Monday, June 02, 2008

"Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide" by Branimir Anzulovic [8]


The Fear of Vanishing

Anzulovic begins this section with this important observation:

"The Serbs' aggressiveness inspired fear, which was a source of their aggressiveness. This fear reflected the insecurity of a people dominated by a foreign civilization for five centuries, who enjoyed their own full sovereign nation-state for only forty years between the Congress of Berlin in 1878 and the entry into the ill-fated Yugoslav union in 1918."

The Serb fear of being controlled by an "other", it must be remembered, is rooted in actual historical experience even if contemporary forms of this paranoia are often irrational. There is nothing more pathetic than a self-pitying bully, but Serb nationalist distrust of foreign control was not created out of whole cloth.

This section discusses reactions among Serb intellectuals and academics to such events as the downfall of Rankovic and the decentralization of the 1974 Constitution. Anzulovic notes that the "fear of Serbia's demise became a prominent theme of Serbian intellectual life in the 1980s." Acclaimed author Milorad Pavic repeatedly called for a pan-Orthodox alliance of "Byzantine" countries.

As the world becomes "smaller" through improved communications technologies and travel opportunities, people often fear losing their identities and cling to exaggerated differences between them and "others."

The Academy Memorandum

A brief discussion of the infamous 1986 "Memorandum" by the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and of the role author and dissident Dobrica Cosic played in this intellectual validation of nationalist hysteria.

The Church Identifies the Devils

This section is a relatively extended consideration of the role the Serbian Orthodox Church has played in developing and disseminating the myths that drive and reinforce the worst aspects of Serbian nationalism. The anti-Catholic, anti-Western, and anti-Semitic nature of the church is discussed, as is its tendency to support autocratic rulers and accept sinister conspiracy theories. The Serbian Church often takes the lead in propagating the line that Serbia is and has been for five centuries the bulwark valiantly defending Europe from Islam, even as it disparages the non-Orthodox, non-Byzantine nature of the Europe Serbs allegedly are defending.

The traditional rejection of ecumenical dialog and cooperation by the Church has been articulated and defended by the most prominent theologians of the 20th Century church. The tendency of Serbian nationalists to hear nothing but their own complaints and to see nothing but their own grievances has been strongly reinforced by a national church which gives holy sanction to xenophobia, bigotry, and paranoia.

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