Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers

In This Review

Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers

By Warren Zimmermann
Times Books, 1996
255 pp. $25.00
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There is nothing mealy-mouthed about Warren Zimmermann, the U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1989 to 1992. From the get-go he sinks his teeth into the villains, worst among them Slobodan Milosevic, a consensus culprit in most Western accounts. Zimmermann, however, pursues him like an avenging angel; every reference, every estimate of the man conveys his loathing for him as the central cause of the violence and even the breakup itself. On the latter, Zimmermann is not fully convincing. He makes plain that the Slovene political opposition meant to (and did) tear their republic from Yugoslavia, and his contempt for the Croat leader Franjo Tudjman is only a tad less than for his Serbian counterpart, not least because he too practiced "nationalism as racism." Zimmermann's heroes are the people of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia who deserved better than they got from the men who would stop at nothing to hang on to power, and the writers, community leaders, and politicians who tried to stand in their way. In particular, he admires Ante Markovic , Yugoslavia's last prime minister, a Croat, who wanted to keep Yugoslavia together by reforming it politically and economically -- the policy Zimmermann was sent to pursue. Alas, the fight between the heroes and the destroyers was not a fair one. The agony, frustration, and anger this sad denouement caused the author pours poignantly from these pages.