Balkanization, or Balkanisation, is a geopolitical term, originally used to describe the process of fragmentation or division of a region or state into smaller regions or states that are often hostile or non-cooperative with each other. It is considered pejorative.
The term refers to the division of the Balkan peninsula, formerly ruled almost entirely by the Ottoman Empire, into a number of smaller states between 1817 and 1912. The term however came into common use in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, with reference to the numerous new states that arose from the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Russian Empire.
The term is also used to describe other forms of disintegration, including, for instance, the subdivision of the Internet into separate enclaves, the division of subfields and the creation of new fields from sociology, and the breakdown of cooperative arrangements due to the rise of independent competitive entities engaged in "beggar thy neighbour" bidding wars.
Balkanization is sometimes used to refer to the divergence over time of programming languages and data file formats (particularly XML). The term has been used in American urban planning to describe the process of creating gated communities.
There are also attempts to use the term balkanization in a positive way equating it with the need for decentralisation and sustenance of a particular group or society. Current research on the positive aspects of Balkanization is carried out by Srđan Jovanović Weiss with Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College.
The larger countries within Europe, often being the result of the union of several historical regions or nations, have faced the perceived issue of balkanization. The Iberian Peninsula and Spain especially has from the time of Al-Andalus had to come to terms with balkanization, with several separatist movements existing today including the Basque Country and Catalan independentism.
In January 2007, regarding the growing support for Scottish independence, the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, and later Prime Minister, Gordon Brown talked of a "Balkanisation of Britain". Independence movements within Britain also exist in England, Wales, Cornwall and a reunification movement in Northern Ireland
See also 
- Yugoslav Wars
- Balkan Federation
- Feudal fragmentation
- Protracted social conflict
- Multinational state
- Sectarian violence
- Social polarization
- Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary 1. to break up (as a region or group) into smaller and often hostile units.
- Vidanović, Ivan (2006). Rečnik socijalnog rada Udruženje stručnih radnika socijalne zaštite Srbije; Društvo socijalnih radnika Srbije; Asocijacija centra za socijalni rad Srbije; Unija Studenata socijalnog rada. ISBN 86-904183-4-2.(Serbian)
- "Balkanization" Encyclopædia Britannica
- Google lays out browser aims, Financial Times, September 4, 2008
- See http://www.gold.ac.uk/architecture/
- Srđan Jovanović Weiss at the Centre for Research Architecture
- Shapes of Balkanization - Exhibition at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany 2006 by the Normal Architecture Office, a design practice founded by Srđan Jovanović Weiss
- McLean, Renwick (29 September 2005). "Catalonia steps up to challenge Spain". The New York Times.
- "BBC News | Politics | UK's existence is at risk - Brown". 13 January 2007.