Balkan Peninsula – WorldAtlas
Also called the Balkans, the Balkan Peninsula is a geographical and cultural region in south-eastern Europe. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains which stretch for about 557 km from the Bulgarian-Serbian border to Cape Emine on the Black Sea coast. The term ‘Balkan’ was derived from a Turkish word that refers to a “forested mountain range”. German geographer August Zeune created the concept of the Balkan Peninsula in 1808.
The Balkan Peninsula is bounded to the northwest by the Adriatic Sea; to the southwest by the Ionian Sea; to the south by the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; and to the northeast by the Black Sea. The straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus separate the Balkan Peninsula from the Anatolian part of Turkey to the east. The northern border of the Balkan Peninsula is defined by the rivers Danube, Kupa and Sava.
The Balkan Peninsula covers a total area of ââapproximately 470,000 kmÂ² and much of the region is occupied by mountain ranges that stretch from northwest to southeast. Some of the major mountain ranges in the Balkan Peninsula include the Balkan Mountains, Rila-Rhodope Range, Dinaric Alps, Korab-Sar, Pindus Range, Albanian Alps, and Alpine Mountain Range. The highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula is the peak of Musala Mountain, located in Rila National Park in Bulgaria and culminating at 2,925m. This highest peak is followed by other high mountain peaks in the region, including Mytikas at 2917m on Mount Olympus in Greece and Vihren at 2915m in the Pirin Mountains in Bulgaria.
The part of the Balkan Peninsula that faces the Adriatic and Aegean coasts experiences a Mediterranean climate while the part of the peninsula that faces the Black Sea coast experiences a subtropical and oceanic climate. The interior parts experience a humid continental climate. The northern parts of the peninsula face freezing, snowy winters and hot, dry summers. The southern parts and coastal areas are covered with evergreen vegetation while the inland areas are covered with woods of oaks, spruces, beeches, pines and firs. Land provides critical habitat for several endemic species, including insects and reptiles, which in turn provide food for various birds such as raptors and vultures. The soil of the Balkan Peninsula is generally poor, except for the plains covered with fertile soils and natural grass. It contains a large number of minerals, including coal, zinc, lead, aluminum, silver and chromium. Besides these minerals, several metallic ores are also found in the region of the peninsula.
The term “Balkan countries” collectively refers to countries located wholly or partially in the Balkan Peninsula. However, there is a marked distinction between the Balkan countries in terms of geographic and political perspective. Countries partially located in the Balkan Peninsula include the southwestern part of Slovenia, the northern Dobruja region in Romania, the central part of Serbia, the city of Trieste and the city of Monfalcone in Italy, the southern part of the continent Croatian, mainland Greece and the European part of Turkey. Countries entirely located in the Balkan Peninsula include North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Balkan Peninsula is inhabited by various ethnic groups including Albanians, Bulgarians, Aromanians, Bosnians, Gorani, Croats, Greeks, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs, Slovenes, Turks, Romanians and many other ethnic groups. The region of the peninsula serves as a meeting point for several religions such as Islam, Roman Catholic Christianity and Orthodox Christianity. The region is also home to many Slavic and Romance languages. Other non-Slavic languages ââof the Balkans include Romanian, Turkish, Greek, and Albanian. Some of the major cities in the Balkan Peninsula region include Sofia in Bulgaria, Athens in Greece, Belgrade in Serbia, Ljubljana in Slovenia, Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tirana in Albania, the European part of Istanbul in Turkey.
The Balkans have been inhabited since the Stone Age and served as the route through which agricultural cultures spread from the region of the Middle East to Europe during the Neolithic period. The practice of agriculture and herding came here from the Fertile Crescent via Anatolia and spread throughout central Europe through the province of Pannonia. Since ancient times, the Balkan Peninsula region was home to various ancient groups such as Greeks, Thracians, Illyrians, Dacians, Peaonians, etc. The area was later occupied by the Roman Empire. In the 6e century, Bulgarians and Slavs arrived in the region and formed the Bulgarian Empire. During the Middle Ages, the region served as the site of many wars between the Bulgarian Empire and the Byzantine Roman Empire. Around the middle of 14e century, the Ottoman Turks began their expansion in the Balkans and at the end of the 16e century, the entire Balkan region was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. In 1912-1913, the nation states of Greece, Montenegro, Serbia and Bulgaria fought together the First Balkan War against the Ottoman Empire. At the start of World War I, the Ottoman Turks were expelled from the Balkan Peninsula.
After the start of World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire took control of the present-day nations of Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina. After the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Croats, Slovenes and Bosnians were freed from their control. In due course the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed, which later became known as Yugoslavia. During World War II, the entire Balkan Peninsula was occupied by Nazi Germany. During the Cold War, most of the Balkan countries were under Communist rule. In the early 1990s, communist rule in the Balkans ended, followed by the break-up of Yugoslavia into six republics. Currently, most of the Balkan countries are members of the European Union while some are also members of NATO.