The Balkans region encompasses over 270,271.5 square miles (700,000 square km) across southeastern Europe. According to modern standards, the following countries are part of the region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and the European half of Turkey. Romania and Slovenia are sometimes included in the list, although they're not officially part of the Balkans. The area is so called after the mountain range of the same name.
Both the classic Greek and the Roman Empire were once part of the Balkans, as it later was the Byzantine Empire. In modern times, the region was the starting point for World War I. When Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was killed by a Serb, Austria eventually declared war on Serbia, which lead to the Great War or WWI.
Named after the Balkans Mountains that run from Serbia to the Black Sea, the region is a rich environment that includes everything from the Dinaric Alps in Slovenia to oak and beech woods inland. Because of the climate variety of the mountains, a visitor can find examples of both Mediterranean and Continental climate, with steady snowfall but low rainfall. Summers are usually warm and dry. The area's natural resources include grape growing and wine production, and deposits of coal and lignite, mining of copper, manganese, zinc and bauxite.
The population of the Balkans is as varied as its nature. Turks and Greeks make the largest percentage of the region's inhabitants, followed by Serbs and Bulgarians. All Balkan countries also have a certain number of nomad minorities, including Roma (Gypsy), Vlachs, and Gorani.
The Balkans have dealt with a series of historical violent events, including religious prosecution during World War II, when the Greek Catholic Church was ordered to merge with the Romanian Orthodox Church and certain minorities, including Gypsies, were openly discriminated. The collapse of the Yugoslav federation led to a decade long war and plentiful loss of civilian life. Ethnic cleansing forced many locals to flee the area during the 1990s.