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The Balkan Wars

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  89 ratings  ·  17 reviews
In this riveting new history of the Balkan peoples, André Gerolymatos explores how ancient events engendered cultural myths that evolved over time, gaining strength in the collective consciousnesses of Orthodox Christians and Muslims alike. In colorful detail, we meet the key figures that instigated and perpetuated these myths--assassin/heroes such as Milos Obolic and Gavr ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 20th 2003 by Basic Books (first published March 2002)
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3.36  · 
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 ·  89 ratings  ·  17 reviews

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Daniel Polansky
A discussion of the national character of the Balkan peoples as developed by the last half-millennium of more or less constant warfare. I thought the arrangement was a little peculiar—it’s almost but not quite chronological—and there is an uneven dedication to the specifics of the various conflicts which are kind of confusing. But it’s well-written and pretty-even handed, almost an impossible task when discussing the dozen competing national groups taking part in the tableau.
Colleen Browne
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I gave this book two stars and I would add another half star. Most of the book contained a great deal of interesting information- particularly for someone who's knowledge of the history of that part of the world is fairly sparse. In the first part of the book where parallels were drawn between the War of Kosovo in the 14th Century to Gavrilo Princep's assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914.
The book was confusing because just as the reader becomes comfortable with the person or
Christopher Donaghue
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This is a hard book to categorize. At times it seems to be a general history which jumps back and forth through the centuries, at other times an investigation into folk literature, at others an examination of crime, and, finally, a blow-by-blow account of a war. All in all, if you are looking for information about the latest, 1990s, Balkan War, you could end up disappointed; I had expected that that is what this book was about when I began, but quickly determined that that was not the case - but ...more
Jacob Aitken
One reviewer described this book as "Not sufficiently anti-Serb for the Ministry of Truth." That's more profound than he realized. Gerolymatos argues that the Kosovo myth functions as a prism through which Serbia would forever understand its struggles with outsiders (Gerolymatos 8). He makes the neat argument that even after the Battle of Kosovo and the death of Holy Prince Lazar, Serbs and Greeks had numerous opportunities to annihilate the Ottomans. Not simply win battles, but to eradicate the ...more
Sep 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Skipping around the last 500 years or so of history in a region that spent more than its fair share trying to fit multiple ethnic groups into limited amount of space and governments, Gerolymatos makes the case that the warfare we saw in the 1990s was rooted in ancient enmities between peoples who all had plenty of reasons to seek revenge. It's not a straight-forward history book, nor a simple analytical one, either. Instead, it zooms into details on the reasons for the assassination of Archduke ...more
Oct 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fine little book about the Balkan wars, but more importantly for me, about the context: why are these states so damn troublesome. An economically challenged past for all of the states with ethnic/religious communities swirled together. And even the Ottoman Empire's tolerance exacerbated or encouraged discord once they were gone.

Sometimes the facts overwhelm a clear view of the explication of why the region is like it is. Some explanation about particular battles or events doesn't tie off to fi
Sep 27, 2015 rated it liked it
I give this book a solid 3.5. It really was a fascinating look at how memory can replace history and how myth is built up over time. It is also an incredibly depressing book. My Grandma's family came from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Balkans have been in near-constant warfare. Statistics get mind-numbing after a while. One of my problems is a personal quirk, but I prefer some order, whether chronological or by region. Also, the author looked at several wars over the history in the Balkans ...more
Jorge Matheos
Sep 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: balkans, history, greece
A nice collection of counterpoints to works such as "Heavenly Serbia". Some might consider it as the "Greek viewpoint" in defense of Serbs. However, calling Greek revolutionary heroes such as the Souliotes as "Christian Albanians" won't win him any fans among hardcore Greek nationalists. So there is at least an attempt to be objective here.
Aug 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who like alt. history
As much as I like to think I don't have a bias when it comes to the wars in the former Yugoslav republics, this books gives a face to Serbia and Serbians that I can appreciate. It is a bit "fact"-heavy for those not particularly enraptured by non-fiction but a phenomenal resource for those studying the region, past and present.
This one was ok. I thought that the coverage of the topics was superficial and could have been done at much more depth. The author assumes the reader has much more understanding of the periods discussed since there is little coverage of them. Overall I believe the author tried to cover too much of a time period in one setting hence my points about depth. Overall an average for me.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Very interesting history of the Balkans. Gives a lot of background to the Balkan wars and puts the tensions and overlapping claims into context. However, I found it to be poorly organized as it kept jumping back and forth in history.
Marya Sutimi
Jun 08, 2014 rated it liked it
The matters of Balkan war in this book has been explained quiet well, although the timeline is pretty messed up so it could be a bit confusing. But overall, this book is okay, after reading the book, you'll understand how the conflict in Balkan is complicated to explain in the first place.
Jan 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I needed to start curing my raging ignorance on issues related to the Balkans, and this book helped with that. The vast historical perspective is helpful. In my opinion it only started to drag during the blow-by-blow account of the Balkan Wars in 1912-13, which fortunately was at the end.
Nov 03, 2010 rated it liked it
This book will give you an understanding of the causes and effects of The Balkan Wars.
Erdem Karaadam
Ever wonder how the balkan issues look to a pure greek eye? What they teach kids in greece? Be sure of as much shit as they teach in Turkey. Read it all here.
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
Very confusing. Lacks structure. Good description of the siege of Constantinople, good description how the Ottomans conquered the Balkans and how they installed the millet system.
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