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

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,024 Ratings  ·  74 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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Christian Olson
Feb 25, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Jacob Aitken
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Erik Graff
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Tom Nixon
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Lindsay Hill
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. The only thing I didn't love was that there were so many players involved (which I really should have anticipated, this book encompassing a dozen different countries) that I sometimes got lost on who was who and why a given event was significant.
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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.
Dermott Hayes
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Comprehensive overview, extraordinary detail
Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excellent overview of Balkan history in the last 200 years or so.
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Misha Glenny has undertaken a monumental task, to provide a readable, one volume history of what amounts to 13 countries over the relatively short period from 1804-2011. Glenny covers this large geopolitical region by picking a time or an event and writing about how it effected the different countries. At times the book felt disorganized because he would jump from one country to another. But now having finished the book I don’t think there was a better way to do it. Sometimes there are repetitio ...more
Cameron Climie
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
NOTE: I read the updated 2012 edition.

This book is, in many ways, frustrating. Its ambition is colossal and admirable - an 800-page history of Europe's most consistently complicated and misunderstood region.
In doing so, and in avoiding the Fiskian urge to crank out 1600 pages, there are many frustrating lapses in coverage: the creation of Yugoslavia in 1918 gets very little attention, while discussions of developments in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey is often inconsistent and spotty. M
Chris Papadopoulos
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: balkans
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
May 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
great summation of the titular place & period. perhaps casts the bulgarians a bit unilaterally as villains moreso than other national groups (and therefore adopts an aggressive eastern roman, rather than a patronizing western roman perspective, maybe).

starts great with the point that the uprising against the turks in the early 19th century was not a call for national liberation, but rather a grievance against local imperial officials who needed to be reined in by the porte.

plenty of usefuln
Pak Sun Ng
Jan 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Grand scope, covering most relevant events and characters at proportionate length, though some seem to come out of the blue, making it uneasy to follow. Deserves 4 stars if author has not used the many unnecessarily difficult and old-fashioned words. Better to read with a dictionary...
But the central theme is very clear. "Balkans" is a label imposed by the great powers representing nationalistic strife, political brutality, economic stagnation, etc, which are very much caused by the same great p
Spencer Riehl
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Whew. What a journey. First off, this book took a long time for me to finish, with at least a month in the middle of reading almost nothing.

That said, coming into this region with relatively little knowledge, I was able to follow along and understand. I've watched the BBC documentary "the fall of Yugoslavia" but this provided such a rich tapestry of background. Yes, there were a lot of moments where I was tempted to skip past the story of some despot's rise and then unceremonious fall, but I st
Paolo Zanelli
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful and deeply interesting. Unfortunately Glenny is at times quite a clumsy writer, writing in an an old fashioned English which makes the reading too often uselessly heavy. If it wasn't for that I'd give it a 5* rating. Also, he overlooked the relationship between Italy (as a a heir to the Venetian empire) and the Balkans, which is an important element in understanding the history of the eastern Mediterranean; a heritage that spilled into the often forgotten ethnical cleansing that ...more
Samuel Ezebunandu
Took a bit of motivation to plough through this, as it was somewhat dense. But I come away with a more informed perspective of the forces that shaped the Balkan countries. I plan to follow up with a book about the Bosnian War. I will probably have to read this in another couple of months again, just so the subject sinks in and sticks.
Aug 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Heavy going book on the history of the Balkans. Starts back in the Ottoman Empire up to 2012. Probably are better books as introduction. And is a wide-ranging subject so hard to get into great depth on any one aspect.
Misha Glenny neemt in dit boek de hele Balkan onder de loep over de periode 1804-1999. De periodisering is wellicht niet toevallig. Glenny wil vooral aantonen dat de hedendaagse conflicten in Joegoslavië geen stammenconflicten zijn, een strijd tussen wilde onbeschaafde volkeren, maar hun oorsprong vinden in het nationalisme, dat ontstond in de 19de eeuw en dat aan de basis ligt van de moderne Balkanstaten. Meer bepaald ziet hij terecht in de Napoleontische oorlogen en de instelling van de Illyri ...more
Collin Fox
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very readable history written in a journalistic, fast-moving style.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historisch, politiek
Eindelijk een overzicht over de zware, moeilijke Balkanproblematiek.
Het geeft een beter begrip waarom deze regio regelmatig een gevaarlijke vuurhaard is.
Peter Crouse
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Daniel Simmons
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
The reputation of the Balkans as a "world where people are motivated not by rational considerations but by a mysterious congenital bloodthirstiness" (p. 661) is a media-fueled misrepresentation, according to Glenny, that allows great global powers to disclaim their own responsibility for the terrible conflicts that have occurred in that corner of the world for centuries. About the asssassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that sparked the outbreak of World War I, which has often been blamed on ...more
Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 05, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book as it offered a nuanced view of modern Balkan history and rejects the mythology of the innate backwardness of Balkan people as a leading cause of our tumultuous history. While I appreciate the acknowledgement of the role Western imperialists have had in our misery, I think that at times all agency was stripped from Balkan people and reports of our backwardness was greatly exaggerated. Glenny emphasized the poverty and misery of life in the Balkans, which to some extent was tr ...more
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book affected my worldview in ways I am glad of while also slightly surprised by. I learned far more about the complexities of world history and international relations than I expected, though perhaps I should have expected that from a region so small and at such a crossroads of continents.

I picked up this book after traveling to Croatia (and loving it) and realizing I knew far, far too little about that part of the world. I'd read that this book was the best out there on the Balkans, and I
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: eastern-europe
Exhaustive or simply exhausting? A history of such breadth and depth necessarily needs an angle, but the military angle has been overdone. Though this book bills itself as being about the "geopolitics" of the region, it is so packed full of battles, descriptions of death, notes about the type of weapons used (unclear why this last is relevant--appear to be an indulgence of the writer), etc. that it is really about people using violence against one another rather than a more comprehensive treatme ...more
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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