Saturday, December 04, 2021

Balkans: A Short History

The Balkans are rarely heard of except when something bad happens. World War I was kicked off by an assassination in the Balkans. More recently there was a long drawn out conflict after Yugoslavia disintegrated. What is going on there?

The Balkans were slow to develop due to their geography. The mountains made travel challenging. The rivers were not easily navigable, and seemed to flow off in to the wrong direction. It was not an area that rulers would concern themselves with. 

The region also did not have a strong ethnic identity. The population adopted Christianity, yet was ruled by Muslims. It also had an active Jewish population. These groups tended to live together without much problem. They were often willing to adopt the parts of the religion that best suited the population. Some people would switch religions as they would benefit. The population was predominantly rural and due to geography did not have significant interactions with others.

The concept of the "nation state" was somewhat forced upon the Balkans. The concept of the state came first. Then people were encouraged to join the group that fit them. People were not "Bulgarians" or "Romanians" until the country came about. However, these identities later became a nice excuse for battling those that somebody did not agree with.

The implied message from this book is that people of the Balkans largely want to go along living in peace. However, when the world decided they needed to play "state games", they obliged and set about fighting each other.

(I also find it interesting that I had read this same book a decade before without realizing it.)

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