Cover image for The Balkan wars : conquest, revolution, and retribution from the Ottoman era to the twentieth century and beyond
The Balkan wars : conquest, revolution, and retribution from the Ottoman era to the twentieth century and beyond
Gerolymatos, André.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
297 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1510 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DR36 .G39 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



When it comes to the Balkans, most people quickly become lost in the quagmire of struggle and intractable hatred that consumes that ancient land today. Many assume that the genesis of the past ten years of atrocity in the region might have had something to do with Tito and his repressive Yugoslav regime, or perhaps with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914. The seeds were really planted much, much earlier, on a desolate plain in Kosovo in 1389, when the Serbian Prince Lazar and his army clashed with and were defeated by the Ottoman forces of Sultan Murad I.In this riveting new history of the Balkan peoples, André Gerolymatos explores how ancient events engendered cultural myths that evolved over time, gaining psychic strength in the collective consciousnesses of Orthodox Christians and Muslims alike. In colorful detail, we meet the key figures that instigated and perpetuated these myths-including the assassin/heroes Milos Obolic and Gavrilo Princip and the warlord Ali Pasha. This lively survey of centuries of strife finally puts the modern conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo into historical context, and provides a long overdue account of the origins of ethnic hatred and warmongering in this turbulent land.

Author Notes

Andre Gerolymatos holds the chair of Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The ethnic hatreds, war, and near genocide that have destroyed the former Yugoslavia over the past decade have their roots in events, perceptions, and myths that go back at least seven centuries. Gerolymatos, professor of Hellenic studies at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, has written a stimulating, engrossing, but ultimately discouraging history of the Balkan peoples since the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. In that battle, the flower of Serbian aristocracy fell to the onslaught of the Ottoman Turks; the resultant myths and hatreds that grew out of that defeat have inspired nationalist fervor and stoked ethnic hostilities up to the present time. Gerolymatos is a fine writer who interweaves fascinating vignettes about quirky personalities into the broader narrative, and his readers learn a great deal about the basis of the ethnic hatreds that still dominate the region. Yet, as Gerolymatos implies, knowledge of the causes is not enough to foster understanding, since the people of the Balkans seem willing to remain imprisoned by their past. --Jay Freeman

Choice Review

Those appalled at the descriptions of atrocities associated with the recent violence in Bosnia and Kosovo should be reminded that these horrors are only the most recent chapter in a long history of Balkan barbarism. Gerolymatos (Simon Fraser Univ.) has set himself the daunting task of providing a historical context for Balkan violence. The continuing strife in this roiling mix of ethnicities and religions is traced through the Byzantine and Ottoman periods into the 19th- and early-20th-century rise of national states. To the nonspecialist Balkan history is often a confusing morass, which Gerolymatos's skillful, well-written narrative cuts through. Let the reader be warned: this is a story of unrelieved barbarism. Despite a weak epilogue in which the author attempts--unsuccessfully, in this reviewer's opinion--to explain in broader geopolitical terms why the Balkans have witnessed such recurring violence, Gerolymatos provides many insights into the Balkan mentality, in which "success and failure have almost the same significance ... [both providing] justification for future conflict." Highly recommended for university collections at all levels. E. N. Borza emeritus, Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Map of the Balkan Peninsula, 1912-1913p. xiv
Chronologyp. xv
Introduction: Memory of Terrorp. 1
Chapter 1 Assassination, Martyrdom, and Betrayalp. 7
Chapter 2 The Ottoman Era: The Birth of Balkan Mythologyp. 47
Chapter 3 Bandits with Attitudep. 85
Chapter 4 Ethnicity versus the Nation-Statep. 120
Chapter 5 Fire, Sword, and Blood: The Birth of the Balkan Statep. 159
Chapter 6 Intractable Boundaries: Balkan Battlefieldsp. 195
Epilogue: A Wedding in Sarajevo, 1992p. 233
Notesp. 247
Bibliographyp. 281
Indexp. 289