Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States

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Oxford University Press, 2002 - History - 332 pages
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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Based on a wide range of South Slav sources and previously unpublished, often confidential documents from communist state archives, as well as on the author's own on-the-ground experience, Balkan Idols explores the political role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.
 

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The author is ex-communist official that still upholds communist way of thinking. Portraying the conflicts in Yugoslavia merely as product of churches, he is blind to the economical nature of the war, which is a paradox, since communists should base their way of thinking on the materialistic base. On the other hand, this is the only work in English language that tries to portraits the religious picture of communist Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, author also makes a lot of factual mistakes. Since 2004, situation in ex-Yugoslavia has changed few times, so the last part of the book isn't anymore accurate. 

Contents

RELIGION ETHNICITY AND NATIONHOOD
3
THE FIRST STRIFE The Crisis of the 1930s War and the CeaseFine of the 1960s
17
THE OTHER SERBIA The Serbian Church in the Communist Federation
43
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE MAKING OF THE CROATIAN NATION 19701984
56
THE BOSNIAN ULEMA AND MUSLIM NATIONALISM
74
UNITED WE STAND DIVIDED WE FALL The Civil Religion of Brotherhood and Unity
89
MARYMAKING IN HERZEGOVINA From Apparitions to Partitions
109
FLAMES AND SHRINES The Serbian Church and Serbian Nationalist Movement in the 1980s
123
THE SECOND STRIFE Religion as the Catalyst of the Crisis in the 1980s and 1990s
133
RELIGION AS HALLMARK OF NATIONHOOD
165
THE TWILIGHT OF BALKAN IDOLS
186
CONCLUSIONS
211
NOTES
245
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
309
INDEX
325
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About the author (2002)


A former reporter for the Croatian weekly Nedjeljna Dalmacija and Research Fellow at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The United States Institute of Peace, Vjekoslav Perica is currently a Visiting Professor in the Department of History at Brigham Young University. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Minnesota.

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