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The Politics of Balkanization

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  • 0:01 Balkanization Defined
  • 1:04 Historical Background
  • 2:00 Balkanization and…
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

In this lesson, you'll learn about balkanization, including what it is and how it affects international politics. A short quiz follows to check your understanding.

Balkanization Defined

Sasha is a member of a specific ethnic group sharing a common history, culture, traditions and beliefs. This sounds like a great environment upon which to form a country. The only problem is that the land Sasha and his group occupy was part of an old empire. When the empire fell, it was carved up into different states. Sasha's ethnic group was lumped together with another ethnic group whose history, culture, traditions and beliefs differ greatly from his social group. In fact, the groups are pretty hostile to each other. After years of hostility and increasing violence, Sasha's country goes through a balkanization process.

Balkanization is a process of the fragmentation of a political unit into smaller, usually mutually hostile, political units. For example, due to balkanization, Sasha's state is being divided into smaller states where each ethnic group resides. Each new state is independent and acts autonomously from the other. Let's take a look at balkanization from a historical perspective.

Historical Background

As you might imagine, the term 'balkanization' finds its roots in the Balkan Peninsula, which is located in the south-central region of Europe bounded by the Adriatic, Black and Aegean seas of the Mediterranean. The term 'balkanization' was first utilized in the late 19th-century to describe the foreign policy of the Russian Empire, which bordered the region, to encourage division of the region into small, mutually hostile states that posed little threat to Russia.

The term came back in vogue during the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union, which kickstarted the balkanization of the Balkan region. The most prominent breakup was the State of Yugoslavia into several states, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Unfortunately, this result was brought about by war and war crimes, including genocide.

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