The Balkans are a geographic area of southeast Europe lying between Italy and Turkey. The area is named for the Balkan mountain range in Bulgaria and Serbia. The entire region is very hilly and mountainous and is a peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides.
The region was overrun by the Turks after the fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire in 1453. The Turks massacred millions of the native peoples of this region during their rule, but the people managed to maintain their identity through it all.
The current nations in this region gained their independence from the Ottomans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at the cost of much war and bloodshed. Most of the Balkan region fell under communist governments after World War II. Since the end of the Cold war the region has struggled to find peace and stable governments with varied success. Many thousands of people died in the last half of the 20th century in these lands.
Click on the link to color a map of the Balkan region and read more about the history and the people of these lands.
Use a student atlas to label the countries, capitals, major bodies of water and the Danube River. Older kids can also find the major mountain ranges and other major cities.