Serbia has a long and rich history of newspaper publishing, stemming from the late 18th century. From 1791-1995, Serbs in Serbia and in the diaspora published around 4,600 periodicals, more than half of which were general or special interest newspapers, called novine or listovi. In Serbia the term list is sometimes applied to periodicals, not just to newspapers, which, in the absence of readily available historical newspaper statistics, makes it difficult to count newspapers throughout Serbian history. For the purposes of this introduction, we count as newspapers all novine, plus listovi with a frequency of weekly or greater, but most figures in this introduction should be considered estimates.
All of the earliest titles were published outside of current borders of Serbia due to Ottoman publishing restrictions, but after Serbia wrested some autonomy from the Ottoman Empire in 1830, more titles began to appear on Serbian territory. Those parts of Serbia under Austro-Hungarian control were also limited by the government in the realm of newspaper publishing. The first Serbian newspaper was Serbskiia povsednevniia noviny, also called Serbskiia noviny, published from 1791-1792, in Vienna. It provided mostly news on events in Europe. The Library of Congress has this title in facsimile but not in the original print format. The first Serbian newspaper published on the territory of Serbia was Novine srbske, 1834-1919, first in Kragujevac and then later in Beograd. As an official newspaper, it presented laws and covered other official information. Later years of this title are held by the Law Library of Congress. The oldest Serbian newspaper held in original format by the Library of Congress is Serbskii narodnyi list from 1835, issued in Hungary.
From 1791-1868, Serbs produced more than 100 periodicals, over half of which were newspapers. The year 1869 is a turning point in Serbian history, for Serbia adopted its own constitution in a further dissolution of Ottoman power in the country. During the Kingdom of Serbia (1869-1918), periodical and newspaper publishing grew at a significant rate, with over 1,300 titles issued, over 700 of which were newspapers. The 1870s saw the rise of socialist periodicals, most of them newspapers. Political newspapers also proliferated during this era, especially with the passage of anti-censorship laws. During the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), 1919-1941, a further 1,600 titles appeared in less than half the time of the previous era, reflecting the robust publishing industry of the interwar period. Approximately half of these titles were newspapers.
During World War II and the civil war in Yugoslavia (1941-1944), publishing was drastically curtailed, but the industry was revived during the communist era of Yugoslavia (1945-1992). A survey of volumes from 1954 through 1989 of the Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia (Statistički godišnjak FNRJ) shows the growth in Serbian newspapers for most of that period. Thus, in the 1950s, Serbia averaged about 250 newspapers per year, and in the 1960s the average doubled to over 500 newspapers. In the 1970s and 1980s, growth continued with on average over 800 and 1100 newspapers, respectively, published in Serbia. The number of titles began to taper off in the late 1980s. Many of the newspapers during this period were central and local party publications, but Serbia also published many special interest newspapers on culture, trade unions, military affairs, and titles for young people, among others.
Since the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Serbia has continued its strong tradition of newspaper publishing as the Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of Serbia (Statistički godišnjak Republike Srbije) attests. In this yearbook, Serbia releases detailed statistics on the current state of publishing. The volume from 2014 shows that in 2012 there were 1,760 periodicals published in Serbia, 374 of which were newspapers. Twenty dailies were published, mostly in the capital city, Beograd, but the other newspapers of lesser frequency were divided, with about 50% in Beograd and 50% in Vojvodina. B/C/S (Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian), as it is called by U.S. scholars, is the most common language for newspapers in contemporary Serbia, but there were also sixteen titles in Hungarian, seven in Romanian, and several each in many other languages. On average during the 1990s and 2000s Serbia issued approximately 500-600 different newspapers per year.
The preeminent repository for Serbian newspapers is the National Library of Serbia External in Beograd. Other important collections can be found in the libraries of Matica Srpska External and the University of Beograd External. Major libraries in the countries that were former-Yugoslav republics will also have significant holdings of Serbian newspapers, especially from the communist era.