The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers 1804-1999
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The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers 1804-1999

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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  523 ratings  ·  44 reviews
This unique and lively history of Balkan geopolitics since the early nineteenth century gives readers the essential historical background to recent events in this war-torn area. No other book covers the entire region, or offers such profound insights into the roots of Balkan violence, or explains so vividly the origins of modern Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Greece, Bulgaria, R...more
Paperback, 752 pages
Published September 1st 2001 by Penguin (first published 1999)
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Jacob Aitken
This book was a journey. I have mixed thouhts. Misha opened my eyes to a world of good information. His thesis is sound: the Balkans only become a "powder keg" when the Western powers get involved. This is especially true of NATO"s satanic bombing of Serbia in '99. However, I critique him on one point. He says the religious issue isn't as important as the interventionist one. But this only downplays subjective valuation in historical study. But i digress.



The Good Points:

It was a *very* thorough...more
Erik Graff
Jun 10, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: South Slav fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Much of what I read is to better understand friends. The influx of refugee Bosnians into our East Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago and my own former sister-in-law's mixed Yugoslav identity (Serb and Bosnian)--one now being instilled in my niece--has led me to read many books about the history and politics of the Balkans.

Of all the books I've read on the subject so far, Glenny's is most sympathetic and constructive. Rather than blame the peoples of the Balkans for some occult primitivism, he p...more
Myrivername
This book was a really informative overview of the Balkan region in recent history, and I felt like it was a pretty complete treatment. However, it seemed a little jumbled at times, and there was some jumping back and forth in time. This is probably because the topic is so complex . One thing I got out of the book is that the Balkans are a very complicated region and blanket statements don't apply. It would be nice if the author included more detailed maps that include all the places mentioned i...more
Tom Nixon
This is one of those subjects that has long fascinated me but I've never actually had the time to sit down and find out much about it. Happily, Misha Glenny paints as close to an all-encompassing picture as one could hope for in his voluminous history of The Balkans, which covers the period from 1804 to 1999.

This troubled region has long been seen as backwards and troublesome in traditional Western narratives, ranging from Bismark's prediction that the war would begin over 'some damned foolish t...more
Christian Olson
I both enjoyed and struggled with this book. It is stunning how much information is in this book. The author must have done an insane amount of research to get all the regional histories and perspectives. However, I did struggle. It is long. It is slow in parts. The tone is flat for long stretches. I think the "take away" is I learned a bunch about a subject I knew little about before. There were entertaining parts, just a little tough to give it a whole hearted recommendation.
Emilian Kasemi
Ballkani nuk ishte fuçia e barutit sikunder mendohet shpesh: kjo metafore nuk eshte e sakte. Ai ishte thjesht detonatori i vene aty nga vete Fuqite e Medha. Fuçia e barutit ishte Evropa.
Wendy
good, but long, overview of Balkan history. Well written in short segments with frequent reiteration of the key points. Keeps you anchored in spite of the tsunami of info.
Sofia
Excellent overview of Balkan history in the last 200 years or so.
Dermott Hayes
Comprehensive overview, extraordinary detail
Peter Crouse
The Balkans by Misha Glenny is a fascinating read about Europe's troubled heart of darkness. Whereas a typical history would base itself on the view-from-above or on the all too obvious perspective of an outsider, Glenny first drills down to the small scale, involving vivid first-hand experiences, and extrapolates his general descriptions and conclusions from there. Not only does this give the work a fresh, almost journalistic, feel; the author's talent also ensures the narrative never sinks int...more
Egzon Hasanaj
The book "The Balkans: Nationalism.War and the Great Powers" was a phenomenal book. The author crafted the book so that the reader can understand the purpose of the many disputes I'm the Balkans. For example, the book talked about the 1999 Kosovo War and how it was created, and the author did that on purpose so the reader could understand how the disputes were formed. To be more specific, it states "The 1999 Kosovo War happened because of a huge dispute between Ethnic Albanians and Serbians for...more
Michael
I was looking for a comprehensive account of the history of the Balkans region - well, this is certainly that book, at least from 1804 on. Misha Glenny takes the reader through the twists and turns of Balkan history over the last 200 years, hitting Serbia, Greece, the Ottoman Empire, Croatia, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, Montenegro, etc., in about 700 pages. To say that it is a very complicated narrative is an understatement, and Mr. Glenny explains it exceedingly well, particularly with respect...more
Damian Streets
A dense and complex read. I have to confess that by the later chapters I was forgetting what I'd read in the earlier ones.

There is so much detail and the writer has set himself such an enormous task that it is tough to take it all in.

But it was certainly a pretty thorough journey through the history of the region - and a history which actually treats its subject with some sympathy, and goes someway to breaking the myth of the Balkans as Europe's problem child.
Mimi
amazing, detailed book about all of the Balkans, especially up to 1989. The last ten years involving the war in Bosnia is smaller, but all the background covered is very helpful in understanding this most recent period. One gets a better understanding of all the trouble caused by the Ottomans, the Austro-Hungarian empire, Germany, Italy, and including NATO most recently. I think I will have to reread the last part of the book, too much to take in all at once.
Ed
This is based on the first 400 pages of "The Balkans". I am familiar enough with the World War II, post-war and post 1989 periods to not feel I missed much in skipping those parts of the book.

Glenny is a journalist. "The Balkans" whips along like many good pieces of reporting strung together, concentrating on great men, battles and peace conferences while ignoring religion (other than outlines of the clashes between and among Orthodox Catholics, their Roman facing brethren and the Islam of the O...more
Rebecca
This book is a bit dense and if you are not really interested in the history of this region than you might get lost in the endless littany of names and places and battles and coups. That being said, if you are really interested in Balkans history and how this region was shaped from inside and out over the past 200 years, then this book is great. It takes so many thing into account including the great power relationships, individual country cultures and histories and the interaction between the t...more
Jonathan
I read this history while traveling in Croatia. It opened my eyes to the interplay of different empires claiming this region in determining the current politics of these countries. It explores themes from the split between western and eastern halves of the Roman empire in determining the sphere of influence of Orthodox and Catholic forms of Christianity. A powerful narrative is the role that the decay of the Ottoman empire and the subsequent revolution of people identify, rights, and responsibil...more
Huw Evans
The post-Imperial history of Africa is a demonstration of the perils of imposing artifical boundaries across tribal lands. A closer example of this heinous stupidity is found in the Balkans, an area that even today is regarded by most europeans as vestigial and primitive. In 1999 centuries of Balkan tribalism exploded into the Kososvo war which sucked in many nations in an attempt to prevent things escalating and,subsequently, demonstrated how inhumane we can be if the opposition is seen as sub-...more
Mike  Kelley


As any student of European history will attest, the problems of the Continent always trace back to the Balkans in some form or another. While things have calmed down in the last 10 years or so, reading this book will remind one that it is usually only a lull before the conflict re-ignites once more. If one remembers the ethnic cleansing and violence of the 90s, this book will place it in a larger historical context all the back to the Ottomans. It is a remarkable feeling to finish this volume an...more
Aaron
As a journalist Glenny is able to provide a detailed history of a complex region in a way that is both engaging and informative. His writing style avoids the dry and fact befuddling fate of many non-fiction books. While this can seem somewhat superficial at times, these instances are few and far between. Perhaps the weakest part of the book falls at the very end where I believe Glenny's proximity to the conflict (he served as a correspondent during the Balkan Wars) rendered him incapable of prov...more
George Hodgson
A very detailed account. For those interested in why things are happening in the Baltics, this helps explain a lot.
Andy
This was a sweeping history of the Balkans that provided great insights into the power dynamics that have pushed and pulled at the various groups of the region. Glenny's overall argument is that the people of the Balkans aren't innately violent as often portrayed. I feel like he successfully makes this point.
Mark
This was a very well written book. I am no master of the history of the Balkans, but I found this book to be extremely comprehensive in the context of single books describing the events and history of a single part of the world. It is comprehensive and thorough; I imagine that if I had been a Slavic cultural studies major that this would have been my like my Bible (in a purely un-blasphemous sense.) And with this entry, I now have more books than friends; I blame it on wasting my time reading th...more
John
Arguably the best survey history of the modern Balkans.
Paul
I don't normally read pure history / factual books but this tome was unputdownable. Glenny gives a fantastic brief to cover to terrible and brutal complexity that is Balkan politics and history, weaving in anecdotes that keep the history at a human level.

I feel far more informed not just about the region but about the machinations of the politics of the 'great powers' and the awful cost of power and greed.

Amazing characters run through this book; King Zog being one of the odder ones! Great writi...more
John
A fascinating history of one of the most complex, and to me, at least, misunderstood and little known, regions of the world. It is particularly interesting in the way it looks at how western great powers (from Austria and the Ottoman Empire to NATO on the 90s) have attempted to force a concept of 'nations' on an area and a group of people who did not look at themselves that way.
Alex Nelson
Considering how difficult it is to write a thorough history concerning 200 years, this book is amazing.

It's a good primer for the region, but I feel sometimes the author tries to rush things too much (seldom happens, but it makes me stop and re-read a few times to understand who's doing what to whom).

I'd recommend it to the interested layperson, the author has great style overall.
Jon
Simply amazing review of one of the most complicated regions and series of issues in history. Covers all of the complicated relations within and between the Balkan countries and their great-power influences between the first Serb uprising against the Ottomans and Operation Allied Force in 1999. Highly recommended for anyone interested in how complex and interesting history can be.
Mark Singer
Dec 23, 2010 Mark Singer rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in European, Middle Eastern and contemporary history
Recommended to Mark by: No one
This is an excellent introduction to the history of the Balkans in the last two centuries from a sympathetic and well-informed British journalist. One of the important points that Glenny makes from the outset is that the Balkans are not remote, "exotic" or inconsequential, and that the Great Powers were meddling in the region from the beginning of the 19th century.
Colin Douglas Heaton
This is an excellent, well researched and well written book. I used it as a research source when writing one of my books and I also required it to be used as a textbook when I created the course "Balkans in Peace and Conflict" while I was a professor at AMU. If you like history, and are interested in the Balkans, then read this book.
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