4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2013
There are several things that are really good:
- the immediacy of the accounts which are clearly written at the time of the events described, which sometimes results in some confusion of tense
- the insight into the underlying issues and fundamental difficulties of the reshaping of Yugoslavia
- the insight into the mistakes of policy within Europe and the implications on the ground for those who suffered as a result
- the even handedness of the picture, clearly the Serbs are not the only transgressors as is sometimes portrayed, nor are the Moslems simply victims, and the historical fears raised by the resurgence of Croatian nationalism are clear
But there are more things that make this frustrating:
- the accounts appear to assume knowledge about the events being described but the explanations and context only appear later in the narrative, leaving one confused. Sometimes the explanations never come. For instance, the US threat to attack Serbian targets is mentioned suddenly as something that has been threatened but this is the first we hear of it and we have no idea why this is threatened or the context of the threat.
- it stops short in 1996 - well the main book before this but there are epilogues to this edition. This leaves one wondering how the subsequent carnage developed and how we got to where we are today in 2013.
It is a good contemporary account but it falls short of comprehensive explanation. If you are looking for a history,then look elsewhere, this is additional colour and background and not the definitive account.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 11 April 2001
I picked up this book during the time that NATO begun bombing Serbia over the dispute for Kosovo and the Kosovo Albanians. I wanted to find out more about this troubled region.
It did not surprise me when Misha Glenny closed his book by indicating that the next Balkan Crisis would be over Kosovo. He certainly did get his facts right.
This is a higlhly informative and stimulating book. It explains the whole Balkan Crisis and tries to reason and explain the foundation of the crisis - Western Influence, ethnic differences.
A very informative book. Highly recommended.
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2001
Firstly, I would suggest reading this book in conjunction with Silber's book "Death of Yugoslavia". Glenny and Silber worked together for part of the war, and so their accounts coincide nicely. (Although Silber never mentions this in her book, Misha mentions it many times!)While Silber's work focuses on the presidents, leaders, generals, officials and politicians, Misha's book focuses on his interpretation of the complex political situation as it develops. In this sense it is a less formal study. His ability to decypher this difficult history is tremeendously useful in gaining an understanding of it. Although maintaining context at all times, the juxtaposition of events separated by years can make understanding what's happening a little difficult. However, I don't blame Misha for that. He has simply chosen to group related events rather than use a rigid chronology. If you are not familiar with the regional geography, then the maps are not going to help you much. Get a good map!
I can confirm that, in my experience of the region, Misha's perception is spot on.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
First the warnings: "The Fall of Yugoslavia" is not a history book. It came out during the war. It predates the Srebrenica massacre. As it went to print the bridge of Mostar still stood. It does not come with a long list of notes, a bibliography or anything of the sort. It's not a primer on Balkan history (though author Misha Glenny has written one and I found it comprehensive, thoughful and fair) and it's not even a primer on the "Third Balkan War." So the title of the book is misleading. This is, its title notwithstanding, a journal and it does not try to be anything more than a journal.
What we're looking at here is an unbelievably good "source" in other words. A source that deserves all the prizes and accolades it was awarded.
The author personally knows or knew all the main actors of this tragedy and hundreds more besides. He knows the past history, he brings it alive and he applies it to the present, but only when it's relevant. He brings perspective, local knowledge and an uncanny ability to see the situation from absolutely everybody's point of view. Most importantly, this knowledge, ability and perspective resolutely does not prevent him from having a go at saying who's wrong and who's right on absolutely every incident he describes.
The narrative is a blend between the author's itinerary as he ploughs the former Yugoslavia to report on the war, the necessary background to understand each day's events, the interviews he conducted, the profiles of every day's events' protagonists and how he thinks it all fits in. Also, he's not at all shy about making predictions.
Absolutely everything I happen to know about the conflict (and I have two good friends, one a Serb who had to flee, another my lawyer who spent months locked up in Sarajevo before escaping with a plastic bag for her law degree and a one-way ticket to the UK) checks 100% with what's mentioned in the book, but even that is not such a big deal, as the author does not pretend to be writing history, he's merely hoping to be a reliable source.
What we have here is not history and was never meant to be. It is journalism at its very best.
Regardless, history has been extremely kind to the views expressed here. Twenty years after the events took place, there can be little doubt that Misha Glenny was right to identify the Serbo-Croat rivalry as the main underlying cause of the war, the German-sponsored European recognition of Croatian statehood as the blunder that set it off and the declaration of Bosnian independence as the death sentence of thousands of Muslims.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2013
A very complex book, about a confusing situation, but the writer starts in the middle of the conflict, and does not give a background that would make it clearer for an uninformed reader. A good book for one who wants the details and clear explanation of events, but it would be advisable to do some background research first.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2004
Glenny has the skill to keep a reader interested during the whole of the book. Although this book is a few years old now and perhaps abit dated (it doesn't cover the Kosovo conflict and was published a year after the war in Croatia and Bosnia ended) it is still excellent reading for those who know little abit the region.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2010
As somebody who grew up in Britain through the years of this conflict, but was too young at the time to fully grasp the politics and implications of the war, this book was easily accessible and readable.
A lot of the placenames and political parties involved were familiar to me (in no depth at all, just names that I recognised from the news), and this book placed them all so that I have a fairly comprehensive and clear understanding of the conflict.
Well-paced, with a mixture of historical and political insight, punctuated by personal accounts of Glenny's travels in the warzone that really served to illuminate the lengthier sections.
If - like me - you want to put vaguely familiar names into place, and have a sense of the conflict on a micro and macro scale, I would recommend this book highly.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2010
Having recently finished Glenny's book on the last Balkan wars I am left with very mixed feelings about it. As I was reading the first half of the book I rapidly formed the impression that I was reading a sloppily-written, unobjective, unstructured and fundamentally uninsightful account of Glenny's personal experience in Yugoslavia, based predominantly on anecdotes and simplistic caricturisations of the people he encountered. However, I then found the final parts of the book surprisingly clear, intelligently written, absorbing and above all insightful, able to put the destruction and brutality described earlier on into some kind of historical and political context, and with Glenny drawing on his experience and relative 'inside' knowledge of the situation as a BBC journalist to formulate a coherent and intelligent view of the conflict, pulling no punches in criticising the sides involved, including Western nations whose interference he judges to have worsened the situation.
My main problem with the opening chapters is that, in short, Glenny frequently comes across as an unreliable guide to events, insomuch as you want the writer of a historical account to be above all objective, clear and refrain from judging or taking sides. And yet when he is 'setting the scene', the book does not follow a logical structure, flitting around from event to event, anecdote to anecdote inexplicably, leaving you feeling like you're presented with various war scenes, without actually knowing any of the historical or political context, and without knowing what triggered all of this brutality. The end result is that I was left with the impression of listening to an account from someone who was involved in the conflict, and who had already judged everything and everyone that he had seen, but without bothering to explain his judgements, or seemingly incapable of doing so without resorting to tirades against people simply being 'brutal' or 'primitive'.
Whilst many of his anecdotes and experiences are interesting, in my eyes Glenny loses credibility by his style of writing, which is personal rather than detatched and often provides descriptions which come across as superficial or simplistic, sometimes sacrificing accuracy for theatric or emotive effect, or to fit in with his personal views (e.g. "communal life revived faster in Mostar than almost anywhere else in BiH after the war" - as far as I am aware today, Mostar is still a city divided entirely into two communities, but this does not fit in with the image he was trying to paint of the population of Mostar). Whilst some may enjoy this writing style as it makes for a more engaging 'story', I was left with the impression of not having actually learned much. Or again, later on, Glenny describes how Greece strongly objected to Macedonian nationalism, apparently causing untold political and economic damage to the embryonic state. How? Why? What's the history behind this hostility? Why were the Greeks so unhelpful? We don't know and Glenny doesn't tell us, though that doesn't prevent himself from forming his judgement, we've just got to trust him that "Greeks ... prefer to prolong the misery of Macedonia." This is, in short, a simplistic reduction of a charged and complicated situation designed to elicit an emotional response rather than to inform which I found very frustrating, and which occurs throughout the first few chapters of the book.
And yet, despite these shortcomings, the last couple of chapters alone earn my recommendation of this book, as Glenny moves on to give an absorbing and very revealing description of the evolution and political and historical context. I found these chapters to be much better written, not only more engaging but also suffering from less of the shallow descriptions and lack of analysis as the first chapters. The section on Kosovo is genuinely insightful, and provides a context to the events that took place there in 1999, a few years after the book was written. Glenny uses his experience and insight to offer an analysis of the situation which would later prove to be sadly prophetic.
The final chapter is perhaps the most interesting of all, as Glenny looks at how the political leadership of the new Yugoslav states behaved and also how the West intervened, for better and for worse. He doesn't hold any punches in dishing out responsibility to Western countries for behaving irresponsily or naïvely towards the countries involved, in particular looking at the role Germany played, a point I find tends to be overlooked in most accounts of the subject. And to his credit, he also finally makes the point that all the sides involved had, in their eyes, valid reasons to defend their interests, though this cannot justify many of the actions which took place.
Perhaps one of the clearest problems with books of this type is summed up by Glenny when he writes "our understanding of the war in the Balkans has ... been clouded by ... the tendences of many witnesses to confuse the moral questions raised by the conflict with the political issues that caused it." Whilst he is perhaps himself guilty of making the same mistake at times, the insight and balance offered later in the book goes some way to help us understand the political issues that caused the war, and makes this a valuable read for people interested in the Balkan conflict.
on 15 April 2010
Having visited Yougoslavia twice in 1989 as a 16 year old I was totally oblivious to the simmering tensions which were about to erupt with untold savagery and unimaginable suffering. The break up of Yugoslavia horrified me and the reasons for it were way too complex for a 16 year old to begin to understand.
Now in adulthood and with a relative period of calm and peeace over the are I decided I wold like to know what caused it, and who was to blame.
Glenny's book is written in an atmospheric style giving accounts of his up close and personal dealings with events as they unfolded. How Yugoslavia broke up is explained with each of the aggressors being blamed for their actions. The only disappointing thing with the book is that it ends too soon. How peace was restored I don't think is fully explained and the book end before the Kosovo conflict etc. Perhaps he will write another.
on 4 July 2014
Fantastically engaging book - Glenny writes in such a way as to take you on a journey through the events in an intensely immediate manner, so that they become real to the reader. If, like me, you have very little background on these events, this is a perfect way to immerse oneself in the history, so that the brute facts have a background to hang together with - and a narrative in which their significance is more easily evident. One is left not with a dry list of discrete historical data, but a richly illustrated picture of the relevant connexions in which these facts sit. A snapshot of a reality.