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Balkan Holocausts [Hardcover]

David Macdonald

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Book Description

July 11 2005 071906466X 978-0719064661
Balkan Holocausts? compares and contrasts Serbian and Croatian propaganda from 1986 to 1999, analyzing each group's contemporary interpretations of history and current events. It offers a detailed discussion of holocaust imagery and the history of victim-centered writing in nationalism theory, including the links between the comparative genocide debate, the so-called holocaust industry, and Serbian and Croatian nationalism. No studies on Yugoslavia have thus far devoted significant space to such analysis.

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"[T]he author has succeeded in exploring his subject in a way which is both lively and genuinely informative. ... extremely well written, based on a wide range of relevant sources and sensible and generally persuasive in its judgements ... His discussion of the debate about the Holocaust is sophisticated and based on a thorough knowledge of the relevant debates." -- James Mayall, Cambridge University

About the Author

David Bruce Macdonald is Lecturer in Political Studies, University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The propaganda war April 3 2005
By David - Published on Amazon.com
A great book to understand why the Yugloslav people went to war in 1991. MacDonald shows how the Holocaust was instrumentalized during the nineties by both Croats, Muslims and Serbs, in order to portray the other republics as evil enemies bound on the destruction of the other nationalities. By claiming a role as victim, nationalist leaders like Milosevic and Tudjman could rally support for a war against the other republics, relying heavily on Yugoslav history. Croats were portrayed as descendants of the fascist Ustasa-regime, which ruled Croatia during WW II and persecuted Jews and Serbs alike. This "genocidal nature", Serb nationalists claimed, wasn't erased by history and manifested itself again, and therefore legitimized a "defensive war". Croat nationalists told the same horror stories to prove the Serbian "genocidal nature", which would explain why independence and a war against Serbs were necessary for the Croatian people to survive. Although McDonald often repeats the same message, he does succeed in making clear why Croats, Serbs and Muslims went to war in 1991. Mind that this is an academic book, primairly aimed at historians and university students.
5.0 out of 5 stars very good Dec 28 2012
By cat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Interesting critique of the war including propaganda by Serbian and Croatian elites
MacDonald weighs in heavy with Western interpretation of myths based on Christianity
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent review of myth-making in the 1990s wars April 24 2012
By boston811 - Published on Amazon.com
I found this book to be a thorough and much-needed review of myth-making in Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s. It's also extremely readable, so I think both academics and regular audiences would find it informative and interesting.

- excellent in providing a picture of how myths/historical memory were created, re-shaped and sustained throughout the 1990s, as well as why they was so potent
- examines the strength of negative myths in nation-building (as opposed to positive ones - like myths of the Golden Age) and the disastrous effects of building national identity on negative symbols and imagery
- helps provide a glimpse into the sustenance of victimization and martyrdom narratives and their effectiveness in mobilization

- I found some minor errors, for example when mentioning Kostunica and Mesic as non-nationalists (although admittedly the book was written in 2001 and at the time their nationalism was still rather well-contained in a pro-democratic image)
- I found the emphasis on the Jewish case (one of the book's central arguments is that the Holocaust was a template for restructuring nationalist histories in the two countries) a little redundant, I think even without making this comparison the book would have been equally as powerful -- similar applies to the book's development of a teological definition of nationalism (basically the first 2 chapters).

I disagree with one of the previous comments that the book relativizes war crimes or is biased -- I find it to do exactly the opposite. A complete picture of myth-making and manipulation of historical memory in the 1990s wars can only be fully understood if the cases are examined comparatively, because much of the identity construction was done relative to the "Other". By comparing the cases, Macdonald isn't trying to make them seem "equal", just setting them both in context and very rightly demonstrating that they developed in response to one another. Also, the author doesn't at all discuss issues of blame or how the war was waged -- he just helps the reader understand how the narratives of victimization and persecution were created and sustained and how they became so potent, which is in itself a critical piece for understanding the conflict. For debates on the actual war and war crimes, other books are better suited.

For anyone studying nationalism, nation-building, identity construction, or historical memory and myths in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, this book is indispensable. (Along with Kolsto's "Myths and Boundaries in Southeastern Europe", Perica's "Balkan Idols", Gordy's "Culture of Power in Serbia", Wachtel's "Making a Nation, Breaking a Nation", Dragovic-Soso's "Saviours of the Nation" and similar).
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars insulting to all victims of the war April 13 2012
By Stan Berg - Published on Amazon.com
This book is an insult to the victims of all sides in this war. There is a clear line of aggressor and victims here, which was Milosevic trying to create a greater Serbia by attacking neighboring republics. This is evident in the facts that no war was faught on Serbian territory and that Nato ended up bombing Belgrade, in Serbia, and finally that Milosevic was handed to the Hague war crimes tribunal by fellow serbs. This war was a tragedy for all involded, and hundreds of thousands of victims, misplaces, refugees, and raped women shouldn't be insulted by the writings of an insensitive blow hard who is simply trying to create a name for himself by stirring up controversy.

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