The Black Book of Bosnia: The Consequences of Appeasement – MOUSAVIZADEH (CSS)

MOUSAVIZADEH, Nader. The Black Book of Bosnia: The Consequences of Appeasement. New York: Basic Books, 1996. 219p. Resenha de: TOTTEN, Samuel. Canadian Social Studies, v.35, n.2, 2001.

The Black Book of Bosnia is comprised of four parts: The Legacy of the Balkans which explores the history of ethnic strife and ethnic sanity in the Balkans, exposing the myth of eternal conflict and explaining the origins of this particular conflict (xii); A People Destroyed which highlights the accounts of hatred, sorrow, and the despair of the ordinary men and women engulfed in the war (xiii); Indecision and Impotence which analyzes the conflict in strategic and political terms ( xiii); and, The Abdication of the West which is comprised of a series of editorials and basically constitutes a call for action and a chronology of outrage (xiii). Each of these book reviews and articles appeared in The New Republic magazine between October 1991 and October 1995.

While the essays and book reviews in Part I are relatively long (between eight and a half to seventeen pages) and detailed, the articles in the rest of the volume are shorter in length (an average of about 3 pages). The former are ideal for homework assignments, while the latter could be read and discussed during a single class period.

The book is packed with revelatory information. In addition to the history of the Balkans, the many topics addressed include the formation and dissolution of Yugoslavia; the background, beliefs and relationships of the major players (Serbs, Muslims, and Croats) in the area; the multifaceted nature of the current strife; the various ethnic cleansings and genocidal actions and who committed them; and the inaction of and appeasement by the Western powers. A host of personal stories also provide powerful insights into various aspects of the conflict. For example, when a Muslim man, whose girlfriend is a Croat, was informed by an American reporter that it was dubious as to whether the U.S. would come to Bosnia’s rescue, the young man said, Maybe we should discover oil (73). Speaking about the fact that the West allowed tens of thousands of Muslims to be killed by the Serbs, a former prisoner of the Serbs said, If 100, 000 animals of some special breed were being slaughtered like this, there would have been more of a reaction (85). Such insights should resonate with most students.

The major drawback of the volume is the limited attention given to the various and horrendous human rights violations committed by the Muslims and Croats. The main focus, by far, is on the intentions and actions of the Serbs. However, as scholar Steven L. Burg (1997) notes: Croat forces carried out expulsions, internment, killing and atrocities against Muslim civilians who were victimized because they were Muslims (430) and, Muslim forces committed violations similar to those of the Croats during the period of the Croat-Muslim war of 1993. There is also evidence of persistent abuses of Serb civilians (430). Thus, teachers using this volume will need to seek out newspaper articles, essays, and first-person accounts that do not flinch from the fact that the Croats and Muslims were not altogether guiltless vis–vis such concerns. Teachers will also need to obtain information about the on-going folly of bringing the perpetrators of genocide to justice.


Steven L. Burg. 1997. Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina? in Samuel Totten, William S. Parsons, and Israel W. Charney (eds). Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views. New York: Garland Publishers, P 424-433.

Samuel Totten – University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

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