Monday, September 17, 2007

"Balkan Idols" by Vjekoslav Perica [4]

CHAPTER TWO: THE FIRST STRIFE

The Crisis of the 1930s, War, and the Cease-Fire of the 1960s



In the 1930s, friction between the two main national churches contributed to violence, instability, and the instability of the state. The Serbian Orthodox Church and the Croatian Catholic Church consistently failed to find common ground, or to work out comprises on how they would allow the other to define its relation to the ruling regime.

The 1935 concordat signed between the Yugoslav royal government and the Vatican became the focal point of Serbian Orthodox hostility. The Church had managed to get itself positioned as the de facto offical state church and did not want to see that position threatened. The argument against the concordat was that it would open Yugoslavia's religious life to outside interference (the Vatican) as well as threaten Serbian Orthodoxy--which was the largest single faith in the country. The protests culminated in the "Bloody Liturgy" of July 19, 1937, when protests led and organized by Patriarch Varnava turned into massive riots. The unrest and violence continued several days later when the Patriarch died.

That these claims seem faintly ridiculous is less interesting than to note that these concerns, and the underlying logic informing them, mirror the claims of Serbian nationalism within both Yugoslavias. The Church ignored its own primacy within the Kingdom and ignored the fact that it enjoyed a privileged position in a multi-ethnic nation of many faiths. And it defined efforts by a rival faith to improve its own lot as an attack on Serbian Orthodoxy.

The Serbian Orthodox Church explicitly rejected secularization and separation of church and state in the 1930s, instead calling on Serbs to identify with the church and its fate. Most state holidays in royal Yugoslavia were actually Serbian Orthodox religious holidays--which were often, in fact, holidays commemorating events in Serbian history, most notably the battle of Kosovo.

One result of this discord was that the Croat church never lent its support to the interwar Yugoslav state. It is worth noting that Serbian Orthodox fears regarding the Vatican's motives were not groundless--as Perica notes, conversion of Orthodox Christians was official Vatican policy until 1965. Having a stronger institutional foothold in this large, newly created Balkan state was certainly an advantage towards that end.

The two churches held different commemorations during this decade; the Serb church remembering the 550th anniversary of Kosovo in 1939, while the Croat church initiated the novena in honor of the 1000-year anniversary of the conversion of the Croat nation. The contemporary political meanings of these commemorations--and their nationalist subtexts--was clear. The Serbs were martyrs for Balkan independence, while the Croats had a much longer history of being Christian, as well as ties to the West.

Other issues fueled the fire. There was allegedly pressure on Catholic civil servants to convert to Orthodoxy, and both the Serbian Orthodox church and the state supported the Croatian Old Catholic Church, a small denomination considered schismatic by the Croat Roman Catholic hierarchy.

So by 1941, the two main national churches were at each other's throat. The Vatican itself held a grudge against the Serbian Orthodox Church, and at the celebration of Kosovo in 1939 Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic told the Serb faithful that the choice of Kosovo--between absolute freedom or death--was still true for Serbs in the present day.

And then the Nazi invaded, the old state was destroyed, and hell was unleashed.

3 comments:

Daniel (Srebrenica Genocide Blog Editor) said...

There was so much talk about Yugoslavia in Perica's article, and yet, he failed to mention Bosniaks, Slovenes, Macedonians, Albanians, and other people that made-up very Yugoslavia he was talking about. Whatever... let me focus on most important argument in this article:

Quote: "The Serbian Orthodox Church explicitly rejected secularization and separation of church and state in the 1930s, instead calling on Serbs to identify with the church and its fate."

Up until the mid 19th century, the term Bosniak was used for all inhabitants of Bosnia regardles of faith. Thanks to the Serbian Orthodox Church - which has always resembled radical political organization - during the 19th century (Austro-Hungarian period), the Bosniaks of Eastern Orthodox faiths acquired Serbian national identites and came to be known as Bosnian Serbs. Of course, Serbian historiography will deny this fact, but my Christian grandfather (from my father's side) who died some 15 years ago always identified himself as Bosniak. He used to be ridiculed for doing so among Christians, but he told my father that his mother (my grand-grand mother) also identified as Bosniak, even though she was Christian! In simple terms, inhabitans of Bosnia have historically been Bosniaks of different faiths, until Serbian Orthodox Church started 'converting' our Christian Orthodox Bosniaks to Serbianism. Catholic Church has done the same with Catholic Bosniaks, so unfortunately, today we have divided country and Bosniaks are largely Muslim as a result. The point is that Serbian Orthodox Church has never comprehended the concept of "separation of Church and State."

Enough of my writing! Now I would appreciate if you could find time to visit my blog and read my latest article titled: "MIND OF A SICK MONSTER: TRIAL OF CHEMICAL TOLIMIR", here is the link:

http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2007/09/mind-of-sick-monster-trial-of-chemical.html

Thanks and please comment!

Daniel

Daniel (Srebrenica Genocide Blog Editor) said...

There was so much talk about Yugoslavia in Perica's article, and yet, he failed to mention Bosniaks, Slovenes, Macedonians, Albanians, and other people that made-up very Yugoslavia he was talking about. Whatever... let me focus on most important argument in this article:

Quote: "The Serbian Orthodox Church explicitly rejected secularization and separation of church and state in the 1930s, instead calling on Serbs to identify with the church and its fate."

Up until the mid 19th century, the term Bosniak was used for all inhabitants of Bosnia regardles of faith. Thanks to the Serbian Orthodox Church - which has always resembled radical political organization - during the 19th century (Austro-Hungarian period), the Bosniaks of Eastern Orthodox faiths acquired Serbian national identites and came to be known as Bosnian Serbs. Of course, Serbian historiography will deny this fact, but my Christian grandfather (from my father's side) who died some 15 years ago always identified himself as Bosniak. He used to be ridiculed for doing so among Christians, but he told my father that his mother (my grand-grand mother) also identified as Bosniak, even though she was Christian! In simple terms, inhabitans of Bosnia have historically been Bosniaks of different faiths, until Serbian Orthodox Church started 'converting' our Christian Orthodox Bosniaks to Serbianism. Catholic Church has done the same with Catholic Bosniaks, so unfortunately, today we have divided country and Bosniaks are largely Muslim as a result. The point is that Serbian Orthodox Church has never comprehended the concept of "separation of Church and State."

Enough of my writing! Now I would appreciate if you could find time to visit my blog and read my latest article titled: "MIND OF A SICK MONSTER: TRIAL OF CHEMICAL TOLIMIR", here is the link:

http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2007/09/mind-of-sick-monster-trial-of-chemical.html

Thanks and please comment!

Daniel

Kirk Johnson said...

I will read your post tomorrow, Daniel--and thanks for reading mine!

Keep in mind, Perica's book is specifically about religious institutions--he is writing about the Serbian Orthodox Church, not about 'Serbs' in general. Same with other churches and religious organizations. If fact, his book tends to support the point you are making.