Saviours of the Nation

Article excerpt

MISCELLANEOUS

Serbia's intellectual opposition and the revival of nationalism

Jasna Dragovi[Symbol Not Transcribed]-Soso

Montreal & Kingston-Ithaca, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002, viii, 293pp, $70.00 cloth (ISBN 0-7735-2522-x), $27.95 paper (ISBN 0-7735-2523-8)

This book, engagingly dedicated to Tito, approaches the subject of Yugoslavia's disintegration from an unusual vantage point, looking at the role of Serbian intellectuals (with some mention of their Croatian and Slovenian colleagues). They were not necessarily wiser than the politicians or the public. Nor were most Serbian intellectuals any more capable of rational discussion on the question of Kosovo than other Serbs. Serbian writers seriously argued that Kosovo was 'a holy place and the highest spiritual symbol only to Serbs,' which didn't leave much room for other views. On the other hand, as this book makes clear, the intellectuals were not the evil geniuses who plunged Yugoslavia into a decade of destruction and war.

Intellectuals in North America are usually not much taken into account when great questions of politics arise. In Europe generally, and particularly in eastern Europe, intellectuals are taken very seriously indeed. In former communist states, they were perhaps the least controllable element in society. Regimes tried to harness them, not least to borrow the air of respectability they lent, but regimes also kept a close eye on them, knowing that their stock in trade was ideas and that ideas could be dangerous. …