10 facts that put Balkans on the world map
In Southeast Europe, the Balkans embrace Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. Portions of Greece and Turkey are also located within this geographic region. The region is known for its turbulent past, diversity, multicultural towns, impressive mountains and coastline, hearty food, and traditional folk music. In addition, the Balkans have impacted world events more than one would expect.
Author: Barbara Matijašič
1. The assassination in Sarajevo of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria- Hungarian empire, is considered the immediate cause of World War I
On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, during their visit to Sarajevo, now Bosnia and Herzegovina. The assassination of Archduke, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, is believed to have triggered the World War I which lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918.
2. The Yugo, possibly the worst car in history
The production of the iconic car was located in the Serbian city of Kragujevac from 1977 to 2008. In its 30-year lifespan, the brand saw close to 795,000 cars produced, with 250,000 sold to foreign countries. While the other parts of the world regularly doubted the consistency of the car’s quality (TIME featured the Yugo GV on the list of ’50 Worst Cars of All Time), the Yugo was a common choice in all parts of the former Yugoslav territory. In some parts of the region, it is not uncommon to see one on the highway even today.
3. Nikola Tesla, the discoverer of the rotating magnetic field, the basis of most alternatingcurrent machinery, is of Serbian origin
Nikola Tesla (1856–1943) was an unconventional genius, renowned for designing alternating current (AC), electrical oscillators, and the Tesla Coil. Tesla was born to Serbian parents in the territory of today’s Croatia. There is a museum dedicated to his life and legacy in Belgrade, Serbia, which also features his ashes in a golden urn.
4. The invention of a necktie can be attributed to Croats
The modern history of the necktie has its origins in France. But it is not a French innovation, but actually something that was used by Croatian troops during the 30-year war (from 1618 to 1648). The word “cravatte,” the predecessor to neckties, originates from “la Croate” meaning “Croat,” in French. It relates to the decorative items that during the 30-year war the Croatian Vallerists had tied around their necks – It was something they were quickly identified by. Silk neckties were exclusively reserved for officers while soldiers were content with simpler materials.
5. The former First Lady of the United States Melania Trump is Slovenian
Born as Melanija Knavs in Sevnica, Slovenia, on 26 April 1970, Melania chose a modelling career. She married the businessman and real estate developer Donald Trump in January 2005, and became the First Lady of the USA when her husband was elected president in 2016. The rest is history. Literally.
6. The American electoral system might have been inspired by the Duchy of Carantania, which covered present-day north-eastern Slovenia
It is claimed that the Carantan ceremony influenced the innovative American idea of government. In the 7th and 8th centuries, as a new Duke was about to be established in the Duchy of Carantania, he did not take authority purely through divine right. Instead, he faced a farmer who had been chosen by common citizens.
The prospective duke was only allowed to take his oath after public acceptance. In the 1960s, Slovenian- American professor Joseph Felicijan made the discovery that president Thomas Jefferson had personally marked the page describing the installation ceremony in a book by the French political philosopher Jean Bodin. It is believed that this is what Jefferson had read before drafting the Declaration of Independence.
7. Mother Teresa, a saint who was born in Skopje, North Macedonia
Ask someone who is Mother Teresa, and they’ll know for sure. Her contributions to missionary and humanitarian work made her a famous figure around the world. She received the Nobel Peace Award in 1979 before being beatified and subsequently canonized in 2003 and 2016, respectively. Mother Teresa was born to Albanian parents in modern-day Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia.
8. The invention of a parachute – It was a man from Croatia who actually made into a real thing!
While the first to come up with the concept of a parachute was Leonardo da Vinci, the first to successfully build one in practice was Faust Vrančić, born in Šibenik, Croatia. In 1617, he built the first parachute out of a wooden frame and fabric. Vrančić was an engineer, philosopher, and lexicographer who, in his book Machinae Novae, explains in detail the design of his parachute and 56 other inventions (New Machines).
9. Promising commercial and film industry opportunities in the Balkans
The legendary adventures of Apache chief Winnetou (based on Karl May’s novels), Mamma Mia, and Game of Thrones are all famous movies (and series) shot in Croatia. In addition, Slovenia is also a recognized location for movie and commercial shoots – the 2020 Christmas ad for the American web giant Amazon was filmed at various locations in Ljubljana. The region is also home to Sarajevo film festival, launched in 1995, which nowadays attracts filmmakers from around the world.
10. The tram network in Sarajevo dates back to 1885 and acted as a test line for trams in Vienna
The Sarajevo tramway, which opened on New Year’s Day in 1885, was the test line for trams in Vienna and the Austro- Hungarian Empire. It is one of the oldest in Europe and it was first operated by horses. The Sarajevo tramway system has seven lines as of 2010, operating along a single path and a branch to the main railway station in the area.