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Try to ignore the accusations of bias below
on 1 August 2004
This book was in my shopping basket for almost a year before I finally bought it. My hesitation was due to accusations of pro-Croat bias in some of the reviews above. Having now read the book, I wish to defend the author and, not being of Serb, Croat or any other ex-Yugoslav origin, perhaps I am better qualified to opine on the matter than some of the reviewers below.
This is an absorbing and well-written account of a country which, although largely unknown in the UK before 1991, has a rich and fascinating history. It had a centuries-long relationship with Hungary and the Hapsburg Monarchy and it was on the front-line in the wars against the Ottoman Empire. Dubrovnik was an independent maritime republic with a remarkable capacity for survival - in fact, it took Napoleon to bring it to an end. The controversy in Croatia's history starts in 1918, when Croatia was absorbed (more or less voluntarily, although they soon regretted it) into what then became Yugoslavia.
With the bitterness of the war in the early 1990's still fresh in people's minds, it is, perhaps, impossible to write a book on this subject that both Serbs and Croats would regard as objective. However, the suggestion that this book is a pro-Croatian polemic is quite unfair. There is no attempt here to conceal or gloss over massacres of Serbs or Bosnians or other war crimes perpetrated by Croats. Neither does the author pull any punches in dealing with Croatia's contemptible efforts to carve up Bosnia with Serbia or the massive ethnic cleansing of Serbs that followed the recapture of the Krajina in Operation Storm. Croatia's "Father of the Nation", Franjo Tudjman, does not, in fact, come through as a particularly savoury character in this book, by any standards.
That, however, will not be enough for many readers from ex-Yugoslavia, particulary when the author talks about the origins of the war. The view of Marcus Tanner is that Milosevic planned the whole thing down to the last detail and that there was nothing to stop him because, in the Yugoslav National Army, he had the biggest army in south-eastern Europe right behind him. No doubt, such a view will never appeal to proponents of the theory that Serbs were spontaneously rising up against Croat/Bosnian Muslim tyranny, to those who blame Germany, the US, NATO, etc., to any of the Yugo-nostalgics on the far left who mourn the passing of communist Yugoslavia or to those (particularly prevalent in British government circles in the early 1990's) who put it all down to Balkan savagery and continue to defend Britain's disastrous policy of non-intervention.