Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Review of: Heavenly Serbia, Branimir Anzulovic

I had promised to post some reviews of books related to the Balkans. Here is a review of Branimir Anzulovic's "Heavenly Serbia." It is short. I hope you find it useful, and I hope you let me know whether you found it useful.

Review of
Branimir Anzulovic
Heavenly Serbia

Anzulovic’s Heavenly Serbia is a great resource for students of the Balkans and the Yugoslav wars. It is also a good read for those with a general interest in the Balkans. The book is well written and well researched.

Anzulovic sets out to explain how the myth of Heavenly Serbia has set the stage for the genocidal wars of the 1990s. He manages to do that very well in this book. He uses historical documents to prove that the myth was initially not a popular myth at all, but a church version of what had happened at the Battle of Kosovo in 1989. Further, he shows how the narrative spread among the population through the singing bards. Then, Anzulovic explains how the myth was used in the 19th and 20th centuries to justify Serbian megalomaniac ambitions. An, intriguing part of the book is the section where the author talks about how international circles had accepted the myth thus giving legitimacy to both the Serbian territorial ambitions and the genocidal campaigns.

One weakness of the book is that Anzulovic often becomes repetitive. Also, one could argue that the author draws from too few sources when trying to prove his hypothesis. He relies a lot on Njegos’s The Mountain Wreath to argue that the idea of eliminating entire ethnic groups to create a compact Serbian state was accepted widely. However, the content of one Serbian book is not as significant as the popularity of that book,. And, Anzulovic mentions the popularity of this and other similar books (Noz) to argue that the Serbian intellectuals were in fact promoting the myth Serbian victimization and calling for ‘revenge.’

In conclusion, Heavenly Serbia is an indispensable book for those who seek to understand the wars of 1990s in the Balkans. And, not only those but, also, previous wars of the 19th and 20th century in the Balkans which in fact were prequels to the 1990s, as this book implies.


Jeff said...

Thanks for the review! I'm looking forward to more of these from you as I continue to look for good reads on the Balkans.

In the future you might mention the nationality and/or a little of the background of the author. It would help us understand the perspective from which he writes.

Good job though & thanks again.

bytycci said...

Thanks for the suggestion Jeff.
Anzulovic is Croatian, and has studied and tought at a few American universities. That's why you find in the book a lot of comparisons of Croatians and Serbs. He also pay a little too much attention to the Ustasha movement. However, the book is in no way just 'Croatian propaganda,' as some might have us believe.

Good luck.