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Old 10-23-2013, 09:56 AM
 
Location: New York NY
4,750 posts, read 7,032,918 times
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This is one part of the world that's just always mystified me. I can never figure out the difference between the Serbs, the Croats, the Bosnians, and why it seems as if they've all hated each other for the past 1,000 years. The countries seem to change boundaries, rulers, and politics every half century. I can't pronounce the name of anything or anyone there. An how the hell again did World War I get started? You get the idea. I need a well-written and comprehensive primer --something a bit more sophsiticated than Wikipedia, but no dense 1,000 page academic tome.

Anybody know of a good one?
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Old 10-23-2013, 10:15 AM
 
14,781 posts, read 38,471,761 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by citylove101 View Post
This is one part of the world that's just always mystified me. I can never figure out the difference between the Serbs, the Croats, the Bosnians, and why it seems as if they've all hated each other for the past 1,000 years. The countries seem to change boundaries, rulers, and politics every half century. I can't pronounce the name of anything or anyone there. An how the hell again did World War I get started? You get the idea. I need a well-written and comprehensive primer --something a bit more sophsiticated than Wikipedia, but no dense 1,000 page academic tome.

Anybody know of a good one?
Mark Mazower has written a couple of books on the area. This is the reprinting of his original "Short History of the Balkans" as part of the Library Chronicles series; which are basically ~150 page books focusing on a particular period of history or history of an area. This one is probably a real good place to start and I read the original version of this book in college:

The Balkans: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles): Mark Mazower: 9780812966213: Amazon.com: Books

If you are looking more for the roots of the modern conflicts, Misha Glenny is a good author:

The Balkans: Nationalism, War & the Great Powers, 1804-1999: Misha Glenny: 9780140233773: Amazon.com: Books

I have not read this work, but have heard it cited many times. Since Glenny grew up in Prague and covered the Balkans extensively for the BBC and speaks several languages, I think he has a better perspective. Of couse, his work is also more in depth.

I would start with Mazower's "Short History" on the Balkans and if you really want to know more, move onto Glenny.
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Old 10-23-2013, 12:17 PM
 
Location: New York NY
4,750 posts, read 7,032,918 times
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Thanks. I'll check it out.
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Old 10-23-2013, 01:19 PM
 
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I have read Glenny's book and it's very good -- nuanced, respectful, entertaining.. easy to read too.

However, OP: "how the hell again did World War I get started?" You won't exactly get that with books on the Balkans. Of course you'll read about the influence of the "Great Powers" in the region and the background to Sarajevo (i.e. the rise of Serbian nationalism, tensions in the Ottoman Empire, etc.)... but the more you read about WWI, the more you realize it didn't have much to do with the Balkans.
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Old 10-27-2013, 07:15 PM
 
Location: Miami, FL
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I read Black Lamb and Grey Falcon on the advice of an old old soldier who served in the region during WW2. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (Penguin Classics): Rebecca West, Christopher Hitchens: 9780143104902: Amazon.com: Books

Very fine book.
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Old 10-27-2013, 09:55 PM
 
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For a interesting travel literature take on the region(and its history), Simon Winchester's The Fracture Zone is a good read. It was written during the US military action on Serbia during the Kosovo conflict so it was written about 1999, but it's still enjoyable and Winchester provides a lot of perspective as well as being a good travel writer.
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