Monday, November 12, 2007

"Balkan Idols" by Vjekoslav Perica [23]


Jerusalem Lost: The Serbian Church, the West, and the Failure of the Serbian Revolution

"Since 1990, Serbs and Serbia have been at war not only with all non-Serbs in Yugoslavia but also with the West."

Serbian Orthodox hostility to the West predated any Western involvement in the Balkan wars; in fact, Perica dates this open hostility to Senator Bob Dole's April 1990 visit to Kosovo. Typically, Serbian observers portrayed his sympathy to Albanian complaints as hostility to Serbian interests.

The Russian Orthodox Church came to the aid of their Serbian counterparts throughout the crises of the 1990s. In 1999, the patriarch of Russia gave a speech at the temple of Saint Sava in which he decried Western actions in Kosovo as imperialist. Anti-Western sentiments exploded in Russia and Serbia in the wake of the NATO campaign. The rhetoric coming from the Serbian Church was hyperbolic and extreme--the USA was portrayed as Satanic, thoroughly evil, and anti-Christian. Tellingly, the Belgrade Journal Duga claimed that the US was intent of forcing the intermixing of peoples in America's own image; Serbia and Germany--the two primary champions of homogenous nationalism in this conspiracy theory--were to be undermined by the introduction of Muslim populations in their midst.

After the Serb withdrawal from Kosovo, the Church turned on Milosevic--for not having been nationalist enough. Supporters of the Serbian Orthodox Church who proudly note that Patriarch Pavle and others supported the ouster of Milosevic fail to note that they did so not because he pursued a nationalist agenda, but because he failed to achieve it.

Vojislav Kostunica has been friendlier to the church than Milosevic was, and has made more public displays of piety. The church has been rewarded with some concrete state measures--the Orthodox catechism was introduced to public schools. Other church-requested measures, such as the elimination of the Latin alphabet from schools and public life, and state salaries for clergy, await. Meanwhile, Protestant sects in Serbia protested some of the new measure, but have been ignored both by the state and the church. The Kosovo myth continues to fuel a vindictive, self-pitying nationalism in Serbia.

Orphans of Brotherhood and Unity

Perica begins this section by noting that many observers considered the Yugoslav wars to be inevitable, since the country was "artificial" and susceptible to ethnic strife. He takes exception to this conventional wisdom, noting that many Yugoslavs believed in the civic religion of Brotherhood and Unity. The generation which had grown up in Tito's Yugoslavia was vested in its success, and many urban youth were inclined to embrace the secular and tolerant values which a multiethnic/multi-confessional state required.

Unfortunately, that generation--making up the bulk of the best-educated of the nation's youth--have been, in Perica's sadly apt phrase, "orphaned" by the destruction of Yugoslavia both as a country and as an ideal. The million or so citizens who considered themselves Yugoslavs by nationality no longer could; many were forced to become one nationality or another. Even more tragically, many among them came to embrace the exclusive nature of their new ethnic identity.

While many of the best and brightest left the former Yugoslavia for good, the young people who remained began to realign their loyalties along ethnic lines. The percentage of young people who would consider marrying outside their ethnic group dropped; and in Croatia, the percentage of young people who left from formally ethnically mixed areas was higher than the national average.

Meanwhile, even as the economies of the new republics faltered and crime became institutionalized, the formerly excellent national sporting programs fell into decline. Individual athletes, trained under the old system, still managed to find success, but usually away from home.

The new phenomena of "Yugonostalgia" was one facet of the post-war period, as many in the former federation looked back fondly on the Tito era and Tito himself; in 1998 a poll in Croatia found that Croats had a higher opinion of Tito than of Tudjman. But it was too late.


Anonymous said...

The US is imperialistic. The US and its Western minions are anti-Christian. These are facts and do not require someone to speak in hyperbole to say so plainly.

On which planet have you been living for the last 15 years?

Srebrenica Genocide said...

Response to "Anonymous": The U.S. is not imperialistic. You need to research history of RUssia's nuclear weapon testing and development to understand why is America so sensitive to instability in this world, not to mention terrorism. Go to YouTube and watch 50 Megaton TSAR BOMB testing on Novaya Zemlya - Arctic archipelago used by Russian government to throw nuclear waste and test nuclear weapons (they usually throw barrels of nuclear waste on the beaches and spent submarine nuclear reactors in the ocean). That's how irresponsible similar governments are.

So, NATO is sensitive to the instability in Christian Orthodox countries, Muslim countries, etc, because all we want is peace and prevention of genocides, prevention of terrorism, prevention of hatred... It seems that hatred blossoms in Serbia, Russia, Middle East... and NATO's objective is to maintain peace, not to "conquer" these countries. Therefore, we are not imperialists - we just want children to have future and violence to be stopped.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous should give some indication where he or she has been living for the last 15 years and on what basis he/she has formed that judgment, otherwise his/her intervention is gratuitous and trivial.