In the 1980s, Radovan Karadzic was a practicing psychiatrist and a published poet living a middle-class life in Sarajevo with a wife and two children. Nothing about him suggested the capacity for the fierce ethnic nationalism, violence, and sadism that swept him to power as the leader of the Serbian Democratic Party and then president of the Republika Srpska, an enclave carved by force out of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But from 1992 to 1995, he orchestrated, in both idea and deed, a military campaign that took 100,000 lives—most of them Bosnian Muslims, many of whom were killed in atrocities that led the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to indict Karadzic on charges of genocide. After 13 years on the run, he was arrested and brought before the ICTY in 2008. Donia testified as an expert witness during the trial and had the extraordinary experience of being cross-examined by Karadzic. (The court has yet to issue a verdict.) The sense of Karadzic that Donia gained from that encounter contributes to an elegantly written biography of a complex, charismatic figure who “thought creatively and acted ruthlessly in realizing, at any cost, a utopian vision of a separate state controlled and inhabited only by Serbs.”
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