A backpacker’s view of the Balkan War and its lasting impact
Brief History of the Balkans and its Recent War
The Balkans are a very colorful and historically rich region in Europe. The Balkans loosely consist of all the countries south of Slovenia and Romania. Definitions change depending on who you ask, but most would say that Turkey and Greece are also part of the Balkans although they are somewhat different culturally.
One of history’s most recent wars was in fact the Balkan War. The most recent outing in the Balkans is commonly called the Third Balkan War as the region is no stranger to conflict. Depending on who you ask, the Third Balkan War can be called a genocide or an ethnic cleansing, either way, nothing overly positive really ensued. Many lives were lost, new countries were formed, and the effects are still prevalent today.
Presently, the region consists of multiple countries, but was predominately under the control of the former Yugoslavia, which was like a smaller cousin of the Soviet Union. The capital of Yugoslavia, was Belgrade (now the capital of present-day Serbia), which was one major source of division as the wealth tended to gravitate to the capital. In addition, there was a religious conflict. One between Muslims and Orthodox Christians. The Muslim population of Bosnia, now an independent nation, is around 50% to my understanding.
In a nutshell, Yugoslavia was yet another conglomerate of countries trying to live under one roof. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Although people of the Balkans are united by similar language and cultural heritage, there are enough differences to separate them.
How it affected the countries and people
The first two countries to formally declare their independence of Yugoslavia were Slovenia and Croatia. Slovenia quickly became ‘European’ and has even been integrated into the European Union as well as operating within the Euro zone economies. For Croatia, the road has not been so smooth. Croatia, called Hrvatska in Croatian, has steadily developed itself and separated itself from its former ways. Today, Croatia is a well-developed country on the verge of European membership. Other countries, like Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia have not done as well and continue to fit corrupt politics, internal strife, and economic despair.
What I learned from the people
I experienced a lot of really great people who were attempting to better themselves and look positively towards their future. Unfortunately many of them, were trapped between economic turmoil and corruption that they were born into, and showed some degree of pessimism and mental anguish due to those conditions. Overall, poor political practices combined with racial tensions, left many people in a bad place.
The Worst I Saw
Croatia had a few places with damage, but Croatia has taken great measures to put its troubled past behind it. Serbia additionally had some damage, but not that bad overall. Collectively, the worst damage that I saw was in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia had lots of damage, much of it had not been cleaned up. Mostar, a city that was surrounded by Serbian forces, had the most damage by far. It seemed to me that nearly every building in Mostar had scars from the most recent war. Some of the buildings of Mostar, looked as if no one had touched the building since the war. Many of them existed as a form of eye-sore while others almost seemed to tell a story. Sarajevo had some damage also, and I’m sure that there were other damaged cities as well.
Do I recommend visiting the Balkans?
Absolutely. The Balkans have a lot to offer and is filled with great people. The Balkans are probably one of the last untouched areas of Europe. Let’s make sure we as travelers, leave them that way. (Click here for reasons to visit the Balkans!)
This is obviously a brief synopsis of the Balkans, but I hope that you have learned something about the Balkans. The people who I met in the Balkans were truly wonderful and most were very welcoming. I was glad to have the opportunity to travel to several of the countries in the region and hope to have another chance in the future.
Leave me a comment!
Have you visited the Balkans before? What are your thoughts on this article?
If you liked my article, please take a moment to like my page on Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and RSS. Subscribe to my blog for weekly updates!