In the 15th Century the Ottomans were racing through Europe, conquering everything in their path.  By 1493 they had reached Croatia and the last bastion of strong defense before Vienna. On 9 September 1493, the Battle of Krbava Field in Croatia began one hundred years of war between the Ottomans and what would become the …

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August 7, 626 was a defeat for the Slavs, who had been attacking the walls of Constantinople under the command of the Avar army. But it was a victory, too. When the Slavs abandoned the siege, they melted back into the Balkans, where they had begun to settle.  From this point in history, they would …

  • August 7, 2020
  • Comments Off on Slav Defeat, Slav Victory

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The first of Portugal’s African colonies was also the first to gain independence.  It was not, unfortunately, a smooth road to freedom. Most of the trade in Portuguese Guinea was controlled by a single group – Companhia Uniao Fabril – and their subsidiary companies.  One of those subsidiaries, Casa Gouveia, controlled the docks.  And Casa …

  • August 3, 2020
  • Comments Off on Making Peace Into War

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On 27 July 1948, Dorothea Bleek died. Dorothea had followed in her father’s footsteps, documenting the culture, language, and thousands-of-years-old rock art of Southern Africa.  And although Dorothea continued to demur to her father’s expertise throughout her life, it was her books that brought the San to the attention of more academics.  Her book, A …

  • July 27, 2020
  • Interesting
  • Comments Off on Disappearing People, Disappearing History

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The Gambia is an interesting place.  It was a part of both the Mali and Songhai Empires.  Ibn Battuta visited in the 1300s and had lovely things to say about the justice-minded people who lived there.  It’s nearly completely surrounded by Senegal.  And it is littered with stone circles resembling versions of Stonehenge.  Not much …

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There is something intriguing about Ethiopia.  The only Jewish nation in Africa, mentioned in the Bible in the person of the legendary Makeda, the Queen of Sheba. It was Makeda’s son Menilek I who founded the Solomonic Dynasty that ruled Ethiopia, with an interruption of a few hundred years in the Middle Ages, until 1974. …

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What do a Roman Emperor, a medieval Balkan nation, the devil, and 2020 have in common? A name – Dukljan. Depending on the person doing the talking, Emperor Diocletian (who was born in what is now Solin, Croatia), was either terrible in his murderousness or a successful reformer of bureaucracy who  abdicated rather than overstay …

  • July 12, 2020
  • Folklore
  • Comments Off on The Name of the Devil

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Roman ruins are everywhere in the Balkans. The Romans, after the Batonnian Uprising, repopulated the province of Illyricum with their own people.   The region was first pagan, and St Paul himself preached through Illyricum.  By the year 300, 10% of the Roman empire was Christian.  In the last gasps of a pagan majority, the …

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It would probably straighten up a few things in popular culture if the Balkan contribution to ruling the Roman Empire were more well known.   Obviously the Romans were in the Balkans and they ruled the Balkans; they left tons of evidence. But for more than two hundred years the Balkans also ruled the Romans, …

  • July 1, 2020
  • Comments Off on The Very Balkan Romans

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