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The Balkans region encompasses over 270,271.5 square miles (700,000 square km) across southeastern Europe. According to modern standards, the following countries are part of the region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and the European half of Turkey. Romania and Slovenia are sometimes included in the list, although they're not officially part of the Balkans. The area is so called after the mountain range of the same name.
Both the classic Greek and the Roman Empire were once part of the Balkans, as it later was the Byzantine Empire. In modern times, the region was the starting point for World War I. When Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was killed by a Serb, Austria eventually declared war on Serbia, which lead to the Great War or WWI.
Named after the Balkans Mountains that run from Serbia to the Black Sea, the region is a rich environment that includes everything from the Dinaric Alps in Slovenia to oak and beech woods inland. Because of the climate variety of the mountains, a visitor can find examples of both Mediterranean and Continental climate, with steady snowfall but low rainfall. Summers are usually warm and dry. The area's natural resources include grape growing and wine production, and deposits of coal and lignite, mining of copper, manganese, zinc and bauxite.
The population of the Balkans is as varied as its nature. Turks and Greeks make the largest percentage of the region's inhabitants, followed by Serbs and Bulgarians. All Balkan countries also have a certain number of nomad minorities, including Roma (Gypsy), Vlachs, and Gorani.
The Balkans have dealt with a series of historical violent events, including religious prosecution during World War II, when the Greek Catholic Church was ordered to merge with the Romanian Orthodox Church and certain minorities, including Gypsies, were openly discriminated. The collapse of the Yugoslav federation led to a decade long war and plentiful loss of civilian life. Ethnic cleansing forced many locals to flee the area during the 1990s.
Frequently Asked Questions
What countries are included in the Balkans?
The Balkans, a region in Southeast Europe, includes a diverse group of countries. According to the broadest definition, these are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. However, the inclusion of certain countries like Greece and Romania can vary based on different geographical or political contexts.
Why is the Balkan region historically significant?
The Balkans have been a crossroads of civilizations for centuries, contributing to its rich historical tapestry. It has been influenced by the Roman and Byzantine empires, the Ottoman Empire, and later by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The region is also known for the Balkan Wars and as the spark of World War I with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
What are the main languages spoken in the Balkans?
The Balkans are linguistically diverse, with languages from different families spoken in the region. These include Slavic languages (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Slovenian), Romance languages (Romanian), Albanian, Greek, and Turkish. This diversity is a result of the region's complex history and the influence of various empires and migrations over the centuries.
What is the cultural diversity like in the Balkans?
The Balkans are renowned for their cultural diversity, with each country offering a unique blend of traditions, religions, and customs. This diversity is a product of the region's history, where many different ethnic groups have lived side by side and various empires have left their mark. The region is home to a mix of Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Catholics, and other religious groups, contributing to a rich mosaic of cultural practices.
How has the geography of the Balkans influenced its history?
The geography of the Balkans, characterized by its mountainous terrain and strategic coastal areas, has significantly influenced its history. The mountains have often acted as natural barriers, leading to the development of distinct cultures and languages. Meanwhile, the coastal regions, particularly along the Adriatic and Aegean Seas, have been vital for trade and contact with other civilizations, shaping the economic and political history of the region.