What Are Examples of Balkanization?

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Balkanization describes a phenomenon in which a country breaks up into two or more smaller countries. Some of the best examples of balkanization come from the Balkan peninsula, from which the term originates, but significant balkanization has also occurred in Asia and Africa.

The word "balkanization" became commonplace after World War I to describe territorial changes in the aftermath of the fall of the Ottoman, Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, which had gained significant territory in the Balkan Peninsula. These territories became several new states, including Greece, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Decades later, balkanization occurred once more in the Balkans with the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Several civil wars in the region ended with the creation of new states, including Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Outside of the Balkans, several large imperial powers have felt the effects of balkanization. Europe and Asia experienced the largest example of balkanization in geographic terms following the fall of the Soviet Union. The breakup of the USSR resulted in the creation of three countries that rank among the largest in the world, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, along with several smaller states, including Latvia, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Moldova. Other examples include the breakup of regions controlled by foreign powers, such as what occurred following the collapse of French and English colonial holdings in Africa.