Ethnic Minorities In The Balkan States 1860–1971

ISBN:  (13) 978-1-84097-035-7     First published: 2003
Extent:  6 volumes, 4,400 pages    Editor:   B. Destani
Paper: Printed on acid free paper  
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish  
See sample pages: not available


This collection of documents has been brought together in an attempt to add a depth of understanding to consideration of the ethnic conflicts within the Balkan region over the last 150 years. It is wide-ranging in its coverage of the position and treatment of ethnic minorities within the Balkan states and beyond. Countries covered are: Albania; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Dalmatia; Greece; Kosovo; Macedonia; Moldavia; Montenegro; Romania; Serbia; Slovenia; Transylvania; Turkey; and, to some extent, the Austrian Empire. It will be discovered that within each state is a minority of some kind with a degree of persecution formed against them, whether they be Jews, Magyars, Circassians, Muslims, Christians or former residents of a different country such as Greeks in Turkey or Albanians in Greece.


In the nineteenth century, in the absence of an international body such as the League of Nations, petitions and grievances were frequently addressed to the ‘Great Powers’, especially to Great Britain, which had an interest in the Balkan states from the early nineteenth century. The rationale for commencing this work at 1860 is to illustrate the position of various populations and ethnic groups prior to the Congress of Berlin (1878), after which their situation worsened considerably as a result of territorial adjustments based on political and nationalistic considerations rather than ethnicity. With the creation of each new independent state over the years, minorities were increasingly isolated and their problems, far from being resolved, tended to increase, despite attempts by the London Conference of Ambassadors in 1913, the Peace Conference of 1919–20, the Lausanne Conference and subsequent Minorities Treaty of 1923, and various United Nations declarations on minorities and human rights.
The first partition of the Ottoman Empire in 1878, combined with the growth of the spirit of nationalism, had a profound and direct effect on the region which later came to be known as the Balkan peninsula. The second stage of the waning of Turkish power and rule resulted from the Balkan Wars of 1912–13, culminating in the Treaty of Bucharest of 1913, in which Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia attempted to enlarge their territories in order to divide the Ottoman Empire. However, the idea of neatly demarcating these territories was an impossible goal. Moreover, these countries further divided Albania and Macedonia, with disastrous results for the minorities there. The situation was aggravated by the advent of World War I with many atrocities and harassment such as forced conversion of Muslims to Christianity, combined with further migration.
The disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires after the Treaty of Versailles, caused the political map of the Balkans to change radically. The creation of new states, such as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, was accompanied by the forced annexation of the territories of Macedonia and Kosovo in 1920. At the creation of Albania in 1913, and its recognition in 1920, half of the former population was left outside Albania, in territory assigned to Greece. Transylvania was further divided between Romania and Hungary, and Macedonia was divided between Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Greece.
Under the League of Nations in 1920, the position of minorities was intensely reviewed and scrutinised from a legal rather than political perspective. The culmination of the League’s work must be the Minorities Treaty of 1923, crucial for resolving some of the problems, and this set of volumes focuses heavily on documentation from that period. However, despite this treaty minorities in the Balkans continued to be treated unjustly, and it is hoped that the documentary examples published here such as the problems encountered by Jews throughout the Balkans, by Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia, by Albanians in Chemeria, and the German forced emigration from Voyvodena, will provide some insights into these events.
After World War II, as most of the Balkan peninsula became part of the Eastern bloc, minorities in most of the countries were deprived of many of their rights. Forced emigration of Jews from Romania, Pomaks from Bulgaria, and Albanians from Yugoslavia continued into the 1960s, and the pattern has been a constant one right up to the Balkan conflicts of the late 1980s.


The treatment and movement of ethnic minorities within the Balkan states has been a trigger in the instability of Europe over the last two centuries and the long history of ethnic conflict is key to understanding the recent wars in Bosnia and Kosovo and to predicting probable outbreaks in future. There follows a brief outline of the coverage of each volume:

Volume 1 covers the period 1860–1885 and includes 204 documents
Among the topics covered are the conditions of Christians in Turkey and the role of the Russian government in working towards an improvement in conditions for the Christian population in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Bulgaria. The state of Christians in the vilayet of Kosovo is described in 1880 (documents 147, 148). Another document group relates to the condition of Jews in Serbia and Romania, and underlines the harsh conditions and treatment meted out to them. Previously undiscovered reports relating to the emigration of Muslims from Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1880s are to be found in document 167 and others. The position and emigration of Muslims from Montenegro is described in 1881 (documents 169–170). Other previously unpublished documents relate to Albanian proprietors in Serbia, who lost their property to the Serbs (documents 179, 180, 189). After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, the conditions for Muslims and Turks alike worsened under the Bulgarians, and this can be seen in document 92 of 1879. Following the Congress of Berlin in 1878, the Serbian army forcibly removed several hundred thousand Albanians from territory which had been ceded to Serbia (documents 109, 110, 111, 115, 116).

Volume 2 covers the period 1888–1914, and contains 128 documents
This volume deals chiefly with the effects on minorities of the Balkan Wars of 1912–13, and the beginnings of World War I. Documents include reports of atrocities committed by Serbian troops and their evident intention of extirpating as many Albanians as possible (documents 45, 66, 72, 76, 81). It is important to note the position of Kutzo-Vlachs in various parts of the Balkans: a memo by Aubrey Herbert (later an MP) describes this group in 1904 (document 26). Various reports by the British Consul relate to the position of Albanians and Macedonians under Serbian rule (documents 49, 60). Reports of anti-Jewish excesses in Greece are often detailed (documents 50, 51). Evidence of forcible conversion of Muslims by Bulgarians, and the massacre of Muslims in Macedonia is reported in documents 64, 73, 83.

Volume 3 covers the period 1914–1923, and contains 141 documents
This volume is inevitably dominated by the events of the aftermath of World War I, specifically the opportunity afforded by the Paris Peace Conference, the Conference of Lausanne and the subsequent treaty: the single most important document of its time dealing with minorities. It deals chiefly with the exchanges of population between Turkey and Greece which include Greeks, Turks, Albanian Muslims and Albanian Orthodox groups. It also illustrates the position of minorities in various parts of the Balkans, in relaying the treatment of Albanians in Greece and Greeks in Albania, which can be seen in documents 78, 79, 80, 90, 91, 95, 96, 98. There is a significant report by Mrs Margaret Hasluck, an expert on the region, on her experiences and observations in Greek Macedonia. The general condition of the Jews in the Balkans is addressed in documents 113, 114, 116, 121, 131, 132. Most of the files providing documents 51–76 are drawn from class FO 608, which relates to the Peace Conference, and includes many petitions in their original formats.
Examples of emigration of the Muslim populace from Macedonia, Greece and Bulgaria, as a result of World War I are described in documents: 5, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 21, 36, and 39. There is information on the position and treatment of Albanians under the Serbs and the Greeks (documents 1, 2, 22, 24, 25). Aspects of the position of Greeks in Thrace, Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria are described in documents 2, 16, 25. As for the position and oppressive treatment of the Jewish population in Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, instances can be found in documents 51, 53, 56, 57, 58, and 61, mainly from 1912.

Volume 4 covers the period 1923–1926, and contains 68 documents
This is a period dominated by the appeals to, and activities of, the League of Nations, especially relating to Bulgarian deportees in Thessaly and Western Thrace and the legal aspects of the Greco-Bulgarian Emigration Convention. The Bulgarian minority in Western Thrace lobbied the League of Nations Minorities Commission extensively: this is referred to, for example, in document 34. The Bulgarian minority in Greece also petitioned the League of Nations (document 59). The Greek minority in Albania and Bulgaria is referred to in document 54.
There is also an important memo by the Secretary-General of the League of Nations relating to minorities in Albania (documents 17, 20). Furthermore, the alleged cruel treatment of Albanians by the Serb–Croat–Slovene government is described in detail in document 21. The position of Albanians in Greece is shown in documents 28, 29, 36, and 42–45. The persecution of the Serbs in Macedonia is traced through documents 57–58, 60. The Minority Protocol is located at document 55.

Volume 5 covers the period 1927–1938 and contains 106 documents
This is a period exemplified by increasing problems and appeals to the League of Nations, but with little concrete resolution of any outstanding problems. Albanian minorities, especially in Greece, attempted to get recourse for the confiscation of their property by Greeks (documents 41, 48, 49). Equally the issue of Greek schooling in Albania caused a major dispute, initially resolved by The Hague but ultimately attracting the intervention of King Zog acting against the ruling of the Hague Court (see document 80). Religious minorities in Albania experienced difficulties as well; the position of Catholics was considered in a petition from the Catholic Archbishops and Bishops in 1936 (document 89). Bulgarians in Greece were most exercised on the topic of the Zograv Monastery at Mount Athos in 1929 (document 8).
Treatment of the German minority in Yugoslavia can be found in document 39, describing how they were oppressed in Slovenia. Included in this volume are German Foreign Ministry documents from 1938–40, relating to the treatment of Germans in Romania and Yugoslavia (document 105).
The position of Croats in the Yugoslav Kingdom when they were harassed, oppressed and murdered by Serbs is discussed in documents 57–60.
This was a period of increasing emigration and harsh treatment of the Jewish populace (document 81); and for Romanian Jews in 1938 (documents 98, 99, 100).

Volume 6 covers the period 1939–1971 and contains 113 documents
This is one of the most important volumes in the set for understanding the position of minorities in the Balkans because virtually every minority is addressed at some point. The position of Jews in Bulgaria, Dalmatia, Macedonia, Romania, and of German Jews is addressed throughout. Included is a memorandum from the World Jewish Congress at Geneva in 1939 (document 7). Bulgaria experienced anti-Jewish demonstrations, and expulsions of Jews were reported by British officials (document 1).
Expulsions of Jews from Croatia in 1944 (documents 26, 27, 28), were minuted by Capt. Evelyn Waugh. Most significant is a list of 650 Jews evacuated from Croatia (documents 32–34). Jewish emigration and anti-Semitism is described in Romania in 1957 (document 91).
Albanian minority activities in Yugoslavia can be found within document 49, with historical background and in document 90 (1957). The treatment of Albanians in Greece is described in document 65 of 1945, and arises again in 1969.
Before the war there were over 500,000 Germans in Yugoslavia; afterwards they had virtually disappeared from that region. Other smaller minority groups such as the Hungarians in Yugoslavia are noted in document 47, and there is a general interest in ‘lesser minorities’, such as the Macedonian minority in Yugoslavia in 1959 (document 93).
Document 104 deals with the fall of vice-President Rankovic and the re-organisation of the Secret Police. Documents 105, 106, 107, 112, chiefly deal with the position of Croats and events in Croatia in 1971, where there was one of the first post-war nationalist movements in Yugoslavia.