Balkanization

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      division of a multinational state into smaller ethnically homogeneous entities. The term also is used to refer to ethnic conflict within multiethnic states. It was coined at the end of World War I to describe the ethnic and political fragmentation that followed the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, particularly in the Balkans. (The term Balkanization is today invoked to explain the disintegration of some multiethnic states and their devolution into dictatorship, ethnic cleansing, and civil war.)

      Balkanization has occurred in places other than the Balkans, including Africa in the 1950s and '60s, following the dissolution of the British and French colonial empires there. In the early 1990s the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the collapse of the Soviet Union led to the emergence of several new states—many of which were unstable and ethnically mixed—and then to violence between them.

      Many of the successor states contained seemingly intractable ethnic and religious divisions, and some made irredentist territorial claims against their neighbours. Armenia and Azerbaijan, for example, suffered from intermittent violence over ethnic enclaves and borders. In the 1990s in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ethnic divisions and intervention by Yugoslavia and Croatia led to widespread fighting between Serbs, Croatians, and Bosniacs (Muslims) for control of key villages and roads. Between 1992 and 1995, Bosnian Serbs and Serbian paramilitary groups conducted a nearly 1,400-day siege of Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, in an effort to break Muslim resistance. During the fighting, more than 10,000 people died, including some 1,500 children.

      Efforts by some countries to prevent Balkanization have themselves generated violence. During the 1990s, for example, Russia and Yugoslavia used force in attempts to quash independence movements in Chechnya and the ethnically Albanian province of Kosovo, respectively; in each case further violence ensued, resulting in the death and displacement of thousands of people.

      Efforts by the international community to cope with the ethnic warfare that has followed Balkanization have been mixed. European efforts to halt violence in Bosnia and Kosovo failed until air strikes by the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization compelled Serbian forces to cease their operations. Efforts to stem violence elsewhere (e.g., in Armenia and Azerbaijan) have been less successful.

Robert W. Pringle
 

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Balkanization — [[t]bɔ͟ːlkənaɪze͟ɪʃ(ə)n[/t]] N UNCOUNT (disapproval) (The spellings balkanization, and in British English balkanisation are also used.) If you disapprove of the division of a country into separate independent states, you can refer to the… …   English dictionary

  • balkanization — ˌ ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷nə̇ˈzāshən, ˌnīˈz noun ( s) Usage: often capitalized : the process of balkanizing : the state of being balkanized regretted the balkanization of South Africa and were anxious for some form of federation Leo Marquard perpetuate the… …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Balkanization — Balkanize (also Balkanise) ► VERB ▪ divide (a region or body) into smaller mutually hostile states or groups. DERIVATIVES Balkanization noun …   English terms dictionary

  • balkanization — noun see balkanize …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Balkanization — noun /ˈbɒl.kən.aɪ.zeɪ.ʃən,ˈbɑl.kən.aɪ.zeɪ.ʃən/ a) A geopolitical term to describe the fragmentation of a region into several small states that are often hostile or non cooperative with each other. b) Any disintegration process, such as that of… …   Wiktionary

  • balkanization — bal|kan|i|za|tion also sation BrE [ˌbo:lkənaıˈzeıʃən US ˌbo:lkənə ] n [U] [Date: 1900 2000; Origin: Balkans, the name of an area of southeast Europe with many small states that often fight each other] the practice of dividing a country into… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • balkanization — bal·kan·i·za·tion …   English syllables

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