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Posted on Aug 27, 2006 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

The Yugoslav Wars – Book Review

By Duncan Rice

yugowars.jpgBook Review: The Yugoslav Wars: Slovenia and Croatia 1991-95: Vol 1
Osprey

Yugoslavia’s stability deteriorated after the death of Tito in 1980. Slobodan Milosevic, president of the Serbian Communist Party, came to power in 1989. He had planned on constructing a Serbian dominated Yugoslavia. To achieve this Milosevic embarked on a program of expelling ethnic minorities from key districts and political misrepresentation of his opponents.

Relations between the states of Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia steadily fell apart. Slovenia and Croatia formally declared their independence from Yugoslavia on June 25 1991. On June 27 the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) was mobilised against the secessionist states. This confirmed Milosevic’s March 1991 statement that, “Yugoslavia is finished.”

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The Yugoslav Wars (1): Slovenia & Croatia 1991-95 encompasses the Ten Day War between Slovenia and Serbia, as well as The Croatian Homeland War. The authors are Dr. Nigel Thomas and Krunoslav Mikulan. Dr. Thomas was awarded his PhD on the eastern enlargement of NATO. He has been a principal lecturer at Northumbria University and is now a freelance military author, translator, and military consultant. Mr. Mikulan is a lecturer at the Teacher Training College in Croatia. He has written books on the Croatian police and on Croatian forces in World War II. The illustrator is Darko Pavlovic, who is a full time illustrator and writer specialising in militaria.

The Yugoslav Wars (1) includes a short history of Yugoslavia and a background for the conflicts. The background provided runs from 1918 to the years of conflict covered in the book, 1991 to 1995. The purpose of the book is not to provide in-depth historical and political discussion and this information is very brief. However, the material that is provided is easily read and understood. This is a rarity when reading about Balkan conflicts of any era. The information provided does provide good reference and is an excellent primer for people unfamiliar with Balkan history.

The book has two strengths, which are typical of Osprey Publishing. First, there is a great deal of material provided about the forces involved in the two conflicts. This includes descriptions of police, paramilitary, and military forces of all three belligerents. Orders of battle, command structure, and areas of operation are included. The wars in the former Yugoslavia have been the only major conventional conflict in Europe since 1945. Surprisingly very little information is available about force makeup in these conflicts. The authors have done a spectacular job of compiling this information and presenting it in an organised way.

The book’s other strength is in the graphic material provided. There are 51 black and white illustrations and eight colour plates. The black and white illustrations include rank insignia and rare photographs from former Yugoslav sources. The colour plates show uniforms in detail. The cover shows an example of Serbian, Croatian, and Slovene uniform illustrations that are included in the book. Readers interested in a visual history of the Yugoslav wars will welcome the graphics.

Recent conflict in the former Yugoslavia is a huge topic to cover. Readers will not find a comprehensive discussion in any single volume. In The Yugoslav Wars (1) the reader will not find a satisfying discussion of historical background or contemporary politics, unless he is very new to the subject. What he will find is an excellent and almost exhaustive description of the forces of Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia. The material is well supplemented by photographs, illustrations, and colour plates. This is another excellent addition for anyone familiar with Osprey Publishing’s work. For those not familiar with Osprey’s line of books The Yugoslav Wars (1) would make a good beginning.

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