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.
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.
The other peoples of the Balkans organized themselves in large tribal unions, such as the Thracian Odrysian empire, created in the 5th century 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 to refer to different peoples within a well defined but much greater area.
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. 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 tribes started fighting among themselves, 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 of their allies in Southern Greece, they became lords of the region. The Greek territories were split to Macedonia, Achaia and Epirus.
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 gradually acquired a predominant status in the Eastern half of the Empire, more so 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 . 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.
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 Third 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.
Byzantine Empire is the historiographical term used to describe the Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, centered at its capital in Constantinople. During most of its history the Eastern Roman Empire controlled many provinces in the Balkans and in 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.
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.
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. As the Byzantine Empire withdrew its borders more and more- in an attempt to consolidate its fledgling power- vast areas were de-urbanised, roads abandoned and native populations may have withdrawn to isolated areas such as mountains and forests.
The first such 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 would become) 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 which included the north-western Balkans, before it was defeated by the Byzantines.
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 Mongol ruling core, as well as Turkic and Uralic elements, and later incorporated various German (Goths, Gepids), Sarmatian (incl [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.
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.
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 500s 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 archeologists 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. 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 Avars were probably a Turkic group, possibly with ruling core derived from Rouran which escaped China. They entered Pannonia in the 600s AD, forcing the Lombards to flee to Italy. They continuously raided the Balkans, contributing to the general decline of the area which commenced 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 900s, 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 (also Bolgars or proto-Bulgarians), a people of Central Asia, probably originally Pamirian. 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 [Hunnic Empire|Hunnish Empire] the Bulgars dispersed mostly to eastern Europe.
The Magyars, led by Árpád, were the leading clan in a ten tribe confederacy. They entered Europe in the 900s 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.
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, Greeks) who shared the commonality of having been assimilated in language and culture of the Eastern Roman, later Byzantine Empire.
In 886 AD, Bulgaria adopted the Glagolitic alphabet which was devised by the Byzantine missionaries Saint Cyril and Methodius in the 850s. The Glagolitic alphabet was gradually superseded in later centuries by the Cyrillic alphabet, developed around the Preslav Literary School in the beginning of the 10th century. Most letters in the Cyrillic alphabet were borrowed from the Greek alphabet, but those which had no Greek equivalents represent simplified Glagolitic letters.
The first mention of the slavic dialects that would later constitute the Bulgarian language as the "Bulgarian language" instead of the "Slavonic language" comes in the work of the Greek clergy of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid in the 11th century, for example in 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. Very soon the state got weakened, however, in the middle of the 9th century as a result of barbaric raids from the north and the Bogomil heresy. After an assault by the Rus' in 969, eastern Bulgaria and the capital of Preslav became 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. A final defeat at Kleidion in 1014, however, 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 conquered 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. The Tatar raids and the series of mediocre rulers after Ivan Asen II, however, 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 since the 1350s cut, however, short the Bulgarian territorial expansion; by 1396 the whole of Bulgaria was overrun by the Ottomans.
Rascia and Doclea were the two most dominant Serb states. Apart from occasional brief unifications, the states were mostly independent. There were constant power struggles between the various princes. This disunity halted any consolidation of power and often resulted in interference from foreign rulers (Byzantine Greece, Venice, Hungary, Bulgaria, even the Normans). Despite this fact, the cultural achievements that arose from these states were very significant, and forged a proud Serbian national identity.
The Serbs (all Serb tribes) were Christianised after their arrival on the Balkans by Byzantine Greek missionaries, but not all Serb tribes took on the new faith, however by 840s the Serbs were predominantly Christian, finalized by the missions of Saints Cyril and Methodius. After the Great Schism of 1054, eastern areas were influenced by Greek Orthodox church, whereas the Adriatic areas were Latin rite.
Early on all states recognised Byzantine suzerainty, although in practice Byzantine rule was limited to the coastal areas. In 925 AD, the Serb lands were invaded by Tsar Simeon of the Bulgarian Kingdom. In 927 Caslav Klonimirovic unified Raska with Doclea, Zachlumje, Travunia and Pagania. The Bosnian bans (chiefs) also joined the confederacy. They ousted the hostile Bulgarians and re-established Serbian independence. The death of Caslav in 960 brought the end of the House of Vlastimirovic, as well as Serbian unity. Bosnia also withdrew from the union, and was forced into vassalage by Croatia. The Byzantines easily re-asserted their authority over the Serbian lands, and ruled the area for almost 100 years.
The decline of Raska's power saw the rise of Doclea as the centre of Serbian rule and culture. A Travunian noble family won the succession struggles, creating a personal union between the states of Doclea, Travunia and Zahumlje. The first such prince was Predimir.
Serbia continued to expand, winning new territory to the north; including the city of Belgrade, Srem region and northern Bosnia. Medieval Serbia enjoyed a high political, economic, and cultural reputation in Europe. It reached its apex in the mid-14th century, during the rule of Tzar Stefan Dušan, conquering Macedonia and most of Greece. He crowned himself Emperor of Serbs, Greeks and Tribals in 1346 in Skopje. During Dusan's campaigns, the Ottomans raided Europe for the first time, being used as mercenaries by the ousted Byzantine Emperor (he would soon realise that they would not leave after their tasks were complete). Dusan's aim was to capture Constantinople and abolish the defunct Byzantine Empire, and create a new unified Orthodox Empire centred on Serbia. However, he died in his own lands before he could begin his march. After his death his successor Uros the Weak lost central authority, and died childless in 1371.
Power was divided between local despots. During the Battle of Maritza in 1371 (where a 70, 000 coalition of Serbs and Bulgarians lost to the Ottomans), the majority of Serbia's nobility were killed. Despot Lazar continued to rule over Serbia, as he did not participate in the battle. In the Battle of Kosovo (1389), Lazar led a final coalition of some 15 to 30, 000 troops which included Bosnian, Croatian and even Romanian contingents. Whether the battle was a victory, draw or loss, it left Serbia incapable of raising any further armies. Eventually all of Serbia fell to Turkey by 1459.
Zeta continued to be ruled by the Basilic and then the Crnojevic families until loss of rule in the 1500s. Part of the land was incorporated into Ottoman rule, as the Sanjak of Montenegro. Part proudly remained independent as a new theocratic state ruled by the Vladikas (Prince-Bishops).
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 Bulgarians 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 eastern-most part (Syrmia) was kept by Bulgaria. The last known Pannonian Duke under Frankish fielty was Braslav.
Meanhile 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 Slavic Pirates from Pagania 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 1000s AD. 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 would attempt to assert their own control, Hungary would easily regain rule.
With the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, Croatia fell after successive battles. The Battle of Mohacs 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 Hapsburgs.
Bosnia was initially part of the unity of the Kingdom of Croatia. However, the kingdom began to fall apart as waring with Hungary began as well as internal power struggles and venician intervention. Bosnia also fell temporarily under Bulgarian rule, the Byzantines temporarily established their authority in 1019. It then briefly fell under Croatian influence again in the 1060s, under Kresimir IV. Constantin Bodin from Doclea then conquered it and emplaced his own vassal to rule Bosnia. After his death in 1101, Bosnia's bans tried to rule for themselves. However, they would all too often find themselves in a tug-of-war between Hungary and the Byzantine Empire.
The first recorded Ban (viceroy) was Ban Boric, vassal to the Hungarian king. However, he was deposed when he backed the loser in a succession crisis over the Hungarian throne. In 1166, Byzantium reconquered Bosnia and emplaced their own vassal as Ban – Kulin. He was a successful ruler. He propagated economic growth in Bosnia by signing trade treaties with the city of Ragusa. Secondly, after turning his back on the Byzantines, he allied himself with Hungary and his relative Stefan Nemanja of Serbia to drive the Byzantines out of the land, securing Bosnian independence from Byzantium (but thus returning it under Hungarian influence). 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: Croat Herzog Coloman (backed by Hungary and the Pope) and Stephen's son Count Sibislav. Miraculously 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. 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.
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 Serbs, Bosnia 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.
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 (the part of Romania which lies west of the Carpathian divide). 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 Maramures. He was sent by the Hungarian king to the area to effectively establish a buffer zone to protect Hungary from the tartar raids of 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 Transsylvanian principalit, 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.
The Ottomans were one of the most powerful and influential civilizations of the post-medieval period. Created by Turkic tribes in Anatolia, the people of those tribes were used as mercenaries since the 10th century by the Byzantine Empire.
The Ottoman Empire (1299 to 1923) persisted until the 20th century and did not end until after World War I when Turkey adopted a more European style secular government (under Kemal Atatürk). Ottoman rule over the Balkans was characterized by centuries of bloody struggle for freedom and protracted periods of stalemate with the Habsburgs along the border areas of Hungary, Croatia and Serbia. Anti-Turkish propaganda and outrage against the Islamic oppressors was at its peak in the early 20th century. Millions of Balkan people were slain, or forcingly Islamised by the Ottomans.
The rise of Nationalism under the declining Ottoman Empire caused the break-down 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.
The Serbs were the first people to be liberated from the Ottomans, although the liberated part was mostly a by-product of the Austrian infiltration to the region. In 1821, the Greeks were the first to defy the Sultan's authority. After a long, bloody struggle, that originated in Moldavia, as a diversion, and followed by the main revolution in the Pelloponese, the latter, along with the Northern part of the gulf of Corinth became the first parts of the Ottoman empire to be completely liberated from the Ottoman oppression in 1829. Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Montenegro followed in the 1870s.
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 were developments in Germany which gave the Dual-Monarchy a "blank cheque" to pursue a military strategy assured of Germany's backing.
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.
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.
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.
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 Serbian Army also penetrated the three Croatian historic lands of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia, multiethnic Bosnia etc. The Serbian prime minister announced that Serbia would fight for the unification of all slavs in a single state. From this plan, a new kingdom would eventually be born: The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Some important territorial changes include:
Between World War I and World War II, in order to create nation-states the following population movements were seen:
World War 2 started from the Italian attempts to recreate a great Italian state. They invaded their puppet state in Albania in 1939 and then demanded Greece to surrender in 1940. However, the defiance of the Greek prime minister Metaxas in 28 October 1940, started the Greco-Italian war. After nine months of unsuccessful fighting from the Italian part, and after the first Allied victories from the Greek part, and after half of Albania was taken by Greek forces, Germany intervened to save her allies. So in 1941 they invaded Yugoslavia using the forces they would use against the Soviet Union. After the fall of Sarajevo on 16 April 1941 to Nazi Germany, the Yugoslav provinces of Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and parts of Serbia were recreated as a pro-Nazi satellite state, 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 and Chetniks in order to combat the Yugoslav Partisans. With help from the Yugoslav minorities and Hungaria, they succeeded in conquering Yugoslavia within a month. 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 to advance in Northern Greece and consequently conquer the entire country within a month, 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. The Balkan frontiers were once again reshuffled, with the creation of several puppet states, such as Croatia and Montenegro, the Albanian expance into Greece and Yugoslavia, Bulgarian annexation of territorries 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. Due to severe resistance from the local Serb and Greek populations, and because of the attempts, made from Bulgarians, Croats and Albaniana to change the ethnic composition of the occupied territorries, several hundread thousands Serbs and Greeks died, however, with the end of the war, the changes reverted to their original conditions and the settlers retourned to their homelands, mainly the ones settled in Greece. An Albanian population of the Greek North, the Cams, were forced to flee their lands. Their numbers were about 18 000 in 1944.
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, except for Slovenia.
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.
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 a Greater Serbia by keeping all Serbs in one state. 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 the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia mostly tried to steer away from conflicting situations.
The ten-days war in Slovenia in June 1991 was short and with few casualties. However, the war in Croatia in the latter half of 1991 brought many casualties and much damage. As the war eventually subsided in Croatia, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) started in early 1992. Peace would only come in 1995 after such events as the Srebrenica massacre, Operation Storm and the Dayton Agreement, which provided for a temporary solution, but nothing was permanently resolved.
The economy suffered an enormous damage in all of BiH 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 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.
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.
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 by the hands of Serb forces.
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 war in Croatia, from 1991 to 1995 around 600,000 Serbs were not ethnically cleansed (as some ill-informed sources may claim) from southern and eastern parts of country, but have left prior to Croatian military operations instead. Preparations for "evacuation" of Serbs from the so-called "Republic of Serbian Krajina" were held out in late 1994, and were captured on videotape. Most of them fled in fear of Croatian retribution, prior the Croatian operations Flash and Storm in 1995. Isolated incidents, including rapes and murders of those who had chosen to stay have been reported, but UN, ICTY and international community didn't show any interest for that issue. 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, pro-Serbian Albanians and Montenegrins as well.
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.
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. Croatia's former president Franjo Tuđman and Bosnia's Alija Izetbegović died before any alleged accusations were levelled at them at the ICTY. Slobodan Milošević died before his trial could be concluded.
A massive and systematic deportation of ethnic Albanians took place during the Kosovo War of 1999, with around 800,000 Albanians (out of a population of about 1.8 million) forced to flee Kosovo. This was quickly reversed at the war's end, but thousands of Serbs were fled to Serbia. Unfortunately, the 20th century has been one of the most violent centuries in recorded history (Kegley & Whitkopf, 2004); not only has the globe been captivated by major media stations relaying stories of death and destruction, rather, we have also seen the brutality and asymmetrical attributes of ‘war’ that do not only encompass death, genocide, ethnic cleansing and combatant on combatant confrontations. The attributes of ‘war’, also encompasses the rapes of men, women and children - (mass-rapes included), the pillaging of towns, villages and homesteads with the aim of inflicting as much pain and trauma upon its unwilling participants as possible (Diken & Lausten, 2005). We were captivated by images of refugees streaming across regional borders looking for assistance from neighbouring countries (Judah, 2000). People that once had somewhere to live, a place to call home, were now internationally displaced, begging authorities for food, water, and basic healthcare (Judah, 2000). Furthermore, the civil and political ramifications of ethnic conflict, particularly violent, can also be linked to the successive stages of transnational organized crime (Carment & James, 1998:3). With the increased movements across borders by refugees seeking shelter and safety, we also see the increased exploitation of criminal gangs seeking to expand their business. For instance, within the refugee exodus, we may also see the blending of criminal elements trafficking in drugs, people smuggling and forced trafficking in human beings, weapons trafficking (conventional and potentially nuclear weapons), transportation of currencies and products (Carment & James, 1998; T. Nikolic, 2006).
Greece has been a member of the European Union since 1981 and of NATO since 1952. Greece is also a member of the Eurozone and the Western European Union. Slovenia and Cyprus are EU members since 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007. 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. Croatia and 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.
On October 17, 2007 Croatia became a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2008-2009 term. Croatia is expecting NATO membership in 2008, and admission in the EU in 2009, along with Albania.
In 2006, Montenegro separated from the state of Serbia and Montenegro, also making Serbia a separate state. There were fears that this separation would lead to regional instability, but so far this has not been the case.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008.