Monday, September 24, 2007

"Balkan Idols" by Vjekoslav Perica [8]


Originally, the nationalist movements in Yugoslavia were led by secular communist leaders who were interested in increasing the relative power of the individual republics rather than in extreme nationalism, although these leaders ended up paving the way for conservative nationalists. In Croatia, the nationalist movement in the 1960s and early 1970s was most prominently represented by the "Croatian National Movement," often known as the "Croatian Spring." Tito would eventually crush this movement and jail some of its members once it became too strident for his liking; during the interim, the Catholic Church carried the torch of Croatian nationalism.

The Catholic Church and the Croatian National Movement, 1970-1972

The Church did not at first directly support the Movement or Croat nationalism in general. However, during this period the Catholic church did take several measures which tacitly supported the nationalist cause. The conceptual bond between religious belief and national identity was strong--the Catholic church took it for granted that to be Croat was automatically to be Catholic as well--Catholicism was one fundamental component of Croat identity.

Also, the church strongly promoted and supported the cult of the Virgin Mary among believers; the identification of Mary as the "Queen of the Croats" was emphasized, and the practice of paying homage to "black Madonnas" was encouraged as well. Some leaders of the Church also resurrected the memory of NDH cardinal Stepanic.

After Tito's purges in late 1971 and 1972, relations between the Church and the state worsened. Religious festivals continued to have strong ethnic themes, complete with folk costumes and other trappings of Croatian--not Roman Catholic--identity and culture. The church made its identification with Croat ethnonationalism more pronounced and its opposition to the government's heavy-handed dealings with expressions of national identity and religious freedom more outspoken.

"On 14-15 August 1972, the Catholic Church in Croatia celebrated teh feast of the Assumption of Mary at the national shrine in Marija Bistrica. Archbishop Franic convened his congregation in the historic Solin "by the graves of the Croatian kings" on 8 September 1972. Over 30,000 people chanted the Croatian anthem and Marian songs. After the collapse of the Croatian (secular) nationalist movement, the Church became the only driving force of Croatian ethnic nationalism. Many secular nationalist leaders recognized the Church's leadership and became practicing Catholics."

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