The Balkans After the Cold War

Beth Gryczewski

Gallagher, Tom. The Balkans After the Cold War:  From Tyranny to Tragedy. New York:  Routledge, 2003.

In contrast to the Lampe book, Yugoslavia as History: Twice There was A Country, where Lampe tends to lean towards the belief that the breakup of Yugoslavia was inevitable, and tends to blame outsiders for imposing their will on Yugoslavia, (AND, ultimately for the disastrous and bloody breakup of the country), Tom Gallagher, in The Balkans After the Cold War, asserts that the disaster in Yugoslavia was purely the fault of insiders (2). “Yugoslavia unravelled as a functioning entity between 1985 and 1991 largely as a result of decisions taken by internal political actors, not as a result of unfriendly external actions” (2). 

Gallagher goes on to say that the European Community (EC) lowered the bar in terms of expectations for Balkan leaders, and that the EC accepted leaders for each of these newly independent Balkan states that are too harsh, not democratic enough, and who would sanction bloody nationalistic wars (2-5).  So, really, he seems to put the blame on the EC and the rest of the west, even though he says that it’s not any one else’s fault but the Yugoslavs. Anyway, it’s interesting that he couched the problem in terms of everyone lowering the bar of expectations, that the EC uses the “Balkan exception” in their dealings with the Balkan rulers.  The assumption is that if the EC demanded more from the Balkan leaders, or held them to higher standards of leadership, then the leaders who stirred up nationalist feelings in the war-torn regions would never have had the support of the EC and the west.

Gallagher goes even further in examining the many obstacles to peace in the Balkans.  In describing the many crises that Yugoslavia had to overcome (and still must work to overcome), Gallagher mentions the irony in the situation that Yugoslavia finds itself now, given that it was the most free and open of all the communist countries in the east bloc.  The irony is that now, of all the former communists countries, it is the one that has transitioned the worst, and is, in fact the only one where a bloody war is still imminent.  Again, Gallagher tosses out the possibility that the EC is at fault in this:  “So [is chronicled] the decision of the EC and other international bodies to concentrate their energies on assisting the Central European states to exit from communism while neglecting their Balkan counterparts” (5).   It seems to me that this sounds like he is trying to place at least some blame on the west and the EC by them supporting Central Europe rather than East Europe and the Balkans. 

 However, although it does seem like Gallagher is pointing fingers, in reality, he is just outlining all of the many reasons for the disastrous situation in Yugoslavia, many of which are the fault of “insiders”, many of which are the fault of outsiders.

Comments are closed.