Tanner, Marcus – Croatia, A Nation Forged in War

Croatia, A Nation Forged in War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997 (338 p.)

     This book clearly deserves attention: It is the first by this Anglo-Saxon author about Croatian history and is also the first presentation of its kind about Croatia’s rising from the ashes of communism. Marcus Tanner worked as a reporter for London’s Independent newspaper from 1988 to 1994 and was honored by the Queen of Britain herself for his contributions to the development of journalism and reporting. In the introduction of the book, published by the U.S. publisher Yale University Press, the author writes that this book is a result of his desire to fill in some gaps in understanding the former Yugoslavia and his opinion that Croatia deserves to be studied separately. Tanner finds that everyone, especially western liberals, was more attracted to “the sufferings of Bosnia’s Muslims than Croatia’s Catholics, who were marked with the Ustasha tag.” Tanner concludes that it is almost impossible to write about the war of the nineties without first referring to the events of World War II, first Yugoslavia or political Croatia, A Nation Forged in Waratmosphere of the twenties and thirties. He then decided to start from scratch — going back to the time of the first Croatian kings. The result of this is a book that breathes with an understanding of the Croatian idea of independence. This is a rarity because newborn Croatia has many times been “unwelcome” in the western world as an unwanted newborn. Tanner describes in detail the break- up of the former Yugoslavia as well as the Serbian skims in the former Yugoslavia Presidency. For a change, he is an author who does not blame Croatia or Slavonia, but Serbia, for the aggression.

     Reviews of the recently published book are still few. One of the first reviews was written by Branko Franolic, Ph.D., the correspondent for the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences who lives in London. In his review for the Croatian Times (English edition in London), Franolic, an expert of Croatian literature and history, states that Tanner “correctly and objectively” writes about all periods in Croatian history. Franolic says that: “This kind of understanding about what was happening in Croatia was possible because Tanner is well-versed in Croatian history, language, and society. Tanner’s vision of the events that occurred during the 1990’s will definitely provoke many controversial opinions and much bitterness. But we have to know that this is our recent past and it is still too early to cast some sort of judgement. But at least the facts have correctly been transferred to the page.” Franolic adds that Tanner’s presents a basic book for people who want to find out more about the breakaway of Yugoslavia, the liberation of enslaved Croatia, nationalism of small European nations and the imperialism of the opposition party involved in the conflict.

     Another review was conducted by Professor Norman Stone, a former Oxford University faculty member and a member on former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s advising team. Stone, currently a professor of international relations at the University of Ankara, was one of the people defending the Croats’ will to become an independent country. He reviewed the book: Serbs: History, Peace, Myth, and the Destruction of Yugoslavia by author Tim Judah in the British newspaper Sunday Times, where he says Judah focuses on Serbia’s tragic present and is therefore saying that the Serbs were infected by some sort of collective mania after the eighties. “Serbs are a thorn in the side of Germany, the Vatican, Islamic countries and finally, America” and this is the source of their psychotic madness that gave rise to Slobodan Milosevic. Far from hating the Serbs, Judah asks himself the question: what went wrong with the Serbs? In writing about Tanner’s book, Stone notices Croatia could soon become “another Spain and the most successful European economic source.” He also talks about Croatia’s stormy history, stating that Croatia had a fascist state during World War II but that this type of regime was “generally not well accepted by the majority of Croats.” Stone comments that some countries think the Croats caused the break-up of Yugoslavia, and that the Germans shouldn’t have recognized Croatia. He also claims that the British Foreign Office didn’t mind these types of comments because some of the misinformation even came from its own office. He concludes that most books on the subject have a pro-Yugoslavian tone or orientation, like books by Fitzroy Maclean, R.W. Seton Watson or A.P.J. Taylor. Marcus Tanner’s book, therefore, is most definitely interesting. Jasna Jazic. Vjesnik, Zagreb, April 25, 1997