Western Balkans

The region bounded by the Adriatic Sea to the west, Austria and Hungary to the north, the Danube to the east, and the highlands of Thrace, Macedonia, and Albania to the south. Fragmented in both geography and politics, this mountainous land has been a battleground between east and west for millennia.

Contains: Albania, Bosnia, Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina, Brcko, (Dalmatian) Croatia, (Pannonian) Croatia, Dalmatia, Dioclea, Dunav, Durres, Fiume, Girokaster, Hercegovina, Hum and the Coast, Illyria, Kalemegdan, Korçë, Kosovo, Krajina, Kumanovo, (Slavic) Macedonia, Maczva, Mirditë, Montenegro, Neretva, Ohrid, Ragusa, Serbia, the Serbian Patriarchs, Slavonia, Srpska, Syrmia, Rascia, Yugoslavia, Tribalia, Vojvodina, Zahumlje, and Zeta.


ALBANIA The Albanians are the last living examples of the Illyrian peoples who once inhabited all the eastern shores of the Adriatic.

BOSNIA The Bosnians are a Serbo-Croatian people who speak the Bosnian dialect of that language. They are largely (though not exclusively) Muslim in religion, and they use both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. Bosnia lies directly on the line of division between the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern, or Byzantine Empire. Thus, it has always been the frontier between East and West in Europe, and as such has been fought over or through many many times. What follows is a list of the local rulers of Bosnia, who began governing in the name of the Kings of Hungary. By the 14th century, this line had succeeded in raising their land to the status of a Kingdom.

CROATIA (Dalmatian) The Croatians are a Serbo-Croatian people speaking the Croatian dialect of that language. They are Roman Catholic for the most part, and use the Latin alphabet. See also the Pannonian Croats (Hungary) and the White Croats (Poland) for other branches of this people.

CROATIA (Pannonian) The Croatian people also established a northern state, adjacent to the modern Croatian/Hungarian frontier, in the late Dark Ages, following the dispersal of the Avars.  See also the Dalmatian Croats (Yugoslav) and the White Croats (Poland) for other branches of this people.

DALMATIA The heavily indented and island-strewn eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea.

DURRES The primary seaport on the Albanian coast, the city has led a chequered history, owing to its strategic position. Originally known as Epidamnus, during the Roman era and the Middle Ages it was Dyrrhachium, Italian Durazzo..

FIUME (Croat. RIJEKA)A major port in the northern Adriatic, located just adjacent to the northeastern corner of the Istrian Peninsula, behind the islands of Krk and Cres.

HERCEGOVINA A group of districts in southern Bosnia, adjacent to Dalmatia and including some coastal areas as well. For a long time a Bosnian province, and known as such as "Hum and the Coast", the name "Hercegovina" developed when it gained its independence (briefly) in the 15th century, and its ruler took the title of Duke (Herceg).

KALEMEGDAN A citadel in Belgrade, the chief fortification of the district. When the Ottoman Empire granted Serbia autonomy under nominal suzerainty of the Sultan in 1817, it retained control of the Kalemegdan fortress overlooking Belgrade. They evacuated the place entirely in 1867.

KOSOVO See Controversy file.A fertile region lying just to the northeast of Albania, in central Yugoslavia. Of old the site of some of the earliest settlements by the Slavic people who became the Serb nation, the district has had a chequered and often violent history. It is currently inhabited largely by ethnic Albanians, a situation brought about by the mass migrations of native Serbs out of the area in 1691 and 1737, owing to pressures from the Ottomans.

MACEDONIA See Controversy (I) file. See Controversy (II) file.This is a record of the Slavic state located in what was once southern Yugoslavia. In 1913 the region of ancient Macedonia was partitioned, the northern and northwestern areas being assigned to Serbia, while the eastern, southern, and southwestern areas were annexed by Greece. Greek Macedonia, being centered on the region around Thermaikos Bay, the estuary of the Axios, the site of ancient Pella, and the city of Thessalonika, has remained in Greek hands since 1913 (aside from German occupation 1941-1945). Serbian Macedonia, being centered around the highlands to either side of the Vardar (Axios in Greece), with its capital at Skopje (ancient Illyrian capital of Skupi, and Ottoman capital 1392-1453), has seen the following shifts in governance...

MACZVA A district in what is now central Serbia (including Belgrade) between the Danube (in the north), Drina (in the west), Morava (in the east) and West Morava (in the south). For a time in the 13th century, it was granted by the King of Hungary to a Galitzian expatriate, Rostislav Mikhailovich. The list continues with the various fortunes of the city of Belgrade.

MONTENEGRO An isolated district just north of Albania, Crna Gora, to give its Serbian name, began as an independent principality at Zeta. The people are ethnic Serbs, speaking a variant of the Serbian dialect, using the Cyrillic alphabet, and worshipping according to Eastern Orthodox rites. Montenegro survived the destruction of Serbia in 1389, and became a base from which natives and Serbian refugees could harass Ottoman rule. Owing to its remote location, and difficulty of access, the enclave continued in defiance of the Ottomans until at last, the Ottomans themselves departed. The district was a Bishopric from 1516 to 1851, a principality 1851-1910, and a Kingdom 1910-1918. In 1516, George V retired to Venice, and handed affairs of state over to the Vladika, the local ecclesiastic authority. Here follows a list of the Bishops during the era of ecclesiastic control of temporal affairs... With the inauguration of Prince-Bishop Daniel Petrovic, of Njegos, who successfully instituted a policy of the right of Bishops to nominate their own successors, in all instances nephews or cousins within the Petrovic-Njegos clan, the Bishopric became in effect a hereditary possession of his clan. In 1851, the new Prince-Bishop, Daniel Petrovic-Njegos II, secularized the office, and married. As it happened, he was succeeded by a nephew anyway, but he commences the secular Principality of Montenegro. His successor proclaimed himself King in 1910 but, backing Serbia in World War I, was deposed at the conclusion of that conflict as Serbia took control over all of what would become Yugoslavia.

NERETVA (Narentini, Pagania)
A small territory on the central Dalmatian coast comprising the mainland littoral west of the Neretva River, together with the islands of Mljet, Korčula, Brač, and Hvar. The district was referred to as Pagania by the Byzantines because it had a reputation as a holdout of non-Christians - it was also far-famed as a nest of piracy throughout the Middle Ages.

OHRID A small town in far southwestern (Slavic) Macedonia. It is a lakeside resort nowadays, being located on the western shores of Lake Ohtid, with Albania on the opposite side and the Greek frontier no more than about 25 miles (40 km.) to the southeast. From the 10th century, this community was the site of an Archbishopric in the Orthodox Church, and for a time in the early modern era it was the central ecclesiatic authority for all of Ottoman Serbia, although it's prelates were Greek nearly exclusively from the 12th century on. In the 17th century, Ohrid gradually lost influence, as various suffragan sees were split away from it. Additionally, there were numerous internal conflicts inasmuch as more than a few prelates were suspected by their contemporaries as working in league with Roman Catholics, not without reason in some instances. By the mid 18th century the See was a fractious fragment of it's former establishment, and in 1767 the archbishopric was formally suppressed by Ottoman authorities. With the conclusion of the First World War, and the expansion of Serbian authority into all of what became Yugoslavia, Ohrid once more received an administrator, and in 1920 was re-established as a Bishopric. With the establishment of a Communist Republic in Yugoslavia, the Bishopric was once more annulled, but with shifts in policy, a revival of the Archbishopric took place in 1958. This new See formed the basis of the unilateral establishment of an autonomous Metropolitan See for Macedonia in 1967, on the 200th anniversary of the Ottoman dissolution. The Macedonian Primacy exists to this day, but is controversial - no other Orthodox authority recognizes it as an independent (autocephalous) communion within Orthodoxy, since it's rise to that status was irregular and, some would say, uncanonical.

RAGUSA (Dubrovnik) An important and picturesque seaport on the Croatian coast of the Adriatic, this city has been a unique blend of Italian and Slavic cultures since its founding, more than 1300 years ago. An autonomous city within the Hungarian-controlled Kingdom of Croatia from 1358, it became a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire 1526-1806, which did not abuse or molest the Republic, since it found Ragusa's status as a free port useful. Governed by France during the first years of the 19th century, it was granted as an apanage Dukedom to one of Napoleons Marshals.

SERBIA The Serbs are a Serbo-Croatian people who speak the Serbian dialect of that language. They are Serbian Orthodox in faith, and use the Cyrillic alphabet. In vassalage to the Ottoman Empire from the disaster of Kossovo in 1389, Serbia was annexed outright in 1459. In the modern era, the Karageorge rebellion of 1804 represents independence from the Ottoman Empire. The Obrenovic government of 1817 was locally autonomous, and recognized by the Ottoman government as an autonomous dependent Principality in 1833. A fully independent Kingdom was established in 1882. The Kingdom of Serbia became the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in 1918 and, finally, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1921; but Yugoslavia was dismembered in 1941, and the Kingdom of Serbia was once more brought into existence. Yugoslavia was reconstituted in 1945 as a Communist Republic but the state was once more pulled asunder by internal divisions following the collapse of Communism in the West. Yugoslavia still exists, albeit much smaller, currently it comprises Serbia and Montenegro.

SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH The Serbian Church is one of the major wings of the Orthodox faith, and has been vital in maintaining a sense of national identity among Serbs. Here is a record of successive leaders of this branch. For Patriarchs of Constantinople, go here.

SLAVONIA (Sclavonia) A region in northern Croatia, basically the lands lying between the Sava and Dráva Rivers, with the cities of Zagreb to the west and Vukova to the east. The name dates from 7th and 8th centuries, when early Slavic tribes began moving into the area from the north.

Serb. Srem, Croat. Srijem, Hung. Szerém) A narrow region, nearly always forming a frontier, situated from the junction of the Danube and Sava Rivers westward between them about 100 miles (160 km.) - the city of Belgrade is just beyond the eastern terminus.

TRIBALIA A Slavic Duchy located in eastern Hercegovina, adjacent to modern Kosovo, retaining the name of an indigenous people who lived in the region in classical times.

VOJVODINA (Banat) Province in northern Serbia. Novi Sad is the chief city. A part of the Pannonian Plain, it is watered by the Danube, the Tisza, and the Sava rivers and is one of the most densely populated parts of Serbia. Parts of the region were included in the military frontier of Hungary in the 18th cent., and the whole region was settled with Serbian and Croatian fugitives from the Ottoman Empire, as well as by German colonists. The present population is still mixed and includes Serbs, Croats, Magyars, Romanians, and Slovaks. Normally holding considerable autonomy within the various overlordships it has been a part of, the Milosevic centralization restructuring in 1990 resulted in the rescinding of local control here - leading to great resentment on the part of the large Hungarian-speaking population of the area.