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The Guardians of the Gate, Historical Lectures on the Serbs.
By R. G. D. Laffan, C.F. With a foreword by Vice-Admiral E. T. Troubridge, C.B., C.M.G. (1917)


THIS history of Serbia, to which Vice-Admiral E. T. Troubridge contributes a short foreword, is compiled from a series of lectures which were happily given to some British soldiers attached to the Serbian Army. The writer does not hark further back than Kossovo in 1389, when Serbian independence was destroyed by the Turk. We are glad to see he does not spare the latter, beginning his indictment thus, 'There has been and is now a tendency in England to regard the Turks as a race of honourable gentlemen, clean fighters, and even, when left to themselves, very tolerable governors. The nations whom they have ruled have thought very differently.' The Kara George struggles with the Obrenovitch dynasty takes up the chapter in 'the past.' The assassination in 1868 of Prince  Michael (of the latter family) is stated to have been an irreparable loss, as, had he survived, a Yugo-Slav state might have come into being. As it was, his cousin the worthless Milan later king succeeded, and sold Serbia to Austria; and by the Treaty of Berlin Serbia, though enlarged in territory, was cut off from all Yugo-Slav expansion. Like all writers on Serbia the author tells us that the murder of King Alexander and Queen Draga did not shock the Serbians much. They, he says, ' felt that what had been done had been done, and, however it had happened, they were well rid of the Obrenovitch.' The improvement of Serbia under King Peter is shown and the success during the Balkan war narrated. Serbia had then recovered all the historic shrines of Old Serbia and prospects seemed fair. Then came the Sarajevo murder, the Austrian ultimatum and the present war and the awful 'execution of Serbia ' by the Central Powers. The plight of the Serbs was hopeless. They were 'attacked by three Powers, betrayed by the Greek Government, unsupported by their western allies' and were helpless. The writer tells us of the downfall and flight to Corfu and the return of the exiles to Salonica, and writes very sympathetically of the fine qualities of the Serbian fighting man. The Austrian reign of terror in the Yugo-Slav provinces and in Serbia is also exhibited to us. Yet the author hopes for Serbia's future, though he sees the difficulties before the battletossed people, and one cannot think that a nation who for five hundred years have never been content to submit to slavery, and have unceasingly struggled towards the light will not gain it at last.

A. FRANCIS STEUART.

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