Powder Keg
A powder keg is a barrel of gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

. The powder keg
A keg is a small barrel.Traditionally, a wooden keg is made by a cooper used to transport items such as nails, gunpowder., and a variety of liquids....

 was the primary method for storing and transporting large quantities of black powder up until the 1870s and the adoption of the modern cased bullet
A bullet is a projectile propelled by a firearm, sling, or air gun. Bullets do not normally contain explosives, but damage the intended target by impact and penetration...

. However, the barrels had to be handled with care, since a spark
-Physical sparks:* Spark , a small glowing particle or ember* An electric spark, usually with a flash and a sharp noise-Computer science:* SPARK...

 or other source of heat could cause the contents to deflagrate.

Powder keg is also a metaphorical term sometimes political, socio-economic, historical or other circumstances have made the subject prone to outbursts. The analogy
Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another particular subject , and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process...

 is drawn from a perception that certain territories may seem peaceful and dormant until another event triggers a large outburst of violence
Violence is the use of physical force to apply a state to others contrary to their wishes. violence, while often a stand-alone issue, is often the culmination of other kinds of conflict, e.g...

. 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
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 it is almost always used to specifically describe countries on the Balkan peninsula and particularly the ex-Yugoslavian countries. The most cited event attributed to the use of the term was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand that took place in Sarajevo
Sarajevo |Bosnia]], surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of Southeastern Europe and the Balkans....

, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina , sometimes called Bosnia-Herzegovina or simply Bosnia, is a country in Southern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for the...

 in 1914 which triggered World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

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