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Slavic tribes, whose descendants today form most of the population of the region, arrived in the sixth century.
The Byzantine Empire ruled the Balkans for centuries, until the 1150s, when Stefan Nemanja, a leader of a Serb clan, united many smaller clans to defeat the foreign power.
The flag of the former Yugoslavia was the same but with a red star outlined in yellow in the center.
The first known inhabitants were the Illyrians, followed by the Celts in the fourth century, and the Romans a century after that.
Five percent of the people speak Albanian, most of these concentrated in the southern province of Kosovo.
It is in the north of the country, on a cliff overlooking the meeting of the Danube and Sava Rivers. Since the civil wars began in the early 1990s, the population has become more heavily Serbian.
Many Croats have fled, particularly from Belgrade and Vojvodina, and many ethnic Serbs have fled from other former Yugoslav republics, Bosnia and Croatia in particular.
Its terrain is rough and mountainous, better suited for animal husbandry than for farming.
Its coastal plain along the Adriatic is narrow, dropping off to sheer cliffs in the north.