The Balkan Nations
In 1918, a new term crept into the English language: balkanize. The word balkanize means to break up into small, mutually hostile political units. It is what occurred in the Balkans after World War I. the term grew out of the complex cultural and political geography of the Balkan Peninsula.
Perhaps the one thing that Balkans share is their historical experience. The peoples of this region have all known the ordeal of foreign domination.
Today the Balkan Peninsula is divided into 5 nations, including GREECE. Four of these nations --- YUGOSLAVIA, ALBANIA, ROMANIA, and BULGARIA. Most of them fell under Communist control after 1948, but anticommunist revolutions transformed the governments of these states in the late 1990s. Internal strife and conflict between nations have nevertheless continued to affect the region’s borders.
Yugoslavia: Divided Regions
“We’re all supposed to be Yugoslavs. But scratch one of us, and you’ll find a Serb or Croat or something else.” This comment by Croat lawyer provides a clue to the human geography of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia contains twenty- four million. But they are divided among twenty- four ethnic groups and three religions--- Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Islam. Both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets are used in Yugoslavia, which is composed of six republics. These republics: Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, or Macedonia
Yugoslavia’s physical geography is equally varied. To the north stretches the Danube River and Hungarian Basin.
A Nation Divided
Yugoslavia means “Land of the Southern Slavs”. But a common Slavic ancestry does not mean unity. In fact it means twenty- four fiercely independent ethnic groups living in an area roughly the size of the State of Wyoming.
The two largest groups are the Serbs and the Croats. Serbs make up about 40 percent of the nation’s populations. Most live in Serbia, home of the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade. Croats account for about 20 percent of the population. They dominate Croatia, which forms one of the Yugoslavia’s most prosperous industrial centers.
Differences between the Serbs and Croats highlight divisions among the Yugoslavs. Both groups are descended from the same early Slavic people that settled the region. Their spoken languages are nearly identical. But the Serbs practice Eastern Orthodoxy and write in Cyrillic alphabet. The Croats, on the other hand, practice Roman Catholicism and write in the Latin alphabet.
Other ethnic include the Slovenes, Montenegrins, Hungarians, Bosnians, Macedonians, and Albanians. The Albanians, who number nearly five hundred thousand, do not have their own province. Most members of the Albanian ethnic groups follow Islam and live in the Southern portion of Serbia. Violent clashes have taken place between the Serbs and Albanians.
Struggling Toward Reform
As Yugoslavia attempts to move away from communism, ethnic divisions have resurfaced. In 1990, Serbs, Croats, and Albanians threatened civil war.
The situation has ended a long period of stability in Yugoslavia. At the end of World War II, Marshall Tito took control of the government and built a Communist state. However, Tito kept free of total Soviet domination. With aid from both the Soviets and the West, he built a prosperous nonaligned nation. Nonaligned means tied to neither the Communist nor the democratic bloc of nations.
In the late 1980’s, the Yugoslav Communist party allowed free elections. Yet not all the Yugoslav republics embraced democracy. As the 1990’s began, the government was still more of confederation, or union among states, than a single nation.
The name "Serbia" was first mentioned as Greek: Σέρβια, meaning "land of the Serbs". There are many theories regarding the origin of the name of the Serbs. The most likely is that it is derived from the Old Slavic root *serb-, meaning "same". Another proposed etymology is that of the...
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