Powder keg of Europe

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A diagrammatic illustration of European political alliances just before World War I.

The powder keg of Europe, sometimes alternately known as the Balkan powder keg, refers to the Balkans in the early part of the 20th century preceding World War I. There were a number of overlapping claims to territories and spheres of influence between the major European powers such as the Russian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German Empire and, to a lesser degree, the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom and Kingdom of Italy.

In addition to the imperialistic ambitions and interests in this region, there was a growth in nationalism with the indigenous peoples of this region leading to the formation of the independent states of Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania.

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