Cultural Revolutions

Alex Dragnich, R.I.P.

The death at age 97 of Prof. Alex N. Dragnich, a leading American expert on Serbian and Yugoslav history, marks the departure of one of the last witnesses to an era in which this country’s involvement in Southeastern Europe was neither contrary to her traditional values nor overtly harmful to the region’s inhabitants.  His dozen books, two-score scholarly articles, and over a hundred op-eds dealing with the history and politics of the Balkans compare to the mountains of recent drivel on this subject like Russell Kirk’s work compares with that of Midge Decter.

In 1907, Dragnich’s father, Novica, left his dirt-poor Montenegrin village of Morakovo, intending to earn enough in America to buy a farm and then return home.  His restless nature took him first to Illinois, then to Nevada, Wyoming, Alaska, and finally to a remote farm in the state of Washington.  He did not save a penny, however, and had to borrow money to bring his wife over in 1911.  The first of their six children, Alex, was born in 1912.

“I had a happy childhood in that wilderness,” Dragnich remembered, “but when I was nine the Ferry County truant officer turned up at our cabin and told my father that I had to go to school.”  Alex did very well in class, once he had learned English.  Recognizing the tall, skinny boy’s talents, the teachers encouraged him to go to college.  His studies were interrupted...

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