The area stretching from the gates of Trieste to those of Thessaloniki remains, for many people, a grey area as concerns its historical and human configuration, in that it lacks a specific identity, thus resembling those unexplored territories that early cartographers used to describe succinctly with the label “hic sunt leones”. In fact, for over 1500 years that area has been the setting of a dramatic conflict among peoples, civilisations and religions. Since the 6th-7th centuries, it has been settled by Slavic populations in the aftermath of the great migrations that led to the fall of the Roman Empire. Three major ethnic groups originated from those settlements: Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Featuring different profiles as regards demography, history, traditions, language and alphabets, Croats and Serbs, on the one hand, and Slovenes, on the other, for centuries were separated by two great empires – the Hapsburgs and the Ottomans – that shaped the destinies of Europe and the Mediterranean. Each of the three nations has its own chapter, which describes its major historical events – from its origins to the present day – and explores its relationships with other groups (Bosnians, Montegrins, Kosovans and Macedonians).
Jo?e Pirjevec formerly taught Contemporary History of Eastern Europe at the University of Padua and History of Slavic Countries at the University of Trieste.