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Balkan peninsula with northwest border Soča-Krka-Sava
Current political map of the Balkans.

The Balkans is the historic and geographic area, a peninsula in southeastern Europe. The region has a combined area of 550,000 km² and an approximate population of 55 million people.[1] The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains which run through the centre of Bulgaria into eastern Serbia.

Definitions and boundaries

Balkan Peninsula

The Balkans are connected by water on three sides: the Black Sea to the east and branches of the Mediterranean Sea to the south and west (including the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean and Marmara seas).

The Balkans

The identity of the Balkans is dominated by its geography; historically the area was known as a crossroads of several cultures. It has been a meeting point between the Latin and Greek parts of the Roman Empire. It became an area where Orthodox and Catholic Christianity met, as well as the meeting point between Islam and Christianity. Many Jewish people fled here from Inquisition.Austria (see also Austria-Hungary, Assassination in Sarajevo)

Regional organizations

Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA)      members      former members, joined the EU
Central European Initiative (CEI) member states

See also the Black Sea Regional organizations

Population composition by nationality and religion

Ethnic map of the Balkans prior to the First Balkan War.

The region's principal nationalities include:

The region's principal religions are (Eastern Orthodox, Catholic), and Christianity. A variety of different traditions of each faith are practiced, with each of the Eastern Orthodox countries having its own national church with its own patriarch.

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosniaks are mostly Muslim, Serbs are mostly Serbian (Eastern) Orthodox and Croats are mostly Catholic.
  • Bulgaria: Eastern Orthodox.
  • Croatia: Serbs are Orthodox.
  • Republic of Macedonia: Albanian population is mostly Muslim.
  • Serbia: Albanians and Bosniacs are mostly Muslim, Hungarians, Slovaks and Croats are mostly Catholic.

For more detailed information and a precise ethnic breakdown see articles about particular states:


  • Banac, Ivo. Historiography of the Countries of Eastern Europe: Yugoslavia, American Historical Review, v 97 #4 (October 1992), 1084-1104.
  • Banac, Ivo. The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics Cornell University Press, [1984].
  • Carter, Francis W., ed. An Historical Geography of the Balkans Academic Press, 1977.
  • Dvornik, Francis. The Slavs in European History and Civilization Rutgers University Press, 1962.
  • Fine, John V. A., Jr. The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century [1983]; The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, [1987].
  • John R. Lampe and Marvin R. Jackson; Balkan Economic History, 1550-1950: From Imperial Borderlands to Developing Nations Indiana University Press, 1982
  • Jelavich, Barbara. History of the Balkans, 2 vols. Cambridge University Press, [1983].
  • Jelavich, Charles, and Jelavich, Barbara, eds. The Balkans in Transition: Essays on the Development of Balkan Life and Politics since the Eighteenth Century University of California Press, 1963.
  • Király, Béla K., ed. East Central European Society in the Era of Revolutions, 1775-1856. 1984
  • Komlos, John, ed. Economic Development in the Habsburg Monarchy and in the Successor States: Essays 1990.
  • Mazower, Mark, The Balkans: A Short History, 2000
  • Traian Stoianovich; Balkan Worlds: The First and Last Europe 1994.
  1. The archaic Greek name for the Balkan Peninsula is the Peninsula of Haemus (Χερσόνησος του Αίμου, Chersónisos tou Aímou).

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