Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States

Paperback | May 30, 2005

byVjekoslav Perica

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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, theformer 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 drivingforce 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 thatcontinue 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 Based on a wide range of South Slav sources and previously unpublished, often confidential documents from communist state archives, as well as on the author's own on-the-ground experience, Balkan Idols explores the political role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 YugoslavMuslim 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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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, theformer Yugoslavia's four wars ravaged over a thou...

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 Univ...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 5.71 × 8.82 × 0.91 inPublished:May 30, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195174291

ISBN - 13:9780195174298

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"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 wereethnic 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. Itis an indispensible contribution to an understanding of multiethnic societies." --Dusko Doder, coauthor of Milosevic: Portrait of a Tyrant