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aka: Balkanise Me
"It is a general truth of this world that anything long divided will surely unite, and anything long united will surely divide."
In Alternate History
and Speculative Fiction
(especially the kind that takes place Twenty Minutes into the Future
), authors like to have fun by turning big countries into lots of smaller ones. May be justified by a war, a large-scale catastrophe, or simply a successful secessionist movement. Often happens with the United States of America, resulting in the Divided States of America
, but other large countries such as China or Russia are also considered fair game.
Contrast Space-Filling Empire
, which is about filling the map with large countries so as not to bother with pesky borders. Also see United Europe
, Expanded States of America
, and Middle Eastern Coalition
as other examples of counterparts, where different countries link up or expand into huge regional or continental polities.
Historical Truth in Television
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Anime & Manga
- China is further divided in Full Metal Panic! where it is now the People's Liberation Committee (North China) and the Democratic Chinese Alliance (South China). Makes more sense than many, given the long-standing (cultural) north/south divide along the Yangtze.
- Ghost in the Shell has a Balkanized USA. After the end of the nuclear World War III, the United States was divided into three countries: the American Empire, the Russo-American Alliance, and the United States of America.
- In an alternate timeline of Eureka Seven AO, Okinawa Prefecture secedes from Japan.
- In Judge Dredd, America, Russia, China, and Australia all consist of independent Mega-Cities and massive radioactive deserts.
- Titanium Rain has a neo-Imperial China and the Sino Union, made of China's peripheral territories minus Tibet.
- Following the Divided We Fall arc in Ultimate Marvel, USA became splintered into several smaller factions, complete with Texas declaring its independence.
- The Wanderer Of The North: This was the fate of Ancient Equestria after its old capital was razed and the last Equestrian King slain by the invaders and monsters. The result was that Ancient Equestria was destroyed in the North and fractured into a smaller kingdom and several principalities in the South.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Friday. In addition to Divided States of America, also has a divided Canada, and more than 400 UN member states. It mentions "Great Russia", indicating that the Soviet Union broke up (the book came out in 1982, before it happened in Real Life). There's also a mention of Prussia, but whether or not it's the united Germany is unclear.
- In S.M. Stirling's Emberverse, a sudden collapse of functioning technology has balkanized most of the world (though in some cases, nations have been re-expanding), though we really only see the former USA. An article on the author's website, as well as two short stories released, talk about how Great Britain survives due to its offshore islands where civilisation can wait until everyone on the mainland dies off. It then rapidly expands to the point where in 2050 it controls all of Britain, Iceland (nominally) France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, a large Part of North Africa and the East Coast of the USA, as well as being the de facto rulers of New Zealand and what remains of Australia. It appears that instead of Balkanising, Europe simply falls apart and then a few states re-expand. Russia does dissolve into lots of rural kingdoms, though.
- Ken Mac Leod's The Star Fraction (first in the Fall Revolution tetralogy) has a Balkanised UK, and mentions the UN having over two thousand national flags flying outside.
- One of the main characters in Charles Stross's The Eschaton Series is from The People's Republic of West Yorkshire, and claims that there are over 1,500 countries on Earth, although it's clear that Earthers have outgrown the concept of nation states, and just keep the names for sentimental reasons.
- Several examples in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, for example The Socialist Republic of Wales. Turned Up to Eleven in The Last Dragonslayer, in which basically every UK county becomes an independent nation.
- In Orson Scott Card's Hidden Empire this happens to Nigeria after an American invasion with a Muslim north and several nations forming along tribal lines in the Christian south. This is presented as an ultimately positive thing, as most current African borders exist because of European powers dividing the continent with no concern for existing tribal, cultural or religious ties.
- Happened in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. After the Battle of Endor, the Galactic Empire began to fracture apart with the deaths of its two top leaders and elite military command staff. Over the course of nearly a decade, various Imperial Admirals began taking sectors for themselves and became warlords over sizable chunks of the galaxy.
- In John Birmingham's After America, although it doesn't go into details, it's mentioned that France has become divided after the French Intifada in the previous book, Without Warning. Also, there are several cities in Germany called "sharia towns", particularly Neu Koln, that have become independent entities de facto, if not de jure.
- In John Barnes Mother of Storms Siberia has become independent of Russia. Ironically it in turn is trying to absorb an independent Alaska. And while Alaska is the only US state to secede Canada is broken into at least Pacificanada, Ontario and Quebec. What happened to the Maritime provinces or the provinces between British Columbia and Ontario is not mentioned. By the end of the book China has broken into a dozen or more states controlled by warlords.
- In Ian Mc Donald's River of Gods and Cyberiad, an anthology set in the same universe, India has broken up into seven different nations.
- In Vladimir Vasilyev's Wolfish Nature, Siberia has seceded from Russia. Not because of any ideological or political differences but because of the inevitable corruption of territories far away from the capital (the Siberian capital is established in Krasnoyarsk, much closer than Moscow). The two countries still maintain cordial relations and open borders. Alaska has likewise seceded from the US, although it's barely mentioned, and the reasons for the secession are unknown but likely the same. Canada is also mentioned to have split, although no official names of the two countries are mentioned (they're always referred to as "both Canadas"). There are also inverted examples, such as United Europe, Baltica (all the Baltic nations), Turan (an amalgamation of Turkey and Iran), and Japan-China. There's also a Middle Eastern Coalition, but it's more like what EU is in Real Life than a government. It's a lot easier to find common ground when there are no pesky wars, atrocities, and genocides to mar relations, as there have been no wars on Earth for centuries. Ever since the Bio-Correction has removed the "wolf" gene from everyone.
- In Tom Kratman's Caliphate, it's implied that the Indian subcontinent broke into many parts.
- The Empire of Shattered Continent lost it's Emperor in 1995, and most of his direct blood relatives died in the resulting scramble to grab the big chair. As of 2017 all the sub-kingdoms pay lip service to the still-vacant throne while doing effectively whatever they want, up to and including waging small wars on each other and handling their own foreign agendas outside the Empire.
Live Action TV
- Revolution: In episode 5, there is a map that shows that both Canada and Mexico have lost territory to the various nations that that make up what used to be the United States. For instance the California Commonwealth extends into both British Columbia and Baja California and the Monroe Republic not only comprises the northeastern quarter of the former US but also Quebec south of the St. Lawrence and the Maritime Provinces. There are no detail on the rest of those nations but presumably they've also broken up.
- Shadowrun in addition to suffering from the Divided States of America has a large amount of Balkanization occurring, mostly as the result of famine, disease, Post-Modern Magik favoring rebellious oppressed groups, and other such things. This allows Megacorporations to assume more power then national entities.
- The rest of the world isn't much different: China has split into many smaller countries, Russia is split in half, Germany is now a Confederation of six, and Africa is full of tribal "nations" no more then a few miles across.
- Rifts, by comparison, partially avoids this only because most places are too wild to become nations, or the ones that do forms tend to quickly fill the old borders and then some. One notable exception being Japan, which is split into a High-tech time-displaced remnant of Pre-Rifts Japan, an anti-technology Empire of Samurai (who ironically, actually like the previously-mentioned Republic), a much meaner High-tech Shogunate, a kingdom of
DemonsOni, and a few scattered nations besides.
- GURPS Transhuman Space has a few examples, but probably the most balkanized country is Canada. The core of the country is still called Canada, and the rest are Quebec, Newfoundland, the Maritimes (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island), Nanavut, the ABC Republic (Alberta and British Columbia), and the Free City of Montreal. Quebec, Newfoundland and the Maritimes are members of The European Union; ABC is a member of the Pacific Rim Alliance.
- Risk. This is really only done to provide game balance, as there isn't really much backstory to a simple board game. The extent of Balkanization is rather vague in Risk 2210 A.D., where one might believe every single individual territory to be a separate country.
- Eberron had the kingdom Galifar, which split into five nations due to a succession dispute. This was followed by an inconclusive war lasting 102 years, during which other lands seceded.
- The Free Worlds League in BattleTech had always been a unstable conglomerate of various kingdoms, but the effects of the Word of Blake Jihad, the realization that their leader was an impostor and that their real leader was a genocidal psychopath - resulted in the FWL shattering into a dozen feuding states.
- One popular map for Diplomacy—particularly for email play—is a world map set in 1861 and including the Confederacy as a playable power. Also, many countries are divided into subunits for play purposes, so this is easy to do.
- Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun, Hearts of Iron and Europa Universalis all gives plenty of opportunities to do this. (all of them feature various variations of Divided States of America for instance)
- We can't mention Paradox Interactive games without mentioning Crusader Kings—just as in the real Middle Ages, large kingdoms have an alarming tendency to fragment into independent states if the dukes and counts don't consider the king a worthy ruler. This sometimes happens peacefully, but sometimes not.
- Supreme Ruler 2020 has done this with pretty much the entire world (though some countries are slightly bigger, such as Belgium and Luxembourg forming one country.
- The air-buccaneering game Crimson Skies—based on a tabletop game whose source books go into greater detail than the videogames—is set in a balkanized 1930's USA made up of several independent nations and micronations, as well as significant protectorates of European powers (mainly Britain and Nazi Germany). Russia has also split in the setting between White Russia and Red Russia who are both primarily focused on their own cold war they're having with each other.
- Ace Attorney Investigations does it to itself. The fictional country of Cohdopia splits for unspecified reasons into Allebahst and Babahl. As well, the Republic of Zheng Fa seems to be a splinter country from China.
- Global Domination, a game based on the computer game James Bond plays in Never Say Never Again, splits Australia in two and Russia, the USA, China and Canada in several pieces, more for gameplay reasons than anything else. Many smaller nations are swept up into bigger ones for the same reasons.
- Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake has Zanzibarland, which was one of the many splinter countries of the former Soviet Union (keep in mind that this game was released before the actual fall of the Soviet Union).
- Knights of Honor seems to start out this way, because the starting point is the Early Middle Ages, and Europe is very fractionated at this time. As playing time progresses the nations grow ever larger, however political unrest, the death of a ruler or religious revolts can result in entire nations fractionating into independent provinces.
- Shattered Union the Washington DC was destroyed by a terrorist attack that the states divided into 6 factions with the European Union occupying the remains of DC, Hawaii staying neutral, and Alaska being invaded by Russia.
- Star Trek Online: After the Romulan Star Empire had its heart cut out by the destruction of Romulus and Remus in the Hobus System supernova (see Star Trek XI) the rest of the Empire fragmented into at least three factions. The current Romulan Star Empire is a military dictatorship led by Empress Sela and the Tal Shiar, while the Romulan Republic, the faction for Romulan player characters, is a democratic alliance of Romulans and Remans who want peace. There's also a Reman resistance movement that is part Space Pirate, part La Résistance, seeking to liberate their species from Romulan rule no matter the cost; they're allies of the Republic.
- After the events of 'Romulan Mystery' (a series of missions shared between all three player factions), it is indicated that the Star Empire is fragmenting again in the absence of Sela and with the Tal Shiar having suffered severe losses, including their leader. No detail on the new fragmentation has yet been provided in-game, as the only one to even talk about this third collapse of the Empire is the leader of the Reman Resistance, and he only mentions it when it has just begun. Word of God has indicated that as of the current 'now' of the game, the Star Empire has been reduced to a handful of hold-out colonies... which means this trope is being reversed, as the Romulan Republic is now firmly established as the dominant power in Romulan space.
- EtrianOdyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl has the Canadian province of Ontario as an independent kingdom. The rest of North America, and presumably the world, is in a similar state, Ontario is just the only one still going by its original name.
- Decades of Darkness starts with the USA falling apart, and later France, Italy and Britain will meet the same fate after being defeated by Germany in the Great War.
- Parodied and taken to the illogical extreme in the AlternateHistory.com timeline Leaves in the Wind, which records the Balkanization of Liechtenstein!
- The Alternate History project Ill Bethisad has only Russia as the only real Space-Filling Empire. Both Brazil and China are broken up into smaller states and the USA are a looser union than in OTL. Here's a map.◊
- The Chaos Timeline does this to North
America Atlantis, and sometimes China, France and Russia. And even New Albion (New Zealand).
- Union and Liberty includes the balkanization of Mexico into a dozen states.
- Capto Iugulum: Happens to Hungary, the United States, Kongo, the Franco-Burgundian Confederation (although it reunifies), Spain, and British South Africa over the course of the the NES.
- Futurama shows that this has happened to the US over the past thousand years in some of the few map shots we get. For instance, apparently a Velvet Revolution divided the Penn Republic and Sylvania. Doesn't stop Fry and co. from going on cross-continental trips.
- The term stems from the fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire (specifically, in the Balkans) which was happening throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
- The same would later happen to Turkey's archrival, the Habsburg Empire. Nationalist pressures forced Austria to grant autonomy to Hungary, creating the Austro-Hungarian Empire and dividing the realm between Cisleithania (Austria) and Transleithania (Hungary). Then after the Great War, its South Slavic states seceded and joined up with Montenegro and Serbia (which also controlled Kosovo & Macedonia) to form the short-lived Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia; the former Austrian states that joined were [most of] Slovenia, [most of] Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina); German territories became part of Austria (most of them, anyway; that "most" becomes very important later); Bohemia and Moravia left with Slovakia to form Czechoslovakia; and Hungary became independent. Also, Krakow and Lwow joined the rest of newly-independent Poland (though the latter would become part of Ukraine after WWII) and Transylvania joined with the rest of Romania (which at the time also included most of modern-day Moldova).
- After Josip Broz Tito's death, ethnic tensions in Yugoslavia brought a more modern meaning to the term (as in through ethnic lines). Yugoslavia's balkanization was bloody, involved various foreign powers, and is still ongoing, the latest event being Kosovo's secession in 2008. Coming soon to a Southeastern Europe near you: the independence of the four Serbian-majority counties in Kosovo as North Kosovo!
- The Daily Show publication America (The Book) suggests that "today, each resident [of former Yugoslavia] lives in the Independent Republic of Himself".
- After the World Wars, the European powers did this to their colonies and protectorates in Africa and the Middle East. However, rather than splitting up their holdings by former tribal, ethnic, or religious lines, the new countries were mostly formed from the borders between holdings by different European powers, resulting in countries where different groups who spent most of their history fighting each other suddenly having to cooperate in governing a fledgeling nation – so watch for the next round, coming soon! In fact, one solution for war-torn Iraq – proposed by, among other people, Joe Biden – was to divide it into a Kurdish north, a secular/Sunni middle-&-west including Baghdad, and a Shi'a south; this solution was vetoed by Turkey (who don't want a de jure independent Kurdistan on their doorstep) and nation-building advocates in the US and Israel (who worried about a Shi'a-Arab-only state aligning itself with also-Shi'a Iran).
- Since Alexander the Great left no heir and no instructions for a regency (and his only son Alexander IV born after his death quickly assassinated), his Macedonian Empire fractured after his death in 323 BC. Once the dust cleared (after forty years), it was divided among his generals: Macedon (Cassander / Alexander's native Greece), the Ptolemaic Kingdom (Ptolemy I Soter / modern-day Egypt), the Seleucid Empire (Seleucis I Nicator / modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Israel/Palestine), and the Kingdom of Pergamon (Lysimachus / modern-day Bulgaria, eastern Greece and European Turkey).
- The theme of a Space-Filling Empire's decay resulting into anarchy and division into fragmented interwarring states is one of the most recognizable patterns throughout history. The Persian Empire, The Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Spanish Empire, the French Empire, The British Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire – the list can go on.....
- In China it's considered the "Mandate of Heaven" that eventually a dynasty will become corrupt, break down into warring states, and be reunified into a new dynasty due to the cycle repeating itself for 4000 years. This was of course very convenient, as it both gave justification for imperial rule (Heaven favors this person to run the country) while also justifying revolt and rebellion through explaining the corruption that dynasties inevitably suffer over time. This historical pattern happened to them so frequently that it became constitutional. Summed up in the opening line to Romance of the Three Kingdoms: "The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide." In modern times China remains divided between the People's Republic of China (mainland) and the Republic of China (Taiwan), while there are separatist movements within the mainland in both Tibet and Xinjiang, provinces which are Autonomous Regions only in name.
- In a somewhat logical conclusion of the events of Mikhail Gorbachev's reign, USSR balkanized itself in 1991, thus creating The Great Politics Mess-Up. Ever since, several of the USSR's breakaway states balkanized even more. Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia; Transnistria from Moldova; Crimea from Ukraine (although later re-conquered and given status as an Autonomous Republic), Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan, etc. As the 2008 South Ossetian war has shown, a large number of these separations have been violent.
- Ironically enough, most of these further balkanizations have been under the auspices of Russia in order to weaken the states that broke away, but also with a plausible reason – most such territories are populated by minority ethnic groups and were semi-autonomous regions during the Soviet era, but lost the privilege once assimilated into the new republics. As is the case with Ossetia and Abkhazia, their local populations were willing to fight to retain autonomy. Russia's autonomous oblasts retain their status, perhaps a lesson learned from the infighting within the breakaway states.
- In 1993 Czechoslovakia followed the USSR's example; the country peacefully split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
- Famously inverted by the two German states in 1990.
- Germany, to varying degrees in history. It spent several centuries as at least 300 states under one theoretical state, which decreased to around 20, both legally and in practice (though bound in an alliance), followed by a shrinking number until there were two left (as far as Germans of the time saw it). After a short period of unification (75 years), it was split in two during the Cold War, then reunified in 1990 (though Liechtenstein, Austria, and German speaking parts of Switzerland and Italy remain outside Germany).
- Following the death of Prince Bolesław III in 1138, Poland was divided among his sons and over the next two centuries fractured into smaller princedoms. It was not until 1320 that the major regions were reunited under a single ruler. Some of the other regions would not become part of Poland again until after World War 2.
- After Genghis Khan's death, the Mongol Empire split into the Chagatai Khanate, the Khanate of the Golden Horde, the Ilkhanate, and the Yuan.
- Early in the 20th century, Ireland attempted to break free from Great Britain, only for it to be divided in 1922 between the Catholic-dominated 26-county Southern Ireland (later the Irish Free State, and then simply Ireland) and the Protestant-dominated six-county Northern Ireland.note The latter's situation looks to be slowly inverting with recent power-sharing agreements.
- An inversion is the uniting of Vietnam after a long, bloody, and controversial conflict.
- Another was the uniting of Yemen in the 1990s.
- After The Korean War ended with an unofficial armistice (meaning both countries are technically still at war), the Korean Peninsula, once a unified state, split between communist North and capitalist South, and judging by their less-than-friendly relations, the status quo may have to remain. Unlike many examples though, they have a common languagenote , culture, and heritage; the divide is solely political.
- Sentiment for the secession of majority Francophone Quebec from Canada ebbs and wanes, culminating in a referendum in 1995 where secession lost by a small margin.
- One possibility suggested during the 1995 referendum was that parts of Quebec that were against secessionnote could split off from an independent Quebec and either form their own nations or more likely merge back into Canada.
- Quebec wasn't the first to attempt secession. Nova Scotia seemed to move to that direction in the first provincial election right after Confederation even occurred. British Columbia and western Alberta also mulled secession at the same time as Quebec. Newfoundland, the last province brought into the fold, has had a recent Premier who made overtures of secession. Even provinces came close to this at different times, such as creating a Province out of northern Ontario and dividing the Northwest Territories (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Nunavut were all carved out of the Northwest Territories).
- Saskatchewan and Alberta went through a phase of this in the early 1980s, with several secessionist parties, such as the Unionist party (Who wanted to join the US) and the Western Canada Concept (who wanted to make a new country from the western provinces and the territories.). The latter recently got semi-revived with the creation of the Western Bloc Party, but they're getting very little traction, coming in 3rd from last in the most recent election.
- Several political parties in Belgium want to split the country up between Dutch-speaking Flanders and Francophone Wallonia. Flemish nationalist party N-VA (the New Flemish Alliance) became the largest party in Parliament in the 2010 elections, leading to cabinet formation negotiations which dragged on for almost two years. Some figures point out that if Belgium were to split, it could become up to 4 different countries – Flanders, Wallonia, formerly Prussian Eupen-Malmédy, and the multicultural city-state of Brussels, which also functions as the headquarters of The European Union.
- South Sudan broke off from the rest of Sudan – after a 20+-year civil war and internationally brokered peace agreement (that still hasn't been completely fulfilled) – to become its own internationally-recognized nation in 2011.
- This once happened to the United States. It didn't last long.
- One bit of it did last, however. After Virginia seceded, the people in northwestern Virginia decided they'd like to still be part of the Union. Therefore, they seceded from Virginia, forming the new state of West Virginia. Even though Virginia was brought back into the Union by the end of the war, West Virginia remains a separate state to this day.
- Some native Hawaiians argue that the U.S. annexation of Hawaii was illegal and call for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy. In 1993, Bill Clinton signed a bill which officially apologized for the not-nice way Hawaii was annexed back in the 1890s. In 2009, the Akaka Bill attempted to recognize native Hawaiians as a semi-sovereign "nation within a nation" (a legal status similar to that of mainland Native Americans), but it failed to pass. Oddly, the claim that Hawaii isn't really part of the United States has only attracted the attention of a very few Obama birthers.
- There also exists various movements to do this on the state level, though these would explicitly require the approval of both Congress and all states involved. Usually it's a case of one part of the state feeling shafted by the state government. Repeated instances that pop up on occasion (usually on slow news days) include California (either north/south or coastal/inlandnote ), the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, New York between the city and upstate (the big argument is over who would get to keep "New York"), and Illinois between Chicago and downstate.
- You can take it another level with municipalities doing it. Procedures, motivations, and success rates vary by state. For instance, both Staten Island and the San Fernando Valley voted to secede and become their own municipalities in the last couple of decades. In Staten Island's case, their 1993 referendum was 65% in favor of secession, though they stayed within the City of New York due to the election of Rudi Guliani who promised to address their two biggest grievences of making the Staten Island Ferry free of charge and closing the Fresh Kills Landfill. The Valley's push, on the other hand, had their proposal unanmiously blocked by the city council even though their 2002 referendum was 55% in favor of secession within the Valley.
- This almost happened in the truest sense to the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century, when the empire was for decades overwhelmed with civil wars and military revolts. At its worst the empire split between the "real" Roman Empire centered around Italy, the Gallic Empire (mainly Gaul, Brittania, and Germania), and Queen Zenobia's Palmyrene Empire, which covered much of modern day Syria, Palestine/Israel, Egypt, and Turkey. All three "empires" were forcibly unified by 274, but it is an interesting what-if to consider what would have happened long-term if they were not...
- After the shock of the Fourth Crusade, where invaders from Catholic Europe on the way to wrest Jerusalem from Muslim rule instead invaded Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire balkanized as a result of there being not only multiple rival Orthodox Christian claimants to the imperial throne but also squabbling Latin Crusaders who wanted to carve out their own independent territories. You had Epiros (northwestern Greece), the duchy of Athens, Naxos, Rhodes, the kingdom of Thessalonica, the principality of Achaea (southern Greece), the Empire of Nikaea (Asia Minor), and the Empire of Trebizond (which despite calling itself an empire at its peak consisted of the southernmost tip of the Crimean peninsula and...well, Trebizond itself and its surrounding areas). Some were reincorporated into the Byzantine Empire, but a few like Trebizond would hold out for a while even after the Byzantine Empire was conquered by the Ottoman Empire.