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Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide Hardcover – 30 Mar 1999

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: New York University Press; First Edition edition (30 Mar. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814706711
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814706718
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,187,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By RM on 17 Feb. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Branimir Anzulovic has attempted to explain the reasons why Serbs pursued their policy of "Greater Serbia" in the 1990's by specifically focusing on the 1389 Battle of Kosovo legend, or "myth" as Anzulovic describes, perpetuated in Serbia's folk songs and poetry.
The problem is that he believes the reason why the Serbs launched their war for a "Greater Serbia" was because they were pi**ed about losing Kosovo and their vast medieval empire 600 years ago, and tried to regain it by aggression against others during the 1990's. While this argument may be plausible to an extent, its not the whole truth. There were many others factors as to why the Serbs went to war e.g. economic difficulties, a belief that they were defending themselves against another genocide (like the 1941-45 in the Independent State of Croatia), media manipulation and other things. These are strangely omitted from Anzulovic's book.
Also, his description of Serbs in the Krajina region of Croatia as being "Serbianised Vlachs" is reminiscent of Noel Malcolm's description of the Serbs as being Vlachs in his book "Bosnia: A Short History" (which is, incidentally, in Anzulovic's bibliography). For those of you who do not know what Vlachs are, they are a nomadic people, originally from Romania, who spread west to countries that are now known as Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia. Muslim and Croat nationalists call Serbs "Vlachs" when insulting them (its used as a pejorative term).
Before I wrap up my review, there is one more thing which Anzulovic accuses the Serbs of (or more specifically, Serbia) and that is starting WW1, but he describes it in an accusatory manner.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By That mysterious someone on 19 Aug. 2005
Format: Hardcover
I initially bought this book cheaply and imagined it was written by a Serbian historian/scholar. The book does contain some interesting information and stories about Serbian history and mythology. However, as you progress through the book it becomes quite apparent the author is far from objective and fair. In fact, it becomes quite apparent that the author is consumed by a hatred of the Serbs.
The central premise of the work seems to be that the Serbs are evil and is an inherent part of their national character. It seems that the author uses every opportunity to draw comparisons with the mentality of Nazi Germany (albeit unspoken). We also learn that Serbian literature not only frequently justifies genocide, but is actually complete rubbish too. Unfortunately, this type of work will only add to divisions and intolerance in that region of Europe, which is quite irresponisble and cowardly considering the author currently redsides in the US. I found myself asking why the US intellectual establishment considered this vitriolic hatred worthy of publication. I can only guess it was a means of justifying their role in the recent conflict.
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Amazon.com: 33 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Balkan Mischief Makers 31 May 2010
By kaioatey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Recent Balkan wars represent a succinct example of the incestuous relationship between culture and brain function. A multicultural, relatively prosperous society with a high degree of inter-ethnic marriage is torn, within a year or two, into murderous fiefdoms. Appalling crimes are committed and justified by appealing to old myths resurrected by political expedience. Europe watches, helplessly, as veneer of civilization is torn with people reverting to Old Testament tribal eye-for-an-eye brutality.

This book tries to explain the causes and conditions that propelled Serbs into renting asunder of (an illusory?) tribal harmony in communist Yugoslavia. The main thesis is that Serb personal, political and religious life is defined by myths (of Serb defeat by the Ottomans, of "Serb exceptionalism", etc). Several chapters attempt to show that the genocidal streak in the Serbian national mythos originated in a violent 19th century poem calling for elimination of Turks and their collaborators. Anzulovic shows that, far from resisting occupation, Serb aristocrats were valuable vassals of Ottoman Turks, helping to consolidate Ottoman power both through troops and personal service. There is an intriguing link between the Serb tradition of banditry and its disregard for victims which may be relevant to our understanding of the Bosnian war. Pace A., in Servia, cruelty when successful is admired; thus Serb paramilitary atrocities in Bosnia created a vicious self-reinforcing circle that was actively encouraged by intellectual, artistic and religious elites in the Serb capital (Belgrade). The author shows a particular scorn for the Serb Orthodox Church which has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Bosnian genocide through its "St. Savaist" populism. As far as the Belgrade Patriarchy is concerned, murdering innocent Muslims does not contradict Christ's teachings. In other words, for a few blood-soaked years the Serbs represented an Orthodox version of the Taliban.

Much of what A. says appears, to an outsider, convincing. The zeal with which Serb civilians, paramilitaries and soldiers tortured, maimed and murdered innocent Croats & Bosnians should be contrasted to the effeteness, confusion and lack of professionalism of European (British, French and especially, Dutch) armies which watched the genocide on the ground, sometimes from yards away. If I was in Afpak I certainly would be concerned if I had to serve next to the craven Dutch troops whose surrender of Srebrenica should represent a case study for every contemporary military school.

The book is not without problems. While trying to explain the Bosnian war, A. overplays the sway of mythos over the Serb "soul' while overlooking the role of Milosevic's opportunistic populism and the naked economical self-interest of Bosnian Serbs. The endless referral to violent medieval Serbian myths, poems and works of art overlooks the fact that almost every culture possesses their equivalents: Popol Vuh, Icelandic sagas, Warao creation myths, you name it. Finally, while the Serbs are portrayed as monsters egged on by their deviant cultural and religious institutions, the author overlooks the neighbors: Croats, who as Nazi collaborators committed far greater atrocities [that were said to disgust the Waffen SS itself]]; Albanians who are running arguably the most efficient and ruthless pan European drug trafficking and prostitution operation in history, Hungarians, who have their own sordid history of medieval slaughters. Claiming, as A. does, that the Serbs have a monopoly on violence and atrocities is absurd. Anyone who's read Burkhardt's seminal Civilization of the Renaissance will know that cruelty was the order of the day amongst the pre-Italians. Like the Bosnian Serbs, the Hutu perpetrated the Rwanda genocide mostly because of the their need for more land; historic hatreds were an excuse.

If A. is ethnically Croat, then one should consider this book as a (yet another?) salvo in the inter-ethnic rivalry between the two Slavic tribes.I'd say this book should be read with reservation as the lack of objectivity and pro-Croat bias make it apparent that the author's main goal is to demonize a historic antagonist/competitor. Anzulovic is a partisan, not a scholar and the book should be read as another installment in the propaganda jostle between Southern Slavs.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Why genocide happens? 17 Jan. 2007
By bytycci - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Anzulovic's Heavenly Serbia is a great resource for students of the Balkans and the Yugoslav wars. It is also a good read for those with a general interest in the Balkans. The book is well written and well researched.


Anzulovic sets out to explain how the myth of Heavenly Serbia has set the stage for the genocidal wars of the 1990s. He manages to do that very well in this book. He uses historical documents to prove that the myth was initially not a popular myth at all, but a church version of what had happened at the Battle of Kosovo in 1989. Further, he shows how the narrative spread among the population through the singing bards. Then, Anzulovic explains how the myth was used in the 19th and 20th centuries to justify Serbian megalomaniac ambitions. An, intriguing part of the book is the section where the author talks about how international circles had accepted the myth thus giving legitimacy to both the Serbian territorial ambitions and the genocidal campaigns.


One weakness of the book is that Anzulovic often becomes repetitive. Also, one could argue that the author draws from too few sources when trying to prove his hypothesis. He relies a lot on Njegos's The Mountain Wreath to argue that the idea of eliminating entire ethnic groups to create a compact Serbian state was accepted widely. However, the content of one Serbian book is not as significant as the popularity of that book,. And, Anzulovic mentions the popularity of this and other similar books (Noz) to argue that the Serbian intellectuals were in fact promoting the myth Serbian victimization and calling for `revenge.'

In conclusion, Heavenly Serbia is an indispensable book for those who seek to understand the wars of 1990s in the Balkans. And, not only those but, also, previous wars of the 19th and 20th century in the Balkans which in fact were prequels to the 1990s, as this book implies.
32 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide ? 7 Feb. 2004
By George V. Mrvichin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The author has expressed an agenda which is not supported by the facts. I offer the reader the following works to gain a better insight into this subject: "THE SERBIAN FOLK EPIC Its Theology and Anthropology by Rev. Dr. Krstivoj Kotur"; "SAINT PETER OF MONTENEGRO by V. Rev. Vladimir M. Mrvichin"; "THE MOUNTAIN WREATH of P.P. Nyegosh"; "HERO TALES AND LEGENDS OF THE SERBIANS by W.M. Petrovich"; "MARKO, THE KING'S SON by Clarence A. Manning". A brief review of almost any of these works will provide clarity, when compered with Anzulovic's work. A number of other materials are available to the reader at less cost, and may provide insight to a area of world conflict ("SPY IN THE VATICAN by Bronkn Bokum"; "THE SERBS CHOOSE WAR by Ruth Mitchell";...).
22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Dissapointing 4 May 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It seems that the author went ahead and rewrote the history as he saw fit. There are some major events that he "omitted". He failed to include genocides that were imposed on Serbs during Croatian and Bosnian wars, and he failed to include that there was 100,000's refugees from Croatia expelled during the war. I am apalled that the publisher even published such a book as a non -fiction.
26 of 36 people found the following review helpful
There's nothing scholarly about it. 30 May 2001
By "jazzlevyjoe" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
How this claptrap passes for academic research is beyond me. For instance, I was especially surprised to learn that the Serbs intended to take over the Austro-Hungarian Empire before WW1. Anzulovic writes, with characteristic unsound thinking, that "Serbia's expansionist drive was evident [before WW1] when it sponsored the 1914 murder in order to destabilize the Austro-Hungarian monarchy (which stood in the way of its northward and westward expansion)." This is such a distortion that it's
laughable. Small Serbia invade the Austro-Hungarian Empire? What were the editors at NYU thinking? It makes you wonder why the US and Western Allies ever sided with the Serbs in the first place if indeed the Serbs were the root cause of the trouble in WW1. A joke, right, surely it is. I don't much care for other ridiculous mysoethnic statements Anzulovic makes throughout this D-thesis paper, such as "[The Eastern Orthodox Church], extremely closely connected with state and nation, long ago neglected the gospel and devoted itself to political issues to a higher degree than any other Christian Church." Anzulovic later goes on to tell us that this church can be juxtaposed against "authentic Christian thought." Overgeneralization? You haven't heard the half of it. This is truly embarrassing.
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