The following is a short overview of Balkan history via Wikipedia.

he Balkan region was the first area of Europe to experience the arrival of farming cultures in the Neolithic era. The practices of growing grain and raising livestock arrived in the Balkans from the Fertile Crescent by way of Anatolia, and spread west and north into Pannonia and Central Europe.In pre-classical and classical antiquity, this region was home to Greeks, Illyrians, Paeonians, Thracians, and other ancient groups. Later the Roman Empire conquered most of the region and spread Roman culture and the Latin language but significant parts still remained under classical Greek influence. During the Middle Ages, the Balkans became the stage for a series of wars between the Byzantine, Bulgarian and Serbian Empires.

By the end of the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire became the controlling force in the region, although it was centered around Anatolia. In the past 550 years, because of the frequent Ottoman wars in Europe fought in and around the Balkans, and the comparative Ottoman isolation from the mainstream of economic advance (reflecting the shift of Europe's commercial and political centre of gravity towards the Atlantic), the Balkans has been the least developed part of Europe.The Balkan nations began to regain their independence in the 19th century(Greece), and in 1912-1913 a Balkan League reduced Turkey's territory to its present extent in the Balkan Wars. The First World War was sparked in 1914 by the assassination in Sarajevo (the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina) of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.

After the Second World War, the Soviet Union and communism played a very important role in the Balkans. During the Cold War, most of the countries in the Balkans were ruled by Soviet-supported communist governments.However, despite being under communist governments, Yugoslavia (1948) and Albania (1961) fell out with the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia, led by marshal Josip Broz Tito (18921980), first propped up then rejected the idea of merging with Bulgaria, and instead sought closer relations with the West, later even joining many third world countries in the Non-Aligned Movement. Albania on the other hand gravitated toward Communist China, later adopting an isolationist position.The only non-communist countries were Greece and Turkey, which were (and still are) part of NATO.

In the 1990s, the region was gravely affected by armed conflict in the former Yugoslav republics, resulting in intervention by NATO forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia. The status of Kosovo and ethnic Albanians in general is still mostly unresolved. Balkan countries control the direct land routes between Western Europe and South West Asia (Asia Minor and the Middle East). Since 2000, all Balkan countries are friendly towards the EU and the USA.Greece has been a member of the European Union since 1981; Slovenia and Cyprus since 2004. Bulgaria and Romania are set to become members in 2007. In 2005 Croatia, Turkey and the Republic of Macedonia were accepted as candidates for the European Union membership and the accession negotiations could begin. As of 2004, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia are also members of NATO. All other countries have expressed a desire to join the EU but at some date in the future.