The Ottosphere?

The Economist website has a run-down of instability in ‘Western Balkans’ countries. Interestingly enough, the phrase ‘Yugosphere’ isn’t used – perhaps as the theory is not altogether conducive to what is being written. Croatia and Slovenia are excluded by the piece.

Croatia – and indeed Slovenia – is pretty much integrated in a modern day version of the Austro-Hungarian empire based around Central Europe, including Germany and Italy.  Austria being the most important country for Croatia historically, culturally and economically. Although this is fairly evident, theories of a Yugosphere often obscures this reality.

However, talk of a Yugosphere – and indeed that of ‘West Balkans’ also obscures significant  trends in countries other than Croatia and Slovenia in the ex-Yugoslav states. Countries such as Russia, Greece and Turkey have been active there, reflecting various links of one kind or the other.

Turkey, in particular, is of interest due to the history of the old Ottoman Empire in countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia. Indeed, the Balkan Insight website has a whole section on the issue.

During the Ejup Ganic affair last year, Turkey was a constant presence in the extradition proceedings, and played a behind the scenes role.

Turkey certainly has a particular political influence in Sarajevo, and appears to be making efforts to increase it in Macedonia.  Turkish influence isn’t popular with everyone, but it is there. Such an influence does not really fit into Yugosphere thinking, and so is overlooked.

Could we then speak of an Ottosphere? Perhaps that is premature – and EU countries still invest more – but the idea at least makes more sense than a ‘Yugopshere’.

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