[This class was taught at Swarthmore College: a version of the1995 lecture texts is online.]

Instructor: Steven Sowards
Office: Humanities Librarian's office, McCabe Library (Main Level)
Trotter 182, MWF 10:30-11:20, Fall 1995

This course is an introduction to the history of Southeastern Europe since the 1790s. Each week's work will examine a key episode in Balkan affairs through a combination of lectures, readings, and discussion of associated issues. The class will not follow the history of any one Balkan country comprehensively. Instead, we will direct our attention to relevant developments which address questions like these:

  1. How does Balkan history relate to European history?
  2. What is a nation, a nationality, an ethnic group?
  3. What has nationalism meant for the Balkans?

The course emphasizes the history of Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia, with some attention to events in Ottoman Turkey, Albania, the Habsburg Monarchy and Hungary as appropriate. The class begins with some historical background. The recent history of the Balkans has yet to be written, but we should be able to use historical knowledge to begin our understanding of it.


Reading for the class consists of three textbooks and a set of photocopied articles. These three books have been ordered by the College Bookstore:

The photocopied readings will be sold in the History Office: if you want to take or audit the course, you must buy a set of these readings during the first week of class (to help defray the expenses).


Grading in the course will be as follows:

  1. Map quiz on Balkan geography 5%
  2. Take-home mid-term essay 20%
  3. First version of term paper 25%
  4. Second version of term paper 15%
  5. Take-home final essay 20%
  6. Class participation, discussion and attendance 15%

The map quiz is pass/fail: you may take it over and over until you pass it, but you must pass it to get the points. The mid-term essay will expand on classroom discussion of one of the weekly topics covered during the first four weeks of class. The term paper will require you to read and compare several historical treatments of a controversial episode or concept. This does not mean restating a factual narrative: it means comparing and critiquing versions of the truth as offered by various historians. Because good writing requires rewriting, you will turn in two versions of your paper, a first draft and a final revision. Each version will be graded, separately and on the basis of different criteria. The final essay will expand on classroom discussion of one of the weekly topics covered during the course as a whole. The grade for participation includes attendance, participation in discussion and the simulation, and demonstrated knowledge of the course material. There will be additional information about the written asignments later in the course.


Each week addresses a topic. The lectures and assigned readings for the week lead up to a discussion on Friday. Readings from Clogg, Jelavich and Held are identified for each week; all other citations refer to materials in the photocopied reader. You need to do the reading in order to contribute to the discussion. Some questions are suggested for each topic, so that you can do the reading with appropriate issues and themes in mind. You will encounter many unfamiliar names and terms in the readings and lectures. The weekly "Identifications" section lists some of the most important ones, as well as some with unfamiliar spelling. These lists should help you concentrate on the most significant personalities and concepts. Important geographic terms appear on the map exercise.

Topic 1: Defining the "Balkans:" An other Europe

Read the Todorova article first: what problems does she warn us about as we read about the Balkans? Then read the chapters from Dracula and the two travellers' accounts (one from 1903, the other from 1990) and keep these questions in mind: What do we mean by "Balkan"? How is it defined by the contrasting concept of "European?" What are "Orientalism" and "Balkanism?" How do they affect the way history is written and read? Is Balkan history part of European history? Are the Balkans a defective version of Western Europe?

Why are historians interested in travellers' accounts of the Balkans? What are some of the problems with these sources? There are some recurring motifs in Dracula and the travel accounts: watch for them. They include images of crossing borders, the use of superlatives (things in the Balkans are the best, the worst, and so on), comparison of things Western and Eastern, and assertions that in the "East" the abnormal is normal.

Identifications for Week 1: transhumance, Illyrians, Achaeans/Ionians/Dorians, irredenta/irredentism, katharevousa and dimotiki, Dacia, Magyars, Vlachs, Cyril and Methodius, Cyrillic script, usufruct fief, Crown of St. Stephen, Ladino, Volksdeutsch, Fourth Crusade (1204), Battle of Kosovo (1389), Battle of Mohacs (1526), Rumeli and Anatoli, ghazis, Prince Klemens von Metternich, Edward Said, "discourse," Oscar Halecki, William McNeill, Philhellenism, neo-serfdom and second serfdom, "Petstotin godini pod tursko igo."


Topic 2: The "Old Regimes" in the Balkans

The Ottoman and Habsburg Empires arose well in advance of modern concepts of the state or the nation. While this class focuses on their decline, remember that these entities dominated the Balkans for more than four centuries. What features define nations and states in the modern sense? What contrasting features were at the foundation of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires? How did individuals define their own identity, and their relationship to people around them? Were the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires fundamentally systems in competition, or were they fundamentally alike? What was it that made these societies capable of surviving under Balkan conditions for so long? Why did the Habsburg and Ottoman systems cease to be successful in the years after the middle of the 1700s? Are the disruptive forces coming from inside Balkan society, or from the outside?

Identifications for Week 2: Osman/Osmanli/Ottoman, Seljuk Turks, Sultan Mehmet II the Conquerer, Sunni and Shi'i Muslims, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, sheriat, devshirme, ulema, janissaries, divan, timariot/timar, spahi/spahilik, miri vakf and mulk lands, chiftlik, "millet" system, Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews, grand vezir, ayans/notables, klephts and hajduks, raya(h), armatoloi, hospodars, Phanariots, Adamantios Koraes, Rhigas Velestinlos (Pheraios), Vuk Karadzic, Pasvanoglu, Osman Pasha, Ali Pasha of Jannina, Mohammed Ali of Egypt, Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji (1774), Illyrian Provinces, "Tu, felix Austria, nube," Count Rudolph of Habsburg, Counter-Reformation, Hungarian Diet, viceroy/governor/ban/palatin, Pragmatic Sanction (1713), Empress Maria Theresa, Jansenists, Emperor Joseph II, Enlightened despotism, Toleration Patent (1781), Emperor Leopold, Golden Bull (1222), Treaty of Karlowitz (1699), Peace of Szatmar (1711), jus resistendi, bene possessionati.


Topic 3: The earliest national revolutions

The first "national revolutions" took place in Balkan countries soon after the French Revolution, and during the Napoleonic Wars. Many treatments of "modern" Balkan history imply that the revolutions in Western and Eastern Europe were related. How were Western European ideas about nationalism transmitted to the Balkans? Were those ideas transformed in the process? Given the enormous differences between Western European and Balkan societies and political systems, how can we believe that the same forces are at work? Read Theodore Kolokotrones' account of his political awakening before and during the Greek Revolution. Where did his loyalties lie? Did they change? For Kolokotrones, what are the sources of Greek identity and national self-awareness? How modern is his concept of the nation and the state?

Identifications for Week 3: Military Border/Krajina, knez, zadruga, skupstina, Dositej Obradovic, Sultan Selim III, Djordje Petrovic (Karageorge), Prince Milos Obrenovic, dahis, Constitutionalists, Philike Hetairia (Society of Friends), Alexander Ypsilantis, Count John Capodistrias, Tudor Vladimirescu, Alexander Mavrokordatos, George Koundouriotes, Eastern Question, Battle of Navarino (1827), King Othon (Otto), John Kolettes.


Topic 4: The Revolution of 1848 and its legacy

1848 was associated with nationalism in France and Germany. Hungarian, Croatian and Romanian revolutionaries in 1848 were inspired by events in Paris and Berlin. If eighteenth century Enlightenment and revolutionary thought was transformed in the context of the Balkans, can the same be said of the ideas of the Revolutions of 1848? Jewsbury enumerates the elements of modern nationalism, then examines Romania. Why is he reluctant to describe Romanian politics as "national" in the period 1800-1825? Is it easiest to explain events in Hungary in terms of modern ideas, traditional ideas (you may wish to refer back to the chapter by Kiraly in Topic 2), or a conflict between the two? What dilemmas were created for Magyars by the ideas of 1848? Why did "liberal" and "radical" elements lose out? Did they have any chance to succeed? Read the "Address of the Croatian Sabor." Is this an appeal based on modern or traditional rights? Was there a way to reconcile Magyar and Croatian priorities?

Identifications for Week 4: Danubian Principalities, boyars, Prince Michael the Brave, divan, Old Church Slavonic, Treaty of Adrianople (1829), Organic Statutes of 1831-32, Alexander Cuza, Ion Bratianu, Napoleon III, Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen, King Carol I (Charles), Istvan Szecheny, Lajos Kossuth, Pesti Hirlap (News of Pest), Ferencz Deak, April Laws (1848), Magyarization, Triune Kingdom of Dalmatia-Croatia-Slavonia, Croatian Sabor, Josip Jelacic, Emperor Franz Joseph, Ausgleich (1867), Nagodba (1868), Ljudevit Gaj, Illyrianism, Serbo-Croatian.


Topic 5: The impact of the wider world: Economic, social, political

The West was the source of Balkan revolutionary ideas, but the practice of Western European intervention in the region was very different from the theory. Read the English editorials from Littell's Living Age Magazine. Whose interests are being considered? How do the British define themselves by comparison with the Russians? What are Britain's intentions toward the Balkan peoples? The Crimean War was fought for political, strategic, and even symbolic reasons. Do we find politics at the center of Great Power interest in the Balkans after 1856? Whom did Western-built railways benefit? Did those railways do more to aid or damage Balkan societies? Can "progress" be a bad thing? Finally, given the nature of socio-economic change, can we say that political and military victories and defeats are irrelevant to historical change?

Identifications for Week 5: Capitulation Treaties, Treaty of Karlowitz (1699), Sultan Mahmud II, Tanzimat Reforms, Sultan Abdul Mejid I, Hatti Sherif of Gulhane (1839), Hatti Humayun (1856), Crimean War, Treaty of Paris (1856), Pan-Slavs, Ottomanism, Young Ottoman Society, Administration of the Ottoman Public Debt, Megale Idea ("great idea"), hectare (equals 2.47 acres).


Topic 6: The failure of change from above: Reform in Macedonia and Bosnia-Hercegovina

The treaties of 1878 led to years of conflict over Macedonia and Bosnia. We will use a map simulation to see if a "better" solution was possible, given the interests of the Great Powers.

Identifications for Week 6: Mustafa Reshid Pasha, fez, Sheikh-ul-Islam, Sultan Abdul Hamid, Young Turks, Committee of Union and Progress, Pan-Islam, Bulgarian Exarchate Church, Treaty of San Stefano (1878), Treaty of Berlin (1878), "Big Bulgaria," Eastern Rumelia, Sanjak of Novi Pazar, Southern Dobrudja, Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), chetas/comites/comitadjis, Bogomils, Narodna Odbrana (National Defense), Fiume and Zara Resolutions (1905), Dragutin Dimitrijevic (Apis), Young Turk Revolution (1908), Zagreb and Friedjung Trials (1909-10), Ujedinjenje ili Smrt (Union or Death)/The Black Hand, First and Second Balkan Wars,

[Fall break, October 14-22]


Topic 7: Balkan nationalisms: Serbia and Greece

World War I is a watershed in Western European history, but there are many trends in Balkan politics that began well before 1914 and continued with few changes after 1918. Consider the origin and development of politics in Greece and Serbia, and the frequent parallel trends. What were the assumptions behind Serbian nationalism? What were the assumptions behind Greek nationalism? Are similar forces at work? If not, how can we explain the similarities between the Serbian coup of 1903 and the Greek crisis of 1909? If so, how can we reconcile this conclusion with the many differences between the economies, social systems and political structures in the two countries? On page 221, the Jelaviches accuse the victors of 1912 and 1913 of forsaking the ideals of their own national revolutions. How valid is this criticism? If you accept it, does this imply a fundamental change in Balkan politics at the time of the Balkan Wars? Or can we discover contradictory elements in Balkan national politics extending back into the nineteenth century?

Identifications for Week 7: Ilija Garasanin, Nacertanije, Yugoslavism, Nikola Pasic, Serbian Radical Party, "Pig War" (1906-11), Mlada Bosna (Young Bosnia), Bogdan Zerajic, Treaty of London (1915), Yugoslav Committee, Corfu Declaration (1917), King Alexander of Yugoslavia, Kingdom of the Serbs Croats and Slovenes, Stjepan Radic, Croatian Peasant Party, Kharilaos Trikoupis, Theodoros Deliyannis, Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos, "Ethnos" and "Laos," Pierre de Coubertin, Demetrios Bikelas, Olympics of 1896, enosis (union), Paul Melas, Military League, Goudi coup (1909), Eleftherios Venizelos, National Schism, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk).


Topic 8: World War I: Causes and legacies

The origins of World War I combine short-term and long-term causes, and local and global tensions. The events of 1914 began in Sarajevo, but the center of the war soon moved to Western Europe. Read the statements of the young assassins during their trial. How do they explain themselves? Are they in agreement among themselves? Are their concerns and motives related to the forces that pushed most of Europe into a general war? Consider the actions of the Serbian and Habsburg governments as well. Should we blame the outbreak of World War I on Balkan events, as opposed to general European tensions? During the war, were the small Balkan states victimized by the interference of the Great Powers, or was European civilization placed in jeopardy by Balkan extremists seeking selfish, local ends? Consider the response of Hungarians to the messages of Woodrow Wilson and Lenin. Why were their contradictory ideas both attractive? Many ideas are transformed once they reach the Balkans: did this happen again in the case of Lenin or Wilson? Were the Balkan peoples (like the Hungarians) abandoned by the West, after accepting Wilson's guidelines for peace and stability? Or was their interest in Wilson (and in Lenin) only a self-serving reaction to defeat?

Identifications for Week 8: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Countess Sophie Chotek, General Oskar Potiorek, Trialism, Mehmed Mehmedbasic, Vaso Cubrilovic, Nedelko Cabrinovic, Cvetko Popovic, Danilo Ilic, Trifko Grabez, Gavrilo Princip, Count Leopold von Berchtold, General Franz Baron Conrad von Hoetzendorf, Count Stephan Tisza, Treaty of Brest Litovsk (1918), Fourteen Points (1918), Big Four, Treaty of Trianon (1920), Count Michael Karolyi, Hungarian Soviet Republic, Bela Kun, "White Terror," Admiral Miklos Horthy, Fan Noli, King Zog.


Topic 9: Limitations of Western models

After 1918, the Balkan states adopted Western economic, social and political systems. Within a few years, those systems failed. Why did Western social, economic and political models fail so badly after adoption by the Balkan states? Why did so many Balkan states experience a drift to the Right? Was the essence of Balkan politics fascist, or merely conservative? How does the experience of the Balkan Jews shed light on the limitations of Western models for Southeastern Europe? Read Lev Pinsker's appeal to the Jews of Romania and Russia, written in 1882 (if you find his prose too dense, start with his summary, on pages 22 and 23 of the pamphlet). Pinsker compares the Jews to the Serbs and Romanians: how valid is this comparison? Are the motives and arguments behind his ideas of Jewish nationalism the same as those at work in other nineteenth century national revolutions in the region? Is Pinsker seeking a revolution that is socio-economic or political? Can a social revolution take place on the basis of an ideological proposal? Should we consider the Jews to be a "Balkan" nation? Consider your answer carefully: you need to consider not only a definition of nationality, but also of "Balkan" identity. If there is a transition from "traditional" to "modern" forms of nationalism in the Balkans, is there also a transition from "traditional" to "modern" forms of anti-Semitism?

Identifications for Week 9: emancipation, assimilation, Roma (gypsies), numerus clausu, pogrom, Eretz Israel, Zionism, teshuvah (repentance), shivah (return), Rabbi Judah Bibas, Rabbi Judah Alkalai, Moses Lilienblum, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Peretz Smolenskim, Lev (Leon) Pinsker, Hovevei Zion, Hibbat Zion, Theodor Herzl, Alexander Stamboliiski, Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU), "revisionism," Legion of the Archangel Michael, Iron Guard, Corneliu Codreanu, Gyula Gombos, Arrow Cross Party, Ferencz Szalasi, Vidovdan Constitution (1921), Ustasha, General Ioannis Metaxas.


Topic 10: Balkan politics during World War II

Traditional regimes (like the Yugoslav government-in-exile) faced a dilemma during World War II: how to resist both Nazis and Communists at the same time. What motives animated someone like Mihailovic? How did those motives differ for Tito? Is one or the other more clearly linked to traditions of national politics? Why did Communism seem so much better suited to resistance? Did the Occupation unmask existing faults in interwar Balkan society, or should we lay the blame for the collapse of the old regimes on outside forces, introduced by the war? The complicity of the occupied Balkan peoples (or the lack of it) is a major issue in Holocaust scholarship. Was the murder of the Balkans Jews an expression of local anti-Semitism, or an aberration imported by the Germans? How do we explain resistance to the Holocaust by Bulgarians, its success, and its limits? In what terms do the "Bulgarian Writers" themselves justify their position?

Identifications for Week 10: Independent State of Croatia, Ante Pavelic, Jasenovac concentration camp, Raul Hilberg, Lucy Dawidowicz, Chetniks, Colonel Draza Mihailovic, Partisans, Tito (Josip Broz), AVNOJ (Anti-Fascist Council of People's Liberation of Yugoslavia), Special Operations Executive (SOE), King Peter of Yugoslavia, Enver Hoxha, Comintern, EAM (National Liberation Front), ELAS (Greek People's Liberation Army), EDES (National Republican Greek League), Colonel Napoleon Zervas, George Papandreou.


Topic 11: The coming of the Cold War, 1944-1956

Resis states his thesis plainly on page 386: that the United States started the Cold War, by its actions on October 4, 1944. On the other hand, the official American dispatches from Romania indicate a calculated Communist drive to seize power. Can we reasonably assign "blame" for the Cold War in the Balkans? Were Cold War tensions the result of long-term plans by one or both sides, or a matter of incremental steps and ad hoc decisions? To what extent were local forces at work, as opposed to exterior powers? To what degree did Balkan Communists merely adopt the political techniques of interwar authoritarian states? Given Churchill's "percentages agreement" with Stalin, what can we say about the balance between Great Power self-interest and concern for the Balkan peoples, about apportioning responsibility between Moscow and the West, and about the ability of local leaders to control their own destinies? Tito's course in Yugoslavia stands in sharp contrast to the fate of his neighbors. It raises a number of questions: What factors allowed Yugoslavia to avoid Soviet Russian control? Are the same factors at work in Albania? In Greece? At some point, was it inevitable that the Balkan states would lose their independence? Why could one argue for a date as early as 1938, or as late as 1956?

Identifications for Week 11: Big Three, Yalta Agreement (Feb. 1945), Potsdam Conference (Aug. 1945), Allied Control Commissions, "Muscovites," Cominform, Fatherland Front, Todor Zhivkov, Comecon (CEMA), Marshall Plan, Warsaw Pact, Truman Doctrine, "salami tactics," King Michael of Romania, Iuliu Maniu, National Peasant Party, Petru Groza, Imre Nagy, Matyas Rakosi, Erno Gero, Janos Kadar, de-Stalinization, Nikita Khrushchev.

[Thanksgiving break, November 23-26]


Topic 12: The Balkans in the age of bi-polar politics

Read the political jokes. What recurring complaints drive the humor? Is discontent based in politics or economics? Is it anti-Communist, or anti-Russian? Draw up a list of all the things people reject in the jokes, then make a list of their opposites: does the second list amount to a coherent opposition program? How did Romanian and Greek politics during the Cold War deviate from a stereotypical notion of a bi-polar world composed of two Superpowers and their satellites, or even of two alliances? What traditional Balkan national interests were still at work? Was modernization more successful on one side of the "Iron Curtain" than on the other? Were there strong contrasts between conditions in Greece and those in the socialist states, or between Yugoslavia and the other socialist countries? How important were social and economic pre-conditions?

Identifications for Week 12: "national roads to Communism," apparat/apparatchik, collectivization, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Nicolae Ceausescu, cult of personality, Leonid Brezhnev, Brezhnev Doctrine (1968), Alexander Dubcek, Wojciech Jaruzelski, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Friedrich Engels, King Constantine II of Greece, Andreas Papandreou, Konstantine Karamanlis, "the Colonels"/junta, Colonel George Papadopoulos, Cyprus EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters), Colonel George Grivas, Archbishop Makarios III, PASOK (Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement).


Topic 13: Explaining the revolutions of the 1980s

The Balkan socialist states shared in the anti-Communist revolutionary wave of 1989, but emerged in sharply contrasting situations. If we can explain the differences between events in Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia, we can also say something about the causes of the general collapse of Eastern European Communism. Events in Hungary in 1989 were linked closely to developments in Czechoslovakia and East Germany. Does this mean that Hungary is no longer a "Balkan" country? At the same time, concern with Macedonian affairs has reawakened in Greece. Does this mean that Greece has "returned" to the Balkans? Can we find a perspective on the Balkans that accomodates both situations? What factors explain the overthrow of Ceausescu? Are we seeing a popular "national" revolution, or a coup d'etat, or both? Re-read the McPherson piece on Romania from Topic 1: he is writing on the eve of the miners' attacks on anti-government demonstrators in June 1990. What do his impressions say about "what happened?" How did the Yugoslav Constitution of 1974 aggravate tensions? Why couldn't federalism succeed in the years after World War II, given that centralism failed in the interwar period? Why was it relatively easy for Slovenia to secede from Yugoslavia, compared to Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina? Dragnich lays out the Serbian case against Tito's Yugoslavia. Why did Serbs feel so under-privileged? How do their complaints explain the rise of Slobodan Milosevic, and the transformation of the Serbian Communist Party into a nationalist party? What led Ferfila to predict ultimate collapse in Yugoslavia (he was writing late in 1990, a few months before the outbreak of open war)? Were political (and national) factors to blame, or was it a matter of social and economic problems? Consider the full range of factors behind the growth of unrest in the Balkans in the 1980s. Did the Revolutions of 1989 take place in the Balkans because of internal and local developments, or as an echo of events in other countries? In other words, did events in Russia and Poland bring down the Balkan Communist states? If we view 1989 as an echo of the events in Gorbachev's Russia, can we find a satisfactory explanation for the rise of the socialist PASOK in Greece?

Identifications for Week 13: "second economy" (private sector), "third economy" (illicit), OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), Mikhail Gorbachev, perestroika, glasnost, Lech Walesa, Solidarnosc (Solidarity), Vaclav Havel, New Economic Mechanism (NEM), Danube Circle, Securitate, Ion Iliescu, National Salvation Front (NSF), Reverend Laszlo Tokes, Timisoara/Temesvar, Hungarian Reformed Church, Alexander Rankovic, Milovan Djilas, Croatian Spring (1970-71), Matica Hrvatska, Yugoslav Constitution of 1974, Franjo Tudjman, Federal Presidency, Vance-Owen Plan, Slobodan Milosevic, "Serbian Republic of Krajina," Autonomous Province of Kosovo-Metohija, JNA (Jugoslovenska narodna armija/Yugoslav National Army), "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM).


Topic 14: The Balkans today and tomorrow

There is no lecture this week, simply a final class meeting on Monday. We can look back on the course as a whole (including course evaluation forms), and also try to reach some insights about current events and future prospects. Bosnia is not the only potential source of trouble in the Balkans: we can point to Kosovo, Macedonia and Moldova. We also know that past Balkan crises eventually ran their course. Are crises like the war in Bosnia characteristic of Balkan conditions, or are they temporary distractions from a general process of socio-economic modernization? Do outside forces, especially those prompting economic changes, tend to destabilize the region, or do they build a foundation for ultimate prosperity? Would general prosperity defuse political and national tension? Now that a few years have passed since the events of 1989, are we seeing genuine, revolutionary change, or only the reemergence of old patterns and problems? (Final take-home essay is due on Friday, December 15, by 4:30 p.m.)

This page is a portion of a larger Web site, Twenty-Five Lectures on Modern Balkan History (The Balkans in the Age of Nationalism); click here to return to the Table of Contents page.

Steven W. Sowards
Michigan State University Libraries
366 W. Circle Drive
East Lansing MI 48824-1048 USA

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