The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia

The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia

Hardback

By (author) Tim Judah

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Paperback $16.62
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 358 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 234mm x 33mm | 740g
  • Publication date: 2 April 1997
  • Publication City/Country: New Haven
  • ISBN 10: 0300071132
  • ISBN 13: 9780300071139

Product description

Wh are the Serbs? Branded by some as Europe's new Nazis, they are seen by others - and by themselves - as the innocent victims of nationalist aggression and of an implacably hostile world media. In this book, Tim Judah, who covered the war years in former Yugoslavia for "The Times" and "The Economist" argues that neither version is true. Exploring the Serbian nation from the great epics of distant history to the battlefields of Bosnia and the backstreets of Kosovo, he sets the fate of the Serbs within the story of their past. The wide-ranging account opens with the windswept fortresses of medieval kings and a battle lost more than six centuries ago that still profoundly influences the Serbs. Judah describes the idea of "Sebdom" that sustained them during centuries of Ottoman rule, the days of glory during the World War I and the genocide against them during the second. He examines the tenuous ethnic balance fashioned by Tito and its unravelling after his death. And he reveals how Slobodan Milosevic, later to become president, used a version of history to drive his people to nationalist euphoria, Judah details the way Milosevic prepared for war and provides eye-witness accounts of wartime horrors: the burning villages and "ethnic cleansing", the ignominy of the siege of Sarajevo, and the columns of bedraggled Serb refugees, cynically manipulated and then abandoned once the dream of a Greater Serbia was lost. This in-depth account of life behind Serbian lines is not an apologia, but an explanation of how the people of the modernising European state could become among the most reviled of the century. Rejecting the stereotypical image of a bloodthirsty nation, Judah aims to make the Serbs comprehensible by placing them within the context of their history and their hopes.

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Editorial reviews

Stressing the Serbs' misuse and mythologizing of history, Judah offers an insightful, informed, and trenchant consideration of their history and their collective outlook. The Serbs is a stylish and highly readable account by an experienced journalist who has written for the London Times and the Economist. Its strength as a primer for a general readership lies in Judah's ability - unprecedented among recent journalistic accounts of the current Balkan wars - to make the behavior of individual Serbs and their leaders comprehensible by placing them in the context of Serbian and Balkan history. His presentation is nuanced, focused, and rich with motifs that he follows from the Middle Ages to the present: massive migrations, banditry and widespread violence, militias, ethnic cleansing, and enduring myths of religious and national identity (most importantly, those surrounding the Battle of Kosovo), among others. Significantly, Judah understands the deep and important nature of ties between Serbia and the Serbs outside the country proper, and explains the similarities and differences between the contemporary situation and the past. Especially effective are his citations from texts by eyewitnesses to events in Serbian history (the Balkan wars, rebellions against the Ottomans, WW II) that sound as if they were written yesterday. Judah's study will, of course, offend Serbs mightily. About the anti-Muslim sentiments in Njego??'s The Mountain Wreath (Serbia's most revered literary classic) he sensibly offers this view: "Literature that elsewhere would have long been banned from schools is still, subconsciously or not, shaping the worldview of Serbian children." He also asserts that, when faced with the Bosnian question, "many national and sane Serbs simply cease to function as such. They prefer their own long-held convictions to facts which would force them to rethink everything they hold dear." Judah's excellent book stands out in a cluttered field, offering the key to Serbia's behavior over the past decade. In Serbia, Judah observes, "It is what people believe rather than what is true that matters." (Kirkus Reviews)