During the Cold War, most of the countries on the Balkans were governed by communist governments. Greece became the first battleground of the emerging Cold War.
The Truman Doctrine was the US response to the civil war, which raged from 1944 to 1949.
This civil war, unleashed by the Communist Party of Greece, backed by communist volunteers from neighboring countries (Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia), led to massive American assistance for the non-communist Greek government.
With this backing, Greece managed to defeat the partisans and, ultimately, remained the only non-communist country in the region.
However, despite being under communist governments, Yugoslavia (1948) and Albania (1961) fell out with the Soviet Union.
Yugoslavia, led by Marshal Josip Broz Tito (1892–1980), first propped up then rejected the idea of merging with Bulgaria and instead sought closer relations with the West, later even spearheaded, together with India and Egypt the Non-Aligned Movement.
Albania on the other hand gravitated toward Communist China, later adopting an isolationist position.
As the only non-communist countries, Greece and Turkey were (and still are) part of NATO composing the southeastern wing of the alliance.
In the 1990s, the transition of the regions’ ex-Soviet bloc countries towards democratic free-market societies went peacefully with the exception of Yugoslavia.
Wars between the former Yugoslav republics broke out after Slovenia and Croatia held free elections and their people voted for independence on their respective countries’ referenda.
Serbia in turn declared the dissolution of the union as unconstitutional and the Yugoslavian army unsuccessfully tried to maintain status quo. Slovenia and Croatia declared independence on 25 June 1991, followed by the Ten-Day War in Slovenia. Till October 1991, the Army withdrew from Slovenia, and in Croatia, the Croatian War of Independence would continue until 1995.
In the ensuing 10 years armed confrontation, gradually all the other Republics declared independence, with Bosnia being the most affected by the fighting. The long lasting wars resulted in a United Nations intervention and NATO ground and air forces took action against Serb forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
From the dissolution of Yugoslavia six republics achieved international recognition as sovereign republics, but these are traditionally included in Balkans: Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
In 2008, while under UN administration, Kosovo declared independence (according to the official Serbian policy, Kosovo is still an internal autonomous region). In July 2010, the International Court of Justice, ruled that the declaration of independence was legal.
After the end of the wars a revolution broke in Serbia and Slobodan Milošević, the Serbian communist leader (elected president between 1989 and 2000), was overthrown and handed for trial to the International Criminal Tribunal for crimes against the International Humanitarian Law during the Yugoslav wars. Milošević died of a heart attack in 2006 before a verdict could have been released.
Ιn 2001 an Albanian uprising in Macedonia forced the country to give local autonomy to the ethnic Albanians in the areas where they predominate.
With the dissolution of Yugoslavia an issue emerged over the name under which the former (federated) republic of Macedonia would internationally be recognized, between the new country and Greece.
Being the Macedonian part of Yugoslavia (see Vardar Macedonia), the federated Republic under the Yugoslav identity had the name Republic of Macedonia on which it declared its sovereignty in 1991. Greece, having a large region (see Macedonia) also under the same name opposed to the usage of this name as an indication of a nationality. The issue is currently under negotiations after a UN initiation.
Balkan countries control the direct land routes between Western Europe and South West Asia (Asia Minor and the Middle East). Since 2000, all Balkan countries are friendly towards the EU and the USA.
Greece has been the member of the European Union since 1981 while Slovenia is a member since 2004, Bulgaria and Romania are members since 2007, and Croatia is a member since 2013.
In 2005, the European Union decided to start accession negotiations with candidate countries; Turkey, and Macedonia were accepted as candidates for EU membership. In 2012, Montenegro started accession negotiations with the EU.
In 2014, Albania is an official candidate for accession to the EU. In 2015, Serbia is expected to start accession negotiations with the EU.
Greece and Turkey have been NATO members since 1952. In March 2004, Bulgaria and Slovenia have become members of NATO. As of April 2009, Albania and Croatia are members of NATO.
All other countries have expressed a desire to join the EU and NATO at some point in the future.