The Balkans are usually characterized as the countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. However, Italy, Greece and Turkey also have significant populations on the Balkan Peninsula.
The Balkan Peninsula lies on the southeastern side of Europe, bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the west, the Black Sea on the east and the Mediterranean, Ionian and Aegean Seas on the south. It derives its name from the Turkish word "balkan," which means mountain. These landforms dominate the peninsula. Because of a long history of domination by various empires, the cultural fabric of the Balkans is religiously, linguistically and culturally complex. This complexity has caused the political map of the country to change several times since the end of World War I.