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Warfare in the Balkans - Introduction

For the purposes of this study the Balkans will be taken as  the Eastern Mediterranean peninsula bounded by the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean and Black seas. The Northern land boundary is usually regarded as the Drava and Danube rivers. However, we will also cover nations to the north of those rivers because of their influence on  Balkan history.

The word Balkan comes from the Turkish for a chain of wooded mountains. This perfectly describes the nature of the terrain which has inevitably  influenced warfare in the region. From the Carpathians in the north through the Transylvanian Alps to the Balkan Mountains themselves. In the West the Dinaric Alps cover much of former Yugoslavia to the Southern ranges of the Pindus and Rhodope Mountains. In such terrain river valleys have been important invasion routes. The Danube River has given access to the region from both the Steppes in the east and from Central Europe. From Belgrade the Morava River provides a southern route through the mountains. At Nis two routes form. The Vardar  River down to the Aegean port of Salonika and the Dragoman Pass to Sofia and on to Edirne (Adrianople) and eventually Istanbul (Constantinople). The long coastline also opened up the region to attack by sea, most famously by Venice.

 In this study we will take an overall look at each period of history with a focus on particular conflicts and armed forces which reflect the nature of warfare in that era.

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Last modified: 01/23/12