Line stretching from the northernmost point of the Adriatic to the northernmost point of the Black Sea. The Balkans are adjoined by water on three sides: the Black Sea to the east and branches of the Mediterranean Sea to the south and west (including the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean and Marmara seas).
The identity of the Balkans is dominated by its geographical position; historically the area was known as a crossroads of various cultures. It has been a juncture between the Latin and Greek bodies of the Roman Empire, the destination of a massive influx of pagan Slavs, an area where Orthodox and Catholic Christianity met, as well as the meeting point between Islam and Christianity.
The Balkans today is a very diverse ethno-linguistic region, being home to multiple Slavic, Romance, and Turkic languages, as well as Greek, Albanian, and others. Through its history many other ethnic groups with their own languages lived in the area, among them Thracians, Illyrians, Romans, Uzes, Pechenegs, Cumans, Avars, Celts, Germans and various Germanic tribes.
Possibly the historical event that left the biggest mark on the collective memories of the peoples of the Balkans was the expansion and later fall of the Ottoman Empire. Many people in the Balkans place their greatest folk heroes in the era of either the onslaught or the retreat of the Ottoman Empire. For Serbs, Miloš Obilić, for Albanians, Skanderbeg, for ethnic Macedonians, Nikola Karev, for Bosniaks, Husein Gradaščević and for Bulgarians, Vasil Levski.
In the 20th century, the Balkan nations—except Greece and Yugoslavia—were made part of the Warsaw pact (as a result of Soviet hegemony after the ending of World War II). Following the pact's collapse and the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Balkan states have acceded to the European Union, or are in the process of doing so.