Serbia, Europe, Historical Profile (1922), #003-The Zhupaniyas
In their new settlements the Serbs did not form at once a united political organization. The clans more or less related to each other, occupied a certain territory, which as a geographical and political unit was called Zhttpa or Zhupaniya (county), the political and military chief of which was called Zhupan.
The history of the Serbs during the first five centuries after their arrival in their present country was a struggle between the attempts at union and centralization of the Zhupaniyas into one state under one government, and the resistance to such union and centralization. The more powerful Zhupan was tempted to subjugate and absorb the less powerful Zhupaniyas.
If successful, he would lake the title of Veliki Zhupan (Grand Zhupan). But such unions were followed again and again by decentralization and disruption. The earlier history of the Serbs on the Balkan territory is especially turbulent and bloody, one of the minor causes being the struggle between the ancient Slavonic order of inheritance, according to which a Zhupan ought to be succeeded by the oldest member of the family and not necessarily by his own son, and the natural desire of every ruler that bis own son should inherit the throne.
This internal political process was complicated by the struggle between the Greek Church and Greek emperors on the one side and the Roman Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Powers (Venice and Hungary) on the other, for the possession of exclusive ecclesiastical and political influence. The danger increased when the Bulgarians came, towards the end of the 7th century, and formed a powerful kingdom on the eastern and south-eastern frontiers of the Serbs. Practicallv from the Sth to the 12th century the bulk of the Serbs was under cither Bulgarian or Greek suzerainty, while the Serbo-Croat provinces of Dalmatia acknowledged either Venetian or Hungarian supremacy.