By the late 18th Century and the growing position of Russian Empire in the region of Black Sea, the Ottoman Empire was considered the "great sick of Europe", not only in political and institutional but also in the socio-economical point of view. This crisis had begun long before and already in the 17th Century was imposed in the Ottoman society a political and cultural debate on the issue of decline. In the beginning of the 19th Century, the Ottoman elites recognize that a change is necessary and that the only hope of survival consists probably in a political and economic Occidentalization.
Even the elites of the Balkan nations, still under the Ottoman rule, consider the "Ottoman yoke" the origin of their backwardness. In the Balkans before 1914, the economies of the States of this area were largely dominated by small-scale agriculture, while the industry was only beginning to develop there was a limited redistribution of workforce, financial resources and human capital for productive sectors characterized by an advanced technology: therefore a circle of stable development was not yet initiating.
In general, in Balkans and Black Sea region the cause of the lag is the Ottoman rule and the pressure of the Habsburg and Russian Empires. Particularly on the border areas of the Balkans the military rivalries and tax obligations imposed by Habsburgs and Ottomans had negative effects, both on demographic and economic level.
Between Middle and Modern Age, the Balkans and the entire Eastern area of the continent have been strongly influenced by the continuing closeness with the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Between Italy and Northern Europe exists a network of cities, ports and small urban centres: this is the result of strong trade relations, rather than of military confrontation. This system of urban centres has been a commercial network that increasingly expanded and – as by Georges Duby – has begun to structurate around 1180 A.D. In South-East Europe, it didn’t exist a network to link the commercial Balkan centres (that were almost non-existent) with those from Byzantium. The lack of significant urban centres has slowed the Balkan economic development: together with other factors (as the depopulation of the countryside in the late Middle Age, the lack of a technical revolution of agriculture, characteristic for North-Europe) these characteristics have encouraged greater independence of the Balkan nobility, whose centres of power were located mainly in rural areas, and the maintaining of heavy corvées for the peasants. In addition, the epidemic of the "black plague" was more severe in the Balkans. Moreover the nature of the military border, characteristic for the Balkans has prevented the extension of the borders of warehouses, according to the French model “the main economic consequence of centuries of struggle in the Balkan periphery before 1500 A.D. consists of a slow and mutual weakening of the rivals" (P. Anderson). This process led to the formation of an imbalance between the Balkan and Western economy that was already significant at the dawn of the modern age.
About the trade in the Balkans (16th -19th Century), from the 15th and up to the 19th Century, the Balkans have experienced a long period of political Ottoman hegemony. The question is if this delay is due to the “economic penetration of the European powers” and to the “dissemination of extensive grain culture” (I. Wallerstein), or by the fact that in the originary system of feudal administration of the lands granted to the Spahi, in addition to their normal military role for the defence of the border, “they had to supply to the army and the capital with agricultural products” (by Marxist scholars). In all the case, the cultural relations are more and more strong: from the Balkans to the entire region of Black Sea the economical links are medium of cultural influences in civilization, language, material culture.
The introduction in the 17th century of the American corn serves mainly to feed a growing number of domestic animals. It’s missing in the Southern Balkans area (with the exception of the East coast of Greece) because of inappropriate weather conditions. Some data also suggest a significant contraction of the production of wheat, between the end of the 16th century and the half of the 18th an index of commercial activity of the Ottoman Empire is that the 18th century is characterised by an exponential reduction of the use of maritime communication routes: as a matter of fact, about half of the Ottoman export uses terrestrial routes for a direct communication with Central Europe (Austria and Germany).
The inner seas – as the Black Sea and the Adriatic or in general the Mediterranean – are systems with multicultural but homogeneous profiles, in which the economical development is a basic historical key of reading.