This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.


Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History (1993)

by Robert D. Kaplan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,3392710,029 (3.8)24
Author's account of his travels through the Balkan countries and a history of the region.
Recently added byKiraEvans, billga, WilliamW72, Leeann_M, darianbh, Jaredgoldfarb, therealdelia, Steve_Walker, pclark22, private library
Legacy LibrariesTim Spalding

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 24 mentions

English (26)  Dutch (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
This book had been sitting on my bookshelf unread until the coronavirus quarantine occurred. I'm glad I waited the twenty-seven years. We now know that if this book didn't contribute to the Western mindset that delayed the NATO intervention in the Yugoslavian genocide then it at least exposed the rationale for that delay.

What I find most intriguing is the delay between the author's backpacking trip through the Balkans - May through October 1990 - and the book's publication in March 1993. Was no publisher interested until Yugoslavia erupted? And did the book require a rewrite then or was the prophetic tone of doom already present in the manuscript?

The book is only partially a travelogue although that doesn't become apparent until the final two chapters. That's where the bulk of the typographical errors I found were (pp. 182, 212, 218, 242, 243, 249, 269, 271, and 285). These chapters cover Bulgaria and Greece and the focus respectively is a government journalist, Guillermo Angelov who befriended the author and a prime minister, Andreas Papandreou who the author met on three occasions. It emerges here that the author lived and worked in Greece from 1981 through 1987 and visited Bulgaria five times during that period. I can't help but wonder if these chapters were hurriedly added at the editor's request to get the green light for publication. The author's contention that Greece is a Balkan nation is not well supported. (I have no Greek or Balkan ancestry.) Bulgaria is "a world of surging passion that contained a deep secret" but in the final analysis a "lovely little country" so it would be inaccurate to call the book a hatchet job of the Balkans across the board.

After the NATO intervention this book almost immediately no longer seemed prescient. As I followed the author from country to country I would check Wikipedia for an update and found the situation considerable better than this book would lead you to believe it should be. And its worth noting that the author skips Hungary completely and yet Hungary is the only nation that is now regularly castigated for fascist leanings. (The danger of a fascist resurgence is the book's main theme. Of the many books Kaplan refers to for historic Balkan background, the Dame Rebecca West's appears most often. I suspect Kaplan modeled his book on hers.)

The book breaks down as follows:
Croatia 9%
Serbia and Albania 7%
Macedonia 8%
Belgrade 2%
Romania 39%
Bulgaria 13%
Greece 19%

As with an inferior wine this book has not aged well.

The author came out in favor of the invasion of Iraq then later had the honesty to admit the mistake. The neoconservative intelligentsia is too numerous to say that any individual member of Kaplan's stature has blood on their hands. But after two bad calls (the Balkans and Iraq) one would hope he would find an occupation for which he is more suited. ( )
  JoeHamilton | Jul 21, 2020 |
A bit torn. I eagerly devoured the history between these pages, but at the same time, his writing lacked both balance and technical panache. His view of the Orient was alarmingly one-sided and laughably out-of-date. I did feel, however, that certain essays in here (that's all it really is, a collection of travel essays and op-eds) are worth the price of admission. (I liked most of those on Romania and Bulgaria ... his views on Greece and Albania and especially Kosovo just rubbed me the wrong way.) Very mixed bag. ( )
  charlyk | Nov 15, 2019 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (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)

Belongs to Publisher Series

You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For Stephen and Linda Kaplan
First words
"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."
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

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

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.8)
0.5 2
1 4
1.5 2
2 4
2.5 4
3 45
3.5 18
4 83
4.5 13
5 42

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 150,929,919 books! | Top bar: Always visible