Powder keg of Europe

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A diagrammatic illustration of European political alliances in the period leading up to the First World War.

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. In this time period there were a number of overlapping claims to territories and spheres of influence between the major European powers such as Russia, Austria-Hungary, Imperial Germany, and to a lesser degree, the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain, and 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 and Romania.

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