Patrick Michels, ed. Balkanologie. Poigny-la-Foret, France: Homo Balkanicus, 1997. ISSN 12797952.
Reviewed by Steven Sowards (Michigan State University)
Published on HABSBURG (July, 1999)
A View of the Balkans from Paris
Balkanologie is a recent addition to the scholarly journal literature of southeastern Europe, published in France since 1997. While not limiting itself to historical subjects, the content includes historical writing, and historians are prominent among the names on the editorial board. Balkanologie has a substantial Web site at http://www.chez.com/balkanologie/ where it describes itself as "a journal of Balkan studies in Human and Social Sciences which covers the period from the Middle Ages to today. Its orientation is pluridisciplinary and its aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the contemporary Balkan world."
The publishers also aspire to complement the functions of a traditional print journal through use of the Internet to promote wide exchange of ideas and information among academics, policy makers and students. In their view, such a "network will improve mutual knowledge regarding the different research centres on the scientific works being done there. It will contribute to the development and promotion of studies on Balkan Europe ... [and] to encourage the development of Balkan studies, ... it will focus its attention particularly on the work of young researchers." While the board of editors and contributing authors include established scholars, early issues of the journal showcase work by doctoral students in keeping with this stated purpose, as well as submissions by Balkan political insiders and scholars from American, French, British, and Balkan universities.
In each issue, readers will find between five and seven articles ranging in length from fifteen to twenty-five pages, a small number of book reviews or review essays, and occasional special features, such as an editorial on the Kosovo crisis or a report on recent Serbian legislation curbing university freedoms in the wake of the student-led anti-Milosevic activism of 1996-97. When opportunity permits, two or three articles have been grouped thematically under headings such as "Effets de la transition postcommuniste." Most of the content is in French, with a few articles in English, and abstracts appear in both of these languages.
While only four issues have appeared in print to date, access to the journal is gradually increasing. For example, in March 1999, about half a dozen North American libraries were reporting subscriptions via OCLC. The table of contents for each issue appears on the Balkanologie Web page, and the full text of Vol. I, No. 2 recently has been posted at http://www.chez.com/balkanologie/balkanologie2.htm, offering potential subscribers an unusually convenient way to sample the magazine and its contents. International Political Science Abstracts has begun indexing articles, beginning with the first issue.
The journal's orientation might be described "engaged," reflecting the milieu of its editorial seat at Universite de Paris-X at Nanterre. Nanterre is a workhorse institution located in a west Paris suburb, serving 35,000 students in facilities intended for half that number. Highly regarded as a center for the study of international law, among other fields, this institution is no ivory tower: formally established in 1971, Paris X Nanterre traces its spiritual and political roots to the student unrest of May 1968, rather than the Middle Ages.
The journal's director and secretary (Patrick Michels and Yves Tomic, respectively) are associated with Nanterre; so are a quarter of the scientific and editorial boards, the remainder being scholars from British, Canadian, Greek, Croatian, and other French universities. Among the most prominent of these figures are Alain Ducellier, professor of medieval and Byzantine history at the University of Toulouse-La Mirail, and Catherine Durandin, university professor at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris and a historian of modern Romania. Others include Bernard Lory, also of INALCO, and Herve Guillorel, from the politics department at Nanterre.
Balkanologie intends to cover Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey. Almost half of the articles that have appeared so far deal with history or politics in regions of the former Yugoslavia, another quarter with Bulgarian topics, and the remainder with Romania (including Moldova), Albania, and Greece. Contemporary rather than historical matters have received the greatest share of attention, with fifteen articles on events before, during, or after the revolutions of 1989, four more on the period of Communism and the Cold War, and perhaps half a dozen historically focused in periods prior to World War II.
The first issue of Balkanologie was broadly thematic and dealt with issues of post-Communism and problems of transition after 1989. Volume I, No. 2 presented findings drawn from diverse methodologies and sources: public opinion surveys uncovering mutual perceptions by French and Bulgarian citizens, ethnological fieldwork in a mixed Serbian-Croatian village in the Vojvodina in the early 1990s, published economic statistics tracking the economics of privatization in Bulgaria, and newspaper and media analysis tracing friction in Albanian-Greek and Hungarian-Romanian relations (interested readers are reminded that this issue appears in full text on the Web).
Historians may find Volume II, No. 1 to be of the greatest interest so far. Xavier Bougarel, a doctoral student at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques (Paris) debunks urban-rural tensions and "revenge from the countryside" as leading causes of Yugoslav civil strife, while finding powerful contemporary references to the myth and history of hajduk and chetnik. Marina Glamocak, a researcher at the Centre des Etudes et Mouvements Sociaux, cites Serbian and Croatian publications from around the world to follow the origin and decline of emigre organizations since 1945. Benoit Joudiou works with published medieval chronicles to place fifteenth century Wallachian and Moldavian culture in a Slavo-Byzantine context; three other pieces analyze more recent developments. The latest issue (Vol. II, No. 2) retains this balance between a historical and a contemporary focus, with (among other offerings) a pair of articles on events in Serbia, one dealing with 1877-78 and the other with 1994-95.
The publishers of Balkanologie have also embraced the World Wide Web as a medium, and their Web site at http://www.chez.com/balkanologie/ not only seeks to promote networking among scholars, but to serve as a "gateway" to the Balkans. From the journal's home page, Web surfers can reach a variety of other Web sites, including daily news from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and a long list of Balkan media, digital maps, a brief bibliography on Kosovo, remarks from the editors, conference news and announcements, and servers for scholarly institutes, government agencies and non-governmental organizations located in Western Europe, America, and most of the Balkan states.
Balkanologie is a lively new serial at a reasonable price: given current interest in the Balkans, and the ease with which interested parties can sample the journal's content on the Web, this effort deserves a look, especially for those who might like to read more work with a non-Anglo-American perspective. Subscription information appears on the journal's Web site.
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Steven Sowards. Review of Michels, Patrick, ed., Balkanologie.
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