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



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”

Eggs, Bracelets, and Grass: Spring Comes to the Balkans

Yesterday, Americans celebrated Groundhog’s Day, an odd, but perhaps also endearing tradition to welcome the coming of spring. Although Punxsutawney Phil may be unique, traditions that say good-bye to winter and welcome spring are not. From Poland’s drowning of the Marzanna (a straw doll) to throwing colored powder at each other in India’s Holi, the celebration of spring after a long winter is important in cultures across the globe.

The Balkans has its fair share of spring traditions as well. Many of them share characteristics of their neighbors, no doubt from centuries of cross-cultural contact. From giant vats to scrambled eggs to red and white woven bracelets tied to trees, the coming of spring is a time for celebration across the Balkans.

A Large Pot of Cimbur (scrambled eggs) | Travel Channel

Continue reading “Eggs, Bracelets, and Grass: Spring Comes to the Balkans”

With Sevil Shhaideh, Romania Could Make History

Romania’s Partidul Social Democrat (PSD; Social Democratic Party), which won Romania’s December 11 parliamentary elections, could make history for Romania. Liviu Dragnea, the chairman of the PSD, proposed Sevil Shhaideh as Romania’s next prime minister. Shhaideh would not only be the first female prime minister of Romania; she would also be the first Muslim prime minister of the country.

Continue reading “With Sevil Shhaideh, Romania Could Make History”

Re-emergence of the Balkans: Independence from the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire had dominated the Balkans for centuries, from the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 all the way into the 20th century. But while the Ottoman sultan may have still controlled a significant amount of land in the Balkans through the end of the First Balkan War (1912-1913), his hold on the region was severely weakened during the 19th century.

The unique cultures of the Serbs, Greeks, Romanians, Montenegrins, Bulgarians, and Albanians had not been submerged over time, and memories of their former medieval states still remained, along with a rising sense of nationalism. Rebellions in the Balkans against the Ottomans had happened before, such as the Banat Uprising by Serbians in 1594 and the Orlov Revolt in Greece in 1770, but none were successful until the 19th century. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the peoples of the Balkans took advantage of Ottoman decline and the interest of the Great Powers to gain their independence from the Ottoman Empire.   Continue reading “Re-emergence of the Balkans: Independence from the Ottoman Empire”

Blessing or a Curse? Dracula Tourism in Romania

Vlad III Tepes

Many countries around the world depend on tourism to boost their economy. How countries bring tourists in is often a mixture of state and private marketing, the political and social climate, and popular conceptions and imagination, among other aspects. Some countries can easily align some of their greatest draws with their own cultural values and image of themselves. A prime example would be the position of the Acropolis in Greece: it is central to Greek history, a reminder of the might and influence the Greeks once held, and popular with groups from across the globe – the Acropolis Museum had nearly 1.5 million tourists from June 2015-May 2016!

But sometimes countries don’t get such perfect fits for both their desired image and their tourism. This is the case of Dracula and Romania. Continue reading “Blessing or a Curse? Dracula Tourism in Romania”

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