THE BALKANS: The Road from Marsovia

To operetta-goers, the word for the Balkans had been "romantic'': in Marsovia, the Merry Widow's imaginary country, the people waltzed in boots and dainty slippers, drank plum brandy and intrigued their way through ballrooms and bedrooms. To diplomats, the word had been "obscure": ephemeral dynasties, parvenu politicians and illiterate courtesans played at running governments. To newspaper readers, the word was "confusing": barely pronounceable, barely distinguishable lands constantly seemed to be staging wars, revolutions and political assassinations for reasons too involved for correspondents to explain.

In 1946, the Balkans were neither romantic...

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