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From the New York Times bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan, named one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, comes a riveting journey through one of Europe’s frontier countries—and a potent examination of the forces that will determine Europe’s fate in the postmodern age. Robert Kaplan first visited Romania in the 1970s, when he was a young jo From the New York Times bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan, named one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, comes a riveting journey through one of Europe’s frontier countries—and a potent examination of the forces that will determine Europe’s fate in the postmodern age. Robert Kaplan first visited Romania in the 1970s, when he was a young journalist and the country was a bleak Communist backwater. It was one of the darkest corners of Europe, but few Westerners were paying attention. What ensued was a lifelong obsession with a critical, often overlooked country—a country that, today, is key to understanding the current threat that Russia poses to Europe. In Europe’s Shadow is a vivid blend of memoir, travelogue, journalism, and history, a masterly work thirty years in the making—the story of a journalist coming of age, and a country struggling to do the same. Through the lens of one country, Kaplan examines larger questions of geography, imperialism, the role of fate in international relations, the Cold War, the Holocaust, and more. Here Kaplan illuminates the fusion of the Latin West and the Greek East that created Romania, the country that gave rise to Ion Antonescu, Hitler’s chief foreign accomplice during World War II, and the country that was home to the most brutal strain of Communism under Nicolae Ceaușescu. Romania past and present are rendered in cinematic prose: the ashen faces of citizens waiting in bread lines in Cold War–era Bucharest; the Bărăgan Steppe, laid bare by centuries of foreign invasion; the grim labor camps of the Black Sea Canal; the majestic Gothic church spires of Transylvania and Maramureş. Kaplan finds himself in dialogue with the great thinkers of the past, and with the Romanians of today, the philosophers, priests, and politicians—those who struggle to keep the flame of humanism alive in the era of a resurgent Russia. Upon his return to Romania in 2013 and 2014, Kaplan found the country transformed yet again—now a traveler’s destination shaped by Western tastes, yet still emerging from the long shadows of Hitler and Stalin. In Europe’s Shadow is the story of an ideological and geographic frontier—and the book you must read in order to truly understand the crisis with Russia, and within Europe itself. Praise for In Europe’s Shadow “[A] haunting yet ultimately optimistic examination of the human condition as found in Romania . . . Kaplan’s account of the centuries leading up to the most turbulent of all—the twentieth—is both sweeping and replete with alluring detail.”—The New York Times Book Review “A serious yet impassioned survey of Romania . . . [Kaplan’s] method is that of a foreign correspondent, firing off dispatches from the South China Sea to North Yemen to the darkest corners of Eastern Europe. . . . Kaplan is a regional geographer par excellence.”—The Christian Science Monitor “Kaplan’s work exemplifies rare intellectual, moral and political engagement with the political order—and disorder—of our world.”—The Huffington Post “A masterly work of important history, analysis, and prophecy about the ancient and modern rise of Romania as a roundabout between Russia and Europe . . . I learned something new on every page.”—Tom Brokaw “A favorite of mine for years, Robert D. Kaplan is a thoughtful and insight-driven historian who writes clear and compelling prose, but what I like most about him is his political sophistication. A true pleasure for the reader.”—Alan Furst


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From the New York Times bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan, named one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, comes a riveting journey through one of Europe’s frontier countries—and a potent examination of the forces that will determine Europe’s fate in the postmodern age. Robert Kaplan first visited Romania in the 1970s, when he was a young jo From the New York Times bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan, named one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, comes a riveting journey through one of Europe’s frontier countries—and a potent examination of the forces that will determine Europe’s fate in the postmodern age. Robert Kaplan first visited Romania in the 1970s, when he was a young journalist and the country was a bleak Communist backwater. It was one of the darkest corners of Europe, but few Westerners were paying attention. What ensued was a lifelong obsession with a critical, often overlooked country—a country that, today, is key to understanding the current threat that Russia poses to Europe. In Europe’s Shadow is a vivid blend of memoir, travelogue, journalism, and history, a masterly work thirty years in the making—the story of a journalist coming of age, and a country struggling to do the same. Through the lens of one country, Kaplan examines larger questions of geography, imperialism, the role of fate in international relations, the Cold War, the Holocaust, and more. Here Kaplan illuminates the fusion of the Latin West and the Greek East that created Romania, the country that gave rise to Ion Antonescu, Hitler’s chief foreign accomplice during World War II, and the country that was home to the most brutal strain of Communism under Nicolae Ceaușescu. Romania past and present are rendered in cinematic prose: the ashen faces of citizens waiting in bread lines in Cold War–era Bucharest; the Bărăgan Steppe, laid bare by centuries of foreign invasion; the grim labor camps of the Black Sea Canal; the majestic Gothic church spires of Transylvania and Maramureş. Kaplan finds himself in dialogue with the great thinkers of the past, and with the Romanians of today, the philosophers, priests, and politicians—those who struggle to keep the flame of humanism alive in the era of a resurgent Russia. Upon his return to Romania in 2013 and 2014, Kaplan found the country transformed yet again—now a traveler’s destination shaped by Western tastes, yet still emerging from the long shadows of Hitler and Stalin. In Europe’s Shadow is the story of an ideological and geographic frontier—and the book you must read in order to truly understand the crisis with Russia, and within Europe itself. Praise for In Europe’s Shadow “[A] haunting yet ultimately optimistic examination of the human condition as found in Romania . . . Kaplan’s account of the centuries leading up to the most turbulent of all—the twentieth—is both sweeping and replete with alluring detail.”—The New York Times Book Review “A serious yet impassioned survey of Romania . . . [Kaplan’s] method is that of a foreign correspondent, firing off dispatches from the South China Sea to North Yemen to the darkest corners of Eastern Europe. . . . Kaplan is a regional geographer par excellence.”—The Christian Science Monitor “Kaplan’s work exemplifies rare intellectual, moral and political engagement with the political order—and disorder—of our world.”—The Huffington Post “A masterly work of important history, analysis, and prophecy about the ancient and modern rise of Romania as a roundabout between Russia and Europe . . . I learned something new on every page.”—Tom Brokaw “A favorite of mine for years, Robert D. Kaplan is a thoughtful and insight-driven historian who writes clear and compelling prose, but what I like most about him is his political sophistication. A true pleasure for the reader.”—Alan Furst

30 review for In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This is a highly readable and thoughtful tour of Romanian history, culture, and current situation by a respected journalist who became enthralled with its people and history as a foreign correspondent in Eastern Europe and the Mideast over the decades since the 70s. I hate how ignorant I am of history and geography so I often keep my eyes out for books that can help elucidate the character of people and counties over time (recent examples include works on Greenland and Paraguay). My interest in This is a highly readable and thoughtful tour of Romanian history, culture, and current situation by a respected journalist who became enthralled with its people and history as a foreign correspondent in Eastern Europe and the Mideast over the decades since the 70s. I hate how ignorant I am of history and geography so I often keep my eyes out for books that can help elucidate the character of people and counties over time (recent examples include works on Greenland and Paraguay). My interest in Romania was already whetted from recent reads on the history of World War 1 (Strachan’s “The First World War”) and historical fiction that featured events there in World War 2 (Bolano’s “2666”; Furst’s “Blood of Victory”). As I’d already appreciated Kaplan’s mind and methods from his combined travel and historical portrait of the American West, “Empire Wilderness,” and could see he has a string of respected volumes on the Middle East, Turkey, the Balkans and North Africa, it was an easy step to take this book in hand. Kaplan’s approach on two extended stays in Romania is to travel from province to province experiencing its geography, architecture, and art while talking to significant cultural, academic, religious, and political figures. In the process, he forges an analysis of the county’s past, present, and future in the context of his readings of its history and literature. His method leaves him short of perspectives of ordinary people. Still, his choices of whom he did talk to appear sufficient broad enough for me to trust he has captured some significant truths and paradoxes about the character this country and its peoples. From the start he makes it clear how much geography is destiny for Romania. It has long been a buffer zone at the intersection of great empires, which in recent centuries means the Russian and Ottoman empires and varying configurations of Hapsburg kingdoms. Like Poland, Romania may be seen to lie clearly on the path from Russia to Western Europe and vice versa. Despite the obvious negative aspect of lying at a dangerous transition zone between great powers, Kaplan’s analysis finds that Romania also benefitted from being prized as a buffer, as that led it to be accorded various levels of independence for long periods since the Middle Ages. Romania’s position on the Black Sea and nested position in relation to Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Balkan states on the black sea His lens for looking backward is from points of visits to the county at times in the 70s and 80s when it was under Soviet hegemony, a point in 1989 soon after the communist dictator Ceaușescu was overthrown through a violent democratic revolution, and a recent interval when their economy was flourishing and they had achieved full membership in the European Union. The flowering of life and culture after nearly 50 years of oppression, first under fascism of Antonescu’s regime starting in 1940 and then under communism, is somewhat undermined by the large diaspora of emigration made possible by EU membership and recently by wariness from the specter of Putin’s effective annexation of Crimea in the Ukraine. Coming out from under outside dominance, the people take recourse in their distinctive cultural identity, one that closely relates to its Romance language that binds them to the West and a predominantly Orthodox Christian religion that ties them to the ancient East. The language arose when a tribal people on the Black Sea, the Dacians, were conquered by the Romans. The religion came there through the Byzantine Empire, whose emperor converted to that religion in the 4th century AD. When the Ottoman Empire replaced Byzantium in the 15th century, the future parts of Romania and Greece, in contrast to the Muslim shift of other Balkan states of like Serbia and Bulgaria, retained enough autonomy to keep their mainly Orthodox faith. Geographical map, which shows the Transylvanian and Carpathian mountain ranges that contribute to the demarcation of Transylvania from Moldavia and Wallachia. Historical map showing the country’s three core provinces at the beginning of World War 1 and the dated additions and subtractions of smaller surrounding regions to yield its current extent, as demarcated in red. Three big provinces of current Romania emerged from regional leaders into small kingdoms: 1) to the south the largely flat Wallachia on the plains above the Danube and across from Bulgaria, and containing the delta on the Black Sea and the national capital Bucharest; 2) the province of Moldavia to the east, with a rougher and more forested terrain, including the north-south running Carpathian mountains at its west and bounding the Republic of Moldava, once a portion of the same principality but lost in the settlement of the Russo-Turkish in 1812; 3) Transylvania, which contains a large forested valley to the west of the Carpathians and the east-west running range of the Transylvanian Mountains (stunningly beautiful). For much of the Middle Ages, Transylvania was part of the Kingdom of Hungary while Wallachia and Moldavia became frequent allies during many wars with shifting alliances with respect to the Ottoman Empire and Russia. (Stoker, who never visited Romania, made up his fable of Count Dracula based on a warlord of this era known as Vlad the Impaler). In 1600 there was a very brief period of unification between them and Transylvania, a precedent for their union in the independent state of Romania in 1878 at the end of another Russo-Turkish War, for which Romanians fought for the winning Russian side. The period of unity and relative stability all went to hell with World War 1. After joining the side of France and Britain, Romania was invaded by the Austria-Hungary and German and was the staging ground for many battles, losing nearly 750,000 in military and civilian deaths. In the post-war settlement, it gained small Romanian-speaking portions from Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria, and Russian. When the third Reich came into power in the 30’s, the conservatives in power led them into an alliance, and they became a major resource for agriculture and oil for the war effort. Against the tolerance of large sectors of the population, Antonescu did participate in the Holocaust, one that was concentrated on the portions of Romania taken back from Russia after the previous war, with a death toll exceeding 300,000. Despite the leverage of Nazi dependence on Romania for food and oil, they got tapped for sending close to a million soldiers into the fateful Russia, with a huge cost of lives. When Russia started bouncing back with a vengeance and was on the verge of invasion when Romania's king led a coup and a scramble to join the Allies. Even though they lost over 100,000 men fighting against Hitler, the Soviets were quite punitive to them after the Iron Curtain came down and their puppet put in charge especially brutal. As Romania look forward to a seemingly bright future, Kaplan expresses fervent hope that they don’t go too far down the path of reactionary nationalism based on a mythos and identity tied up ethnicity, religion, and race rather than drawing on a cosmopolitan multiculturalism he sees as a strength for the nation. He faults the cultural philosopher Mircea Eliade for contributing to that danger in a history he published in the 40’s which painted Romania as a perpetual outpost of a civilized Hellenic-Roman hybrid people that continually sacrificed themselves as a bulwark against the Slavic and Asian barbarian hordes. The experts Kaplan talks to don’t really know the racial origin of the Dacians mentioned in Eliade’s weak source of Herodotus and doubt any significant racial distinctions from Slavic peoples could persist over the centuries of life among them. Kaplan understands the value of a combined racial and ethnic identity to keep a unified courage up with a Russian bear liable to wake up hungry again. But he fears limits to Romania’s potentials if the current conflicts in the Middle East revive an old sense of Romanian people being Europe’s pitbull in the conflict of Christians against Muslims. Romania’s unique blend of East and West in its art, architecture, and literature, its natural beauty, and dynamic flowering of spirit after emergence from prolonged oppression makes the county an attractive place to visit by reading or perhaps in person someday. Meanwhile, Kaplan helps dispel a lot of awkward gaps in my understanding and helps me appreciate both the accomplishments and unfortunate compromises its leaders have made in history in the face of its challenging geographical context amid contending empires. This book was loaned by the publisher as an e-book through the Netgalley program.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    4.5 stars I read Kaplan's Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History when I was at University studying Eastern European history, and immediately appreciated his vivid style. He provides a totally immersive experience for the reader, no detail is considered irrelevant (Kaplan knows the names of the streets he's walking down, the plaza's he sips coffee in, every river he crosses...), and his gaze flits from one subject to another with equal attention. It was clear that he had a passionate interest in 4.5 stars I read Kaplan's Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History when I was at University studying Eastern European history, and immediately appreciated his vivid style. He provides a totally immersive experience for the reader, no detail is considered irrelevant (Kaplan knows the names of the streets he's walking down, the plaza's he sips coffee in, every river he crosses...), and his gaze flits from one subject to another with equal attention. It was clear that he had a passionate interest in the area, which is again evident in his depiction of Romania throughout this book. We find out that, on leaving the Israeli Defence Force in 1981, his choice to visit Bucharest was due, in parts, to the experiences of a 1973 three month journey through Communist Europe; to a book he found by chance in a secondhand bookstore; to the lack of journalistic endeavour in the region; and to the idea that he could fast-track his career by turning up and submitting his copy to various newspapers. It seems strange now that flashing an American passport and declaring your role as a journalist could enable you to get interviews with important politicians and diplomats, yet that is precisely what Kaplan did. His contacts are manifold, built from that time, and he makes use of these interviews, conversations, opinions to provide localised information. His writing is evaluative, at times, partial. That is not a criticism. This book is part history, part travelogue, part cultural and political commentary; most of all it is the collected musings and reflections of a man whose writing is fundamentally enhanced by personal experience. Nevertheless, Kaplan's breadth of research is clear, the book is filled with quotes/examples from fiction, history, politics, poetry, and more. It is fascinating to see how he has interwoven such variety into the fabric of his book. One of my favourite aspects of his writing is in the connections he makes between his reading and the weather; the idea that the setting he found himself in directly influenced his choice of reading material and what he took from it. His writing is funny too, with piercing observations and judgements on historical figures: Carol I was 'an anal-retentive Prussian' whose memorial statue looks like 'a mass produced lawn sculpture’. Kaplan provides a timely consideration of a country that continues to occupy a precarious position in Europe. He offers an alternative picture to that which seems prevalent in some parts of the British media: that of the supposed hordes of benefit scroungers desperate to take advantage of our healthcare and financial support systems. Do a search on 'Romanians' and 'Daily Mail' for some wonderful examples of journalism. Romania's border with Ukraine and proximity to Russia, so significant in WWII and since, remains problematic. This is not just a book about the past, but one which is relevant to European politics now. I found it fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed it. Many thanks to Robert D. Kaplan, Random House, and Netgalley for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    Copy provided by NetGalley. One of the most interesting developments in journalism, or so it appears to me as a reader, is the reintroduction of “I.” Travel memoirs of old were presented up front as such, the better ones full of historical context and observation, with reference to how the ordinary person of a given area sees their world. At least when I was young, there was this emphasis on being objective. I don’t believe anyone is truly objective. There are degrees of obviousness in the writer’ Copy provided by NetGalley. One of the most interesting developments in journalism, or so it appears to me as a reader, is the reintroduction of “I.” Travel memoirs of old were presented up front as such, the better ones full of historical context and observation, with reference to how the ordinary person of a given area sees their world. At least when I was young, there was this emphasis on being objective. I don’t believe anyone is truly objective. There are degrees of obviousness in the writer’s perception. And trying too hard for a robotic objectivity frequently leads to government-speak (“it was decided” convolutions) and just plain dullness. Kaplan is very aware of that as he discusses at length his approach for this book—beginning with his own limitations. You don't grow up gradually. You grow up in short bursts at pivotal moments, by suddenly realizing how ignorant and immature you are. Bucharest, as I rode in from the airport and saw the ashen, moldy faces of the bus driver and other Romanian support, crushed in their overcoats and winter hats with earmuffs and their worries, made be instinctually aware of all the history I had been missing the last half decade. The best travel writer since Herodotus to my mind is Patrick Leigh Fermor, whose superlative writing and profound insights and historical awareness are mentioned often enough in this book that I suspect that Kaplan was trying for a similar approach. And that’s no bad goal. He has this to say about travel writing: For the real adventure of travel is mental. It is about total immersion in a place, because nobody from any other place can contact you. You are alone. Thus your life is narrowed to what is immediately before your eyes, making the experience of it that much more vivid and life transforming. The dilemma, therefore, is how to generalize without going too far, and yet at the same time to describe honestly what one has experienced — and draw conclusions from it — without being intimidated by a moral reprimand. I have failed in this regard in the past, and have struggled for years trying to find the right balance. And I am more and more unsure of myself as I get older, even as I know that there is a vast distance between describing obvious cultural peculiarities and provoking the specter of both racism and essentialism. He then segues to journalism, and its strengths and pitfalls. By learning to be a journalist, I do not mean learning the commonplace but crucial mechanics of accurate note-taking, newswriting, or developing sources, which I had been taught in elementary form earlier in college and at a small newspaper. Instead, I refer to understanding the true character of objectivity. For what is taught in journalism schools is an invaluable craft, whereas properly observing the world is a matter of deliberation and serious reading over decades in the fields of history, philosophy, and political science. Journalism actually is not necessarily, whatever the experts of the profession may claim, a traditional subject in its own right. Rather, it is a means to explore and better communicate subjects that are, in fact, traditional areas of study: history and philosophy as I've said, but also government, politics, literature, architecture, art, and so on. I've never altogether trusted what journalists say about themselves. As Robert Musil, the great early twentieth century Austrian novelist, observes: "High-mindedness is the mark of every professional ideology." The result is partly memoir, history, partly travelogue, partly journalistic reportage, and partly meditation, adding up to an absorbing, never boring, but seldom easy, read. Opinions are upfront: for example, twice Kaplan states that the ultimate purpose of human existence is to appreciate beauty. The mention of writers such as Fermor, and Elias Canetti, and Mersea Eliade, with sharply observed examinations of the works of the two latter, made me reach for my pen to jot down names and titles of works of which I hadn’t heard. The short summary is this: Kaplan returns to Romania and adjacent regions after visits in the eighties and nineties during tumultuous change. He does linger on some of the more stomach-turning aspects of history, very old ranging to not too long ago. But he veers from sensationalism for its own sake, trying to provide context, with such observations as this, after a tense visit, during which he occupied himself by reading Joseph Conrad: Because the future lies inside the silences — inside what people are afraid to discuss openly among themselves, or at the dinner table — it is in the guise of fiction that a writer can more easily and relentlessly tell the truth. His premier point seems to be that Western indifference and ignorance of areas such as Moldova—tucked up against the Ukraine—could endanger the relative peace of Europe. I then began acquiring the habit of separating myself from the journalistic horde, looking for news in obscure locations, that is. For example, on a later trip to Bucharest in 1984, Latham casually told me that Ceausescu was blasting a vast area of the capital into oblivion, with security forces plundering and then blowing up whole neighborhoods of historic Orthodox churches, monasteries, Jewish synagogues, and nineteenth century houses: 10,000 structures and all, many with their own sylvan courtyards. Residents were given hours to clear out with their life possessions before explosive charges were set. Along the way Kaplan offers vivid word pictures of places and people he met, many of them leaders (it was apparently surprisingly easy for journalists to gain access to powerful people thirty years ago), but there are at least a few some snaps of ordinary folk. This is where my interest caught the most. When I was young, the map of Europe was dominated by the vast pink swathe of the USSR. Names like Romania and Moldavia belonged only to ancient histories. When I traveled as a student in 1971-2, I couldn’t get past the Iron Curtain: everyone said it took money, and in those days I got around by hitchhiking, eating once a day, or less. Ever since then, I’ve read whatever I could about those mysterious areas so closed off. And Kaplan takes me there, beginning about the time I was in Europe, for he was a year younger, his reach much farther than mine. Worked in among the chapters on his travels are historical meditations, ranging from the fourteenth and fifteenth century voivodes up to the crucial work Metternich did at the Congress of Vienna in laying down a pattern for relative balance of power that more or less lasted for the following century. Metternich, that farsighted reactionary, was a man of peace — contra Napoleon, that endemic progressive, who was a man of war. Metternich believed in legal states, not in ethnic nations. States are sanctioned by bureaucratic systems governed by the rule of law; ethnic nations are ruled by blood and soil passion, the very enemy of moderation and analysis. Toward the end of the work he brings us to the present, with an essay about the importance of the region, and of Western awareness of what is going on there. Group consciousness is all very well and good as long as it defends the rights of the individual — regardless of origin or political tendency. Only with that in mind does nationalism have legitimacy. Though people from time to time still fought vaguely and wistfully, with their eyes half closed, about Greater This or Greater That, their immediate concerns were for the safety and predictability in their own lives. There’s a lot of food for thought here, as well as a fascinating excursion into an area few of us English-speakers have reached.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    As a certified born and bred Romanian, I was very pleased with this work. To me, it seems like Kaplan knows his stuff when it comes to my country. This work also sparked my desire to travel to some places that I haven't seen in years, because Kaplan's descriptions of the rural areas are beautiful. As a certified born and bred Romanian, I was very pleased with this work. To me, it seems like Kaplan knows his stuff when it comes to my country. This work also sparked my desire to travel to some places that I haven't seen in years, because Kaplan's descriptions of the rural areas are beautiful.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    I have to say that I knew absolutely nothing about Romania before reading this book. That has now been rectified to some extent. This book is sort of a combination of history combined with a travel memoir. The author sort of skims over the early history of the country, and that is probably the most boring part of the book, as it consists mainly of listing dates and events. By far the greater part of the book is focused on the years since World War II. The author visited the country numerous times I have to say that I knew absolutely nothing about Romania before reading this book. That has now been rectified to some extent. This book is sort of a combination of history combined with a travel memoir. The author sort of skims over the early history of the country, and that is probably the most boring part of the book, as it consists mainly of listing dates and events. By far the greater part of the book is focused on the years since World War II. The author visited the country numerous times but draws mainly on two trips, one in 1981 and one in 2013. Starting almost immediately after the second world war, Romania was ruled by two successive Communist dictators, both of whom were mini-Stalins, with the attendant executions, repression, loss of religious freedom and the fact that it wasn't good to be an intellectual of any sort. This continued until 1989, when the population finally revolted and executed the extremely brutal Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife. When the author went to visit Romania in 2013, the country had turned itself almost completely around. There was relative prosperity, tourists in abundance, and the locals wore hip clothing and everyone had a smartphone. Foreign Policy magazine has twice named the author one of the world's Top 100 Global Thinkers, so it is to his credit that he has managed to write a very readable book that was of great interest to this layman. So if you are interested in Romania or just want to read a very enjoyable work of history, you might want to give this a try.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liviu

    Partly travel memoir (while the book is mainly based on the author's visits to Romania in 2013-4, his earlier visits in the 1980's and 1990 are integrated well in the narrative), partly history, partly meditation on the role and responsibilities of the outside observer, partly a look at how one's views change as he ages (the young and unknown journalist-to-be Robert Kaplan of 1981, just released from a stint in the IDF, using Israel's ties to Romania - unique at the time with a Warsaw Pact count Partly travel memoir (while the book is mainly based on the author's visits to Romania in 2013-4, his earlier visits in the 1980's and 1990 are integrated well in the narrative), partly history, partly meditation on the role and responsibilities of the outside observer, partly a look at how one's views change as he ages (the young and unknown journalist-to-be Robert Kaplan of 1981, just released from a stint in the IDF, using Israel's ties to Romania - unique at the time with a Warsaw Pact country but still fraught with difficulties and uncertainties - to go there and then reverting to his US passport so he could access the considerable US diplomatic resources there at the time as well as travel to other East European countries, and then becoming really, really interested in the country contrary to his expectations of just using Romania as a springboard into the Iron Curtain world, and the Robert Kaplan of today, acclaimed journalist consulted by the US government and with immediate access to all the important Romanian politicians and other public figures are quite different, but the trajectory and the thoughts of the two are very clearly seen) this is an excellent book that should be read not only by people interested in Romania, but as a general template on how to write about the topics above. A few notes - as a Romanian (living abroad for 25 years now but still keeping in touch and visiting last in the same period of the author), I found the Romanian essence of the book excellent; maybe a bit too skewed on talking with important people rather than with the "regular" person, but accurate and to the point, while the history is impeccably presented with lots of material from quite a few recent academic books (some which i also read); the generally hopeful vision about the country (compared with the dark 1981 and even the after the fall of communism 1990, the changes are tremendous) is accurate in my opinion too (though the book caveats apply - if a general economic crisis in Europe which is still a possibility happens or a political one as today's headlines may lead to, all bets are off, while the anxieties of the large majority of the population as the treadmill of modern capitalism and competition doesn't admit let-up though it led to the massive progress in well being that one can see visiting pretty much any part of the country, are not touched upon too much due to the talking with the important persons aspect) - the general stuff (meditations on this and that as above) is excellent and raise this book above a simple "book about a less well known country" genre and into a more elevated level which is more common from European writers than US ones (Claudio Magris' Danube is a book like that recently read by me, while others such appear in the text) - while the 1981 (and the later 1980's visits to Romania before he was banned for writing about the brutal demolitions in Bucharest and the countryside to make way for Ceausescu's megalomaniac constructions) belong more to his earlier travel books, they are generally accurate and avoid the sensationalist Western reporting trap about the Ceausescu's era which so annoys me, though they still err a bit on the dark side - not that it wasn't bad but it wasn't the Stalin era (there were no mass arrests, executions, public humiliations with very few anti-regime activities, mostly from people somewhat protected by having relatives abroad, while most everyone who could just voted with their feet and got out, so the regime's relations with the Federal Republic and Israel being mainly a means for Ceausescu to sell ethnic German and Jewish Romanians for hard cash and good public relations in the west at least for a while) or the fall of Berlin and ruins under bombardment either; just a suffocating atmosphere in which immediate survival was the priority and where nobody really cared or believed in communism or the "Leaders" - including the infamous securitate or secret police or the party activists for that matter - only formal obedience being required and the "they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work' principle in effect - the book is a real page turner that kept me up till very late to finish it - there is travel to Moldova (the former Soviet republic, once the Eastern half of the Romanian province of Moldavia) and the complexities of history and current situation are superbly presented though the outlook there is quite bleaker, while a little of Hungary is presented too at the end - overall excellent stuff, highly, highly recommended

  7. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    3.5 stars. In Europe's Shadow covers much of the ground of Balkan Ghosts in which Kaplan returned to Romania in 1989/90 to witness the changes there and in neighbouring countries since his first visit in the early 1970s. He returns again in 2013/14 for the same reason. Although there is a lot of new material, there is a lot of 'old' material too as he again explains the complex history of the region. "Time is a moving sea of fog, rent with holes that reveal intense, sacred moments of memory, even 3.5 stars. In Europe's Shadow covers much of the ground of Balkan Ghosts in which Kaplan returned to Romania in 1989/90 to witness the changes there and in neighbouring countries since his first visit in the early 1970s. He returns again in 2013/14 for the same reason. Although there is a lot of new material, there is a lot of 'old' material too as he again explains the complex history of the region. "Time is a moving sea of fog, rent with holes that reveal intense, sacred moments of memory, even as all the rest is dim." That's how I felt about this book. In parts it's very interesting and illuminating, particularly when he demonstrates how Putin now exerts Russia's influence over neighbouring countries by stealth, i.e. by taking over banks and other institutions, buying up land, owning airport rights, creating a dependency on Russian oil and gas, rather than invading with armies, with the unfortunate exception of Ukraine of course. For me, there is too much self indulgent wallowing in his own love of Romania though, with too much tedious detail about past history and architecture. He acknowledges the poverty in the countryside - many farmers still travel on horse and cart and use manual tools rather than modern machinery - but I felt he ignored the poverty in Bucharest. In 2012, I travelled to and from the Bulgarian border to Bucharest and was appalled at the desolation and poverty in the countryside but was not much less appalled at the living conditions on the outskirts of the city. Housing blocks literally crumbling away, packs of emaciated dogs on the streets, and a poorly dressed population scouring poorly stocked shops, reminiscent of the Communist or Ceaucescu eras. Kaplan doesn't mention this because he concentrates on central Bucharest and I feel that creates a false picture of the city as a whole. The last few pages are exemplary Kaplan. His in depth knowledge provides an insightful short essay on the current situation in Europe, the continuing threat that Russia poses, the importance of the EU as a beacon of light to countries trying to shake off a difficult past, the return of Hungary to an authoritarian regime and the dangers that poses to the region as a whole. If only more of the book had been written in the same way, I would have found it a much more rewarding read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    In 1981, Kaplan was fresh out of the IDF and looking to cultivate a career in journalism. He headed for Bucharest, to observe the effect of Ceausescu's policies on Romania, seeing the crushing blows of repression, persecution and crony government. In 2013, he returned, and this book is a parallel narrative of the 1980s Cold War, and the current escalation of tensions with Russia with a slowing recovering Romania as a vital but overlooked frontline in this conflict. Notable for Kaplan's explanati In 1981, Kaplan was fresh out of the IDF and looking to cultivate a career in journalism. He headed for Bucharest, to observe the effect of Ceausescu's policies on Romania, seeing the crushing blows of repression, persecution and crony government. In 2013, he returned, and this book is a parallel narrative of the 1980s Cold War, and the current escalation of tensions with Russia with a slowing recovering Romania as a vital but overlooked frontline in this conflict. Notable for Kaplan's explanations of how deep reading in history and memoirs have helped him figure out what was going on, as with Thucydides and Theodore White's observations on the Chinese Civil War.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    I read about 20% and it was -- just OK. Travels he made as a young man, in bleak Communist Romania. Then back after the fall of Ceasescu. Along in there, my interest faded, the book went back on the shelf, and there it stayed, until it came due. I can't say I have any real desire to go on, given the size of my TBR. Abandoned unfinished. 2 stars for the part I read. I read about 20% and it was -- just OK. Travels he made as a young man, in bleak Communist Romania. Then back after the fall of Ceasescu. Along in there, my interest faded, the book went back on the shelf, and there it stayed, until it came due. I can't say I have any real desire to go on, given the size of my TBR. Abandoned unfinished. 2 stars for the part I read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Lobov

    Kaplan is pretty good at weaving a well-written and historically informed travelogue, sort of like a latter day Patrick Leigh Fermor. If he stuck to that, things would be fine. But it seems the supposed influence he has enjoyed in policy circles during the 90s and 00s has gone to his head. So this book has plenty of maddening high level thinking about geographical determinism and simple great power politics. I'd sum it up as: "Romania is fucked because it's always been fucked but look at these p Kaplan is pretty good at weaving a well-written and historically informed travelogue, sort of like a latter day Patrick Leigh Fermor. If he stuck to that, things would be fine. But it seems the supposed influence he has enjoyed in policy circles during the 90s and 00s has gone to his head. So this book has plenty of maddening high level thinking about geographical determinism and simple great power politics. I'd sum it up as: "Romania is fucked because it's always been fucked but look at these plucky Byzantine Latins and their exotic religion". Somehow this political analysis fails to include any mention of the rampant corruption that his interviewees - Iliescu, Ponta and Basescu - are accused of or the kleptocratic state they have spent their political careers developing. Gotta protect your access, right Rob? Also, if Kaplan could do without humping the Orthodox Church ("the prayers are so beautiful") every few pages and constantly expressing surprise that Romanians own smartphones and wear nice clothes, that'd be great.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Wijnand Marchal

    In a rather tiring way, Kaplan describes his passion for Romania. He starts this book preaching to journalists how they should work, to historians how they should write, and with too much self adoration looking back on his career. Kaplan discusses a mosaic of historiographic study material mostly a number of old and somewhat obscure books from his extensive library. Every other page he laments on some quote, landscape or historic detail that reminds him of something he once read. This book has t In a rather tiring way, Kaplan describes his passion for Romania. He starts this book preaching to journalists how they should work, to historians how they should write, and with too much self adoration looking back on his career. Kaplan discusses a mosaic of historiographic study material mostly a number of old and somewhat obscure books from his extensive library. Every other page he laments on some quote, landscape or historic detail that reminds him of something he once read. This book has to be written, as he tells us, so he can finally clear out his library. It’s an annotated travel diary that he should have kept to himself. I live in Romania and this is not my first book on the country. Despite the interesting parts, it is also a book with obvious mistakes, subjective interpretations, hence a book I will not recommend to other newcomers to this country.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Scott Whitmore

    Robert D. Kaplan is one of my favorite authors and I’ve read all his books and many of his magazine articles. I especially enjoy the way he examines a region or locale by blending history, current events, politics, and interviews with residents ranging from government officials to clergymen — all the while in the guise of a curious traveler. In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond marks Kaplan’s return to Europe after an extended run of primarily fo Robert D. Kaplan is one of my favorite authors and I’ve read all his books and many of his magazine articles. I especially enjoy the way he examines a region or locale by blending history, current events, politics, and interviews with residents ranging from government officials to clergymen — all the while in the guise of a curious traveler. In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond marks Kaplan’s return to Europe after an extended run of primarily focusing on Asia. In many ways this is a bookend to his breakout Balkan Ghosts, as he explains how he came to travel through the region in the first place. I have Romanian in my ancestry, but admit to knowing less about the country than I would like. I greatly enjoyed filling in some of the blanks with Kaplan as my guide. Other reviewers have noted Kaplan’s strong, vocal support of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and expressed the opinion that his stance effectively disqualifies him from serving as any kind of expert on foreign affairs. I’d counter that he has repeatedly acknowledged he was wrong about Iraq and his recent writing, especially this book, demonstrates a determination to identify and inform on emerging trends and locations of potential interest without drawing too many conclusions. In my (obviously biased) opinion, he is too valuable a source to ignore; whether I agree with his views or not, I always learn a lot from him. NOTE: I don’t spend as much time on reviews of traditionally published books as I do for Indie authors.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chandy John

    This was one helluva big disappointment. I'd been wanting to read this book from when it was available only as a very expensive hardcover. I waited and ended up very disappointed. The book is more 'very boring travel book' than a lesson in geopolitics/history. Whatever history there is is either terribly boring or rarely interesting. Or maybe its just Romania and the dreary Balkans. I didn't like his earlier book Balkan Ghosts either. This was one helluva big disappointment. I'd been wanting to read this book from when it was available only as a very expensive hardcover. I waited and ended up very disappointed. The book is more 'very boring travel book' than a lesson in geopolitics/history. Whatever history there is is either terribly boring or rarely interesting. Or maybe its just Romania and the dreary Balkans. I didn't like his earlier book Balkan Ghosts either.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steve Greenleaf

    When my wife accepted a position to teach in Bucharest, Romania, I went online to look for books on Romania, and at the top of the list I found Robert D. Kaplan's In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond (2016). I hadn't known about it, but I certainly knew of Kaplan. I'd read his The Coming Anarchy (2000) and Warrior Politics (2001) and thought very highly of them both. I'd also read parts of The Ends of the Earth (2001) and Monsoon (2010). What a w When my wife accepted a position to teach in Bucharest, Romania, I went online to look for books on Romania, and at the top of the list I found Robert D. Kaplan's In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond (2016). I hadn't known about it, but I certainly knew of Kaplan. I'd read his The Coming Anarchy (2000) and Warrior Politics (2001) and thought very highly of them both. I'd also read parts of The Ends of the Earth (2001) and Monsoon (2010). What a wonderful discovery! I dove in, and part way through I recommended it to my wife as we were running errands on our e-bike around Suzhou. "Do you know this guy?", she asked. "Yes, I've read his stuff. He's good. He's also written books about the Indian Ocean and India, and about China, Vietnam, and the South China Sea." "Is he following us?" "I don't know!" In checking the publication dates of Monsoon (2010)) and Asia's Cauldron (March 2014), I determined that we were following him. Anyone acquainted with Kaplan won't be surprised at this. He must need a new 50-page passport every couple of years just based on the published accounts of his travels. (I wonder where he vacations?) No, we're just very lucky, especially with this book. We're especially fortunate to have this book because Kaplan hasn't just passed through Romania or considered as just another piece on the geopolitical chessboard. He's been traveling to Romania since the 1970's, and he's seen it transformed from a gray, Stalinist backwater, racked by poverty and fear, into a what is now a vibrant society that holds membership in the EU and NATO. Romania seems to have found a good place for itself. As Kaplan describes it: "History surely had not ended here, but it had for the moment become more benign." Kindle Locations 3916-3917. Kaplan displays a genuine affection for this nation, and this spurs his interest in its history and its present, as well as prompting him multiple visits to contemplate its unique place in the busy world of Eastern Europe. Kaplan first traveled to eastern Europe as a student in the early 1970s, and then he came a bit later to Romania as a young reporter. Trips back included a stint just after the Christmas Revolution in 1989 that toppled the hated Ceausescu regime and led to the summary trial and execution of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena. His most recent trip back was in 2014, when he observed the changes that have occurred in Romania after it has mostly-completed the transition to democracy and a market economy. This long history of personal involvement allows Kaplan to include not only his trademark travel writing, history, and geopolitical analysis, but it also serves as a bit of a memoir. For instance, his observations and assessment of the brutality and waste of the Ceaucescu regime prompted him to support the Iraq War, a judgment that he reports that he has come to regret. (A pointed reminder of the limits of historical analogy for decision-making.) As he notes, he didn't foresee the subsequent Sunni-Shia civil war that would break out after Saddam's demise. Romania is a fascinating country, and Kaplan's draws on the distant past, the recent past, and the present to create his portrait of this country. Romania is a Westen outpost in eastern Europe. Romanian is a Romance language, closely related to Italian and Spanish (and, I'm thrilled to report, not very difficult to learn). Romania identifies with the West, yet the thread of culture passes via the Romanian Orthodox Church, anchored in the tradition of Byzantium and the cultural heritage of Orthodoxy. Also, the Ottoman, Russian, and Hapsburg empires have exerted influences on this land through which the Danube flows to reach the Black Sea. Kaplan explains that the intellectual class, including prominent figures that reached maturity in the 1930s, such as Mircea Eliade and E.M. Cioran, were attracted to the political Right, not the Left, unlike most western European intellectuals. Romania suffered the influence of the Iron Guard, a fascist movement that helped prompt Romania to ally with Hitler in the early period of war. Its authoritarian (but not truly fascist) leader, General Antonescu, both protected some Jews (Romanians) and helped ship others to the death camps. Romania committed over a half-million troops to Hitler's war against the Soviet Union. But before the end of the war, Antonescu led Romania to switch sides and aid the Soviets against the Nazi regime. All of this intrigue didn't do Antonescu much good. He was executed immediately after the war. Through Kaplan's efforts in ancient, medieval, and modern history, we obtain a sense of the complexities of this culture and its political fortunes. His tour of the country, as well as neighboring Moldova (also Romanian speaking) and a foray into Hungary (now under a regime administering a "diet of low-calorie Putinism") gives us a further historical perspective. But also, in the tradition of great travel writing, Kaplan provides an intense sense of the present. (Among the several travel writers he mentions, Patrick Leigh Fermor gets a special mention, "that craftsman of irreducible godlike essences whose every sentence belongs in a time capsule". Kindle Locations 732-734). I've now begun Fermor's Between the Woods and the Water--just the prompt that I needed to uncork this champaign of travel writing.) From churches and monasteries to castles and homes, we get an engrossing sense of these places and the people who inhabit them. When my wife and I travel in Romania, we'll consult my Kaplan as much as our Lonely Planet. In all, the publication date of this work (February 9, 2016) could not have been better timed or more welcome. Kaplan's complex layering of history, personal observation, and geopolitical analysis creates the perfect primer for anyone wanting to explore this fascinating nation and its environs. Or it's a treat for anyone who simply wants to enjoy the work of a master of observation and analysis. As Kaplan writes of Fermor, so I would of Kaplan: "to call him a mere travel writer is to diminish him." Id.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    A superbly written book with some poignant memories of the past and reflections on the present and the future and if that weren't enough some great travel book recommendations. A superbly written book with some poignant memories of the past and reflections on the present and the future and if that weren't enough some great travel book recommendations.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    Kaplan sometimes writes beautifully, particularly when he talks about the joy and knowledge that comes from reading books, but for too much of this work, I felt like the book was weighted down with too many biblio-sins. First, the book often has the feeling of a term paper of students I have graded, where it presents long lists of things said by people Kaplan has read. If I wanted to read them, I would just have picked up their book, not yours. Please learn to own what you right. A collection of Kaplan sometimes writes beautifully, particularly when he talks about the joy and knowledge that comes from reading books, but for too much of this work, I felt like the book was weighted down with too many biblio-sins. First, the book often has the feeling of a term paper of students I have graded, where it presents long lists of things said by people Kaplan has read. If I wanted to read them, I would just have picked up their book, not yours. Please learn to own what you right. A collection of quotes from books you read does not make the book your own unless you tell us what they mean. Second, Kaplan never really establishes a good narrative. I am never really sure what it is about. It tries to be a travelogue, but sometimes it is just a history of Romania, then again, maybe it is just a brief history of the Ottoman or Byzantine Empire. Just when it feels like I am settled into the narrative he is talking about, he jumps to a completely different narrative thread. It's very discombobulating. The book's subtitle "Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey through Romania and Beyond" is not accurate, but instead reflect the way this book cannot decide what it is about. He did not make a thirty year journey, but instead, made a handful of journeys over a period of thirty years. The second cold war he refers to is the one between Russia and the West that he argues is occurring over the period he is putting the book together, in 2016. He tries to claim that his travels, the Cold War and his concocted cold war are somehow related, but he never really sufficiently explains how. Instead, he takes as apparent that they are related. Again, if he connected the dots for the reader, it could have been a great book. But as it is, it just a bunch of separate vignettes stapled together. I read much of this book, dealing with these biblio-sins, but what killed it for me is when he mentioned the way Stalin murdered the Romanovs ("Like Stalin's murder of the Czar's family in 1918..."). Of course, this may be the single murder in the history of the Russian empire that someone has credited to Stalin that he could justly say he had nothing to do with. At that point, I gave up. If you are going to write about Eastern Europe, get your Soviet history straight. Read 50%.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Deeply informative travelogue/political analysis/memoir about Romania that is marred by a condescending, egotistical narrative voice. Robert D. Kaplan became obsessed with Central Europe as a young journalist and has visited Romania three times, once in 1980 at the height of the Communist regime, 1990 just after the Ceausescu fell and in 2014. He tracks the history of the country, highlighting its unfortunate location on the European map, the ethnic make of of Romania and how that plays out in is Deeply informative travelogue/political analysis/memoir about Romania that is marred by a condescending, egotistical narrative voice. Robert D. Kaplan became obsessed with Central Europe as a young journalist and has visited Romania three times, once in 1980 at the height of the Communist regime, 1990 just after the Ceausescu fell and in 2014. He tracks the history of the country, highlighting its unfortunate location on the European map, the ethnic make of of Romania and how that plays out in is culture and architecture and then sketches out its politics. I, again, want to stress there is a lot of interesting information here. Kaplan is well read and an excellent reporter. Unfortunately, his narrative voice is one of snooty superiority, the type of intellectual elite even liberal intellectuals like myself want to drown out with any other type of noise. I quickly learned that Kaplan loves classical music and architecture (fine enough, who doesn't) but hates smartphones, loud clothing and post-industrialist capitalist hotels (who knew they existed? Robert Kaplan does, and boy does he hate them.) He also really hates Communism. Really, really hates it. But frankly, we agree on that point. At one point, he visits a town in Transylvania that he had visited in 1990, and he notices how much has changed. There are cafe's, coffee shops, bars with TV's playing sports inside (TV is also the devil) and there's a carnival going on that makes a lot of noise and irritates him, though he grudgingly concedes that the kids in the village are probably happy. Reading this is like talking to your really smart, well-informed aunt or uncle whose taste is way better than yours and is only really talking to you to make you aware of all the smart things they thinks rea important, not necessarily because you're his, you know, nephew or niece.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Simona GB

    Robert D. Kaplan does a great favor to the Romanians with this work, by vocalizing a rarely mentioned cause within the current political crisis in (Eastern) Europe. The danger posed by Putin's foreign policy to the Ex-Satelite-Soviet-Countries has been heavily underrated. The topic is missing proper emphasis within the public debate. We cannot have enough of these popularizing works and Kaplan's is additionally well written and entertaining. The author is obviously in love with this region of th Robert D. Kaplan does a great favor to the Romanians with this work, by vocalizing a rarely mentioned cause within the current political crisis in (Eastern) Europe. The danger posed by Putin's foreign policy to the Ex-Satelite-Soviet-Countries has been heavily underrated. The topic is missing proper emphasis within the public debate. We cannot have enough of these popularizing works and Kaplan's is additionally well written and entertaining. The author is obviously in love with this region of the world. However, his writing is well researched, managing to keep a balance between the different perspectives on the subject. His intended audience must be mainly readers who are not familiar with the Romanian culture, geography, politics and history, to which he offers a great introduction. For the Romanian readers, there are some details and arguments that appear inaccurate or misunderstood, most of which can be blamed on cultural barriers rather than bias. Please read this book!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leftbanker

    This was completely all over the place, but that’s OK because I knew almost nothing about the subject. I probably could have written everything that I knew about this country on the back of a postage stamp. I’ve never even really heard Romanian spoken. Since I speak Spanish and French I would think that I could at least follow along a little bit. He starts out way back in the communist era when Romania was a sort of European North Korea. My biggest complaint about the book is that I really get no This was completely all over the place, but that’s OK because I knew almost nothing about the subject. I probably could have written everything that I knew about this country on the back of a postage stamp. I’ve never even really heard Romanian spoken. Since I speak Spanish and French I would think that I could at least follow along a little bit. He starts out way back in the communist era when Romania was a sort of European North Korea. My biggest complaint about the book is that I really get no feel of what the country is like today. His history and analysis really helps to focus on the current situation that is unfolding between the West and Putin’s Russia. We seem to be making the same mistakes—by “we” I mean the USA—as we did at the onset of WWII when we basically did nothing in Eastern Europe so countries had little choice but to lean towards Hitler and fascism.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Robert Kaplan is a journalist that fell in love with Romania, and took many trips over the years to Romania and Eastern Europe. This book is the result of his latest trip to the region and he compares what he saw in 1981, to the Romania of today. To be honest, I wanted to love this book, but I found the book confusing, it was as if he expected us to know the region (and its politicians) and at times I was not quite sure where he was or what time period. I did enjoy the quotes from Historians, tr Robert Kaplan is a journalist that fell in love with Romania, and took many trips over the years to Romania and Eastern Europe. This book is the result of his latest trip to the region and he compares what he saw in 1981, to the Romania of today. To be honest, I wanted to love this book, but I found the book confusing, it was as if he expected us to know the region (and its politicians) and at times I was not quite sure where he was or what time period. I did enjoy the quotes from Historians, travel authors, and politicians, but it was almost too much of a good thing. I will be reading more about Romania and Eastern Europe.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Love

    Kaplan is back! Over 20 years after his classic Balkan Ghosts, my all time favorite book, Kaplan is yet again writing about the balkans. This time his focus is on Romania and to some degree Moldova. Recommend for anyone with an interest in European history, geopolitics or south eastern europe. Edit: I reread this book in 2018 while contemplating a journey to Transylvania. It's still a great book but pales in comparison to his earlier Balkan Ghosts. Kaplan is back! Over 20 years after his classic Balkan Ghosts, my all time favorite book, Kaplan is yet again writing about the balkans. This time his focus is on Romania and to some degree Moldova. Recommend for anyone with an interest in European history, geopolitics or south eastern europe. Edit: I reread this book in 2018 while contemplating a journey to Transylvania. It's still a great book but pales in comparison to his earlier Balkan Ghosts.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liz Wager

    Interesting if rather rambling account of visits to Romania. Part travel book, part journalism and political analysis. An excellent read for our trip to Romania but I'm not sure I'd have enjoyed it otherwise. Kaplan occasionally lapses into rather purple prose when he tries to be a travel writer (and I felt patches would have been improved by some trimming and editing) but his political writing is interesting and it's worth reading for anybody interested in Romania. Interesting if rather rambling account of visits to Romania. Part travel book, part journalism and political analysis. An excellent read for our trip to Romania but I'm not sure I'd have enjoyed it otherwise. Kaplan occasionally lapses into rather purple prose when he tries to be a travel writer (and I felt patches would have been improved by some trimming and editing) but his political writing is interesting and it's worth reading for anybody interested in Romania.

  23. 5 out of 5

    J

    When Robert Kaplan points with his index finger on a map, we better pay attention and start to understand what is likely to happen tomorrow, what will be news in the mainstream media. Throughout his work he has been able to sit in the front seat of history, indicating the directions. He is currently looking at Europe...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Parts of this book were quite interesting and I think Kaplan is a solid writer, but the book felt a bit disorganized to me. It would've been more interesting if it had flowed better. Received from NetGalley. Parts of this book were quite interesting and I think Kaplan is a solid writer, but the book felt a bit disorganized to me. It would've been more interesting if it had flowed better. Received from NetGalley.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Bergman Carlin

    Kaplan is a marvelous writer. This book gets dense and esoteric at times but it's his prose and insights that kept me going. I'm giving it four stars mostly for the writing, though my enjoyment of it might have been a 2 or 3. Kaplan is a marvelous writer. This book gets dense and esoteric at times but it's his prose and insights that kept me going. I'm giving it four stars mostly for the writing, though my enjoyment of it might have been a 2 or 3.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    Very well written and skillful in making history relevant to today and our contemporary issues. I will be looking for more from this author.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Blaine Welgraven

    "The real difficulty with journalists, and here I refer specifically to foreign correspondents, is that they are the ultimate empiricists. They are children of the moment, with experiences so intense that in their minds the entire universe depends on the fate of those about whom they write, to such an extent that what they don't experience firsthand--even such history that might put their own adventures into perspective--is relegated to the back of their minds, to the lower paragraphs as it were "The real difficulty with journalists, and here I refer specifically to foreign correspondents, is that they are the ultimate empiricists. They are children of the moment, with experiences so intense that in their minds the entire universe depends on the fate of those about whom they write, to such an extent that what they don't experience firsthand--even such history that might put their own adventures into perspective--is relegated to the back of their minds, to the lower paragraphs as it were, especially if the local history implies something enduringly heartrending." --In Europe's Shadow, Robert D. Kaplan, 12 "Romania was my master key for the Balkans. Here was the Poland of southeastern Europe in terms of size, demography, and geopolitical location vis-a-vis the Soviet Union: the ultimate marchland, a vast territory hacked to pieces by invading armies, and constituting the frontier extremities of the Byzantine, Ottoman, Habsburg, and Russian empires, even as the language itself signaled a longing for the Latin West."--Ibid, 25 Kaplan writes like a man who reads about everything—and loves it. He's a travel journalist, and a good one, with a writing style that is both descriptive and incisive. But what elevates Europe’s Shadow beyond mere travelogue is Kaplan’s deep respect for history and culture, healthy background in geopolitical studies, and his penchant for obscure foreign books written by long forgotten novelists, poets and philosophers. It’s an enriching combination that leads him to cite poets, princes, and political savants to better describe his country of choice—sometimes in the same paragraph. Kaplan’s also a well-grounded realist, but Europe’s Shadow retains an unwavering respect for idealist figures and theory. He never ceases to remind the reader of geopolitical realities, gently pointing reader back to map after map, while avoiding the fatalism of geographic determinism. Here, Kaplan’s journalistic experiences reinforce and immeasurably enrich his political theory. Kaplan has lived, viewed, and experienced what he describes, and in numerous Tolkienesque passages he vivifies the sites, sights, and sounds of Europe’s southeastern hinterlands. He writes, “Like serious reading itself, real travel has now become an act of resistance against the distractions of the electronic age.” Even the casual reader will quickly realize how “serious” are Kaplan’s travels. Kaplan’s combination of journalistic, historical, religious and social elements create an indelible impression of his subject—the nation of Romania—an under-appreciated, oft-invaded corner of the world that remains critical to the future relationship of an eroded Europe and a revanchist Russia. Kaplan covers more than a millennium of Balkan history within Europe’s Shadow, an epic journey that took more than three decades of the author’s life to compile and write. Kaplan’s warnings about misplaced nationalism and the ravages of Communism are sobering reminders that even in a global age, history is only a generation away. In Europe’s Shadow is history—and so much more. It’s a story, filled with tragedy and heartbreak, one that will remain with this reader forever.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I came within a hair's breadth of giving this one a fifth star. It was an exceptionally informative narrative of the politics and culture of a piece of the world that seems able to hide quite well from the prying eyes of modernity. I shall likely have to give this one a second listen in the near future. One of Kaplan's claims is that Romania is really much better thought of as a bulwark of the west that faces Russia rather than an outpost of the former Soviet Union. And Kaplan does point out tha I came within a hair's breadth of giving this one a fifth star. It was an exceptionally informative narrative of the politics and culture of a piece of the world that seems able to hide quite well from the prying eyes of modernity. I shall likely have to give this one a second listen in the near future. One of Kaplan's claims is that Romania is really much better thought of as a bulwark of the west that faces Russia rather than an outpost of the former Soviet Union. And Kaplan does point out that Romania was a Nazi German ally, second only in importance to Italy. A truly engaging story, given Kaplan's journeys through the area at different times.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Larsen

    The book is a sort of scattered historical travelogue from a great writer who fell in love with Romania during the Cold War. Kaplan has beautifully descriptive language of Romania—the culture, geography, and unique role the country plays in Europe. It's especially captivating to hear him describe Cold War Romania vs. modern Romania. Hat tip to Kevin Collier for selecting for our book club. The book is a sort of scattered historical travelogue from a great writer who fell in love with Romania during the Cold War. Kaplan has beautifully descriptive language of Romania—the culture, geography, and unique role the country plays in Europe. It's especially captivating to hear him describe Cold War Romania vs. modern Romania. Hat tip to Kevin Collier for selecting for our book club.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Wish I could give this book more than five stars. Amazing read! It's only 230 pgs but it is packed with history. This book is brilliantly written. Kaplan effortlessly weaves history with his own personal experiences. It is the second book I've read by Kaplan (the first being Balkan ghosts... Which I also highly recommend). I would read anything this gifted author wrote. Wish I could give this book more than five stars. Amazing read! It's only 230 pgs but it is packed with history. This book is brilliantly written. Kaplan effortlessly weaves history with his own personal experiences. It is the second book I've read by Kaplan (the first being Balkan ghosts... Which I also highly recommend). I would read anything this gifted author wrote.

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