A country-by-country look at the Balkans

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ALBANIA

Current Crisis: The government has lost control in the north and is still recovering from massive riots in 1997. Rebels from Kosovo use Albania as a sanctuary and weapons source.

Ethnicity: Albanian.

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Unresolved land claims: There is sentiment for a "Greater Albania," which would include parts of Yugoslavia and Macedonia.

Government: Made up of former Communists. Extremely unstable.

Infamous for: Hundreds of thousands of mushroomlike concrete bunkers built by Communist dictator Enver Hoxha.

Balkan relations: No allies.

Religion: Mostly Muslim, with Christian Orthodox and Roman Catholics.

Population: 3.3 million.

Defining moment: Mr. Hoxha's isolationist communism made Albania Europe's poorest and most backward country.

Reason to be optimistic: Albania, though supportive of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, has showed restraint in the crisis next door.

BULGARIA

Current crisis: By agreeing to let NATO use its territory for possible action against Yugoslavia, Bulgaria risks retribution from the Serbs.

Ethnicity: Slavic Bulgarian, Turk (8.5 percent).

Unresolved land claims: Although they recognize Macedonia, radicals have claims to Macedonia.

Government: Strong parliamentary system. Hampered by corruption.

Infamous for: Europe's leading producer of pirated music and computer software.

Balkan relations: Neutral.

Religion: Christian Orthodox, Muslim (17 percent).

Population: 8.2 million.

Defining moment: Joined losing sides in both world wars.

Reason to be optimistic: Trying to join NATO and European Union, though still far away.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Current crisis: Hard-line and moderate Bosnian-Serb leaders are protesting an international ruling in which Croats, Muslims, and Serbs will control the town of Brcko. Since the outbreak of war in 1992, Brcko was ruled by Serbs, who had "ethnically cleansed" the Muslims and Croats. The hard-line president of the ethnic Serbian half of Bosnia was recently fired, and the moderate prime minister resigned.

Ethnicity: Muslim (43 percent), Serb (31 percent), Croat (17 percent).

Unresolved land claims: Although the groups in Bosnia do not claim outside territory, they still argue over internal land between the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

Government: A complex multi-ethnic, three-man presidency overseen by the United Nations, and large degree of autonomy in the two halves.

Infamous for: The term "ethnic cleansing" was coined in Bosnia earlier this decade, during Europe's bloodiest war since World War II.

Balkan relations: Surrounded by hostile neighbors with land claims and ethnic brethren in Bosnia.

Religion: Serbs are Christian Orthodox, Croats are Catholic, "Bosniaks" are Muslim.

Population: 3.4 million.

Defining moment: The structure of today's Bosnia was drawn up during a 1995 peace conference in Dayton, Ohio.

Reason to be optimistic: Former hard-line Bosnian-Serb leader and war-crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic has been marginalized. Moderates are gradually gaining power, and the economy is growing.

CROATIA

Current crisis: Nationalist President Franjo Tudjman, who is severely ill, rules through fear and deprivation.

Ethnicity: Croat, Serb (12 percent).

Unresolved land claims: Croats want southern Bosnia.

Government: Authoritarian.

Infamous for: Ustashe fascists, who fought alongside Nazis in World War II.

Balkan relations: Bitter enemies with Serbs.

Religion: Catholic, Christian Orthodox.

Population: 4.7 million.

Defining moment: Gained independence during violent break from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Reason to be optimistic: A coalition of opposition political parties could soon challenge Mr. Tudjman.

GREECE

Current crisis: An ongoing conflict with Turkey flared last month when the Greek Embassy in Kenya was found to be hiding Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish separatist leader accused of terrorism in Turkey.

Ethnicity: Greek.

Unresolved land claims: Disputes with Turkey over Aegean Sea islands.

Government: Parliamentary system. Reforming, with membership in NATO and the European Union.

Infamous for: "November 17" terrorist group, which has targeted multinational companies since the 1970s.

Balkan relations: Friction with Turkey, Albanian, and MACEDONIA.

Religion: Christian Orthodox.

Population: 10.7 million.

Defining moment: Oppressive military government forced from power in 1973 and 1974.

Reason to be optimistic: Economy steadily improving; will play host to summer Olympics in 2004.

Macedonia

Current crisis: Macedonia has infuriated China by establishing diplomatic and economic relations with Taiwan. It also has a restive ethnic Albanian population that is sympathetic to the Kosovar Albanians.

Ethnicity: Slavic Macedonian (68 percent), Albanian (25 percent).

Unresolved land claims: None.

Government: Strong coalition parliament, but retirement of moderate President Kiro Gligorov could cause instability.

Infamous for: Birthplace of modern terrorism: The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization fought Turkish occupiers at the end of the 19th century.

Balkan relations: Improving ties with Bulgaria, but otherwise surrounded by enemies.

Religion: Christian Orthodox, Muslim.

Population: 2 million.

Defining moment: Mr. Gligorov orchestrates secession from Yugoslavia in 1993 without firing a shot.

Reason to be optimistic: New governing coalition includes ethnic Albanians.

ROMANIA

Current crisis: Miners have caused civil unrest in violent protests about working conditions. Also, relations with Yugoslavia are likely to suffer with Romania's agreeing to support NATO in possible Kosovo action.

Ethnicity: Romanian, Gypsy (Roma) (9 percent), Hungarian (7 percent).

Unresolved land claims: The Romanians claim the former Soviet republic and now independent country of Moldova, while Hungarians claim parts of the northern territory of Transylvania.

Government: Parliamentary system. Showing increasing maturity.

Infamous for: Vlad IV the Impaler, who gave rise to "Dracula."

Balkan relations: Neutral.

Religion: Christian Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic.

Population: 22.4 million.

Defining moment: Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, whose regime was the most brutal in the Eastern bloc, was overthrown and executed in 1989.

Reason to be optimistic: Improved rights for ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania, and French support to become a member of NATO.

YUGOSLAVIA

Current crisis: President Slobodan Milosevic has a four-front war: In the Serbian province of Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians want independence; in the republic of Montenegro, where US-backed President Milo Djukanovic is gradually pulling away from Belgrade; in Bosnia, where Mr. Milosevic still has influence, and many still have a war mentality; and in Belgrade, where support for the ruling coalition is dwindling.

Ethnicity: Serb (62 percent), ethnic Albanian (16 percent), Montenegrin (5 percent), Hungarian (3 percent), Muslim (3 percent).

Unresolved land claims: Serbian nationalists speak of a "Greater Serbia" - including Bosnia, Macedonia, and most of Croatia - but they have only lost territory under Milosevic.

Government: Authoritarian.

Infamous for: Chetniks, bearded nationalist fighters who are accused of massacres during World War II, and during the 1990s in Bosnia and Croatia.

Balkan relations: Ties with Greece, but otherwise hostile.

Religion: Christian Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic.

Population: 11.2 million.

Defining moment: "No one will dare beat you," Milosevic told the minority-population Serbs of Kosovo in 1987, touching off nationalism and the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Reason to be optimistic: Popular Montenegrin President Djukanovic wants democracy and ties with the West.

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