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Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide Hardcover – March 1, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0814706718 ISBN-10: 0814706711 Edition: 1St Edition

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

An independent scholar living in Washington, DC, Anzulovic interprets Serbia's violent history as a consequence of historical legacies: Saint Sava's mystical identification of the church and nation, glorified killing in such works as Petar P. Njego s's Mountain Wreath (1986), and the "pagan-tribal ethos" of the Balkans and of Serbia in particular. The book's strength consists of illustrating a national ideology woven from myth and historical episode. Indeed, its title derives from the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje, in which a messenger from Saint Elias offered Prince Lazar a "heavenly kingdom" in accepting Serbian defeat. Anzulovic posits the revitalized myth promoted by Orthodox clergy, popular writers, and urban intellectuals as the source of the recent genocidal war. Although acknowledging policies imposed from without, the author overlooks Serbia's experience as a victim of past aggression. Likewise, the "many" Serbs who want a life of peace and toleration are only passingly recognized. Nevertheless, the book's grasp of Serbian culture extends far beyond the superficial "ancient hatreds" thesis of Balkan war. Scholars will find it a good companion to Timothy Judah's more general The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (LJ 3/15/97). Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.AZachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"In a timely, scholarly work, Branimir Anzulovic brings the two theories together in Heavenly Serbia. He shows how history, religion, myth, and folklore intertwined to lay the groundwork; and how Slobodan Milosevic, a former Communist Party technocrat turned highly skilled manipulator, invoked the past to incite Serbs to create a larger and ethnically pure ‘Greater Serbia.’...All in all, though, the book goes a long way in helping the reader understand the 'hows' and 'whys' of what is happening in the Balkans today."

-Faye Bowers,Christian Science Monitor

"The book's grasp of Serbian culture extends far beyond the superficial 'ancient hatreds' thesis of Balkan war."

-Zachary T. Irwin,Pennsylvania State University, Erie

"Modern Serbian nationalism...and its contradictory connections...have been sources of considerable scholarly interest...Branimir Anzulovic's compendium is a good example of the genre, made all the more useful by Anzulovic's excellent command of the literature."

-Ivo Banac,History of Religions

"Recommended reading."

-USA Today

"The book's strength consists of illustrating a national ideology woven from myth and historical episode."

-Library Journal ,3/15/99
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press; 1St Edition edition (March 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814706711
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814706718
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,659,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The book is well written and well researched.
bytycci
West did not blink when Serbians were exppeled from Krajina,but was enthusiastic to distroy F.R.Y for alleged attrocities in Kosovo.
Misho Nikodimovich
The author has expressed an agenda which is not supported by the facts.
George V. Mrvichin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By kaioatey on May 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Recent Balkan wars represent a succinct example of the incestuous relationship between culture and brain function. A multicultural, relatively prosperous society with a high degree of inter-ethnic marriage is torn, within a year or two, into murderous fiefdoms. Appalling crimes are committed and justified by appealing to old myths resurrected by political expedience. Europe watches, helplessly, as veneer of civilization is torn with people reverting to Old Testament tribal eye-for-an-eye brutality.

This book tries to explain the causes and conditions that propelled Serbs into renting asunder of (an illusory?) tribal harmony in communist Yugoslavia. The main thesis is that Serb personal, political and religious life is defined by myths (of Serb defeat by the Ottomans, of "Serb exceptionalism", etc). Several chapters attempt to show that the genocidal streak in the Serbian national mythos originated in a violent 19th century poem calling for elimination of Turks and their collaborators. Anzulovic shows that, far from resisting occupation, Serb aristocrats were valuable vassals of Ottoman Turks, helping to consolidate Ottoman power both through troops and personal service. There is an intriguing link between the Serb tradition of banditry and its disregard for victims which may be relevant to our understanding of the Bosnian war. Pace A., in Servia, cruelty when successful is admired; thus Serb paramilitary atrocities in Bosnia created a vicious self-reinforcing circle that was actively encouraged by intellectual, artistic and religious elites in the Serb capital (Belgrade). The author shows a particular scorn for the Serb Orthodox Church which has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Bosnian genocide through its "St. Savaist" populism.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By bytycci on January 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Anzulovic's Heavenly Serbia is a great resource for students of the Balkans and the Yugoslav wars. It is also a good read for those with a general interest in the Balkans. The book is well written and well researched.

Strengths

Anzulovic sets out to explain how the myth of Heavenly Serbia has set the stage for the genocidal wars of the 1990s. He manages to do that very well in this book. He uses historical documents to prove that the myth was initially not a popular myth at all, but a church version of what had happened at the Battle of Kosovo in 1989. Further, he shows how the narrative spread among the population through the singing bards. Then, Anzulovic explains how the myth was used in the 19th and 20th centuries to justify Serbian megalomaniac ambitions. An, intriguing part of the book is the section where the author talks about how international circles had accepted the myth thus giving legitimacy to both the Serbian territorial ambitions and the genocidal campaigns.

Weaknesses

One weakness of the book is that Anzulovic often becomes repetitive. Also, one could argue that the author draws from too few sources when trying to prove his hypothesis. He relies a lot on Njegos's The Mountain Wreath to argue that the idea of eliminating entire ethnic groups to create a compact Serbian state was accepted widely. However, the content of one Serbian book is not as significant as the popularity of that book,. And, Anzulovic mentions the popularity of this and other similar books (Noz) to argue that the Serbian intellectuals were in fact promoting the myth Serbian victimization and calling for `revenge.'

In conclusion, Heavenly Serbia is an indispensable book for those who seek to understand the wars of 1990s in the Balkans. And, not only those but, also, previous wars of the 19th and 20th century in the Balkans which in fact were prequels to the 1990s, as this book implies.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
It seems that the author went ahead and rewrote the history as he saw fit. There are some major events that he "omitted". He failed to include genocides that were imposed on Serbs during Croatian and Bosnian wars, and he failed to include that there was 100,000's refugees from Croatia expelled during the war. I am apalled that the publisher even published such a book as a non -fiction.
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26 of 36 people found the following review helpful By "jazzlevyjoe" on May 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
How this claptrap passes for academic research is beyond me. For instance, I was especially surprised to learn that the Serbs intended to take over the Austro-Hungarian Empire before WW1. Anzulovic writes, with characteristic unsound thinking, that "Serbia's expansionist drive was evident [before WW1] when it sponsored the 1914 murder in order to destabilize the Austro-Hungarian monarchy (which stood in the way of its northward and westward expansion)." This is such a distortion that it's
laughable. Small Serbia invade the Austro-Hungarian Empire? What were the editors at NYU thinking? It makes you wonder why the US and Western Allies ever sided with the Serbs in the first place if indeed the Serbs were the root cause of the trouble in WW1. A joke, right, surely it is. I don't much care for other ridiculous mysoethnic statements Anzulovic makes throughout this D-thesis paper, such as "[The Eastern Orthodox Church], extremely closely connected with state and nation, long ago neglected the gospel and devoted itself to political issues to a higher degree than any other Christian Church." Anzulovic later goes on to tell us that this church can be juxtaposed against "authentic Christian thought." Overgeneralization? You haven't heard the half of it. This is truly embarrassing.
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