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Heavenly Serbia

Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide

Branimir Anzulovic
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Heavenly Serbia
    Book Description:

    As violence and turmoil continue to define the former Yugoslavia, basic questions remain unanswered: What are the forces behind the Serbian expansionist drive that has brought death and destruction to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo? How did the Serbs rationalize, and rally support for, this genocidal activity? Heavenly Serbia traces Serbia's nationalist and expansionist impulses to the legendary battle of Kosovo in 1389. Anzulovic shows how the myth of "Heavenly Serbia" developed to help the Serbs endure foreign domination, explaining their military defeat and the loss of their medieval state by emphasizing their own moral superiority over military victory. Heavenly Serbia shows how this myth resulted in an aggressive nationalist ideology which has triumphed in the late twentieth century and marginalized those Serbs who strive for the establishment of a civil society. "Modern Serbian nationalism...and its contradictory connections...have been sources of considerable scholarly interest...Branimir Anzulovic's compendium is a good example of the genre, made all the more useful by Anzulovic's excellent command of the literature." - Ivo Banac, History of Religions Author interview with CNN:

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0783-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. A Note on Pronunciation, Transliteration, and Translation
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    An event from medieval Serbian history permeates present-day Serbian culture and politics. The 1389 battle with the Ottoman Turks on the Field of Kosovo still exerts a powerful influence on the Serbs, who see it as the pivotal moment of their plunge from a prosperous, sovereign medieval Balkan state to a stateless community within the Ottoman Empire, a condition that lasted until the nineteenth century. Even after Serbia became sovereign in 1878 and formed the core of the Yugoslav union in 1918, the memory of the 1389 battle remained vivid to the Serbs. Many observers have noticed the intensity of...

  6. 1 Heavenly Serbia
    (pp. 11-32)

    Folk singers played a very important role in the illiterate and eliteless Serbian society following the Turkish conquest. Accompanying their chanting with a one-stringed fiddle called thegusle, they were not merely entertainers but bards who transmitted to their audiences a vision of the nation’s past and future. However, they were not necessarily the creators of the myths propagated by their songs. The story of how Prince Lazar opted for the heavenly kingdom in the 1389 battle on the Field of Kosovo seems to have originated with theNarration about Prince Lazarby Serbian Patriarch Danilo III (who transferred the...

  7. 2 The Encounter with the Turks
    (pp. 33-44)

    The union of Serbian church and nation, a Byzantine heritage, became even tighter after the Ottoman Turkish conquest, when Serbia ceased to exist as a territorial and political entity. Since the nation was no longer associated with a state, its link with the national religion became still more pronounced. The myth of the Heavenly Serbia was a manifestation of the radical union of nation and church. The Ottoman domination contributed to the development of the Serbs’ self-image of a holy people whose moral superiority makes them victims of the immorality of others.

    The centuries-old submergence of Serbia in the Ottoman...

  8. 3 Dinaric Highlanders and Their Songs
    (pp. 45-68)

    The idolatry of state and nation, nourished by their fusion with a national church, is an important source of violence in the Balkans, but not the only one. A high level of endemic violence can be found among the inhabitants of the Dinaric Mountains (covering the hinterland of Dalmatian Croatia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, and parts of Bosnia and Serbia) and throughout the mountain chain that extends, under different names, through Albania and Greece. A patriarchal-heroic culture as violent as that in Montenegro developed on the Mani Peninsula at the southern end of the Peloponnesus, a part of ancient Sparta.¹ The tendency...

  9. 4 The Dilemmas of Modern Serbian National Identity
    (pp. 69-98)

    The cultural history of Serbia, like that of Russia and other Eastern European Orthodox countries, followed a development different from that of Catholic and Protestant Europe. In Orthodox countries, the equivalent of the Middle Ages—the period during which the church was the dominant bearer of cultural heritage—lasted until the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Strong ties were then established with the West, at the time when the Enlightenment had laid the foundation for modern secular culture. This contact, uninterrupted since, has led to a large-scale assimilation of Western culture by the Serbs.

    However, the anti-Western attitude, nourished...

  10. 5 A Vicious Circle of Lies and Fears
    (pp. 99-146)

    Yugoslavia would have been less susceptible to violent disintegration if, at the end of World War II, there had been a reconciliation between the nations and factions that had fought one another. All of them, and especially the two most guilty ones, Croats and Serbs, should have admitted the mistakes and crimes committed since they entered the Yugoslav union and taken the steps necessary to prevent another conflict in the future. The enormity of the crimes committed by various parties made such action urgent. The reconciliation of France and Germany was a good model, but it could not be followed...

  11. 6 The Outsiders’ Myth-Calculations
    (pp. 147-174)

    Serbian myths were first received and amplified in the West, as outlined above, during the Romanticist period. The second wave of Western glorification of Serbia started during the First World War, when that country, having precipitated the war, shared the same enemy as Britain, France, and subsequently the United States. As usual in wartime, the enemy was demonized, and the enemy of the enemy glorified. The Kosovo myth, in particular, served to propagate the image of Serbia as a country committed to freedom and morality, as an American expert on Kosovo, Thomas A. Emmert, notes:

    During the war Serbia was...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 175-182)

    The campaign for a Greater Serbia, which intensified around 1980 and led to the war ten years later, should not make us forget that many Serbs want to live in peace with their neighbors and build an orderly and tolerant society. Even under the communist regime Serbia produced some able and honest politicians, opposed to nationalist adventures, who worked to make the regime less oppressive. They assumed the highest positions in the republic after Tito purged pan-Serb hard-liners in the mid-1960s, and were removed in his purge of liberals in 1972. Three-month-long mass demonstrations against President Milošević, organized by students...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 183-216)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 217-226)
  15. Index
    (pp. 227-233)