1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Balkan Peninsula
BALKAN PENINSULA, the most easterly of the three large peninsulas which form the southern extremities of the European continent. Its area, 184,779 sq. m., is about 35,000 sq. m. less than that of the Iberian Peninsula, but more than twice that of the Italian. Its northern boundary stretches from the Kilia mouth of the Danube to the Adriatic Sea near Fiume, and is generally regarded as marked by the courses of the rivers Danube, Save and Kulpa. On the E. it is bounded by the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmora, and the Aegean; on the S. by the Mediterranean; on the W. by the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic. With the exception of the Black Sea coast and the Albanian littoral, its shores are considerably indented and flanked by groups of islands. The Peninsula in its general contour resembles an inverted pyramid or triangle, terminating at its apex in a subsidiary peninsula, the Peloponnesus or Morea. Its surface is almost entirely mountainous, the only extensive plains being those formed by the valleys of the Danube and Maritza, and the basin of Thessaly drained by the Salambria (ancient Peneus). The Danubian plain, lying, for the most part, outside the Peninsula, is enclosed, on the north, by the Carpathians; and on the south by the Balkans, from which the Peninsula derives its name. These ranges form together the great semicircular mountain-chain, known as the anti-Dacian system, through which the Danube finds a passage at the Iron Gates. The other mountain-systems display great complexity of formation; beginning with the Dinaric Alps and the parallel ranges of Bosnia, they run, as a rule, from north-west to south-east; the great chain of Rhodope traverses the centre of the Peninsula, throwing out spurs towards the Black Sea and the Aegean; farther west are the lofty Shar Dagh and the mountains of Montenegro and Albania, continued by the Pindus range and the heights of Acarnania and Aetolia. The principal summits are Olympus (9794 ft.), overlooking the Gulf of Salonica; Musallá (9631) and Popova Shapka (8855), both in the Rhodope system; Liubotrn in the Shar Dagh (8989); Elin, in the Perin Planina (8794); Belmeken in southern Bulgaria (chain of Dospat, 8562); Smolika in the Pindus range (8445); Dormitor in northern Montenegro (8294); Kaimakchalan in central Macedonia (8255); and Kiona in Aetolia (8235). Owing to the distribution of the mountain-chains, the principal rivers flow in an easterly or south-easterly direction; the Danube falls into the Black Sea, the Maritza, Mesta, Struma (Strymon), Vardar and Salambria into the Aegean. The only considerable rivers flowing into the Adriatic are the Narenta, Drin and Viossa. The principal lakes are those of Ochrida, Prespa, Scutari and Iannina. The climate is more severe than that of the sister peninsulas, and the temperature is liable to sudden changes. The winter, though short, is often intensely cold, especially in the Danubian plain and in Thrace, the rigorous climate of which is frequently alluded to by the Latin poets. Bitter north-easterly winds prevail in the spring, and snow is not uncommon even in the low-lying districts of Greece. The autumn weather is generally fine and clear.
|Political Divisions||Area in sq. m.||Pop. in 1909||Pop. per
|Croatia-Slavonia (south of the Save
|(about) 8,200||(about) 1,200,000||146.3|
|Bulgaria (with Eastern Rumelia)||37,240||4,028,239||88.|
|The Dobrudja (Rumania)||5,896||258,242||43.9|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina (Austria-Hungary)||19,696||1,568,092||70.9|
|Sanjak of Novibazar (Turkish)||2,840||153,000||53.5|
|Albania, Macedonia and other
Races.—The Peninsula is inhabited by a great variety of races, whose ethnological limits are far from corresponding with the existing political boundaries. The Turkish population, descended in part from the Ottoman invaders of the 14th and 15th centuries, in part from colonists introduced at various epochs from Asia by the Turkish government, declined considerably during the 19th century, especially in the countries withdrawn from the sultan's authority. It is diminishing in Thessaly; it has entirely disappeared in the rest of Greece, almost entirely in Servia; and it continues to decrease in Bulgaria notwithstanding the efforts of the authorities to check emigration. It is nowhere found in compact masses except in north-eastern Bulgaria and the region between Adrianople, the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmora. Elsewhere it appears in separate villages and isolated districts, or in the larger towns and their immediate neighbourhood. The total Turkish population of the Peninsula scarcely exceeds 1,800,000. The Slavonic population, including the Serbo-Croats and Bulgars, is by far the most numerous; its total aggregate exceeds 10,000,000. The majority of the Serbo-Croats left their homes among the Carpathians and settled in the Balkan Peninsula in the 7th century. The distinction between the Serbs of the more central region and the Croats of the north-west, was first drawn by the early Byzantine chroniclers, and was well established by the 12th century. It does not correspond with any valid linguistic or racial difference; but in the course of time a strong religious difference arose. Along the Croatian and Dalmatian coast there existed a well-developed Latin civilization, which was sustained by constant intercourse with Italy; and, under its influence, the Serbo-Croatian immigrants were converted to the Roman Catholic Church. In the wild and mountainous interior, however, the Byzantine Church had few or no rivals and the Orthodox creed prevailed. The Orthodox Serbs inhabit the kingdom of Servia, Old Servia (or Novibazar and north-western Macedonia), Montenegro, Herzegovina and parts of Bosnia. The Roman Catholic Croats predominate in Dalmatia, north-western Bosnia and Croatia-Slavonia. Montenegro, like the other mountainous regions, adhered to the Greek Church; it received a number of Orthodox Servian refugees at the beginning of the 15th century, when the Turks occupied Servia. The numbers of the Serbo-Croats may be estimated at about 5,600,000. The Bulgars, who descend from a fusion of the Slavonic element with a later Ugro-Finnish immigration, inhabit the kingdom of Bulgaria (including Eastern Rumelia), parts of the Dobrudja and the greater part of Macedonia, except Old Servia and the Aegean littoral. Apart from their colonies in Bessarabia and elsewhere, they may be reckoned at 4,400,000. Only a portion of the widely-spread Ruman or Vlach race, which extends over a great part of Transylvania, south Hungary and Bessarabia, as well as the Rumanian kingdom, falls within the limits of the Peninsula. It is found in numerous detached settlements in Macedonia, Albania and northern Greece, and in colonies of recent date in Servia and Bulgaria. The nomad Vlachs or Tzintzars of these countries call themselves Arumani or “Romans”; they are a remnant of the native Latinized population which received an increase from the immigration of Daco-Roman refugees, who fled southwards during the 3rd century, after the abandonment of Dacia by Aurelian. (See Vlachs.) The entire Ruman population of the Balkan countries may be set down approximately at 600,000. The Albanians, who call themselves Shküpetar or Arber, are the representatives of the primitive Illyrian population; they inhabit the Adriatic littoral from the southern frontier of Montenegro to the northern boundary of Greece, in which country they are found in considerable numbers. They have shown a tendency to advance in a north-easterly direction towards the Servian frontier, and the movement has been encouraged for political reasons by the Turkish government. The whole Albanian nation possibly numbers from 1,500,000 to 1,600,000. The Greeks, whose immigration from Asia Minor took place in pre-historic times, are, next to the Albanians, the oldest race in the Peninsula. Their maritime and commercial instincts have led them from the earliest times to found settlements on the sea-coast and the islands. They inhabit the Black Sea littoral from Varna to the Bosporus, the shores of the Sea of Marmora and the Aegean, the Aegean archipelago, the mainland of Greece, Epirus and the western islands as far north as Corfu. In Constantinople they probably exceed 300,000. They are seldom found in large numbers at any great distance from the sea, and usually congregate in the principal towns and commercial centres, such as Adrianople, Constantza, Varna and Philippopolis; there are also detached colonies at Melnik, Stanimaka, Kavakly, Niegush and elsewhere. The Greek inhabitants of the Peninsula and adjacent islands probably number 4,500,000. The remainder of the population is for the most part composed of Armenians, Jews and gipsies. The Armenians, like the Greeks, congregate in the principal centres of trade, especially at Constantinople; their numbers were greatly reduced by the massacres of 1896. The Jews are most numerous at Salonica where they form half the population. The gipsies are scattered widely throughout the Peninsula; they are found not only in wandering troops, as elsewhere in Europe, but in settlements or cantonments in the neighbourhood of towns and villages.
Languages.—Until comparatively recent times Turkish and Greek were the only languages systematically taught or officially recognized in the Balkan lands subject to Turkish rule. The first, the speech of the conquering race, was the official language; the second, owing to the intellectual and literary superiority of the Greeks, their educational zeal and the privileges acquired by their church, became the language of the upper classes among the Christians. The Slavonic masses, however, both Servian and Bulgarian, preserved their language, which saved these nationalities from extinction. The Servian dialect extending into regions which escaped the Turkish yoke, enjoyed certain advantages denied to the Bulgarian: in free Montenegro the first Slavonic printing-press was founded in 1493; at Ragusa, a century later, Servian literature attained a high degree of excellence. Bulgarian, for nearly four centuries, ceased to be a written language except in a few monasteries; a literary revival, which began about the middle of the 18th century, was the first symptom of returning national consciousness. The Servian, Bulgarian and Rumanian languages have borrowed largely from the Turkish in their vocabularies, but not in their structural forms, and have adopted many words from the Greek. Modern Greek has also a large number of Turkish words which are rejected in the artificial literary language. The revival of the various Balkan nationalities was in every case accompanied or preceded by a literary movement; in Servian literature, under the influence of Obradovich and Vuk Karajich, the popular idiom, notwithstanding the opposition of the priesthood, superseded the ecclesiastical Russian-Slavonic; in Bulgaria the eastern dialect, that of the Sredna Gora, prevailed. Among the Greeks, whose literature never suffered a complete eclipse, a similar effort to restore the classical tongue resulted in a kind of compromise; the conventional literary language, which is neither ancient nor modern, differs widely from the vernacular. Albanian, the only surviving remnant of the ancient Thraco-Illyrian speech, affords an interesting study to philologists. It undoubtedly belongs to the Indo-European family, but its earlier forms cannot, unfortunately, be ascertained owing to the absence of literary monuments. Certain remarkable analogies between Albanian and the other languages of the Peninsula, especially Bulgarian and Rumanian, have been supposed to point to the influence exercised by the primitive speech upon the idioms of the immigrant races.
History.—The great Slavonic immigration, which changed the ethnographic face of the Peninsula, began in the 3rd century A.D. and continued at intervals throughout the following four centuries. At the beginning of this movement the Byzantine empire was in actual or nominal possession of all the regions south of the Danube; the greater part of the native Thraco-Illyrian population of the interior had been romanized and spoke Latin. The Thracians, the progenitors of the Vlachs, took refuge in the mountainous districts and for some centuries disappeared from history: originally an agricultural people, they became nomad shepherds. In Albania the aboriginal Illyrian element, which preserved its ancient language, maintained itself in the mountains and eventually forced back the immigrant race. The Greeks, who occupied the maritime and southern regions, were driven to the sea-coast, the islands and the fortified towns. Slavonic place-names, still existing in every portion of the Peninsula, bear witness to the multitude of the invaders and the permanency of their settlements. In the 6th century the Slavs penetrated to the Morea, where a Slavonic dialect was spoken down to the middle of the 15th century. In the 7th the Serbo-Croats invaded the north-western regions (Croatia, Servia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro and northern Albania); they expelled or assimilated the Illyrian population, now represented in Dalmatia by the slavonized Morlachs or Mavro-Vlachs, and appropriated the old Roman colonies on the Adriatic coast. At the end of the 7th century the Bulgars, a Turanian race, crossed the Danube and subjected the Slavonic inhabitants of Moesia and Thrace, but were soon assimilated by the conquered population, which had already become partly civilized. Under their tsar Krum (802-815) the Bulgars invaded the districts of Adrianople and central Macedonia; under Simeon (893-927), who fixed his capital at Preslav, their empire extended from the Adriatic to the Black Sea. In 971 “the first Bulgarian empire” was overthrown by the emperor John Zimisces, but Bulgarian power was soon revived under the Shishman dynasty at Ochrida. In 1014 Tsar Samuel of Ochrida, who had conquered the greater part of the Peninsula, was defeated at Belasitza by the Greek emperor Basil II., and the “western Bulgarian empire” came to an end. In the 10th century the Vlachs reappear as an independent power in Southern Macedonia and the Pindus district, which were known as Great Walachia (Μεγάλη Βλαχία). The Serbs, who owing to the dissensions of their zhupans or chiefs, had hitherto failed to take a prominent part in the history of the Peninsula, attained unity under Stephen Nemanya (1169–1195), the founder of the Nemanyich dynasty. A new Bulgarian power, known as the “second” or “Bulgaro-Vlach empire,” was founded at Trnovo in 1186 under the brothers Ivan and Peter Asên, who led a revolt of Vlachs and Bulgars against the Greeks. In 1204 Constantinople was captured by the Latins of the Fourth Crusade, and Baldwin of Flanders was crowned emperor; the Venetians acquired several maritime towns and islands, and Frankish feudal dynasties were established in Salonica, Athens, Achaea and elsewhere. Greek rule, however, survived in the despotate of Epirus under princes of the imperial house of the Angeli. The Latin tenure of Constantinople lasted only 57 years; the imperial city was recaptured in 1261 by Michael VIII. Palaeologus, but most of the feudal Latin states continued to exist till the Turkish conquest; the Venetians retained their possessions for several centuries later and waged continual wars with the Turks. In 1230 Theodore of Epirus, who had conquered Albania, Great Walachia and Macedonia, was overthrown at Klokotnitza by Ivan Asên II., the greatest of Bulgarian monarchs (1218–1241), who defeated Baldwin at Adrianople and extended his sway over most of the Peninsula. The Bulgarian power declined after his death and was extinguished at the battle of Velbûzhd (1330) by the Servians under Stephen Urosh III. A short period of Servian predominance followed under Stephen Dushan (1331-1355) whose realm included Albania, Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly and northern Greece. The Servian incursion was followed by a great Albanian emigration to the southern regions of the Peninsula. After Dushan's death his empire disappeared, and Servia fell a prey to anarchy. For a short time the Bosnians, under their king Stephen Tvrtko (1353-1391), became the principal power in the west of the Peninsula. The disorganization and internecine feuds of the various states prepared the way for the Ottoman invasion. In 1356 the Turks seized Gallipoli; in 1361 the sultan Murad I. established his capital at Adrianople; in 1389 the fate of the Slavonic states was decided by the rout of the Servians and their allies at Kossovo. The last remnant of Bulgarian national existence disappeared with the fall of Trnovo in 1393, and Great Walachia was conquered in the same year. Under Mahommed II. (1451-1481) the Turks completed the conquest of the Peninsula. The despotate of Epirus succumbed in 1449, the duchy of Athens in 1456; in 1453 Constantinople was taken and the decrepit Byzantine empire perished; the greater part of Bosnia submitted in 1463; the heroic resistance of the Albanians under Scanderbeg collapsed with the fall of Croia (1466), and Venetian supremacy in Upper Albania ended with the capture of Scutari (1478). Only the mountain stronghold of Montenegro and the Italian city-states on the Adriatic coast escaped subjection. In the 16th century under Solyman the Magnificent (1520-1566) the Ottoman power attained its greatest height; after the unsuccessful siege of Vienna (1683) it began to decline. The period of decadence was marked in the latter half of the 18th century by the formation of practically independent pashaliks or fiefs, such as those of Scutari under Mahommed of Bushat, Iannina under Ali of Tepelen, and Viden under Pasvan-oglu. The detachment of the outlying portions of the empire followed. Owing to the uncompromising character of the Mahommedan religion and the contemptuous attitude of the dominant race, the subject nationalities underwent no process of assimilation during the four centuries of Turkish rule; they retained not only their language but their religion, manners and peculiar characteristics, and when the power of the central authority waned they still possessed the germs of a national existence. The independence of Greece was acknowledged in 1829, that of Servia (as a tributary principality) in 1830. No territorial changes within the Peninsula followed the Crimean War; but the continuance of the weakened authority of the Porte tended indirectly to the independent development of the various nationalities. The Ionian Islands were ceded by Great Britain to Greece in 1864. The great break-up came in 1878. The abortive treaty of San Stefano, concluded in that year, reduced the Turkish possessions in the Peninsula to Albania, Epirus, Thessaly and a portion of southern Thrace. A large Bulgarian principality was created extending from the Danube to the Aegean and from the Black Sea to the river Drin in Albania; it received a considerable coast-line on the Aegean and abutted on the Gulf of Salonica under the walls of that town. At the same time the frontiers of Servia and Montenegro were enlarged so as to become almost contiguous, and Montenegro received the ports of Antivari and Dulcigno on the Adriatic. From a strategical point of view the Bulgaria of the San Stefano treaty threatened Salonica, Adrianople and Constantinople itself; and the great powers, anticipating that the new state would become a Russian dependency, refused their sanction to its provisions. The treaty of Berlin followed, which limited the principality to the country between the Danube and the Balkans, created the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia south of the Balkans, and left the remainder of the proposed Bulgarian state under Turkish rule. The Montenegrin frontier laid down at San Stefano was considerably curtailed, Dulcigno, the district north-east of the Tara, and other territories being restored to Turkey; in addition to Nish, Servia received the districts of Pirot and Vranya on the east instead of the Ibar valley on the west; the Dobrudja, somewhat enlarged, was ceded to Rumania, which surrendered southern Bessarabia to Russia. Bosnia and Herzegovina were handed over to Austrian administration; under a subsequent convention with Turkey, Austria sent troops into the sanjak of Novibazar. The complete independence of the principalities of Servia, Rumania and Montenegro was recognized. The claims of Greece, ignored at San Stefano, were admitted at Berlin; an extension of frontier, including Epirus as well as Thessaly, was finally sanctioned by the powers in 1880, but owing to the tenacious resistance of Turkey only Thessaly and the district of Arta were acquired by Greece in 1881. Rumania was proclaimed a kingdom in that year, Servia in 1882. In 1880, after a naval demonstration by the powers, Dulcigno was surrendered to Montenegro in compensation for the districts of Plava and Gusinye restored to Turkey. In 1886 the informal union of Eastern Rumelia with Bulgaria was sanctioned by Europe, the districts of Tumrush (Rhodope) and Krjali being given back to the sultan. In 1897 Crete was withdrawn from Turkish administration, and the Greco-Turkish War of that year was followed by the cession to Turkey of a few strategical points on the Thessalian frontier. In 1908 Bosnia and Herzegovina were annexed to the Dual Monarchy, and Bulgaria (including Eastern Rumelia) was proclaimed an independent kingdom.
The growth and development of the Balkan nations have, to A Balkan confederation. a great extent, been retarded by the international jealousies arising from the Eastern Question. The possibility of the young states entering into a combination which would enable them to offer a united resistance to foreign interference while simultaneously effecting a compromise in regard to their national aims, has at various times occupied the attention of Balkan politicians. Among the earliest advocates of this idea was Ristich, the Servian statesman. During the reaction against Russia which followed the war of 1877 informal discussions were conducted with this object, and it was even suggested that a reformed or constitutional Turkey might find a place in the confederation. The movement was favourably regarded by King Charles of Rumania and Prince Alexander of Bulgaria. But the revolt of Eastern Rumelia, followed by the Servo-Bulgarian War and the coercion of Greece by the powers, embittered the rivalry of the various races, and the project was laid aside. It was revived in a somewhat modified form in 1891 by Tricoupis, who suggested an offensive alliance of the Balkan states, directed against Turkey and aiming at a partition of the Sultan's possessions in Europe. The scheme, which found favour in Servia, was frustrated by the opposition of Stamboloff, who denounced it to the Porte. In 1897 a Bulgarian proposal for joint pacific action with a view to obtaining reforms in Macedonia was rejected by Greece.