Follow TV Tropes


Balkan Bastard

Go To

"Even the most sophisticated plan needs soldiers, and what's better than two Serbs?"
Tokyo on Oslo and Helsinki, Money Heist

In fiction, people from Southeastern Europe, such as Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and the ex-Yugoslav countries, tend to be bloodthirsty gangsters, mercenaries, and/or war criminals. If they aren't any of those things, they'll be uncouth, rude, slovenly, thieving and/or corrupt. They'll be absolutely ruthless, pick fights with anyone who looks at them funny, revel in chaos, and have no qualms about massacring innocent civilians. While Greece is also a part of the region, the Greeks are usually the exception to this stereotype, despite their long history of warfare.

Today, this stereotype stems from The Yugoslav Wars, and the atrocities and war crimes committed by the factions involved in those conflicts. Before that, though, Yugoslavia was known as the place where World War I started, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by a Serb revolutionary in Sarajevo, and in previous centuries, "Balkan banditry" was something of a trope; notably, in the days of the Ottoman Empire, Balkan hajduci were peasant outlaws who were either bandits or freedom fighters, depending who you asked. The mountains of the region were plenty rugged enough to shelter a Bandit Clan or two. Even today, the Balkans remains a powder keg of ethnic tensions, with the issue of Kosovo still being an ongoing sore spot of the region. That part of the world doesn't have the luckiest history.

Compare to Rambunctious Italian, which is another hot-blooded Southern European stereotype that is sometimes also associated with organized crime, Renegade Russian, for a similar Slavic villain archetype from a former communist country, and Spicy Latina, which is a similar Latin American stereotype. Balkan Bastards are often an element of a Generic Ethnic Crime Gang or The Mafia or are among a story's Ruthless Foreign Gangsters.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Assassination Classroom: Irina Jelavic, a South Slavic professional assassin and Class 3-E's foreign language teacher, is a rather benign example (she's not evil, just somewhat bitchy and temperamental) whose career began when she was orphaned and traumatized during the Yugoslav Wars.
  • Black Lagoon: "Hansel and Gretel", the "Vampire Twins", are a pair of ambiguously-aged (early-teen, at their oldest) mercenaries that are horrifying psychopaths who torture and kill for fun, even killing their employer when he doesn't lets them "play". Their backstory involves them being orphans of the Ceaușescu regime who were driven crazy by being forced to work in snuff films.
  • Jormungand has it's "Dragon Shooter" arc set in a thinly disguised Serbia know as Republic T, with the Koko's attempting to muscle in on the arms market of a local war criminal.

    Comic Books 
  • Played with in The 99, where Serbian ex-soldier Zoran is initially mistaken for The Dragon because his metal prosthetic arm and leg make him look monstrous, but he turns out to be working for the good guys.
  • In "The Slavers" arc of The Punisher MAX, Frank Castle faces off against a Balkan sex trafficking ring composed of hardened soldiers/war criminals from the Yugoslav Wars. Their horrible treatment of their victims instills a white-hot hatred within Castle that leads to one of Frank's deadliest moments of paying evil unto evil.

    Fan Works 
  • Despair Island has Zolkoff, a Serbian mafia thug and Chris's main helper who enjoys brutally killing and taunting his victims.
  • The Conversion Bureau: The Palladium Wings has a rare Greek example in Nikolaos Drakonakos, the Dragon of the Skies. He's vicious Sky Pirate captain with a blood feud against Princess Celestia. In line with this trope, the narration describes him as "a Maniot Greek, piracy and bloodshed is in his blood". In addition, the majority of crew of his ship also appear to be of Balkan descent.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Behind Enemy Lines is set in Bosnia during the Yugoslav Wars, and has a Serb force hunting down the protagonist for inadvertently photographing mass graves during a recon mission.
  • Defendor: The main villain (whom the titular mentally-challenged Vigilante Man believes is his archnemisis "Captain Industry") is Radovan Kristic, a Serbian crimelord involved with drugs and prostitution.
  • In the 2008 Get Smart movie, part of the plot revolves around Max and Agent 99 following Kristic, a Bosnian national, and one of CHAOS' top operatives, to Russia where he is running a secret nuclear weapons factory.
  • I Spit on Your Grave: The second movie has a girl wind up in Bulgaria and fall victim to two rapist brothers and their mother. Her reaction to finding out she's in the country is a Big "NO!".
  • In Order of Disappearance has a Serbian crime syndicate in Norway, who get into a mob war with the local Norwegian crime organization when the son of the former's boss is assassinated.
  • Layer Cake has the Serbian mafia, who are former war criminals and have an operation so vast that when one of their deals goes bad, their only real concern is killing everyone responsible as a "never fuck with us" message rather than recovering their merchandise.
  • French action movie The Nest 2002 is about a multinational special forces team besieged inside a warehouse by Albanian mafia thugs.
  • No Man's Land has the Serbs deliberately lay down the protagonist, a Bosnian Muslim, on an anti-personnel mine.
  • Pusher has a ruthless Serbian drug lord in Denmark named Milo. Milo himself runs afoul of even more ruthless Albanians in the third movie.
  • A Serbian Film, which features extreme Torture Porn, has been described by its director Srđan Spasojević, as an allegory for the corrupt, post-Cold War government of Serbia.
  • Taken features an Albanian crime organization as the main antagonists, who run a sex trafficking operation and who kidnap the protagonist's daughter.

  • Bai Ganyo: The titular character, Ganyo Balkanski, is specifically a satire of the Balkan stereotype of being uncouth, scummy and an all-around jerk, especially compared to Westerners. While travelling around Western Europe (and Tsarist Russia), Bai Ganyo is a mostly harmless, if sleazy, Funny Foreigner. Back in Bulgaria, he quickly rises in society and becomes a power-hungry Corrupt Politician.
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula can be considered an Ur-Example of sorts of this trope. Dracula is from broadly the right part of the world, and is a deadly killer who travels west to carry out his evil schemes. And if he is correctly identified with the historical Vlad the Impaler, his ruthless personality was shaped by the brutal wars of that region...
  • Encryption Straffe: Set in a fictional city-state in post-war Balkans, three of the protagonist Genie's employer and commanders fought in The Yugoslav Wars: Dr. Prishtina, Captain Walther Volk and Major Bishop. Though, it's not specified on whose side. Volk is actually German while the other two are Croatian. Many of Genie's teammates are from a younger generation of the region, such as Rich, Vucko and Kekes.
  • Harry Potter: The fourth book introduces the Bulgarian national quidditch team. The beaters in particular, Vulchanov and Volkov, are portrayed as rude and thuggish, yelling and swinging their bats at the referee at the slightest provocation and later even hitting players with them. One of the chasers, Dimitrov, also plays dirty, trying to knock an Irish player off her broom. Word of God states that Rowling based those characters on the Bulgarian football team when they made it to the 1994 World Cup 1/4 finals, who were then infamous for such behaviors.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 has a Serbian war criminal named Viktor Drazen, who Jack Bauer and his squad killed the wife and daughter of two years before the events of the first season.
  • Bones:
    • Brennan and Booth discover that a murdered girl had come from South Central Europe, and when they track down the place where she had been staying, they discover a den filled with sex slaves who were smuggled in from Eastern Europe and the Balkan region. They soon arrest her pimp, an Albanian human trafficker.
    • Mark Kovac,the main villain of season 12, is the son of a Balkan warlord who Booth killed as a sniper. Kovac seeks revenge by torturing people to find Booth, attacking Brennan’s dad and kids at a safe house, which kills Brennan’s dad, and blowing up the lab.
  • In the Community episode "Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy", Troy and Abed's Balkan friend Lukka turns out to have been involved in genocidal cleansing back in his home country.
  • In Daredevil (2015), there are various gangs and crime groups divided by ethnicity. One of these groups are the Albanians. Matt Murdock, when he's assaulted by Dirty Cops during a visit to a client, makes a deal with their leader to help him escape the prison by invoking an Enemy Mine against Fisk.
  • Played for Laughs in Key & Peele: the dueling Albanian and Macedonian cafe owners are clearly trying to be good and responsive business owners, but their age-old ethnic animus, locations right across the street from one another, and tendency to be confused for the other has become a Berserk Button for both of them. The waitstaff for both are much more placid, however.
  • Law & Order:
    • In "Enemy", a stash-house massacre leads Fontana and Green to a heroin ring that includes an old Albanian gangster.
    • In "Securitate", a Romanian secret police torturer turned gangster is killed by his son, who's never been enough of a bastard to gain the old man's approval.
    • In "Angelgrove", one of the initial suspects in the murder of a controversial filmmaker is an Albanian gangster (played by the same actor who played the Albanian gangster in "Enemy", in fact).
    • In "Kingmaker", the murder of an undercover police officer by the Albanian mob kicks off an investigation into a rising politician.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent has delved into this trope a few times:
    • In "Homo Homini Lupis", a criminal is hired to kidnap the family of corporate executive who's been embezzling money. Much to the loan shark's horror, the kidnapper turns out to be a former member of the Serb Volunteer Guard who repeatedly rapes the embezzler's daughter.
    • In "Blasters", an investigation into the death of a Former Child Star leads Logan and Wheeler into a bootleg DVD ring run by the Albanian Mob.
  • The pilot episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit involves the SVU investigating the murder and mutilation of a Serbian war criminal who had fled to the US and started a new life as a taxi driver.
  • Money Heist: Tokyo comments on the stereotype of brutal Balkans when introducing the audience to the cast, since the Caper Crew's muscle are two Serbian ex-soldiers, cousins nicknamed Oslo and Helsinki. A subversion, since while we don't get to know Oslo very much, Helsinki is quite affable and cares for his friends and family despite being a criminal.
  • New Tricks has a Serbian war criminal hiding as a monk in an addiction clinic, and killing a man who recognized him.
  • NUMB3RS has a Serbian war criminal, Slobodan Radovic (Michael Khmurov), who not only stabs Don but he is also wanted for war crimes due to ethnic cleansing, which is why he was being targeted by four armed robbers, who survived him wiping out their Croatian village.
  • SEAL Team has Bravo Team going to capture a Serbian arms dealer who has been linked to multiple bombings targeting U.S. military personnel in the premier of it's third season, and has a scene of Bosnian Serb forces executing Bosniak civilians in "Ghost of Christmas Future".
  • Sleeper Cell has a Bosnian terrorist in its first season.
  • Pod Prikritie is centered around Bulgarian crime groups, which are this by default, but later an Albanian gang is introduced as even more violent. Even Ivo Andonov, one of the most ruthless mob bosses, has had it with Balkan petty brutality and wants to work with more "civilized" gangsters, like Italians.
    Ivo: I've had it with those Macedonian, Serbian, Greek, Turkish dumbasses!

    Video Games 
  • The main protagonist of Grand Theft Auto IV is Niko Bellic, a Serbian illegal immigrant and hired gun who fought in the Yugoslav Wars, along with his cousin Roman. Roman, however, is more boorish and sleazy (specifically addicted to food, gambling and "beeg American titties") than truly threatening and is ultimately a decent person, but more often than not needs Niko to help him out of his jams. The game also features the Albanian Mob as minor antagonists, with a trio of Albanian Loan Sharks acting as Starter Villains.
  • A Hat in Time has a comedic example in the Mafia of Cooks, a criminal organization of chefs who speak in Slavic accents, live in a Mediterranean-like city, and enjoy punching things, especially old ladies.
  • Dragan from PAYDAY 2 is a corrupt Croatian Interpol agent who works with the Payday Gang.
  • Resident Evil 6 has the J'avo, C-Virus infectees whose name is Serbian for devil, speak Serbo-Croatian, have no problem killing civilians or taking them hostage and are the main combat force of Neo-Umbrella. The game also has a rare heroic example in Jake Muller, a Blood Knight mercenary from a fictional Serbo-Croatian speaking country known as Edonia who has the antibodies for the C-Virus in his blood due to being Albert Wesker's son.
  • RUINER: Cpt. Bogdan, one of the game's bounty targets, is a Romanian mercenary and war criminal wanted for the mass execution of civilians during an unspecified Balkan war 20 Minutes into the Future. He’s not only completely unrepentant of his actions when confronted, but earnestly believes himself to be a “war hero” for them.
  • Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 has Merinov, a powerful Serbian weapons dealer, conspirator and one of the most personal enemies of the protagonist Cole Anderson, and a genocidal leader of the Serbian military, Marko Vladic.
  • SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs has the Sesseri, an Albanian black market syndicate.
  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory has Milos Nowak, AKA Milan Nedich, a suspected war criminal from the Bosnian conflict known as the Barber of Bosnia, who allegedly scalped some of his prisoners. He's one of the only mandatory kills in the game, and killing him does not effect your mission statistics.
  • SWAT 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate, the Arc Villains of the eponymous DLC expansion, are a Bulgarian organized crime group who traffick in drugs, illegal goods and, by the time of the game, have escalated to Arms Dealing and all-out gang warfare.
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has its Big Bad Zoran Lazarević, an infamous Serbian war criminal, and his mercenary company.