Monday, January 02, 2012

"The Fall of Yugoslavia" by Misha Glenny [1]


Glenny's book was originally published in 1992; revised editions were released in 1993 and then again in 1996. This review is for the final US edition.

The Preface, from the 1992 Edition and included here, is simply a short statement made by an actor from Belgrade named Boro Todorovic, given on a television broadcast on November 2, 1991. The war was still largely confined to Croatia at the time.

Todorovic spoke out against the violence, but just as much against the nationalist rhetoric and the "with us or against us" group-think mentality that it required. He spoke of the war--which at that point had yet to reach its darkest depths--as a horrible nightmare which nobody could wake up from. It is an explicit rejection of nationalism and patriotism in the name of ethnic murder.

Glenny left this prolouge in the final version; adding only a 1996 postscript noting that due to the end of the war and the de facto partitioning of Bosnia, he believes that while the fighting has stopped "I am not yet convinced that the stability of the Balkans has been secured."

In the next post, I will review chapter 1.


shaina said...

Overall, when reading books about the break up of Yugoslavia and subsequent wars, (or any topic, actually) do you prefer contemporary accounts, or books written several years after the events in question?

Kirk Johnson said...

Honestly Shaina, I don't THINK I have a preference--I've never thought about it. I've reviewed both. It's an intersting question, but again--I don't consciously have a preference one way or the other.

Kirk Johnson said...

My comment was specifically about Bosnia, actually. When it comes to other topics--my graduate work is focusing on 19th century American history, so for secondary sources I prefer more recent work; although this summer I've set a goal to read some "classics" of American history. DeVoto's trilogy, Parkman's history of the French-Indian War, etc.

Anonymous said...

I'll be interested to hear how you found this. I can still hear Glenny's doom-laden voice coming out of my radio in 1991 and 1992, forecasting doom if the interests of the Serbs weren't heeded. He's not an dispassionate authority. Nevertheless I found his History of the Balkans a fascinating read. It's all over the place and I feel reluctant to trust him on any specific point and yet he was the first person whose writing ever engaged my interest sufficiently to give me the sense that for the first time I actually had a real sense of the Balkans as a region rather than a label.

Kirk Johnson said...

Owen--I agree, I'm still unsure how I feel about Glenny. It's been many years since I read this book; I barely remember it, to be honest, so for all intents and purposes I'm reading it for the first time.

Shaina said...

Hey Owen, just curious as to why you find it hard to trust Glenny?

I have "The Balkans" and I just started to read "The Fall of Yugoslavia"

Kirk Johnson said...

I do remember "The Balkans" better even though it's been quite a few years since I read it.

It has some good things, but around 1958 or so Glenny stops paying attention to the rest of the Balkans and focuses entirely on Yugoslavia.

Shaina said...

I actually prefer Mark Mazower's "The Balkans" it manages to be both concise and straight forward without sacrificing the complexity of the region's history. Mazower is also the author of one of my all time favorite books, "Salonica: City Ghosts"

I'm re-reading "Bloodlands" by Timothy Snyder, which is another excellent book. In fact the more I get into the book the second time, the more I would like to see him write on the breakup of Yugoslavia and subsequent wars. Because, on the topic of the genocides committed by Stalin and Hitler at least he is very insightful. Although it seems that his interest is more north of the Sava ;)

Kirk Johnson said...

Shaina--I'll check the Mazower book out. I haven't read it yet; sounds quite good.