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"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.

Examples of Balkanize Me include:

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.


  • Titanium Rain has a neo-Imperial China and the Sino Union, made of China's peripheral territories minus Tibet.
  • In Judge Dredd, America, Russia, China, and Australia all consist of independent Mega-Cities and massive radioactive deserts.


  • Robert 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 MacLeod's The Star Fraction (first in the Fall Revolution quadrilogy) has a Balkanised UK, and mentions the UN having over two thousand national flags flying outside.
  • One of the main charcters in Charles Stross's Eschaton series is from The People's Republic of West Yorkshire, although he'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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Maratime States 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.

Tabletop Games

  • 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.
  • 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.


  • 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 balkanised 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).

Web Originals

Real Life

  • The term stems from the fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire (specifically, in the Balkans) which was happening throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
    • Ironically, the same would 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 Slavic states seceded and formed the short-lived State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (later Yugoslavia, which included modern-day Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania), German territories became German-Austria (later just Austria), Bohemia and Moravia left with Slovakia to form Czechoslovakia, and Hungary became independent.
    • 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!
    • This is essentially the opposite of what European powers did in Africa and the Middle East, so watch for the next round, coming soon! In fact, one solution for war-torn Iraq was to divide it into a Kurdish north, a secular/Sunni middle, and a Shia south.
    • The Daily Show publication "America: The Book" suggests that "today, each resident [of former Yugoslavia] lives in the Independent Republic of Himself".
  • Since Alexander the Great left no heir and no instructions for a regency (and his only son Alexander IV born after his death), his Macedonian Empire fractured after his death in 323 BCE. 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), and the Kingdom of Pergamon (Lysimachus / modern-day Bulgaria, eastern Greece and European Turkey).
  • It's a major historical pattern that the fall of a Space Filling Empire often results in its balkanization, with states declaring independence and people taking advantage of the fall for themselves. 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.
  • China deserves special mention. This has happened so often between Chinese dynasties that it was considered the "Will of Heaven" for a kingdom with a corrupt dynasty to break down into warring states, only to be reunited some time later under the banner of one of them.
    • 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 rather peacefully in 1991, thus creating The Great Politics Mess-Up. Ever since, 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 has been under the auspices of Russia in order to weaken the states that broke away from the USSR, but also with a plausible reason—most such territories were autonomous regions during the Soviet era, but lost the privilege once assimilated into the new republics, as is the case with Ossetia and Abkhazia, and their local populations were willing to fight to retain autonomy. Russia's autonomous oblasts retain their status, perhaps a lesson learned from the the infighting within the breakaway states.
    • In 1993 Czechoslovakia followed USSR's example.
    • Famously inverted by the two German states in 1990.
    • Sorry to interrupt, but the balkanization of the USSR was anything but peaceful: it resulted in terrible sieges in Middle Asian republics, wars in Chechnya, which to this day remains a terribly unstable region, racism and international hatred.
  • Germany, to varying degrees in history. Spent several centuries as at least 300 states under one theoretical state, then reduced into around twenty, 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 non-Balkanization, went back to being three again, with Germany split into Austria, BRD and the DDR (It Makes Sense in Context). Was inverted in 1990.
  • 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 united under a single ruler. Some of the other regions would not become part of Poland 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 broke free from Great Britain, only for it to be further divided in 1922 between the Catholic-dominated 26-county Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland) and the Anglican-dominated six-county Northern Ireland. 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.
  • Sentiment for the secession of majority Francophone Quebec from Canada ebbs and wanes, culminating in a referendum which resulted in narrowly defeating the effort back in 1995.
    • One possibility suggested during the 1995 referendum was that parts of Quebec that were against secession 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, but it's never been taken seriously as in Quebec. Even Provinces came close to this at different times, such as creating a Province out of northern Ontario and dividing the Northwest Territories (one successful attempt is Nunavut)(Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Nunavut were all carved out of the Northwest Territories).
      • YMMV on whether it has never been taken as seriously as in Quebec. The idea of joining Canada was put to a vote for Newfoundlanders and they joined the confederation because that side won by 1%.
    • 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 also 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 that have dragged on for almost two years. Because of this, Belgium has been without a functioning national government for a longer period of time than Iraq.
    • Some figures point out that, if Belgium were to split, it could split into up to 4 different countries—Flanders, Wallonia, formerly Prussian Eupen-Malmedy, and the multicultural city-state of Brussels, which also functions as the headquarters of the European Union.
  • One recent example is South Sudan, which broke off from the rest of Sudan to become its own internationally-recognized nation in 2011.