CROATIA: A Nation Forged in War by Marcus Tanner

CROATIA: A Nation Forged in War

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This survey of Croatian history fills in some gaps but falls short where readers most need guidance--in understanding the nature of President Franjo Tudjman's government and the Croatian Serbs' early fear of it. Tanner (Ticket to Latvia, 1990) served as Balkan correspondent for London's Independent during the heady years from 1988 to 1993. Reflecting the book's subtitle, he emphasizes the sacrifices Croatia has made to win independence, ranging from medieval times to the present, thereby implicitly portraying Croatia as a victim in a war with no recognized innocents: ""Apart from Bosnia,"" he asserts, ""no other state in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union suffered such material destruction and loss of life on the road to statehood."" Tanner's prose is generally fluid; his narrative, drawing on most of the standard secondary sources, suffers from a surprising lack of inside information or anecdotes. Even the chapters on recent events rely primarily on published sources. The most important error of judgment on Tanner's part is his reluctance until the book's final pages to write unambiguously about the less pleasant aspects of Croatian history. Until his description of recent Croatian atrocities in the Bosnian war, Tanner adopts a glib and evasive approach to important aspects of Croatia's past and present: Tudjman's anti-Semitism and his fascist-sounding remarks are presented as attempts to make ""concessions to the extreme right of a symbolic nature."" He devotes a mere paragraph to the Jasenovac concentration camp, the central symbol of postwar Croatian Serb fears. Gruesome details about the camp, widely available, are reduced to the observation that during the recent war ""the executions were frequently messy affairs."" While correctly noting that the Serb question will long haunt Croatia, Tanner never explores the ways in which Croatia might have allayed Serb fears and gained a peaceful path to independence. A superficial study lacking rigor and clarity.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0300163940
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.