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Journal of Cold War Studies 4.1 (2002) 120-122

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Book Review

Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country


John R. Lampe, Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country, 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 487 pp. $24.95.

The wars of Yugoslav succession have resulted in a flood of academic and journalistic publications. With a few notable exceptions, these works have concentrated on contemporary aspects of the conflict, often at the expense of historical analysis of the long-term causes of Yugoslav disintegration. The second edition of John Lampe's Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country admirably fills this gap, providing a reliable, judicious, balanced, and clearly written guide to the histories of the two Yugoslavias--the interwar kingdom and Josip Broz Tito's Communist Yugoslavia. By adding a new chapter on the wars of Yugoslav succession, Lampe brings his narrative all the way up to the intervention in 1999 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against the "rump" Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The book is divided into twelve chapters, each focusing on a distinct period of pre-Yugoslav or Yugoslav history. The first three chapters cover the pre-Yugoslav pe- riod, concentrating on the indispensable geographical background; the legacies of the medieval Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian states; Ottoman and Habsburg rule in various Yugoslav lands; the birth of the Serbian, Croatian, and Yugoslav ideas; and the period of "new divisions" and emerging "Yugoslav ties" (1903-1914). The next three chapters detail the troubled legacy of World War I and the history of the interwar Kingdom. Chapters 7 and 8 examine the dissolution of the Yugoslav state in World War II and the ascendance of Tito's Communists to power. Chapters 9 and 10 tell the story of the ascent and gradual demise of the postwar Communist order. The final two chapters examine the rise of divisive ethnic politics and the wars of Yugoslav succession.

Lampe carefully distances himself from the view that "age-old antagonisms" are at the root of present conflicts. He rejects the self-justifications of the sundry nationalists from former Yugoslavia, as well as those of Western politicians eager to use the phantom of "primordial hatreds" to avoid political and military involvement in the Balkans (p. 4). Lampe also avoids the temptation to characterize Yugoslavia as an "artificial state" created by the Versailles settlement and to depict the Yugoslav idea as somehow doomed from the beginning (pp. 6-8). Yet, by making readers aware of the international, political, economic, and ethnic constraints faced by the "two Yugoslavias," Lampe draws attention to the troubled historical legacy of a state twice united and twice divided in the twentieth century.

Lampe convincingly demonstrates that an emphasis on historical legacies need not result in the fallacy of retrospective determinism. By preserving a sense of openness and contingency in the historical process, Lampe not only provides-in his all too modest self-characterization-a much needed historical overview of the two Yugoslavias and their "strengths and weaknesses" (p. xiv), but also critically synthesizes existing scholarship, adds much new information, dispels the self-justifying myths of [End Page 120] nationalist Yugoslav historians, and tells the story of "missed opportunities" for a unified Yugoslav state.

As an economic historian, Lampe is predictably at his best in demonstrating the economic obstacles to Yugoslav integration (pp. 117-121, 145-154, 315-322, 333-341) and the long-term consequences of regional economic disparities for successive Yugoslav crises. For this reader, at least, one of the most striking regularities that emerge from Lampe's long view of economic history is the continuing rural overpopulation, agricultural backwardness, and comparatively high illiteracy rates in the long southeastern stretch of the country, extending all the way from the Serb- populated regions of Croatia and the long Dalmatian hinterland to parts of Bosnia and Hercegovina, Montenegro, southern Serbia, Kosovo, and Macedonia--an economic reality that Communist modernization did not alter to the desired extent (see the map on p. 297). Because these are some of the regions that played...