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Life in the Balkan Powder Keg, 1880–1956

Edited by

Jill A. Irvine, Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma
Carol S. Lilly, Professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney

The life story of a Serbian woman over a period of more than 70 years, preserved in memoirs, letters and mostly diaries, recounts the triumphs and tragedies of a life that takes place against the backdrop of extraordinary turbulence in the Balkans. It covers more than half a century, five wars (including the two world wars), and four ideologies.

This is a time of excitement in Serbia as its leaders carve an independent state out of the Ottoman Empire and attempt to modernize a largely rural and “backward” corner of Europe. A time of opportunity for many who join in the effort to build the infrastructure of a modern economy, as well as the growing number of middle class families who send their children, in rare cases even girls, to the emerging system of state schools. Above all, a time of war, as the expanding Serbian state comes into conflict with its neighbors and, ultimately, the Great Powers of Europe.

Accompanied by an introductory study, Natalija’s diary provides a rich background to understanding the on-going conflict in the Balkans today.


List of Maps; Preface; Introduction Part I. Years of Hope, 1880–1911 Childhood; Learning Motherhood; Life and Politics in Small-Town Serbia; The Family Moves South; The Balkan Wars Part II. Years of War, 1914–1924 The War Begins: July 1914 to October 1915; Refugees: October 1915 to January 1916; Life Under Occupation: 1916; Resistance: 1917; Endings: 1918; Beginnings: 1919 Part III. Years of Disappointment, 1924–1956 A New Country; A New Life: 1924–1927; Europe in Decline: 1932–1939; War Again: 1939–1945; Twilight Appendix: Natalija Matić-Zrnić and Her Family Glossary; Bibliography; Map Credits


514 pages, includes 54 photos and 6 maps
ISBN 978-963-9776-23-4 cloth $55.00 / €44.95/ £40.00

2011 paperback edition
514 pages, includes 54 photos and 6 maps
ISBN 978-963-9776-97-5 cloth $29.95 / €27.95/ £25.00