Marcus Tanner is editor of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and a leader writer for the London Independent. He is also the author of Ireland's Holy Wars, The Last of the Celts, and The Raven King.
When Croatia declared itself an independent state in October 1991, the remnant of Yugoslavia reacted by invading and shelling towns such as Dubrovnik. Tanner was a correspondent in the Balkans from 1988 to 1993 for the London Independent and witnessed these events firsthand. His book covers the full recorded history of Croatia since the first Slav settlers in the seventh century A.D., but the period of World War II and after makes up half the work. No supporter of the Croats, Tanner presents incidents when they have behaved less than ideally. The narrative style is very sparse and condensed, presenting much detail in each chapter. A good survey of a region still much in the news, this work provides needed background for the current events in the region. For academic and larger public libraries.‘Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
"[Tanner and Judah] bring to bear wide knowledge of Yugoslavia
and shared experience of Europe's worst war since 1945. Each gives
a good historical survey and an account of the war's causes." -
"Readable and stimulating. . . . Long-overdue corrective to the
onesidedly negative view long entertained about Croatia by the
educated British public." - Times Higher Education
"Two fine and well-written works....The authors, British
journalists who covered the Yugoslav wars, are well worth reading.
Their respective accounts give insights into the historical baggage
the Yugoslav ethnic groups brought to their latest
convulsions."-Dusko Doder, Boston Globe
Rather than just focusing on the years since the break up of Yugoslavia, or the death of Tito, Tanner, correspondent for London's Independent has reached further back in history. In 1519, Pope Leo X described Croatia as the Antemurale Christianitatis, the "Ramparts of Christendom" and a little later, it was saddled by the Hapsburgs with a physical manifestation of that position, the Krajina, a border of castles manned primarily by Serbs. This swathe of militant Serbs would define much of the country's history, this, and it's long experience of foreign domination. There was constant tension with Hungary which claimed suzerainty over Croatia, and Tanner describes in great detail the unsuccessful attempts to Hungarianize Croatia. The South Slav movement of the late 19th century finally resulted in 1918 when Croatia became part of the South Slav Federation; however, by the mid-30s, old animosities between Serbs and Croats resurfaced. A few days after Germany declared war on Yugoslavia, the fascist Croatian nationalists, the Ustashe, began their brutal rule under the Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska (Independent State of Croatia or NDH). During the NDH, the Serbs suffered huge losses‘though exactly how many died, is indeterminable with claims ranging from 50,000 to 600,000. Still when Tito (himself half-Slovene, half-Croatian) and his Partisans prevailed at the end of the war, they retaliated, killing at least 30,000 NDH soldiers. The final impression of this very accessible and consistently engrossing history is not optimistic. The brief period of Yugoslavian unity would seem to be an authoritarian anomaly, but for now, at least, division seems mandated by centuries of hatred. (Apr.)