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Ottoman Successors


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"Romania" means the area in the Balkans and Middle East with successor states to the Mediaeval Roman Empire that was neither part of historic "Francia" (the land of the "Franks" to those in Islâm), which means Western, Central, and Northern Europe originally subject to the Latin, Roman Catholic Church in Rome, nor part of historic Russia in Eastern Europe, subject to the Russian Orthodox Church.

This will be an unfamiliar use of the name "Romania" for most, and the reason for it is explained in "Decadence, Rome and Romania, the Emperors Who Weren't, and Other Reflections on Roman History," "The Vlach Connection and Further Reflections on Roman History," and the "Guide and Index to Lists of Rulers." The double headed eagle of the Palaeologi symbolized the European and Asian sides of the Empire. This now represents a significant historical and cultural divide. The Asian side, and the center of the Empire at Adrianople and Constantinople, is still largely Turkish. This is a rather different Turkey from the Ottoman Empire, however, secularized and Westernized by Kemal Atatürk, with things like the Arabic alphabet actually outlawed, now hoping to join the European Union. On the European side, the successor states to Rome in the 12th and 13th centuries have reemerged. This is also the case to the east, where Georgia and Armenia, kept from the Ottomans by Russia, are now independent.

Thus, "Modern Romania" here means the modern successor states, first to Rome ("Romania" to itself, "Byzantium" to the historians), second to the Ottoman Empire, which in the 14th and 15th centuries established its domination over all former Roman possessions, and more, in the Eastern Mediterranean. As the Roman successors emerged in the 12th century, so do the Ottoman successors emerge in the 19th century. Familar states from the earlier period are Serbia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and even Bosnia. The earlier states of the Vlach speaking Romanians, Wallachia and Moldavia, continue from the past, subject to special achievements in Ottoman rule, ultimately to unite as the modern state of România, the only country in Europe to preserve the proper name of the Roman Empire. Turkey is still the largest and most powerful state in the region.

Entirely new states are Montenegro and Greece itself. Montenegro, the "Black Mountain" (Qara Dagh in Turkish and Crna Gora in Serbo-Croatian), like many remote areas of the Ottoman Empire, began to drift out of central control as Turkish power went into its long decline. "Greece" itself was something that, in a sense, didn't exist in the Middle Ages. What the Ancient Greeks had called themselves, "Hellenes," came to be used in Late Roman times to mean Greek pagans. Greek Christians were "Romans," Rhômaioi in Greek. This distinction was maintained through the Middle Ages, and was remembered well into the 19th, if not the 20th, century (a Greek can still be Rum in Turkish). A modern Greece, Hellas, that was not an heir to Rome, was an entirely new phenomenon.

The politically, religiously, and culturally dominant language of Mediaeval Romania was Greek, whose alphabet today, however, is only used in Greece. For the same period the Armenian alphabet was in use by Armenians both in Romania and in the often separate kingdoms of Armenia. Under the Ottomans, Turkish was sometimes even written in the Armenian (as in the Greek) alphabet; but that era is long gone, and the Armenian alphabet today is only seen in the former Soviet Republic of Armenia and in Armenian exile communities, as in Syria, Lebanon, and the United States. The alphabet of the Christian Georgians dates from the same era as the Armenian, and now continues to be used in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Both the Armenian and the Georgian alphabets, although based on Greek, have their own striking and distinctive styles. The conversion of the Slavs resulted in the introduction of a new alphabet, the Cyrillic, which has remained the alphabet of choice for Slavs who belong to Orthodox Churches, like the Serbs, Bulgarians, and Russians. When modern Romanian (Vlach) first began to be written, it also used the Cyrillic alphabet, but eventually both Romanian and Albanian (also for many centuries unwritten) were rendered in the Latin alphabet, which thus came to be used for spoken languages in the Balkans for the first time since Latin speaking Roman colonists, and the Imperial Court in Constantinople, would have used it many centuries earlier. Since one's alphabet usually went with one's religion in the Middle Ages, the Turks, and other local converts to Islâm, used the Arabic alphabet; and Jews, especially Jews arriving after Spain expelled them in 1492, used the Hebrew alphabet. We have already seen some exceptions to the religion rule, however. Orthodox Christian Churches could be found using different alphabets, Greek, Armenian, and Cyrillic (as well as, more distantly, Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopic), which already had introduced an ethnic or national dimension to the issue. This is also evident when the Orthodox Romanians and the largely Moslem Albanians turn to the Latin alphabet, neither with the slightest intention of entering into religious communion with Papal Roman (i.e. Frankish) Catholicism. The Turks themselves, directed by Kemal Atatürk, followed suit. The Jews of Turkey also fell into this, and it became possible to find Ladino, the language of the 15th century Jewish refugees from Spain, being written in 20th century Istanbul synagogues using the Turkish version of the Latin alphabet. Thus the ancient prestige of Latin Rome, and the modern dominance of Latinate Francia, has exerted itself in modern Romania over Orthodox Christianity, Islâm, and Judaism -- even while the old Hebrew alphabet is now used for Hebrew revived as a spoken language in modern Israel.

A characteristic of imperial states is an easy mixing of peoples and languages. They all have too much to fear from the imperial power for too much trouble to develop between them. When the heavy imperial hand is withdrawn, however, serious trouble can result. Thus, the end of the British Empire resulted in the partitions, amid war and massacre, of India, Palestine, and Cyprus. The decline of Turkish power similarly uncorked more than a century of conflict, continuing even in 2000, in the Balkans. Border areas end up with the most ambiguious identities and so can provoke the greatest conflict. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had been swapped back and forth between Hungary and Romania and Serbia in the 12th and 13th centuries, and then were long held by the Turks, ended up with a mixed population of Croats (Latin/Catholic Christians), Serbs (Orthodox Christians), and Moslem Bosnians (Bosniacs). All, as it happened, spoke the same language, Serbo-Croatian, but written in different alphabets. The disintegration of Yugoslavia, with the lifting of the heavy imperial hand of Communism in the 1990's, led to terrible fighting, massacres, and atrocities, most famously carried out by the Serbs against the others, but not unheard of from the Croatians, Bosniacs, and Kosovar Albanians also. A famous bridge in Mostar in Herzegovina, which had linked, actually and symbolically, the Christian and Moslem parts of the city, was destroyed (evidently by Croatians) in the fighting. With a peace settlement patched up for Bosnia, the Serbs then turned their hand against the restless Albanian majority of Kosovo, which the Serbs regarded as the Serbian heartland but which had contained few Serbs for a long time. It is enough to make one yearn for the return of the Palaeologi. The first map above shows the situation in 1817, after the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812, rebellions by Serbia, and a final grant of autonomy to Serbia. The Ionians Islands had originally belonged to Venice but were seized by Britain in the Napoleonic Era and ceded to Britain by the Congress of Vienna.


Rome and Romania Index
Philosophy of History



My source for the king lists was originally the Kingdoms of Europe, by Gene Gurney [Crown Publishers, New York, 1982]. Gurney has some errors and obscurities, but I have not found any other work that has put so much together in one volume. It is a shame that his list of the Princes of Wallachia and Moldavia is incomplete, but it also looks like it would be a very long list, since the Turks changed Princes frequently, and in earlier periods the succession may be imperfectly known. Recent heads of state are largely from the Regentenlisten und Stammtafeln zur Geschichte Europas by Michael F. Feldkamp [Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 2002]. Feldkamp has a more complete treatment of Wallachia and Moldavia, but, unfortunately, only prior to the era shown here. The maps are based on The Penguin Atlas of Recent History (Europe since 1815) (Colin McEvedy, 1982), The Anchor Atlas of World History, Volume II (Hermann Kinder, Werner Hilgemann, Ernest A. Menze, and Harald and Ruth Bukor, 1978), The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia (John Channon with Rob Hudson, 1995), and various prose histories, such as The Ottoman Centuries (Lord Kinross, Morrow Quill, 1977).

The two maps, just above and to the right, show the situation (1) after the War of Greek Independence (1821-1829) and (2) after the Crimean War (1853-1856). To save Greece, all the Great Powers were drawn in against Turkey.

With Greek independence went increased territory for Serbia, autonomy for Wallachia and Moldavia, and border concessions to Russia.

In the Crimean War, Britain and France joined Turkey against Russia, with much of the fighting taking place, as one might expect from the name, in the Crimea. This pretty much preserved the status quo for Turkey, though the borders were extended against Russia along the Black Sea. One change we see, however, was the unification of Wallachia and Moldavia into the state of România.

Continued from "Rome and Romania," "Romanians"
Radu Mihnea Voivode,
Leon Tomsa 1629-1632 Miron
Matei Basarab 1632-1654 Vasie Lupu 1634-1653
Grigore Ghica 1660-1664
1688-1714 Constantine
Phanariot Greek Tax Farming
Nicholas Mavrocordat 1711-1714
1741-1744 Michael Racovita 1717-?
  Gregoy Ghica 1726-1733,
Constantine Mavrocordat 1741-1743,
Russian right of intervention,
Treaty of Kuchuk Karinarji, 1774
1774-1782 Alexander
Russian Occupation, 1806-1812
John Caragea 1812-1818 Scarlat Calimah 1812-1819
Alexander Sutu 1818-1821
Russian Occupation, 1828-1834;
Governor Count Kisselev
Alexander Ghica 1834-1842 Mihai Sturdza 1834-1849
Georghe Bibescu 1842-1848
Revolution in Wallachia, 1848;
Russian Occupation, 1848-1851;
Crimean War, 1853-1856;
Russian Occupation, 1853-1854;
Austrian Occupation, 1854-1857
Alexander John Cuza of Moldavia 1859-1866
Charles Eitel Frederick
of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen,
Carol I
Russo-Turkish War, 1876-1878;
Russian Invasion, Romania proclaimed
independent, 1877;
Congress of Berlin, Romania Independent, 1878
Ferdinand 1914-1927
Michael 1927-1930,
Carol II 1930-1940
Ion Antonescu, pro-German dictator 1940-1944
Communist takeover, 1947
Constantin Parhon President, 1948-1952
Petru Groza 1952-1958
Ion Georghe Maurer 1958-1961
Georghe Georghiu-Dej 1961-1965
Chivu Stoica 1965-1967
Nicolae Ceauçescu 1967-1989, executed
Ion Iliescu 1989-1996, 2000-present
Emil Constantinescu 1996-2000

The Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia have a continuous institutional history back to the 14th Century, which means that this table simply continues the table begun on the
Rome and Romania page. Turkish rule, however, led to the practice of the appointment of Greek tax farmers, the Phanariots (from the Phanar section of Istanbul), as Princes. Their job was simply to get as much money out of the land as possible, both for the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman government) and for themselves (the reason to be a tax farmer). This was not good, or popular, for the Principalities, but not much could be done about it until Russian power began to be felt in the region. The Russian wars against Turkey in the 19th Century led several times to the occupation of Wallachia and Moldavia. After the Crimean War (18453-1856) and, for a change, Austrian occupation (1854-1857), and a bad experience with a local candidate for rule of the unified country, a European prince, as in Greece and Bulgaria, was brought in, Karl of Hohenzollern. The Congress of Berlin recognized Karl (Carol) and Romanian independence (1878). With the Allies in World War I, winning Transylvania from Hungary and Moldova from Russia -- Romania was the biggest long term winner of the War in the Balkans -- Romania, after much internal strife, switched to the Axis in World War II, losing Moldova to the Soviet Union (seized in 1940, actually, before Romania was a belligerent) and part of Dobruja to Bulgaria. While Moldova is now independent, I have not noticed any discussion of reunion with Romania.

Rejecting the Cyrllic alphabet and the Turkish influenced "Rumania" (or "Roumania") for the Latin alphabet and the pure Latin România, Romania can now claim that name as its own, with few remembering that it was the proper name of the Roman (and the "Byzantine") Empire. In the Middle Ages, "Romania" tended to refer to the contemporaneous extent of the Empire, i.e. Anatolia and the Balkans ("Asia and Europa" or "Rûm and Rumelia"). The modern state might be said to be "Lesser Romania" in contrast to that "Greater Romania"; but this might be considered insulting by Romanians (though intentionally no more so than "Lesser Armenia" in Cilicia) and so is not likely to catch on.

The mysterious history of Romance speakers in the Balkans, the Romanians and Vlachs, whose existence is not noticed until the 12th Century and whose language is not attested until the 16th, is treated separated in "The Vlach Connection and Further Reflections on Roman History." This is a story now charged with the nationalism both of Romania and neighbors like Hungary.

The marriages of the Romanian Royal Family quickly connected it to major European, especially British and Greek, royalty. Thus King Ferdinand was the grandson of a first cousin of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (Ferdinand of Portugal, the brother of Augustus, Prince of Coburg, who was the father of Ferdinand of Bulgaria), and he married one of their own granddaughters, Marie of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. King Carol II then married Helen of Greece, who was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, through her mother Sophia, the sister of Kaiser Wilhlem II of Germany. All these connections, of course, profited the monarchy little in the conflicts of fascism and communism that had the country under one form of dictatorship or another from 1940 to 1989.

Mediaeval România

The two maps above show the situation before and after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. Note that by then Britain had ceded the Ionians Islands to Greece (1864). In 1875 rebellions started in Bosnia and then Bulgaria. The brutality with which these were suppressed aroused European opinion, and after some delay Russia declared war. With some hard fighting, the Russians ended up capturing Adrianople and arriving at the outskirts of Constantinople. The Treaty of San Stephano which ended the war mostly freed the Balkans, but the Great Powers didn't like it. The Congress of Berlin rolled things back a bit. Serbia, România, and Montenegro all became independent, with increases in territory, but Bulgaria was divided and merely allowed autonomy. Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Novipazar were made protectorates of Austria. The map looked much the same for many years, with Bulgaria annexing East Rumelia in 1885.

Danilo I Petrovic Prince-Bishop,
Sava 1737-1756
Vasili Coadjutor,
the Little
Sava Coadjutor,
Peter I 1782-1830
Peter II 1830-1851
Danilo II 1851-1860
Nicholas 1860-1910
Union with Yugoslavia, 1918
Possessing one of the oldest traditions of local autonomy under the Turks, and a charming Italian version of its name (for the "Black Mountain," Qara Dagh in Turkish and Crna Gora in Serbo-Croatian), in the 20th century Montenegro was nevertheless overshadowed by its ethnic big brother, Serbia. After World War I, King Nicholas was thrown out so that Montenegro could join Yugoslavia. And when Yugoslavia collapsed, Montenegro was the only former Yugoslav republic to stick with Serbia. Religiously and lingustically this is understandable, but the Montenegrans are ambivalent about the present Serbian government, neither entirely sympathetic nor entirely unsympathetic. Since Montenegro represents Serbia's only access to the sea, through the historic port of Kotor (Cattaro in Italian, obtained from Austria after World War I), the fear is that, should the Montenegrans decide to go their own way, the Serbs would use force, with enough local support to make resistance abortive. The title of the orignal "Prince-Bishops" of Montenegro, vladika, means "lord, sovereign" or "archbishop."




1908 was a big year in the Balkans. Bulgaria became independent and Austria annexed most of its protectorate from the Congress of Berlin. In Turkey, the Sultan, "Abdul the Damned," was overthrown by the Young Turks, whose impetus, unfortunately, was more merely nationalistic than liberal. Meanwhile, Greece was able to add Thessaly (1881, with adjustments in 1897). A rebellion on Crete led to autonomy (1898) as a prelude to Greek control (1912).


Greek War of
Independence, 1821-1829
Alexander Ypsilanti leads revolt,
Treaty of London, Britain,
France, & Russia support
Greek independence,
Battle of Navarino,
Egyptian fleet sunk, 1827
Count Kapodistrias regent,
Russian War on Turkey,
Peace of Adrianople, 1829,
London Conference, 1830,
recognition of
Greek Independence
Otto of Bavaria King,
George I of Denmark 1863-1913
Constantine I 1913-1917,
Alexander 1917-1920
George II 1922-1924,
Republic, 1924-1935
Pavlos Konduriotis President,
Theodoros Pangalos 1926
Alexandros Zaimis 1929-1935
German Occupation, 1941-1944
Paul 1947-1964
Constantine II 1964-1973,
exile 1967
Military Dictatorship, 1967-1974
Giorgios Zoitakis 1967-1972
Giorgios Papadopoulos 1972-1973,
Phaidon Gizikis 1973-1974
Republic, 1974
Michael Stasinopoulos 1974-1975
Konstantin Tsatsos 1975-1980
Konstantin Karamanlis 1980-1985,
Christos Sartzetakis 1985-1990
Konstantin Stephanopoulos 1995-present

The revolt of Greece against the Turks was one of the sensations of the 19th century, drawing partisans, like Lord Byron, from far and wide. Against the Ottomans alone, the Greeks could well have been successful, but the Sultan called in Muh.ammad 'Alî, who had modernized the Eyptian army enough that the rebellion was being suppressed. This was too much, however, for "civilized" opinion. Not only the Russians, the traditional protectors of Orthodox Christians in Turkey, but Britain and France, inspired by all that Classical Oxbridge learning, moved to help the Greeks, sinking Muh.ammad 'Alî's fleet at Navarino in 1827. They say that the ships are still visible at the bottom of the bay, right by the island of Sphacteria, where the Athenians defeated the Spartans early in the Peloponnesian War, and just south of "Sandy Pylos," where a great Mycenaean city supplied wise Nestor to the Greek forces at Troy.

The house of Denmark supplied most the kings of modern Greece. The kingship itself contained an interesting ambiguity, since the Greek word basileus only meant "king" in Classical Greek. In mediaeval Greek, basileus was used by the Emperors of Romania to translate Latin imperator, i.e. "emperor." So which was it? Was the ruler of Greece merely the King of the Hellenes, or the Emperor of the Romans (Rhômaioi)? When the Greeks tried to seize a large part of western Asia Minor from the Turks in 1920, it looked like restoring the Empire was the objective. Turkey remained, and remains, fundamentally stronger than Greece, and the Greek invasion only provoked the expulsion of Greeks from the Asia Minor.

Politically, Greece has swung back and forth in the 20th century. Whether the monarchy was a good thing was often in doubt, as it was briefly abolished in the 20's and almost not reinstituted after World War II. Then the Army took over in 1967, creating a dictatorship that lasted until 1974. King Constantine II tried to organize a counter-coup against the dictatorship, but then fled the country when he failed. Eventually the dictators abolished the monarchy. When democracy was restored, after a stupid attempt to overthrow the government of Cyprus (provoking a Turkish intervention), the Greeks nevertheless seemed to think that Constantine had not been sufficiently vigorous in opposing the dictatorship, so the monarchy was not restored. Since then, Greece seems to have made a speciality of electing anti-American, socialist governments, long after that made any sense either geo-politically or economically. A good example of recent foolishness was a nationwide strike on May 17, 2001, with 10,000 protesters marching on the Parliament in Athens. Protesting what? Well, the Greek state pension system is nearly bankrupt, and the Government is considering reforms, like cutting benefits and increasing the retirement age (to 65). Even the socialist government, however, might have anticipated the offense to the Greek sense of entitlement that this would cause.

This kind of thing was all bad enough, but then 60 Minutes reported (6 January 2002) that the Greek government, and especially the dominant Socialist Party, appeared to be tolerating a radical leftist terrorist organization, "17 November," that had been responsible for bombings and murders for years. Not a single member of this organization had been arrested or even identified by the government, even though unmasked members raided a police station for weapons and could easily have been described. When members of the Greek press were threatened for reporting on the organization, and police closed the investigations even of murder cases against them, one began to wonder if a sort of leftist death squad had come into existence in Greece. This boded ill for the future of Greece, not only economically, but even as a functioning democracy. Now, however, this situation is looking up. Perhaps under pressure to straighten things out if Greece wanted to host the 2004 Olympics, the government now has arrested many members of "17 November," and the suspects have been spilling details about the membership and operations of the organization [Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, August 7, 2002, "Toppled From Their Pedestal"]. The actual popularity of the group now has been damaged by the very willingness of its members to inform and cooperate in order to avoid harder sentences. Happily, the 2004 Olympics came off without incident.

Although the Greek monarchy is now gone, the Greek Royal family remains impressively connected to two of the most important centers of contemporary European royalty. The heirs of the British monarchy are now all descendants, through Prince Philip, of King George I of Greece; and all the Greek Royal Family itself is descended from both Queen Victoria and the Emperor Frederick III of Germany. Then Constantine II's sister Sophia married Juan Carlos of Spain, who was able to do in Spain what Constantine wasn't able to in Greece -- restore democracy. Now the heir of Spain, Philip (Filipe), is a descendant of Kings George, Constantine I, and Paul of Greece. One might gather from this diagram that the throne of Britain is due to pass the House of Denmark and Greece, or, more precisely, the House of Schleswig- Holstein- Sonderburg- Glucksburg; but on marrying Elizabeth, Prince Philip renounced his rights to the Greek throne and his connection to the Greek Royal family, taking the name of his mother's family, Battenberg/Mountbatten, so this connection is obscured. Now that royalty is more a matter of international celebrity than of political power, Greece, by blaming Constantine for a bunch of military dictators, is really missing out on its share of space in People magazine. This may seem like an absurdly trivial consideration, but Greece depends heavily on foreign tourism; and foreign tourism depends heavily on international perception and publicity. Space, free space, in People magazine means millions of dollars in business for Greece. Instead, Greeks still have these ridiculous demonstrations for socialism (not to mention the frightening terrorist activity) and nurse their historic grievance against Turkey.

A real basis for the latter concerns Cyprus. In 1974 the Greek generals tried to annex Cyprus to Greece. This provoked a Turkish intervention and the de facto partition of the Island (and, happily for Greece, the overthrow of the generals). The Turks even set up a separate Turkish Cypriot Republic, which is recognized by no one in the world but Turkey. What this all really meant was that the effort to maintain Cyprus as a bi-national Republic, since independence from Britain in 1960, had failed utterly. The obvious solution would seem to be a real partition of the island with the Greek and Turkish parts annexed, respectively, by Greece and Turkey. 

Conspicuous Americans of Greek origin in recent days have been the stunning actress Melina Kanakaredes, of the late NBC drama Providence, and the comedienne, actress, writer, and producer Nia Vardalos, whose 2002 movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, was an unexpected and astonishing success, with over $200 million in domestic boxoffice. The movie good naturedly pokes fun at the father's old world paternalism and exaggerated nationalistic claims (e.g. that the Japanese word kimono is actually of Greek origin), a familiar phenomenon in Greek nationalism.

As noted above, it is now largely forgotten in Greece, and entirely outside of it, that in the Middle Ages the Greeks called themselves "Romans" (Rhômaioi), because, as it happens, they were. For many centuries Hellênes, which the Ancient Greeks had called themselves, and now the modern Greeks again, meant pagan Greeks. The history of Mediaeval Greece is thus found with that of Rome and Byzantium.

Rome and Romania Index

The map for 1912 gives us the situation right before the Balkan Wars. Turkish holdings in Europe still extend all the way to the Adriatic, including Albania which, although largely Moslem, has already been restless for independence.
George Petrovic,
Kara ("Black") George
leads revolt,
Milos Obrenovic leads revolt,
Milan I 1839
Michael 1839-1842,
Alexander Karadjordjevic
Milan II Obrenovic 1868-1882
Alexander I 1889-1903,
Peter I
King of Yugoslavia,
Alexander II Regent,
Peter II 1934-1945
Paul Regent,
German & Italian Occupation, 1941-1943
German Occupation, 1943-1945
Communist takeover, 1945
Ivan Ribar 1945-1953
Josip Broz Tito 1953-1980
Lazar Kolisevski 1980
Cvijetin Mijatovic 1980-1981
Sergej Kraiger 1981-1982
Petar Stambolic 1982-1983
Mika Spiljak 1983-1984
Veselin Ðuranovic 1984-1985
Radovan Vlaikovic 1985-1986
Sinan Hasani 1986-1987
Lazar Mojsov 1987-1988
Raif Dizdarevic 1988-1989
Janez Drnovsek 1989-1990
Borisav Jovic 1990-1991
Stjepan Mesic 1991
Branko Kostic 1991
Dobrica Cosic 1992-1993
Zoran Lilic 1993-1997
Srdjan Bozovic 1997
Slobodan Milosevic 1997-2000
Vojislav Kostunica 2000-present

In the shadow of the Napoleonic Wars and a Russian war with Turkey, Serbia began the Balkan independence movement against Turkey with a long revolt that led to an Ottoman grant of autonomy. The rivalry of the two leaders of the revolt, Milosh Obrenovic and "Black" George Petrovic, however, led to a century of sometimes bloodly conflict between their two families, culminating in a coup in 1903 when King Alexander I was murdered. The Congress of Vienna in 1878 granted Serbia full independence, and the status of a Kingdom followed shortly. The Serbian dream was not just to unite all Serbian speakers remaining in Bosnia, Montenegro, Hungary, and Turkey, but all of the "Southern Slavs," including the Croatians, Slovenians, and perhaps even Bulgarians. In the aftermath of World War I, which began with the Serbian inspired assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo, this dream was realized in the establishment of Yugoslavia, which contained all the Southern Slavs except for Bulgaria, which had its own fiercely separate traditions and ambitions. Macedonia, however, had been wrested from Bulgaria in the Second Balkan War (1913). These benefits were substantially due to the Russians, to whom the Serbs looked as the protectors and patrons of the Orthodox Slavs. World War I formally began when Russia declared war on Austria to protect the Serbs. The flags of both Serbia and Yugoslavia are like the tricolor flag of Russia, with just a different arrangement of the stripes. The ethnic tensions between Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Slovenes and Croatians (and others), however, manifested themselves both in World War II, when the Germans found willing allies in the Croatians, and with the Fall of Communism, when the growth of democracy unmasked the separatist hostilities again. Yugoslavia broke up, with bitter fighting, atrocities, and "ethnic cleansing" as the various communities and new states sought to secure territory.
Former Yugoslav
Bosnia Herzegovina
Although all the groups have been guilty of offenses, the consenus of international observers and investigators, not to mention the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, seems to be that the Serbs, seeking to maintain a dominant position and initially with a military advantage, are more guilty than others, especially in Bosnia and Kosovo. The future remains uncertain, as NATO/UN peacekeeping forces are the only thing that seems to restrain the violence from breaking out again in Bosnia, and the status of Kosovo is open, as Serbs flee the retaliation of the Albanians, which has extended to vandalizing churches and monasteries, and the Albanians have no interest in being returned to Serbia. All the now stands between "Yugoslavia" being just Serbia is the continued adherence of Montenegro. The two countries are no different ethnically, linguistically, or religiously. All that is different is history, which is enough to fuel a Montenegran independence movement. Be that as it may, the combined state has essentially become Serbia again.

Mediaeval Serbia

The Balkan Wars all but eliminated Turkey in Europe. In the First War (1912-1913), everyone attacked Turkey, which even lost Adrianople to Bulgaria. Serbia was going to annex Albania, but the Great Powers required that it become an independent state. The Serbs were not happy about that, and Bulgaria wasn't happy about its share either. So the Second War (1913) featured everyone against Bulgaria, which lost Macedonia to Serbia, Adrianople to Turkey, and some territory south of the Danube to România. Meanwhile, Italy had been at war with Turkey in 1912 and had obtained Libya and, on this map, the Dodecanese Islands.
Russo-Turkish War, 1876-1878
Alexander of
Ferdinand of
King or Czar,
Boris III 1918-1943
Simeon II 1943-1946
Cyril Regent,
Communist takeover, 1946
Vasil Petrov Kolarov 1946-1947
Mintscho Naitschev 1947-1950
Georgi Damjanov 1950-1958
Dimitar Ganev 1958-1964
Georgi Traikov 1964-1971
Todor Schivkov 1971-1989
Petar Mladenov 1989-1990
Schelju Schelev 1990-1997
Petar Stojanov 1997-2001
Georgi Parvanov 2001-present

Bulgaria was the last of the mediaeval Balkan states to regain complete independence from Turkey. Although usually regarded as a Kingdom, rather more was implied when King Ferdinand (a second cousin of Edward VII of England) also called himself "Tsar." He is actually supposed to have carried around the vestments (obtained from a theatrical costumer) of a Roman (/Byzantine) Emperor. This was no less than what most of the successor states wanted, but the Bulgarians came closest to the physical heart of mediaeval Romania in the First Balkan War (1912-1913) when they occupied Adrianople and drew near Constantinople. This advantage, however, was lost in the Second Balkan War (1913), when Bulgaria took on all the other belligerents from the First War, largely in a dispute with Serbia over Macedonia (where a dialect or near relative of Bulgarian was spoken), and was overwhelmingly defeated. Adrianople went back to Turkey, Macedonia went to Serbia, and other territories went to Greece and Romania. Still stinging from this defeat, Bulgaria threw its lot with the Axis in World War I, which cost it access to the Aegean Sea. The same strategy was followed in World War II, where the wartime borders show us the Bulgarian wish list, with gains from Serbia, Romania, and Greece (Turkey was not in the War). The post-War settlement erased those gains, except against Romania, which had also been a member of the Axis. Today Macedonia has broken away from Yugoslavia, but to become independent rather than a part of Bulgaria. Note that the numbering of Kings Boris III and Simeon II goes back to the original mediaeval Bulgarian

Mediaeval Bulgaria, Qaghans & Tsars
Mediaeval Bulgaria, Asens
Mediaeval Bulgaria, Terters




Trouble over Bosnia began World War I, when a member of a Serbian "Black Hand" assassination squad killed the Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand. Austria ended up declaring war on Serbia, Russia on Austria, and Germany on Russia. The Germans then, of course, invaded France, Russia's ally, and did so through Belgium, violating recognized Belgian neutrality and bringing Britain into the War. Turkey and Bulgaria, the losers of the Balkan Wars, sided with Germany and Austria, while the other Balkan countries went with the Allies (Greece reluctantly -- Queen Sophia was Kaiser Wilhelm's sister). The result was losses for Bulgaria and gains for all the Allies, with Serbia orchestrating the formation of Yugoslavia from Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and other remants of Austria-Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia. România got Transylvania from Hungary and also gains from Russia, which was distracted by the Russian Revolution and Civil War. Bulgaria's loss of its Aegean coast would prove fortunate for the region when it later went communist. However little Greece and Turkey liked each other, it was convenient for them as Western allies to have a land frontier.


Ismail Kemal Bey 1912-1914
Wilhelm of Wied King,
Essad Pasha Toptani 1914-1916
Austrian Occupation, 1916-1918
Turchan Pasha 1919-1920
Regency Council, 1920-1924
Bishop Fan Noli 1924
Ahmet Zogu,
Zog I
Italian & German Occupation, 1939-1943
Victor Emanuel (III) King,
German Occupation, 1943-1945
Communist takeover,
Enver Hoxha Dictatorship, 1945-1985
Omer Nishani 1946-1953
Haji Leschi 1953-1982
Ramiz Alia 1982-1992
Sali Berisha 1992-1997
Rexhep Kemal Mejdani 1997-present
Leka Pretender,

Just about the poorest and least educated people in Europe, the Albanians had unexpected independence thrust upon them after the First Balkan War (1912-1913) and then found themselves locked into paranoid and pauperized isolation by a particularly nasty and megalomanaical Communist regime after World War II, under longtime Communist Party Chief Enver Hoxha. After the schism between Comminist China and the Soviet Union, for many years Albania was China's only international ally and supporter, regularly submitting the PRC for membership in the United Nations. But eventually, after membership, China began allowing Capitalism, and Albania had to retreat into its own paranoid isolation as the last surviving Stalinist dictatorship. Since Hoxha expected the Capitalists to invade at any time, the Albanian landscape became covered with small bunkers, to defend every inch. The country, which had always been poor anyway, became even poorer in Hoxha's grip, and it is nowhere near even recovering, much less developing to the level of its European neighbors. The Fall of Communism even witnessed large numbers of Albanians attempting to flee to Italy by boat. Among the mysterious, autochthonous peoples of the Balkans, the Albanians were strongly Latinized under Rome, Islamicized under Turkey, coveted by Italy and Serbia, and include substantial communities in Greece (denied by Greece, which officially has no ethnic minorities). Like a number of peoples in the Balkans, they may not know just what to make of themselves in the modern world, much less how their society is supposed to function. Recent conspicuous Americans of Albanian heritage have been the Belushis, John and his brother Jim, and Sandra Bullock (whose mother is German and father, reportedly, of Albanian derivation). One of John Belushi's memorable roles on Saturday Night Live was in the ongoing "Greek Diner" skits. The Belushis, indeed, had run such a diner in Chicago.

As the Ottoman Empire declined in strength, and Christians in the Balkans found European allies who favored their independence, like Britain for Greece and Russia for Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria, the Balkans became the scene of one conflict after another. The Turks were not entirely out of the picture until 1913, and this still left a number of the successor states, especially Bulgaria and Serbia, not entirely happy with their shares. The Serbs also pursued a grievance against Austria-Hungary, which inspired the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand in 1914, precipitating World War I. In the end the Serbs realized their dream of "Yugoslavia," the union of all the "Southern Slavs." The dream of the Serbs, however, was not necessarily the dream of all their fellow Yugoslavs. Macedonians really spoke a dialect of Bulgarian, and would have been part of Bulgaria if the Bulgarians had had their way. Slovenia, which historically had been part of Austria, and Croatia, which historically had been part of Hungary, were divided from the Serbs by religion, Catholicism versus Serbian Orthodoxy, and history, the Latin West versus the Greek, Slavonic, and Turkish East, even though both the Serbs and Croatians really spoke the same language -- Serbo-Croatian. Bosnia-Herzegovina was a messy mixture of Serbs, Croatians, and those from both groups who had converted to Islam during the long Turkish presence (the Bosniacs).



For a long time the jumble of ethnic groups in Yugoslavia didn't seem to make too much difference. A preview of the future, however, was evident when the Germans didn't have much trouble getting Croatians to kill Serbs and others in World War II. The map at left shows the boundaries the way the Germans sorted them out during the War. Hungary, Croatia, România, and Bulgaria were all German allies. Hungary, of course, wanted Transylvania back, but this would have to be at the expense of another German ally, so Hitler compromised by giving Hungary a part (the part with the most Hungarians) of Transylvania, but then compensated România with extra territory in the Ukraine (going off the map). Bulgaria got an expanded Aegean coast and a major goal for some time, Macedonia. While Albania was occupied by Italy, it was nevertheless expanded on what would have been Albanian nationalist principles, with large pieces of Kosovo and Eprius. Banat was a Romanian speaking region of Yugoslavia which, for some reason, was made independent rather than ceded to România. The Ionian Islands were directly annexed to Italy, probably because they had belonged to Venice for some centuries. The principle of Italian irredentism in the Adriatic was that any place that had ever had an Italian name should belong to Italy.



On the post-World War II map, România has lost considerable territory to the Soviet Union, including what Stalin took in 1940 (now Moldova), and the territory that had been gotten from Bulgaria in 1913. Otherwise, pre-War boundaries were restored. Marshall Tito (a Croat), after a successful Communist insurgency against the Germans, got Yugoslavia put back together, broke with Stalin, helped found the "unaligned" movement in the Cold War, and for many years appeared to govern a happy and prosperous compromise between East and West -- a favorite vacation destination for Europeans.

With the Fall of Communism, however, the whole business came unglued. Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and most Bosnians wanted to go their own way. The dream of the Serbs crumbled, but their vision of destiny and grievance did not. First they moved against Croatia, either as a preemptive attack or in retaliation for the actions of the dictatorial Croatian leader, Franjo Tudjman, against resident Serbs. It is now a little hard to determine who started it; but the Serbs, tempted by military superiority, invaded in a way that looked more like conquest than humanitarianism. Later, when the Serbs were tied up in Bosnia and Croatia had built up its forces, Tudjman really did expel and massacre Serbs, but the international community was already prepared to excuse or ignore that as just retaliation. Both Serbia and Croatia, sometimes in cooperation, then turned on Bosnia, which soon became a byeword for massacre and atrocities, including mass rapes, such had not been seen in the Balkans since World War II. The Serbs, at the very least, handled their public relations very poorly. Photos of emaciated prisoners in Serbian concentration camps immediately lost them the international propaganda war. Although the Croatians and Bosniacs certainly committed some atrocities themselves, the Serbian massacres seemed larger, more blatant, and more insolent and defiant. While Tudjman might well have been prosecuted as a war criminal (he is now dead), it has mainly been the Serbs, and the former President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, who have been the targets of war crime prosecutions by the Interntional Tribunal at the Hague. While this has not been entirely fair to the Serbs, it does not excuse them from what was indeed done. By whining about their own centuries of oppression, while slaughtering Moslems, the Serbs managed to become some of the most self-righteous war criminals within memory. Some NATO bombing, peacekeepers on the ground, arrests, and war crimes trials finally put some kind of lid on the conflict in Bosnia. But many guessed what was coming next. Because of the Croatian offensive and version of "ethnic cleansing," some Serbs then fled all the way to....Kosovo.



Nikola Kljusev 1991-1999
Savo Klimovoski 1999
Boris Trajkovski 1999-present
Claimed by Bulgaria and seized by Serbia in the Balkan Wars, Macedonia was nevertheless allowed to leave Yugoslavia in 1991 with a minimum of hassle. Much more hassle came from Greece, which felt threatened by this tiny state using the name "Macedonia" and, apparently, identifying itself with the
Macedonia of Alexander the Great. The new flag featured the "Star of Vergina," from the tomb of Philip II of Macedon. This implied Macedonian designs on northern Greece, also containing part of historic Macedonia; and indeed Macedonians did express some claims there. I even saw stickers on lampposts in New York City proclaiming "Macedonia is Greek!" What this was supposed to mean was not going to be obvious to anyone. It made it sound like Greece itself had designs on the new Republic of Macedonia. Did anyone even in New York City know, or care, what this was all about? Probably not.

As it happened, Greece initially blocked admission of Macedonia to the United Nations. The flag was modified and the country is now usually referred to as the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYRM). Bulgaria seems to have given up claims to Macedonia, but I am still not clear whether Macedonian is or is not a dialect of Bulgaria. There are ways to determine this. Otherwise, the region has simply never been anything but "Macedonia."

I have received correspondence from a couple of Greeks disputing this, contending that the territory of the FYRM was never in historic Macedonia. Well, there is going to be considerable uncertainty about all ancient boundaries, and there is no telling how far Philip II's Macedonia extended north. Chances are it was well into FYRM territory (probably the whole valley of the Vardar/Axios River). Nevertheless, for Roman Macedonia the boundaries are better known. The capital of the FYRM, Skopje (Roman Scupi), was definitely in the early Roman province of Moesia Superior (later Dacia Mediterranea). However, the boundary of Moesia was immediately south of Skopje, which itself is quite close to the northern boundary of the FYRM. One map in the Atlas of the Roman World (Tim Cornell & John Matthews, Facts on File Publications, 1982, 1988, p.75) shows the bend of the Axius (Axios/Vardar) River, with Scupi on the north bank, as the actual northern boundary of Macedonia. Other maps (pp.141, 146) show some of the bend itself in Moesia, but this still leaves most of the territory of the FYRM in Roman Macedonia. The Roman cities of Stobi (near modern Stip), Lychnidus (modern Ohrid), and Heraclea Lyncestis (near modern Bitola) were all in Roman Macedonia and in the present FYRM. There is agreement on this in the Atlas of Classical History (Richard J.A. Talbert, Routledge, 1985, 1989, p.143).

For some, Macedonian claims to Greek Macedonia may be based on the territorial integrity of the Macedonia of Philip II and on the presumed ethnic identity of the modern Macedonians with the ancient. This kind of claim cannot now be taken seriously, both because ancient boundaries are going to mean nothing in modern international law and because the modern Macedonians speak a Slavic language which certainly has nothing to do with the (albeit poorly attested) language of the ancient Macedonians. The other basis of Macedonian claims, however, is more serious, and that concerns Macedonians living in Greece. The Greeks deny that there is any such presence; but then Greece officially denies that there are any ethnic minorities in Greece. Linguistic maps of Greece in the 19th century show areas of speakers of Albanian, Vlach, Macedonian, and even Turkish. The Anchor Atlas of World History, Volume II (Hermann Kinder, Werner Hilgemann, Ernest A. Menze, and Harald and Ruth Bukor, 1978) shows Macedonian speakers extending from south of Skopje (Üsküp in Turkish, in a partially Albanian speaking area, continguous with Kosovo) all the way down to Thessalonica (p.120). If there are no longer Macedonian speakers in the modern Greek part of this area (only acquired in 1913), then there is some explaining to do. If Greece expelled the Macedonians, suppressed their language, or got them to leave through harassment or oppressive policies, none of these are going to be admissions to the credit of Greece, or admissions likely to be made, for just such a reason. At the very least, the FYRM can reasonably ask for an accounting on this issue.

I am informed that Greeks would be happy with the FYRM simply being called "Northern Macedonia." This is a little silly and is not going to make any difference in any Macedonian claims or possible threat against Greece. A parallel situation in Europe is actually the relationship of Luxembourg to Belgium. When Belgium became independent of the Netherlands in 1830, it took with it a very large part of Luxembourg. This area of Belgium is still called "Luxembourg." I have never heard that Luxembourg, which itself became independent of the Netherlands in 1890, today makes any claims against Belgium. But even if it did, tiny Luxembourg, although with the highest per capita income in the world, would not constitute any kind of real threat. Poor and tiny Macedonia is not going to constitute any more of a threat to Greece. If Macedonian guerrillas were crossing over into Greece, this would be a matter of real concern and complaint, but I do not understand that anything of the sort has happened; and even if it did, Greece would have no difficulty knowing where to direct counter-action.

As it has happened, the problem of guerrillas has troubled the FYRM itself. Albanian refugees inundated northern Macedonia in 1999, where there was already, as noted, an Albanian community. With them came armed Albanians who, having lost in battle with the Serbs, were interested in "liberating" northern Macedonia. They succeeded no better there, but for a while there was considerable danger of a wider conflict. Meanwhile, Macedonia is the poorest of the former Yugoslav Republics, with a lower per capita income even than Albania. This puts it perilously close to being the poorest country in Europe -- though it is probably safe from that, since Moldova has a per capita income of not much over $300, while Macedonia's is more than $1500. "Room for improvement" hardly begins to tell the tale. The dispute over Macedonia's name and claims doesn't even begin to address the real problem economic development in the FYRM and elsewhere in the Balkans.

A major part of Serbia itself since 1913, the province of Kosovo was only 10% Serb in population. Most of the rest were Albanian Moslems, who had been deprived of the autonomy they had under the old Yugoslavia and were now beginning to fight for independence through the radical Islamic "Kosova Liberation Army" (KLA). What many observers expected, then, was that the Serbs would turn the "ethnic cleansing" campaign made famous in Bosnia to the problem of too many Albanians, especially rebellious Albanians, in Kosovo. With the UN and the NATO allies already energized about Bosnia, simple defiance was not going to work for the Serbs the way it might have if action had been taken against Kosovo before all the events in Bosnia. But defiance was the approach that the Serbs took, over a land to which they emotionally claimed "historic rights," but which had mostly been occupied by others since the 17th century and had been in Serbian hands only since 1913. Although many Serbs now cite atrocities during World War II or say there was even "ethnic cleansing" against them under Tito, their claim to Kosovo is mainly as part of "historic" (i.e. 14th century) Serbia.

Unfortunately, in modern Europe several wars have been fought between France and Germany, Italy and Austria, Germany and Poland, etc., over many such "historic" claims. Such things made a poor rationale for dictatorial and terrorist measures, especially by an undemocratic country. When NATO decided to move against Serbian measures in Kosovo in March 1999, we ended up with the next round of the ongoing Balkans War. This time, however, the naked preference of the Russians for the Orthodox Serbs over the Moslem Albanians, and similar sentiments evidently shared by Greeks and others, left the Albanians with no local friends at all. Albania itself has been a basket case of anarchy and corruption almost the whole time since the end of Communism there. But the outcome of such a conflict was very problematic when the NATO countries would rather fight a quick, high tech war on the cheap, before body bags and anti-war sentiment upsets things at home, while the Serbs, who learned their ruthlessness from Marshal Tito, wanted nothing better than to appear as martyrs of America, even while burning villages and driving people out of Kosovo. A century of war thus ended more or less as it began, with Serbian grievance dragging others into a war, while NATO, unable to commit on the ground, ended up bombing civilian infrastructure in Serbia, contrary to international law, in a rapidly growing "total war."

In June 1999, the Serbs finally gave in, after heavy bombing of Serbia itself, and the Kosovars, driving out the remaining Serbs of Kosovo and attempting to provoke an Albanian rising in Macedonia, have behaved more or less the way the Serbs did. But Kosovo now seems headed for long term autonomy or even independence.


Historic Armenia and Georgia

Orontes/Ervand I Satrap, 401-344
Darius III
Satrap, 344-336
King of Persia,
Orontes/Ervand II 336-331
King, 331-c.325
Mithranes c.325-c.317
Orontes III c.317-c.260
Samus c.260
Arsames c.260-c.230
Xerxes c.230-c.212
Orontes IV c.212-c.200
Artaxias/Arashes c.189-c.164
Tigranes I ?
Artavasdes/Artavasd I 159-95
Tigranes/Tigran II
the Great
Roman influence, 69
Artavasdes II 55-33
Artaxes 34-20
Tigranes III 20-c.8
Tigranes IV c.8 BC-1 AD
Artavasdes II 1-c.2
Ariobarzanes c.2-c.4
Artavasdes III c.4-c.6
Tigranes & Erato ?
Vonones 11-16
Artaxias/Artashes I 18-c.34
Arsaces/Arshak I c.34-36
Mithridates 36-51
[Radamistus] c.52-c.54
Tiridates/Trdat I 51-60,
Tigranes VI
of Cappadocia
Axidares c.110
Parthamasiris 113-114
Roman annexation, 114-117
Sanatruces c.115
Vologases/Valarsh I 117-c.142
Pacorus c.160-163
Sohaemus c.163-c.175
Valarsh II c.215
Tiridates II/III/
Khosrov I
Tiridates III/IV,
the Great
Christianity adopted, 301
Khosrov II/Kotak,
the Young
Tigranes V/Tiran 338-350
Kidnapped by Shapur II, 350
Arsaces/Arshak II 350-367
Artashes III d.428
Persian Control, 364-428; Persian
Rule, 428-633
Like the Bosporan Kingdom, the history of Armenia stretches from the Golden Age of Greece through the Hellenistic Period to protracted status as a Roman, and Persian, client. The differences are that (1) Armenia was not a Greek colony but the realm of an indigenous people of Anatolia, like the Phrygians and Cappadocians, and (2) Armenia outlived all the Greek colonies, all the other ancient kingdoms of Anatolia, and even Rome itself. Armenia was subject to a long military and diplomatic tug-or-war between Rome and Parthia, then Rome and Persia, and finally Rome and Islâm. Even today the Armenian language reflects strong Persian influence -- which has made it difficult to determine the affinities of Armenian with other Indo-European languages. Deep Roman influence is evident in the fact that Armenia converted to Christianity in 301 AD, more than a decade before Christianity had any official toleration or status in Romania itself. Armenia has thus traditionally been regarded as the first officially Christian country, though, with uncertainties in dating, Ethiopia may be able to challenge this. The conversion of Armenia, under Tiridates III, the Great, was effected by St. Gregory the Illuminator (or Enlightener), a Roman and Christian raised Armenian, who then became Armenian Patriarch (301-325, d.332) -- undoubtedly the first Armenian Patriarch, although later the line was reckoned back to the Apostles, as with most Patriarchates.

The traditional date of the conversion of Armenia, however, has now been questioned. A.E. Redgate, in The Armenians [Basil Blackwell, 1998, 2000, pp.116-117], says that it was more like c.314, after Constantine's own conversion. Backdating the event was a later fabrication, during the period of Persian rule, in order to assert that Armenian Christianity was independent of Roman, and that Chistianity therefore did not represent Roman sympathies and disloyality to the Sassanids. Redgate thinks that the conversion of Tiridates III (or IV) was precisely to display loyalty to Rome. If Redgate is right, then Ethiopia probably wins the priority debate.

The kingdom after the end of this period indeed passed for a time under Persian control, then Persian rule, Roman reconquest by Heraclius, and finally the Islâmic conquest. Later independence in the Middle Ages included the Kingdom of the Bagratids and the outlying Kingdom of Lesser Armenia in the Taurus Mountains. The Seljuk conquest ushered in many centuries of Turkish rule. During all this the Armenian Church was always independent -- often regarded as schismatic by the Roman Catholicism of both Constantinople and the Popes. Today the Armenian Catholicos, in a newly independent Republic of Armenia, has been able to travel and freely reestablish contact with Armenian churches around the world.

After the advent of Persian rule, St. Mesrop (Mashtots, 360-440 AD) invented an appropriate alphabet for Armenian (and another one for Georgian) at the beginning of the 5th century -- in fact possibly during the reign of Sassanid King Varahran V (421-439 AD). The alphabet is largely based on the Greek alphabet, but Mesrop had to invent some letters for sounds that didn't exist in the Greek alphabet. At least one of these was later used for the Cyrillic alphabet, which was invented by Saints Cyril and Methodius (d.885) to help convert the Slavs.

An Armenian taxidriver in Los Angeles recently told a friend of mine that the Armenian alphabet was derived from the Ethiopian alphabet (actually, syllabary). This very astonishing notion would involve both dismissal of the historical record for Armenia and remarkable abnegation of national claims that usually only expand, not retreat -- as some Ethiopians say that their alphabet was invented autochthonously rather than derived from Old South Arabian, as it was. I am very curious how this notion got started and if Armenians who pass it on even know about St. Mesrop.

This list is based on E.J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World [Cornell Univesity Press, 1968-1982, pp. 135-136], and M. Chahin, The Kingdom of Armenia [Dorset Press, New York, 1987, 1991, pp. 211-257]. Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies displays several different names, sequences, and dates, but I have not tried to compare or reconcile them.

My knowledge of Armenian is originally from my textbook at UCLA, Modern Armenian by Hagop Andonian (Armenian General Benevolent Union of America, New York, 1966). Many recent Armenian immigrants to the United States, however, coming from the former Soviet Armenia, speak a different dialect (Eastern Armenian) from what earlier immigrants, from Turkey, spoke (Western Armenian).

The Patriarchs of Armenia

Armenia Continued

Guaram I 588-595
Stephen I 595-627
Adarnase I 627-639
Stephen II 639-c.650
Adarnase II c.650-c.684
Guaram II c.684-695
Arab Rule, 695-888
Guaram III 695-c.748
Nerse c.748-c.760
Stephen III c.760-779/80
Juansher 779/80-807
interregnum, 807-813
Ashot 813-830
interregnum, 830-843
Bagrat I 842/3-876
David I 876-888
independence, 888
Adarnase IV 888-912
to Abasgia, 912-923
David II 923-937
Bagrat II 937-994
Gurgen II 994-1008
Bagrat III 1008-1014
George I 1014-1027
Bagrat IV 1027-1072
Seljuk Rule
George II 1072-1089
David II 1089-1125
Demetrius I 1125-1154,
David III 1154-1155
George III 1156-1184
Tamar (f) 1184-1212
David Soslan 1193-1207
George IV 1212-1223
Rusudani (f) 1223-1231,
Mongol Rule, 1231-1295
David IV 1250-1258,
David V 1250-1269
Demetrius II 1273-1289
Vakhtang II 1289-1292
David VI 1292-1310
Vakhtang III 1301-1307
George V 1307-1314
George VI 1299-1346
David VII 1346-1360
Bagrat V the Great 1355-1387
George VII 1355-1405
Tumurid Rule, 1387-1405
Constantine I 1405-1412
Alexander I 1412-1442,
Vakhtang IV 1433-1446
Demetrius III 1446-1453
George VIII 1446-1465,
Bagrat VI 1465-1478
Constantine II 1465-1505
Persian rule,
1505-1516 & 1620-1683;
Ottoman rule,
1516-1620 & 1683-1813;
Russian conquest, 1813
At the west end of the Caucasus Mountains, Georgia is the home of an ancient Christian kingdom, and of a people speaking a non-Indo-European language, which has affinities with other
Caucasian languages, but none elsewhere. The Roman client states of Colchis/Lazica and Iberia had long been in existence when they converted to Christianity around 330. A unique alphabet was created for their unique language about the same time that the same thing was done for Armenian -- in fact it is supposed to have been done by the same person, St. Mesrop. The modern alphabet, as seen above, is a more recent creation. Unlike Monophysite Armenia, Georgia adopted the principles of the Ecumenical Councils, the Roman Catholic Church at the time, or the Greek Orthodox Church now. Subsequently, like Armenia, Iberia was often under Persian control, while Lazica remained Roman in the ongoing Persian tug-of-war with Romania
Leon II 767-811
Theodosius II 811-837
Demetrius II 811-837
George I 872-876
John 876-880
Adarnase 880-887
Bagrat I 887-898
Constantine II 898-916
George II 916-960
Leon III 960-969
Demetrius III 969-976
Theodosius III 976-978
Bagrat III 978-1014
union with Georgia, 1008
(and another Georgian state, Abasgia, was independent). This list begins about the time Iberia came back under Roman protection. Briefly under the Persians again, a much longer period of foreign rule commenced with the Islâmic conquest. Part of Georgia, Abasgia, became independent first. When Iberia followed, it was for a time even under Abasgian rule, but then Abasgia and Iberia were unified in what might be called the first complete state of Georgia.

The Seljuk Turks only occupied part of Georgia, and were expelled from the rest by David II. Georgia was then largely unmolested until the Mongols arrived, when, like any sensible small state, it became a client. The Mongol grip loosened, but then Tamerlane arrived, intent on terrorizing the small Christian kingdom. Aftewards, Georgia was then relatively unmolested again, until it became a plaything of the new Empires, Safavid Persia, Ottoman Turkey, and Tsarist Russia. In the 18th century, there were new Georgian kings, but the Russians eventually did away with the line.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia is again independent. Its President ended up being the well known figure, formerly the foreign minister of the Soviet Union, Eduard Shevardnadze. Nevertheless life has not been easy. Abkhazia (the old Abasgia) fought a nasty civil war for independence and did gain autonomy. The Ossetians, descendants of the Alans, also have been aggitating, and fighting, for union with the other Ossetian region that remained in Russia.

Although Georgia now may be best known for Shevardnadze, the most important Georgian ever will always have a much more sinister fame: Josef Stalin, born Iosif Dzhugashvili. It is not clear that Stalin spared his homeland any of the ferocity that he consistently applied elsewhere. That would have been, in the finest Marxist-Leninist terms, "bourgeois sentimentality."

The Abkhazian language, as it happens, is not actually Georgian, but an unrelated language from another Causasian language group, of which there seem to be three. Abkhazian is related to Kabardian, better known as Circassian -- the source of famous slave troops, like the Mamlûks, in Mediaeval Islâm. The languages have extraordinarily large sets of consonsants and few vowels. The best known language in the third unique language group is probably Chechen, whose speakers have been fighting a nasty independence war against Russia. Georgian and these other related and unrelated languages of the Caucasus are the last examples of non-Indo-European and non-Semitic languages in the Middle East. They may be the remnants of once extensive ancient language families, which could have included the languages of the kingdoms of Sumer, Elam, and Urart.u, as well as of the Hurrians and the Kassites. Except for Sumerian and Elamite, however, these languages are poorly attested, and many years separate the last examples of Sumerian and Elamite from the first attested examples of the Caucasian languages. I have heard about some affinities, even with the Dravidian languages, but I do not have recent scholarly sources that express any confidence about such things. On the other hand, Georgian is an "ergative" language, like Basque, the surviving non-Indo-European language of Western Europe, which could well have been related to the known ancient non-Indo-European language, Etruscan. In ergative languages, the subject of intransitive verbs is marked in the same case ("absolutive") as the objects of transitive verbs. The subject of a transitive verb is then in the "ergative" case. This "ergative/absolutive" distinction contrasts with the "nominative/accusative" distinction of Indo-European (and Semitic) languages. That Basque could be related to Causasian languages is always possible, but nothing has been demonstrated with any certainty. All these mysteries highlight how much information was lost about human history before such things started getting preserved in historical records.

This list is based on Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies. Some of the dates he gives seem inconsistent with other sources about Georgian history, and the numbering is a little mysterious (two David II's), but I have never seen any other list of Iberian or Georgian kings elsewhere. Good linguistic information about the Caucasus is in The Atlas of Languages (Facts On File, 1996, pp.50-52). For specifics, I have used Georgian, A Reading Grammar by Howard I. Aronson (Slavica Publishers, Inc., 1989).


Mzhezh 628-635
Roman Rule, 633-693
David 635-638
Toros 638-643,
Varaz-Tirots 643-645
Mushegh 654-655
Hamazasp 655-658
Gregory I
Ashot II 686-690
Nerseh 690-691
Smbat VI
Arab Rule, 693-885
Ashot III
revolt, 747/8-750
Gregory II
Mushegh II 750-755
Sahak III 755-761
Smbat VII 761-772
interregnum, 772-780;
revolt, 774-775
interregnum, 782/5-806
The long period of Persian rule in Armenia comes to an end with the great war of Heraclius to recover the parts of Romania recently occupied by the Persians. The defeat of the Sassanids fortuitously frees Armenia also. This was to be short lived, however, since the Armies of Islâm soon arrived. The battle surged back and forth from 653 on, until the Romans were expelled and the Armenians definitely subjugated in 693.

This list is based on Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies. M. Chahin's The Kingdom of Armenia does not give any kings for this period. That is probably because these figures were not kings, but "presiding princes," sometimes with rivals, as some were appointed by the Caliphs, others by the Emperors. The Bagratunis (often named "Ashot"), although later to lead Armenia to independence again, tended to be the Arab candidates, while other families, like the Mamikoneans, were the pro-Roman candidates. The complexity of this is described by A.E. Redgate, in The Armenians [Basil Blackwell, 1998, 2000, pp.166-175]. Redgate provides some genealogy but, like Chahin, gives no list of succession. He dispenses with attempting to number the names. Gordon's numbering is not entirely accounted for, since I do not otherwise find an "Ashot I" on the list. This may be because the numbering is by heads of family rather than by the office.

Armenian Patriarchs of Jerusalem

Armenia Continued
Ashot IV Prince,
Smbat VIII 826-855
Bagarat II 830-852
revolt against
Arabs, 830-855
Ashot I 856-884
Armenian independence
recognized by Caliph, 885
Smbat I 890-914
captured by the Amir
of Azerbaijan, 913,
dies in captivity
Ashot II 915-928
restored to Armenia
by Romans, 915
Abas 928-951
briefly submitted to
Sayf ad-Dawla, 940
Ashot III 951-977
Smbat II 977-989
Gagik I 989-1019
Smbat III 1020-1041
Ashot IV 1020-1040
Gagik II 1042-1045
Roman Occupation,
Seljuk Conquest, 1064

As Romania recovered against Islâm and her other enemies, Armenia recovered also and freed herself, to enjoy nearly two centuries of independence. Ashot Bagratuni was recognized as King by the Caliph in 884, and by the Emperor shortly afterwards. This restored the Armenian monarchy after a lapse of 456 years (since 428). But in time, Armenia, at first an ally of Constantinople, became a victim of the Roman recovery. The foolish later Macedonian Emperors wasted strength reducing Armenia that would have been better spent against more threatening targets. Gagik II, invited to Constantinople, was imprisoned on his arrival. But the dominion of Rome this time lasted barely 20 years, as Armenia was left stranded in a sea of Turks and Mongols for nine centuries, until during World War I, leaving only the small domain ruled by Orthodox Russia, now the independent Republic of Armenia. The next Armenian Kingdom would actually not be in Armenia at all, but in the Taurus Mountains of Cilicia:  the Kingdom of Lesser Armenia.

The list is based on M. Chahin, The Kingdom of Armenia [Dorset Press, New York, 1987, 1991, pp. 264-269]. The genealogy is from A.E. Redgate, The Armenians [Basil Blackwell, 1998, 2000, pp.198-199]. Where Redgate did not number the princely Bagratids, he does number the Kings.

Armenia Continued

Ruben I 1080-1095
Constantine I 1095-?
Prince, 1099;
First Crusade, 1096-1099
Theodore/Thoros I  
Leon I c.1129-1137
captured by John II, 1137;
dies in Constantinople
Thoros II escaped, 1145;
homage to Manuel I, 1158
Ruben II 1168-1175
Ruben III 1175-1185
Leon/Levon II
the Great
Isabella/Zabel 1219-1269
Constantine regent,
Philip of Antioch 1205-?
son of Behemond IV of Antioch
Hethoum I
the Great
Leon III 1270-1289
Hethoum II
the One-Eyed
Thoros III  
Leon IV of Cyprus 1305-1307
Sempad &
Constantine II
Oshin 1307-1320
Leon V 1320-1342
Constantine III,
Lord of Neghir
Guy Lusignan 1342-1344
son of Amalric of Tyre,
King of
Constantine IV 1344-1363
Constantine V 1363-1373
Leon VI 1373-1375,
d. 1393
Kingdom falls to
Mamlûks, 1375


The Kingdom of Armenia in the Taurus Mountains of Cilicia is called "Lesser" Armenia in contrast to the "Greater Armenia" of the Armenian homeland to the northeast. After Nicephorus II Phocas recovered the area from the Arabs in 965 and ordered all Moslems to leave, Christians from Syria and Armenia were encouraged to settle and garrison the area. Nicephorus himself even welcomed "schismatic," Armenian Orthodox Monophysites from Armenia, but this tolerance would not always continue and some friction was inevitable between many Armenians and the Imperial (the, strictly speaking, "Roman Catholic") Church. After the Seljuk breakthrough, more Armenians must have fled from the east as the Turks overran Anatolia. The Armenians in the Taurus found themselves on their own and began organizing their own domains. When the Crusaders passed through, they were welcomed and aided. A daughter of Constantine I was married to Joscelin I, Count of Edessa, ushering in a long history of association and intermarriage between the Armenians and the Crusader states. This made Lesser Armenia rather like a Crusader State itself, and so it is shown on the map.

This list of kings is mainly based on M. Chahin, The Kingdom of Armenia [Dorset Press, New York, 1987, 1991]. However, Steven Runciman, in his A History of the Crusades, Volume III, The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades [Cambridge, 1951, 1987], gives a more complete family tree, abstracted below. Runciman, maddeningly (but characteristically), gives not a single date; but he does give a number of figures who account for the numbering of the Constantines and Thoroses in the dynasty. According to Chahin's list, these were not reigning kings, but, even if not, they were numbered as members of the dynasty. Or they may have been co-regents unrecognized by Chahin. On the other hand, Constantine IV and V are not listed by Runciman in the dynastic tree because they were both usurpers. "Peter of Cyprus" listed by Chahin is Peter I of Cyprus. Constantine V offered him the throne but then decided to keep it for himself when Peter was assassinated. This information is supplemented by Warren Threadgold's A History of the Byzantine State and Society [Stanford, 1997]. Chahin fails to mention, for instance, the capture of Leon I and his sons (including Thoros II) by the Emperor John II Comnenus. On the other hand, while Runciman and Chahin agree that the early Rupenids were "princes," without a royal title until 1198, Threadgold says that they began calling themselves "kings" in 1099. Since none of them give the actual terms they were using, perhaps just in Armenian, it is hard to know why there is this disagreement.






Of greatest interest in the genealogy is when the house of Lesser Armenia makes reciprocal marriages with the Lusignan dynasty of Cyprus. This begins with the children of Leon III and Hugh III of Cyprus. Two sons and three daughters of Leon III married children of Hugh III. The result is that the succession of Lesser Armenia actually passes to to Lusignan. Such a close connection might have protected the Armenians, if Cyprus had been enough of a power to resist the Mamlûks, which, at least on land, it was not.

The Kingdom of Lesser Armenia was the last independent Armenian state until the former Soviet Republic of Armenia became independent in 1991.

As Armenians had relocated to Cilicia, so did the Patriarch of Armenia (in 1062). This line continued even after the fall of the Kingdom in 1375. In 1441, however, a new Patriarch was elected in Armenia. The Cilician line continued, as it does down to the present, as the Great House of Cilicia. It relocated to Lebanon in 1930.

Modern Armenia and Georgia

Modern Armenia

After centuries dominated by Turkey, Iran, and Russia, the ancient Christian nations of the Caucasus emerged into independence with the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. This did not make life any easier. Quite the contrary. Soon Armenia was involved in a war over the province of Nagorno-Karabakh, which had been an autonomous region in neighboring Azerbaijanistan but with a population over 75% Armenian (it had been ceded to Azerbaijan by Stalin for his own political purposes). The Armenians there declared independence at the end of 1991, and forces from the Republic were soon pushing across western Azerbaijan. By 1993 the province and a bridging salient from Armenia were secured. A cease fire in 1994 left the Armenians with their war gains. Nevertheless, independence has been a harsh experience for Armenia. Surrounded on three sides by Azerbeycan and Turkey, Armenia is isolated and the economy has been in terrible shape.
Historic Armenia
Armenia, 401 BC-428 AD
Armenia, 628-806 AD
Armenia, 806-1064
Lesser Armenia, 1080-1375
The Patriarchs of Armenia
Armenian Patriarchs of Jerusalem
With many people leaving, one of the best hopes for the Republic is that Armenian immigrants in places like the United States will be able to send enough money back to sustain the population, if not revive industry. Nevertheless, Armenian per capita income is larger than that of Georgia or Azerbaijanistan.

Armenian immigrants in America, initially fleeing Turkey, have been conspicuous for a century. In California, Armenian settlement in Fresno, in the San Juaquin Valley, led to Armenians being called, not always affectionately, "Fresno Jews" -- certainly because of their entrepreneurial and business traditions. Many of this early group of Armenians ended up coming by way of Lebanon, where many refugees had initially settled -- the town of Anjar was almost entirely Armenian. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, many more immigrants have come from Soviet Armenia.

Armenian Americans are usually conspicous by the "-ian" or "-yan" patronomic suffixes of traditional Armenian names. However, some famous Armenians don't use their Armenian names. The most important of these would be the rock icon and actress Cher, who was born Cherilyn Sarkisian. Similarly, the actor Mike Connors, who played private detective Joe Mannix on the long running television series Mannix (1967-1975), was born Krekor Ohanian (in Fresno). While actors often change their names, the derivation of other Armenians in public life is usually more obvious, for instance as with the author and playwright William Saroyan (1908-1981), who was also born (and died) in Fresno.

Modern Georgia

Georgia, like Armenia, a kingdom with an
ancient history, is not only poorer than Armenia but has lost territory rather than gained any. The northwestern province of Abkhasia and Southern Ossetia on the north central border both broke away. The fighting involved in this was beyond the resources of Georgia, and in 1993 Russia itself had to be brought back in to restore some kind of order. This is still not all settled, and meanwhile fighting spills over the border from Chechnya, with Russians in pursuit. Recently, advisors arrived from the United States to help train the Georgian army. Not long after independence Eduard Shevardnadze, who had been Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev and a familiar international figure, became President of Georgia. His tenure must have seemed a sad and humiliating business, with the scope of his purview so reduced, and his country not even able to maintain its own integrity. This must seem an especially cruel irony when in the history of the Soviet Union itself, the most powerful and dominant ruler was himself a Georgian, Josef Stalin (Iosif Dzhugashvili). In November 2003, however, Shevardnadze resigned, after massive protests, the "rose revolution," against corruption and an alleged rigged parliamentary election. He was succeeded as Acting President by the Speaker of the Parliament, a woman, Nino Burdzhanadze. In January, 2004, Mikhail Saakashvili, an American educated lawyer, has been inaugurated as President. A new flag has accompanied Mr. Saakashvili, featuring the Cross of St. George and smaller smaller crosses in each quarter. Although the former flag had long symbolized an independent Georgia, and had not been used in the Soviet era, the overtly Christian symbolism of new flag has evidently come to be prefered. Other flags, with green, orange, and burgundy colors substituted for the red, are seen. Meanwhile, in the United States, a man of Georgian heritage, Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1993 to 1997.




Culmen Europae

One wonders what the future holds for both Armenia and Georgia, as remote and isolated as they are, in an area with little history of economic development, democratic government, or liberal society. Yet it is a spectacular area.
Along the northern border of Georgia run the Caucasus Mountains, the highest mountain range in Europe, rising to the 18,510 ft. (5642 meter) Mt. Elbruz (or El'brus) -- the Culmen Europae, the "Roof of Europe" -- even though it is very remote from the centers of Europe and is no more easily accessible to Europeans than it was to Jason and the Argonauts, whose journey took them there. This did not, of course, stop Stalin from putting a statue of himself at the summit. Tourism may seem like a trivial matter, but tourists bring a great deal of money. If the country were more peaceful and stable, it would be very attractive for travelers. Since the Caucasus mark the boundary between Europe and Asia, this means that Georgia lies almost entirely within Asia. In Armenia, from the capital, Yerevan, 16,854 ft. (5137 m) Mt. Ararat is visible -- the spiritual and historic center of Armenia (the traditional site of the resting place of Noah's Ark), though now just across the border in Turkey. Some disaspora Armenians recently have thought about moving to the area in Turkey and investing money in local businesses. The Turkish government actually encouraged them, but local officials were so uniformly hostile, fearing Armenian claims on local land, that the enterprise became impossible.

Although remote and obscure, the Caucasus nevertheless somehow became the eponym in traditional racial clasifications for the "white" race. For some time, the area was certainly a prefered source for white slaves for the Ottoman Empire, including Christian boys, typically Circassians, who were converted to Islam and impressed into the elite Janissary corps of the Turkish army. "Racial" classifications of the human race are now out of favor, but it has also become evident that the traditional division, between just "Caucasoid," "Negroid," and "Mongoloid," actually doesn't fit the facts very well. Modern genetic mapping shows that South-East Asians and Pacific Islanders form a group clearly distinct from other East Asians or American Indians. East Asians, American Indians, and "Caucasians" are all more closely related to each other than to South-East Asians and Pacific Islanders. Nevertheless, the traditional "Caucasoid" group, including people from Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and India, does form an identifiable genetic branch of humanity, with the Caucasus roughly at the crossroads. Calling this "white," however, would be a misnomer, since people in India, although with identifiable "Caucasoid" features, can have very, very dark skins. Dark skin, indeed, occurs independently in Africa, in India, in Melanesia, and in Australia.

Kartvelian Abkhaz-
Georgian, Laz, Svan, Chan, Mingrelian Abaza, Abkhaz, Adyghe, Kabardian (Circassian), Ubykh Chechen, Ingush, Avar, Chamali, Tsez, Lak, Dargwa, Lezgian, Tabasaran, Archi, Tsakhur
While there are Indo-European languages in the Caucasus, like Armenian and Ossetian, and Altaic languages, namely various dialects of Turkish, like Azeri, Karachay, Kumyk, and Kalmyk, the area is noteworthy for three entire families of languages unrelated to any others, or to each other. Georgian is the most conspicuous language, a member of the Kartvelian family. The other Kartvelain languages are historically obscure. Abkhaz is related to Kabardian, better known historically as Circassian, in the Abkhaz-Adyghean family. Languages in this family have unusually large numbers of consonants, between 60 and 80, and few vowels, as few as 2 or 3 -- or even none. This is extraordinary. Chechen belongs to the Nakh-Daghestanian family, which also has the largest number of surviving languages.

Confined to the Caucasus, these languages appear like islands in a sea of extensive and more familiar language groups -- as Basque is isolated in the Pyrenees. The Middle East, however, has a past with many more such unrelated languages. In a broad swath from the south, we have the ancient Elamites, Sumerians, Kassites, Guti, Hurrians, and Urartuans, all of whose languages are distinct from the Semitic, Indo-European, and Altaic languages that later dominate. They have all disappeared utterly. Since the Caucasian languages, except for Georgian, are poorly attested before the modern era, there are obstacles to comparing them with the ancient languages, however much we might suspect affinities. Speculation links Sumerian to the Dravidian languages in India, but this may have more to do with Indian nationalism than with the evidence, which is as thin for ancient antecedents of the Dravidian languages as it is for the Caucasian. The surviving Caucasian language families, if nothing else, testify to the linguistic complexity of the ancient Middle East and remind us how much information is lost in the march of history.

The list and discription of the language families in the Caucasus is mainly from The Atlas of Languages (Facts On File, 1996, pp.50-52).

Culmen Mundi

Culmen Franciae

Modern Romania Index

Russia Index



Rome and Romania Index
Islâmic Index
Philosophy of History
Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.



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