This essay focuses on the political, economic, and cultural history of seven small countries in the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. I originally wrote the lectures for a Stanford Travel/Study program in the Western Balkans in 2013. A surgery prevented my going on the trip.
I begin with ancient and medieval Western Balkan history – how the Roman and Byzantine Empires exploited the area, a Croatian Kingdom survived for two centuries, and invasions by the Crusaders and Mongols weakened the region. I further contrast the Ottoman Turkish, Habsburg Austrian, and Venetian rule of parts of the Western Balkans. I then look at how Balkan crises led to World War I, how the region fared during World War II, and why Communist Yugoslavia first prospered but then imploded. I next examine ethnic conflicts and the wars in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo during the 1990s, political challenges facing the seven Western Balkan countries as they attempt to join the European Union (only Croatia has succeeded so far), and what future changes need to be made to generate future economic progress. I append a time line, a bibliography, and a description of sites I visited in the Western Balkans.
Roman Pannonia, Dalmatia, and Macedonia, Byzantine Empire and South Slav Migrations, Kingdom of Croatia, Hungarian Croatia and Serbia, Ottoman Expansion, Ottoman Croatia and Dalmatia and Royal Hungary, Habsburg Expansion, Habsburg and French Croatia, Republic of Dubrovnik, Two World Wars and Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and World War I, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Ustashe Croatia, Communist Yugoslavia, Independence and War, Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Sibenik, Croatia, Dubrovnik, Croatia, Kotor, Montenegro, Saranda, Albania, Split, Croatia, the Central Dalmatian Coast, and Mostar, Narona, Cavtat,