The fall of the Balkan port: Geopolitical dynamics and the decline of the free zone in Thessaloniki (1923–1939)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article concerns the decline of the port of Thessaloniki in the interwar years, manifested by the failure of the Free Zone scheme. Establishing a transit center free of duty for the use of neighboring Balkan states was the flagship scheme of Thessaloniki to restore its economic trade with the historical hinterland. However, the Free Zone failed to meet expectations as it ended up attracting only a small proportion of the Balkans' maritime transport. The Greek historiography links this failure to the inter-Balkan conflicts, which hampered commercial cooperation. This argument oversimplifies the broader challenges that the Free Zone scheme actually faced. This article offers a much more comprehensive account of the mechanism that hindered the Free Zone's growth. It combines theoretical reasoning (the development paradigm) with empirical analysis of intra-national (Old Greece vs. New Greece, the uneven spatial policy) and international (Greek-Yugoslavia disputes) politics. This theoretically-informed case study sheds light on the geopolitical factors which undermined the pioneering efforts made to turn the waterfront of a Balkan port-city into a Free Zone with an international hinterland.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-72
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Endogenous/exogenous decision making
  • Home free zone vs. foreign free zone
  • The free zone of piraeus
  • The right of free transit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Archaeology


Dive into the research topics of 'The fall of the Balkan port: Geopolitical dynamics and the decline of the free zone in Thessaloniki (1923–1939)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this