A SERB woman with what remained of her house in Krajina, Croatia


What happened to Yugoslavia?

"CLOBBA SLOBA." That headline from the Sun says a lot about the media coverage of the war in Yugoslavia, from the tabloids to the Guardian. You have to dig through the papers to find decent analysis. But there are books available which tell a different story.

THE DEATH OF YUGOSLAVIA by Laura Silber and Allan Little (Penguin, £9.99) is a must.

The book accompanies the acclaimed BBC documentary series The Death of Yugoslavia that was repeated last Saturday. It covers the period from the beginning of the break up of Yugoslavia in the late 1980s to the end of the Bosnian war in 1995. The authors interweave interviews with politicians and observations about how the unfolding crisis affected ordinary people.

The book sees the Serbian nationalism whipped up by Slobodan Milosevic as the main drive towards the disintegration of Yugoslavia and war. But in the course of honestly reporting what happened, the authors show how Milosevic was one of many nationalists in Yugoslavia-like Croatian leader Franjo Tudjman. Each of the nationalists reinforced one another.

The picture that emerges is of a society ripped apart by economic crisis, with rival would be rulers scrambling to seize as much power as possible. The quotes from the politicians, including those from Western governments, betray their utter cynicism.

THE FALL OF YUGOSLAVIA by Misha Glenny (Penguin, £7.99).

This is now available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop, after a long time out of print. It is also an excellent account of the break up of the former Yugoslavia and another good place to start reading.

Glenny, then the BBC's Central Europe correspondent, stood out against the orthodoxy that said Serbia alone was to blame for the war in 1991. He shows how nationalism was fanned by both Milosevic in Serbia and by Franjo Tudjman in Croatia. Glenny also shows powerfully how Western leaders only added to the disaster but he does, rather reluctantly, call for a "rational" form of Western intervention.

BOSNIA-FAKING DEMOCRACY AFTER DAYTON by David Chandler (Pluto, £14.99).

The US imposed the Dayton agreement in 1995 on the war weary sides of the Bosnian war. Western governments said the agreement would bring about peace and reverse ethnic cleansing.

In fact, the agreement sanctioned the effective partition of Bosnia into two "entities"-one Serb, the other Croat/Muslim. Very few refugees have returned to their homes. The book is academic in tone, but it shows there has been almost no progress towards democracy in the Western dominated Croat /Muslim half of Bosnia. It has become utterly dependent on NATO.

SERBIA UNDER MILOSEVIC by Robert Thomas, (Hurst, £14.95).

This new book is a very detailed and thorough study. It is useful, particularly because it deals in depth with Serbia after the Dayton agreement.

This period saw the rise of a mass opposition movement between 1996 and 1997. Key figures in this movement, such as Draskovic and Seselj, were then co-opted into the government. But do not start with this book if you are not at least a little acquainted with the people and an outline of Serbian politics. It is very dry and not easily accessible!

KOSOVO: A SHORT HISTORY by Noel Malcolm (Picador, £10) has recently been published in paperback and is the only history of Kosovo currently in print. It traces the history of Kosovo and the different peoples who have lived in the area. Much of the material is useful in showing how the balance between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo has swung one way and then another over the centuries.

Sadly, the book suffers from two weaknesses. First, over two thirds of it covers the period up to the First World War. This leaves little room to discuss what has happened since. Second, nationalists from every ethnic group in the Balkans have used myths and biased "history" to justify their claims to land. Malcolm debunks the Serb myths about Kosovo, but is not as ruthless in exposing the Albanian ones.

Neither of these faults are to be found in the best book on Kosovo, Between Serb and Albanian-a History of Kosovo, by Miranda Vickers. Unfortunately, it is out of print, but you might get it from a good library.

BURN THIS HOUSE by Udovicki and Ridgeway (Duke, £11.50) is a fascinating collection of essays by the opponents of nationalism in the Balkans. Here are the voices of the opposition to Milosevic, drowned out by NATO's bombing, and of the anti-nationalist opposition in Croatia and Bosnia. The writers argue that the violence and wars in the region have not been the result of centuries old ethnic hatreds, but of outside intervention by the big powers.

Here too you will find the story of little known protests against the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and of the opposition movements in Serbia and Croatia. This book is an accessible, informative and interesting read. You may not agree with all the authors' conclusions, but you will learn a lot about the region and its politics.


VERY LITTLE to watch on the box this week. But there are a couple of things worth watching.

THE TWO CULTURES? ART AND SCIENCE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (Sun, 11pm, C4). The programme looks at the relationship between art and science and argues that they are becoming more and more connected.

DAENS (Sun, 2.55am, C4). This film is about a Belgian priest who discovers poverty and child labour exploitation at the local textile mill at the beginning of the century. His fight for justice leads him into conflict with the church, mill owners and the royal family. The film had a massive impact in Belgium after the recent cases of child abuse and murder. One to set the video for.

THE BIRDCAGE (Tue, 9pm, ITV). Amusing comedy about a gay couple forced to pretend they are straight when the son of one of them brings his future parents in law home.