Balkans

The Balkans, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe with various definitions and meanings,[1][2] including geopolitical and historical.[3] The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined.[4] The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala, 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), in the Rila mountain range.

The concept of the Balkan peninsula was created by the German geographer August Zeune in 1808,[5] who mistakenly considered the Balkan Mountains the dominant mountain system of Southeast Europe spanning from the Adriatic Sea to the Black Sea. The term of Balkan Peninsula was a synonym for European Turkey in the 19th century, the former provinces of the Ottoman Empire in Southeast Europe. It had a geopolitical rather than a geographical definition, further promoted during the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the early 20th century. The definition of the Balkan peninsula natural borders are not coinciding with the technical definition of a peninsula and hence modern geographers are rejecting the idea of a Balkan peninsula, while the scholars usually discuss the Balkans as a region. The term steadily got, especially since the 1990s, a stigmatized and pejorative meaning related to the process of Balkanization,[4][6] and hence the rather used alternative term for the region is Southeast Europe.

Balkans
The Balkan region according to Prof R. J. Crampton
The Balkan states according to Encyclopædia Britannica
  The Balkan Peninsula using the DanubeSavaSoča border
     Political communities that are usually included in the Balkans.
     Political communities that are often included in the Balkans.
Geography
LocationSoutheastern Europe
Highest elevation2,925 m (9,596 ft)
Highest pointMusala (Bulgaria)
Administration
Demographics
DemonymBalkan

Name

Etymology

The word Balkan comes from Ottoman Turkish balkan 'chain of wooded mountains';[7][8] related words are also found in other Turkic languages.[9] The origin of the Turkic word is obscure; it may be related to Persian bālk 'mud', and the Turkish suffix an 'swampy forest'[10] or Persian balā-khāna 'big high house'.[11]

Historical names and meaning

Classical antiquity and the early Middle Ages

From classical antiquity through the Middle Ages, the Balkan Mountains were called by the local Thracian[12] name Haemus.[13] According to Greek mythology, the Thracian king Haemus was turned into a mountain by Zeus as a punishment and the mountain has remained with his name. A reverse name scheme has also been suggested. D. Dechev considers that Haemus (Αἷμος) is derived from a Thracian word *saimon, 'mountain ridge'.[14] A third possibility is that "Haemus" (Αἵμος) derives from the Greek word "haema" (αἷμα) meaning 'blood'. The myth relates to a fight between Zeus and the monster/titan Typhon. Zeus injured Typhon with a thunder bolt and Typhon's blood fell on the mountains, from which they got their name.[15]

Late Middle Ages and Ottoman period

The earliest mention of the name appears in an early 14th-century Arab map, in which the Haemus mountains are referred to as Balkan.[16] The first attested time the name "Balkan" was used in the West for the mountain range in Bulgaria was in a letter sent in 1490 to Pope Innocent VIII by Buonaccorsi Callimaco, an Italian humanist, writer and diplomat.[17] The Ottomans first mention it in a document dated from 1565.[11] There has been no other documented usage of the word to refer to the region before that, although other Turkic tribes had already settled in or were passing through the Peninsula.[11] There is also a claim about an earlier Bulgar Turkic origin of the word popular in Bulgaria, however it is only an unscholarly assertion.[11] The word was used by the Ottomans in Rumelia in its general meaning of mountain, as in Kod̲j̲a-Balkan, Čatal-Balkan, and Ungurus-Balkani̊, but especially it was applied to the Haemus mountain.[18][19] The name is still preserved in Central Asia with the Balkan Daglary (Balkan Mountains)[20] and the Balkan Province of Turkmenistan. English traveler John Morritt introduced this term into the English literature at the end of the 18th-century, and other authors started applying the name to the wider area between the Adriatic and the Black Sea. The concept of the "Balkans" was created by the German geographer August Zeune in 1808,[21] who mistakenly considered it as the dominant central mountain system of Southeast Europe spanning from the Adriatic Sea to the Black Sea.[22][23][4] During the 1820s, "Balkan became the preferred although not yet exclusive term alongside Haemus among British travelers... Among Russian travelers not so burdened by classical toponymy, Balkan was the preferred term".[24]

Evolution of meaning in 19th and 20th century

The term was not commonly used in geographical literature until the mid-19th century because already then scientists like Carl Ritter warned that only the part South of the Balkan Mountains can be considered as a peninsula and considered it to be renamed as "Greek peninsula". Other prominent geographers who didn't agree with Zeune were Hermann Wagner, Theobald Fischer, Marion Newbigin, Albrecht Penck, while Austrian diplomat Johann Georg von Hahn in 1869 for the same territory used the term Südostereuropäische Halbinsel ("Southeasterneuropean peninsula"). Another reason it was not commonly accepted as the definition of then European Turkey had a similar land extent. However, after the Congress of Berlin (1878) there was a political need for a new term and gradually the Balkans was revitalized, but in the maps the northern border was in Serbia and Montenegro without Greece (it only depicted the Ottoman occupied parts of Europe), while Yugoslavian maps also included Croatia and Bosnia. The term Balkan Peninsula was a synonym for European Turkey, the political borders of former Ottoman Empire provinces.[4][23][25]

The usage of the term changed in the very end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century when was embraced by Serbian geographers, most prominently by Jovan Cvijić.[22] It was done with political reasoning as affirmation for Serbian nationalism on the whole territory of the South Slavs, and also included anthropological and ethnological studies of the South Slavs through which were claimed various nationalistic and racistic theories.[22] Through such policies and Yugoslavian maps the term was elevated to the modern status of a geographical region.[23] The term acquired political nationalistic connotations far from its initial geographic meaning,[4] arising from political changes from the late 19th century to the creation of post–World War I Yugoslavia (initially the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918).[23] After the dissolution of Yugoslavia beginning in June 1991, the term "Balkans" acquired a negative political meaning, especially in Croatia and Slovenia, as well in worldwide casual usage for war conflicts and fragmentation of a territory (see Balkanization).[22][23]

Southeast Europe

In part due to the historical and political connotations of the term "Balkans",[26] especially since the military conflicts of the 1990s in Yugoslavia in the western half of the Balkans, the term "Southeast Europe" is becoming increasingly popular.[23][27] A European Union initiative of 1999 is called the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, and the online newspaper Balkan Times renamed itself Southeast European Times in 2003.

Current

In the languages of the region, the peninsula is known as:

  • Slavic languages:
    • Bulgarian: Балкански полуостров, transliterated: Balkanski poluostrov
    • Macedonian: Балкански Полуостров, transliterated: Balkanski Poluostrov
    • Serbo-Croatian: Balkansko poluostrvo, Балканско полуострво; Balkanski poluotok, Балкански полуоток
    • Slovene: Balkanski polotok
  • Romance languages:
  • Turkic Languages:
    • Turkish: Balkan Yarımadası or Balkanlar
  • Other languages:
    • Albanian: Gadishulli Ballkanik and Siujdhesa e Ballkanit
    • Greek: Βαλκανική χερσόνησος, transliterated: Valkaniki chersonisos

Definitions and boundaries

Balkan Peninsula

Balkan topo en
The Balkan Peninsula, as defined by the SočaVipavaKrkaSavaDanube border.
Balkan peninsula line
The Peninsula's most extensive definition, bordered by water on three sides and connected with a line on the fourth

The Balkan Peninsula is bounded by the Adriatic Sea to the west, the Mediterranean Sea (including the Ionian and Aegean seas) and the Marmara Sea to the south and the Black Sea to the east. Its northern boundary is often given as the Danube, Sava and Kupa Rivers.[28][29] The Balkan Peninsula has a combined area of about 470,000 km2 (181,000 sq mi) (slightly smaller than Spain). It is more or less identical to the region known as Southeastern Europe.[30][31][32]

From 1920 until World War II, Italy included Istria and some Dalmatian areas (like Zara, today's Zadar) that are within the general definition of the Balkan peninsula. The current territory of Italy includes only the small area around Trieste inside the Balkan Peninsula. However, the regions of Trieste and Istria are not usually considered part of the Balkans by Italian geographers, due to their definition of the Balkans that limits its western border to the Kupa River.[33]

Share of total area (and land area[34] in brackets) within the Balkan Peninsula by country by the Danube-Sava definition, with Bulgaria and Greece occupying almost the half of the territory of the Balkan Peninsula:

Entirely within the Balkan peninsula:

Mostly or partially within the Balkan peninsula:

Balkans

The term "the Balkans" is used more generally for the region; it includes states in the region, which may extend beyond the peninsula, and is not defined by the geography of the peninsula itself.

The Balkans are usually said to comprise Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo,[a], Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Greece, and Slovenia. Its total area is usually given as 666,700 square km (257,400 square miles) and the population as 59,297,000 (est. 2002).[41][42]

Italy, although having a small part of its territory in the Balkan peninsula, is not included in the term "the Balkans".

The term Southeastern Europe is also used for the region, with various definitions. Individual Balkan states are also considered to be part of other regions, including Southern Europe and Eastern Europe. Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia are also sometimes considered part of Central Europe. Turkey, often including its European territory, is also included in Western or Southwestern Asia.

Western Balkans

Western Balkans
Western Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The partially recognized Kosovo is also demarcated. Croatia joined the EU in 2013.

Western Balkans is a political neologism coined to refer to Albania and the territory of the former Yugoslavia less Slovenia since the early 1990s.[23][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50][51] The region of the Western Balkan, a coinage exclusively used in Pan-European parlance, roughly corresponds to the Dinaric Alps territory.

The institutions of the European Union have generally used the term "Western Balkans" to mean the Balkan area that includes countries that are not members of the European Union, while others refer to the geographical aspects.[52][53][44][45][48][49][50][51] Each of these countries aims to be part of the future enlargement of the European Union and reach democracy and transmission scores but, until then, they will be strongly connected with the pre-EU waiting program CEFTA.[54] Croatia, considered part of the Western Balkans, joined the EU in July 2013.[55]

Criticism of the geographical definition

The term is criticized for having a geopolitical rather a geographical meaning and definition, as a multiethnic and political area in the southeastern part of Europe.[23] The geographical term of a peninsula defines that the water border must be longer than land, with the land side being the shortest in the triangle, but that is not the case with the Balkan Peninsula.[22][23] Both Eastern and Western water cathetus from Odessa to Cape Matapan (ca. 1230-1350 km) and from Trieste to Cape Matapan (ca. 1270-1285 km) are shorter than land cathetus from Trieste to Odessa (ca. 1330-1365 km).[22][23] The land has a too wide line connected to the continent to be technically proclaimed as a peninsula - Szczecin (920 km) and Rostock (950 km) at the Baltic Sea are closer to Trieste than Odessa yet it is not considered as another European peninsula.[22] Since the late 19th and early 20th-century literature is not known where is exactly the northern border between the peninsula and the continent,[22][23] with an issue, whether the rivers are suitable for its definition.[4] In the studies the Balkans natural borders, especially the northern border, are often avoided to be addressed, considered as a "fastidious problem" by André Blanc in Geography of the Balkans (1965), while John Lampe and Marvin Jackman in Balkan Economic History (1971) noted that "modern geographers seem agreed in rejecting the old idea of a Balkan Peninsula".[4] Another issue is the name because the Balkan Mountains which are mostly located in Northern Bulgaria are not dominating the region by length and area like the Dinaric Alps.[22] An eventual Balkan peninsula can be considered a territory South of the Balkan Mountains, with a possible name "Greek-Albanian Peninsula", but Greece is rarely defined as a Balkan nation both geographically and in international relations.[4][23] The term influenced the meaning of Southeast Europe which again is not properly defined by geographical factors yet historical borders of the Balkans.[23]

Croatian geographers and academics are highly critical of inclusion of Croatia within the broad geographical, social-political and historical context of the Balkans, while the neologism Western Balkans is perceived as a humiliation of Croatia by the European political powers.[22] According to M. S. Altić, the term has two different meanings, "geographical, ultimately undefined, and cultural, extremely negative, and recently strongly motivated by the contemporary political context".[23] President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović in 2018 stated that avoids of using the term Western Balkans because it doesn't imply only a geographic area, but also negative connotations, and instead must be perceived and called as Southeast Europe because it is part of Europe.[56]

Nature and natural resources

Todorini kukli north
Panorama of Stara Planina. Its highest peak is Botev at a height of 2,376 m.
Marichin cirkus IMG 1452
View toward Rila, the highest mountain in the Balkans which reaches 2925 m
Голубачка тврђава
Golubac Fortress in Serbia, guarding the Danubian frontier of the Balkans

Most of the area is covered by mountain ranges running from the northwest to southeast. The main ranges are the Balkan mountains, running from the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria to its border with Serbia, the Rhodope mountains in southern Bulgaria and northern Greece, the Dinaric Alps in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro, the Šar massif which spreads from Albania to North Macedonia, and the Pindus range, spanning from southern Albania into central Greece and the Albanian Alps. The highest mountain of the region is Rila in Bulgaria, with Musala at 2925 m, Mount Olympus in Greece, being second at 2917 m and Vihren in Bulgaria being the third at 2914 m. The karst field or polje is a common feature of the landscape.

On the Adriatic and Aegean coasts the climate is Mediterranean, on the Black Sea coast the climate is humid subtropical and oceanic, and inland it is humid continental. In the northern part of the peninsula and on the mountains, winters are frosty and snowy, while summers are hot and dry. In the southern part winters are milder. The humid continental climate is predominant in Bosnia and Herzegovina, northern Croatia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, northern Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, the interior of Albania and Serbia, while the other, less common climates, the humid subtropical and oceanic climates, are seen on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria and Balkan Turkey (European Turkey); and the Mediterranean climate is seen on the coast of Albania, the coast of Croatia, Greece, southern Montenegro and the Aegean coast of Balkan Turkey (European Turkey).

Over the centuries forests have been cut down and replaced with bush. In the southern part and on the coast there is evergreen vegetation. Inland there are woods typical of Central Europe (oak and beech, and in the mountains, spruce, fir and pine). The tree line in the mountains lies at the height of 1800–2300 m. The land provides habitats for numerous endemic species, including extraordinarily abundant insects and reptiles that serve as food for a variety of birds of prey and rare vultures.

The soils are generally poor, except on the plains, where areas with natural grass, fertile soils and warm summers provide an opportunity for tillage. Elsewhere, land cultivation is mostly unsuccessful because of the mountains, hot summers and poor soils, although certain cultures such as olive and grape flourish.

Resources of energy are scarce, except in Kosovo, where considerable coal, lead, zinc, chromium and silver deposits are located.[57] Other deposits of coal, especially in Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia, also exist. Lignite deposits are widespread in Greece. Petroleum scarce reserves exist in Greece, Serbia and Albania. Natural gas deposits are scarce. Hydropower is in wide use, from over 1,000 dams. The often relentless bora wind is also being harnessed for power generation.

Metal ores are more usual than other raw materials. Iron ore is rare, but in some countries there is a considerable amount of copper, zinc, tin, chromite, manganese, magnesite and bauxite. Some metals are exported.

History and geopolitical significance

Appolonia Albania
Apollonia ruins near Fier, Albania.
Gamzigrad - Felix Romuliana (by Pudelek) 7
Ruins of the Roman-era palace Felix Romuliana, UNESCO, Serbia.

Antiquity

The Balkan region was the first area in Europe to experience the arrival of farming cultures in the Neolithic era. The Balkans have been inhabited since the Paleolithic and are the route by which farming from the Middle East spread to Europe during the Neolithic (7th millennium BC).[58][59] The practices of growing grain and raising livestock arrived in the Balkans from the Fertile Crescent by way of Anatolia and spread west and north into Central Europe, particularly through Pannonia. Two early culture-complexes have developed in the region, Starčevo culture and Vinča culture. The Balkans are also the location of the first advanced civilizations. Vinča culture developed a form of proto-writing before the Sumerians and Minoans, known as the Old European script, while the bulk of the symbols had been created in the period between 4500 and 4000 BC, with the ones on the Tărtăria clay tablets even dating back to around 5300 BC.[60]

The identity of the Balkans is dominated by its geographical position; historically the area was known as a crossroads of cultures. It has been a juncture between the Latin and Greek bodies of the Roman Empire, the destination of a massive influx of pagan Bulgars and Slavs, an area where Orthodox and Catholic Christianity met,[61] as well as the meeting point between Islam and Christianity.

In pre-classical and classical antiquity, this region was home to Greeks, Illyrians, Paeonians, Thracians, Dacians, and other ancient groups. The Achaemenid Persian Empire incorporated parts of the Balkans comprising Macedonia, Thrace, Bulgaria, and the Black Sea coastal region of Romania between the late 6th and the first half of the 5th-century BC into its territories.[62] Later the Roman Empire conquered most of the region and spread Roman culture and the Latin language, but significant parts still remained under classical Greek influence. The Romans considered the Rhodope Mountains to be the northern limit of the Peninsula of Haemus and the same limit applied approximately to the border between Greek and Latin use in the region (later called the Jireček Line).[63] However large spaces south of Jireček Line were and are inhabited by Vlachs (Aromanians), the Romance-speaking heirs of Roman Empire.[64][65] The Bulgars and Slavs arrived in the 6th-century and began assimilating and displacing already-assimilated (through Romanization and Hellenization) older inhabitants of the northern and central Balkans, forming the Bulgarian Empire.[66] During the Middle Ages, the Balkans became the stage for a series of wars between the Byzantine Roman and the Bulgarian Empires.

Early modern period

By the end of the 16th-century, the Ottoman Empire had become the controlling force in the region after expanding from Anatolia through Thrace to the Balkans. Many people in the Balkans place their greatest folk heroes in the era of either the onslaught or the retreat of the Ottoman Empire. As examples, for Greeks, Constantine XI Palaiologos and Kolokotronis; and for Serbs, Miloš Obilić and Tzar Lazar; for Montenegrins, Đurađ I Balšić and Ivan Crnojević; for Albanians, George Kastrioti Skanderbeg; for ethnic Macedonians, Nikola Karev[67] and Goce Delčev;[67] for Bulgarians, Vasil Levski, Georgi Sava Rakovski and Hristo Botev and for Croats, Nikola Šubić Zrinjski.

Balkans Animation 1800-2008
Modern political history of the Balkans from 1796 onwards.
Hagia Sophia 81
Hagia Sophia, an Eastern Orthodox Christian cathedral built in the 6th-century in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum.

In the past several centuries, because of the frequent Ottoman wars in Europe fought in and around the Balkans and the comparative Ottoman isolation from the mainstream of economic advance (reflecting the shift of Europe's commercial and political centre of gravity towards the Atlantic), the Balkans has been the least developed part of Europe. According to Halil İnalcık, "The population of the Balkans, according to one estimate, fell from a high of 8 million in the late 16th-century to only 3 million by the mid-eighteenth. This estimate is based on Ottoman documentary evidence."[68]

Most of the Balkan nation-states emerged during the 19th and early 20th centuries as they gained independence from the Ottoman Empire or the Austro-Hungarian empire: Greece in 1821, Serbia, Montenegro in 1878, Romania in 1881, Bulgaria in 1908 and Albania in 1912.

Recent history

Tsarevets
Tsarevets, a medieval stronghold in the former capital of the Bulgarian EmpireVeliko Tarnovo.
Ohrid Lake
The 13th-century church of St. John at Kaneo and the Ohrid Lake in North Macedonia. The lake and town were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.

World Wars

Austrians executing Serbs 1917
Austro-Hungarian troops executing Serbian civilians, 1914. Serbia lost about 850,000 people during the war, a quarter of its pre-war population.[69]

In 1912–1913 the First Balkan War broke out when the nation-states of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro united in an alliance against the Ottoman Empire. As a result of the war, almost all remaining European territories of the Ottoman Empire were captured and partitioned among the allies. Ensuing events also led to the creation of an independent Albanian state. Bulgaria insisted on its status quo territorial integrity, divided and shared by the Great Powers next to the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78) in other boundaries and on the pre-war Bulgarian-Serbian agreement. Bulgaria was provoked by the backstage deals between its former allies, Serbia and Greece, on the allocation of the spoils at the end of the First Balkan War. At the time, Bulgaria was fighting at the main Thracian Front. Bulgaria marks the beginning of Second Balkan War when it attacked them. The Serbs and the Greeks repulsed single attacks, but when the Greek army invaded Bulgaria together with an unprovoked Romanian intervention in the back, Bulgaria collapsed. The Ottoman Empire used the opportunity to recapture Eastern Thrace, establishing its new western borders that still stand today as part of modern Turkey.

The First World War was sparked in the Balkans in 1914 when members of Young Bosnia, a revolutionary organization with predominantly Serb and pro-Yugoslav members, assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Bosnia and Herzegovina's capital, Sarajevo. That caused a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, which—through the existing chains of alliances—led to the First World War. The Ottoman Empire soon joined the Central Powers becoming one of the three empires participating in that alliance. The next year Bulgaria joined the Central Powers attacking Serbia, which was successfully fighting Austro-Hungary to the north for a year. That led to Serbia's defeat and the intervention of the Entente in the Balkans which sent an expeditionary force to establish a new front, the third one of that war, which soon also became static. The participation of Greece in the war three years later, in 1918, on the part of the Entente finally altered the balance between the opponents leading to the collapse of the common German-Bulgarian front there, which caused the exit of Bulgaria from the war, and in turn the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ending the First World War.[70]

With the start of the Second World War, all Balkan countries, with the exception of Greece, were allies of Nazi Germany, having bilateral military agreements or being part of the Axis Pact. Fascist Italy expanded the war in the Balkans by using its protectorate Albania to invade Greece. After repelling the attack, the Greeks counterattacked, invading Italy-held Albania and causing Nazi Germany's intervention in the Balkans to help its ally.[71] Days before the German invasion, a successful coup d'état in Belgrade by neutral military personnel seized power.[72]

Although the new government reaffirmed Serbia's intentions to fulfill its obligations as a member of the Axis,[73] Germany, with Bulgaria, invaded both Greece and Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia immediately disintegrated when those loyal to the Serbian King and the Croatian units mutinied.[74] Greece resisted, but, after two months of fighting, collapsed and was occupied. The two countries were partitioned between the three Axis allies, Bulgaria, Germany and Italy, and the Independent State of Croatia, a puppet state of Italy and Germany.

During the occupation the population suffered considerable hardship due to repression and starvation, to which the population reacted by creating a mass resistance movement.[75] Together with the early and extremely heavy winter of that year (which caused hundreds of thousands deaths among the poorly fed population), the German invasion had disastrous effects in the timetable of the planned invasion in Russia causing a significant delay,[76] which had major consequences during the course of the war.[77]

Finally, at the end of 1944, the Soviets entered Romania and Bulgaria forcing the Germans out of the Balkans. They left behind a region largely ruined as a result of wartime exploitation.

Cold War

During the Cold War, most of the countries on the Balkans were governed by communist governments. Greece became the first battleground of the emerging Cold War. The Truman Doctrine was the US response to the civil war, which raged from 1944 to 1949. This civil war, unleashed by the Communist Party of Greece, backed by communist volunteers from neighboring countries (Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia), led to massive American assistance for the non-communist Greek government. With this backing, Greece managed to defeat the partisans and, ultimately, remained the only non-communist country in the region.

However, despite being under communist governments, Yugoslavia (1948) and Albania (1961) fell out with the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia, led by Marshal Josip Broz Tito (1892–1980), first propped up then rejected the idea of merging with Bulgaria and instead sought closer relations with the West, later even spearheaded, together with India and Egypt the Non-Aligned Movement. Albania on the other hand gravitated toward Communist China, later adopting an isolationist position.

As the only non-communist countries, Greece and Turkey were (and still are) part of NATO composing the southeastern wing of the alliance.

Post–Cold War

In the 1990s, the transition of the regions' ex-Soviet bloc countries towards democratic free-market societies went peacefully with the exception of Yugoslavia. Wars between the former Yugoslav republics broke out after Slovenia and Croatia held free elections and their people voted for independence on their respective countries' referenda. Serbia in turn declared the dissolution of the union as unconstitutional and the Yugoslavian army unsuccessfully tried to maintain status quo. Slovenia and Croatia declared independence on 25 June 1991, followed by the Ten-Day War in Slovenia. Till October 1991, the Army withdrew from Slovenia, and in Croatia, the Croatian War of Independence would continue until 1995. In the ensuing 10 years armed confrontation, gradually all the other Republics declared independence, with Bosnia being the most affected by the fighting. The long lasting wars resulted in a United Nations intervention and NATO ground and air forces took action against Serb forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

Former Yugoslavia 2008
State entities on the former territory of Yugoslavia, 2008

From the dissolution of Yugoslavia six republics achieved international recognition as sovereign republics, but these are traditionally included in Balkans: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. In 2008, while under UN administration, Kosovo declared independence (according to the official Serbian policy, Kosovo is still an internal autonomous region). In July 2010, the International Court of Justice, ruled that the declaration of independence was legal.[78] Most UN member states recognise Kosovo. After the end of the wars a revolution broke in Serbia and Slobodan Milošević, the Serbian communist leader (elected president between 1989 and 2000), was overthrown and handed for trial to the International Criminal Tribunal for crimes against the International Humanitarian Law during the Yugoslav wars. Milošević died of a heart attack in 2006 before a verdict could have been released. Ιn 2001 an Albanian uprising in North Macedonia forced the country to give local autonomy to the ethnic Albanians in the areas where they predominate.

With the dissolution of Yugoslavia an issue emerged over the name under which the former (federated) republic of Macedonia would internationally be recognized, between the new country and Greece. Being the Macedonian part of Yugoslavia (see Vardar Macedonia), the federated Republic under the Yugoslav identity had the name Republic of Macedonia on which it declared its sovereignty in 1991. Greece, having a large region (see Macedonia) also under the same name opposed to the usage of this name as an indication of a nationality. The issue was resolved under UN mediation and the Prespa agreement was reached, which saw the country's renaming into North Macedonia.

Balkan countries control the direct land routes between Western Europe and South West Asia (Asia Minor and the Middle East). Since 2000, all Balkan countries are friendly towards the EU and the USA.

Greece has been a member of the European Union since 1981 while Slovenia is a member since 2004, Bulgaria and Romania are members since 2007, and Croatia is a member since 2013. In 2005, the European Union decided to start accession negotiations with candidate countries; Turkey, and North Macedonia were accepted as candidates for EU membership. In 2012, Montenegro started accession negotiations with the EU. In 2014, Albania is an official candidate for accession to the EU. In 2015, Serbia was expected to start accession negotiations with the EU, however this process has been stalled over the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state by existing EU member states.[79]

Greece and Turkey have been NATO members since 1952. In March 2004, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia have become members of NATO. As of April 2009,[80] Albania and Croatia are members of NATO. Montenegro joined in June 2017.[81]

All other countries have expressed a desire to join the EU or NATO at some point in the future.

Politics and economy

Oia, Santorini HDR sunset
View from Santorini in Greece. Tourism is an important part of the Greek economy.
Dubrovnik june 2011.
Dubrovnik in Croatia, UNESCO's World Heritage since 1979
Drvengrad
Drvengrad (also known as Mećavnik or Küstendorf), an ethno village in Serbia and home to the annual Kusturica film festival

Currently all of the states are republics, but until World War II all countries were monarchies. Most of the republics are parliamentary, excluding Romania and Bosnia which are semi-presidential. All the states have open market economies, most of which are in the upper-middle income range ($4,000 – $12,000 p.c.), except Croatia, Romania, Greece and Slovenia that have high income economies (over $12,000 p.c.), and are classified with very high HDI in contrast to the remaining states which are classified with high HDI. The states from the former Eastern Bloc that formerly had planned economy system and Turkey mark gradual economic growth each year, only the economy of Greece drops for 2012 and meanwhile it was expected to grow in 2013. The Gross domestic product (Purchasing power parity) per capita is highest in Slovenia (over $36,000), followed by Greece (over $29,000), Croatia and Romania (over $25,000), Turkey, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia, North Macedonia ($10,000 – $15,000) and Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo (below $10,000).[82] The Gini coefficient, which indicates the level of difference by monetary welfare of the layers, is on the second level at the highest monetary equality in Albania, Bulgaria and Serbia, on the third level in Greece, Montenegro and Romania, on the fourth level in North Macedonia, on the fifth level in Turkey, and the most unequal by Gini coefficient is Bosnia at the eighth level which is the penultimate level and one of the highest in the world. The unemployment is lowest in Romania (below 10%), followed by Bulgaria, Turkey, Albania (10 – 15%), Greece (15 – 20%), Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia (20 – 30%), North Macedonia (over 30%) and Kosovo (over 40%).

  • On political, social and economic criteria the divisions are as follows:
  • On border control and trade criteria the divisions are as follows:
  • On currency criteria the divisions are as follows:
    • Territories members of the Eurozone: Greece and Slovenia
    • Territories using the Euro without authorization by the EU: Kosovo and Montenegro
    • Territories using national currencies and are candidates for the Eurozone: Bulgaria (lev), Croatia (kuna), Romania (leu)
    • Territories using national currencies: Albania (lek), Bosnia and Herzegovina (convertible mark), North Macedonia (denar), Serbia (dinar) and Turkey (lira).
  • On military criteria the divisions are as follows:
    Camp bondsteel kosovo
    Aerial photo of Camp Bondsteel, the main base of the United States Army under KFOR command in Kosovo
  • On the recent political, social and economic criteria there are two groups of countries:
    • Former communist territories: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia
    • Territories with capitalist past: Greece and Turkey
    • During the Cold War the Balkans were disputed between the two blocks. Greece and Turkey were members of NATO, Bulgaria and Romania of the Warsaw Pact, while Yugoslavia was proponent of a third way and was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement. After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina kept an observer status within the organisation.
Camp bondsteel kosovo
Aerial photo of Camp Bondsteel, the main base of the United States Army under KFOR command in Kosovo

Regional organizations

SP for SEE members
Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe
  members
  observers
  supporting partners
SECI members
Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI)
  members
  observers
BSEC members
Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC)
  members
  observers

See also the Black Sea regional organizations

Statistics

Albania Bosnia and Herzegovina Bulgaria Croatia Greece Kosovo*[a] Montenegro North Macedonia Romania Serbia Slovenia Turkey
Flag Albania Bosnia and Herzegovina Bulgaria Croatia Greece Kosovo Montenegro North Macedonia Romania Serbia Slovenia Turkey
Coat of arms Albania Bosnia and Herzegovina Bulgaria Coat of arms of Croatia.svg Greece Kosovo Montenegro Coat of arms of North Macedonia.svg Romania Serbia Slovenia Emblem of Turkey.svg
Capital Tirana Sarajevo Sofia Zagreb Athens Pristina Podgorica Skopje Bucharest Belgrade Ljubljana Ankara
Independence 28 November,
1912
3 March,
1992
5 October,
1908
26 June,
1991
25 March,
1821
17 February,
2008
3 June,
2006
17 November,
1991
9 May,
1878
13 July,
1878
25 June,
1991
29 October,
1923
Current President Ilir Meta Milorad Dodik Rumen Radev Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović Prokopis Pavlopoulos Hashim Thaçi Filip Vujanović Gjorge Ivanov Klaus Iohannis Aleksandar Vučić Borut Pahor Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Current Prime Minister Edi Rama Denis Zvizdić Boyko Borisov Andrej Plenković Alexis Tsipras Ramush Haradinaj Duško Marković Zoran Zaev Viorica Dăncilă Ana Brnabić Miro Cerar Binali Yıldırım
Population (2018) 2,169,021 3,155,982 7,519,995 4,109,669 10,713,748 1,888,605 1,206,218 2,071,278 19,746,134 7,015,127 2,096,818 79,777,115
Area 28,749 km² 51,197 km² 111,900 km² 56,594 km² 131,117 km² 10,908 km² 13,812 km² 25,713 km² 238,391 km² 77,474 km² 20,273 km² 781,162 km²
Density 100/km² 69/km² 97/km² 74/km² 82/km² 159/km² 45/km² 81/km² 83/km² 91/km² 102/km² 101/km²
Water area (%) 4.7% 0.02% 2.22% 1.1% 0.99% 1.00% 2.61% 1.09% 2.97% 0.13% 0.6% 1.3%
GDP (nominal) total (2018) $12.269 billion $16.324 billion $95.995 billion $57.868 billion $194.594 billion $66.715 billion $41.182 billion $45.424 billion $181.944 billion $42.139 billion $43.791 billion $751 billion
GDP (PPP) per capita (2018) $13,274 $12,986 $23,207 $25,807 $29,090 $11,505 $18,261 $15,977 $25,533 $16,063 $36,566 $28,270
Gini Index (2018[83]) 29.0 33.0 39.1 29.7 36.7 23.2 33.2 43.2 27.3 29.7 25.6 40.0
HDI (2018) 0.714 (High) 0.750 (High) 0.813 (Very High) 0.831 (Very High) 0.870 (Very High) 0.786 (High) 0.807 (Very High) 0.748 (High) 0.802 (Very High) 0.776 (High) 0.896 (Very High) 0.707 (High)
Internet TLD .al .ba .bg .hr .gr .xk .me .mk .ro .rs .si .tr
Calling code +355 +387 +359 +385 +30 +383 +382 +389 +40 +381 +386 +90

Demographics

The region is inhabited by Albanians, Aromanians, Bulgarians, Bosniaks, Croats, Gorani, Greeks, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs, Slovenes, Romanians, Turks, and other ethnic groups which present minorities in certain countries like the Romani and Ashkali.[41]

State Population (2018)[84] Density/km2 (2018)[85] Life expectancy (2018)[86]
 Albania 2,870,324 100 78.34 years
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 3,502,550 69 77.2 years
 Bulgaria 7,050,034 64 79.9 years
 Croatia 4,105,493 73 76.2 years
 Greece 10,768,193 82 80.1 years
 Kosovo*[a] 1,798,506 165 77.7 years
 Montenegro 622,359 45 76.4 years
 North Macedonia 2,075,301 81 76.2 years
 Romania 19,523,621 82 76.3 years
 Serbia 7,001,444 90 76.5 years
 Slovenia 2,066,880 102 78.2 years
 Turkey 10,201,115[87][c] 101 71.1 years

Religion

AtlBalkrelig
Map showing religious denominations

The region is a meeting point of Orthodox Christianity, Islam and Roman Catholic Christianity.[88] Eastern Orthodoxy is the majority religion in both the Balkan peninsula and the Balkan region. A variety of different traditions of each faith are practiced, with each of the Eastern Orthodox countries having its own national church. A part of the population in the Balkans defines itself as irreligious.

Albania confessional map with regions circa 1900
Approximate distribution of religions in Albania
Territories in which the principal religion is Eastern Orthodoxy (with national churches in parentheses)[89] Religious minorities of these territories[89]
Bulgaria: 94% (Bulgarian Orthodox Church) Islam (2%) and undeclared (22%)
Greece: 98% (Greek Orthodox Church) Islam (1%), Catholicism, other and undeclared
Montenegro: 72% (Serbian Orthodox Church) Islam (19%), Catholicism (3%), other and undeclared (5%)
North Macedonia: 64% (Macedonian Orthodox Church) Islam (33%), Catholicism
Romania: 81% (Romanian Orthodox Church) Protestantism (6%), Catholicism (5%), other and undeclared (8%)
Serbia: 84% (Serbian Orthodox Church) Catholicism (5%), Islam (3%), Protestantism (1%), other and undeclared (6%)
Territories in which the principal religion is Catholicism[89] Religious minorities of these territories[89]
Croatia (86%) Eastern Orthodoxy (4%), Islam (1%), other and undeclared (7%)
Slovenia (57%) Islam (2%), Orthodox (2%), other and undeclared (36%)
Territories in which the principal religion is Islam[89] Religious minorities of these territories[89]
Albania (58%) Catholicism (10%), Orthodoxy (7%), other and undeclared (24%)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (51%) Orthodoxy (31%), Catholicism (15%), other and undeclared (4%)
Kosovo (95%) Catholicism (2%), Orthodoxy (2%), other and undeclared (1%)
Turkey (99%) Orthodoxy

The Jewish communities of the Balkans were some of the oldest in Europe and date back to ancient times. These communities were Sephardi Jews, except in Transylvania, Croatia and Slovenia, where the Jewish communities were mainly Ashkenazi Jews. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the small and close-knit Jewish community is 90% Sephardic, and Ladino is still spoken among the elderly. The Sephardi Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo has tombstones of a unique shape and inscribed in ancient Ladino.[90] Sephardi Jews used to have a large presence in the city of Thessaloniki, and by 1900, some 80,000, or more than half of the population, were Jews.[91] The Jewish communities in the Balkans suffered immensely during World War II, and the vast majority were killed during the Holocaust. An exception were the Bulgarian Jews, most of whom were saved by Boris III of Bulgaria, who resisted Adolf Hitler, opposing their deportation to Nazi concentration camps. Almost all of the few survivors have emigrated to the (then) newly founded state of Israel and elsewhere. Almost no Balkan country today has a significant Jewish minority.

Languages

Bulgarians in 1912
Ethnic composition map of the Balkans (1912)
Ethnographic map Ami Boué, 1847
Ethnic composition map of the Balkans (1847)
Ernst-Ravenstein-Balkans-Ethnic-Map-1880
Ethnic map of the Balkans (1880)

The Balkan region today is a very diverse ethno-linguistic region, being home to multiple Slavic and Romance languages, as well as Albanian, Greek, Turkish, and others. Romani is spoken by a large portion of the Romanis living throughout the Balkan countries. Throughout history many other ethnic groups with their own languages lived in the area, among them Thracians, Illyrians, Romans, Celts and various Germanic tribes. All of the aforementioned languages from the present and from the past belong to the wider Indo-European language family, with the exception of the Turkic languages (e.g., Turkish and Gagauz).

State Principal language[92] Linguistic minorities[92]
 Albania 98% Albanian 2% other
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 53% Bosnian 31% Serbian, 15% Croatian, 2% other
 Bulgaria 94% Bulgarian 2% Turkish, 2% Romani, 1% other, 1% unspecified
 Croatia 96% Croatian 1% Serbian, 3% other
 Greece 99% Greek 1% other
 Kosovo*[a] 94% Albanian 2% Bosnian, 2% Serbian, 1% Turkish, 1% other
 Montenegro 43% Serbian 37% Montenegrin (official), 5% Bosnian, 5% Albanian, 5% other, 4% unspecified
 North Macedonia 67% Macedonian 25% Albanian, 4% Turkish, 2% Romani, 1% Serbian, 2% other
 Romania 91% Romanian 7% Hungarian, 1% Romani
 Serbia 88% Serbian 3% Hungarian, 2% Bosnian, 1% Romani, 3% other, 2% unspecified
 Slovenia 91% Slovene 5% Serbo-Croatian, 4% other
 Turkey 81% Turkish 15% Kurdish, 4% other and unspecified

Urbanization

Most of the states in the Balkans are predominantly urbanized, with the lowest number of urban population as % of the total population found in Kosovo at under 40%, Bosnia and Herzegovina at 40% and Slovenia at 50%.[93]

Panoramic view of Istanbul
Panoramic view of Istanbul

A list of largest cities:

City Country Population Agglomeration Year
Istanbul*  Turkey 9,000,000 10,000,000 2018[94]
Bucharest  Romania 1,887,485 2,272,163 2018[95]
Sofia  Bulgaria 1,313,595 1,995,950 2018[96]
Belgrade  Serbia 1,119,696 1,659,440 2018[97]
Zagreb  Croatia 792,875 1,113,111 2018[98]
Athens  Greece 664,046 3,753,783 2018[99]
Skopje  North Macedonia 444,800 506,926 2018[100]
Tirana  Albania 418,495 800,986 2018[101]
Plovdiv  Bulgaria 411,567 396,092 2018[96]
Varna  Bulgaria 395,949 383,075 2018[96]
Thessaloniki  Greece 325,182 1,012,297 2018[99]
Cluj-Napoca  Romania 324,576 411,379 2018[95]
Timișoara  Romania 319,279 356,443 2018[95]
Iași  Romania 290,422 382,484 2018[95]
Constanța  Romania 283,872 425,916 2018[95]
Ljubljana  Slovenia 279,756 279,756 2018[102]
Novi Sad  Serbia 277,522 341,625 2018[103]
Sarajevo  Bosnia and Herzegovina 275.524 413,593 2018
Craiova  Romania 269,506 420,000 2018[95]
Çorlu  Turkey 253,500 273,362 2018[104]
Brașov  Romania 253,200 369,896 2018[95]
* Only the European part of Istanbul is a part of the Balkans.[94] It is home to two thirds of the city's 15,987,888 inhabitants.

Time zones

The time zones in the Balkans are defined as the following:

  • Territories in the time zone of UTC+01:00: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia
  • Territories in the time zone of UTC+02:00: Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Turkey

Culture

See also

Notes

a.   ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the Brussels Agreement. Kosovo has been recognized as an independent state by 113 out of 193 United Nations member states, 10 of which have subsequently withdrawn recognition.
b.   ^ As The World Factbook cites, regarding Turkey and Southeastern Europe; "that portion of Turkey west of the Bosphorus is geographically part of Europe."
c.   ^ The population only of European Turkey, that excludes the Anatolian peninsula, which otherwise has a population of 75,627,384 and a density of 97.

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Further reading

  • Gray, Colin S. (1999). Geopolitics, Geography and Strategy. London, United Kingdom: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7146-8053-8.
  • Banac, Ivo (October 1992). "Historiography of the Countries of Eastern Europe: Yugoslavia". American Historical Review. 97 (4): 1084–1104. doi:10.2307/2165494. JSTOR 2165494.
  • Banac, Ivo (1984). The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-9493-2.
  • Goldstein, Ivo (1999). Croatia: A History. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 978-0-7735-2017-2.
  • Carter, Francis W., ed. An Historical Geography of the Balkans Academic Press, 1977.
  • Dvornik, Francis. The Slavs in European History and Civilization Rutgers University Press, 1962.
  • Fine, John V. A., Jr. The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century [1983]; The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, [1987].
  • Jelavich, Barbara (1983a). History of the Balkans: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. 1. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521274586.
  • Jelavich, Barbara (1983b). History of the Balkans: Twentieth Century. 2. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521274593.
  • Jelavich, Charles and Jelavich, Barbara, eds. (1963). The Balkans in Transition: Essays on the Development of Balkan Life and Politics Since the Eighteenth Century. University of California Press.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Kitsikis, Dimitri (2008). La montée du national-bolchevisme dans les Balkans. Le retour à la Serbie de 1830. Paris: Avatar.
  • Lampe, John R., and Marvin R. Jackson; Balkan Economic History, 1550–1950: From Imperial Borderlands to Developing Nations Indiana University Press, 1982
  • Király, Béla K., ed. East Central European Society in the Era of Revolutions, 1775–1856. 1984
  • Komlos, John (15 October 1990). Economic Development in the Habsburg Monarchy and in the Successor States. East European Monographs No. 28. East European Monographs. ISBN 978-0-88033-177-7.
  • Mazower, Mark (2000). The Balkans: A Short History. Modern Library Chronicles. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-64087-5.
  • Schreiber, Gerhard; Stegemann, Bernd; Vogel, Detlef (1995). The Mediterranean, south-east Europe, and north Africa, 1939–1941. Germany and the 2nd World War. Volume III. Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-822884-4.
  • Stavrianos, L. S. (1 May 2000) [1958]. The Balkans since 1453. with Traian Stoianovich. New York: NYU Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-9766-2. online free to borrow
  • Stoianovich, Traian (September 1994). Balkan Worlds: The First and Last Europe. Sources and Studies in World History. New York: M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 978-1-56324-032-4.
  • Zametica, John. Folly and malice: the Habsburg empire, the Balkans and the start of World War One (London: Shepheard–Walwyn, 2017). 416pp.

External links

Coordinates: 42°N 22°E / 42°N 22°E

Balkan International Basketball League

The Balkan International Basketball League (BIBL), also known as the Balkan League, is a multinational professional basketball league that features pro clubs from the Balkans. The league includes teams from the countries of Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania. The most recent league champion is Levski of Sofia, Bulgaria.

Balkan Mountains

The Balkan mountain range (Bulgarian and Serbian: Стара планина, Stara planina, "Old Mountain"; Bulgarian pronunciation: [ˈstarɐ pɫɐniˈna], Serbian pronunciation: [stâːraː planǐna]) is a mountain range in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The Balkan range runs 560 km from the Vrashka Chuka Peak on the border between Bulgaria and Serbia eastward through central Bulgaria to Cape Emine on the Black Sea. The highest peaks of the Balkan Mountains are in central Bulgaria. The highest peak is Botev at 2,376 m, which makes the mountain range the third highest in the country, after Rila and Pirin. The mountains are the source of the name of the Balkan Peninsula.

The mountain range forms the watershed between the Black Sea and Aegean Sea catchment areas, with the exception of an area in west, where it is crossed by the spectacular Iskar Gorge. The karst relief determines the large number of caves, including Magura, featuring the most important and extended European post-Palaeolithic cave painting, Ledenika, Saeva dupka, Bacho Kiro, etc. The most notable rock formation are the Belogradchik Rocks in the west.

There are several important protected areas: Central Balkan National Park, Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park, Bulgarka Nature Park and Sinite Kamani Nature Park, as well as a number of nature reserves. The Balkan Mountains are remarkable for their flora and fauna. Edelweiss grows there in the region of Kozyata stena. Some of the most striking landscapes are included in the Central Balkan National Park with steep cliffs, the highest waterfalls in the Balkan Peninsula and lush vegetation. There are a number of important nature reserves such as Chuprene, Kozyata stena and others. Most of Europe's large mammals inhabit the area including the brown bear, wolf, boar, chamois and deer.

The Balkan Mountains played an enormous role in the history of Bulgaria since its foundation in 681 AD, and in the development of the Bulgarian nation and people.

Balkan Wars

The Balkan Wars (Turkish: Balkan Savaşları, literally "the Balkan Wars" or Balkan Faciası, meaning "the Balkan Tragedy") consisted of two conflicts that took place in the Balkan Peninsula in 1912 and 1913. Four Balkan states defeated the Ottoman Empire in the first war. The main victor of the four, Bulgaria, fought and pushed back all four original combatants of the first war along with halting a surprise attack from Romania from the north in the second war. The Ottoman Empire lost the bulk of its territory in Europe. Austria-Hungary, although not a combatant, became relatively weaker as a much enlarged Serbia pushed for union of the South Slavic peoples. The war set the stage for the Balkan crisis of 1914 and thus served as a "prelude to the First World War".By the early 20th century, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia had achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire, but large elements of their ethnic populations remained under Ottoman rule. In 1912 these countries formed the Balkan League. The First Balkan War had three main causes:

The Ottoman Empire was unable to reform itself, govern satisfactorily, or deal with the rising ethnic nationalism of its diverse peoples.

The Great Powers quarreled amongst themselves and failed to ensure that the Ottomans would carry out the needed reforms. This led the Balkan states to impose their own solution.

Most importantly, the Balkan League had been formed, and its members were confident that it could defeat the Turks.The Ottoman Empire lost all its European territories to the west of the River Maritsa as a result of the two Balkan Wars, which thus delineated present-day Turkey's western border. A large influx of Turks started to flee into the Ottoman heartland from the lost lands. By 1914, the remaining core region of the Ottoman Empire had experienced a population increase of around 2.5 million because of the flood of immigration from the Balkans.

Citizens of Turkey regard the Balkan Wars as a major disaster (Balkan harbi faciası) in the nation's history. The unexpected fall and sudden relinquishing of Turkish-dominated European territories created a psycho-traumatic event amongst many Turks that is said to have triggered the ultimate collapse of the empire itself within five years. Nazım Pasha, Chief of Staff of the Ottoman Army, was held responsible for the failure and was assassinated on 23 January 1913 during the 1913 Ottoman coup d'état.The First Balkan War began when the League member states attacked the Ottoman Empire on 8 October 1912 and ended eight months later with the signing of the Treaty of London on 30 May 1913. The Second Balkan War began on 16 June 1913. Both Serbia and Greece, utilizing the argument that the war had been prolonged, repudiated important particulars of the pre-war treaty and retained occupation of all the conquered districts in their possession, which were to be divided according to specific predefined boundaries. Seeing the treaty as trampled, Bulgaria was dissatisfied over the division of the spoils in Macedonia (made in secret by its former allies, Serbia and Greece) and commenced military action against them. The more numerous combined Serbian and Greek armies repelled the Bulgarian offensive and counter-attacked into Bulgaria from the west and the south. Romania, having taken no part in the conflict, had intact armies to strike with, invaded Bulgaria from the north in violation of a peace treaty between the two states. The Ottoman Empire also attacked Bulgaria and advanced in Thrace regaining Adrianople. In the resulting Treaty of Bucharest, Bulgaria lost most of the territories it had gained in the First Balkan War in addition to being forced to cede the ex-Ottoman south-third of Dobroudja province to Romania.

Balkans Campaign (World War I)

The Balkans Campaign, or Balkan Theatre of World War I was fought between the Central Powers, represented by Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany and the Ottoman Empire on one side and the Allies, represented by France, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, and the United Kingdom (and later Romania and Greece, who sided with the Allied Powers) on the other side.

Balkans Campaign (World War II)

The Balkans Campaign of World War II began with the Italian invasion of Greece on 28 October 1940. In the early months of 1941, Italy's offensive had stalled and a Greek counter-offensive pushed into Albania. Germany sought to aid Italy by deploying troops to Romania and Bulgaria and attacking Greece from the east. Meanwhile, the British landed troops and aircraft to shore up Greek defences. A coup d'état in Yugoslavia on 27 March caused Adolf Hitler to order the conquest of that country.

The invasion of Yugoslavia by Germany and Italy began on 6 April, simultaneously with the new Battle of Greece; on 11 April, Hungary joined the invasion. By 17 April the Yugoslavs had signed an armistice, and by 30 April all of mainland Greece was under German or Italian control. On 20 May Germany invaded Crete by air, and by 1 June all remaining Greek and British forces on the island had surrendered. Although it had not participated in the attacks in April, Bulgaria occupied parts of both Yugoslavia and Greece shortly thereafter for the remainder of the war in the Balkans.

Congress of Berlin

The Congress of Berlin (13 June – 13 July 1878) was a meeting of the representatives of six great powers of the time (Russia, Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Germany), the Ottoman Empire and four Balkan states (Greece, Serbia, Romania and Montenegro). It aimed at determining the territories of the states in the Balkan peninsula following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 and came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Berlin, which replaced the preliminary Treaty of San Stefano, signed three months earlier between Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who led the Congress, undertook to stabilise the Balkans, recognise the reduced power of the Ottoman Empire and balance the distinct interests of Britain, Russia and Austria-Hungary. At the same time, he tried to diminish Russian gains in the region and to prevent the rise of a Greater Bulgaria. As a result, Ottoman lands in Europe declined sharply, Bulgaria was established as an independent principality inside the Ottoman Empire, Eastern Rumelia was restored to the Turks under a special administration and the region of Macedonia was returned outright to the Turks, who promised reform.

Romania achieved full independence; forced to turn over part of Bessarabia to Russia, it gained Northern Dobruja. Serbia and Montenegro finally gained complete independence but with smaller territories, with Austria-Hungary occupying the Sandžak (Raška) region. Austria-Hungary also took over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Britain took over Cyprus.

The results were first hailed as a great achievement in peacemaking and stabilisation. However, most of the participants were not fully satisfied, and grievances on the results festered until they exploded in the First and the Second Balkan wars in 1912–1913 and eventually World War I in 1914. Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece made gains, but all received far less than they thought that they deserved.

The Ottoman Empire, then called the "sick man of Europe", was humiliated and significantly weakened, which made it more liable to domestic unrest and more vulnerable to attack.

Although Russia had been victorious in the war that occasioned the conference, it was humiliated there and resented its treatment. Austria gained a great deal of territory, which angered the South Slavs, and led to decades of tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bismarck became the target of hatred by Russian nationalists and Pan-Slavists, and he would find that he had tied Germany too closely to Austria-Hungary in the Balkans.In the long run, tensions between Russia and Austria-Hungary intensified, as did the nationality question in the Balkans. The congress was aimed at revising the Treaty of San Stefano and at keeping Constantinople within Ottoman hands. It effectively disavowed Russia's victory over the decaying Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War. The congress returned territories to the Ottoman Empire that the previous treaty had given to the Principality of Bulgaria, most notably Macedonia, thus setting up a strong revanchist demand in Bulgaria, leading in 1912 to the First Balkan War.

First Balkan War

The First Balkan War (Bulgarian: Балканска война; Greek: Αʹ Βαλκανικός πόλεμος; Serbian: Први балкански рат, Prvi Balkanski rat; Turkish: Birinci Balkan Savaşı), lasted from October 1912 to May 1913 and comprised actions of the Balkan League (the kingdoms of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro) against the Ottoman Empire. The combined armies of the Balkan states overcame the numerically inferior and strategically disadvantaged Ottoman armies and achieved rapid success.

As a result of the war, the League captured and partitioned almost all remaining European territories of the Ottoman Empire. Ensuing events also led to the creation of an independent Albania which angered the Serbs. Despite having the greatest success, the main victor, Bulgaria, was dissatisfied over the division of the spoils in Macedonia, which provoked the start of the Second Balkan War.

History of the Balkans

The Balkans is an area situated in Southeastern and Eastern Europe. The distinct identity and fragmentation of the Balkans owes much to its common and often violent history regarding centuries of Ottoman conquest and to its very mountainous geography.

List of tallest buildings in the Balkans

This is a list of the tallest buildings in the Balkans. This list includes skyscrapers in the Balkans with a height of 74m or at least 20 floors, including Slovenia and the European part of Turkey.

The highest building in the Balkans is Istanbul Sapphire located in the European side of Istanbul, Turkey. The tallest building in Albania is TID Tower, in Bulgaria Capital Fort, in Croatia is Poslovni centar Strojarska, in Romania is Floreasca City Center, in Serbia Ušće Tower, in Slovenia is Crystal Palace, in North Macedonia MRT Center and the tallest building in Greece is Athens tower.

Moesia

Moesia (; Latin: Moesia; Greek: Μοισία, Moisía) was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans south of the Danube River. It included most of the territory of modern-day Central Serbia, Kosovo and the northern parts of the modern North Macedonia (Moesia Superior), Northern Bulgaria and Romanian Dobrudja (Moesia Inferior).

Ottoman wars in Europe

The Ottoman wars in Europe were a series of military conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and various European states dating from the Late Middle Ages up through the early 20th century. The earliest conflicts began during the Byzantine–Ottoman wars, waged in Anatolia in the late 13th century before entering Europe in the mid 14th century, followed by the Bulgarian–Ottoman wars and the Serbian–Ottoman wars waged beginning in the mid 14th century. Much of this period was characterized by Ottoman expansion into the Balkans. The Ottoman Empire made further inroads into Central Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, culminating in the peak of Ottoman territorial claims in Europe.The Ottoman–Venetian Wars spanned four centuries, starting in 1423 and lasting until 1718. This period witnessed the fall of Negroponte in 1470, the fall of Famagusta (Cyprus) in 1571, the defeat of the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 (at that time the largest naval battle in history), the fall of Candia (Crete) in 1669, the Venetian reconquest of Morea (Peloponnese) in the 1680s and its loss again in 1715. The island of Corfu under Venetian rule remained the only Greek island not conquered by the Ottomans.In the late seventeenth century, European powers began to consolidate against the Ottomans and formed the Holy League, reversing a number of Ottoman land gains during the Great Turkish War of 1683–99. Nevertheless, Ottoman armies were able to hold their own against their European rivals until the second half of the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century the Ottomans were confronted with insurrection from their Serbian (1804–1817) and Greek (1821–1832) subjects. This occurred in tandem with the Russo-Turkish wars, which further destabilized the empire. The final retreat of Ottoman rule came with the First Balkan War (1912–1913), followed by the signing of the Treaty of Sèvres at the close of World War I.

Polyphony

In music, polyphony is one type of musical texture, where a texture is, generally speaking, the way that melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic aspects of a musical composition are combined to shape the overall sound and quality of the work. In particular, polyphony consists of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to a musical texture with just one voice, monophony, or a texture with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords, which is called homophony.

Within the context of the Western musical tradition, the term polyphony is usually used to refer to music of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Baroque forms such as fugue, which might be called polyphonic, are usually described instead as contrapuntal. Also, as opposed to the species terminology of counterpoint, polyphony was generally either "pitch-against-pitch" / "point-against-point" or "sustained-pitch" in one part with melismas of varying lengths in another. In all cases the conception was probably what Margaret Bent (1999) calls "dyadic counterpoint", with each part being written generally against one other part, with all parts modified if needed in the end. This point-against-point conception is opposed to "successive composition", where voices were written in an order with each new voice fitting into the whole so far constructed, which was previously assumed.

The term polyphony is also sometimes used more broadly, to describe any musical texture that is not monophonic. Such a perspective considers homophony as a sub-type of polyphony.

Prehistory of Southeastern Europe

The prehistory of Southeastern Europe, defined roughly as the territory of the wider Balkan peninsula (including the territories of the modern countries of Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Bosnia, Romania, Bulgaria, and European Turkey) covers the period from the Upper Paleolithic, beginning with the presence of Homo sapiens in the area some 44,000 years ago, until the appearance of the first written records in Classical Antiquity, in Greece as early as the 8th century BC.

Human prehistory in Southeastern Europe is conventionally divided into smaller periods, such as Upper Paleolithic, Holocene Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic, Neolithic Revolution, expansion of Proto-Indo-Europeans, and Protohistory. The changes between these are gradual. For example, depending on interpretation, protohistory might or might not include Bronze Age Greece (2800–1200 BC), Minoan, Mycenaean, Thracian and Venetic cultures. By one interpretation of the historiography criterion, Southeastern Europe enters protohistory only with Homer (See also Historicity of the Iliad, and Geography of the Odyssey). At any rate, the period ends before Herodotus in the 5th century BC.

Romani people

The Romani (also spelled Romany , ), colloquially known as Gypsies or Roma, are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group, traditionally itinerant, living mostly in Europe and the Americas and originating from the northern Indian subcontinent, from the Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab regions of modern-day India.Genetic findings appear to confirm that the Romani "came from a single group that left northwestern India about 1,500 years ago." Genetic research published in the European Journal of Human Genetics "revealed that over 70% of males belong to a single lineage that appears unique to the Roma." They are a dispersed people, but their most concentrated populations are located in Europe, especially Central, Eastern and Southern Europe (including Turkey, Spain and Southern France). The Romani originated in northern India and arrived in Mid-West Asia and Europe around 1,000 years ago. They have been associated with another Indo-Aryan group, the Dom people: the two groups have been said to have separated from each other or, at least, to share a similar history. Specifically, the ancestors of both the Romani and the Dom left North India sometime between the 6th and 11th century.The Romani are widely known among English-speaking people by the exonym Gypsies (or Gipsies), which some people consider pejorative due to its connotations of illegality and irregularity.Since the 19th century, some Romani have also migrated to the Americas. There are an estimated one million Roma in the United States; and 800,000 in Brazil, most of whose ancestors emigrated in the 19th century from Eastern Europe. Brazil also includes a notable Romani community descended from people deported by the Portuguese Empire during the Portuguese Inquisition. In migrations since the late 19th century, Romani have also moved to other countries in South America and to Canada.In February 2016, during the International Roma Conference, the Indian Minister of External Affairs stated that the people of the Roma community were children of India. The conference ended with a recommendation to the Government of India to recognize the Roma community spread across 30 countries as a part of the Indian diaspora.The Romani language is divided into several dialects which together have an estimated number of speakers of more than two million. The total number of Romani people is at least twice as high (several times as high according to high estimates). Many Romani are native speakers of the dominant language in their country of residence or of mixed languages combining the dominant language with a dialect of Romani; those varieties are sometimes called Para-Romani.

Rumelia

Rumelia (Ottoman Turkish: روم ايلى‎, Rūm-ėli; Turkish: Rumeli), also known as Turkey in Europe, was the name of a historical region in Southeast Europe that was administered by the Ottoman Empire, mainly the Balkan Peninsula. Rumelia included the provinces of Thrace, Macedonia and Moesia, today's Bulgaria and Turkish Thrace, bounded to the north by the rivers Sava and Danube, west by the Adriatic coast, and south by the Morea. Owing to administrative changes between 1870 and 1875, the name ceased to correspond to any political division. Eastern Rumelia was constituted as an autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878. Today, in Turkey, the word Trakya (Thrace) has mostly replaced Rumeli (Rumelia) when referring to the part of Turkey which is in Europe (provinces of Edirne, Kırklareli, Tekirdağ, the northern part of Çanakkale Province and the western part of Istanbul Province), though Rumelia remains in use in some historical contexts.

Serbs

The Serbs (Serbian: Срби / Srbi, pronounced [sr̩̂bi]) are a nation and South Slavic ethnic group that formed in the Balkans. The majority of Serbs inhabit the nation state of Serbia, as well as the disputed territory of Kosovo, and the neighboring countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro. They form significant minorities in North Macedonia and Slovenia. There is a large Serb diaspora in Western Europe, and outside Europe there are significant communities in North America and Australia.

The Serbs share many cultural traits with the rest of the peoples of Southeast Europe. They are predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christians by religion. The Serbian language is official in Serbia, co-official in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is spoken by the plurality in Montenegro.

South Slavs

The South Slavs are a subgroup of Slavic peoples who speak the South Slavic languages. They inhabit a contiguous region in the Balkan Peninsula and the eastern Alps, and in the modern era are geographically separated from the body of West Slavic and East Slavic people by the Romanians, Hungarians, and Austrians in between (largely due to the border changes after World War I). The South Slavs today include the nations of Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs and Slovenes. They are the main population of the Eastern and Southeastern European countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia.

In the 20th century, the country of Yugoslavia (lit. "South Slavia") united the regions inhabited by South Slavic nations – with the key exception of Bulgaria – into a single state. The concept of Yugoslavia, a single state for all South Slavic peoples, emerged in the late 17th century and gained prominence through the 19th century Illyrian movement. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, renamed to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929, was proclaimed on 1 December 1918, following the unification of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs with the kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro.

TLC (TV network)

TLC (originally an initialism for The Learning Channel) is an American pay television channel that is owned by Discovery, Inc. Initially focused on educational and learning content, by the late 1990s, the network began to primarily focus towards reality series involving lifestyles, family life, and personal stories.

As of February 2015, TLC was available to watch in approximately 95 million American households (81.6% of households with cable television) in the United States.

Vlachs

Vlachs (English: or , or rarely ), also Wallachians (and many other variants), is a historical term from the Middle Ages that designates an exonym—a name that foreigners use—mostly for the Romanians who lived north and south of the Danube.As a contemporary term, in the English language, the Vlachs are the Eastern Romance-speaking peoples who live south of the Danube in what are now eastern Serbia, southern Albania, northern Greece, the Republic of North Macedonia, and southwestern Bulgaria, as indigenous ethnic groups, such as the Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians (Macedoromanians), and Macedo-Vlachs. In Polish and Hungarian, derivations of the term were also applied to Italians. The term also became a synonym in the Balkans for the social category of shepherds, and was also used for non-Romance-speaking peoples, in recent times in the western Balkans derogatively. There is also a Vlach diaspora in other European countries, especially Romania, as well as in North America and Australia."Vlachs" were initially identified and described during the 11th century by George Kedrenos. According to one origin theory, modern Romanians, Moldovans and Aromanians originated from Dacians. According to some linguists and scholars, the Eastern Romance languages prove the survival of the Thraco-Romans in the lower Danube basin during the Migration Period and western Balkan populations known as "Vlachs" also have had Romanized Illyrian origins.Nowadays, Eastern Romance-speaking communities are estimated at 26–30 million people worldwide (including the Romanian diaspora and Moldovan diaspora). All Balkan countries have indigenous Romance-speaking minorities.

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