Reporting from the heartland of Yugoslavia in the 1970s, Washington Post correspondent Dusko Doder described "a landscape of Gothic spires, Islamic mosques, and Byzantine domes." A quarter century later, this landscape lay in ruins. In addition to claiming tens of thousands of lives, the former Yugoslavia's four wars ravaged over a thousand religious buildings, many purposefully destroyed by Serbs, Albanians, and Croats alike, providing an apt architectural metaphor for the region's recent history.
Rarely has the human impulse toward monocausality--the need for a single explanation--been in greater evidence than in Western attempts to make sense of the country's bloody dissolution. From Robert Kaplan's controversial Balkan Ghosts, which identified entrenched ethnic hatreds as the driving force behind Yugoslavia's demise to NATO's dogged pursuit and arrest of Slobodan Milosevic, the quest for easy answers has frequently served to obscure the Balkans' complex history. Perhaps most surprisingly, no book has focused explicitly on the role religion has played in the conflicts that continue to torment southeastern Europe.
Based on a wide range of South Slav sources and previously unpublished, often confidential documents from communist state archives, as well as on the author's own on-the-ground experience, Balkan Idols explores the political role and influence of Serbian Orthodox, Croatian Catholic, and Yugoslav Muslim religious organizations over the course of the last century. Vjekoslav Perica emphatically rejects the notion that a "clash of civilizations" has played a central role in fomenting aggression. He finds no compelling evidence of an upsurge in religious fervor among the general population. Rather, he concludes, the primary religious players in the conflicts have been activist clergy. This activism, Perica argues, allowed the clergy to assume political power without the accountability faced by democratically-elected officials.
What emerges from Perica's account is a deeply nuanced understanding of the history and troubled future of one of Europes most volatile regions.
"Perica's historical study, based on a large amount of primary source, including hitherto unavailable party archives, sociological surveys, and interviews with party and religious officials, effectively demonstrates that religious institutions played a divisive role among Yugoslav peoples, despite periods of respite and the presence of ecumenical currents."--Comparative Politics "Vjekeslav Perica brilliantly recounts the role of religious narratives, institutions, organizations, and, most importantly, church or religious authorities both in constituting the three dominant identities of Yugoslavs and, in turn, in appropriating those narratives and identities for the destruction of the Yugoslav state and the possibility of civic and civil life in it.... Fundamentalism is the enemy of all that makes democracies functional and civility possible, whether in secular, religious, nationalist, patriotic, or ethnic clothing. Perica's contribution to our understanding of this phenomenon is immense."--Journal of the American Academy of Religion "Vjekoslav Perica's masterfully written and extensively researched book fills an important gap in the historical scholarship on twentieth century southeastern Europe."-- Association of Contemporary Church Historians "Vjekeslav Perica brilliantly recounts the role of religious narratives, institutions, organizations, and, most importantly, church or religious authorities both in constituting the three dominant identities of Yugoslavs and, in turn, in appropriating those narratives and identities for the destruction of the Yugoslav state and the possibility of civic and civil life in it.... Fundamentalism is the enemy of all that makes democracies functional and civility possible, whether in secular, religious, nationalist, patriotic, or ethnic clothing. Perica's contribution to our understanding of this phenomenon is immense."--Journal of the American Academy of Religion "Vjekoslav Perica's masterfully written and extensively researched book fills an important gap in the historical scholarship on twentieth century southeastern Europe."-- Association of Contemporary Church Historians "The book presents both new sources and an original argument, which is indeed (as Dusko Doder said in an advance praise) 'shockingly provocative'... It is an exciting, well-researched and enormously useful contribution to the--by now already very large--body of literature on the roots of the problems which resulted in the disintegration of Yugoslavia."--Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans "This is the first political history of the three principal organized religions in postwar Yugoslavia and its successor states: the Croatian Catholic Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the Islamic community. Perica carefully explores the relationships of each to Tito's Yugoslavia, to one another, to the wars, and to the new states. The Serbian and Croatian churches, in particular, have long arrogated the definition of nationhood to themselves. Because ecumenical moments in Yugoslavia were few, empathy for those of another faith was limited, and commitment to an open-armed, united Yugoslavia was weak, the link between religion and nationalism was neither liberal in the communist period nor benevolent during communism's collapse. All too often, the role of the churches--at times the leadership, at other times the clergy--has been to enlarge the sense of victimhood and to justify revenge."--Foreign Affairs "The book makes two major contributions. It provides a detailed reconstruction of the roles of Serbian Orthodox, Croation Catholic, and Bosnian Muslim churches in providing a religious base for nationalist thought and movements in the past century, and uses this evidence in the author's argument that a link exists among religious institutions, symbols, and practices in state-formation and state-deconstruction. Highly recommended."--Choice Perica has written an outstanding book, based on archival research, interviews with key figures, and extensive experience in the field, among other sources. This book sheds new light on the escalation of tensions leading up to the outbreak of war in summer 1991, and on the role of the major religious organizations in the politics of the region. --Sabrina P. Ramet, Author of Balkan Babel: The Disintegration Of Yugoslavia From The Death Of Tito To The War For Kosovo "This vivid account of tragic events in the former Yugoslavia is truly unique among numerous recent books on the subject because it digs deep to examine the role of religious faiths and their collaboration with secular nationalists. The conclusions are shockingly provocative. Not only were ethnic conflicts and mass crimes rooted in religion, Perica argues, but the local religious hierarchies remain the major impediment to building peace in the Balkans. An excellent, tightly-argued work by a Croatian-American scholar with deep knowledge of the region written with verve and humor. It is an indispensible contribution to an understanding of multiethnic societies." --Dusko Doder, coauthor of Milosevic: Portrait of a Tyrant
|Note on Pronunciation and Foreign Language Terms||p. xix|
|Balkan Idols||p. 2|
|Religion, Ethnicity, and Nationhood||p. 3|
|The Crisis of the 1930s, War, and the Cease-Fire of the 1960s||p. 17|
|The Serbian Church in the Communist Federation||p. 43|
|The Catholic Church and the Making of the Croatian Nation, 1970-1984||p. 56|
|The Bosnian Ulema and Muslim Nationalism||p. 74|
|The Civil Religion of Brotherhood and Unity||p. 89|
|From Apparitions to Partitions||p. 109|
|The Serbian Church and Serbian Nationalist Movement in the 1980s||p. 123|
|Religion as the Catalyst of the Crisis in the 1980s and 1990s||p. 133|
|Religion as Hallmark of Nationhood||p. 165|
|The Twilight of Balken Idols||p. 186|
|Selected Bibliography||p. 309|
|Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.|
Series: Religion and Global Politics
Number Of Pages: 332
Published: 1st April 2004
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.5 x 14.73 x 2.03
Weight (kg): 0.46