SERPENT IN THE BOSOM: The Rise and Fall of Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic has been labeled a tyrant, a butcher and a war criminal responsible for the last 10 years of mayhem in the Balkans. Though he's been much scrutinized, no account has gone this far in contextualizing Milosevic's capriciousness and his troubled past in such a vital history and culture. Cohen, whose Broken Bonds examined Yugoslavia's Cold War–era political sovereignty and its demise after Tito's death, zooms in on a man whose choices were far more calculated than his often cowardly performance would suggest. Cohen tactfully and objectively discusses Milosevic's rise to authoritarian power, finding the origins of his "unbridled political ambition and brilliant political opportunism" in his youth, especially his law school days. Cohen also credibly explains how Milosevic's wife, Mirjana, silently pulled the strings and influenced key decisions. Relating Milosevic's extremist ideology to Serbia's turbulent history, Cohen stresses the crucial role that Kosovo has played in shaping the "serpent in the bosom"—Milosevic's metaphor for the glum faith of Serbian nationalism. Cohen does not discuss Serbia's privileged position during Tito's 45-year reign, instead focusing on that reign's negative outcomes, and he skims over Milosevic's ill-conceived goals to conquer territories of Croatia and Bosnia. But those familiar with Milosevic's conduct during the five years of bloodshed in Bosnia will not find this a weak spot, as Cohen's exhaustive portrait offers numerous intriguing insights and is sure to incite debate. Not for the neophyte, Cohen's challenging, accessible analysis will find its most appreciative audience in academia. (Feb. 23)
Forecast: More exacting than Dusko Doder and Louise Branson's well-received Milosevic: Portrait of a Tyrant—as yet the only other Balkan study with Milosevic as centerpiece—Cohen's book will be snatched up by historians and political scientists.
Release date: 01/01/2001