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History of the Balkans

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Title: History of the Balkans  
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Subject: Balkans, Yugoslavia, Montenegro, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Goings-on/April 24, 2005
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History of the Balkans

Balkan peninsula (as defined geographically, by the Danube-Sava-Kupa line)

The Balkans is an area of southeastern Europe situated at a major crossroads between mainland Europe and the Near East. The distinct identity and fragmentation of the Balkans owes much to its common and often violent history and to its very mountainous geography.[1][2]


  • Prehistory 1
    • Neolithic 1.1
    • Copper Age 1.2
    • Antiquity 1.3
      • Iron Age 1.3.1
    • Achaemenid Persian Empire (6th to 5th century BC) 1.4
    • Pre-Roman states (4th to 1st centuries BC) 1.5
    • Roman period (1st to 6th centuries) 1.6
      • Rise of Christianity 1.6.1
  • Middle Ages (7th to 14th centuries) 2
    • Eastern Roman ("Byzantine") Empire 2.1
      • Barbarian incursions 2.1.1
      • Vlachs (Romanians, Aromanians, Morlachs, Istro-Romanians) 2.1.2
    • Republic of Venice 2.2
    • Albania 2.3
    • Bosnia 2.4
    • Bulgaria 2.5
    • Croatia 2.6
    • Romania 2.7
    • Serbia 2.8
    • Montenegro 2.9
  • The Ottoman Empire (15th to 19th centuries) 3
  • Rise of nationalism in the Balkans 4
    • Congress of Berlin 4.1
  • 20th century 5
    • Balkan Wars 5.1
    • World War I in the Balkans 5.2
      • Coming of war 1914 5.2.1
      • Fighting in 1914 5.2.2
      • Bulgaria 5.2.3
    • Consequences of World War I 5.3
    • World War II in Balkans 5.4
    • Consequences of World War II 5.5
    • Balkans during the Cold War 5.6
      • Religious persecutions 5.6.1
    • Post-Communism 5.7
      • Yugoslav wars 5.7.1
        • Ethnic cleansing
  • Recent history and current status (2000 to present) 6
  • Timelines 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
    • Specialized studies 10.1
    • Historiography 10.2
  • External links 11
  • External links 12



A burial at Varna, Bulgaria, with some of the world's oldest gold jewellery.

Archaeologists have identified several early culture-complexes, including the Cucuteni culture (4500 to 3500 BC), Starcevo culture (6500 to 4000 BC), Vinča culture (5000 to 3000 BC), Linear pottery culture (5500 to 4500 BC), and Ezero culture (3300—2700 BC). The Eneolithic Varna culture in Bulgaria(4600-4200 BC radiocarbon dating) produced the world's earliest known gold treasure, communicated with the Mediterranean and had sophisticated beliefs about afterlife. A notable set of artifacts is the Tărtăria tablets, which appear to be inscribed with proto-writing. The Butmir Culture (2600 to 2400 BC), found on the outskirts of present-day Sarajevo, developed unique ceramics, and was likely overrun by the proto-Illyrians in the Bronze Age.

The "Kurgan hypothesis" of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) origins assumes gradual expansion of the "Kurgan culture", around 5000 BC, until it encompassed the entire pontic steppe. Kurgan IV was identified with the Yamna culture of around 3000 BC.

Copper Age

At 1000 BC[3] Illyrian tribes appear in parts of Northern Albania and all the way aside Adriatic Sea. Around 1000 BC, Dacians and Thracians[4] appear in the Balkans, in Thrace and adjacent lands (now Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, northeastern Greece, European Turkey, eastern Serbia and Republic of Macedonia). They spoke the Thracian language, an Indo-European language and had a remarkable culture, examples are Thracian treasure.

A golden rhyton, one of the items in the Thracian Panagyurishte treasure, dating from the 4th to 3rd centuries BC

The Phrygians seem to have settled in the southern Balkans at first, centuries later continuing their migration to settle in Asia Minor, now extinct as a separate group and language.


Iron Age

After the period that followed the arrival of the Dorians, known as the Greek Dark Ages or the Geometric Period, the classical Greek culture developed in the southern Balkan peninsula, the Aegean islands and the western Asia Minor Greek colonies starting around the 9th or 8th century BC and peaking with the democracy that developed in 6th and 5th century BC Athens. Later, Hellenistic culture spread throughout the empire created by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. The Greeks were the first to establish a system of trade routes in the Balkans, and in order to facilitate trade with the natives, between 700 BC and 300 BC they founded a number of colonies on the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus) coast, Asia Minor, Dalmatia, Southern Italy (Magna Graecia) etc.

By the end of the 4th century BC Greek language and culture were dominant not only in the Balkans but also around the whole Eastern Mediterranean. In the late 6th century BC, the Persians invaded the Balkans, in an attempt to capture Greece, and then proceed to the fertile areas of Europe. Parts of the Balkans and more northern areas were ruled by Achaemenid Persians for some time, including Thrace, most Black Sea coastal regions of Romania, Ukraine, and Russia, and Macedon.[5][6] However, the fierce Greek resistance eventually drove them back to the Asian part of Anatolia. The Balkans were to remain free from the Asian empires for at least another thousand years.

The other peoples of the Balkans organized themselves in large tribal unions, such as the Thracian Odrysian empire, created in the 5th century BC, with capital Seuthopolis, next to Stara Zagora in Bulgaria. And was part of the Persian empire since 516 BC[5] and also re-subjugated by Mardonius[7] in 492 BC. Other tribal unions existed in Dacia at least as early as the beginning of the 2nd century BC under King Oroles. The Illyrian tribes were situated in the area corresponding to today's Adriatic coast. The name Illyrii was originally used to refer to a people occupying an area centered on Lake Skadar, situated between Albania and Montenegro (Illyrians proper). However, the term was subsequently used by the Greeks and Romans as a generic name for the different peoples within a well defined but much greater area.[8] In the same way, the territory to the north of the kingdom of Macedon was occupied by the Paeonians, who were also ruled by kings, and who may have spoken some kind of Greek (this is uncertain, but their coins bore legends in that language).

Achaemenid Persian Empire (6th to 5th century BC)

Ever since the Macedonian king Amyntas I surrendered his country to the Persians in about 512-511, Macedonians and Persians were strangers no more.[9] Subjugation of Macedonia was part of Persian military operations initiated by Darius the Great (521-486) in 513 - after immense preparations - a huge Achaemenid army invaded the Balkans and tried to defeat the European Scythians roaming to the north of the Danube river.[9] Darius' army subjugated several Thracian peoples, and virtually all other regions that touch the European part of the Black Sea, such as parts of nowadays Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia, before it returned to Asia Minor.[5][9] Darius left in Europe one of his commanders named Megabazus whose task was to accomplish conquests in the Balkans.[9] The Persian troops subjugated gold-rich Thrace, the coastal Greek cities, and defeated the powerful Paeonians.[9][10] Finally, Megabazus sent envoys to Amyntas, demanding acceptation of Persian domination, which the Macedonian accepted. The Balkans provided many soldiers for the multi ethnic Achaemenid army. Many of the Macedonian and Persian elite intermarried, such as the Persian official Bubares who married Amyntas' daughter, Gygaea. Family ties the Macedonian rulers Amyntas and Alexander enjoyed with Bubares ensured them good relations with the Persian kings Darius and Xerxes I.[9]

Following the Ionian Revolt the Persian authority in the Balkans was restored by Mardonius in 492,[9] which not only included the re-subjugation of Thrace, but also the full subordinate inclusion of Macedon into the Persian Empire.[11] The Persian invasion led indirectly to Macedonia's rise in power and Persia had some common interests in the Balkans; with Persian aid, the Macedonians stood to gain much at the expense of some Balkan tribes such as the Paeonians and Greeks. All in all, the Macedonians were "willing and useful Persian allies."[12] Macedonian soldiers fought against Athens and Sparta in Xerxes' army.[9]

Although Persian rule in the Balkans was overthrown following the failure of Xerxes' invasion, the Macedonians and Thracians borrowed heavily from the Achaemenid Persians their tradition in culture and economy in the fifth to mid fourth centuries.[9] Some artificats, excavated at Sindos and Vergina maybe be considered as influenced by Asian practices, or even imported from Persia in the late sixth and early fifth centuries.[9]

Pre-Roman states (4th to 1st centuries BC)

The Illyrian king, Bardyllis turned Illyria into a formidable local power in the 4th century BC. The main cities of the Illyrian kingdom were Scodra (present-day Shkodra, Albania) and Rhizon (present-day Risan, Montenegro). In 359 BC, King Perdiccas III of Macedon was killed by attacking Illyrians.

But in 358 BC, Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, defeated the Illyrians and assumed control of their territory as far as Lake Ohrid (present-day Macedonia). Alexander himself routed the forces of the Illyrian chieftain Cleitus in 335 BC, and Illyrian tribal leaders and soldiers accompanied Alexander on his conquest of Persia.

After Alexander's death in 323 BC, the Greek states started fighting among themselves again (esp. Southern Greeks against Northern Greeks this time), while up North, independent Illyrian kingdoms again arose.

In 312 BC, King Glaukias seized Epidamnus. By the end of the 3rd century BC, an Illyrian kingdom based in Scodra controlled parts of northern Albania, Montenegro, and Herzegovina. Under Queen Teuta, Illyrians attacked Roman merchant vessels plying the Adriatic Sea and gave Rome an excuse to invade the Balkans.

In the Illyrian Wars of 229 BC and 219 BC, Rome overran the Illyrian settlements in the Neretva river valley and suppressed the piracy that had made the Adriatic unsafe. In 180 BC, the Dalmatians declared themselves independent of the Illyrian king Gentius, who kept his capital at Scodra. The Romans defeated Gentius, the last king of Illyria, at Scodra in 168 BC and captured him, bringing him to Rome in 165 BC.

Four client-republics were set up, which were in fact ruled by Rome. Later, the region was directly governed by Rome and organized as a province, with Scodra as its capital.

Also, in 168 b.c, by taking advantage of the constant Greek civil wars, the Romans defeated Perseus, the last King of Macedonia and with their allies in Southern Greece, they became lords of the region. The territories were split to Macedonia, Achaia and Epirus.

Roman period (1st to 6th centuries)

The Balkan provinces in the Western Roman Empire

Starting in the 2nd century BC the rising Roman Empire began annexing the Balkan area, transforming it into one of the Empire's most prosperous and stable regions. To this day, the Roman legacy is clearly visible in the numerous monuments and artifacts scattered throughout the Balkans, and most importantly in the Latin-based languages used by almost 25 million people in the area. However, the Roman influence failed to dissolve Greek culture, which maintained a predominant status in the Eastern half of the Empire, and of course continued to be strong in the southern half of the Balkans.

Beginning in the 3rd century AD, Rome's frontiers in the Balkans were weakened because of political and economic disorders within the Empire. During this time, the Balkans, especially Illyricum, grew to greater importance. It became one of the Empire's four prefectures, and many warriors, administrators and emperors arose from the region. Many rulers built their residence in this part of the region.[13]

Though the situation had stabilized temporarily by the time of Constantine, waves of non-Roman peoples, most prominently the Thervings, Greuthungs and Huns, began to cross into the territory, first (in the case of the Thervingi) as refugees with imperial permission to take shelter from their foes the Huns, then later as invaders. Turning on their hosts after decades of servitude and simmering hostility, Thervingi under Fritigern and later Visigoths under Alaric I eventually conquered and laid waste the entire Balkan region before moving westward to invade Italy itself.

By the end of the Empire the region had become a conduit for invaders to move westward, as well as the scene of treaties and complex political maneuvers by Romans, Goths and Huns, all seeking the best advantage for their peoples amid the shifting and disorderly final decades of Roman imperial power.

Rise of Christianity

Christianity first came to the area when Saint Paul and some of his followers traveled in the Balkans passing through Thracian and Greek populated areas. He spread Christianity to the Greeks at Beroia, Thessaloniki, Athens, Corinth and Dyrrachium. Saint Andrew also worked among the Dacians and Scythians, and had preached in Dobruja and Pontus Euxinus. In 46 AD, this territory was conquered by the Romans and annexed to Moesia.

In 106 AD the emperor Trajan invaded Dacia. Subsequently Christian colonists, soldiers and slaves came to Dacia and spread Christianity. In the 3rd century the number of Christians grew. When Emperor Constantine of Rome issued the Edict of Milan in 313, thus ending all Roman-sponsored persecution of Christianity, the area became a haven for Christians. Just twelve years later in 325, Constantine assembled the First Council of Nicaea. In 391, Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of Rome.

The East-West Schism, known also as the Great Schism (though this latter term sometimes refers to the later Western Schism), was the event that divided Christianity into Western Catholicism and Greek Eastern Orthodoxy, following the dividing line of the Empire in Western Latin-speaking and Eastern Greek-speaking parts. Though normally dated to 1054, when Pope Leo IX and Patriarch of Constantinople Michael I Cerularius excommunicated each other, the East-West Schism was actually the result of an extended period of estrangement between the two Churches.

The primary claimed causes of the Schism were disputes over papal authority—the Pope claimed he held authority over the four Eastern patriarchs, while the patriarchs claimed that the Pope was merely a first among equals—and over the insertion of the filioque clause into the Nicene Creed. Most serious (and real) cause of course, was the competition for power between the old and the new capitals of the Roman Empire (Rome and Constantinople). There were other, less significant catalysts for the Schism, including variance over liturgical practices and conflicting claims of jurisdiction.

Middle Ages (7th to 14th centuries)

Eastern Roman ("Byzantine") Empire

The Jireček Line separating zones of Greek and Latin influence prior to the Slavic invasions.

The Byzantine Empire was the Greek-speaking, Eastern Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, centered at its capital in Constantinople. During most of its history it controlled provinces in the Balkans and Asia Minor. The Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian for a time retook and restored much of the territory once held by the unified Roman Empire, from Spain and Italy, to Anatolia. Unlike the Western Roman Empire, which met a famous if rather ill-defined death in the year 476 AD, the Eastern Roman Empire came to a much less famous but far more definitive conclusion at the hands of Mehmet II and the Ottoman Empire in the year 1453. Its expert military and diplomatic power ensured inadvertently that Western Europe remained safe from many of the more devastating invasions from eastern peoples, at a time when the still new and fragile Western Christian kingdoms might have had difficulty containing it (this role was mirrored in the north by the Russian states of Kiev, Vladimir-Suzdal and Novgorod).

The magnitude of influence and contribution the Byzantine Empire made to Europe and Christendom has only begun to be recognised recently. The Emperor Justinian I's formation of a new code of law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, served as a basis of subsequent development of legal codes. Byzantium played an important role in the transmission of classical knowledge to the Islamic world and to Renaissance Italy. Its rich historiographical tradition preserved ancient knowledge upon which splendid art, architecture, literature and technological achievements were built. This is embodied in the Byzantine version of Christianity, which spread Orthodoxy and eventually led to the creation of the so-called "Byzantine commonwealth" (a term coined by 20th-century historians) throughout Eastern Europe. Early Byzantine missionary work spread Orthodox Christianity to various Slavic peoples, amongst whom it still is a predominant religion.

Roman Empire and Barbarian confederacies in the Balkans, c. 200 AD

Throughout its history, its borders were ever fluctuating, often involved in multi-sided conflicts with not only the Arabs, Persians and Turks of the east, but also with its Christian neighbours- the Bulgarians, Serbs, Normans and the Crusaders, which all at one time or another conquered large amounts of its territory. By the end, the empire consisted of nothing but Constantinople and small holdings in mainland Greece, with all other territories in both the Balkans and Asia Minor gone. The conclusion was reached in 1453, when the city was successfully besieged by Mehmet II, bringing the Second Rome to an end.

Barbarian incursions

Coinciding with the decline of the Roman Empire, many "barbarian" tribes passed through the Balkans, most of whom did not leave any lasting state. During these "Dark Ages", Eastern Europe, like Western Europe, regressed culturally and economically, although enclaves of prosperity and culture persisted along the coastal towns of the Adriatic and the major Greek cities in the south.[14] As the Byzantine Empire withdrew its borders more and more, in an attempt to consolidate its waning power, vast areas were de-urbanised, roads abandoned and native populations may have withdrawn to isolated areas such as mountains and forests.[14]


The first such barbarian tribe to enter the Balkans were the Goths. From northern East Germany, they migrated up the Vistula and settled in Scythia (modern Ukraine and Romania) in the 3rd century AD. Population pressures and the threat of the Huns led to their push further into the Balkans, into the Roman Empire. They were eventually granted lands inside the Byzantine realm (south of the Danube), as foederati. However, after a period of famine, a large contingent, led predominantly by what became the Visigoths, rebelled against the Byzantines and defeated Emperor Valens at the famous Battle of Adrianople in 378. They subsequently sacked Rome in 410. In an attempt to deal with them, the succeeding emperor granted them rule of the Aquitaine region, in modern-day France, where they founded the Visigothic kingdom. In the mean time, the Ostrogoths freed themselves from Hunnish domination in the battle of Nadeo in 454 AD. Theodoric the Great, the Ostrogothic King, was commissioned by Byzantine Emperor Zeno to conquer Italy from Odoacer of the foederati. They did this in 486, establishing the Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy (which included Dalmatia). Thus Zeno achieved two goals with one action, he removed the Ostrogoths from his border, and extinguished the ruled of the troublesome Italian foederati. The Ostrogoths established a kingdom in Italy that included the north-western Balkans, before it was defeated by the Byzantines.

The Balkans c. 400 AD, at time of Hunnic Empire

From their new base in the Caucasus, the Huns then moved further west into Europe, entering Pannonia in 400-410 AD. They were a confederation of different ethnicities: a Turkic ruling core with Uralic elements, and later incorporated various Germanic (Goths, Gepids), Sarmatian (including Alans) and Slavic tribes. They are supposed to have triggered the great German migrations into western Europe. From their base, they subdued many people and carved out a sphere of terror extending from Germany and the Baltic to the Black Sea. With the death of Attila in 454 AD, succession struggles led to the rapid collapse of Hun prestige. At the battle of Nadeo, the Huns’ subjects, led by Gepid King Ardaric, defeated Attila's would-be successors. The Huns disappeared from Europe as an entity, but their legend has lived on.

Gepids and Lombards

Other Germanic peoples that settled briefly in the Balkans were the Gepids and Lombards. The Gepids entered Dacia in the 3rd century, living alongside the Goths. After winning their independence from the Huns, they settled in Dacia and a province near modern day Belgrade, establishing a short-lived kingdom. When the Lombards entered Pannonia in 550s AD, they defeated the Gepids and absorbed them. In 569 AD, they moved into northern Italy, establishing their own Kingdom at the expense of the Ostrogoths.

Slavs (South Slavs)

The Slavs migrated in successive waves. Small numbers might have moved down as early as the 3rd century however the bulk of migration did not occur until the late 6th century AD. They occupied most of the Eastern Roman Empire, pushing deep into Greece. Most still remained subjects of the Roman Empire, but those that settled in the Pannonian plain were tributary to the Avars.

Most historians and archaeologists support the theory that the Slavic homeland originated in areas spanning modern-day southern Poland and Elbe valley in Germany. Since antiquity, the Balkans were already occupied by Illyrian tribes in the west and Thracian tribes in the east, many of which were Latinised (especially along the Dalmatian coast) and/or Hellenised (in the south). Their numbers were greatly decreased by the previous barbarian incursions. Many fled to mountainous areas or to the refuges of the cities on the Dalmatian coast. When the Slavs arrived, they were the first barbarian tribes to actually settle in the area permanently. They assimilated many of the native Balkan people.[15][16] However some retained their own cultures and language: scholars theorise that the Morlach/Vlach mountain tribes and Albanians are descended from such people. The Latinised Illyrians of the Dalmatian coast also remained distinct from the Slavs of the hinterland for quite some time, but they too eventually assimilated with the main population.

The northern Balkans in the 6th century.

The Avars were a Turkic group (or possibly Mongol[17]), possibly with a ruling core derived from the Rouran that escaped the Göktürks. They entered Pannonia in the 7th century AD, forcing the Lombards to flee to Italy. They continuously raided the Balkans, contributing to the general decline of the area that had begun centuries earlier. After their unsuccessful siege on Constantinople in 626, they limited themselves to Pannonia. They ruled over the Pannonian Slavs that had already inhabited the region. By the 10th century, the Avar confederacy collapsed due to internal conflicts, Frankish and Slavic attacks. The remnant Avars were subsequently absorbed by the Slavs and Magyars.


The Bulgars, a people of Central Asia, most believed Turko-Altaian and Indo-Arian. The major Bulgar wave commenced with the arrival of Asparuh's Bulgars. Asparuh was one of Kubrat's, the Great Khan, successors. They had occupied the fertile plains of the Ukraine for several centuries until the Khazars swept their confederation in the 660s and triggered their further migration. One part of them — under the leadership of Asparuh — headed southwest and settled in the 670s in present-day Bessarabia. In 680 AD they invaded Moesia and Dobrudja and formed a confederation with the local Slavic tribes who had migrated there a century earlier. After suffering a defeat at the hands of Bulgars and Slavs, the Byzantine Empire recognised the sovereignty of Asparuh's Khanate in a subsequent treaty signed in 681 AD. The same year is usually regarded as the year of the establishment of Bulgaria (see History of Bulgaria). A smaller group of Bulgars under Khan Kouber settled almost simultaneously in the Pelagonian plain in western Macedonia after spending some time in Panonia. Some Bulgars actually entered Europe earlier with the Huns. After the disintegration of the Hunnish Empire the Bulgars dispersed mostly to eastern Europe.

Magyars (Hungarians)

The Magyars, led by Árpád, were the leading clan in a ten tribe confederacy. They entered Europe in the 10th century AD, settling in Pannonia. There they encountered a predominantly Slavic populace and Avar remnants. The Magyars were a Uralic people, originating from west of the Ural Mountains. They learned the art of horseback warfare from Turkic people. They then migrated further west around 400AD, settling in the Don-Dnieper area. Here they were subjects of the Khazar Khaganate. They were neighboured by the Bulgars and Alans. They sided with 3 rebel Khazar tribes against the ruling factions. Their loss in this civil war, and ongoing battles with the Pechenegs, was probably the catalyst for them to move further west into Europe.

Even after the newcomers (i.e. Slavs, Magyars and Bulgars) to the Balkans established Kingdoms and Principalities recognised by the European theatre, invasions continued into Europe. Between the years 1000 to 1300 AD, nomadic Turkic peoples from the east entered the fringes of the Balkans. These included the Cumans and Pechenegs. Often allied with Byzantium (hired as mercenaries against the Rus at one time, Bulgars at another), they just as easily would break alliance and attack Byzantium. The situation was similar with their dealings with the Rus to the north. These steppe peoples ceased to exist as a formidable body after the Mongol invasion in the 12th century. Some of the westernmost regions of the Steppe land, i.e. the Moldavia region etc., escaped outright Mongol dominion. Here the people were largely assimilated by the Bulgarian, Hungarian and Romanian populace, adding to the ethnic milieu that is the Balkans.

Vlachs (Romanians, Aromanians, Morlachs, Istro-Romanians)

"Vlach", "Wallach", "Vlakh" and other variations of the term date back in time nearly 2,000 years and refer to a variety of Latin-speaking peoples whose origin is ultimately Latin colonizers and Latinized indigenous peoples.

The maximum extent of the Roman Empire in southeastern Europe occurred after 106 AD when conquest of the Dacians extended the empire from modern Greece to Romania. By all accounts, the Latin-speaking people of the Roman Empire represented both a variety of indigenous people as well as colonists who came into the region. Under barbarian pressure, the Roman Legions retreated from Dacia (modern Romania) in 271-275. According to Romanian historians, Roman colonists and the Latinized Dacians retreated into the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania after the Roman Legions withdrew from the area. This view is supported to the extent that archeological evidence does indicate the presence of a Romanised population in Transylvania by at least the 8th century.

By the late 4th century the Roman Empire was plagued by internal problems and by the incursions of various barbarian tribes. By the 7th and 8th centuries, the Roman Empire existed only south of the Danube River in the form of the Byzantine Empire, with its capital at Constantinople. In this ethnically diverse closing area of the Roman Empire, Vlachs were recognized as those who spoke Latin, the official language of the Byzantine Empire used only in official documents, until the 6th century when it was changed to the more popular Greek. These original Vlachs probably consisted of a variety of ethnic groups (most notably Thracians, Dacians, Illyrians) who shared the commonality of having been assimilated in language and culture of the Roman Empire with the Roman colonists settled in their areas. Anna Comnena relates in Alexiade about Dacians (instead of Vlachs) from Balkans and from the North side of Danube and they were identified as Romanians.[18]

Republic of Venice

The Republic of Venice controlled areas of the Balkans from the early Middle Ages until 1797.

The Republic of Venice (shown in orange), its possessions and other surrounding states in the 15th and 16th century Balkans.

Venice seized a number of locations on the eastern shores of the Adriatic sea before 1200, partly for purely commercial reasons, but also because pirates based there were a menace to its trade. The Doge since that time bore the titles of Duke of Dalmatia and Duke of Istria.

In building its maritime commercial empire, the Republic dominated the trade in salt,[19] acquired control of most of the islands in the Aegean, including Cyprus and Crete, and became a major "power" in the Near East and in all the Balkans.

Venice became a fully imperial power following the Venetian-financed Fourth Crusade, which in 1203 captured and in 1204 sacked Constantinople and established the Latin Empire. Venice subsequently carved out a sphere of influence in the Aegean known as the Duchy of the Archipelago, and also gained control of the island of Crete.

From the 14th century, Venice controlled most of the maritime commerce of the Balkans with important colonial possessions on the Adriatic and Aegean coasts.

Venice's long decline started in the 15th century, when it first made an unsuccessful attempt to hold Thessalonica against the Ottomans (1423–1430). She also sent ships to help defend Constantinople against the besieging Turks (1453). After the city fell to Sultan Mehmet II, he declared war on Venice. The war lasted thirty years and cost Venice many of the eastern Mediterranean possessions.

Slowly the Republic of Venice lost nearly all possessions in the Balkans, maintaining in the 18th century only the Adriatic areas of Istria, Dalmatia and Albania Veneta. The Venetian island of Corfu was the only area of Greece never occupied by the Turks.

In 1797 Napoleon conquered Venice and caused the end of the Republic of Venice in the Balkans.


The territory of actual Albania remained under Roman (Byzantine) control until the Slavic migrations of the 7th century, and was integrated into the Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century.

The territorial nucleus of the Albanian state formed in the Middle Ages, as the Principality of Arbër and the Kingdom of Albania. The first records of the Albanian people as a distinct ethnicity also date to this period. Most of the coast of Albania was controlled by the Republic of Venice from the 10th century until the arrival of the Ottoman Turks (Albania Veneta).

The area was conquered in the 15th century despite the long resistance of Skanderbeg by the Ottoman Empire and remained under Ottoman control as part of the Rumelia province until 1912, when the first independent Albanian state was declared. The formation of an Albanian national consciousness dates to the later 19th century and is part of the larger phenomenon of rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire.


It is only from the 9th century that Frankish and Byzantine sources begin to mention early Slavic polities in the region. In this regard, the earliest widely acknowledged reference to Bosnia dates from the 10th century De Administrando Imperio written by Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus,[20] during which period Bosnia is briefly a part of the short-lived Serbian state of Časlav, after whose death in battle in about 960, much of Bosnia finds itself briefly incorporated into the Croatian state of Krešimir II. Shortly thereafter, in 997, Samuel of Bulgaria marches through Bosnia and asserts his over-lordship in parts of it, however, only to be defeated by the Byzantine Empire in 1018 which annexes Bulgaria and asserts its suzerainty in Bosnia. This lasted until later in the century when some parts of Bosnia are briefly incorporated into Croatia and others into Duklja from which the latter Bosnia appears to have seceded in about 1101, upon which Bosnia's bans tried to rule for themselves. However, they all too often found themselves in a tug-of-war between Hungary and the Byzantine Empire. In the year of 1137, Hungary annexes most of Bosnia, then briefly losing her in 1167 to the Byzantine Empire before regaining her in 1180. Thus, prior to 1180 and the reign of Ban Kulin parts of Bosnia were briefly found in Serb or Croat units, but neither neighbor had held the Bosnians long enough to acquire their loyalty or to impose any serious claim to Bosnia.[21]

The first recorded Ban (viceroy) was Ban Borić, vassal to the Hungarian king. However, he was deposed when he backed the loser in a succession crisis over the Hungarian throne. In 1167, Byzantium reconquered Bosnia and eventually emplaced their own vassal as Ban – the native Ban Kulin (r. 1180-1204). However, this vassalage was largely nominal, and Bosnia had for all practical purposes made itself into an independent state under Kulin.[22] Kulin was a successful ruler and propagated economic growth in Bosnia by signing trade treaties with the city of Ragusa. In 1183, after turning his back on the Byzantines, he led his troops with the forces of the Kingdom of Hungary under King Béla, who had just launched an attack on the Byzantine Empire together with the Serbs led by grand župan of Serbia, Stefan Nemanja. The cause of the war was the new imposer to the Imperial throne Andronicus Comnenus that was not recognized as legitimate by the Hungarian crown. He supported the Bosnian Church, a Christian offshoot labeled as heretical by both Orthodoxy and the Pope. Yet he swore to the Pope his devotion to Catholicism to avoid a religious ‘crusade’. After his death in 1204, he was succeeded by his son Stephan. Stephen was a staunch Catholic, and proved unpopular by the many Bosnian Church aligned nobles, who deposed him. They placed one Matej Ninoslav, a convert to the heretic sect, as Ban. However, he faced two foes simultaneously: the Hungarian prince Coloman as leader of the Bosnian Crusade and Stephen's son Sibislav. He held out, as Hungary had to pull out after being invaded by the Tartars. After he died, Hungary placed his cousin Prijezda on the throne. He was a Catholic that converted to Bogomilism, and then converted back to Catholicism. To prove his fidelity, he energetically persecuted the heretics.

After his death, Stephen I Kotroman became Ban.[23] However, he lost rule of Bosnia to Croatia's Subicic clan, who were given support by Angevin pretender to the Hungarian throne as a reward for backing him in his succession claim. However, Subicic rule was unpopular amongst the Bosnian people, thus they asked Stephen II Kotroman (son of Stephen I) to rule as their vassal. He aptly played Hungary and Venice against each other (regarding a conflict over the city of Zardar), becoming more and more independent.

1726 Map of The Ottoman Empire in the Balkans

By this time, the Bosnian state had already begun expanding, gaining lands north from Hungary, and seizing Zahumlje from a rebellious noble family (which had seized it from the Nemanjic rulers of Serbia. He then refused to return it to Serbia's king).

After his death in 1353, he was succeeded by his nephew Tvrtko. Although deposed after conflict with other nobles and troubled by his usurping brother, the Bosnian realm reached its zenith under his rule, gaining more lands to the north and south, including parts of Croatia and Dalmatia (including Travunia). The name Herzegovina was adopted for the newly won territories along the southern Dalmatian coast and adjacent littoral.

With the decline of Serbia, and the end of the Nemanjic dynasty, Tvrtko crowned himself on 26 October 1377 as Stefan Tvrtko I by the mercy of God King of Bosnia, Serbia and the Seaside and the Western Lands. He sent troops to fight alongside the remaining Serbian nobles, such as Lazar, in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. After his death, Bosnia's regional power declined, and was soon just another state to fall to the Turkish war machine.

Bosnia was centred between the Roman and Byzantine worlds. Consequently, neither Catholicism nor Eastern Orthodoxy was dominant. In fact, it had its own 'Bosnian Church,' which was similar to both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, whilst incorporating local superstitious beliefs. It was branded as heretical by both Rome and Constantinople, and accused of being linked to the Bogomil sect. Much of the populace belonged to the local Bosnian church, yet its influence was not deeply rooted. Although Catholic at face value, the ruling Bans mostly tolerated, and some converted to the Bosnian church. The Pope, with the aid of Catholic Hungary, was often infuriated by the poor attempts of the Bans to quell the heretical sect, and sought to incite a religious Crusade on Bosnia. Ultimately, it was the lack of a strong and unified religious orientation that enabled Islam to take hold in such high numbers in Bosnia, whereas other Turk dominions held onto their Catholic or Orthodox faiths. With the Ottoman take-over, the Bosnian church ceased to exist, as its followers converted to Islam. The Bosnians that were Orthodox and Catholic remained so, but they were joined by a new religion – Islam. The 'ethnic' tensions that arose in modern times stem from this religious division.


Asparukh was followed by 30,000 to 50,000 Bulgars. He reached the Danube and while the Byzantine capital Constantinople was besieged by Muawiyah I, Caliph of the Arabs (674–678), he and his people settled in the Danube delta, probably on the now disappeared Peuce Island. After the Arab siege of Constantinople ended, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV marched against the Bulgars and their Slav allies in 680 and forced his opponents to seek shelter in a fortified encampment. Forced to abandon the leadership of his army in order to seek medical treatment for his ailments in Anchialo (today's Pomorie), the emperor sabotaged the morale of his troops, who gave in to rumours that their emperor had fled. With segments of the Byzantine army starting to desert, the Bulgars and their allies broke through the blockade and routed the enemy troops at the battle of Ongala in 680. Asparukh then swiftly moved from the Danubian delta down to the Balkan range.

The First Bulgarian Empire's greatest territorial extent during the reign of Tsar Simeon I

In 886 AD, Bulgaria adopted the Glagolitic alphabet devised by the Saints Cyril and Methodius in the 850s. The Glagolitic alphabet was gradually superseded in later centuries by Cyrillic, developed around the Preslav Literary School in Bulgaria in the beginning of the 10th century. Most characters in the Cyrillic alphabet were modified versions of Greek letters, as Greek letters were modified versions of the Phoenician alphabet, but those with no Greek equivalents represented simplified Glagolitic letters.

The first mention of the Slavic dialects that later constituted the "Bulgarian language" instead of the "Slavonic language" is in the work of the Greek clergy of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid in the 11th century, such as the Greek hagiography of Saint Clement of Ohrid by Theophylact of Ohrid (late 11th century).

In 893 the vernacular of the Bulgarian Slavs was adopted as the official language of the Bulgarian state and church. The following years saw the military victories of Simeon the Great against the Byzantines, which resulted in an additional territorial expansion and the recognition of the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and of the title of Tsar for Simeon's successor, Peter I of Bulgaria. In the middle of the 9th century the state was weakened by barbaric raids from the north and the Bogomil heresy. After an assault by the Rus' in 969, eastern Bulgaria and the capital of Preslav was subdued by Byzantine Emperor John Tzimisces in 972. The Bulgarians managed to maintain an independent state in the west for some time due to the efforts of Samuil who even managed to recover eastern Bulgaria and conquer Serbia in the 990s. But a final defeat at Kleidion in 1014 precipitated the fall of the whole of Bulgaria under Byzantine rule in 1018.

The Bulgarian state was restored by a revolt of the Asenides in Moesia in 1185. Thrace and Macedonia were restored by Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II and throughout the first half of the 13th century Bulgaria was again one of the powerful states in Southeastern Europe, taking advantage of the disastrous effects that the fourth crusade had over the Byzantine Empire. Tatar raids and a series of mediocre rulers after Ivan Asen II reduced Bulgaria to a narrow strip of land between the Balkan mountains and the Danube at the end of the 13th century. The royal dynasties of Terter and Shishman managed to restore some of the former might of the Bulgarians in the first half of the 14th century. The raids of the Ottoman Turks beginning in the 1350s cut short the Bulgarian territorial expansion; by 1396 the whole of Bulgaria was overrun by the Ottomans.


The Croat tribes settled in the Roman provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia, where they established two Duchies. They soon found themselves surrounded by powerful and threatening neighbours: the Franks (and later Venetians) to the northwest, Avars (and later Magyars) in the northeast, Byzantines trying to maintain control of the Dalmatian coast, and Bulgarians to the southeast.

The Franks controlled the Pannonian duchy (which served as a Carolingian Mark). They recognised Byzantine authority over the Adriatic coast, while the Franks kept the adjacent littoral and Istria. Despite a short-lived rebellion by Duke Ljudevit Posavski, the Franks re-asserted their authority in the north. In 829, the Bulgarian Empire conquered the eastern parts of Pannonian Croatia and placed a local called Ratimir as Duke. The Frankish lord Ratbod recaptured most of the area in 838, although the easternmost part (Syrmia) was kept by Bulgaria. The last known Pannonian Duke under Frankish fielty was Braslav.

Croat lands c. 800s, as tributaries to the Franks

Meanwhile, the Dalmatian Croats were struggling to establish their own rule over the coastal area, leading them into conflicts with Venice and Byzantium. Duke Mislav built up a vast navy and had supported the Narentines in their disruption of Venetian trade. A Venetian expedition aimed at pacifying and subduing them was largely unsuccessful. They also came into conflict with Boris I of Bulgaria as he tried to expand Bulgaria's kingdom westward. His successor Trpimir succeeded in expelling the Bulgarians from Croatian lands, and consolidated his power in Dalmatia and moved inland to Pannonia and north-east Bosnia. Duke Muncimir managed to secure recognition of the Duchy as independent from Roman and Byzantine rule. He was succeeded by Tomislav in 910, who united the Croatian duchies to form the Kingdom of Croatia.

The founding of the Croatian Kingdom occurred sometime between 923 and 928, covering Dalmatia (including Pagania and Zahumlje at times), the majority of Bosnia (at the Kingdom's zenith) and Pannonia (which includes Slavonia). One of the successor Kings, Miroslav, was assassinated by one of his nobles. The ensuing power struggle destabilised the kingdom. This allowed the Paganian Dukes to claim independence from Croatia, the Dalmatian city-states were retaken by the Byzantines, and Slavonia and Srijem fell to the Magyars (although later lower Srijem was taken by Stefan Dragutin from Raska, and subsequently continued to be contested between Serbia and Hungary).

The Kingdom recovered much of its lands under Kresimir IV. During this time, he allowed the Vatican to influence Croatia more and more, in exchange for Papal recognition of the Croatian Kingdom. Despite being a Latin rite Christian state, for a time Croatia's religious practice showed many features of Orthodoxy: the priests wore beards, married women and preached in Slavic liturgy. This changed after the Synod of Split decreed Latin as the official liturgy language, and pro-Latin priests became dominant, although pockets of Slavic liturgy churches remained till the 16th century.

Kresimir was succeeded by his relative Zvonomir. After his death in 1091, Hungarian King Ladislaw I claimed the throne, as his sister Jelena was Zvonomir's widow. The Croatian dukes managed to maintain independence until King Kalman (Ladislaus’ successor) invaded Croatia. Rome recognised his sovereignty. Although his take-over was not complete, the nobles accepted union with Hungary after the death of Petar Svacic (the last Croatian king) in battle. This was supposedly decreed by the Pacta conventa in 1102. Croatia was still considered a separate, albeit a vassal, kingdom.

The Dalmatian coast was always sought after, for its wealthy Latinised cities were centres of trade, culture and academia; and its coast provided access to important trade routes. Gradually, Byzantine influence—which was nominal at best—over the Latin cities of the coast faded away, being supplanted by that of Venice by the 11th century. The Normans briefly held a few cities on the coast, and Hungary was often in conflict with Venice over Dalmatia. Ultimately, Venice remained as ruler of the Dalmatian coastal cities, even withstanding the Ottoman invasions. The southern city of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) managed to remain as an independent City-State—the Republic of Ragusa.

Union with Hungary brought Feudalism to Croatia's populace. Croatian provinces were ruled by local bans, appointed by the Hungary. The territory was split into two banates- that of Croatia (including Dalmatia and central Croatia) and Slavonia. Although some bans, such as the Subic family attempted to assert their own control, Hungary easily regained rule.

With the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, Croatia fell after successive battles. The Battle of Mohács in 1526 ended Hungarian rule over Croatia, and most of Croatia was ruled by the Ottomans. The remaining part then received Austrian rule and protection. Croatia thus became a frontier of Christendom. The border areas became known as the Vojna Krajina (military frontier); and many Serbs, Vlachs, Croats and Germans inhabited this area that had previously become deserted. They served as a military guard, and in turn received much autonomy from the Habsburgs.


For a long time, Romanian lands were not consolidated provinces but mere collections consisting of a few villages each. At this time, the Cumans settled in northeastern areas of Romania, and over time assimilated with the Romanians (Vlachs). At the same time, the Magyars settled in the Carpathian basin, west of the Carpathian Mountains, and eventually consolidated into the Hungarian kingdom, which included Transylvania. A revived, Second Bulgarian Empire arose in 1115, with the help of Vlach fighters. This new kingdom extended some influence over the southern Romanian lands, however it was limited by the strength of the Hungarian Kingdom, the rise of independent Wallachian principality, and its own downfall in the 1240s.

The principality of Walachia emerged as a unified, independent province in 1330, when Basarab I defeated his liege Hungarian Charles I of Anjou. Moldavia is said to have been founded by Dragos, Knyaz of Maramureş. He was sent by the Hungarian king to the area to effectively establish a buffer zone to protect Hungary from the tartar raids of the 1240s. In 1359, after falling out with the Hungarian King, another Vlach voivode from Maramures crossed the Carpathians and took Moldavia for himself and removed Hungarian control. Wallachia and Moldavia steadily gained strength in the 14th century, a peaceful and prosperous time throughout southeastern Europe. The Eastern Orthodox patriarch in Constantinople established an ecclesiastical seat in Wallachia and appointed a metropolitan. The church's recognition confirmed Wallachia's status as a principality, and Wallachia freed itself from Angevin suzerainty in 1380. However, they were still heavily influenced by Hungary, as well as the Polish Kingdom.

Transylvania was not part of Hungary from the start. During the existence of the Transylvanian principality, the Hungarian nobles, Szekely and Saxon Germans had any privilege. Some Romanian lesser- nobles converted to Catholicism in an attempt to integrate into the Hungarian nobility.

In the 15th century, the Romanian principalities became tributary subjects to the Turks, though they were never outright conquered. In 1475, Stephen III ("the Great") of Moldavia scored a decisive victory against the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Vaslui. With the fall of Hungary, Transylvania became a semi-independent territory vassal to the Turks.


Following their settlement in the Balkans, the Serbs established several states, which eventually united into the Serbian Empire in 1346. By the 16th century, the entire territory of modern-day Serbia was annexed by the Ottoman Empire, at times interrupted by the Habsburgs. In the early 19th century the Serbian revolution re-established the country as a region's first constitutional monarchy, which subsequently expanded its territory and pioneered the abolition of feudalism in the Balkans. The former Habsburg crownland of Vojvodina united with the Kingdom of Serbia in 1918. Following World War I, Serbia formed Yugoslavia with other South Slavic peoples which existed in several forms up until 2006, when the country retrieved its independence. In February 2008 the parliament of UNMIK-administered Kosovo, Serbia's southern province, declared independence, with mixed responses from international governments.


After the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476), the romanised Illyrians of the southern coast of Dalmatia survived the barbarian invasions of the Avars in the 6th century and mixed with the invading Slavs in the 7th and 8th centuries.

The Venetian areas of Montenegro

Venice started to take control of the southern Dalmatia around the 10th century, assimilating quickly the Dalmatian language into the Venetian language. But only in the 14th century the Republic of Venice was able to create a territorial continuity around the Bay of Kotor (Cattaro).

Doclea, ruled by the Vojislavljević dynasty, asserted its independence from Byzantine Empire after several conflicts, and supported the uprising of neighbouring slavs against the Byzantines.In 1050 AD, Mihailo Voislavljevic re-took Raska from the Byzantines and made himself grand Prince of Raska, and placed his brother Radoslav as Prince of Zeta. He received royal insignia from Pope Gregory XII in 1077. He was proclaimed King of Dioklitia. (at its Zenith, Doclea had pushed into Dalmatia, even capturing Ragusa) Doclea reached its zenith under Constantin Bodin, taking advantage of the war between Normans and Byzantium. He established vassalage in Bosnia and Raska. After his death in 1101, there was a dynastic struggle for succession (lasting almost 100 years), weakening the power of Doclea, with secession of Bosnia and Zahlumje from Doclean control. The Byzantine Empire again enforced their rule over this land.

The Republic of Venice dominated the coasts of today's Montenegro from 1420 to 1797. In those four centuries the area around the Cattaro (Kotor) became part of the Venetian albania-montenegro, called in those centuries Albania veneta.

When the Turks started to conquer the Balkans in the 15th century, many Christian Serbs took refuge in Venetian Dalmatia. By the end of the 17th century the Romance-speaking population was already a minority (but still in 1880 there were 930 ethnic Italians in the city of Cattaro, according to the Austrian census, or 32% of a total population of 2910 people).

In 1516, the secular Montenegrin prince Đurađ V Crnojević abdicated in favor of the Archbishop Vavil, who then formed Montenegro into a theocratic state under the rule of the prince-bishop (vladika) of Cetinje, a position transmitted from 1697 by the Petrović-Njegoš family of the Riđani clan, from uncle to nephew as the bishops were not allowed to marry. Petar Petrović Njegoš perhaps the most influential vladika, reigned in the first half of the 19th century. In 1851 Danilo Petrović Njegoš became vladika, but in 1852 he married, threw off his ecclesiastical character, assuming the title of knjaz (Prince) Danilo I, and transformed his land into a secular principality.

Following the assassination of Danilo by Todor Kadic, in 1860, the Montenegrins proclaimed Nicholas I as his successor on August 14 of that year. In 1861–1862, Nicholas engaged in an unsuccessful war against Turkey, Montenegro holding onto its independence only by the skin of its teeth.

He was much more successful in 1875. Following the Herzegovinian Uprising, partly initiated by his clandestine activities, he yet again declared war on Turkey. Serbia joined the Montenegrin kingdom, but it was defeated by Turkish forces in 1876 only to try again the following year after Russia decisively routed the Turks. Montenegro was victorious throughout, though. The results were decisive; 1,900 square miles (4,900 km2) were added to Montenegro's territory by the Treaty of Berlin; that the port of Bar and all the waters of Montenegro were closed to the ships of war of all nations; and that the administration of the maritime and sanitary police on the coast was placed in the hands of Austria.

The reign of Nikola I (1860–1918) saw the doubling of Montenegro's territory and international recognition of her independence (1878).

The Ottoman Empire (15th to 19th centuries)

The Balkans at the end of the 19th century

Much of the Balkans was under

  • The Vlach Connection and Further Reflections on Roman History
  • Books about Albania and the Albanian people ( Reference of books (and some journal articles) about Albania and the Albanian people; their history, language, origin, culture, literature, etc. Public domain books, fully accessible online.
  • Wikisource:Essential History of Bulgaria in Seven Pages

External links

  • A History Of Bulgaria--Serbia--Greece--Rumania--Turkey

External links

  • Boyd, Kelly, ed. Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writers (Rutledge, 1999) 1:68-70


  • Andijašević, M, Ž. Rastoder, Š. (2003) The History of Montenegro. Podgorica Diaspora Library. Podgorica Diaspora Centre.
  • Camaj, Z, K. (LLB) (June 25, 2001) Relations between the Albanians of Montenegro, the Albanians of Kosovo and the Albanians of Albania. N.P.
  • Escalation of Ethnic Conflict]. Journal of International Politics Vol 35. pp 65–82. Accessed 09-12-2006.
  • Diken, B. Lausten, B, C. (2005) "Becoming Abject: Rape as a Weapon of War". Journal of Body & Society, Vol. 11 (1). Pp111–128. Sage.
  • Judah, T. (2000) Kosovo: War and revenge. Yale University Press, New Haven London.
  • Logoreci, A. (1977) The Albanians. London. In Accessed 11-03-2006.
  • Mitrovic, Andrej. Serbia's Great War 1914-1918 (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Swire, J. (1930) Albania; The Rise of a Kingdom. New York.
  • Tucker, Spencer, ed. European Powers in the First World War: An Encyclopedia (1999) excerpt and text search

Specialized studies

  • Hall, Richard C. The Modern Balkans: A History (2011) excerpt and text search
  • Jelavich, Barbara. History of the Balkans. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Mazower, Mark. The Balkans: A Short History (2002) excerpt and text search
  • Wachtel, Andrew. The Balkans in World History (New Oxford World History) (2008) excerpt and text search

Further reading

  1. ^ Barbara Jelavich, History of the Balkans (1983)
  2. ^ Mark Mazower, The Balkans: A Short History (2002)
  3. ^ The Illyrians (The Peoples of Europe) by John Wilkes,ISBN 978-0-631-19807-9,1996,page 39: "... the other hand, the beginnings of the Iron Age around 1000 BC is held to coincide with the formation of the historical Illyrian peoples. ..."
  4. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 3, Part 1: The Prehistory of the Balkans, the Middle East and the Aegean World, Tenth to Eighth Centuries BC by John Boardman, I. E. S. Edwards, N. G. L. Hammond, and E. Sollberger,1982,page 53,"... Yet we cannot identify the Thracians at that remote period, because we do not know for certain whether the Thracian and Illyrian tribes had separated by then. It is safer to speak of Proto-Thracians from whom there developed in the Iron Age ..."
  5. ^ a b c The Oxford Classical Dictionary by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth,ISBN 0-19-860641-9,"page 1515,"The Thracians were subdued by the Persians by 516"
  6. ^ Joseph Roisman,Ian Worthington A Companion to Ancient Macedonia pp 342-345 John Wiley & Sons, 7 jul. 2011 ISBN 144435163X
  7. ^ Herodotus,6.43.1
  8. ^ The Illyrians. John Wilkes
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "A Companion to Ancient Macedonia". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Persian influence on Greece (2)". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Herodotus VI, 44
  12. ^ Joseph Roisman,Ian Worthington A Companion to Ancient Macedonia pp 344 John Wiley & Sons, 7 jul. 2011 ISBN 144435163X
  13. ^ The Serbs, Chapter 1 -Ancient Heritage, S M Cirkovic
  14. ^ a b The Balkans From Communism to Constantinople. Denis P Hupchik.
  15. ^ Dienekes' Anthropology Blog
  16. ^ ^
  17. ^ David Christian-A history of Russia, Central Asia, and Mongolia, p.280
  18. ^ Elian, Alexandru and Tanasoca, Nicolae-Serban (1975). Fontes Historiae Daco-Romanae, Saec. XI-XIV, Editura Academiei RSR, Bucuresti,1975, note 91 on p.117.
  19. ^ Richard Cowen, The importance of salt
  20. ^ Malcolm 1996, p. 10.
  21. ^  
  22. ^  
  23. ^ ^ Confusion exists as to his genealogy: some believe he was Prijezda's son, while others believe he was the son of a German Knight that served Hungary well, thus given rule as a reward
  24. ^ Gail Warrander, Verena Knau, Kosovo, 2nd: The Bradt Travel Guide.
  25. ^ Kitromilides, Paschalis M. 1996. “’Balkan mentality’: history, legend, imagination”, in: Nations and Nationalism, 2 (2), pp.163-191.
  26. ^ Franklin L. Ford, Europe: 1780-1830 (1970) pp 39-41
  27. ^ Ford, Europe: 1780-1830 (1970) pp 39-41
  28. ^ A.J.P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe: 1848-1918 (1954) pp 228-54
  29. ^ Jerome L. Blum, et al. The European World: A History (1970) p 841
  30. ^ Christopher Clark (2013). The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. HarperCollins. pp. 45, 559. 
  31. ^ Richard C. Hall, The Balkan Wars 1912-1913: Prelude to the First World War (2000)
  32. ^ Norka Machiedo Mladinić (June 2007). "Prilog proučavanju djelovanja Ivana Meštrovića u Jugoslavenskom odboru" (PDF). Journal of Contemporary History (in Croatian) 39 (1) (Zagreb, Croatia: Croatian Institute of History). Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  33. ^ Tucker, The European powers in the First World War (1996). pp 149-52
  34. ^ Richard C. Hall, "Bulgaria in the First World War," Historian, (Summer 2011) 73#2 pp 300-315 online
  35. ^ "Secondary Wars and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century" Archived 7 May 2009 at WebCite
  36. ^ Ethnic Cleansing and the Normative Transformation of International Society
  37. ^ Institue for War and Peace Reporting
  38. ^ Ethnic cleansed Great Serbia


See also

  • CNN. "A timeline of tensions." 1998.
  • BBC. "Yugoslavia & The Balkans 1900 - 1998." Accessed May 29, 2006.
  • Time. "Bosnia: Keeping the Peace." Accessed May 29, 2006.
  • Howell, Timothy, ed. "Balkans." Center for Cooperative Research. Accessed May 29, 2006.


Since the 2008 economic crisis, the former Yugoslav countries began to cooperate on levels that were similar to those in Yugoslavia. The term "Yugosphere" was coined by The Economist after a regional train service "Cargo 10" was created.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008.

On October 17, 2007 Croatia became a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2008-2009 term, while Bosnia and Herzegovina became a non-permanent member for the 2010-2011 period.

In 2006, Montenegro separated from the state of Serbia and Montenegro, also making Serbia a separate state.

Greece has been a member of NATO since 1952. In 2004 Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia became members of NATO. Croatia and Albania joined NATO in 2009.

Greece has been a member of the European Union since 1981. Greece is also an official member of the Eurozone, and the Western European Union. Slovenia and Cyprus have been EU members since 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007. Croatia joined the EU in 2013. Turkey initially applied in 1963 and as of late 2005 accession negotiations have begun, although analysts believe 2015 is the earliest date the country can join the Union due to the plethora of economic and social reforms it has to complete. Macedonia also received candidate status in 2005, while the other Balkan countries have expressed a desire to join the EU but at some date in the future.

Recent history and current status (2000 to present)

A massive and systematic deportation of ethnic Albanians took place during the Kosovo War of 1999, with over 1.000.000 Albanians (out of a population of about 1.8 million) forced to flee Kosovo. This was quickly reversed at the war's end.

A number of commanders and politicians, notably Serbia's former president Slobodan Milošević, were put on trial by the United Nations' International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for a variety of war crimes—including deportations and genocide that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Croatia's former president Franjo Tuđman and Bosnia's Alija Izetbegović died before any alleged accusations were leveled at them at the ICTY. Slobodan Milošević died before his trial could be concluded.

The Dayton Accords nominally ended the current war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, fixating the borders between the two warring parties roughly to the ones established by the autumn of 1995. One immediate result of population transfers following the peace deal was a sharp decline in ethnic violence in the region. See Washington Post Balkan Report for a summary of the conflict, and FAS analysis of former Yugoslavia for population ethnic distribution maps.

The war in Bosnia brought major ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs from the regions that today make up the Republika Srpska: throughout Bosanska Krajina (notably the significant minority population of Bosniaks and Croats in Banja Luka, slight majority of Bosniaks in Prijedor), Bosnian Posavina (Croats as well as Bosniaks, from Brčko, Bosanski Brod, Doboj, Odžak, Derventa), eastern Bosnia (Bosniak majority population of Foča, Zvornik, Višegrad, Srebrenica, Žepa), eastern Herzegovina (Trebinje). During the Bosniak-Croat conflict, Bosniaks were ethnically cleansed by Croats and sometimes vice versa in areas of Central Bosnia, central and eastern Herzegovina (Mostar and Stolac). The war in Croatia started in 1991, and was caused by the rebellion of Serbian population in Croatia, their wish to secede, hoping to form a Greater Serbia, and along with other Serb-occupied territories in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina unite with Serbia. During the Croatian War of Independence, from 1991 to 1995 around 600,000 Serbs were ethnically cleansed from southern and eastern parts of country, they were forced out in waves, and the most known event was the operation storm, where 250.000 people fled in the course of 5 days. The Croatian operations Flash and Storm in 1995 was the instigator to widespread incidents, including rapes and murders of those who had chosen to stay, burning of houses, killing of livestock etc. in the purpose of ethnically cleansing these majority Serb areas, but UN, ICTY and international community didn't show any interest in that issue. Many Croatian generals were indicted for these atrocities—and had the wartime president Franjo Tudjman not died, he would have been indicted, according to Carla Del Ponte, chief attorney of the Haag court, Serbia is now home to more than 800.000 refuges from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, most of them are Serbs, but there are Roma (who are, in most cases, settled in cardbox ghettos around Serbian cities (most famous is Gazela situated under the Gazela bridge in Belgrade downtown), Gorani, Albanians and Montenegrins as well.

Since the Bosniaks had no immediate refuge, they were arguably hardest hit by the ethnic violence. The United Nations tried to create safe areas for the Bosniak populations of eastern Bosnia but in cases such as the Srebrenica massacre, the peacekeeping troops (Dutch forces) failed to protect the safe areas resulting in the massacre of thousands.

During the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, the breakup of Yugoslavia caused large population transfers, mostly involuntary. Because it was a conflict fueled by ethnic nationalism, people of minority ethnicities generally fled towards regions where their ethnicity was in a majority.

Ethnic cleansing

Initial upsets on Kosovo did not escalate into a war until 1999 when the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) was bombarded by over 30 members of NATO for several months and Kosovo made a protectorate of international peacekeeping troops.

The wars caused large migrations of population. With the exception of its former republics of Slovenia and Macedonia, the settlement and the national composition of population in all parts of Yugoslavia changed drastically, due to war, but also political pressure and threats.

The economy suffered an enormous damage in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the affected parts of Croatia. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia also suffered an economic hardship under internationally imposed economic sanctions. Also many large historical cities were devastated by the wars, for example Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, Zadar, Mostar, Šibenik and others.

The Ten-Day War in Slovenia in June 1991 was short and with few casualties. However, the Croatian War of Independence in the latter half of 1991 brought many casualties and much damage on Croatian towns. As the war eventually subsided in Croatia, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina started in early 1992. Peace only came in 1995 after such events as the Srebrenica massacre, Operation Storm, Operation Mistral 2 and the Dayton Agreement, which provided for a temporary solution, but nothing was permanently resolved.

The collapse of Yugoslavia was due to various factors in various republics that composed it. In Serbia and Montenegro, there were efforts of different factions of the old party elite to retain power under new conditions along, and an attempt to create an ethnic cleansed Greater Serbia by keeping all Serbs in one state.[38] In Croatia and Slovenia, multi-party elections produced nationally-inclined leadership that followed in the footsteps of their previous Communist predecessors and oriented itself towards capitalism and secession. Bosnia and Herzegovina was split between the conflicting interests of its Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks, while Macedonia mostly tried to steer away from conflicting situations.

The real start of the beginning of war was military attack on Slovenia and Croatia taken by Serb-controlled JNA. Before the war, JNA had started accepting volunteers driven by ideology of Serbian nationalists keen to realise their nationalist goals.[37] During period, Yugoslav Army attacked four republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo).

The Yugoslav federation also collapsed in the early 1990s, followed by an outbreak of violence and aggression, in a series of conflicts known alternately as the Yugoslav War(s), the War in the Balkans, or rarely the Third Balkan War (a term coined by British journalist Misha Glenny). The disintegration of Yugoslavia was particularly the consequence of unresolved national, political and economic questions. The conflicts caused the death of many innocent people.

Yugoslav wars

In Albania, Bulgaria and Romania the changes in political and economic system were accompanied by a period of political and economic instability and tragic events. The same was the case in most of former Yugoslav republics.

The late 1980s and the early 1990s brought the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. As westernization spread through the Balkans, many reforms were carried out that led to implementation of market economy and to privatization, among other capitalist reforms.


Religious persecutions took place in Bulgaria, directed against the Christian Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches as well as the Muslim, Jewish and others in the country. Antagonism between the communist state and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church eased somewhat after Todor Zhivkov became Bulgarian Communist Party leader in 1956. Zhivkov even used the Bulgarian Orthodox Church for the purposes of his policies.

The Greek Catholic Church was the second largest denomination in Romania (approximately 1.5 million adherents out of a population of approximately 15 million) in 1948 when Communist authorities outlawed it and dictated its forced merger with the Romanian Orthodox Church. At the time of its banning, the Greek Catholic Church owned more than 2,600 churches, which were confiscated by the State and then given to the Orthodox Church, along with other facilities. Other properties of the Greek Catholic Church, such as buildings and agricultural land, became state property.

Religious persecutions

During the Cold War, most of the countries in the Balkans were ruled by Soviet-supported communist governments. The nationalism was not dead after World War II. Yugoslavia was not an isolated case of ethnic tension. For example: in Bulgaria, beginning in 1984, the Communist government led by Todor Zhivkov began implementing a policy of forced assimilation of the ethnic Turkish minority. Ethnic Turks were required to change their names to Bulgarian equivalents, or to leave the country. In 1989, a Turkish dissident movement was formed to resist these assimilationist measures. The Bulgarian government responded with violence and mass expulsions of the activists. In this repressive environment, over 300,000 ethnic Turks fled to neighboring Turkey.[36] However, despite being under communist governments, Yugoslavia (1948) and Albania (1961) fell out with the Soviet Union. After World War 2, communist plans of merging Albania and Bulgaria into Yugoslavia were created, but later nullified when Albania broke all relations with Yugoslavia, due to Tito breaking from the USSR. Marshal Josip Broz Tito (1892–1980), later rejected the idea of merging with Bulgaria, and instead sought closer relations with the West, later even creating the Non-Aligned Movement, which brought them closer ties with third world countries. Albania on the other hand gravitated toward Communist China, later adopting an isolationist position. The only non-communist countries were Greece and Turkey, which were (and still are) part of NATO.

Balkans during the Cold War

  • Yalta Conference
  • Western betrayal
  • Operation Keelhaul
  • Greek Civil War - The Greek Civil War was a war fought between 1944 and 1949 in Greece. On one side were the armed forces of the Greek government, supported at first by Britain and later by the United States. On the other side were the forces of the wartime resistance against the German occupation, whose leadership was controlled by the Communist Party of Greece. Its goal was the creation of a Communist Northern Greece. It was the first time in the Cold War that hostilities led to a proxy war. In 1949, the partisans were defeated by the government forces.
  • Bloody Christmas 1945

Consequences of World War II

With the end of the war, the changes of the ethnic composition reverted to their original conditions and the settlers returned to their homelands, mainly the ones settled in Greece. An Albanian population of the Greek North, the Cams, were forced to flee their lands because collaborated with the Italians. Their numbers were about 18 000 in 1944.

On May first the Balkan frontiers were once again reshuffled, with the creation of several puppet states, such as Croatia and Montenegro, the Albanian expansion into Greece and Yugoslavia, Bulgarian annexation of territories in the Greek North, creation of a Vlach state in the Greek mountains of Pindus and the annexation of all the Ionian and part of the Aegean islands into Italy.

With help from Italy and Hungary, they succeeded in conquering Yugoslavia within two weeks. Then they joined forces with Bulgaria and invaded Greece from the Yugoslavian side. Despite Greek resistance, the Germans took advantage of the Greek army's presence in Albania against the Italians to advance in Northern Greece and consequently conquer the entire country within 3 weeks, with the exception of Crete. However, even with the fierce Cretan resistance, which cost the Nazis the bulk of their elite paratrooper forces, the island capitulated after 11 days of fighting.

After the fall of Sarajevo on 16 April 1941 to Nazi Germany, the Yugoslav provinces of Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina were recreated as fascist satellite states, Nezavisna Država Hrvatska (NDH, the Independent State of Croatia). Croat-nationalist, Ante Pavelić was appointed leader. The Nazis effectively created the Handschar division and collaborated with Ustaše in order to combat the Yugoslav Partisans.

World War II in the Balkans started from the Italian attempts to create an Italian empire. They invaded Albania in 1939 and annexed after just a week to the Kingdom of Italy. Then demanded Greece to surrender in October 1940. However, the defiance of the Greek prime minister Metaxas in 28 October 1940, started the Greco-Italian war. After seven months of hard fighting, with some of the first Allied victories and the Italians losing nearly one third of Albania, Germany intervened to save its ally. In 1941, it invaded Yugoslavia with the forces they later used against the Soviet Union.

World War II in Balkans

See also:

  • In the interwar period, almost 1.5 million Greeks were removed from Turkey; almost 700,000 Turks removed from Greece
  • The 1919 Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine provided for the reciprocal emigration of ethnic minorities between Greece and Bulgaria. Between 92,000 and 102,000 Bulgarians were removed from Greece; 35,000 Greeks were removed from Bulgaria. Although no agreement on exchange of population between Bulgaria and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was ever reached because of the latter's adamant refusal to recognise any Bulgarian minority in its eastern regions, the number of refugees from Macedonia and Eastern Serbia to Bulgaria also exceeded 100,000. Between the two world wars, some 67,000 Turks emigrated from Bulgaria to Turkey on basis of bilateral agreements.
  • Under the terms of 1940 Treaty of Craiova, 88,000 Romanians and Aromanians of Southern Dobruja were forced to move in Northern Dobruja and 65,000 Bulgarians of Northern Dobruja were forced to move in Southern Dobruja.

Between World War I and World War II, in order to create nation-states the following population movements were seen:

Some important territorial changes include:

The borders of many states were completely redrawn, and the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, later Yugoslavia, was created. Both Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire were formally dissolved. As a result, the balance of power, economic relations, and ethnic divisions were completely altered.

The war had enormous repercussions for the Balkan peninsula. People across the area suffered serious economic dislocation, and the mass mobilization resulted in severe casualties, particularly in Serbia where over 1.5 million Serbs died, which was approx. 1/4 of the total population and over half of the male population. In less-developed areas World War I was felt in different ways: requisitioning of draft animals, for example, caused severe problems in villages that were already suffering from the enlistment of young men, and many recently created trade connections were ruined.

Political history of the Balkans

Consequences of World War I

Bulgaria, a poor rural nation of 7 million people sought to acquire Macedonia but when it tried it was defeated in 1913 in the Second Balkan War. In 1914 Bulgaria stayed neutral. However its leaders still hoped to acquire Macedonia, which was controlled by an ally, Serbia. In 1915 joining the Central Powers seemed the best route.[33] Bulgaria mobilized a very large army of 800,000 men, using equipment supplied by Germany. The Bulgarian-German-Austrian invasion of Serbia in 1915 was a quick victory, but by the end of 1915 Bulgaria was also fighting the British and French—as well as the and Romanians in 1916 and the Greeks in 1917. Bulgaria was ill-prepared for a long war; absence of so many soldiers sharply reduced agricultural output. Much of its best food was smuggled out to feed lucrative black markets elsewhere. By 1918 the soldiers were not only short of basic equipment like boots but they were being fed mostly corn bread with a little meat. Germany increasingly was in control, and Bulgaria relations with its ally the Ottoman Empire soured. The Allied offensive in September 1918 destroyed the remnants of Bulgarian military power and civilian morale. Troops mutinied and peasants revolted, demanding peace. By month's end Bulgaria signed an armistice, giving up its conquests and its military hardware. The Czar abdicated and Bulgaria's war was over. The peace treaty in 1919 stripped Bulgaria of its conquests, reduced its army to 20,000 men, and demanded reparations of £100 million.[34]


Montenegro declared war on 6 August 1914. Bulgaria, however, stood aside before eventually joining the Central Powers in 1915, and Romania joined the Allies in 1916. In 1916 the Allies sent their ill-fated expedition to Gallipoli in the Dardanelles, and in the autumn of 1916 they established themselves in Salonika, establishing front. However, their armies did not move from front until near end of the war, when they marched up north to free territories under rule of Central Powers.

Yugoslav Committee, a political interest group formed by South Slavs from Austria-Hungary during World War I, aimed at joining the existing south Slavic nations in an independent state.[32] From this plan, a new kingdom eventually was born: The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians.

In the autumn, with many Austro-Hungarians tied up in heavy fighting with Serbia, Russia was able to make huge inroads into Austria-Hungary capturing Galicia and destroying much of the Empire's fighting ability. It wasn't until October 1915 with a lot of German, Bulgarian, and Turkish assistance that Serbia was finally occupied, although the weakened Serbian army retreated to Corfu with Italian assistance and continued to fight against the central powers.

The Serbians were set up in defensive positions against the Austro-Hungarians. The first attack came on August 16, between parts of the 21st Austro-Hungarian division and parts of the Serbian Combined division. In harsh night-time fighting, the battle ebbed and flowed, until the Serbian line was rallied under the leadership of Stepa Stepanovic. Three days later the Austrians retreated across the Danube, having suffered 21,000 casualties against 16,000 Serbian casualties. This marked the first Allied victory of the war. The Austrians had not achieved their main goal of eliminating Serbia. In the next couple of months the two armies fought large battles at Drina (September 6 to November 11) and at Kolubara from November 16 to December 15.

As a result, Austria-Hungary's war effort was damaged almost beyond redemption within a couple of months of the war beginning. The Serb army, which was coming up from the south of the country, met the Austrian army at the Battle of Cer beginning on August 12, 1914.

Fighting in 1914

Austro-Hungarian planning for operations against Serbia was not extensive and they ran into many logistical difficulties in mobilizing the army and beginning operations against the Serbs. They encountered problems with train schedules and mobilization schedules, which conflicted with agricultural cycles in some areas. When operations began in early August Austria-Hungary was unable to crush the Serbian armies as many within the monarchy had predicted. One difficulty for the Austro-Hungarians was that they had to divert many divisions north to counter advancing Russian armies. Planning for operations against Serbia had not accounted for possible Russian intervention, which the Austro-Hungarian army had assumed would be countered by Germany. However, the German army had long planned on attacking France before turning to Russia given a war with the Entente powers. (See: Schlieffen Plan) Poor communication between the two governments led to this catastrophic oversight.

Many members of the Austro-Hungarian government, such as Conrad von Hötzendorf had hoped to provoke a war with Serbia for several years. They had a couple of motives. In part they feared the power of Serbia and its ability to sow dissent and disruption in the empire's "south-Slav" provinces under the banner of a "greater Slav state". Another hope was that they could annex Serbian territories in order to change the ethnic composition of the empire. With more Slavs in the Empire, some in the German-dominated half of the government hoped to balance the power of the Magyar-dominated Hungarian government. Until 1914 more peaceful elements had been able to argue against these military strategies, either through strategic considerations or political ones. However, Franz Ferdinand, a leading advocate of a peaceful solution, had been removed from the scene, and more hawkish elements were able to prevail. Another factor in this was the development in Germany giving the Dual-Monarchy a "blank cheque" to pursue a military strategy that ensured Germany's backing.

The monumentally colossal World War I was ignited from a spark in the Balkans, when a Bosnian Serb called Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne, Franz Ferdinand. Princip was a member of a Serbian militant group called the Crna Ruka, translated 'Black Hand'. Following the assassination, Austria-Hungary sent Serbia an ultimatum in July 1914 with several provisions largely designed to prevent Serbian compliance. When Serbia only partially fulfilled the terms of the ultimatum, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914.

Coming of war 1914

World War I in the Balkans

The Balkan Wars were two conflicts that took place in the Balkan Peninsula in south-eastern Europe in 1912 and 1913. Four Balkan states defeated the Ottoman Empire in the first war; one of the four, Bulgaria, was defeated in the second war. The Ottoman Empire lost nearly all of its holdings in Europe. Austria-Hungary, although not a combatant, was weakened as a much enlarged Serbia pushed for union of the South Slavic peoples.[30] The war set the stage for the Balkan crisis of 1914 and thus was a "prelude to the First World War."[31]

Balkan Wars

20th century

In the long-run, tensions between Russia and Austria-Hungary intensified, as did the nationality question in the Balkans. The congress was aimed at the revision of the Treaty of San Stefano and at keeping Constantinople in Ottoman hands. It effectively disavowed Russia's victory over the decaying Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War. The Congress of Berlin returned to the Ottoman Empire territories that the previous treaty had given to the Principality of Bulgaria, most notably Macedonia, thus setting up a strong revanchist demand in Bulgaria that in 1912 was one of many causes of the First Balkan War.

The results were at first hailed as a great achievement in peacemaking and stabilization. However, most of the participants were not fully satisfied, and grievances regarding the results festered until they exploded in world war in 1914. Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece made gains, but far less than they thought they deserved. The Ottoman Empire, called at the time the "sick man of Europe," was humiliated and significantly weakened, rendering it more liable to domestic unrest and more vulnerable to attack. Although Russia had been victorious in the war that caused the conference, it was humiliated at Berlin, 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 Herzogovina. Bismarck became the target of hatred of Russian nationalists and Pan-Slavists, and found that he had tied Germany too closely to Austria in the Balkans.[29]

As a result, Ottoman holdings in Europe declined sharply; Bulgaria was established as an independent principality inside the Ottoman Empire, but was not allowed to keep all its previous territory. Bulgaria, without being admitted to the Congress, lost more than 70% of its territory, and over 50% of its ethnic population remained outside its borders—which caused a number of uprisings and brought the country into subsequent Balkan wars. Bulgaria lost Eastern Rumelia, which was restored to the Turks under a special administration. Macedonia, and East and Western Thrace were returned outright to the Turks, who promised reform and Northern Dobrudja became part of Romania, which achieved full independence but had to turn over part of Bessarabia to Russia. Serbia and Montenegro finally gained complete independence, but with smaller territories. Austria took over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and effectively took control of the Sanjak of Novi Pazar. Britain took over Cyprus.[28]

The Otto von Bismarck, who led the Congress, undertook to adjust boundaries to minimize the risks of major war, while recognizing the reduced power of the Ottoman Empire, and balance the distinct interests of the great powers.

Anton von Werner, At the Congress of Berlin (1878) the tall Bismarck on the right is shaking hands with Gyula Andrássy and Pyotr Andreyevich Shuvalov; on the left are Alajos Károlyi, Alexander Gorchakov and Benjamin Disraeli

Congress of Berlin

The bloody suppression of the April Uprising in Bulgaria, became occasion of the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878).

The rise of Nationalism under the declining Ottoman Empire caused the breakdown of millet concept. With the rise of national states and their histories, it is very hard to find reliable sources on the Ottoman concept of a nation and the centuries of the relations between House of Ottoman and provinces, which turned into states. Unquestionably, understanding of Ottomans concept of nation helps us to understand what happened during the decline period of the Ottoman Empire.

Rise of nationalism in the Balkans

The social structure of the Balkans in the late eighteenth century was complex. The Ottoman rulers exercised control chiefly in indirect ways.[26] In Albania and Montenegro, for example, local leaders paid nominal tribute to the Empire and otherwise had little contact. Dubrovnik (Ragusa) paid an annual tribute to Constantinople but otherwise was free to pursue its rivalry with Venice. The two Romanian-speaking principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia had their own nobility, but were ruled by Greek families chosen by the Sultan. In Greece, the elite comprised clergyman and scholars, but there was scarcely any Greek aristocracy. A million or more Turks had settled in the Balkans, typically in smaller urban centers where they were garrison troops, civil servants, and craftsmen and merchants. There were also important communities of Jewish and Greek merchants. The Turks and Jews were not to be found in the countryside, so there was a very sharp social differentiation between the cities and their surrounding region in terms of language, religion and ethnicity. The Ottoman Empire collected taxes at about the 10% rate but there was no forced labor and the workers and peasants were not especially oppressed by the Empire. The Sultan favoured and protected the Orthodox clergy, primarily as a protection against the missionary zeal of Roman Catholics.[27]


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