A skillful navigation of the stormy seas of Balkan history.
In this brief but significant account, Mazower (Dark Continent, 1998) dispels a number of common misconceptions about one of the most misunderstood regions (and peoples) in the world. He maintains that violence is no more endemic to the Balkans than any other part of Europe, for example, and that for most of its history the area had “no ethnic conflict at all.” Of course, this begs the question: Why is it only in the last one or two centuries that the cocktail became politically volatile? The author begins with a discussion of the geography, noting that mountains “have made commerce within the region more expensive and complicated the process of political unification” and showing that even the rivers are not suitable for commerce or communication. He then begins his chronological narrative, arguing that the “basic ethnographic composition” of the Balkans dates to the seventh century
A fascinating portrait, and a convincing analysis. (8 maps, chronology)