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Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History by…

Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History (1993)

by Robert D. Kaplan

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1,246269,850 (3.81)23
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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
A fascinating read and take on history in the Balkans. ( )
  jpnygard | Aug 2, 2018 |
I liked the way he wrote the book, like a trip journal. I also liked the picturesque person he met during his journey.
I would organize the book in a different way: less about Greece and Romania and more about the former Yugoslavia republic.
Pity that is not up date and some of the facts (e.g. the former Greek minister Andreas Papandreou
( )
  palu | Jul 9, 2016 |
My library contains many books on the interface between travel and history, and one of my favourite authors in this genre is Robert Kaplan, who wrote "Balkan Ghosts" (1993). The book contains several parts, one of which deals with Kaplan’s trip through Romania in 1990, just after the overthrow of Ceausescu. The author takes you on an almost playful journey through Romania’s history, meanwhile traveling from Bucharest to the Danube Delta, to Iasi in Moldavia, to the painted monasteries in Bucovina, and then into Transylvania. Everywhere he meets interesting people who share not only their hospitality, but also their often differing views, which Kaplan manages to put in the relevant context. The picture he sketches is of a country full of past issues, from ethnic conflicts and peasant exploitation to war crimes and communist-party power abuse. Issues that, by 1990, obviously had not yet been dealt with. It will be interesting to see whether that has changed at all, in the past 25 years. The Bulgaria part, the result of several short visits in the 1980s and -90s, is less coherent, and as such less illustrative for a country in change. Kaplan’s contribution covers a number of Bulgaria-specific issues without being able to sketch the overall context. Still, a good book, from the time Kaplan was young, and not yet famous. ( )
  theonearmedcrab | Jan 13, 2016 |
I've read this book twice and will likely read it again. Kaplan writes this text as a travel log with history flowing off of every page. Kaplan predicted the (most recent)Balkan war years before the first shots were fired. Somewhere I read, although I cannot remember where at the moment, that Balkan Ghosts became required reading at the CIA. A couple of other books add insight to this book - -and this book adds insight to them- -'A Short History of Byzantium' by Norwich and 'Lien's Tomb' by Remnick. ( )
  trek520 | Dec 7, 2015 |
I've read it twice and plan on another read. It's clear Kaplan loves this part of the world, so it's a subjective travelogue, but he also writes as reporter and detective, digging for truth by talking to people and reading histories. In this passage he writes of Bucharest, but it sums up everywhere he writes about:
"Walking around Bucharest...I realized that, despite the most maniacal attempts to erase
the past, the ghosts of local history met me square in the face."

Robert Kaplan, 'Balkan Ghosts', pg 184 ( )
  SFToohey | Apr 1, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
The remembrance of a historic role as "the shield of Christianity" against a terrible pagan enemy, performed without the aid of Christian Austrians, Hungarians, Italians or Balkan neighbors, and often performed while being stabbed in the back by them, informs the mutual enmities of the present. The Serbian militiaman raping Muslim women and murdering Muslim men in Bosnia-Herzegovina today sincerely believes he is avenging the injustices inflicted upon his nation 600 years ago. The Greek patriot who shouts that "there is only one Macedonia and that is in Greece" (rather than in the former Yugoslavia) is likewise purportedly defending the cultural heritage of Alexander the Great against rude and uncouth Slavic invaders. (Never mind that the Slavs have themselves been living in the region for some 1,300 years.) Mr. Kaplan spares no individual and no nation in his indictments ...
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Istvan Deak (Aug 28, 1993)
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"In Timisoara I no longer felt that I was in Romania," Mr. Kaplan writes. "Romania was an echo of Dostoyevsky's world: the inside of a ghoulish, Byzantine icon, peopled by suffering and passionate figures whose minds were distorted by their own rage and belief in wild half-truths and conspiracies. In Timisoara, Romania was less a reality than a powerful memory."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312424930, Paperback)

From the assassination that triggered World War I to the ethnic warfare now sweeping Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia, the Balkans have been the crucible of the twentieth century, the place where terrorism and genocide first became tools of policy.

This enthralling and often chilling political travelogue fully deciphers the Balkans' ancient passions and intractable hatreds for outsiders. For as Kaplan travels among the vibrantly-adorned churches and soul-destroying slums of the former Yugoslavia, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece, he allows us to see the region's history as a time warp in which Slobodan Milosevic becomes the reincarnation of a fourteenth-century Serbian martyr; Nicolae Ceaucescu is called "Drac," or "the Devil"; and the one-time Soviet Union turns out to be a continuation of the Ottoman Empire.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:36 -0400)

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Author's account of his travels through the Balkan countries and a history of the region.

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