Balkan Idols

Balkan Idols : Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States

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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 Based on a wide range of South Slav sources and previously unpublished, often confidential documents from communist state archives, as well as on the author's own on-the-ground experience, Balkan Idols explores the political role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 1nfluence 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 accountablity 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 more

Product details

  • Paperback | 362 pages
  • 147.3 x 225 x 20.3mm | 458.14g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 2pp maps & 6pp halftones
  • 0195174291
  • 9780195174298
  • 2,075,613

Review quote

"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 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 "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 "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 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 Review from hardback edition. ... an exciting, well-researched and enormously useful contribution to literature on the roots of the problems which resulted in disintegration of Yugoslavia. * Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans * Review from hardback edition. Within the existing scholarly literature on both the collapse of Yugoslavia and on religious communities in that region, no other book offers a more critical account on the role that churches had played in igniting intolerance and destroying a spirit of multi-culturalism and tolerance between the Yuogoslavs. * Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans * Review from hardback edition. This is a very useful, well-written and challenging book, highly recommended for everyone studying collapse of Yugoslavia and relations between religion, nationalism and states in former Yugoslavia and its successors. * Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans *show more

About Vjekoslav Perica

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 more

Rating details

12 ratings
3.08 out of 5 stars
5 8% (1)
4 33% (4)
3 17% (2)
2 42% (5)
1 0% (0)
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