Nationalism and protracted warfare are often seen as the most important impediments to social advancement in the Balkans. In contrast to these popular perceptions I argue that for much of its history the Balkan region was characterised by limited inter-state violence and by notable lack of nationalist ideologies. Furthermore by comparing the processes of state and nation formation and warfare in the South East Europe with those in the Western Europe the article aims to show that it is the weakness, not the strength, of nationalism and protracted warfare that historically have been the principal obstacles for social development. The general argument of the paper is developed in dialogue with Tilly's theory that ties state formation to proliferation of wars and Gellner's model that links the rise of nationalism to emergence of standardised educational systems and industrialisation. In an attempt to partially disprove Tilly and vindicate Gellner I argue that the experience of the Balkan region indicates that although wars can prove important catalysts of state formation they may not necessarily contribute to nation formation.