Historically, the majority of Eastern Europe has enjoyed a torrid time in their search for independence. To make some sense of the issues and conflicts in the last hundred years of Balkan history, it is important to have some sense of what went before. The Ottoman and Habsburg-Austrian Empire have been traditionally presented together as natural adversaries. Differing religions, location and ideologies have created a natural separation.
In the legacy of these two kingdoms, the promises of nationalism gained popular support, particularly from those under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Promising a better state free of corruption and therefore a better standard of living. It was adopted in Serbia, Bulgaria and most notably in Macedonia where the IMRO struggled (unsuccessfully) to recover the area from Turkish rule or at least enforce the reforms it desperately needed.
In the Austro-Hungarian case discontent was not so resonant, economies were relatively developed (although eventually it became evident that political and economic leaders in Austria-Hungary chose to serve their own needs first). Policy was far more in line with Western enlightenment, religion was tolerated and equality the legal precedent. Nevertheless pockets of discontent existed. The collapse of the empire during the First World War brought all these factors together as national boundaries were redrawn. Whilst Balkan nationalism and politics were neither created nor defined by World War I, the events do show a continuation of both long established trends, and others more recent. Nevertheless, the war and the postwar settlements had enormous impact for the Balkan people. .
In social and economic terms, wartime losses and the radical redrawing of national borders at the end of the war created disruptions that remain today. In political terms, the Balkan Wars and World War I also signaled the end of the process of replacing the old, dynastic empires with smaller states.