Who 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 challenging new book, Timothy Judah, who covered the war years in former Yugoslavia for the London Times and the Economist, argues that neither is true. Exploring the Serbian nation from the great epics of its past to the battlefields of Bosnia and the backstreets of Kosovo, he sets the fate of the Serbs within the story of their past.
This wide-ranging, scholarly, and highly readable 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 "Serbdom" that sustained them during centuries of Ottoman rule, the days of glory during the First World War, and the genocide against them during the Second. He examines the tenuous ethnic balance fashioned by Tito and its unraveling 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 gripping eyewitness 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 first in-depth account of life behind Serbian lines is not an apologia but a scrupulous explanation of how the people of a modernizing European state could become among the most reviled of the century. Rejecting the stereotypical image of a bloodthirsty nation, Judah makes the Serbs comprehensible by placing them within the context of their history and their hopes.
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The recent war in Bosnia re-ignited ancient hatreds and led to acts of brutality that echoed World War II atrocities: large-scale massacres and "ethnic cleansing". Bosnian Serbs, aided by Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, systematically murdered, raped, and terrorized Bosnian Muslims as they strove to create a Greater Serbia. Now, journalist Tim Judah provides some perspective on the horrors of the Bosnian conflict with The Serbs. Make no mistake, Judah is not an apologist for Serbian excesses; rather, he aims to explicate the Balkans' long and violent history leading to this latest tragic conflict.
The Serbs begins with the establishment of a Serbian state in the Middle Ages, then follows Serb fortunes through ensuing centuries of conquest, conflict, and oppression. Ethnic cleansing in the Balkans is hardly unique to the Bosnian war; it has been a horrific element of all Balkan conflicts, and Judah convincingly argues that Serbian nationalism is an outgrowth of the Serbs' own sufferings as victims of ethnic cleansing in past conflicts. Anyone interested in current affairs--particularly in the Balkans--will find Tim Judah's The Serbs an engrossing and important exploration of the Bosnian conflict.From the Inside Flap:
Journalist Tim Judah witnessed firsthand many of the most horrifying episodes of the war in former Yugoslavia which he has covered since the first shot, in 1991. Judah offers here a history of the Serbs from medieval times to the present, combining a gripping personal description of the war with a skillful analysis of the historical and cultural context out of which it emerged. For this new paperback edition Judah adds observations on the rise of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the war in Kosovo, and NATO's 78-day bombing campaign of Yugoslavia.
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