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Author(s): Mihailo Crnobrnja

Review by: Mihailo Crnobrnja
Source: International Journal, Vol. 49, No. 4, Russia's Foreign Policy (Autumn, 1994), pp.
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd. on behalf of the Canadian International Council
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Accessed: 21-06-2016 22:58 UTC

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tory of Bosnia) , nor does it provide a from-the-trenches portrait of the

war (as do works by Mark Thompson and others), nor does it present
an insider's view of the failure of the Yugoslav political system. More-
over, since the author continually hedges his bets in terms of both the
origins of the Yugoslav crisis and the possible scenarios for its resolu-
tion, the specialist reader is left wondering what conclusions are to be
drawn from Crnobrnja's story.
As Yugoslav ambassador to the European Community during the
early stages of the conflict, Crnobrnja was well-placed to observe Eur-
ope's response to its first post-Maastricht international crisis. One
would hope that, in his next book, the author will take full advantage
of his own personal experiences to shed some light on the European
response to Yugoslavia's demise. Crnobrnja might then be able to illus-
trate more forcefully to what extent the Yugoslav drama is also a Euro-
pean one.

Charles King/New College, Oxford


The disintegration of Yugoslavia

LenardJ. Cohen
Boulder co: Westview, 1993, xviii, 2ggpp, US$49.95 cloth, US$16.95

As in his two previous books on the subject (Political Cohesion in a Fragile

Mosaic and The Socialist Pyramid) Lenard Cohen has once again dem-
onstrated his most impressive knowledge of Yugoslavia and his master-
ful understanding of the complexities and intricacies of this tragic
country's duration and demise.
After a brief introductory chapter in which the history of the Yugos-
lav idea and the history of the seventy-three years of existence of the
Yugoslav state are briefly sketched, the author's immediate objective is
to describe the political elite of post-Tito Yugoslavia and the ways in
which it fell apart and took the country to pieces with it. This he does
with remarkable discernment.

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The first sentence of the book tells us that throughout the exis-
tence of the Yugoslav state from 1 9 1 8 to 1 99 1 , survival against the odds
was its quintessential feature.' Cohen examines carefully the period
1 989-9 1 in which the evolution of political infighting, positioning, and
movement away from the Yugoslav idea and a common focal point
reached its destructive climax. The account is fascinating and the detail
is great - a fact which will thrill the political connoisseur but might be
slightly cumbersome for the average reader.
The thrust of the volume would seem to suggest that it was not the
inherent difficulties of the highly diverse regional, religious, economic,
and ethnic composition that lead to an inevitable and bloody separa-
tion. Rather the finger is pointed at the light-weight political structure,
a collapsing political system, and the ineptitude of political elites.
The author explains carefully and in chronological order how the
post-Tito political void was filled by a pluralism of sorts and how the
specific Yugoslav brand of socialism ceased to exist. The explanation is
centred on the political mechanics of transition from monolithism
through pluralism of a nationalistic nature (within the ruling Com-
munist party) , through multi-party pluralism, to rampant national-chau-
vinism. The immediate steps which led to the destruction of Yugoslavia
and the consequent creation (so far) of five independent and sovereign
states are explained in a convincing manner and are sure to enhance
greatly the reader's understanding of how a country self-destructs.
The focus on political elites and their interaction is the main
strength of the book. The deeper and fundamental similarities and
differences between the ethnic groups of this former multi-ethnic state
are discussed only to the extent that they reflected themselves in the
political processes. This would tend to favour the belief, which this
reviewer shares, that the Yugoslav idea was not at fault but that a set of
negative political circumstances converged simultaneously on the frag-
ile multi-ethnic structure.

Cohen's volume stands out in its explanatory power among numer-

ous recent volumes depicting the tragedy of Yugoslavia.

Mihailo Crnobrnja/Montreal

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