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The Great Cauldron: A History of Southeastern Europe
By Marie-Janine Calic. Translated by Elizabeth Janik
Harvard University Press, 2019, 736 pp.
Since the early twentieth century, southeastern Europe has been disparaged as “the Balkans,” a term that often connotes tribalism and violence. In this detailed and comprehensive history, Calic nimbly seeks to broaden the way the region is understood. The book ranges from the advent of Ottoman dominion to the collapse of Yugoslavia. Calic concludes with the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, observing that the war, which was waged without a UN mandate, had a “legitimacy problem”—and that this compelled Western governments to spin the intervention with a “clever propaganda strategy.” Although sympathetic to the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (for which she worked), she does not discuss the difficulty it had in achieving recognition and support in the most relevant places of all: in the lands of the former Yugoslavia. The substance of the book criticizes stereotypes about the region, and yet the title references an unpleasant Western cartoon from the period of the Balkan Wars (1912–13), thus somewhat undercutting Calic’s effort to rethink conventional accounts.
Source URL: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/capsule-review/2019-12-10/great-cauldron-history-southeastern-europe