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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .

Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide
Branimar Anzulovic

(New York: New York University Press, 1999)
233pp. Index. Bibl. Hb.: 0-8147-0671-1. Pb.: ISBN 0-8147-0672-X.

In Heavenly Serbia Branimir Anzulovic attempts to demonstrate a relationship between the Serbian national ideology which focuses on the myth of Kosovo, and the Serbian 'genocidal' wars of Yugoslav disintegration. Although the author fails miserably in proving this point, by using biased historical information, he succeeds well in demonizing the Serbian nation. But let's go step by step. While in the first chapter Anzulovic portrays the dominant Serbian national myth, that of a heavenly Serbia, created after the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, in the second he deals with the 'impact of the Turkish conquest on Serbian national consciousness.' (p.6) These two chapters are intriguing although speculations such as that 'the traditional subservience of the Orthodox Church to the state may be an important reason why communist totalitarianism first came to power in an Orthodox country, and why Orthodox countries have had greater difficulties than Catholic and Protestant countries fighting and dismantling communist regimes' (p. 29), and that 'the transformation of Vlachs into Serbs explains why until 1995 there was a higher concentration of Serbs in parts of Bosnia and Croatia...' (p.43) abound. The third chapter, in which the author asserts that there is an endemic violence in the Balkan highlands is dubious at best. How does the author support the claim about the high level of violence in the Balkan mountainous regions is not clear. Neither we are convinced about the effects of the literary epic The Mountain Wreath written by Petar Petrovic Njegosh on the 'spread of violence beyond the Dinaric area.' (p.45) Anzulovic's supporting evidence, folk songs such as 'Grujo's Wife Treachery', do not seem too persuasive. Chapter four examines the development of XIX century Serbian nationalism. Anzulovic depicts the 'psychological climate for the recent wars for a Greater Serbia' (p.7) in chapter five, while in chapter six he explains how did the Western world became accomplice to the 1990's Serbian nationalism. Thus, only in the last three chapters the author develops his main argument - that Serbian intellectuals in congruence with the church and, ever since the rise of Milosevic, the ruling elites, have permeated the myth of the heavenly Serbian people and used it as a tool for aggression. However, contemporary Serbian nationalism was not driven by historical romanticism but by more practical and geo-strategic reasons, that is, quest for political control of territories where Serbs lived. The ethnic conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia did not occur because the Serbs believed that they are the chosen nation, but because many of them wanted, and one might add not without a just reason, to live in an essentially Serbian state.

Zhidas Daskalovski
Central European University

Zhidas Daskalovski, Central European University

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