May 26, 2018

Balkan Beefcake

The Balkan Peninsula is one of the most fascinating regions in the world, the site of the Byzantine Empire, under Ottoman Rule for centuries (so there is a substantial Muslim population), fought over during World War I, turned into Yugoslavia, and then split up again.  Mostly South Slavic languages.  Let's work south from Austria:

1. Slovenia.  The capital, Ljubljana, has some interesting Hapsburg-era architecture and three bath houses.

2. Serbia.  The most populous of the former Yugoslav states. We used to learn Serbo-Croatian in school, but now they are two languages, Serbian written in Cyrillic, Croatian written in Roman. Still, they are practically identical.

Which way to your house?
Serbian: Koji put do kuća sobe?
Croatian: Koji put do kuća sobe?

These swimmers are from Novi Sad, the second largest city in Serbia (after Belgrade).

3. Croatia.  Another difference: Croatians are mostly Roman Catholic, while Serbians are mostly Eastern Orthodox.

4. Dalmatia is now part of Croatia, but it was an independent kingdom for centuries (or as independent as you can be when you're part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire).  It even had its own language, Dalmatian.  A Romance language (related to Italian and Romanian), Dalmatian became extinct during the 19th century.

5. Bosnia and Herzegovina.  About half the population is Bosniak; the remainder are mostly Serbs and Croats (Herzegovina is a political entity, not an ethnicity).

This is Bosnian bodybuilder Mirsad Terzo.

More after the break

6. Kosovo

Ramadan Hiseni is a Kosovo boxer now living in Zurich.

7. Montenegro.  How did a Slavic state come to be called Montenegro ("Black Mountain" in Romance?).  The Montenegrin language is a local dialect of Serbo-Croatian.

8. Macedonia.  Not the province of Greece where Alexander the Great was born. When I was a kid, the book My Village in Yugoslavia portrayed Macedonia as a bucolic paradise of shepherd-boys.  It's a diverse country, about 2/3rds Macedonian, the rest Albanian, Turkish, and Romani.

Macedonian swimmer Marko Blazevski competed in the 2012 Olympics.

9. Albania.  When I was a kid in the 1970s, I was fascinated by Albania, then the only predominantly Muslim country in Europe, with a language distinct in the Indo-European family:

I have a big sausage
Serbian: Imam veliku kobasicu
Albanian: Kam një suxhuk të madh

10. Bulgaria

Haouas Laroussi, Bulgarian model 

See also: Albanian Men; A Beefcake Tour of Eastern Europe

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