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During the 1820s, "Balkan became the preferred although not yet exclusive term alongside Haemus among British travelers...Among Russian travelers not so burdened by classical toponymy, Balkan was the preferred term." As time passed, the term gradually acquired political connotations far from its initial geographic meaning, arising from political changes from the late 19th-century to the creation of post–World War I Yugoslavia (initially the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes).

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The first attested time the name "Balkan" was used in the West for the mountain range in Bulgaria was in a letter sent in 1490 to Pope Innocent VIII by Buonaccorsi Callimaco, an Italian humanist, writer and diplomat. English traveler John Morritt introduced this term into the English literature at the end of the 18th-century, and other authors started applying the name to the wider area between the Adriatic and the Black Sea.

The concept of the "Balkans" was created by the German geographer August Zeune in 1808.

A European Union initiative of 1999 is called the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, and the online newspaper Balkan Times renamed itself Southeast European Times in 2003.

In the languages of the region, the peninsula is known as: The Balkan Peninsula is surrounded by the Adriatic Sea to the west, the Mediterranean Sea (including the Ionian and Aegean seas) and the Marmara Sea to the south and the Black Sea to the east.

Resources of energy are scarce, except in the territory of Kosovo, where considerable coal, lead, zinc, chromium and silver deposits are located. The often relentless bora wind is also being harnessed for power generation.