Modern Balkan history has traditionally been studied in the national paradigm as separate national histories taking place within bounded state territories. Beyond this national framework, the separate historiographies still “at war” with one another show some “transnational” interest in the former contested areas and in their national minorities in neighboring states. Some attention has been paid to economic, political and cultural “relations”, “influences” and “imports” from abroad, especially from Western Europe that has long served as a model for aspiration and imitation, less to common Ottoman legacies, while interactions (apart from diplomatic and military ones) and mutual influences between the Balkans states are downplayed if not entirely ignored. When imports (of material items, ideas and institutions, etc.) mostly from the West are studied, this is done in the old-fashioned manner of one-directional movement accompanied by a critique of the distorted manner of their adaptation and appropriation. The few good exceptions do not alter the general picture.
The following proposal thus goes against the grain of the current national paradigm in practicing history of the Balkans. We would like to approach the modern history of the region from a transnational and relational perspective in terms of shared and connected, as well as entangled histories, transfers and crossings both from without and within the Balkans. Given the internal complexity of the Balkans and their long-standing relations with the West and Russia, this approach is particularly suitable and promising for breaking new ground. By applying it systematically in its various articulations to the region, we hope to refocus the historical lenses and not only explore a variety of older themes and topics in a novel way but bring entirely new problems to the fore and even constitute new objects of research.