The murderous war in Yugoslavia brings a daily round of revulsion, with the world's press fixed on the Serbs as children of darkness. "A valiant and warlike race," Churchill called the Serbs. Certainly their reputation for war has stuck. But as Florence Levinsohn finds in this penetrating look at the Balkan conflict, the Serbs are complex and often misunderstood. During an intensive stay in Belgrade, Ms. Levinsohn talked with a cross-section of Serbian intellectuals and absorbed the mood of a city enduring a draconian UN embargo. In Belgrade she unpeels the many layers of confusion, despair, cynicism, anger, and yearning felt by Serbs living under a government they neither understand nor endorse, but feel hopeless to unseat. She finds a proud people involved with a war for which they have no sympathy and only long for an end. There is, Ms. Levinsohn concludes, enough guilt in this conflict to satisfy Serbs, Croatians, and Muslims alike, and a great measure of misdirected policy in the West. As she shows, the roots of the war lie in the political exploitation of ethnic and religious hatreds by the leaders of the several groups. Belgrade is a mind-changing book about the bitterest conflict to come out of the end of the Cold War.
Florence H. Levinson was an independent journalist who wrote widely on politics and urban affairs. Her books include Harold Washington: A Political Biography; School Desegregation: Shadow and Substance; and, most recently, Belgrade: Among the Serbs.