KOSOVO by Noel Malcolm

KOSOVO

A Short History
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A timely and penetrating history of the Balkans’ next crisis zone—the Serbian province of Kosovo. With its 90 percent ethnic Albanian population dominated by Serbs with a nasty record of human-rights abuses, Kosovo is a nightmare waiting to happen. Throughout the 20th century it has presented an intractable problem to Yugoslav leaders, both royalist and communist. Malcolm, a seasoned British journalist in the Balkans and the author of a much-acclaimed work on the region (Bosnia: A Short History, 1994), demonstrates a similar appreciation for the urgency and significance of both the present turmoil and the complicated past of the region. He manages to be both concise and comprehensive. The book begins with geographic and ethnographic background and follows historical developments chronologically from the medieval period to the present. Malcolm’s prose is lively and engaging, his scholarship well documented, and he seems unafraid of offending the warring camps, displaying a strong, healthy skepticism bred of many years spent in the Balkans. He identifies several major factors in the shaping of Kosovo’s past and present situation. The Serbian Orthodox Church’s use of religious rhetoric to defend “sacred” Serbian interests (the official Serbian Patriarchate and several historic churches) is, he asserts, “a classic example of religion being mobilized and manipulated for ideological purposes.” He also objects to the Serbs’ claims of political hegemony based “on the geography of long-gone kingdoms or empires.” He blames the politicization of Albanian-Orthodox relations since the 19th century for turning divisions into outright hostility, drawing a parallel to the key role of politicians in creating the Bosnian crisis. Significantly, Malcolm openly challenges both the legality of Kosovo’s incorporation into the Serbian state as well as a historiography of Kosovo that has misrepresented parts of the region’s history due to national and ideological biases. Both scholars and general readers will appreciate Malcolm’s vigorous and trenchant analysis of the region’s troubled past and present. This is destined to become a standard work on the subject.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8147-5598-4
Page count: 460pp
Publisher: New York Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998