Official name: Serbia and Montenegro
Area: 102,350 square kilometers (39,518 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Daravica (2,656 meters/8,714 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Western
Time zone: 1 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 492 kilometers (306 miles) from north to south; 378 kilometers (235 miles) from east to west
Land boundaries: 2,246 kilometers (1,396 miles) total boundary length; Albania 287 kilometers (178 miles), Bosnia and Herzegovina 527 kilometers (327 miles), Bulgaria 318 kilometers (198 miles), Croatia 266 kilometers (166 miles), Hungary 151 kilometers (94 miles), Macedonia 221 kilometers (137 miles), Romania 476 kilometers (296 miles)
Coastline: 199 kilometers (124 miles)
Territorial sea limits: Not available
Serbia and Montenegro is located in southeastern Europe, sharing borders with Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has a southwest coastline on the Adriatic Sea. With a total area of about 102,350 square kilometers (39,518 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of Kentucky. Serbia and Montenegro has two nominally autonomous provinces (Kosovo and Vojvodina).
Serbia and Montenegro has no outside territories or dependencies.
Serbia and Montenegro's climate varies greatly from one part of the country to another, due to the many mountain ranges. Most of Serbia's climate is continental, with cold, dry winters and warm, humid summers. The Pannonian Plains have cold winters with hot and dry summers. In Vojvodina, July temperatures average 21°C (70°F) while temperatures in January average about 0°C (32°F).
The Adriatic coast has a more temperate Mediterranean climate, but the Dinaric Mountains prevent the Mediterranean weather from penetrating to inland Montenegro. The average seaside July temperatures are between 23°C (74°F) and 25°C (78°F). Summers are usually long and dry while winters are short and mild. Intense summer heat penetrates the Bojana River Valley over the Lake Scutari basin and upstream along the Morača River. Podgorica, on the Morača River, is the warmest city in Serbia and Montenegro, with July temperatures averaging 26°C (80°F), with highs sometimes reaching 40°C (104°F). January temperatures average around 5°C (41°F), with lows reaching -10°C (14°F).
Annual precipitation in Serbia ranges from 56 to 190 centimeters (22 to 75 inches), depending on elevation and exposure. Heavy rains in spring and autumn frequently cause floods. Snow is rare along the Montenegrin coast and in the Lake Scutari basin. In the inland regions, however, near elevated limestone mountain ranges, the climate is typically sub-alpine, with cold, snowy winters and mild summers. In some of these areas, snow lingers into the summer months; the highest mountain peaks are covered with snow year-round.
Serbia and Montenegro covers the middle of the Balkan Peninsula and extends westward to meet the Adriatic Sea. The southern half, made up of Montenegro and Kosovo, is rugged and mountainous; the northern half, Serbia, contains the Danube River basin and the southern extent of the Pannonian Plain.
Serbia and Montenegro was known as Yugoslavia from 1992 to March 2003, when it became Serbia and Montenegro. It consists of two republics: Serbia, comprising the eastern 86 percent of the country; and coastal Montenegro, which occupies the southwestern 14 percent. Within Serbia are two nominally autonomous provinces: Kosovo (10,887 square kilometers/4,203 square miles), in the south; and Vojvodina (21,506 square kilometers/ 8,303 square miles), in the north.
Located on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate, Serbia and Montenegro is seismically active. Two parallel fault lines extend from northwest to southeast Montenegro. Serbia has thrust fault lines on either side of the river basins surrounding the Velika Morava and Južna Morava Rivers. There is also a tectonic contact line along the eastern border with Romania. These structural seams in the earth's crust periodically shift, causing tremors and occasional destructive earthquakes.
Serbia and Montenegro has a short southwestern coastline on the Adriatic Sea, which is an extension of the Mediterranean Sea. The Adriatic Sea is at its widest between Serbia and Montenegro and southern Italy, with a width of about 200 kilometers (125 miles). This portion of the Adriatic is also the deepest, reaching some 1,330 meters (4,360 feet) at a point about 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of the Gulf of Kotor.
The coast is indented with numerous bays and coves. The largest and most impressive is the Gulf of Kotor, the world's southernmost fjord.
The slopes of the Dinaric Alps rise very close to the water in most places. Only 52 kilometers (32 miles) of coast can be considered beach. Velika Plaza (Long Beach) at Ulcinj has the longest continuous stretch of sandy beach, at 13 kilometers (8 miles). Since the coastline is so rugged, access to the sea is limited. The port of Bar and the Gulf of Kotor are the main access points.
Lake Scutari (Skadar) is only 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the Adriatic coast in Montenegro. One of forty lakes in Montenegro, it is by far the largest lake in Serbia and Montenegro (as well as in the entire Balkan region). Covering approximately 400 square kilometers (150 square miles), about two-thirds of the lake lies within Serbia and Montenegro's borders, with the rest extending into Albania. Although its surface area is large, its average depth is only 5 meters (16 feet).
High mountains rise to the southwest of the lake, while to the northeast is a wide swamp. Although Lake Scutari is adjacent to the Adriatic Sea, there are about thirty spots, known as oke (singular: oko ) where its bed is under sea level and groundwater springs forth from the bottom of the lake. The Morača River is the largest stream that flows into Lake Scutari.
Most of Serbia and Montenegro's rivers travel eastward towards the Black Sea basin. Serbia and Montenegro's most important river is the Danube, which forms part of the country's border with Croatia, then flows across northern Serbia and along the border with Romania. The Danube rises in the southwestern part of Germany and follows a winding, generally eastern course, traversing over 2,850 kilometers (1,771 miles) through Austria, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro, and Romania before finally emptying into the Black Sea. Only 588 kilometers (365 miles) of the river's length is located in Serbia and Montenegro, however. As the second-longest river in Europe, the Danube serves as a vital commercial and transportation route.
Along Serbia and Montenegro's northeastern border with Romania, the Danube flows through the Iron Gate. This is a gorge with rapids where the Danube cuts through the Transylvanian Alps.
The Danube's main tributaries in Serbia and Montenegro are the Tisa, Sava, and Morava Rivers. The Tisa River is 966 kilometers (600 miles) long; 168 kilometers (103 miles) of the river's length flows through Serbia and Montenegro. It enters the country from Hungary and travels south across the Pannonian Plain to the Danube.
The Sava River is 945 kilometers (587 miles) long, entering the country from Bosnia and Herzegovina and flowing east for 206 kilometers (128 miles) before meeting the Danube at Belgrade (Beograd). The Drina is a major tributary of the Sava and makes up part of Serbia and Montenegro's border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Zapadna Morava (308 kilometers/ 191 miles), flowing eastward, and the Južna Morava (295 kilometers/183 miles), flowing towards the north, merge to form the Velika Morava (185 kilometers/115 miles) near the center of the country. The Morava Rivers and their tributary, the Ibar, drain the mountainous areas of central and southern Serbia and flow northward to join the Danube east of Belgrade.
There are no desert regions in Serbia and Montenegro.
Occupying northern Serbia is the Pannonian Plain and the low-lying plains of Vojvodina, where the Danube River is joined by two of its major tributaries, the Sava and Tisa Rivers. The region is mostly flat, with some low hills, and it contains fertile soils used for farmland and grazing. The Pannonian Plain is situated within an ancient dry seabed. It is filled with rich alluvial deposits, forming fertile farmland and rolling hills. Kosovo, at the southern end of the country, covers a montane basin with high plains.
Mountains cover about half of Serbia. Serbia is ringed by the Dinaric Alps on the west, the Sar Mountains and the North Albanian Alps (or Prokletije) on the south, and the Balkan Mountains and the Transylvanian Alps on the east. Many peaks exceed 1,800 meters (6,000 feet) above sea level, including thirteen summits that top 2,400 meters (7,870 feet).
Nearly all of Montenegro is mountainous. The name Montenegro (which means Black Mountain) is believed to come from the thick "black" forests that once covered the area. The high Dinaric Alps of Montenegro rise steeply from the Adriatic coastline, framing a narrow ribbon of coastal plain only 2 to 10 kilometers (1 to 6 miles) wide.
The four highest peaks in Serbia and Montenegro are all in Serbia: Daravica, at 2,656 meters (8,714 feet); Crni Vrh, at 2,585 meters (8,481 feet); Gusan, at 2,539 meters (8,330 feet); and Bogdaš, at 2,533 meters (8,311 feet). Bobotov Kuk, which at an elevation of 2,522 meters (8,275 feet) is the fifth-highest mountain in the country, lies in Montenegro. This is the highest point in the Dinaric Alps.
Tara Canyon follows the Tara River along Montenegro's northwestern border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. At a maximum depth of 1,300 meters (4,265 feet), Tara Canyon is Europe's deepest canyon. The Piva and Morača River Basins of Montenegro contain canyons that are about 1,200 meters (3,940 feet) deep.
The Zlotske Caves in eastern Serbia consist of two separate cave systems: the Vernjikica and the Lazareva. The Vernjikica has eleven large chambers. The largest in floor area is Vilingrad (about 29,950 square meters/322,379 square miles), which features a large number of stalagmites shaped like humans and animals. The Gothic Cathedral Hall chamber, also in the Vernjikica, has fine, lace-like carvings in its rock formations. The Coliseum Hall, the largest cavern in the Vernjikica, is so named for its circular shape and column-like formations. The Lazareva has an underground river flowing through the lower of its two levels.
There are no major plateau regions in Serbia and Montenegro.
In 1972, the joint Yugoslav-Romanian Iron Gate Dam, with its two hydroelectric plants, was completed at the gorge of the same name. Because of this dam and other engineering feats, the Danube River is now navigable throughout Serbia and Montenegro. The large reservoir also serves to supply irrigation waters and as a site for farm fishing.
Brân, Zoë. After Yugoslavia . Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2001.
Malcolm, Noel. Kosovo: A Short History . New York: HarperPerennial, 1999.
Radovanovic, Ivana. The Iron Gates Mesolithic . Ann Arbor, MI: International Monographs in Prehistory, 1996.
The Government of Serbia, Office of Communications, Serbia Info: Online Encyclopedia of Serbia . http://www.serbia.sr.gov.yu/enc/ (accessed May 12, 2003).