A Pavane for Bosnia, Review of Noel Malcolm's Bosnia: A Short History

Noel Malcolm, in his extraordinary book--the best available in English on the background of the Bosnian war--refutes dozens of misconceptions about the country's history.

Issue: Fall 1994

Review of Noel Malcolm's Bosnia: A Short History (New York: New York University Press, 1994).

As is well known, Bosnia is a largely artificial creation, the product of a long history of Turkish oppression and ancient ethnic hatreds. Yugoslav communism, whatever its other contributions, did manage to exert a valuable discipline over these seething enmities, until the break-up of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia unleashed them anew. The Bosnian war that followed was an inevitable consequence of these factors; it is thus a classical civil war, deriving its dynamic from elements within Bosnia. While the Serbs bear considerable responsibility for the numerous atrocities, the Croats and especially the Muslims deserve a large share of the guilt. Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, through a policy of population growth and Islamic fundamentalism, has tried to turn Bosnia into a Muslim state. His declaration of independence in the spring of 1992 was the first major attempt to challenge the Bosnian status quo, stranding Serbs and Croats alike in a hostile, oppressive environment and leaving them no recourse except force.

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