The great area of mountain, table-land, and river valley stretching from the Black and Aegean seas on the east, to the Adriatic on the west, and extending from the Mediterranean north to the crest of the Tyrolese and Transylvanian Alps, has long been loosely designated, from historical and political, rather than from geographical reasons, by the single name, the Balkans; literally, the mountain gaps. It includes the present independent states, Rumania, Bulgaria, Servia, and Montenegro, the Balkans par excellence, with which belong, geographically or racially, Greece, European Turkey, and the Austrian provinces of Dalmatia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.
A greater variety of people is scarcely to be found in Europe. The Slavs are racially in the majority; the orthodox Greek Christians outnumber the numerous other creeds; and the vast bulk of the superficial area is thinly sprinkled with mountaineers, superb in physique, dense in their ignorance of the rudiments of education, fierce in their opposition to the pressure of orderly, centralized administration. The heterogeneous population is descended from the remnants of the vast disorderly hordes which poured into Europe from Asia Minor and the Steppes of Russia, between the third and the sixteenth centuries: fragments of the tribes conquered by the Huns and the Goths during their devastating passage; sections of the invaders too weak to keep up with the main body; people driven out of the Byzantine Empire by the Ottoman invasions; fragments of the advance-guard of various expeditions who outstripped the main body and then, upon its retreat, were left behind. In development and intelligence, the people include such extremes as the scarcely civilized hillmen of Montenegro; the stolid, inert Bulgarian peasantry; and the alert, capable, cultivated citizens of Sofia and Athens. An American correspondent tells of a bootblack who introduced him to his uncle, the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, and adds that neither uncle nor nephew seemed aware of any difference in social status. By grazing, and by a rude agriculture, these diverse peoples supported themselves for centuries and, in the main, still do so. Poverty-stricken (until lately), individually and collectively, isolated (until lately) from the world and from each other by the difficulties of communication, they became inevitably narrow, bigoted, fiercely partisan, unprogressive, certainly in no way fitted to influence the affairs of Europe.