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Ethnic Nationalism

The Tragic Death of Yugoslavia

1996
Author:

Bogdan Denitch

Ethnic Nationalism

Provides a cogent, comprehensive historical analysis of Yugoslavia’s demise, one that clearly identifies events and trends that urgently demand the world’s attention. The role of timing in the sequence of events; the consequences of an unworkable constitutional situation; the responsibility of the West; and, above all, the self-transformation of Communist regimes that presaged undemocratic outcomes: each is duly considered as Denitch gives a detailed description of Yugoslavia’s descent into murderous inter-ethnic wars.

Provides a cogent, comprehensive historical analysis of Yugoslavia’s demise, one that clearly identifies events and trends that urgently demand the world’s attention. The role of timing in the sequence of events; the consequences of an unworkable constitutional situation; the responsibility of the West; and, above all, the self-transformation of Communist regimes that presaged undemocratic outcomes: each is duly considered as Denitch gives a detailed description of Yugoslavia’s descent into murderous inter-ethnic wars.

“... a major contribution to the literature on the death of Yugoslavia.” --W. Kendall Myers, Johns Hopkins University

Bogdan Denitch is simply the best American author writing on the states that used to constitute Yugoslavia. Ethnic Nationalism represents his most synthetic and ambitious project on this topic. In my opinion, it is and will be regarded for some time as the definitive statement on the roots of the present disastrous civil war. I am certain that both the general public and academics will rely on the book as a major touchstone of orientation.

Andrew Arato, New School for Social Research

If your neighbor cannot sleep, you will not be allowed to either: The old adage assumes an overtone of dread as the stirring, wary world witnesses the destruction of Yugoslavia. If the leaders of Serbia and Croatia can get away with tearing apart Bosnia-Herzegovina, a sovereign member of the United Nations, what is to stop military elites in other former Soviet and East European states from proposing similar solutions to their own national grievances and aspirations? And who is to say such attention would be confined to that area of the globe?

The world may well be uneasy, as Bogdan Denitch makes clear in this brilliant book about the causes and possible ramifications of the death of Yugoslavia. Ethnic Nationalism provides a cogent, comprehensive historical analysis of Yugoslavia's demise, one that clearly identifies events and trends that urgently demand the world's attention.

The role of timing in the sequence of events; the consequences of an unworkable constitutional situation; the responsibility of the West; and, above all, the self-transformation of Communist regimes that presaged undemocratic outcomes- Denitch duly considers each of these factors as he gives a detailed description of Yugoslavia's descent into interethnic wars. His discussion of the possible fate of postcommunist states is especially pertinent, and leads to a skillful account of the sources and dangers of nationalistic and ethnic extremism on what threatens to become a global scale. In this analysis, nationalism and populism can be seen as revolts against a new world system where abstract multinational financial and political institutions thwart citizens' attempts at democratic participation.

Active in Yugoslav political and intellectual life for almost thirty years, Denitch is able to imbue the developments he describes with a particular, human immediacy. His personal experiences with the emergence of nationalism and fractious ethnic politics and warfare, movingly recounted here, stand as compelling testimony to the historical drama so thoroughly and incisively detailed in this remarkable book.

Ethnic Nationalism

Bogdan Denitch is emeritus professor of political sociology at CUNY Graduate Center and Queen’s College and the author of several books including The End of the Cold War (Minnesota, 1990) and After the Flood.

Ethnic Nationalism

If we want to become better at preventing similar conflicts in the future, lessons have to be learned from Denitch’s book.

Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

Denitch has a personal stake in Yugoslavia. The child of Serb parents, his relatives have long been part of Yugoslavia’s diplomatic and governing corps (one grandfather was a member of the Black Hand). His ancestry, however, hasn’t stopped him from condemning Serbs for their treatment of Albanians in Kosovo; their early unsuccessful attack against Slovenia, which spelled the end of Yugoslav unity; and the nationalistic rhetoric which succeeded in inciting ethnic Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to violence. Alternating with a deep sadness for his native country, is an edgy realpolitk: Denitch believes the international community (especially Germany and Austria, which share a problematic history in the region) worsened matters by prematurely recognizing secessionist republics; by sending in a peace force paralyzed by ‘an excessive respect for formal sovereignty’; and by predicating aid on the acceptance of a free market ideal that, Denitch believes, will eventually result in the once relatively prosperous Yugoslavia looking more like Latin America than like the EC. Denitch’s chapters are really free-standing essays with the result that there is some repetition and the occasional insufficiently or tardily explained reference. But if the programmatic logic of Ethnic Nationalism escapes some readers, the lessons it infers from Yugoslavia to Spain and Catalonia, the Lombard League, Ireland and racial tensions in the U.S., will be hard to ignore.

Publishers Weekly

This book has a large and important purpose, to examine the rise and political uses of ethnic nationalism at the end of the 20th century. Well written, it will appeal to academic specialists and policy makers and to a general audience interested in the post-Cold War era.

Choice

Bogdan Denitch is simply the best American author writing on the states that used to constitute Yugoslavia. Ethnic Nationalism represents his most synthetic and ambitious project on this topic. In my opinion, it is and will be regarded for some time as the definitive statement on the roots of the present disastrous civil war. I am certain that both the general public and academics will rely on the book as a major touchstone of orientation.

Andrew Arato, New School for Social Research

A major contribution to the literature on the death of Yugoslavia. Ethnic Nationalism provides a badly needed analytical and historical context within which the current conflict must be placed. I know of no other work that does this job so well. ‘Must’ reading for anyone trying to understand the conflicts in this region.

W. Kendall Myers, Johns Hopkins University

In his book Ethnic Nationalism, Denitch looks at the question of the relationship between nationalism and democracy by focusing on former Yugoslavia. He has written a useful account of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the wider implications of the conflict.

Political Studies