CHAPTER EIGHT: FLAMES AND SHRINES: The Serbian Church and Serbian Nationalist Movement in the 1980s
The subtitle of Chapter Eight summarizes the contents nicely. Essentially, the Serbian Church kept the flame of nationalism alive even as "nationalist Communists" who worked within the system (such as Dobrica Cosic) were systematically purged, leaving the church as the only meaningful anti-regime/pro-nationalist institution.
As I mentioned, I'm going to dispense with the detailed, section-by-section analysis of this book from now one (only three more chapters to go after this one). This relatively short chapter details to a surprising degree how explicit and focused the Serbian Church's efforts were. The focus on Kosovo (including increasingly frequent parallels drawn between Serbs and Jews, and Kosovo and Palestine--the rhetoric often became mawkishly hyperbolic) and on the direct connection between church and state were only two of the many facets of this seemingly all-consuming struggle. The church simultaneously pushed massive church building projects, including the construction of one of the world's largest Byzantine churches in Belgrade while decrying mosque-building in Yugoslavia and using its connections to block construction of a mosque, also in Belgrade. This tendency to act the martyr while playing the victim, of course, is a common theme in modern Serb ultra-nationalism.
The church also pushed the (erroneous) theory that Albanian nationalism in Kosovo was, and always had been, driven by religious rather than nationalistic motives, lending a extra dimension of urgency and hysteria to a dangerous and volatile situation it had helped foster to begin with.
All this occurred against an ironic backdrop--Orthodox Christians in Yugoslavia were not very religious; in fact, the Orthodox had much lower rates of both professed belief and religious participation/attendance compared to Muslims and--especially--Catholics. Serbs had higher rates of declared atheism as well. But little of this seemed to matter, as the church pursued activities which had little to do with theology, less to do with spirituality, and very much with nationalist politics and worldly power.