balkan scissors

Friday, December 22, 2006

Nature and natural resources

Most of the area is covered by mountain ranges running from north-west to south-east. The main ranges are the Dinaric Alps in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, the Šar massif which spreads from Albania to Republic of Macedonia and the Pindus range, spanning from southern Albania into central Greece. In Bulgaria there are ranges running from east to west: the Balkan mountains and the Rhodope mountains at the border with Greece. The highest mountain of the region is Musala in Bulgaria at 2925 m, with Mount Olympus in Greece, the throne of Zeus, being second at 2919 m and Vihren in Bulgaria being the third at 2914.

On the coasts the climate is Mediterranean, in the inland it is moderate continental. In the northern part of the peninsula and on the mountains, winters are frosty and snowy, while summers are hot and dry. In the southern part winters are milder.

During the centuries many woods have been cut down and replaced with bush and brush. In the southern part and on the coast there is evergreen vegetation. In the inland there are woods typical of Central Europe (oak and beech, and in the mountains, spruce, fir and pine). The tree-line in the mountains lies at the height of 1800-2300 m.

The soils are generally poor, except on the plains where areas with natural grass, fertile soils and warm summers provide an opportunity for tillage. Elsewhere, land cultivation is mostly unsuccessful because of the mountains, hot summers and poor soils, although certain cultures such as olives and grapes flourish.

Resources of energy are scarce. There are some deposits of coal, especially in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia. Lignite deposits are widespread in Greece. Petroleum is most notably present in Romania, although scarce reserves exist in Greece, Serbia, Albania and Croatia. Natural gas deposits are scarce. Hydropower stations are largely used in energetics.

Metal ores are more usual than other raw materials. Iron ore is rare but in some countries there is a considerable amount of copper, zinc, tin, chromite, manganese, magnesite and bauxite. Some metals are exported.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Balkan Peninsula

Line stretching from the northernmost point of the Adriatic to the northernmost point of the Black SeaThe Balkans are sometimes referred to as the "Balkan Peninsula" as they 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 Balkans

The identity of the Balkans owes as much to its fragmented and often violent common history as to its mountainous geography. The region was perennially on the edge of great empires, its history dominated by wars, rebellions, invasions and clashes between empires, from the times of the Roman Empire to the latter-day Yugoslav wars.

Its fractiousness and tendency to splinter into rival political entities led to the coining of the term Balkanization (or balkanizing). The term Balkan commonly connotes a connection with violence, religious strife, ethnic clannishness and a sense of hinterland. The Balkans, as they are known today, have changed dramatically over the course of their history.

Although the former characterization of the Balkans is widely used and extremely common today, it is important to note that this characterization is also widely exaggerated and may be connected to historically negative connotations the Balkans have amongst Western European nations and political elites. Recent problems and conflicts in the Balkans have more to do with a complicated set of factors having to do with recent political and social divisions rather than the so-called age-old 'tendency' of the Balkan peoples to engage in war and conflicts. The tendency to portray the Balkans in this way has been studied extensively by Maria Todorova, whose book Imagining the Balkans deals with these issues.

It should be noted that the Southern and Eastern parts of the Balkans were relatively stable despite the turmoil in the Western part. Countries in the south such as Greece and in the east such as Bulgaria and Romania haven't experienced the horrors of the recent wars such as their Western counterparts, even if the latter two have suffered internal problems. Not withstanding that, Bulgaria and Romania are also set to join the European Union on January 1, 2007, and Greece has been a member since 1981.

Etymology and evolving meaning
The region takes its name from the "Balkan" mountain range in Bulgaria (from a Turkish word meaning "a chain of wooded mountains" [1]). On a larger scale, one long continuous chain of mountains crosses the region in the form of a reversed letter S, from the Carpathians south to the Balkan range proper, before it marches away east into Anatolian Turkey. On the west coast, an offshoot of the Dinaric Alps follows the coast south through Dalmatia and Albania, crosses Greece and continues into the sea in the form of various islands. The word was based on Turkish balakan 'stone, cliff', which confirms the pure 'technical' meaning of the term. The mountain range that runs across Bulgaria from west to east (Stara Planina) is still commonly known as the Balkan Mountains.

As time passed, the term gradually obtained political connotations far from its initial geographic meaning, arising from political changes from the late 1800s to the creation of post-World War I Yugoslavia (initially the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes). Zeune's goal was to have a geographical parallel term to the Italic and Iberian Peninsula, and seemingly nothing more. The gradually acquired political connotations are newer, and, to a large extent, due to oscillating political circumstances. After the split of Yugoslavia beginning in June 1991, the term 'Balkans' again received a negative meaning, even in casual usage. Over the last decade, in the wake of the former Yugoslav split, Croatians and especially Slovenians have rejected their former label as 'Balkan nations'. This is in part due to the pejorative connotation of the term 'Balkans' in the 1990s, and continuation of this meaning until now. Today, the term 'Southeast Europe' is preferred or, in the case of Slovenia and sometimes Croatia, 'Central Europe'.

Even if incorrect, both historically and politically, it is probable that "Balkans" will continue to have a wider, and pejorative, meaning.

Southeastern Europe
Due to the aforementioned connotations of the term 'Balkan', many people prefer the term Southeastern Europe instead. The use of this term is slowly growing; a European Union initiative of 1999 is called the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, and the online newspaper Balkan Times renamed itself Southeast European Times in 2003.

The use of this term to mean the Balkan peninsula (and only that) technically ignores the geographical presence of northern Romania and Ukraine, which are also located in the southeastern part of the European continent.

Ambiguities and controversies
The northern border of the Balkan peninsula is usually considered to be the line formed by the Danube, Sava and Kupa rivers and a segment connecting the spring of the Kupa with the Kvarner Bay.

Some other definitions of the northern border of the Balkans have been proposed:

the line Danube - Sava - Krka (river in Slovenia) - Postojnska Vrata - Vipava River - Isonzo River (also known as Soča river)
the line Danube - Sava - Ljubljansko polje - Idrijca river - Soča river
the line Dniester - Timişoara - Zagreb - Triglav
the line Trieste - Odessa (Trieste-Odessa line) [2]
the line Bay of Trieste - Ljubljana - Sava - Danube ([3])

Balkan peninsula (as defined by the Danube-Sava-Kupa line)The most commonly used Danube-Sava-Kupa northern boundary is arbitrarily set as to the physiographical characteristics, however it can be easily recognized on the map. It has a historical and cultural substantiation. The region so defined (together with Romania and excluding Montenegro, Dalmatia, and the Ionian Islands) constituted most of the European territory of the Ottoman Empire from the late 15th to the 19th century. The Kupa forms a natural boundary between south-eastern Slovenia and Croatia and has been a political frontier since the 12th century, separating Carniola (belonging to Austria) from Croatia (belonging to Hungary).

The Danube-Sava-Krka-Postojnska Vrata-Vipava-Isonzo line ignores some historical and cultural characteristics, but can be seen as a rational delimitation of the Balkan peninsula from a geographical point of view. It assigns all the Karstic and Dinaric area to the Balkan region.

The Sava bisects Croatia and Serbia and the Danube, which is the second largest European river (after Volga), forms a natural boundary between both Bulgaria and Serbia and Romania. North of that line lies the Pannonian plain and (in the case of Romania) the Carpathian mountains.

Although Romania (with the exception of Dobrudja) is not geographically a part of the Balkans, it is often included in the Balkans in public discourse.

According to the most commonly used border, Slovenia lies to the north of the Balkans and is considered a part of Central Europe. Historically and culturally, it is also more related to Central Europe, although the Slovenian culture also incorporates some elements of Balkan culture.

However, as already stated, the northern boundary of the Balkan peninsula can also be drawn otherwise, in which case at least a part of Slovenia and a small part of Italy (Province of Trieste) may be included in the Balkans.

Slovenia is also sometimes regarded as a Balkan country due to its association with the former Yugoslavia. When the Balkans are described as a twentieth-century geopolitical region, the whole Yugoslavia is included (so, Slovenia, Istria, islands of Dalmatia, northern Croatia and Vojvodina too).

The aforementioned historical justification for the Sava-Kupa northern boundary would exclude a big part of Croatia (whose territories were by and large part of the Habsburg Monarchy and Venetian Republic during the Ottoman conquest). Other factors such as prior history and culture also bind Croatia to Central Europe and the Mediterranean region more than they bind it to the Balkans. Nevertheless, its peculiar geographic shape (as well as its recent history with Yugoslavia) inherently associates it with the region Bosnia and Herzegovina is part of.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Dropping Israeli, Middle Eastern, and Balkan Beats All Over America: Dancefloors Quake to Balkan Beat Box on September/October Tour

Blending electronic music, hip hop beats, and hard-edged folk music from the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East, the internationally acclaimed collective Balkan Beat Box is out to prove that the entire world is, indeed, a stage—and that we are all gypsies. The band hits stages from the East Coast to the Midwest on a tour this September and October. Time Out NY wrote that their self-titled debut on JDub Records “puts forth the group’s infectious formula: an utterly unkosher blend of furious horn lines, dance beats and irreverent lyrics. The review goes on to say, “the group puts on a marathon live show that resembles an electronic gypsy circus.”
BBB is a natural reaction of musicians who wanted to erase political borders (“our ears don’t have them, why should we?” as one band member put it). A band of New Yorkers, Israelis, Africans, and Bulgarians, led by ex-Gogol Bordello member Ori Kaplan and Firewater / Big Lazy's Tamir Muskat, BBB brings together folk traditions with electronic beats, video projections, and a rotating cast of guests including the Bulgarian Chicks, Victoria Hannah, Jeremiah Lockwood, gnawa player Hasan Ben Nafar, Israeli MC Tomer Yosef, and more.
Ori Kaplan and Tamir Muskat have lived in New York City for the last decade where they led a new scene of underground immigrant-based music (J.U.F—Jewish Ukrainian Friendship and Gogol Bordello), which was based on the idea of taking ethnic music and modernizing it for contemporary audiences. Balkan Beat Box is a progression of this style of music, taking a worldly approach to the music of their ancestors, and evolving it to include not only the region of the world that they personally emigrated from, but also to incorporate the musical styles from their parents and grandparents birthplaces.
As Israelis born to Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Ori and Tamir learned their ancestors’ Eastern European music while surrounded by the music of the Middle East. Through their own migration to America, the blend of Eastern European and Middle Eastern music was transformed again. What emerged was a blend of musical cultures—traditional sounds from two distinct parts of the world have been melded together with modern instruments and beats, to create a new musical genre displaying their multinational roots.

Featured players:

Tamir Muskat is the son of a Romanian immigrant. As a teenager, he was already a prominent rock drummer and percussionist. Early on, Tamir started producing Israel’s first trash metal records in his basement studio but also began working with Sephardic Eastern singers of Greek and Turkish origin in a highly-ornamented style that is Middle Eastern in nature.
Tamir immigrated to the United States and joined the internationally acclaimed band Firewater as a drummer and producer. With Firewater, he toured the world and made three albums, two of which he produced. Tamir founded Vibromonk Records with Dan Shatzky. Since then Tamir had produced albums with artists from around the world. Big Lazy has written music for various films, and toured with The White Stripes, John Spencer blues Explosion, Reverent Horton Heat, and Tom Tom Club. Ori Kaplan studied Klezmer clarinet in Jaffa at age 11, yet was exposed to the Arabic culture around him. Each week he would sneak into an Arabic/Turkish nightclub next door to the punk rock club where he played with his band DXM. Ori says, “The energy at the Turkish club was unabashed, on fire… The punk rock club was more self-conscious: youth trying to define itself, emulate the West.” Ori immigrated to the U.S. earning a BFA at Mannes College. In the last decade in New York City, Ori has recorded five releases as a leader for New York’s premier downtown new music labels and has played with some of the best NYC bands. Ori received the Jerome Foundation Award for Young Jazz Composers 2001. He joined the acclaimed band Gogol Bordello (Gypsy Punk cabaret) that has spearheaded the Eastern European cultural revolution taking place in NYC. He has played with Firewater since 1998, and has collaborated and recorded with: Susie Ibarra, Speedball Baby, Big Lazy, J.U.F., Victoria Hanna, John Zorn, Vision Orchestra, and William Parker.Tomer Yosef began his career as a stand-up comedian in the early 1990’s. He performed live throughout Israel, appeared on a TV show called “Platefuls” and on a radio show on Reshet Gimel, an Israeli radio station. Tomer moved to New York City and in 2000 produced his first album “Say Something”. He has worked as an electronic artist, drummer, and vocalist.

Calling UK