This is a history of the Sephardi diaspora in the Balkans. The two principal axes of the study are the formation and features of the Judeo-Spanish culture area in South-eastern Europe and around the Aegean littoral, and the disintegration of thisMoreThis is a history of the Sephardi diaspora in the Balkans. The two principal axes of the study are the formation and features of the Judeo-Spanish culture area in South-eastern Europe and around the Aegean littoral, and the disintegration of this community in the modern period. The great majority of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 eventually went to the Ottoman Empire.
With their command of Western trades and skills, they represented a new economic force in the Levant. In the Ottoman Balkans, the Jews came to reconstitute the bases of their existence in the semi-autonomous spheres allowed to them by their new rulers. This segment of the Jewish diaspora came to form a certain unity, based on a commonality of the Judeo-Spanish language, culture, and communal life. The changing geopolitics of the Balkans and the growth of European influence in the nineteenth century inaugurated a period of Westernization.
European influence manifested itself in the realm of education, especially in the French education dispensed in the schools of the Alliance Israelite Universelle with its headquarters in Paris. Other European cultures and languages came to the scene through similar means. Cultural movements such as the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) also exerted a distinct influence, thus building bridges between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi worlds. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries also saw the emergence of nationalist movements in the area. New exclusivist nation-states emerged. The Sephardi diaspora fragmented with changing frontiers following wars and the rise of new rulers.
The local Jewish communities had to integrate and to insert themselves into new structures and regimes under the Greeks, Bulgarians, Yugoslavs, and Turks, which destroyed the autonomy of the communities. The traditional way of life disintegrated. Zionism emerged as an important movement. Waves of emigration as well as the Holocaust put an end to Sephardi life in the Balkans. Except for a few remn