Thursday, 24 February 2011

Book Review: The Breakup of Yugoslavia and the War in Bosnia by Carole Rogel

The Breakup of Yugoslavia and the War in Bosnia Twenty years ago the state of Yugoslavia began to fall.  Significant events in late 1990 and early 1991 lead Slovenia and Croatia to declare independence on June 1991.  What began in early 1991 resulted in five years of brutal warfare in first Croatia and then Bosnia.  The war was characterised by massacres, ethnic cleansing and genocide and represented a particularly bloody period in the history of the European region. 

The Breakup of Yugoslavia and the War in Bosnia by Carole Rogel provides a useful history of the region and covers the period from around the fourteenth century right up to the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in December 1995.  It is an extremely useful resource for someone wishing to gain an introduction to the events in the former Yugoslavia but is unfortunately limited in that it was published in 1998, before the Kosovo War.

Designed specifically for student research, the book begins with a comprehensive timeline of events from the 500s and 600s to 1997.  There are five main chapters of the book:  “The Breakup and the War: A Historical Overview”; “The Collapse of Tito’s Yugoslavia”; “The War in Bosnia-Herzegovina”; “A War of Myths, Propaganda, and Balkan Politics”; and “The Response of the International Community”. 

The next section of the book consists of a series of biographies of all of the big players in the war including Slobodan Milosevic, Franjo Tudjman and Alija Izetbegovic of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia respectively; Bosnian Serbs Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic; and various diplomats and mediators including Richard Holbrooke, David Owen and Cyrus Vance.  Unfortunately, this section is where the timing of the publication of the book is most problematic: I felt I could not read any of the entries without reverting to Wikipedia for updates.  Still, Radovan Karadzic was only arrested in July 2008 and Ratko Mladic is still on the run for war crimes so it is unlikely that even the revised edition of the book, The Breakup of Yugoslavia and Its Aftermath (2004, ABC-CLIO/Greenwood) would give a complete history.

The Breakup of Yugoslavia and Its Aftermath Perhaps the most useful section of the entire book is the final section before the comprehensive glossary entitled “Primary Documents of the Breakup and the War”.  This section included a series of speeches and excerpts from books and articles and each item was given a brief introduction.  The documents included the infamous Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (1985); Warren Zimmerman’s damning cable to the US on his recall in 1992 and Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s shocking letter of resignation as UN Human Rights Advocate on moral grounds in 1995.  Also included are excerpts from Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo and sections of the Bosnia vs Serbia proceedings at the ICJ where the Bosnian people charged genocide.

I’m not quite certain why I purchased the earlier edition of this book instead of the revised edition.  I suspect that I followed a link from a book review of the former and had not noticed the latter edition.  Nevertheless, I would recommend the book as a good starter text but would certainly advise to rather purchase The Breakup of Yugoslavia and Its Aftermath.

Buy The Breakup of Yugoslavia and the War in Bosnia (1998)  from ¦

Buy The Breakup of Yugoslavia and Its Aftermath (2004) from ¦

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