Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"The Bridge Betrayed" by Michael Sells [7]


Extermination of the Turkifiers

This section examines the famous masterwork of 19th Century Serb literature, The Mountain Wreath by Njegos. This lengthy poem celebrates the slaughter of Slavic Muslims on Christmas Eve, most likely based on a actual event from the previous century.

Njegos' work begins with Bishop Danilo

..."brooding on the evil of Islam, the tragedy of Kosovo, and the treason of Vuk Brankovic>"

The poem repeatedly refers to Slavic Muslims as "Turks," by which it is implied that by converting to Islam they have changed their race--and, therefore, betrayed their own. Bishop Danilo is slowly convinced to unleash his warrior by the chorus, which reminds him of the essentially evil nature of Islam and Muslims, and of the betrayal of Brankovic. Interestingly, one of the "temptations" which must be overcome is the actual character of the Muslims he knows. The character of the individual does not matter--the Muslims are blasphemous by nature of what they are, irregardless of their individual character.

After the slaughter, the warriors go directly to communion--they are not required to first take communion. The annihilation of an entire community of Muslims is not a sin which needs to be forgiven, but a sacred act itself. As Sells points out, usually the concept of a "baptism in blood" refers to the victim being baptized. In The Mountain Wreath, however, the killers are the ones who are sanctified by the shedding of blood. The victims are damned.

So by the second half of the 19th Century, Slavic Muslims were trapped between two incompatible conceptions--on the one hand, they were considered "Serb" since Karadzic had defined all speakers of what he considered "Serbian" to be Serbs; yet the popularity and influence of Njegos' powerful poem ensured the rapid growth of the belief that all Serbs were, by definition, (Orthodox) Christians.

At the same time, the feast day of Saint Lazar was recognized as an official saint day and was included in church calendars. Shortly thereafter it was combined with the feast day of Vid.

The process by which the religious, the cultural, and the historical would be combined into one unified mythology was well underway.

1 comment:

Shaina said...

Long time no comments!

Anyway, I'm enjoying your review of The Bridge Betrayed. Another book that I think serves as a nice companion to this book is "Genocide in Bosnia" by Norman Cigar.