Sandžak is the name given a region in Serbia and in Montenegro between the borders with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. The name Sandžak is based on the Ottoman term sanjak for flag and region and refers to the Sanjak of Novi Pazar, a region within the Ottoman Empire. Sandžak today does not exist as an administrative region within Serbia or Montengro, but generally encompasses up to six municipalities in Serbia (Novi Pazar, Tutin, Sjenica, Prijepolje, Priboj, Nova Varoš) and six in Montenegro (Bijelo Polje, Rožaje, Plav, Pljevlja, Berane, Andrijevica). Sandžak overlaps with the region of Raška, which refers to the early Serb medieval state. Today the region is predominantly populated by Serbs, Bosniaks (Muslims) and Montenegrins. Bosniaks who constitute a regional majority have been seeking greater autonomy and minority rights, whereas Serbs and the governments in Belgrade and Podgorica have seen demands for regional autonomy as a prelude to possible secession. The independence of Montenegro in 2006 has divided the region and thwarted any project of regional autonomy of Sandzak.
With the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the Muslim population of Sandžak found themselves separated from their ethnic kin in Bosnia and Herzegovina. During Yugoslav times, the regional center for Muslims has been Sarajevo. The repressive policies of Serbia and Montenegro under the dominance of Serbian president Slobodan Milošević during the 1990s lead to instances of ethnic cleansing and human rights violations of Muslims/Bosniaks in Sandzak. Bosniak political leaders have demanded both autonomy for the region and greater minority rights protection. Since the end of the Milosevic rule, Bosniaks have held increased power at the local level and cooperated with authorities in Serbia. In Montenegro, relations improved with the Djukanovic government initiating reforms in 1997 and breaking with the nationalist policies of Milosevic. Interethnic relations in the region, however, remain tense and the Bosniak majority is divided in terms of political aspirations and loyalty between Serbia and Montenegro. The region remains one of the most impoverished parts of both Montenegro and Serbia and finds itself in a peripheral position towards the capitals in Belgrade and Podgorica.