BALKAN GHOSTS by Robert D. Kaplan


A Journey Through History
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 Timely and vivid view of the Balkans, by Kaplan (Soldiers of God, 1989). Kaplan lived in Athens for seven years and has traveled frequently in Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Moldavia, and Bulgaria. Although he's most familiar with Romania and Greece, he provides deep and literate insight into events throughout the region. Moreover, he's read a good deal of what historians, writers, and journalists of previous eras have written, and he uses to good effect the observations of travelers like Rebecca West, John Reed, Lawrence Durrell, and Oliver Manning. Kaplan's text--part history, part travelogue, part political analysis--conveys both his insights and theirs with a useful sense of the history of the area: of the influence of Turkey, which, West observed, had ``ruined the Balkans, with a ruin so great that it has not yet been repaired''; of the deep ethnic and religious rifts that prevail in lands like Bosnia, ``rural, isolated, and full of suspicions and hatreds to a degree that the sophisticated Croats of Zagreb could barely imagine''; of the conflicting dreams of lost imperial glory, with each nation demanding that its borders revert to where they were ``at the exact time when its own empire had reached its zenith''; and of the pattern of Romanian history, ``long periods of docility interrupted by brief but spectacular eruptions of violence.'' This violence was mirrored in Yugoslavia, which, Kaplan notes, ``did not deteriorate suddenly, but...step by step, throughout the 1980s.'' The author's descriptions of Greek politics are equally astute, as is his discussion of the implications of the exodus of ethnic Germans throughout the area back to Germany. Meanwhile, over the whole of the Balkans broods the ghost of Communism, which will ``exit the world stage revealed for what it truly was: fascism, without fascism's ability to make the trains run on time.'' A memorable portrait of an increasingly important region. (Photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-08701-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993


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