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Kosovo: A Short History Hardcover – June 1, 1998
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Kosovo, a 55-mile-long plateau in southern Serbia bordering Albania and Macedonia, should by all rights be a historical and political backwater. A Bulgarian geographer who visited Kosovo during World War I remarked that it was "almost as unknown and inaccessible as a stretch of land in Central Africa." The observation would prove ironically fitting by the '90s, as Central Africa and Kosovo both became sites of widespread genocide, fueled by ethnic hatreds, of the deepest international significance. Noel Malcolm, a British historian and journalist who has written extensively about the Balkans (including a companion volume of sorts on Bosnia), provides an overview of Kosovo's long-standing cultural divisions in his "short history" (although, at more than 500 pages, a not so short book).
Readers following the unfolding war in Kosovo through newspaper and television coverage may well ask why ethnic Albanians and Serbs are struggling so violently to command the small region. Kosovo, Malcolm explains, is the birthplace of Serbian nationalism; the defeat of Serbian forces there in 1389 by Turkish troops became emblematic of the fall of the Serbian empire, as it led to Turkish domination of the Balkans. Contemporary warriors of Serbia are, in Malcolm's eyes, evidently attempting to reverse the course of history by reclaiming the land from its Turkish conquerors--but in the absence of the Turks, they'll take it from the Albanians (the largest ethnic group among Kosovo's inhabitants) whose ancestors converted to Islam when the Turks ruled the region. Malcolm's lucid text shows again and again that the ethnic conflict in Kosovo is less a battle over bloodlines and religion than it is one over differing conceptions of national origins and history. "When ordinary Serbs learn to think more rationally and humanely about Kosovo, and more critically about some of their national myths," he concludes, "all the people of Kosovo and Serbia will benefit--not least the Serbs themselves." --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
In this awe-inspiring work, Malcolm has created a vital successor to his Bosnia: A Short History and an essential aid to anyone who wishes to understand this tragic region today. Through the dazzling use of linguistic evidence, Malcolm postulates that Albanians, whether their nebulous origins are Thracian or Illyrian, can reasonably be placed in the region as early as pre-Roman times. The historical description begins in earnest with the Middle Ages, with the advent of written records, and Malcolm appears to have ferreted out every one. His book is exceptional not only for his unimpeachable research, but also for his equitable examination of the conflicting ethnic views of what really happened in this contentious region, and his determination to debunk dangerous myths. If some will be shocked to learn that Serbian state policy mandated ethnic cleansing for more than 100 years, others will be equally amazed at the resilience of a people who for centuries have been caught in nationalistic crossfire. But probably the most important contribution of the book is its clear and thorough documentation of the legal status of Kosovo over time, and its compelling conclusions that challenge the accepted status quo. One can't help speculating on how a clear understanding of the information contained here might have affected the Dayton Accord and history.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
This is a good book telling the history of this Balkan land.
Most recent customer reviews
It should be mandatory reading on all history school books of the Balkan...Read more