Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Balkans: A Short History by Mark Mazower (2000)

I was going to write that the Balkans seemed to have died down since the wars of the 1990s, but then I remembered the Greek financial collapse.  Not so calm, but at least no wars - or at least no wars that make the papers.

I was talking with a Serbian friend a few weeks ago, and he told me that everyone got along much better when it was Yugoslavia rather than broken up and fragmented, and that seems to be what Mazower's theme as well.  The Ottomans weren't all bad (and weren't all good either), and nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries led to ethnic cleansing and civil war.  And that you would be mistaken to think that the Balkan character is by nature violent and brutish - ethnic cleansing of various groups were common across Europe, particularly right after World War II.  

Lytton Strachey quotes Lord Palmerston in his Queen Victoria as saying, about Schleswig-Holstein, that "“Only three people...have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business—the Prince Consort, who is dead—a German professor, who has gone mad—and I, who have forgotten all about it."  This seems to be an apt description of the Balkans, which were confusing to read about, particularly in a short history.   There was quite a lot packed into such a small book.   Still, I liked this one better than the one I read about Islam.  

The Balkans: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles)The Balkans: A Short History by Mark Mazower
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Lytton Strachey quotes Lord Palmerston in his Queen Victoria as saying, about Schleswig-Holstein, that "“Only three people...have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business—the Prince Consort, who is dead—a German professor, who has gone mad—and I, who have forgotten all about it."  This seems to be an apt description of the Balkans, which were confusing to read about, particularly in a short history.   There was quite a lot packed into such a small book. That said, Mazower's book is still interesting (though not particularly engaging).  


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