The Balkans' Lethal Nationalisms
Foreign Affairs
The war in Kosovo has reinforced the Balkans' image as a cauldron of ethnic hatred. Many commentators argue that the region has always been wracked by ancient hatreds. Others argue that today's strains are artificial, manufactured by cynical postcommunist demagogues looking to legitimate their rule. Neither school has it right. Balkan ethnic strains are neither as ancient as time nor as recent as the rise to power of Slobodan Milosevic; rather, they are about as old as the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of nationalism. To a historian, today's Balkan crises are rooted in, above all, the crippling dependence of all Balkan peoples on the ideology and psychology of expansionist nationalism. With the West now drawn deeper than ever into the struggle between Serbs and Albanians, we must better understand the roots of their passions.