Professor James Pettifer Publishes New Book “Greece and the New Balkans”

greece and the new balkans

In 1969, Oxford undergraduate student James Pettifer left the City of Skopje – recently rebuilt following a catastrophic earthquake – for Greece, a country still under the Colonels’ dictatorship which lasted from 1967 –1974.   

Arriving in the Greek city of Thessaloniki by road from Yugoslavia, James said, “It seemed to be entering a Third World police state.”  

Today, over 50 years since he first arrived in Greece, Professor James Pettifer is a Member of Common Room at St Cross College, and an international authority and historian of modern Greece and its Balkan neighbours. His latest book 'Greece and the New Balkans' explores the relationships between Greece and its northern and eastern neighbours as they have developed after the end of the Cold War.   

His book includes eye-witness accounts of the turmoil in Albania in the mid-1990’s and afterwards, and analysis of the profound new political forces shaping the new Balkans, and their effect on internal Greek politics and society. 

“James comes to the often closed and hermetic societies bordering Greece with a concern for liberal values and egalitarianism,” writes journalist John T Psaropoulos in a review. “This book is an education, a series of insights and a gateway to seminal sources that often go unmentioned elsewhere.” 

James writes that as new, small nations in the Southern Balkans emerged as political actors, such as Montenegro in 2004 and Kosovo in 2008 – both with a very lengthy history – it seemed necessary to investigate what the consequences of that history might be in terms of the new nation and state identify. 

He writes: “After social order had begun to break down in the Albanian cities and countryside, tens of thousands of migrants flooded into Greece, producing a ‘Balkan’ factor in Greek society that has remained divisive up to the present day. It was followed by the border blockade and crisis over Macedonia.” 

The shabby treatment of Greece by the EU (following the financial crises and ‘bail-outs’ in 2010, 2015 and onward), he says, has opened the possibility of a renewal of the Greek relationship with Russia, although it remains to be seen what will develop in that direction in the next years. 

“The vulnerabilities of Greece within the European Union had always been known to observers,” writes James, “and internal uncertainties existed, going back 30 or more years to allegations that the Greek economic data had been faked up to permit entry into the Eurozone.” 

This book is an education, a series of insights and a gateway to seminal sources that often go unmentioned elsewhere

James’s other internationally recognised works on the region, include 'The New Macedonian Question', 'The Turkish Labyrinth', 'Blue Guide to Albania and Kosovo', 'Kosovo Express', 'Blue Guide Bulgaria', and (with Miranda Vickers), 'Albania-from Anarchy to a Balkan Identity'. 

The term ‘The New Macedonia Question’, first coined by James, has become widely current in both academic and diplomatic debates ever since, while his work in developing the understanding the ‘New Balkans' has opened up new understandings of the Balkans based on detailed knowledge of the contemporary realities. It is likely, writes James, that a 'Chatham House version' for the Balkans, much like the frequently referenced history of the Middle East used in academic discourse, may unfold. Cold War-Balkan history is a debate James was very involved with from the early 1990s, and he attributes that institition as playing a seminal role in developing the understanding of the 'New Balkans'.

"If there was a Chatham House version for the Balkans, it was a story of the acceptance of fragmentation and recognition of the inevitable creation of new small countries, and the emergence of hithero surpressed minorities and minority ethnic groups and nationalities," says James.

'Greece and the New Balkans' is published by Signal Books and a copy can be loaned from the St Cross Library.