The Balkan peninsula, also known as the Balkans (from the abbreviated form of the Balkan Mountains, a mountain system between Bulgaria and Serbia; from the Turkish balkan 'mountain'), is a peninsula in Eastern Europe; it is bounded to the west by the Adriatic Sea, to the southwest by the Ionian Sea, to the east by the Black Sea, to the southeast by the Sea of Marmara, and to the south by the Aegean Sea.
As often happens for the peninsulas, the definition of its boundary on the mainland is uncertain, aggravated by the fact that it is one of its largest boundaries. Moreover, the definition of this dividing line does not help the fact that the territory presents within it great differences and fragmentations in terms of history, nationality, language, culture and religion of the populations that live there.
The border is usually established on the Danube and its tributary Sava. In this way, parts of Slovenia and Romania (an Eastern Romance-speaking country) are also included in this area, which however historically had to do with the Balkans only after the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire. According to the geographer Vittorio Vialli, the northern boundary is represented by the geographical line Istria-Odessa. Slovenia excludes from the region the interpretation of the border that includes the Kupa River, starting it from the city of Rijeka and reaching the mouth of the Danube. In this way it borders to the west with the so-called Italian geographical region, which also includes territories that are not part of the Italian Republic. The political definition of the Balkans was used in the nineteenth century to designate the European countries affected by the expansion and subsequent dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, after all the characteristics of the territory, crossed by parallel mountain ranges that hindered the movement in a north-south direction. and a uniform colonization already at the time of the Greco-Roman expansion, and its very geographical location help to explain the tormented historical events that characterized the peninsula.Until 1975 the peninsula was crossed by the Balkan Express, a train departing from Vienna and arrive in Istanbul. The climate is continental in the north and east of the territory (with hot summers and very cold winters), while the western area and Greece have a Mediterranean climate.
The Balkan peninsula is crossed by various mountain ranges and massifs:
Dinaric Alps: Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Albania;
Pindus Mountains: Greece, Albania and North Macedonia;
Rhodope Mountains: Bulgaria and Greece.
Balkan Mountains: Bulgaria and Serbia.
It is a melting pot of peoples, ethnic groups, languages and religions, with a history that is always stormy, as contemporary history demonstrates (for example the brief existence of Yugoslavia).
The following states are geographically located in the Balkan Peninsula:
Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Albania, North Macedonia, Greece and European Turkey; for some authors also Slovenia and Romania.
The eastern area of the Balkan Peninsula is occupied by Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.
The western region of the Balkan Peninsula includes Albania and many countries of the former Yugoslavia. Of these states, Montenegro and Kosovo adopted the euro on the basis of unilateral decisions, without initial approval from Brussels, from 1 January 2002.
All the countries of the area have aspirations to join the European Union; particularly:
North Macedonia: official candidate since 11 December 2005;
Montenegro: accession negotiations from 29 June 2012;
Albania: official candidate since June 27, 2014;
Serbia: accession negotiations since 21 January 2014. The Western Balkans has a population of 18 137 105 inhabitants spread over an area of 295 465 square kilometers with a density of 98.9 inhabitants per square kilometer.
According to the table below: