The Balkans, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe with various definitions and meanings,including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined.The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala, 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), in the Rila mountain range.

The concept of the Balkan peninsula was created by the German geographer August Zeune in 1808, who mistakenly considered the Balkan Mountains the dominant mountain system of Southeast Europe spanning from the Adriatic Sea to the Black Sea. The term of Balkan Peninsula was a synonym for European Turkey in the 19th century, the former provinces of the Ottoman Empire in Southeast Europe. It had a geopolitical rather than a geographical definition, further promoted during the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the early 20th century. The definition of the Balkan peninsula natural borders are not coinciding with the technical definition of a peninsula and hence modern geographers are rejecting the idea of a Balkan peninsula, while the scholars usually discuss the Balkans as a region. The term steadily got, especially since the 1990s, a stigmatized and pejorative meaning related to the process of Balkanization, and hence for the region is rather used alternative term Southeast Europe.

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