all households consist of only one person, and just one-fourth of four and more persons. Average life expectancy in Serbia at birth is 76.1 years.

During the 1990s, Serbia had the largest refugee population in Europe. Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Serbia formed between 7% and 7.5% of its population at the time – about half a million refugees sought refuge in the country following the series of Yugoslav wars, mainly from Croatia (and to a lesser extent from Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the IDPs from Kosovo.

Serbia is home to many different ethnic groups. According to the 2011 census, Serbs with 5,988,150 are the largest ethnic group in Serbia, representing 83% of the total population (excluding Kosovo). Serbia is one of the European countries with high numbers of registered national minorities, while the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina is recognizable for its multi-ethnic and multi-cultural identity. With a population of 253,899, Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority in Serbia, concentrated predominantly in northern Vojvodina and representing 3.5% of the country’s population (13% in Vojvodina). Romani population stands at 147,604 according to the 2011 census but unofficial estimates place their actual number between 400,000 and 500,000. Bosniaks with 145,278 are concentrated in Raska (Sandzak), in the southwest. Other minority groups include Croats, Slovaks, Albanians, Montenegrins, Vlachs, Romanians, Macedonians and Bulgarians. Chinese, estimated at about 15,000, are the only significant non-European immigrant minority.

The majority of the population, or 59.4%, reside in urban areas and some 16.1% in Belgrade alone. Belgrade is the only city with more than a million inhabitants and there are four more with over 100,000 inhabitants.

1 Belgrade 1,233,796

2 Novi Sad 277,522

3 Niš 187,544

4 Kragujevac 150,835

5 Subotica 105,681

6 Zrenjanin 76,511

7 Pančevo 76,203

8 Čačak 73,331

9 Novi Pazar 66,527

10 Kraljevo 64,175

Vital statistics (2018)

Average population 6,982,604

Live births 63,975

Deaths 101,655

Natural change -37,680

Crude birth rate (per 1000) 9.2

Crude death rate (per 1000) 14.6

Natural change (per 1000) -5.4

Total fertility rate 1.48

Female fertile population (15-49 years) 1,523,675

Median age of the population

Total: 43.16 years (2018)

Male: 41.73 years

Female: 44.53 years

Mother’s mean age at first birth

28.4 years (2018)

Number of marriages per 1000 inhabitants

5.2 marriages/1,000 population (2018)

Median age of the groom at the time of marriage

34.2 years (2018)

Median age of the bride at the time of marriage

31.1 years (2018)

Number of divorces per 1000 marriages

275.2 divorces/1,000 marriages (2018)

The life expectancy in Serbia at birth is 74.8 years, 71.9 for males and 77.7 for females. Serbia has a comparatively old overall population (among the 10 oldest in the world), with the average age of 42.9 years.