CEU professors Balázs Trencsényi (who is also the leader of the “Democracy in History” working group at CEU’s Democracy Institute) and Constantin Iordachi presented a new book by Professor Alfred J. Rieber at CEU’s Budapest campus on October 18 in dicussion with the author.
In his book, Rieber provides a new interpretation of the history of the Balkans during the Second World War by exploring the tangled political rivalries, cultural clashes, and armed conflicts among the great powers and the indigenous people competing for influence and domination. The study takes an original approach to the region based on the geography, social conditions, and imperial rivalries that spans several centuries, culminating in three wars during the first half of the twentieth century. Against this background, Rieber focuses on leadership – personified by Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, and Tito – as the key to explaining events. For each one the Balkans represented a strategic prize vital for the fulfilment of their ambitious war aims. For the local forces the destabilization of the war offered the opportunity to reorder societies, expel ethnic minorities, and expand national borders.