[HIST 272] The Balkans: A Sense of Region
Forming a southeast appendage to the larger continental extension known as Europe, the Balkans is a region of about 320,000 square miles, inhabited by some 90 million people. Its relatively modest size notwithstanding, the region and its peoples have played a role of considerable importance in history. Classical Greece and Rome claimed it as a valued part of their empires, and Byzantium considered it a constituent as well as a potential threat to its dominance. Its earliest inhabitants– Illyrians, Wlachs, Dacians, et al.– left only faint traces of their presence, as they became outnumbered by South Slavs. Once the zone of lively commerce between Europe and the Orient, the Balkans lost out to the Atlantic explorer-traders, and its nascent cultures were nipped in the bud by centuries of armed struggle against Islamic invasion. The region became most marginalized in the modern era, as the decline of Ottoman rule was combined with the occasional involvement of other powers. The region’s strategic location, combined with a glaring failure to quell sharply conflicting ethnic aspirations, made the Balkans the spark of recurring conflicts and the site of brutal confrontations. Today, the Balkans is relatively quiet, even if a number of thorny issues– Cyprus, Macedonia, Transylvania, et al.– await solution, and the civilizational struggle for the allegiance of its peoples is far from over.
The Balkans: A Sense of Region
Also listed as Interdisciplinary Studies 272.
Open to first-year students.