In the early 1990’s, the horrific violence in former provinces of Yugoslavia became regular front-page news, and many readers of daily newspapers wondered vaguely why the inhabitants had so much trouble getting along with one another. Mark Thompson, the London correspondent for a magazine published in Slovenia, the first republic to break away from Yugoslavia in this period, answers this question in A PAPER HOUSE.
Yugoslavia was created in the aftermath of World War I from a melange of peoples, some with longstanding ethnic, cultural, and even political identities. Various parts of its territory had at various times belonged to, or been conquered by, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece; after its creation it was overrun by Nazi Germany and dominated — until Marshal Tito’s defiance succeeded — by the Soviet Union. Until he died in 1980, Tito effectively stifled religious, ethnic, and political differences, but as in the Soviet Union, the old problems resurfaced with the collapse of Communist authority.
The author is well-grounded in Balkan history and has traveled in all parts of Yugoslavia. He talked with inhabitants ranging from presidents to peasants and wrote his book in 1991 and early 1992, adding in September of 1992 an epilogue focusing on the already hideous situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. His book makes clear that one of the greatest impediments to peace in the area has been the ignorance and indecision of the Western powers.
A PAPER HOUSE is intelligent, incisive, and beautifully written. It should be read and pondered by everyone who would like to understand what has happened in Yugoslavia.