The Balkan Peninsula (also Balkans for short , often used synonymously with Southeast Europe ) is a geographically not clearly defined peninsula in Southeast Europe . It protrudes into the Mediterranean Sea and is named after the Balkan Mountains . The largest state on the peninsula is Greece , followed by Bulgaria (which is where most of the Balkan Mountains are located), Serbia , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Albania , North Macedonia , Montenegro and Kosovo . The national territories of Serbia, Croatia , Romania , Slovenia and Turkey , which through their Thracian provinces make up the Balkans, extend beyond the borders of the Balkan peninsula.
Regardless of the derivation of the geographical name, the dominant mountains of the Balkans are the Dinarides in the western part of the peninsula; its highest peak Jezerca ( ) is in Albania. The highest point in the Balkans is the Musala peak ( ) in the Rila Mountains. The Balkan Mountains reach maximum peak height of .
This part of Europe is culturally and linguistically strongly structured. At its core, the term “Balkans” encompasses those European states that were shaped by membership of Byzantium and later the Ottoman Empire .
The term "Balkans" may have come from the Proto- Bulgarians , who called this area part of the First Bulgarian Empire . In Bulgarian , the word балкан means "mountain". Presumably it can be traced back to the Persian words bālkāneh or bālākhāna meaning "high, above" or "high house".
The name "Balkans" was adopted in the Turkish language during the Ottoman rule. The meanings in Turkish are different according to the Institute for the Turkish Language and the word can mean the following, among other things: "a steep mountain range", "area (s) with many trees, bushes and bushes", "mountain (s) with many forests ". It can also mean “areas with (wide, flat) (high) valleys” or “mud formed by snowmelt, thaw and rain”.
There are also various places in Turkmenistan with the component “Balkan” in their name, such as the Great Balkans ( Turkmen Uly Balkan , German “mountain range”), the Turkmen province of Balkan welaýaty and its capital, Balkanabat . The term "Balkan" or "Balkan Peninsula" has also been adopted in the following languages, most of which belong to this area:
- Albanian : Gadishulli Ballkanik or Siujdhesa e Ballkanit
- Bosnian : Balkansko poluostrvo or Balkanski poluotok
- Bulgarian : Балкански полуостров ( Balkanski poluostrov )
- Macedonian : Балкански Полуостров ( Balkanski Poluostrov )
- Croatian : Balkanski poluotok
- Greek : Βαλκανική χερσόνησος ( Valkanikí chersónisos )
- Italian : Penisola balcanica
- Romanian : Peninsula Balcanică
- Serbian : Балканско полуострво ( Balkansko poluostrvo )
- Slovenian : Balkanski polotok
- Turkish : Balkan Yarımadası
- Hungarian : Balkán-félsziget
- venetian : Penìxoła balcànega
The Turkish term Balkanlar (plural of "Balkan") today denotes the "region which (the areas) includes Croatia , Serbia , Montenegro , Kosovo , Slovenia , Albania , North Macedonia , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Bulgaria , Romania , Greece and Thrace ". Even today, the name Balkanlar in Turkey or Turkish language denotes the regions that include these countries.
"Balkanlar, beşe belki altıya, kaç halk sahip çıkarsa o kadara bölünecek."
"The Balkans will be divided into five or maybe six (parts), as many as peoples claim."
The term Balkan did not appear on a larger scale until the middle of the 19th century in scientific publications. Earliest triggered by two publications from the years 1808 and 1831. The former was from the German geographer August Zeune , who wrote of the "Balkan Peninsula", the latter by the British Major George Thomas Keppel in 1831 his Narrative of a Journey across the Balkan published .
Balkan Peninsula as a region
The "Balkan Peninsula" term
The name "Balkan Peninsula" was coined in 1808 by the geographer Johann August Zeune . He took over the idea of ancient geographers that the Balkan Mountains stretch across the entire south- east European area from the Slovenian Alps to the Black Sea and have a similarly formative significance for the entire area as the Apennines have for the Italian peninsula. However, this turned out to be wrong. After the untenability of this assumption was recognized, the terms "Balkan Peninsula" or " Haemus Peninsula " met with increasing criticism. In 1893 the geographer Theobald Fischer suggested replacing the term “Balkan Peninsula” with “Southeast European Peninsula”. His proposal was only partially implemented.
The term Balkan countries summarizes several countries whose common feature is that their present-day territories were for centuries in the field of tension between Austria , Russia and the Ottoman Empire . The resulting frequent changes of territory and resettlements or expulsions made the state appear as a representative of changing foreign rulers, who could not expect loyalty.
In the south-east European countries Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia together almost 66 million people live ( Fischer Weltalmanach 2010). There are also eight to ten million inhabitants of the European part of Turkey, so a total of about 75 million people live on the Balkan Peninsula.
The “Balkans” term
The term “Balkans” is often used disparagingly in Western Europe with regard to connotations such as fragmentation , prone to conflict (“Europe's powder keg”), backwardness, corruption and excessive emotionality . Metternich said that the Balkans began on Rennweg in Vienna-Landstrasse . Bismarck is said to have said that the Balkans are “not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier ”. Winston Churchill described the Balkans as “Europe's soft underbelly” when it was in the hands of the Third Reich after the German Balkan campaign .
“Balkan conditions” are equated with chaos, violence, corruption, backwardness and brutality and contrasted with “civilized” Europe. This connotation also occurs regularly in the border areas of the region, for example in Croatia and Romania. In the core region itself, the term is used with fewer reservations. In 1909 the social democratic parties there created a federative Balkan republic , and in 1934 a Balkan pact between Turkey, Greece and Yugoslavia for the purpose of securing power.
Not least for these reasons, the term Southeastern Europe (which is geographically not completely congruent) is becoming more and more common as a value-neutral term . In some of the so-called Balkan countries, however, the term Balkan is sometimes used with positive connotations: In Bulgaria, for example, Balkan is part of the name of many companies and tourist facilities, whereby the Balkans here often refer to the Balkan mountains , and Bulgarians have a very positive relationship with their “Balkans -Identity". One reason for this may be the fact that the Balkan Mountains served as a refuge for various Bulgarian freedom fighters for centuries, such as the Heidukes fighting against Ottoman rule. The newer term “ Western Balkans ” , used mainly in the context of the European Union , includes the successor states of Yugoslavia without Slovenia, but with Albania added.
The situation is different in Croatia , Hungary or Slovenia : As former parts of Austria-Hungary , many citizens of these countries with a traditionally Catholic majority feel connected to the so-called Central European culture and distance themselves from the Balkans. Most of the time Romania , whose area belonged to Austria-Hungary and is represented at least by the northern Dobruja in the Balkan region, also distances itself from the geographical term. Even Greece is mostly to southern Europe counted. Nevertheless, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova as well as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey take part in the Balkan Games , an annual sports competition (mainly athletics).
The coasts open to the east and the patency of the north have always made the Balkans an important bridge between Asia and Europe, but also repeatedly the scene of conflicts, wars and ethnic unrest.
Numerous historical states played an important role in the culture and history of this region. These included the Roman and Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Empire , the Republic of Venice and Austria-Hungary . Because of the Orthodox belief that was widespread there, Russia also often viewed the Balkans as its area of influence, although it, like other countries mentioned, also pursued territorial interests.
Since this area finally fell under Ottoman rule in the 15th century, the south-east European internal border between the Hungarian-Venetian-ruled Catholic area and the Balkans, which was politically and religiously oriented towards Constantinople, also strengthened. More than half of the inhabitants of all Balkan countries belong to one of the Orthodox churches . In the west of the Balkan Peninsula, however, Roman Catholic Christianity dominates.
In addition, numerous mainly Slavic, Albanian and Turkish Muslims live between Catholics and Orthodox - a total of around a quarter of all inhabitants of the peninsula. Sufi brotherhoods are very common among Muslims . The largest brotherhoods are the Halvetiyye and Bektaschiyye . In addition, the Qādirīya , Rifai and Naqschbandīya also have many Tekkes on the Balkan Peninsula. The Qādirīya order spread from Anatolia in the 17th century , where it was introduced in the 15th century by the poet and mystic Eşref Rumi (d. 1469).
During the Second World War and the Holocaust , Jews in the Balkans, with the exception of Bulgaria and Albania, were persecuted and murdered. The few survivors emigrated to the newly proclaimed State of Israel in 1948 . Apart from Turkey, no Balkan country still has a significant Jewish-Sephardic or Jewish-Ashkenazi minority today .
Location and limitation
The peninsula has an area of about 500,000 square kilometers, including the offshore islands. It is bounded to the west by the Adriatic Sea , to the southwest by the Ionian Sea , to the southeast by the Aegean and Marmara Seas and to the east by the Black Sea .
To the north, towards the interior of the European continent , there is no geographically distinct borderline. As a rule, the rivers Danube and Sava are assumed to be the northern border of the Balkan Peninsula . There are different opinions regarding the delimitation in the extreme northwest and on the lower reaches of the Danube. Occasionally the Kupa (German: Kulpa ), but mostly the Una (both tributaries of the Sava) is viewed as the north-western border. In the first case, central Croatia or the area of the former Croatian military border with the Balkans is counted, in the second case not. Another common definition sees the Gulf of Trieste and the Ljubljana Valley as the north-west boundary of the Balkan Peninsula, which then runs over the Sava and Danube to the Black Sea.
The choice of the Danube-Save-Kupa line as the northern border is arbitrary. It is historically justified because the so marked area (together with Romania and without Montenegro , Dalmatia and the Ionian Islands ) formed the largest part of the European territory of the Ottoman Empire from the late 15th to the 19th century. The river Kupa forms the natural border between Slovenia and Croatia in the southeast, the Sava separates Croatia and Bosnia , and the Danube, the second largest European river (after the Volga ), forms a natural border between Bulgaria , Serbia and Romania.
Wallachia and Moldova are sometimes also included in the Balkans term (although there is some overlap between the geographical and the historical-political Balkan term). The straight line between Trieste and Odessa is rarely used as a demarcation.
The Balkan Peninsula has a pronounced relief and has only a few natural traffic routes due to the existing mountain obstacles. Only the strategically outstanding Morava-Vardar furrow runs through the central Balkan peninsula between the Aegean and the Danube in its entirety. Parallel to the southwest coast of the mountainous peninsula, the Dinaric Mountains form a largely karstified , inaccessible mountain wall, which represents both a distinctive climatic and cultural divide from the Mediterranean region .
A juxtaposition of high mountains and basin landscapes characterizes the interior of the Balkan Peninsula. The basins are either created as Poljen (Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and Slovenian for "field") in the Karst (for example Central Dalmatian - Herzegovinian Poljen Level) or tectonic depressions as in Kosovo ( Rrafsh i Dukagjinit / Metochien , Amselfeld ), North Macedonia (Basin of Skopje , Kumanovo , Bitola and Tetovo ) as well as the pelargonic basins ( Ohrid , Prespa , Dojran and Ioannina ) with many lakes . Plains are formed in the Albanian lowlands, the Slavonian (Sava) lowlands and the wide alluvial areas of the Danube. As an old cultural region, the cities were mostly founded in geographically favored locations on the coasts and rivers. The ancient urban culture stems from the political, geographical and cultural realities of Greece and was systematically spread to other areas of the Balkan Peninsula by the Romans . An urban renewal outside the continuity of the commercial seaside towns only took place after the migration of the peoples with the appearance of the Ottomans , who were able to systematically integrate the central areas of the Balkan peninsula into their economic system.
Mountain systems and geology
The Balkan Peninsula is a decidedly mountainous region. The Jungalpid mountains run from northwest to southeast (Dinaric-Hellenid mountain arch) and belong to the fold mountain belt surrounding the Mediterranean . Crystalline masses, which are geologically older and made up of impermeable granites , slate and limestone , are formed by the Rhodope Mountains as well as Pirin , Rila and the Balkan Mountains . The highest peaks can be found in Rila ( Musala ), Olymp (Mytikas ) and Pirin ( Wichren ). The heavily karstified Dinarides ( Jezerca ) and Hellenids (in the Pindos : Smolikas ) lie on the coast of the Mediterranean and thus form distinct climatic and cultural divisions.
Both the west coast (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece) and the east coast of the Balkan peninsula (Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece) are very rugged and divided into numerous islands and peninsulas . The richly indented coastal region of Dalmatia is the canal coast , the Greek Aegean coast as the Riyal coast , the coasts to the Black Sea and those in Albania are then formed as low coasts.
Between the mostly bare, only sparsely populated mountains in the Dinaric Karst there are numerous more or less fertile basins in the form of karst or poljen ( Grahovo , Nikšić ). Only the conspicuous, large tectonically laid out basins of Kosovo and the basins in North Macedonia (Pelargonian Basin) with their large lakes of tertiary origin ( Lake Ohrid , Lake Prespa ) form economically and geographically significant habitats that are densely populated.
The hydrological systems drain into the adjacent seas to varying degrees. A large part of the flowing waters belongs to the Black Sea catchment area. The Adriatic catchment area is poor in superficial watercourses (in the Dinarides only Cetina , Neretva and Morača ), while Drin , Nestos , Struma , Vardar and Mariza drain to the Adriatic and Aegean Sea . The most important of the numerous tributaries of the Danube and Sava are Kupa , Bosna , Drina , Morava and Iskar .
Three catchment areas, belonging to the Adriatic, Aegean and Black Sea hydrologically, are particularly important the water-rich Danube tributaries, which - with the exception of the lowland current of the Save - lead through gorges and canyons (Drina, Tara , Iskar). The Carpathian breakthrough of the Danube in the Iron Gate was a major obstacle to shipping into the 20th century. The rivers draining into the Adriatic are of minor importance , with the exception of the Neretva and Morača , which break through the threshold of the High Dinarides in deep canyons . The larger mountain river systems in Albania and Greece ( Drin , Vardar and Nestos ) flow in the lower reaches through wide alluvial lowlands.
The three largest lakes on the peninsula are the Skadar lake (maximum size 570 km²), the Ohrid lake ( 362 km²) and the Prespa lake (273 km²), all of which are located in the southwestern part of the Balkans.
The Balkan Peninsula lies at the transition from the Mediterranean to the continental climate zone . Surrounded on two sides by the sea, the oceanity decreases rapidly due to the mountains exposed to the west wind zone on the coast in the west of the peninsula . This means that the climate is characterized by greater continentality and snowy winters even at a shorter distance from the sea coast .
The solar climates of the Balkan Peninsula, which are more hygric and ventilatory than others , are characterized by local, mesoscale and macroscale effective, climate-modifying wind systems. This includes the lee waves caused by the topography, such as the cold bora and the warm foehn , which are particularly effective in the mountains, as well as the seasonal macroscale wind systems of the Košava , Meltemi and Scirocco caused by differences in air pressure gradients .
The mountains of the Balkans are divided climatically into humid-temperate, sub-Mediterranean and Mediterranean as well as sub-humid continental types. Edaphic deviations of the general types arise in karst areas in otherwise humid climates. In addition, karst mountains line up from the Julian Alps to the Peloponnese . Thus, climatic and edaphic factors are more strongly combined than in the Alps , Pyrenees or Carpathians. Karst mountains in the north-west are generally humid, in the south-east they are semi-humid to semi-arid.
The vegetation of large ecosystems (phytogeographical territories or vegetation belts) is ecologically , chorologically and floristically- historically very uniform. Due to the relief and the relationships that result from the location, especially to the seas, a vegetation division differentiated from the climatic factors and the aspects of the natural area occurs within these plant kingdoms.
Phytogeographically , the Balkan Peninsula is initially part of the Holarctic flora . It is further to be classified into circumboreal , Mediterranean and Pontic regions. The circumboreal (or sub-Mediterranean) central Balkan peninsula can be further divided into two vegetation zones , which are described as Illyricum and Moesia Florence zones after the Roman provinces of Illyricum and Moesia . The Illyrian west is basophilic and oceanic , the Moesic east is acidophilic and continental . The richly indented Dalmatian coast, parts of southern Albania as well as the coasts of Greece and the Peloponnese belong to the Mediterranean Florence zone. The Dalmatian coast belongs to the Adriatic province of the Mediterranean vegetation zone. The Epirotic and Aegean coasts with the Greek archipelagos are part of the eastern Mediterranean Florence zone. Part of Thrace already belongs to the Pontic vegetation zone. With this floristic principles are given. Differences result from the mixture of horological elements of individual areas, which in turn depend on natural spatial conditions and the history of the vegetation.
A distinction is made between east and west in particular colline levels : Illyria is the center of mesophilic beech forests, which dominate submontane to subalpine, while subalpine spruce forms boreal forests in Moesia ; the oaks in the East ( Quercus frainetto , Turkey oak [ Q. cerris ]) are on the west by humid oak-hornbeam forests ( Quercus petrea , Carpinus betulus replaced). The Balkan region is enriched by many (tertiary) species that are typical for it, such as the Greek maple ( Acer heldreichii ), the Serbian spruce ( Picea omorika ), the common horse chestnut ( Aesculus hippocastanum ), Corylus colurna , Pinus peuce , Pinus heldreichii , Ramonda serbica or the Neumayer jug fruit Amphoricarpos neumayerianus .
Due to the pronounced relief, the diverse topography and the resulting climatic diversity, as well as the subtropical location and the associated climatic favor of the past (compared to the rest of Europe), by far the most diverse and species-rich vegetation on the European continent has developed on the Balkan Peninsula. The Balkan Peninsula is home to over 160 woody species and more than 7,000 cormophytes , of which 3,000 are endemic species. Even Turrill (1929) found 6340 species on the Balkan Peninsula. Compared with the 10,500 species listed in Flora Europaea (1964–1993), the Balkan Peninsula thus plays a key role in European vegetation history and, as an endemic center, also has the status of a biodiversity hotspot . The following conditions are to be stated:
- flora that contains many tertiary species that survived the ice ages here;
- paleo-endemic relics;
- Isolation of the land masses, islands and mountain groups. Changes in sea level. Fragmentation, isolation and migration of species, creation of new habitats ;
- autonomous centers of evolution close to other Florence centers;
- Human influence through destruction and change of natural land cover, creation of new habitats and introduction of new species.
The genesis of the Balkan flora took place during tertiary , glacial and post-glacial phases. Today there are no more ancient Mesozoic representatives like in the floras of East Asia or Argentina. The basic stock of forest flora in particular has been known since the Chalk , especially oak ( Quercus ), beech ( Fagus ), chestnut ( Castanea ), alder ( Alnus ) and willow ( Salix ). The more thermophilic tertiary flora was richer in tropical elements than it is today, where only a small number of relict species ( Maidenhair fern [ Adiantum capillus-veneris ]), genera ( Yams [ Dioscorea ]) and families ( Gesneraceae ) survived. Extra-tropical tertiary forms, on the other hand, are abundantly represented, such as plane trees ( Platanus ), horse chestnuts ( Aesculus hippocastanum ), madam ( Scopolia ), Sibiraea , Thelygonum , Serbian spruce ( Picea omorika ), Pinus peuce , Forsythia europaea and the common lilac ( Syringa vulgaris ). Due to the isolated position - the closest relatives are mostly to be found in East Asia or the Near East - and the heterogeneous phytogeographical genesis, all paleo-endemic tertiary relics are ecologically and horologically very differentiated representatives of different vegetation-geographic units. The evolution of the Mediterranean mountain flora has also taken place since the Tertiary , regardless of arctic-alpine influences .
Greece, the sub-area with the highest number of endemics, has 1100 endemic species. The endemism is mainly based on the high specification of the Illyrian-Balkan flora province. The comparatively higher biodiversity to the Alps and Pyrenees , due to greater petrographic heterogeneity than the Pyrenees and the embedding between floral provinces against the Alps, makes the complex Dinarides a striking endemic center with a high species potential.
The Illyrian province has four endemic genera: Petteria , Halacsya , Haberlea , Jankaea . Endemics are Picea omorika (Serbia, Bosnia), Pinus peuce (mountains between 41 ° -43 ° N), Primula deorum (Bulgaria), Saxifraga ferdinandi-coburgii , Petteria ramentacea (Dalmatia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Northern Albania), Oxytropis prenja , Greek maple ( Acer heldreichii ), Forsythia europaea (Northern Albania, Kosovo), Rock Moltkie ( Moltkia petraea ), Wulfenia baldaccii (Montenegro, Northern Albania), Haberlea rhodopensis (Bulgaria, Northeast Greece), Ramonda serbica , Jankaea heldreichii (Olympus), Neumayer jug fruit ( Amphoricarpos neumayerianus ), Cicerbita pancicii , Lilium jankae and Dioscorea balcanica (Montenegro, Northern Albania). Relic species of the Illyrian-Balkan province are the European hop beech ( Ostrya carpinifolia ), Juglans regia , Syringa vulgaris , tree hazel ( Corylus colurna ), common horse chestnut ( Aesculus hippocastanum ) etc.
The following countries are completely or partially located on the Balkan Peninsula: Albania , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Bulgaria , Greece , Kosovo , Croatia , Montenegro , North Macedonia and Serbia . The European part of Turkey , a small part of Romania (northern Dobruja ), and - if you consider the Karst as the north-western border - parts of Slovenia and Italy (former province of Trieste ) also belong to the Balkan Peninsula.
The Balkan Peninsula is particularly populated by Albanians , Bosniaks , Bulgarians , Greeks , Croats , Macedonians , Romanians ( Wallachians , Aromanians ), Serbs , Slovenes and Turks . In addition, the Roma form a large ethnic minority in several Balkan countries , formerly also the Sephardic Jews and in Romania and Croatia predominantly Ashkenazi Jews , who today only represent a significant minority in Turkey. Also Armenians , Banat Swabians , Danube Swabians , Lipovans , Magyars , Saxons , Slovaks , Tatars , Czechs and Circassians are among the minorities in the Balkans.
In 2008, the Balkans showed the following values of demographic urbanization :
- Bulgaria : 71%
- Turkey (with the Asian part) and North Macedonia : 67% each
- Greece : 61%
- Montenegro : 60%
- Croatia : 57%
- Romania : 54%
- Serbia : 52%
- Slovenia : 48%
- Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina : 47% each
According to this, the proportion of the rural population on the Balkan Peninsula is still significantly higher than in Central Europe, for example .
- According to the Danube-Sava border, Belgrade is only partially on the Balkan Peninsula.
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