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The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers, 1804-1999 Paperback – 1 Sep 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 726 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140233776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140233773
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 4.1 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,228,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
I bought this book as I needed a book on the Balkans for my history coursework. This book was the only text I needed to do the set essays on the region. After using it for this I was interested enough to read the rest of it. Its a well written book, and easy to read- there's enough detail for the interested but not so much you get bogged down in it. I have to admit I did lose track of who was who in some of it- partially due to the unfamiliar names I think.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be informative and insightful. Glenny doesn't pull any punches and deals with the history of the region in an even handed way. This is a well and clearly written book and will help anyone looking for infomation regarding the history and politics of the region to be well informed.
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Format: Hardcover
History of the Balkans, Only just started it will tell more when I have read it. It is an in depth book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x947f07d4) out of 5 stars 48 reviews
117 of 124 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9515dc84) out of 5 stars The Balkans Book We've Been Waiting For 10 May 2000
By Kelli - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In recent years, there have been many books published about specific areas of the Balkans (particularly, the countries of the former Yugoslavia), but no one book (other than Robert Kaplan's travelogue "Balkan Ghosts") has attempted to tackle the entire Balkan region, taken as a group. Misha Glenny's latest work does this admirably well, and has instantly become the most comprehensive, and comprehensible, book available regarding this fascinating region.
Misha Glenny is no newcomer to the Balkans, and some readers may be familiar with his "The Fall of Yugoslavia" which recounted the principal events leading to the breakup of Yugoslavia. However, here Glenny is focussed on surveying the major events of Balkan history over the past 200 years, drawing together the similar threads that play through various countries, while pointing out the important differences that led to different outcomes in various parts of the region. In particular, Glenny focuses on the relationship between the Balkan region and the countries outside that region, and the impact that this relationship has had in the past and continues to have on the region today. In this sense, the book is very timely and sheds much light on the present situation.
Unlike the extremely popular "Balkan Ghosts", Glenny simply doesn't buy the notion that the recent conflicts in the Balkans are principally the result of ancient ethno-religious hatreds and stubborn intractibility, but instead forcefully and convincingly argues that the carnage that we see today is the product of relatively recent Balkan history, which itself has been greatly influenced by powers beyond the Balkans. The book is convincing in its thesis, breathtakingly broad in its scope (it covers the entire region, including the former Yugolavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Greece), and yet fascinating in its attention to detail and the individual events and personages who have shaped the history of this corner of Europe.
This is simply a great history book, hands down. Anyone who wants to understand the Balkan region would be well-advised to purchase and read this remarkable book.
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9447e768) out of 5 stars Penetrating, Clarifying & Edifying Survey of Troubled Area! 22 July 2000
By Barron Laycock - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In a literate, knowledgeable, and comprehensive monograph that accomplishes the incredible feat of clarifying and organizing the seemingly endless complexities of the region, Misha Glenny sets the record straight regarding the history and prospects for the Balkans. In a history going back two hundred years, Glenny illustrates how the current miasma of internecine violence, endless distrust, and legendary duplicity arose out of the mix and conflicts of ethnicities as well as the gross intermittent interference of the great powers. Far from flying with the angels, efforts by other nations such as Germany, NATO, and especially the United States have intensified and exacerbated the region's tensions and proclivities toward murderous intramural conflicts.
While to the casual foreign observer the region has long been a source of mysterious political arrangements and impenetrable complexities, the author lays to waste all of the West's convenient and self-serving notions describing the inhabitants of the Balkans as less than civilized, and shows how the nature of the troubles in the region can be traced to the arbitrary and capricious meddling foisted onto the residents from outside, usually by international agencies ignorant of the various ethnic mixes and profound historical connections standing in the way. Probably the single best example of this often well intentioned ignorance is the Dayton Peace Accords, which the author claims effectively partitioned Bosnia and Herzegovina without adequately solving any of the core problems underlying the ethnic unrest in the area. As a consequence, Glenny states, peace will reign in Bosnia only as long as the UN troops remain.
The author pulls few punches, describing recent American policies as cowardly and selfish, fashioned more to attempt to meet their obligations without risking troops and the concomitant domestic political trouble the probable loss of American servicemen would mean. Indeed, he describes the colossal blunder of NATO in stating that there would be no engagement of ground troops in Kosovo as flashing a green light for Serbian troops to have their indiscriminate bloodbath and deny it too. In a chilling extraordinary passage describing recent international attitudes dominated by short-term political convenience and its consequences for the region, Glenny quotes Swedish mediator Carl Bildt as prophetically asking that if the world chose to ignore the atrocities of the incumbent and did not prosecute Croatian President Tudjman for ethnic cleansing, "how on earth can we object if one day Milosevic sends his army to clean out the Albanians from Kosovo?"
The author's narrative is immensely educational and useful for those of us less than fully familiar with the region, tracing the progress of each national group amid the ongoing struggles for statehood. His description is punctuated with provocative and fascinating stories illustrating the rich variety of peoples and cultures inhabiting the area. At the same time, he interweaves these anecdotes with a sharply focused narrative that succeeds marvelously in threading together the key events in the context of international affairs, and shows how powerfully these interactions have influenced the emergence of the different national groups and the explosive amalgams of the 1990s.
It is this key relationship between the interference of other countries and international agencies that Glenny has been so catastrophic for the region, and often the ethnic and regional enmities and hatreds have been intensified and magnified by the actions of these outsiders. In a stirring warning at the end of the epilogue, he warns "if the great powers fail to seize the present opportunity by investing heavily in the region, the suffering of the Balkans will surely continue for several decades into the new millennium". This is an important and seminal book, one that should be required reading for anyone trying to understand this area of the world, and a great introduction into the history of the region. Enjoy!
72 of 81 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94a67a98) out of 5 stars Deeply flawed 2 May 2001
By Edward Bosnar - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Misha Glenny is a good reporter and an even better writer, but it takes more than that to make a good historian. This is particularly true for such an ambitious history, which covers events in the Balkans for an almost 200-year period. Indeed, much of the time this book reads like an extended newspaper feature for the Sunday edition rather than a work of in-depth, intelligent analysis. Not much more can be expected, since Glenny depended primarily on (generally very good) secondary sources and a number of travelogues, memoirs and similarly "light" primary literature. Even here, though, it's obvious that Glenny found the vastness of the material daunting, so he often fails to integrate the findings and conclusions of the many authors who came before him and neglects many major themes in Balkan history. The result is a summary of wars, crisis, etc. and even here the coverage is rather episodic: countries and peoples emerge, disappear and then abruptly reappear throughout the text. Thus, Romania is dealt with until its provinces were first unified and its independence was recognized during the 1860s, then fades out only to reappear for a brief cameo in the Balkan Wars over 40 years later. History in Bulgaria apparently ended after communist dictator Zhivkov assumed power in the mid-1950s, while Greek history peters out somewhere during the 1970s. By the 1990s, only the republics of the former Yugoslavia receive any attention at all, and this is rather piecemeal at that. There is also a rather odd section devoted to post-WW2 Turkey, which, if one can still consider it a Balkan country after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, leaves one to question why Glenny neglected telling us something about the crucial interwar period, when Kemal Ataturk initiated the efforts to transform Turkey into a modern, secular state. This is truly a journalist's approach to history: always focusing on major, often violent and traumatic events and the movers and shakers like kings, dictators, generals and major politicians, while almost completely ignoring the less noticeable people (writers, scholars, intellectuals) and often confusing (hence the need for illumination) economic, social and cultural trends and changes so crucial to a true comprehension of the region's history. There is therefore never any meaningful discussion of nationalism - part of the book's subtitle! - which has had such an inestimable impact on Balkan history. Instead, nationalism is just treated as some sort of amorphous force that emerges to make matters even worse during times of trouble. The local manifestations of other ideologies that have had and still do exercise a great influence on events in the region (socialism, communism, fascism, peasant populism) are similarly neglected. Glenny instead frequently resorts to the simpler (and much more readable) device of using anecdotal evidence to illustrate larger points. This is at times interesting and informative - particularly the section that deals with the memories of Holocaust survivors from several Balkan countries - but falls short of providing an understanding of the causes or motives behind specific events. Perhaps this failed effort best illustrates the fact that there are few if any living Balkan historians in the English-speaking world who are willing to take on the task of writing a well-researched, well-argued and well-written integrative contemporary history of the Balkans for both students and lay readers alike. This leaves the field open to talented and well-meaning, but nonetheless unqualified publicists like Glenny.
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9444e828) out of 5 stars Realistic writing 2 July 2000
By Fam. Oudmanovic - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Finally a book that doesn't demonize Serbs but that gives a realistic view. It is good to see that people start to realize that that the "great powers" are also very much accountable for the suffering and the nationalism in this region. Mister Glenny wrote in his introduction that there might be mistakes in the book, there are. But I think that people their understanding of the situation in the Balkans will expand because of this book. Because this book also critisizes the west and people (not a nation) that are in governments, it is right to say that this book earns 5 stars. My only reccomandation to the author if possible is to request a translation of this book in the Serbo-Croatian language. So that the common person in any of the former Republics and in the FRY may learn of these things on a objective way.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x947a639c) out of 5 stars Very good but somehow inaccurate and drawing unfounded conclusions 4 Oct. 2008
By A. Panteleon - Published on
Format: Paperback
DISCLAIMER: I am Greek and thus know and understand the history of my country much more than the history of our neighbors. Therefore, I am not in a position to review the book thoroughly when it comes to Serbian or Bulgarian history - even turkish to which by definition we Greeks are more familiar with. END OF DISCLAIMER.
This was a very interesting and very well written book. The coverage of events up to World War I is immaculate and the author's effort has paid off in what seems to be a good mix of narrative and attempt to explain the historical reasons behind the events.
The seconds half of the book - starting right after the end of World War I is more hastily written - partially due to the lack of abundance of historical resources, I presume - but also increasingly fails to incorporate any ethnic perspective in the analysis of events. Some premature conclusions are drawn - i.e. the author blatantly calls Eleftherios Venizelos the main culprit of the Asia Minor Disaster - a position that has been fiercely debated inside and outside Greece for the longest time and at a bare minimum should not been presented with such confidence.
The position of Greece towards the Bosnian as well as Kosovo conflict has been severely misconstrued here - albeit the undisputed emotional ties between the two people as well as the government of the two countries Greece fully yet unwillingly aligned with the NATO "party line" in the Kosovo conflict.
There are also some minor errors in election dates in the 1960s in Greece - at least at my edition.
Overall, I strongly recommend the book. I caught myself disagreeing with the author in many points and I really came to believe that the weak sport of the book - if there is any - has been the omission to incorporate the thinking and mind frame of the Balkan people as one of the pivotal forces behind history making. It thus supports indirectly a very naive and dangerous notion - that modern events can only be affected by the status quo bequeathed by the Ottoman Empire. In some aspect the author neglects to admit that there has been a very vivid history of the area (esp. Southern Balkans) prior to the Ottomans. Of course it is not a new element in the way western analysts and historians approach the area.

Overall again a great book to read.
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