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Balkanium

History, Culture, Politics, and Travel in the Balkans, Turkey, and Cyprus

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April 2017

What Could Be Won and Lost With Turkey’s Referendum

On Sunday, a referendum that will change Turkish history was decided. In a 51.3% to 48.7% victory, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s party, the AKP, won the referendum, which will usher in 18 changes to the Turkish constitution. The one that was given the greatest coverage was the changes to Article 104, which will end the current parliamentary political system in Turkey, replacing it with an executive presidential system. But all of the changes together create a system that could potentially keep Erdoğan and the AKP in power for a long time. Continue reading “What Could Be Won and Lost With Turkey’s Referendum”

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Icons, Blood, and Legacy: How Empress Irene Got Past the Byzantine Glass Ceiling

Female rulers were an anomaly in medieval history. Many of the most notable thrones of the Middle Ages were never graced by a female monarch. While there were queens and empresses who had power through their husbands, few ruled in their own right. The Kingdom of France never had a female ruler in its entire history. The Holy Roman Empire was similarly situated (the only exception, Maria Theresa of Austria in the 18th century, was barred from being Holy Roman Emperor due to her gender).

The Byzantine Empire lasted for over a millennium (330-1453), and had three independent empresses. England is only coming up on the millennium mark in the 21st century, and even they have only had five queens (including the long-lived Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II). Although their reigns were relatively brief, the fact that Irene (r. 797-802), Zoe (r. 1042), and Theodora (r. 1042, 1055-1056) could rule at such a time shows the different mores Byzantium held in comparison to most of its medieval counterparts. The longest reigning of these, Irene, shocked the world and illustrated the greater access to power by Byzantine women than their neighbors by becoming the first female “Roman Emperor” in history. Continue reading “Icons, Blood, and Legacy: How Empress Irene Got Past the Byzantine Glass Ceiling”

Tasting the Sarma: Serbian Presidential Candidate Beli Not Just a Joke

Although Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić easily won the Serbian presidential election on Sunday with 56.1% of the vote, one of his opponents also stole headlines. Luka Maksimović, a 25-year old university student, ran in the election as Ljubiša “Beli” Preletačević, a satirical figure whose name means “the guy in white who switches his beliefs for political gain.” 

Student and 2017 presidential candidate Luka Maksimovic, 25, poses for a picture as his alter ego 'Ljubisa "Beli" Preletacevic' in Belgrade
Beli, played by Luka Maksimovic, in his signature white suit. | Marko Djurica, Reuters

Continue reading “Tasting the Sarma: Serbian Presidential Candidate Beli Not Just a Joke”

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