Robert Kaplan, a foreign correspondent stationed in Greece in the 1980s, wrote about the Balkans up to the collapse of Yugoslavia. Why does he choose the title, Balkan Ghosts, and does this choice lead the reader to the wrong interpretation of Balkan history?
Robert Kaplan's intentions, in writing Balkan Ghosts: A Journey through History, is, as would be expected of a travel journalist, to trace his journey through the Balkan states - or his perceived view of them - in the 1980s and early 90s. However, as he finds the situation there almost untenable, the book becomes a far more sinister review and even possibly a measure by which the then President Clinton, assessed and considered American intervention, deciding against any such involvement in the brewing disaster. Kaplan was criticized for the intensity by which he reviewed some areas, almost ignoring others; something he later tried to resolve by adding detail to the preface of later editions.
The Balkan States and those geographic locations which Kaplan feels form part of those States, including Greece, are steeped in tradition and ancient history where Muslim and Christian beliefs dominate and conflict with each other as misunderstandings and grievances and an ingrained hatred dominate the actions and expectations of the people. Kaplan wants to ensure that readers understand how history has influenced the region and how people expect to be in conflict, nurturing this hatred that they do not understand themselves. They do not question their hostility, accepting that it is the "ghosts"of the past to which they owe some respect or to whom they are beholden.
When he talks of Romania, the Athenee Palace Hotel, a formerly glorious landmark, signifies, in Kaplan's assessment, lost dreams and ideals, revealing how powerful references to the past are and how significant they are in determining the future. Kaplan even alludes to the potential, anticipated end of the Cold War and makes comparisons with the Ottoman Empire in predicting the outcome:
"Communism would exit the world stage revealed for what it truly was: fascism, without fascism’s ability to make the trains run on time."
The reader can see the link Kaplan makes between present circumstances and past occurrences and, as the events unfold can make his or her own interpretation of Kaplan's intent.