Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Bosnia: In the Footsteps of Gavrilo Princip

As a young boy — and to be honest, still today — World War I aircraft fascinated me.  Biplanes and triplanes seemed so exotic and were firmly a part of the romantic age of flying.  The appearance on the scene of monoplanes as the war drew to a close always seemed rather anti-climatic to me and even somewhat disappointing.  Thanks to a bit of help from my dad, I once even presented a special, extra-curricular report in school on WWI aircraft.  Only later did I learn of the stalemate trench warfare that was such a hallmark of WWI.  It was even later, probably in high school, that I was told that one man, then termed a revolutionary, now termed a terrorist, essentially started WWI through his actions alone.  When a Serbian assassin killed Franz Ferdinand of the ruling Hapsburg family, WWI was set in motion.  The high school teachers and textbooks forget that it was really wasn’t that simple, but the assassin, Gavrilo Princip, remained an interesting figure from an interesting part of the world.

Book cover.Bosnia: In the Footsteps of Gavrilo Princip by Tony Fabijančić (ISBN: 978-0-88864-519-7) is a travelogue that traces the route of Gavrilo Princip’s travels through the former Yugoslavia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Set largely in the modern-day Balkans, the book uses Princip and his story as a way to understand the region’s complicated history and its rather sticky present through observation, interviews, and referencing historical sources.  The author, rather sympathetic to Princip before undertaking his research and travels, was also optimistic at the outset about the chances for the various ethnic and religious groups of the former Yugoslavia to mend things up a little bit.  By the end of his efforts and the end of the book, after traveling through thick forests, high alps, Mediterranean coastline, and the smog of big cities, he has changed his tune on both counts, considering Princip to have misjudged the impact of his actions, and not just misjudged, but having brought about more harm than good as well as coming to the realization that the peoples of the region, harboring some of the same prejudices and stereotypes as those held about 100 years ago as WWI broke out, aren’t breaking out of those molds any time soon. 

Tracing the life and travels of Princip proved an interesting motif and an interesting background to the pictures of the people and places of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia.  I was most struck by the fact that in the larger cities, much had been repaired or rebuilt when it came to buildings or infrastructure, but when it came to people’s feelings, most of those whom the author spoke with had experienced no rebuilding at all since the fall of Communist Yugoslavia.  The author, partially of Croatian descent himself, seemed to think that, much like Communist Russia’s experience, the ethnic harmony of the Communist time in Yugoslavia was not genuine.  While the Left likes to play this type of ethnic and racial strife up in America, I am of the opinion that very little of these types of feelings exist in America, and I think it is because of this that Americans, myself included, have such a hard time understanding an sympathizing with the people of the Balkans.  We’d rather worry about our own families’s welfare, our jobs, and our favorite sports teams than whether or not we should hate the people next door because they say a few words differently than we do, have a different last name, or belong to a different church.  The book was an interesting, although not gripping read, and there are better works out there if one is after pure history, but this provided a slightly lighter approach to both the history and the state of current affairs.

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This work, including all text, photographs, and other original work, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 3.0 License and is copyrighted © MMXI John Pruess.


Katerina said...

I'm always amazed at the interests you have when it comes to books. I think you'd read just about anything (perhaps except sci-fi or some modern fiction).
Just so you know, Anna said the other day that "Dad knows so much more than Mom because he reads a lot." She's absolutely right! Thanks for being such a good example to the kids (and to me).
I love you!

Papa Tom said...

I am also impressed by the volume that John reads. I wish I had more time for reading but so far am not willing to give up other activities to create that time. Learning to read fast is a skill that I am still working to acquire and that should be part of any student's early education.