The Balkans has always been a point of contention between the East and the West, and although the various incarnations of Hungary, Austria, and Austria-Hungary tended to dominate next to the advancing Ottoman Army, Russia was always nipping at the edges and creating leverage with the large number of Orthodox Slavs in Central Europe.  That …

  • February 24, 2021
  • Croatia
  • Comments Off on We Must Stop the Bear!

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The last thousand years of Balkan history is a tale of three powers pulling on the limbs of an infant, as in the Biblical parable of Solomon’s wisdom.  The Balkan baby is yanked first toward Austria, then toward Russia, and all the while the Ottoman Empire is pulling steadily on its legs.  The arguments between …

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The provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall be occupied and administered by Austria-Hungary…Austria-Hungary reserves the right to maintain garrisons and to have military and trading roads over the whole area of that portion [the Sandjak of Novi Pazar] of the ancient Vilayet of Bosnia. The diplomatic coda to the Pig War of 1906-1908 became, like …

  • February 18, 2021
  • Montenegro
  • Comments Off on Yet Another Balkan Crisis

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The most popular walking tours in London include strolling by known plague pit sites, where the hundreds of thousands of Londoners who died during the numerous outbreaks of plague are buried.  The Black Death killed between 1/3 and 2/3 of Europe’s inhabitants over the course of its random and terrifying outbreaks. The impact of the …

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Between 1804 and 1835 Serbia fought for independence from the Ottoman Empire that had ruled over the Balkans for more than 400 years. Men like Dositej Obradović and Vuk Karadžić emphasized the essentials of being Serbian, the things that unified the Serbian people and nation.  Language, customs, and a shared history became the foundation of the rallying …

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When Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Jews from Spain on 31 July 1492, they were welcomed with open arms into the Ottoman-ruled Balkans.  Thus the Balkans, and particularly Sarajevo, came to be populated with Sephardic Jews to the extent that at the height of the community’s population, 20% of Sarajevo was Jewish and 10% of …

  • July 27, 2020
  • Comments Off on The Rabbi That Started It All

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The mightiest empire of antiquity, and arguably the mightiest empire the world has ever seen, was in decline in the third century AD.  Not just in decline, but rapidly falling apart at the seams.  Barbarians were invading, the peasants were revolting, the currency was debased, the plague surfaced, and Roman rulers were busy amusing themselves …

  • July 1, 2020
  • Bulgaria
  • Comments Off on The Very Balkan Roman Emperors

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Empires have to begin and end somewhere, and in Europe the Balkans are the beginning and ending of East and West, and North and South.  Within the Balkans, it is Bosnia where everything comes crashing together.  As Saint Sava said in the thirteenth century, “…we are doomed by fate to be the East in the …

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In the Balkans, language rolls off the tongue and defines the culture profoundly.  The way people speak is the way they think and also how they act and react. Tradition is key – the way things are done is the way things have always been done.  Nothing changes easily. It is little wonder there are …

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