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Powder Keg is a metaphorical term sometimes used when referring to countries or geographical regions where political, socio-economic and historical circumstances have made the area prone to outbursts of wars or other conflicts. The analogy is drawn from a perception that certain territories may seem peaceful and dormant until a minor event triggers a large outburst of violence. The term is most often used to simplify and help the understanding of what many times is a complex set of circumstances that lead to conflicts (see diagram of World War I Powder Keg)

While the term is used sometimes to refer to the entire region of Europe it is almost always used to specifically describe countries on the Balkan peninsula and particularly the ex-Yugoslavian countriesmarker. The most cited event attributed to the use of the term was the assassination of Franz Ferdinandmarker that took place in Sarajevomarker, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker in 1914 which triggered World War I.

More recently the term has also been used to describe other regions in the world such as the Middle East or Pakistanmarker

The term is metaphorical, referring to the original meaning of powder keg: a barrel of gunpowder. The powder keg was the primary method for storing and transporting large quanties of black powder up until the 1870s and the adoption of the modern cased bullet. However, the contents of the barrels was prone to damage from rain, and had to be handled with care.

See also


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