cover image Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History

Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History

Robert D. Kaplan. St. Martin's Press, $22.95 (307pp) ISBN 978-0-312-08701-2

Kaplan, an American journalist who lived in Greece for seven years, is a gifted writer with a marvelous feel for the exotic, woolly, mountainous Balkan peninsula. This vividly impressionistic travelogue splices a long trip in 1990 with sojourns in the '80s and forays into history, resulting in an unpredictable adventure that illuminates the Balkan nations' ethnic clashes and near-anarchic politics. Kaplan dwells on Greece's modern political culture, which, he shows, has much closer ties to the multiethnic Balkans than is generally acknowledged. He views Romania's history as a long, desperate compromise with a succession of invaders, marred by decades of Turkish rule, Nazism and Communism. He talks with Gypsies, scales steep Baroque cities, tours Transylvania, Bulgaria and Albania and visits the remnant Jewish community of Salonika, which was decimated by the Nazis. Kaplan ( Soldiers of God: With the Mujahidin in Afghanistan ) sheds light on the Serb-Croat dispute, which he traces in part back to Croatia's fascists of WW II and to the Vatican's perceived stirring up of anti-Semitic feelings among Croats. He finds seeds of civil war germinating in Yugoslavia, where he confronts ``the principal illness of the Balkans: conflicting dreams of lost imperial glory.'' Photos. (Mar.)