In the Western world the understanding of the former Yugoslavia and its
s wars was shaped by the pronouncements of Western politicians
and the writing of Western journalists—of whom some to this day stick
to theirclaim that the root of the conflagration lay in ancient Balkan
hatreds. The authors of this revised and expanded edition of Burn This
House: The Making and Unmaking of Yugoslavia argue differently. Pro-
viding a historical analysis of a broad range of subjects—cultural, political,
and economic—the contributors, most of whom live in the region, project
a complex picture of the ethnic dynamics and the true causes of wars in
The book begins with the sixth century, when the South Slavs settled
the Balkan peninsula, and follows the origins, development, and fall of
their medieval states, from the ninth century to the fourteenth. The par-
tition of the Balkans between the Ottomans and the Hapsburgs that fol-
lowed divided its population—peoples of the same language and origin—
forcing them to fight against each otherin the armies of theirconquerors.
Yet in the nineteenth century, despite the divisions imposed by the for-
eign powers, the movement for the unification of all South Slavs emerged,
laying the ground for the twentieth-century creation of Yugoslavia.
The writers in this volume see the roots of ultranationalism that
destroyed Yugoslavia not in some insidious historical pattern of ethnic
hatreds, but rather in the quite specific set of circumstances that crys-
tallized following the death of Marshal Tito in . Among those, three
were of utmost importance: the leadership vacuum; the deep economic
crisis; and the absence of liberal political traditions, which had much to
do with the historical waves of foreign conquest. To explain the particu-
larcharacterof the Yugoslavian crisis, the authors discuss Tito’s legacy
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