Alexander I of Yugoslavia
Alexander I also known as Alexander the Unifier ' onMouseout='HidePop("70516")' href="/topics/Serbian_Cyrillic_alphabet">Cyrillic script
Serbian Cyrillic alphabet
The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet is an adaptation of the Cyrillic script for the Serbian language, developed in 1818 by Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić. It is one of the two standard modern alphabets used to write the Serbian language, the other being Latin...

: Александар Ујединитељ, – 9 October 1934) was the first king of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a state stretching from the Western Balkans to Central Europe which existed during the often-tumultuous interwar era of 1918–1941...

 (1929–34) as well as the last king of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1921–29).


Alexander Karađorđević was born in Principality of Montenegro
Principality of Montenegro
The Principality of Montenegro was a former realm in Southeastern Europe. It existed from 13 March 1852 to 28 August 1910. It was then proclaimed a kingdom by Knjaz Nikola, who then became king....

 in December 1888. His father was King Peter I of Serbia and his mother the former Princess Zorka of Montenegro
Zorka of Montenegro
Princess Ljubica Petrović-Njegoš of Montenegro , and later became Princess Zorka Karađorđević in Serbia. She was better known as Princess Zorka....

, a daughter of King Nicholas of Montenegro. In Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

 on 8 June 1922 he married HRH Princess Maria of Romania, who was a daughter of King Ferdinand of Romania. They had three sons: Crown Prince Peter
Peter II of Yugoslavia
Peter II, also known as Peter II Karađorđević , was the third and last King of Yugoslavia...

, and Princes Tomislav
Prince Tomislav of Yugoslavia
Prince Tomislav of Yugoslavia was a member of the House of Karađorđević.-Early life and education:...

 and Andrej
Prince Andrej of Yugoslavia
Prince Andrej of Yugoslavia was the third son of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia and Maria of Romania , the second daughter of King Ferdinand I of Romania and Marie of Edinburgh .-Exile:After the fall of monarchy in Yugoslavia...


He spent his childhood in Montenegro
Montenegro Montenegrin: Crna Gora Црна Гора , meaning "Black Mountain") is a country located in Southeastern Europe. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the south-west and is bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast and Albania to the...

, and was educated in Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

. In 1910 he nearly died from stomach typhus and was left with stomach problems for the rest of his life. He continued his schooling at the imperial Page Corps
Page Corps
Page Corps was a military academy in Imperial Russia, which prepared sons of the nobility and of senior officers for military service....

 in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

, Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, but had to quit due to his brother's renounciation, and then in Belgrade. Prince Alexander was not the first in line for the throne but his elder brother, Crown Prince George (Đorđe) was considered unstable by most political forces in Serbia and after two notable scandals (one of which occurred in 1909 when he kicked his servant, who consequently died) Prince George was forced to renounce his claim to the throne.

Balkan Wars and World War I

In the First Balkan War
First Balkan War
The First Balkan War, which lasted from October 1912 to May 1913, pitted the Balkan League against the Ottoman Empire. The combined armies of the Balkan states overcame the numerically inferior and strategically disadvantaged Ottoman armies and achieved rapid success...

 in 1912, as commander of the First Army, Crown Prince Alexander fought victorious battles in Kumanovo
Battle of Kumanovo
The Battle of Kumanovo or Battle of Kumanova on 23 – 24 October 1912 was a major battle of the First Balkan War. It was an important Serbian victory over the Ottoman army in Vardar Macedonia, shortly after the outbreak of the war...

 and Bitola
Battle of Bitola
The Battle of Monastir took place near the town of Bitola, Macedonia during the First Balkan War, from 16 to 19 November 1912. As an ongoing part of the Balkan Wars, the Ottoman Vardar Army retreated from the defeat at Kumanovo and regrouped around Bitola...

, and later in 1913, during the Second Balkan War
Second Balkan War
The Second Balkan War was a conflict which broke out when Bulgaria, dissatisfied with its share of the spoils of the First Balkan War, attacked its former allies, Serbia and Greece, on 29 June 1913. Bulgaria had a prewar agreement about the division of region of Macedonia...

, the Battle of Bregalnica
Battle of Bregalnica
The Battle of Bregalnica was fought between the Kingdom of Bulgaria army and the Kingdom of Serbia during the Second Balkan War. Serbian forces came out victorious....

. In the aftermath of the Second Balkan War Prince Alexander took sides in the complicated power struggle over how Macedonia should be administered. In this Alexander bested Col. Dragutin Dimitrijević
Dragutin Dimitrijevic
Dragutin Dimitrijević was a Serbian soldier and leader of the Black Hand group implicated with assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria in 1914...

 or "Apis" and in the wake of this Alexander's father, King Peter, agreed to hand over royal powers to his son. On 24 June 1914 Alexander became Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

 of Serbia.

At the outbreak of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 he was the nominal supreme commander of the Serbian army - true command was in hands of Chief of Staff of Supreme Headquarters - position held by Stepa Stepanović
Stepa Stepanovic
Stepa Stepanović OSS OCT GCMG was a field marshal of the Serbian Army who distinguished himself in Serbia's wars from 1876 to 1918.Stepa Stepanović was born in the village of Kumodraž outside of Belgrade on...

 (during the mobilisation), Radomir Putnik
Radomir Putnik
Radomir Putnik, also known as Vojvoda Putnik, OSS OCT OKS GCMG was a Serbian Field Marshal and Chief of General Staff in the Balkan Wars and World War I, and took part in all wars that Serbia waged from 1876 to 1917.-Biography:...

 (1914–1915), Petar Bojović
Petar Bojovic
Petar Bojović OKS GCMG was one of four Serbian vojvodas in Balkan Wars and World War I.-Early:Petar was born on July 16, 1858 in Miševići, Nova Varoš. He had distant ancestry from the Vasojevići....

 (1916–1917) and Živojin Mišić
Živojin Mišic
Živojin Mišić OKS GCMG was a Vojvoda and the most successful Serbian commander who participated in all Serbia's wars from 1876 to 1918.-Early years:Misic's grandfather was born in Struganik near Mionica...

 (1918). The Serbian army distinguished itself in the battles at Cer
Battle of Cer
The Battle of Cer also known as Battle of Jadar was one of the first battles of World War I, it also marked the first Allied victory in the war. The battle was fought between the Austro-Hungarian Army and Serbian forces. The results improved Serbian standing in the Alliance...

 and at the Drina
The Drina is a 346 kilometer long river, which forms most of the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. It is the longest tributary of the Sava River and the longest karst river in the Dinaric Alps which belongs to the Danube river watershed...

 (the Battle of Kolubara
Battle of Kolubara
The Battle of Kolubara was a major victory of Serbia over the invading Austro-Hungarian armies during World War I. The invaders were routed, and driven back across the Serbian border....

) in 1914, scoring victories against the invading Austro-Hungarian
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 forces and evicting them from the country.

In 1915 the Serbian army with the aged King Peter and Crown Prince Alexander suffered many losses being attacked from all directions by the alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. It withdrew through the gorges of Montenegro and northern Albania to the Greek island of Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

, where it was reorganized. After the army was regrouped and reinforced, it achieved a decisive victory on the Macedonian Front
Macedonian front (World War I)
The Macedonian Front resulted from an attempt by the Allied Powers to aid Serbia, in the autumn of 1915, against the combined attack of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. The expedition came too late and in insufficient force to prevent the fall of Serbia, and was complicated by the internal...

, at Kajmakcalan. The Serbian army carried out a major part in the final Allied breakthrough in the autumn of 1918.

King of Yugoslavia

On 1 December 1918, in a prearranged set piece, Alexander, as Regent, received a delegation of the People's Council of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs
State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs
The State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was a short-lived state formed from the southernmost parts of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy after its dissolution at the end of the World War I by the resident population of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs...

, an address was read out by one of the delegation, and Alexander made an address in acceptance. This was considered to be the birth of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

In 1921, on the death of his father, Alexander inherited the throne of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which from its inception was colloquially known both in the Kingdom and the rest of Europe alike as Yugoslavia.

On 6 January 1929, in response to the political crisis triggered by the murder of Stjepan Radić
Stjepan Radic
Stjepan Radić was a Croatian politician and the founder of the Croatian Peasant Party in 1905. Radić is credited with galvanizing the peasantry of Croatia into a viable political force...

, King Alexander abolished the Constitution, prorogued the Parliament and introduced a personal dictatorship (the so-called "January 6th Dictatorship
January 6th Dictatorship
The January 6th Dictatorship was a royal dictatorship established in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes by King Alexander...

", Šestojanuarska diktatura). He also changed the name of the country to Kingdom of Yugoslavia and changed the internal divisions from the 33 oblasts to nine new banovina
Banovina may refer to:* One of the subdivisions of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1929 to 1941* Any territory ruled by a ban * Banovina in central Croatia, also known as Banija...

on 3 October.

In the same month, he tried to banish by decree the use of Serbian Cyrillic to promote the exclusive use of Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

 in Yugoslavia.

In 1931, Alexander decreed a new Constitution which transferred executive power to the King. Elections were to be by universal male suffrage. The provision for a secret ballot was dropped and pressure on public employees to vote for the governing party was to be a feature of all elections held under Alexander's constitution. Furthermore, the King would appoint half the upper house directly, and legislation could become law with the approval of one of the houses alone if it were also approved by the King.


As a result of the previous deaths of three family members on a Tuesday, Alexander refused to undertake any public functions on that day of the week. On Tuesday 9 October 1934, however, he had no choice, as he was arriving in Marseilles to start a state visit
State visit
A state visit is a formal visit by a foreign head of state to another nation, at the invitation of that nation's head of state. State visits are the highest form of diplomatic contact between two nations, and are marked by ceremonial pomp and diplomatic protocol. In parliamentary democracies, heads...

 to the Third French Republic
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, to strengthen the two countries' alliance in the Little Entente
Little Entente
The Little Entente was an alliance formed in 1920 and 1921 by Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia with the purpose of common defense against Hungarian revision and the prevention of a Habsburg restoration...

. While Alexander was being driven in a car through the streets along with French Foreign Minister
Foreign minister
A Minister of Foreign Affairs, or foreign minister, is a cabinet minister who helps form the foreign policy of a sovereign state. The foreign minister is often regarded as the most senior ministerial position below that of the head of government . It is often granted to the deputy prime minister in...

 Louis Barthou
Louis Barthou
Jean Louis Barthou was a French politician of the Third Republic.-Early years:He was born in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, and served as Deputy from that constituency. He was an authority on trade union history and law. Barthou was Prime Minister in 1913, and held ministerial office...

, a gunman, Vlado Chernozemski
Vlado Chernozemski
Vlado Chernozemski , born Velichko Dimitrov Kerin , was a Bulgarian revolutionary.Chernozemski also entered the region of Vardar Macedonia with IMRO bands and participated in more than 15 battles with the Serbian police....

, stepped from the street and shot the King and the chauffeur. Barthou was accidentally shot by a French policeman and died later.

It was one of the first assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

s captured on film; the shooting occurred straight in front of the cameraman, who was only feet away at the time. The cameraman captured not merely the assassination but the immediate aftermath; the body of the chauffeur (who had been killed instantly) became jammed against the brakes of the car, allowing the cameraman to continue filming from within inches of the King for a number of minutes afterwards.

The assassin, Vlado Chernozemski
Vlado Chernozemski
Vlado Chernozemski , born Velichko Dimitrov Kerin , was a Bulgarian revolutionary.Chernozemski also entered the region of Vardar Macedonia with IMRO bands and participated in more than 15 battles with the Serbian police....

, was a Bulgarian, member of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) and an experienced marksman. Immediately after assassinating King Alexander, he was cut down by the sword of a mounted French policeman, and then beaten by the crowd. By the time he was removed from the scene, he was already dead. The IMRO was a political organization that fought for secession of Vardar Macedonia
Vardar Macedonia
Vardar Macedonia is an area in the north of the Macedonia . The borders of the area are those of the Republic of Macedonia. It covers an area of...

 from Yugoslavia. The leader of the organization in that time was Ivan Mihailov
Ivan Mihailov
Ivan Mihailov Gavrilov , was a Bulgarian revolutionary in Ottoman and interwar Macedonia, and leader of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization after 1924.-Early years:...

. According to the UKTV History program Infamous Assassinations-King Alexander, IMRO worked in alliance with the Croatian
Croats are a South Slavic ethnic group mostly living in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and nearby countries. There are around 4 million Croats living inside Croatia and up to 4.5 million throughout the rest of the world. Responding to political, social and economic pressure, many Croats have...

The Ustaša - Croatian Revolutionary Movement was a Croatian fascist anti-Yugoslav separatist movement. The ideology of the movement was a blend of fascism, Nazism, and Croatian nationalism. The Ustaše supported the creation of a Greater Croatia that would span to the River Drina and to the border...

 group led by Ante Pavelić
Ante Pavelic
Ante Pavelić was a Croatian fascist leader, revolutionary, and politician. He ruled as Poglavnik or head, of the Independent State of Croatia , a World War II puppet state of Nazi Germany in Axis-occupied Yugoslavia...

, under the secret sponsorship of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....


The film record of Alexander I's assassination remains one of the most notable pieces of newsreel in existence, alongside the film of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Prince of Finland, and titular King of Poland. His official short title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias and he is known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until...

's coronation
A coronation is a ceremony marking the formal investiture of a monarch and/or their consort with regal power, usually involving the placement of a crown upon their head and the presentation of other items of regalia...

, the funerals of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

 and Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy
Assassination of John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas...


King Alexander I was buried in the Memorial Church of St. George, which had been built by his father. The Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 gave special permission to bishops Aloysius Stepinac
Aloysius Stepinac
Aloysius Viktor Stepinac , also known as Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, was a Croatian Catholic cardinal and Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 to 1960. In 1998 he was declared a martyr and beatified by Pope John Paul II....

, Antun Akšamović, Dionisije Njaradi and Gregorij Rožman
Gregorij Rožman
Gregorij Rožman was a Slovenian Roman Catholic clergyman and theologian. Between 1930 and 1959, he served as bishop of the Diocese of Ljubljana. He is most famous for his controversial role during World War II...

 to attend the funeral in an Orthodox church. As his son Peter II
Peter II of Yugoslavia
Peter II, also known as Peter II Karađorđević , was the third and last King of Yugoslavia...

 was still a minor, Alexander's first cousin Prince Pavle Karadjordjevic took the regency of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.


In popular culture

The song "Don Juan" by British synth duo the Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys are an English electronic dance music duo, consisting of Neil Tennant, who provides main vocals, keyboards and occasional guitar, and Chris Lowe on keyboards....

 (the B-side to their 1988 single "Domino Dancing
Domino Dancing
"Domino Dancing" is a song recorded by the British synthpop duo Pet Shop Boys which reached #7 on the UK Singles Chart. It was released as the lead single from their 1988 album, Introspective.-Song:...

") contains the phrase "King Zog
Zog of Albania
Zog I, Skanderbeg III of the Albanians , born Ahmet Muhtar Bey Zogolli, was King of the Albanians from 1928 to 1939. He was previously Prime Minister of Albania and President of Albania .-Background and early political career:...

's back from holiday, Marie Lupescu
Magda Lupescu
Elena Lupescu , better known as Magda Lupescu, was the mistress of King Carol II of the Romanians and later , his wife.-Parents and siblings:...

's grey and King Alexander is dead in Marseilles".

Honours and awards

Collar of the Order of the Holy Prince Lazarus
Order of Saint Prince Lazarus
The Order of Saint Prince Lazarus is a chivalric order created by King Alexander I of Serbia to commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo that took place on the 28 June 1389. It must not be confused with the Order of Saint Lazarus. The order is named after Prince Lazarus...

Grand Master of the Order of Takovo
Grand Master of the Order of the White Eagle (Serbia)
Grand Master of the Order of St. Sava
Order of St. Sava
The Order of St. Sava was a decoration instituted by the order King Milan I of Serbia in 1883. The Order of Saint Sava originally was established to recognize civilians for meritorious achievements in the arts and sciences. In 1914 a change was made permitting military personnel to receive the...

Grand Master and Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Karageorge
Grand Master of the Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Karageorge (military class)
Supreme Knight of the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation is an order of chivalry, or knighthood, originating in mediæval Italy. It eventually was the pinnacle of the honours system in the Kingdom of Italy, which ceased to be a national order when the kingdom became a republic in 1946...

Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari
Order of St. Cyril and St. Methodius (Bulgaria)

External links

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