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



North Macedonia

With the agreement to rename Macedonia to North Macedonia earlier this month, I published an article on what is to come next in Le Monde diplomatique.

This is a follow up on my article on the negotiations between Greece and Macedonia regarding the name change back in March.


Of Culture & Çay: A Visitor’s Guide to Istanbul

This guide is a comprehensive collection of advice based on my experiences studying abroad in Istanbul, Turkey for 10 weeks. I hope it is helpful to anyone that plans on visiting the wonderful city!

Of Culture & Çay: A Visitor’s Guide to Istanbul



The Ethnic Backgrounds of Byzantine Emperors

The Byzantine Empire was extremely cosmopolitan. Inside its borders lived Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Cappadocians, Pahlagonians, Germans, Isaurians, and many others. Nonetheless, Byzantines identified as Roman, a supra-ethnic form of identity that was continued from the Roman Empire. But while this Roman identity may have bound Byzantines together, ethnic identities and divisions still existed. Byzantine primary sources are replete with references to specific ethnicities inside the Empire, such as “Armenians” and “Isaurians.” Byzantine emperors were no different than their subjects in this respect; they were an ethnically diverse cadre of rulers.

Some Byzantine emperors were never ethnically identified in primary sources. In other cases, historians used terms that could refer to both a geographic or ethnic origin. It is not an easy task to delineate the ethnic origins of the Byzantine emperors. In the following paragraphs, I will try to lay out the ethnic origins of the 90 Byzantine emperors (not counting Basiliscus, Mezezius, Artabasdos, Michael IX, Andronikos IV, John VII, or Andronikos V, all of which were short-lived usurpers or junior emperors). Continue reading “The Ethnic Backgrounds of Byzantine Emperors”

Kosovo’s Progress Toward International Recognition

It is now nine years since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in the final step of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. In 2012, the number of UN member states that recognized Kosovo’s independence became a majority. Currently, Kosovo has been recognized by 57.5% of UN members (111 out of 193).

Flag of Kosovo

Continue reading “Kosovo’s Progress Toward International Recognition”

In the Footsteps of Rome: Byzantine Conceptions of Imperialism

Byzantine Eagle Outside of Constantinople Patriarchate Colossus
Double-Headed Eagle, Symbol of the Late Byzantine Empire, at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople | Colossus

When we think of empires, size is often what first comes to mind. Empires are big not only in geographical extent, but in power and number of people, often composed of many different ethnicities. But there are two sides to the coin for being an empire: what outsiders consider a state and what that state considers itself. Despite early reluctance to accept its imperial mantle during the Republic, Romans eventually developed and accepted an idea of themselves as masters of an empire. Its neighbors, however, had long before recognized Rome’s imperialism.

But what of Rome’s successor, the Byzantine Empire? By the time Constantinople fell in 1453, Byzantium was just a shadow of former Roman glory, territory, and might. But until the end, the difference between Rome and Byzantium was that Byzantium had no doubts as to its imperial nature but as time went on, its neighbors did. Continue reading “In the Footsteps of Rome: Byzantine Conceptions of Imperialism”

Mystras, Hidden Gem of Greece

Athens and Sparta are almost synonymous with popular conceptions of Greece. Images of the cradle of democracy and the den of mighty warriors have permeated our society from textbooks to the silver screen. But now that we are over two millennia away from the Golden Age of Greece, what can the modern day cities of Athens and Sparta offer travelers?

Athens’ monuments are well known. The current Greek capital has a wealth of ancient temples, a horde of archaeological finds, and sites such as the old agora, or marketplace. And of course it boasts the Parthenon, albeit a little worse for wear after a Venetian army exploded a Turkish gunpowder magazine in the temple in 1687. Thousands of tourists flock to the city each year.

But what about Sparta? Continue reading “Mystras, Hidden Gem of Greece”

The Danubian Principalities: National Memory from the Ottoman Era

Those that lived in the dark woods and mountains to the north of the Danube had long remained on the edge of autonomy. The Romans had defeated the ancient Dacians of today’s Romania in 106 AD, but the new Roman province of Dacia only incorporated part of these lands. As Germanic tribes swept into this region in the 3rd century, the Romans pulled out. Local rule persisted for centuries, with semi-regular foreign incursions, until the Danubian Principalities, Moldavia to the north and Wallachia to the south, became independent in the mid-14th century.

Italian Map of Wallachia and Moldavia by G. Pittori, 1782.jpg
Italian Map of Wallachia (South) and Moldavia (North) from 1782

It was in the 15th century, however, that these two principalities began their unique relationship with the Ottoman Empire that defined the two principalities for nearly four centuries and left its mark on the region, culture, and people. Continue reading “The Danubian Principalities: National Memory from the Ottoman Era”

Genocide: The Cursed and Unrecognized Legacy of Armenians and Greeks

Greeks and Armenians have often had connected experiences over the centuries. They lived as neighbors since pre-Roman times, Armenians were a prominent minority in the majority Greek Byzantine Empire, and both were subjects of the Ottoman Empire.

But they also shared the most tragic of experiences: genocide. In 2014, the Greek Parliament passed law 4285/2014, which outlawed the denial of not only the Holocaust, but also the Greek (1913-1922) and Armenian Genocides (1915-1922) in the Ottoman Empire. This law not only presents a strong stance against genocide deniers, but also shows the solidarity of the Greeks and Armenians in the face of lack of recognition and continued Turkish denial. Continue reading “Genocide: The Cursed and Unrecognized Legacy of Armenians and Greeks”

The Global Migrant Crisis and the Impact of Syria

The number of migrants worldwide is at a high point: 244 million in 2015, over 40% more migrants than in 2000. While some of the migrants move by choice, a substantial number are not so lucky. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) calculated that 65.3 million were forcibly displaced “as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations,” the highest number since the end of World War II. And this number is on the rise: 12.4 million people were newly displaced in 2015. Of the 65.3 million, 21.3 million were considered refugees. Continue reading “The Global Migrant Crisis and the Impact of Syria”

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