geopolitical and cultural region of Southeast Europe
(Redirected from Balkan Peninsula)

The Balkans is a peninsula, or group of countries in Southeast Europe. The region has a combined area of 550,000 km² and an approximate population of 55 million people. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains,[1] which run through the centre of Bulgaria into eastern Serbia and then continue to Slovenia as the Dinaric Alps.

A geographical map of the Balkan peninsula
A political map of the Balkan Peninsula
Map encompassing the broadest definitions of the Balkans (lighter shades of green denote countries less commonly included)

Definitions and boundaries


Written by Luke Parks

Balkans comes from the Turkish language meaning “chain of wooded mountains” or 'swampy forest'.



The Balkans are bordered 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 Balkan Peninsula is bordered on the north by the Danube, Sava, and Krča rivers.



Shortly before the Middle Ages in the 5th and 6th centuries AD, the Balkans were invaded by the Romans. The Romans were said not to be like other conquerors. They were said to be very powerful and robust. They won and spread the Roman culture through the Balkan peninsula. The Balkan peninsula was completely under Roman control by 100 AD.[2]

Member countries


Countries in the Balkan region are:


Other countries that are not in the Balkan region but that are close to it and/or play or have played an important role in the region's politics, culture and history:

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

Population composition by nationality and religion

Ethnic map of the Balkans prior to the First Balkan War

The region's principal nationalities include:

The most common religions in the Balkans are Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christianity and Sunni Islam. Many different specific kinds of each faith are practiced, with each of the Eastern Orthodox countries having its own national church with its own patriarch.

Religious map of the Balkans (in French)

Eastern Orthodoxy is the principal religion in the following countries:

Ethnic map of the Balkans 1914

Roman Catholicism is the principal religion in the following countries:

  • Croatia
  • Slovenia

Islam is the principal religion in the following countries:

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a special case - 50% are Muslim Bosniaks, 31% are Serbian Orthodox, and 15% are Catholic Croats (therefore 46% are Christian). The remaining 4% adhere to other denominations of Christianity, other religions, or are irreligious. In Bulgaria, Dobruja in Romania, North Macedonia and West Thrace in Greece, a high Muslim Minority of different Ethinicity like Turks, Tatars, Torbesh, Pomak and Xoraxane Roma live there.

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



However from the 1990s onwards, in part due to the negative historical and political connotations of the term Balkans,[3] especially since the wars and massacres of the 1990s in Yugoslavia in the western half of the region, the term Southeast Europe is becoming increasingly popular.[4][5]


  1. Niktalab, Poopak (2024). Over the Alps: History of Children and Youth Literature in Europe (in Persian) (1st ed.). Tehran, Iran: Faradid Publisher. p. 6. ISBN 9786225740457.
  2. "Balkans - In the Roman Empire | Britannica". Retrieved 2023-04-29.
  3. "Balkanize".
  4. Altić, Mirela Slukan (2011). "Hrvatska kao zapadni Balkan – geografska stvarnost ili nametnuti identitet?" [Croatia as a Part of the Western Balkans – Geographical Reality or Enforced Identity?]. Društvena Istraživanja (in Croatian). 20 (2): 401–413. doi:10.5559/di.20.2.06.
  5. Bideleux, Robert; Ian Jeffries (2007). A history of Eastern Europe. Taylor & Francis. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-415-36627-4.
  • 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.

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