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Balkans facts for kids

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Balkan topo en
A geographical map of the Balkan peninsula
Balkan Peninsula
A political map of the Balkan Peninsula

The Balkans is a peninsula in Europe. The region has a combined area of 550,000 km² and an approximate population of 55 million people. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains, which run through the centre of Bulgaria into eastern Serbia and then continue to Slovenia as the Dinaric Alps.

Definitions and boundaries


Balkans comes from the Turkish language meaning “chain of wooded mountains” or 'swampy forest'.


The Balkans are bordered by water on three sides: the Black Sea to the east and branches of the Mediterranean Sea to the south and west (including the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean and Marmara seas). The Balkan Peninsula is bordered on the north by the Danube, Sava, and Krča rivers.

Member countries

Countries in the Balkan region are:

Related countries

Other countries that are not in the Balkan region but that are close to it and/or play or have played an important role in the region's politics, culture and history:

Central European Free Trade Agreement Map
Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA)      members      former members, joined the EU
CEI members
Central European Initiative (CEI) member states

Population composition by nationality and religion

Ethnic map of the Balkans prior to the First Balkan War

The region's principal nationalities include:

The most common religions in the Balkans are Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christianity and Islam (mostly Sunni or non-denominational). Many different specific kinds of each faith are practiced, with each of the Eastern Orthodox countries having its own national church with its own patriarch.

Religious map of the Balkans (in French)

Eastern Orthodoxy is the principal religion in the following countries:

Roman Catholicism is the principal religion in the following countries:

  • Croatia
  • Slovenia

Islam is the principal religion in the following countries:

  • Albania
  • Turkey

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a special case - 50% are Muslim Bosniaks, 31% are Serbian Orthodox, and 15% are Catholic Croats (therefore 46% are Christian). The remaining 4% adhere to other denominations of Christianity, other religions, or are irreligious.

For more detailed information and a precise ethnic breakdown see articles about particular states:

  • Banac, Ivo. Historiography of the Countries of Eastern Europe: Yugoslavia, American Historical Review, v 97 #4 (October 1992), 1084-1104.
  • Banac, Ivo. The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics Cornell University Press, [1984].
  • Carter, Francis W., ed. An Historical Geography of the Balkans Academic Press, 1977.
  • Dvornik, Francis. The Slavs in European History and Civilization Rutgers University Press, 1962.
  • Fine, John V. A., Jr. The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century [1983]; The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, [1987].
  • John R. Lampe and Marvin R. Jackson; Balkan Economic History, 1550-1950: From Imperial Borderlands to Developing Nations Indiana University Press, 1982
  • Jelavich, Barbara. History of the Balkans, 2 vols. Cambridge University Press, [1983].
  • Jelavich, Charles, and Jelavich, Barbara, eds. The Balkans in Transition: Essays on the Development of Balkan Life and Politics since the Eighteenth Century University of California Press, 1963.
  • Király, Béla K., ed. East Central European Society in the Era of Revolutions, 1775-1856. 1984
  • Komlos, John, ed. Economic Development in the Habsburg Monarchy and in the Successor States: Essays 1990.
  • Mazower, Mark, The Balkans: A Short History, 2000
  • Traian Stoianovich; Balkan Worlds: The First and Last Europe 1994.

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