Examining two centuries of Balkan politics, from the emergence of nationalism to the retreat of Communist power in 1989, this is the first book to systematically argue that many of the region's problems are external in origin. A decade of instability in the Balkan states of southeast Europe has given the region one of the worst images in world politics. The Balkans has become synonymous with chaos and extremism. Balkanization, meaning conflict arising from the fragmentation of political power, is a condition feared across the globe. This new text assesses the key issues of Balkan politics, showing how the development of exclusive nationalism has prevented the region's human and material resources from being harnessed in a constructive way. It argues that the proximity of the Balkans to the great powers is the main reason for instability and decline. Britain, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France and finally the USA had conflicting ambitions and interests in the region. Russia had imperial designs before and after the 1917 Revolution. The Western powers sometimes tolerated these or encouraged undemocratic local forces to exercise control in order to block further Soviet expansion. Leading authority Tom Gallagher examines the origins of these Western prejudices towards the Balkans, tracing the damaging effects of policies based on Western lethargy and cynicism, and reassesses the negative image of the region, its citizens, their leadership skills and their potential to overcome crucial problems.