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If you ever wondered why Lord Byron died in a remote place called Missolonghi, or exactly what a Young Turk is, or why bullett fired by a Serbian nationalist in the provincial backwater Sarajevo started World War I -- it's all here: from the First Serbian uprising in 1804 to the latest Serbian shenanigans in Kosovo earlier this year. Glenny's account of each national group in the Balkans and its struggle for statehood is lucid and fair-minded, and he brings the culture of different nationalisms to life. The narrative is studded with sharply observed set pieces and portraits of kings, guerillas, bandits, generals and politicians. He interweaves a narrative of key events with the story of international affairs -- the relations between states in the Balkans, and between them and the great powers.
It is the latter relationship that lies at the heart of this compulsively-readable book. Glenny shows how great-power influence in the region has been catastrophic for the people of the Balkans, and how so-called "ancient hatreds" and "tribal rivalries" have often been intensified by ignorant diplomats in far-away capitals, creating states, allocating populations andredrawing borders -- with deadly results. It remains to be seen, Glenny argues in a terse epilogue, whether the most recent western intervention will have a more benign outcome.
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