Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas

Im Auftrag des Instituts für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien Regensburg
herausgegeben von Martin Schulze Wessel und Dietmar Neutatz

Ausgabe: 62 (2014), 2, S. 310-311

Verfasst von: Daniel Lalić


Mark Biondich: The Balkans. Revolution, War and Political Violence since 1878.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. XV, 384 S., 5 Ktn., 8 Tab. = Zones of Violence. ISBN: 978-0-19-929905-8.

This collection of publications on the history of the Balkan Peninsula, which is both unmanageably large and divergent in quantity as well as quality, has been supplemented with a further work by Mark Biondichwhich at a first glance may appear redundant, but indeed upon closer inspection proves to be a thoroughly interesting attempt at a new interpretation of southeast European history.

That surprisingly concise, but at the same time quite eloquent and readable work267 pages are allocated to the analysis properis structured into five chronologically ordered large chapters, which deal in comparative fashion with the Balkans from the Congress of Berlin in 1878 to the fall of the socialist systems, the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and the present problems of these countries that still find themselves in a period of transition. The actual analysis emphasizes a grounded theoretical introduction to concepts and phenomena like nationalism, nation-states, and political violence.

The author examines the Balkans in his study not as an isolated region, but rather he understands them as an integral component of the rest of Europe. This embedding into the overall European historical context makes ever more sense as, by this way, the Balkans do not appear as the other, but rather as the temporally displaced Europe. This provides, especially for the history of Balkan violence, plausible explanatory models for ready use.

In this way, for example, the Balkan wars of 19121913 are not evaluated as an expression of ancient ethnic hate, but much more as an expression of the modern, or rather modernity itself. The military operations carried out in the course of these wars were just as professionally planned and executed as the ethnic cleansings that were an essential component of the conflict. What for this reason was perceived by many foreign observers as Balkan cruelty was actually a part of the corresponding nation-building process. The violence came from the ruling elites and not from the people, who in turn were nationalized through these ethnic homogenization processes, and those did not represent a monopoly of the Balkans in the 19th and 20th centuries. Worthy of discussion, however, is the thesis presented by the author that nationalism in the Balkan states never got the dominant ideology.

Biondich shifts the focus of his monograph as well to the role of European great powers which had a constant influence on the Balkans from the 19th century to the present. Without intending to make these great powers explicitly responsible for the instability of the Balkan region, the author emphasizes the tight causal relationship between international or European politics and the crises in the Balkans. Thus, it is not surprising for Biondich that the two catastrophic periods of collective violence in the Balkansthe time-span between 1912 and 1923, and the Second World Warcoincide with intense international crises, conflicts, and military occupations.

The present work can be understood as a part of the broader Balkanism discourse. Biondichs total European contextualization of the Balkans, which took part with the rest of Europe in the 20th century in the experience of democracy, fascism and communism, represents in certain respects an implicit attempt to make common stereotypes subject to revision, without however falling back to the justificatory and thus problematic brushstrokes that are inherent in some works on Balkanism.

Two smaller details should not remain unmentioned. First, the maps provided are of more illustrative than informative use, since not only political, but above all ethnolinguistic maps of the Balkans appear in their gray-scale print somewhat confusing; and second, the analysis of some topics comes off badly in favor of a pure description. For this reason,The Balkanstakes on characteristics of a handbook, which is, however, completely legitimate. Furthermore, it must be highlighted the comprehensive bibliography, in which appear both the basic standard works on the history of the Balkans and more specialized relevant publications.

To conclude:The Balkansis overall worth reading as a monograph on southeast European history, and though it does not present any spectacular new insights into the sourceswhich is indeed not its purposeit rather offers a new perspective on the Balkans. Mark Biondich has thus achieved a study that not only represents an introduction to southeast European history, but can also be of great interest to readers who are already versed in the subject.

Daniel Lalić, Passau

Zitierweise: Daniel Lalić über: Mark Biondich: The Balkans. Revolution, War and Political Violence since 1878. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. XV, 384 S., 5 Ktn., 8 Tab. = Zones of Violence. ISBN: 978-0-19-929905-8, http://www.dokumente.ios-regensburg.de/JGO/Rez/Lalic_Biondich_The_Balkans.html (Datum des Seitenbesuchs)

© 2014 by Institut für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien Regensburg and Daniel Lalić. All rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial educational purposes, if permission is granted by the author and usage right holders. For permission please contact jahrbuecher@ios-regensburg.de

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