Denial and Repression of Anti-Semitism

Denial and Repression of Anti-Semitism: Post-Communist Rehabilitation of the Serbian Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic

Jovan Byford
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    Denial and Repression of Anti-Semitism
    Book Description:

    Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović (1881–1956) is arguably one the most controversial figures in contemporary Serbian national culture. Having been vilified by the former Yugoslav Communist authorities as a fascist and an antisemite, this Orthodox Christian thinker has over the past two decades come to be regarded in Serbian society as the most important religious person since medieval times and an embodiment of the authentic Serbian national spirit. Velimirović was formally canonised by the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2003. In this book, Jovan Byford charts the posthumous transformation of Velimirović from ‘traitor’ to ‘saint’ and examines the dynamics of repression and denial that were used to divert public attention from the controversies surrounding the bishop’s life, the most important of which is his antisemitism. Byford offers the first detailed examination of the way in which an Eastern Orthodox Church manages controversy surrounding the presence of antisemitism within its ranks and he considers the implications of the continuing reverence of Nikolaj Velimirović for the persistence of antisemitism in Serbian Orthodox culture and in Serbian society as a whole.

    eISBN: 978-615-5211-54-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VIII)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. Chapter One Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Recent years have seen a rise in interest in the topic of “collective memory” among historians, sociologists, political scientists, and psychologists (Irwin-Zarecka, 1994; Kansteiner, 2002; Maier 1997; Middleton & Edwards, 1990; Misztal, 2003; Olick, 1999; Wertsch, 2002). Although the precise meaning and the scope of terms, such as “collective memory,” “social memory,” “social remembering,” and “national” or “public” memory, remain a matter of debate (Wood, 1999), there appears to be agreement among scholars on the subject that shared, non-consensual, and frequently contested representations of the past, which define social identities and delineate boundaries between social groups, constitute a topic worthy...

  5. Chapter Two The Life of Nikolaj Velimirović and His Changing Public Image, 1945–2003
    (pp. 19-76)

    Nikolaj Velimirović was born on January 5, 1881 (December 23, 1880, according to the Julian calendar still used by the Serbian Orthodox Church) in the small village of Lelić, located outside the western Serbian town of Valjevo. Nikolaj was the first of nine children born to the modest and devout peasant couple Dragomir and Katarina Velimirović.

    Accounts of Velimirović’s childhood indicate that from a very early age little Nikola (who changed his name to the more archaic sounding Nikolaj after becoming a monk at the age of twenty-eight) showed “above average intellectual ability and great devotion to learning and acquiring...

  6. Chapter Three Collective Remembering and Collective Forgetting: Memory of Nikolaj Velimirović and the Repression of Controversy
    (pp. 77-114)

    Bearing in mind the controversies surrounding the biography of Nikolaj Velimirović which were examined in the previous chapter, it might be argued that the maintenance of the positive memory of his life and legacy involves a significant amount of forgetting. The perpetuation of the representation of Velimirović as a positive historical figure and respectable authority can be said to be contingent upon a continuous process of not remembering things like his association with Nazi collaborators, his antisemitism, or the positive evaluation of Hitler which appears in one of his essays.

    The emphasis on “forgetting” is not new in scholarly work...

  7. Chapter Four From Repression to Denial: Responses of the Serbian Orthodox Church to Accusations of Antisemitism
    (pp. 115-150)

    The discussion of the role of repression in Velimirović’s rehabilitation focused primarily on material which dates back to the late 1980s and the early 1990s, and therefore to the early stages of the bishop’s return to the mainstream. At the same time, more recent examples have shown that the image of Velimirović’s supposed affliction during the Nazi occupation remains embedded in the overall discourse of remembrance. The inclusion of the theme of suffering in the short prayer (kondak) dedicated to Velimirović—which was formally endorsed by the Church on the occasion of his canonization—as well the reference to it...

  8. Chapter Five “He was merely quoting the Bible!”: Denial of Velimirović’s Antisemitism
    (pp. 151-206)

    The previous chapter highlighted the frequency with which the narrative of national self-glorification and the rhetoric of literal and comparative denial appear in ecclesiastical and nationalist discourse, whenever the topic of antisemitism is raised. Bearing in mind the prevalence of this broader strategy of denial, it is not surprising to find that generalized claims about the absence of antisemitism among Serbs are also invoked when accusations of anti-Jewish bigotry are directed specifically at Nikolaj Velimirović.

    In the article “Serbs and Jews” quoted extensively in the earlier chapter, the exposition of denial of antisemitism concludes with an explicit defense of Bishop...

  9. Chapter Six Antisemitism as Prophecy: Social Construction of Velimirović’s Sanctity
    (pp. 207-230)

    On 19 May 2003, the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church announced its “unanimous and undisputed decision” to “include the name of Nikolaj (Velimirović), bishop of Ohrid and Žiča, in the calendar of saints of the holy [Serbian] Orthodox Church.” The announcement stated that, in canonizing Bishop Velimirović, the Assembly “solemnly confirmed the widespread belief in his sanctity, which exists not only within the Serbian Church, but throughout the Orthodox World” (Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Church, 2003b). The magnitude of the importance attributed to St Nikolaj of Ohrid and Žiča (sometimes also referred to as St...

  10. Chapter Seven Conclusion
    (pp. 231-238)

    The main aim of the present study has been to explore the dynamics of repression and denial constitutive of the rehabilitation of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović over the past twenty or so years. It has examined a variety of discursive and rhetorical practices of social remembering and forgetting which enabled the favorable representations of the controversial bishop—which had been confined, during the communist period, to the relatively marginal group of nationalist clergy gathered around Father Justin Popović and to the Serbian diaspora in the West—to penetrate the public sphere and come to dominate memorial discourse within mainstream Serbian Orthodox...

  11. References
    (pp. 239-260)
  12. Index
    (pp. 261-270)
  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. None)