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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Violent History of Croatia, 3 July 2010
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This review is from: Croatia: A Nation Forged in War (Yale Nota Bene) (Paperback)
This book tells the story of the Croats and the country we now call Croatia over a vast period of more than a thousand years. It is a history of a people and region little known or thought about in the west until the twentieth century. It is a violent tale, and the subtitle of the book - A Nation Forged in War - is very apt. The first third of the book is a straightforward history and covers the period up to the start of the twentieth century. It is largely an account of power and territorial struggles between a bewildering array of tribal and family groups, kings and other rulers, and various ecclesiastical authorities during the centuries-long interactions with the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires. It is clear and well written, and is a useful introduction to the history of the region and its peoples, but complex, and I would need to read it again to take in all the details. It also provides a good background, and helps one understand, the second part of the book, which for me, and I suspect most readers, is the more interesting. This covers the modern period, including of course the disastrous wars of the early 1990s.

Some reviewers on Amazon have accused the author of being biased in favour of the Croats in his description of the causes of the wars and the action of Croats during them, but on the evidence of this book, I find it difficult to agree with those views. Tanner clearly feels sympathy with the Croats, but criticism of the Serbs is balanced by the author's very frank discussion and condemnation of the horrific, brutal actions of the Ustashe during the second world war, and the massacres and ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Croatian forces during their cynical attempts with Serbia to partition Bosnia, or the massive ethnic cleansing of Serbs that followed the recapture of the Krajina in Operation Storm. Neither does he spare the Croatian president Franco Tudjman, who is strongly criticised for the increasingly authoritarian and xenophobic style of his leadership during the latter part of his period of office, coupled with general incompetence. The reviewers' comments show that the bitter feelings provoked by those wars still remain with some people. But they should not prevent others from appreciating this useful and thoughtful book.
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