In This Review
Ethnic Nationalism: The Tragic Death of Yugoslavia

Ethnic Nationalism: The Tragic Death of Yugoslavia

By Bogdan Denitch

University of Minnesota Press, 1994, 229 pp.

There is a special anguish and anger in this book: Denitch was born Serbian, grew up in the United States, and made his university career in New York, but he has also spent a good deal of time in Croatia and is now also a citizen of that country. He despises the Serb nationalists who have roiled ethnic waters for their own selfish political purposes, but he has little more respect for the bureaucrats from the old regime who dominate leadership in the other states.

Denitch is above all else sorry: sorry that the second Yugoslav state could not be made to work, sorry that so many of the unscrupulous old-guard communists were able to hijack their states under savage nationalist pretense, sorry that democratic socialism was not given a chance here and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, and sorry that once more the rest of Europe and the West care so little.

He promises to explain why all of this has happened and, in particular, why nationalism turns pathological, where ethnic chauvinism comes from, and what democracy has to do with the problem. He does not succeed. At this level the book is thin and full of clichs, a collection of simple and tired urgings derived from all the things he is sorry about. His description of the elements and culprits in the death of Yugoslavia, however, has great clarity and considerable power.