THE BALKAN WARS: Conquest, Revolution and Retribution from the Ottoman Era to the Twentieth Century and Beyond

Andre Gerolymatos, Author . Basic $28 (320p) ISBN 0-465-02731-8

In an emotional history-cum-polemic, Gerolymatos, a Hellenic studies professor of Balkan descent, attempts to explain why "these small countries are hostages to the past and seem so willing to fight the same battles all over again" by contextualizing present conflicts within a survey of the "Balkan legacy" of centuries of wars and their accompanying mythologies of heroes, villains and martyrs. Gerolymatos devotes more than half his volume to an often bewildering back-and-forth narrative that lurches across the eras, detailing misdeeds by—or the mistreatment of—Soliots, Phanariots, Janissaries, Bashi-Bazouks, Ghazis, Turkmens and Osmanlis, as well as the more recognizable Serbs, Albanians and other Balkan peoples. Oppression and barbarism inflicted upon inconvenient minorities in the name of race, religion and nationalism seems an unending fact of life and death, from what is now Romania to Greece and Turkey. As Gerolymatos reaches recent centuries, his narrative becomes more chronological, and he observes that the West has attempted, usually in vain, to keep Balkan ethnic groups from destabilizing not only their own region but all of Europe in their interminable conflicts. "Regions where history, religion and nationalism overlap in limited territorial space" may, the author says, be fated to cycles of violence, but today "the barbarians at the gate are not the Turks but the forces of globalization and assimilation." He sees continuing cycles of "blood" until instability "undermines the interests of the United States, Europe, and Russia." Only general prosperity will interrupt the inevitable, Gerolymatos predicts, and he offers little hope for that. 28 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Mar. 14)

Forecast:Basic plans a 20,000 first printing and a 10-city author tour, but general readers' attention has left the Balkans behind.

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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