The Balkan region consists of the area including southeastern Europe which is situated at a major crossroad between mainland Europe and the Near East. This region has a divergent identity and its disintegration is very much due to its common and more often than not a violent history and due to its mountainous geography.
The Ottoman Empire, indeed, was one of the most powerful as well as an influential civilization in the post-medieval period. This empire was established by the Turkic tribes in Anatolia, the people of those tribes were used as mercenaries or private armies by the Byzantine Empire since the 10th century.
The Ottoman Empire's reign which lasted between 1299 to 1923 continued until the 20th century, did not end until after World War I when Turkey adopted a more European style secular government under the strong leadership of Kemal Atatürk.
Ottoman rule over the Balkans was characterized by centuries of bloody struggles for freedom and prolonged periods of deadlock with the Habsburgs along the border areas of Hungary, Croatia and Serbia. Anti-Turkish propaganda and outrage against the Islamic oppressors was at its peak in the early 20th century.
The advancement of the Ottoman Turks into the Balkan region commenced with their capture of Gallipoli in 1354. By 1389 they were in control of Serbia, and by 1393 of Bulgaria. Greece was evidently considered to be their next prey. However, due to the arrival of Timur in Anatolia in 1402, a pardon was arrived at.
Inspite of all this, the Turks soon came back in the Balkans. This time the task of defending central Europe against them fell predominantly upon the Hungarians. One Hungarian warrior in namely, Janos Hunyadi, took up this challenge.
Janos Hunyadi was a Hungarian warrior and had proved his worth in frequent encounters with the Turks in the frontier regions. Belgrade which was the former Serbian capital had been captured by the Hungarians since 1427. However, the kingdom of Serbia became a vassal state of the Turks as the Ottoman sultan; Murad II had married a Serbian princess.
In November 1443 Hunyadi took over Nis and Sofia and within the next three months he also liberated Serbia, Bulgaria and Albania from the Muslim rule. Finally in June 1444, the Turks accepted their loss of those territories and agreed for a ten-year long truce.
The victory for the Turks began with the capture of Constantinople by Murad's son, Mehmed II, in 1453. By 1456 the Turks were once again threatening Belgrade. This time, too, it was Hunyadi who was in charge with greater responsibilities. Since 1446 he became appointed as the regent of Hungary, during the reign of the boy king Laszlo V.
The mid of the 15th century ended with the saga between the Hungarians and the Turks more in keeping with the spirit of a crusade than anything that had gone before. Turkish pressure advanced westwards along the Danube, arriving along with an army to the walls of Belgrade in 1456.
In July 1456 this, army drove the Turks away from the walls of Belgrade, so convincingly that the sultan, Mehmed II had to withdraw to his new capital of Istanbul. Bulgaria and Serbia, however, were still under the Turkish rule while Albania succumbed once again in 1478.
The victory of Janos Hunyadi at Belgrade in 1456 drew a line beyond which at least for the next few decades, the Turks would not advance westwards. On the other hand, however, the confrontation also had the effect of allowing them virtually a free hand to the east.
During this time, Constantinople, as invincible as ever, was now safely transformed into Istanbul. From this strategic base it became easy for the Turks to complete their unfinished business in the region between the Aegean and Hungary. Greece was occupied in 1458-60 while Bosnia in 1463-4.
Throughout the 16th century, from Budapest and Vienna in the west to Tabriz and Isfahan in the east, the political situation depended mainly on which of Turkey's neighbors was strong enough to resist the expansionist tendencies of the Ottoman Empire.