Globalizing the Balkans

Date: 31 August 2017, 02:30–05:30

Venue: Corvinus University, Fővám tér 8, room 305



The panel focusses on the effects of a decade of war and revolution (1912-1923) as a critical juncture for economic, social, and cultural development in the Balkans region. In an attempt at overcoming the national paradigm the suggested three papers address fundamental transnational processes (economic integration and disintegration, social protest against hunger and speculation, population movements and migration policies). The panel centers on the question how the Balkans transformed into a globally interconnected space, establishing new networks of interaction and communication.

Convenor / Chair

Marie-Janine Calic (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)


Marie-Janine Calic (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
Mary Neuburger (University of Texas in Austin)
Isa Blumi (Stockholm University)
Anna Vlachopoulou (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
Leyla von Mende (University of Jena)


Marie-Janine Calic: Globalization and de-globalization revisited

This paper treats the so-called “first phase of globalization” from the 1870s to the Second World War. It looks into driving forces and actors of both global integration and disintegration, with the 1912/13-1923 period as a political and economic watershed. The paper will understand ´globalization´ as a multidimensional set of social processes intensifying worldwide interdependencies and exchanges as well as growing awareness of ´the global´. It will outline local manifestations of an unprecedented development of transportation and communication networks, the rapid growth of international trade, and a huge inflow of capital in different countries by which the Balkans witnessed an unparalleled acceleration of market integration, but also unfavorable terms of trade, economic competition and industrial decline. The First World War then marked the end of the first global economy causing a serious contraction in trade and capital flows in the interwar period. But this phase of “de-globalization” happened only in the economic field. Meanwhile political actors mobilized global networks for their political aims, and in contrast to economic disentanglement the cultural sphere saw an intensification and acceleration of social exchanges and activities across the globe.

Mary Neuburger: Hungary for revolution: Food, war and instability in Bulgaria, 1914-1918

This paper explores the ways in which Bulgaria was brought to the brink of revolution as a result of incorporation into the Central Powers’ war economy. In particular, it traces the circulation of agricultural products, especially food supplies, from Bulgaria to Central Europe over the course of the war. It reflects back on the pre-war movement of borders, peoples, and goods as part of a larger integration into the world economy and the kinds of dependencies and vulnerabilities this engendered. It argues that while the range of trade partners shifted, if anything the war years brought an intensification of foreign exchange and in part a shift from food production to other kinds of agricultural products for the needs of the Central Powers. By the end of the war such shifts had catastrophic results on the Bulgarian front and home fronts. In light of acute hunger and the continued funneling of Bulgarian foodstuffs to Central Europe and local Austro-German troops, anger mounted by late 1916. Finally, in the shadow of the Russian Revolution, various forces in Bulgarian society mobilized in protest against hunger, “speculation”, and economic Imperialism.

Isa Blumi: Settling globally: The logistics of history and the consequences of refugees

This paper will explore the significant movement of peoples caused by violence in the Balkans since at least the 1912 Balkan Wars and only ending in the 1930s with a last outburst of state policies to “balance” demographically newly created Balkan states. The logistics of either realizing a policy of forcefully removing people or, more the focus in this paper, the settlement of such peoples has dramatic consequences on the means by which the post-Ottoman states of the Balkans established authority in still unstable communities. The influx of refugees ultimately transformed the Balkan state into a mechanism as much invested in allocating new powers to intermediaries as investing in coercive capacities that looked increasingly like the modern state’s investment into internal security. That much of the political and economic competition that arises in this period can be read through the prism of the consequences of this refugee settlement is the ultimate intervention of this paper. Drawing from on-going research into the national archives of Albania, former Yugoslavia, and those foreign states observing events through their consuls, it is possible to offer a new appreciation for what forms of globalization take in a Balkans in demographic flux.

Anna Vlachopoulou: Going global: Greek family-business in the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea Region in the 19th century

The paper contributes to the investigation of social, economic and transcultural entanglements between the Ottoman Empire and regions of Western Europe, Russia and Asia. It aims at a better understanding of the history of the Balkans in the process of globalization in the “long 19th century” by focusing on the trading houses of the Greek families Rallis and Zarifis as a vantage point, tracing the expansion of their respective business-networks from local family-firm to “global player”. The paper shall focus on business strategies applied by the trading houses to adapt to the ever changing economic and political landscape and especially at the way revolutionary ruptures or wars changed, hindered or enhanced the process of expansion and globalization.

Leyla von Mende: Ottoman travellers in Southeast Europe in the early 20th century

In the early 20th century several Ottomans travelled to Southeast Europe and published their observations in Ottoman-Turkish newspapers. They were bureaucrats, literati and journalists/war correspondents. In the period under consideration (1912-1923) Bulgaria and Romania were favoured as travel destinations. This paper seeks to show how Ottoman travellers used the region and certain states respectively as a projection screen to position themselves, their home country and society of origin within different hierarchies (political, cultural, social etc.). Their multiple perspectives could range from a position of inferiority to equality and superiority, which, depending on the author, resulted in different self-representations and representations of the Other. By describing people, landscapes and cities in geographical and temporal terms the visited Southeast European states oscillated between being somehow international and regional, post-Ottoman and European at the same time. The Ottoman travellers describe the places visited as “globally interconnected spaces“. What is more, those places appear to enable them to represent themselves as global actors.

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