By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited”
The powerful, thought-provoking, and courageously objective docu-drama “The Last Macedonian” (2015) chronicles painstakingly the insidious and pernicious role played by the various national Christian Orthodox churches in Macedonia. Bulgarian, Serb, and Greek clergy meddled in the internal politics of this tortured region; bought and sold local strogmen and warlords; arranged for assassinations, forced conversions of the hapless natives, and for other nefarious activities; lavished funds and divine sanction and unction on the kaleidoscope of allies and foes engendered by their own stratagems and subterfuges; and, in general, acted more like thugs than priests.
But this has not always been the case. The rise of the nation-state envenomed the relationship between secular and religious authorities. Rabid, jingoistic nationalism pervaded, permeated, and poisoned Christianity as it has all else in this benighted, fogotten part of the world. But, things were radically different prior to the 19th century.
“There are two maxims for historians which so harmonise with what I know of history that I would like to claim them as my own, though they really belong to nineteenth-century historiography: first, that governments try to press upon the historian the key to all the drawers but one, and are anxious to spread the belief that this single one contains no secret of importance; secondly, that if the historian can only find the thing which the government does not want him to know, he will lay his hand upon something that is likely to be significant.”
Herbert Butterfield, “History and Human Relations”, London, 1951, p. 186
The Balkans as a region is a relatively novel way of looking at the discrete nation-states that emerged from the carcasses of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires and fought over their spoils.
This sempiternal fight is a determinant of Balkan identity. The nations of the Balkan are defined more by ornery opposition than by cohesive identities. They derive sustenance and political-historical coherence from conflict. It is their afflatus. The more complex the axes of self-definition, the more multifaceted and intractable the conflicts. Rabid nationalism against utopian regionalism, fascism (really, opportunism) versus liberalism, religion-tinted traditionalism (the local moribund edition of conservatism) versus “Western” modernity.
Who wins is of crucial importance to world peace.
The Balkans is a relatively new political entity. Formerly divided between the decrepit Ottoman Empire and the imploding Austro-Hungarian one – the countries of the Balkans emerged as unique polities only during the 19th century. This was to be expected as a wave of nationalism swept Europe and led to the formation of the modern, bureaucratic state as we know it.
Even so, the discrete entities that struggled to the surface of statehood did not feel that they shared a regional destiny or identity. All they did was fight ferociously, ruthlessly and mercilessly over the corrupted remnants of the Sick Men of Europe (the above mentioned two residual empires). In this, they proved themselves to be the proper heirs of their former masters: murderous, suborned, Byzantine and nearsighted.
In an effort to justify their misdeeds and deeds, the various nations – true and concocted – conjured up histories, languages, cultures and documents, some real, mostly false. They staked claims to the same territories, donned common heritage where there was none, spoke languages artificially constructed and lauded a culture hastily assembled by “historians” and “philologists”.
These were the roots of the great evil – the overlapping claims, the resulting intolerance, the mortal, existential fear stoked by the kaleidoscopic conduct of the Big Powers. To recognize the existence of the Macedonian identity – was to threaten the Greek or Bulgarian ones. To accept the antiquity of the Albanians was to dismantle Macedonia, Serbia and Greece. To countenance Bulgarian demands was to inhumanly penalize its Turk citizens. It was a zero-sum game played viciously by everyone involved. The prize was mere existence – the losers annihilated.
It very nearly came to that during the two Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913.
Allies shifted their allegiance in accordance with the shifting fortunes of a most bewildering battlefield. When the dust settled, two treaties later, Macedonia was dismembered by its neighbours, Bulgaria bitterly contemplated the sour fruits of its delusional aggression and Serbia and Austro-Hungary rejoiced. Thus were the seeds of World War I sown.
The Yugoslav war of succession (or civil war) was a continuation of this mayhem by other means. Yugoslavia was born in sin, in the dictatorship of King Alexander I (later slain in France in 1934). It faced agitation, separatism and discontent from its inception. It was falling apart when the second world conflagration erupted. It took a second dictatorship – Tito’s – to hold it together for another 40 years.
The Balkan as a whole – from Hungary, through Romania and down to Bulgaria – was prone to authoritarianism and an atavistic, bloody form of racist, “peasant or native fascism”. A primitive region of destitute farmers and vile politicians, it was exposed to world gaze by the collapse of communism. There are encouraging signs of awakening, of change and adaptation. There are dark omens of reactionary forces, of violence and wrath. It is a battle fought in the unconscious of humanity itself. It is a tug of war between memories and primordial drives repressed and the vitality of those still close to nature.
The outcome of this fight is crucial to the world. Both world wars started in central eastern and south-eastern Europe. Globalization is no guarantee against a third one. The world was more globalized than it is today at the beginning of the century – but it took only one shot in Sarajevo to make this the most sanguineous century of all.
An added problem is the simple-mindedness, abrasiveness and sheer historical ignorance of America, the current superpower. A nation of soundbites and black or white stereotypes, it is ill-suited to deal with the nuanced, multilayered and interactive mayhem that is the Balkan. A mentality of western movies – good guys, bad guys, shoot’em up – is hardly conducive to a Balkan resolution. The intricate and drawn out process required taxes American impatience and bullying tendencies to their explosive limits.
In the camp of the good guys, the Anglo-Saxons place Romania, Greece, Montenegro and Slovenia (with Macedonia, Croatia, Albania and Bulgaria wandering in and out). Serbia is the epitome of evil. Milosevic is Hitler. Such uni-dimensional thinking sends a frisson of rubicund belligerence down American spines.
It tends to ignore reality, though. Montenegro is playing the liberal card deftly, no doubt – but it is also a haven of smuggling and worse. Slovenia is the civilized facade that it so tediously presents to the world – but it also happened to have harboured one of the vilest fascist movements, comparable to the Ustasha – the Domobranci. It shares with Croatia the narcissistic grandiose fantasy that it is not a part of the Balkan – but rather an outpost of Europe – and the disdain for its impoverished neighbours that comes with it. In this sense, it is more “Balkanian” than many of them. Greece is now an economically stable and mildly democratic country – but it used to be a dictatorship and it still is a banana republic in more than one respect. The Albanians – ferociously suppressed by the Serbs and (justly) succoured by the West – are industrious and shrewd people. But – fervent protestations to the contrary aside – they do seem to be intent on dismantling and recombining both Yugoslavia (Serbia) and Macedonia, perhaps at a terrible cost to all involved. Together with the Turks, the Serbs and the Bulgarians, the Albanians are the undisputed crime lords of the Balkan (and beyond – witness their incarceration rates in Switzerland).
This is the Balkan – a florilegium of contradictions within contraventions, the mawkish and the jaded, the charitable and the deleterious, the feckless and the bumptious, evanescent and exotic, a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
“In accordance with this [right to act], whenever some one of the infidel parents or some other should oppose the giving up of his son for the Janiccaries, he is immediately hanged from his doorsill, his blood being deemed unworthy.”
Turkish firman, 1601
“…The Turks have built several fortresses in my kingdom and are very kind to the country folk. They promise freedom to every peasant who converts to Islam.”
Bosnian King Stefan Tomasevic to Pope Pius II
“…The Porte treated him (the patriarch) as part of the Ottoman political apparatus. As a result, he had certain legally protected privileges. The Patriarch travelled in ‘great splendour’ and police protection was provided by the Janiccaries. His horse and saddle were fittingly embroidered, and at the saddle hung a small sword as a symbol of the powers bestowed on him by the Sultan.”
Dusan Kasic, “The Serbian Church under the Turks”, Belgrade, 1969
Within the space of 500 years, southeast Europe has undergone two paradigmatic shifts. First, from Christian independence to Islamic subjugation (a gradual process which consumed two centuries) and then, in the 19th century, from self-determination through religious affiliation to nationalism. The Christians of the Balkan were easy prey. They were dispirited peasantry, fragmented, prone to internecine backstabbing and oppressive regimes. The new Ottoman rulers treated both people and land as their property. They enslaved some of their prisoners of war (under the infamous “pencik” clause), exiled thousands and confiscated their lands and liquidated the secular political elites in Thrace, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania. The resulting vacuum of leadership was filled by the Church. Thus, paradoxically, it was Islam and its excesses that made the Church the undisputed shepherd of the peoples of the Balkan, a position it did not enjoy before. The new rulers did not encourage conversions to their faith for fear of reducing their tax base – non-Moslem “zimmis” (the Qur’an’s “People of the Book”) paid special (and heavy) taxes to the treasury and often had to bribe corrupt officials to survive.
Still, compared to other Ottoman exploits (in Anatolia, for instance), the conquest of the Balkan was a benign affair. Cities remained intact, the lands were not depopulated and the indiscriminately ferocious nomadic tribesmen that usually accompanied the Turkish forces largely stayed at home. The Ottoman bureaucracy took over most aspects of daily life soon after the military victories, bringing with it the leaden stability that was its hallmark. Indeed, populations were dislocated and re-settled as a matter of policy called “sorgun”. Yet such measures were intended mainly to quell plangent rebelliousness and were applied mainly to the urban minority (for instance, in Constantinople).
The Church was an accomplice of the Turkish occupiers. It was a part of the Ottoman system of governance and enjoyed both its protection and its funding. It was leveraged by the Turk sultans in their quest to pacify their subjects. Mehmet II bestowed upon the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, its bishops and clergy great powers. The trade off was made explicit in Mehmet’s edicts: the Church accepted the earthly sovereignty of the sultan – and he, in turn, granted them tolerance, protection and even friendship. The Ottoman religious-legal code, the Seriat, recognized the Christian’s right to form their own religiously self-governing communities. These communities were not confined to the orderly provision of worship services. They managed communal property as well. Mehmet’s benevolence towards the indigents was so legendary that people wrongly attributed to him the official declaration of a “Millet i Rum” (Roman, or Greek, nation) and the appointment of Gennadios as patriarch of the Orthodox Church (which only an episcopal synod could do).
The Ottoman Empire was an amazing hybrid. As opposed to popular opinion it was not a religious entity. The ruling elite included members of all religions. Thus, one could find Christian “askeri ” (military or civil officials) and Muslim “reaya” (“flock” of taxpayers). It is true that Christians paid the arbitrarily set “harac” (or, less commonly, “cizye”) in lieu of military service. Even the clergy were not exempt (they even assisted in tax collection). But both Christians and Muslims paid the land tax, for instance. And, as the fairness, transparency and predictability of the local taxmen deteriorated – both Muslims and Christians complained.
The main problem of the Ottoman Empire was devolution – not centralization. Local governors and tax collectors had too much power and the sultan was too remote and disinterested or too weak and ineffective. The population tried to get Istanbul MORE involved – not less so. The population was financially fleeced as much by the Orthodox Church as it was by the sultan. A special church-tax was levied on the Christian reaya and its proceeds served to secure the lavish lifestyles of the bishops and the patriarch. In true mob style, church functionaries divided the loot with Ottoman officials in an arrangement known as “peskes”. Foreign powers contributed to the war chests of various candidates, thus mobilizing them to support pro-Catholic or pro-Protestant political stances and demands. The church was a thoroughly corrupt, usurious and politicized body which contributed greatly to the ever increasing misery of its flock. It was a collaborator in the worst sense of the word.
But the behaviour of the church was one part of the common betrayal by the elite of the Balkan lands. Christian landowners volunteered to serve in the Ottoman cavalry (“sipahis”) in order to preserve their ownership. The Ottoman rulers conveniently ignored the laws prohibiting “zimmis” to carry weapons. Until 1500, the “sipahis” constituted the bulk of the Ottoman forces in the Balkan and their mass conversion to Islam was a natural continuation of their complicity. Other Christians guarded bridges or mountain passes for a tax exemption (“derbentci”). Local, Turkish-trained militias (“armatoles”) fought mountain-based robber gangs (Serbian “hayduks”, Bulgarian “haiduts”, Greek “klephts”). The robbers attacked Turkish caravans with the same frequency and zeal that they sacked Christian settlements. The “armatoles” resisted them by day and joined them by night. But it was perfectly acceptable to join Turkish initiatives such as this.
The Balkan remained overwhelmingly Christian throughout the Ottoman period. Muslim life was an urban phenomenon both for reasons of safety and because only the cities provided basic amenities. Even in the cities, though, the communities lived segregated in “mahalles” (quarters). Everyone collaborated in public life but the “mahalles” were self-sufficient affairs with the gamut of services – from hot baths to prayer services – available “in-quarter”. Gradually, the major cities, situated along the trade routes, became Moslem. Skopje, Sarajevo and Sofia all had sizeable Moslem minorities.
Thus, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the picture that emerges is one of an uneasy co-habitation in the cities and a Christian rural landscape. The elites of the Balkan – church, noblemen, warriors – all defected and collaborated with the former “enemy”. The local populace was the victim of usurious taxes, coercively applied. The central administration shared the loot with its local representatives and with the indigenous elites – the church and the feudal landed gentry. It was a cosy and pragmatic arrangement that lasted for centuries.
Yet, the seeds of Ottoman bestiality and future rebellion were sown from the very inception of this empire-extending conquest. The “devsirme” tax was an example of the fragility of the Turkish veneer of humanity and enlightened rule. Christian sons were kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and trained as fighters in the fearsome Janiccary Corps (the palace Guards). They were never to see their families and friends again. Exemptions from this barbarous practice were offered only to select communities which somehow contributed to Ottoman rule in the Balkan. Christian women were often abducted by local Ottoman dignitaries. and the custom of the “kepin”, allowed Moslems to “buy” a Christian daughter off her husband on a “temporary” basis. The results of such a union were raised as Moslems.
And then there were the mass conversions of Christians to Islam. These conversions were very rarely the results of coercion or barbarous conduct. On the contrary, by shrinking the tax base and the recruitment pool, conversion were unwelcome and closely scrutinized by the Turks. But to convert was such an advantageous and appealing act that the movement bordered on mass hysteria. Landowners converted to preserve their title to the land. “Sipahis” converted to advance in the ranks of the military. Christian officials converted to maintain their officialdom. Ordinary folk converted to avoid onerous taxes. Christian traders converted to Islam to be able to testify in court in case of commercial litigation. Converted Moslems were allowed to speak Arabic or their own language, rather than the cumbersome and elaborate formal Turkish. Christians willingly traded eternal salvation for earthly benefits. And, of course, death awaited those who recanted (like the Orthodox “New Martyrs”, who discovered their Christian origins, having been raised as Moslems).
Perhaps this was because, in large swathes of the Balkan, Christianity never really took hold. It was adopted by the peasant as a folk religion – as was Islam later. In Bosnia, for instance, Muslims and Christians were virtually indistinguishable. They prayed in each other’s shrines, celebrated each other’s holidays and adopted the same customs. Muslim mysticism (the Sufi orders) appealed to many sophisticated urban Christians. Heretic cults (like the Bogomils) converted en masse. Intermarriage flourished, mainly between Muslim men (who could not afford the dowry payable to a Muslim woman) and Christian women (who had to pay a dowry to her Muslim husband’s family). Marrying a Christian woman was a lucrative business proposition.
And, then, of course, there was the Moslem birth rate. With four women and a pecuniary preference for large families – Moslem out-bred Christians at all times. This trend is most pronounced today but it was always a prominent demographic fact.
But the success of Islam to conquer the Balkan, rule it, convert its population and prevail in it – had to do more with the fatal flaws of Balkan Christianity than with the appeal and resilience of Islam and its Ottoman rendition. In the next chapter I will attempt to ponder the complex interaction between Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity as it was manifested in Croatia and Bosnia, the border lands between the Habsburg and the Ottoman empires and between “Rome” and “Byzantium”. I will then explore the variance in the Ottoman attitudes towards various Christian communities and the reasons underlying this diversity of treatment modalities.
“From the beginning, people of different languages and religions were permitted to live in Christian lands and cities, namely Jews, Armenians, Ismaelites, Agarenes and others such as these, except that they do not mix with Christians, but rather live separately. For this reason, places have been designated for these according to ethnic group, either within the city or without, so that they may be restricted to these and not extend their dwelling beyond them.”
Bishop Demetrios Khomatianos of Ohrid, late 12th century and early 13th century AD
“The Latins still have not been anathematized, nor has a great ecumenical council acted against them … And even to this day this continues, although it is said that they still wait for the repentance of the great Roman Church.”
“…do not overlook us, singing with deaf ears, but give us your understanding, according to sacred precepts, as you yourself inspired the apostles … You see, Lord, the battle of many years of your churches. Grant us humility, quiet the storm, so that we may know in each other your mercy, and we may not forget before the end the mystery of your love … May we coexist in unity with each other, and become wise also, so that we may live in you and in your eternal creator the Father and in his only-begotten Word. You are life, love, peace, truth, and sanctity…”
East European Studies Occasional Paper, Number 47, “Christianity and Islam in Southeastern Europe – Slavic Orthodox Attitudes toward Other Religions”, Eve Levin, January 1997
“…you faced the serpent and the enemy of God’s churches, having judged that it would have been unbearable for your heart to see the Christians of your fatherland overwhelmed by the Moslems (izmailteni); if you could not accomplish this, you would leave the glory of your kingdom on earth to perish, and having become purple with your blood, you would join the soldiers of the heavenly kingdom. In this way, your two wishes were fulfilled. You killed the serpent, and you received from God the wreath of martyrdom.”
Mateja Matejic and Dragan Milivojevic, “An Anthology of Medieval Serbian Literature in English”, Columbus, Ohio: Slavica, 1978
Any effort to understand the modern quagmire that is the Balkan must address religion and religious animosities and grievances. Yet, the surprising conclusion of such a study is bound to be that the role of inter-faith hatred and conflict has been greatly exaggerated. The Balkan was characterized more by religious tolerance than by religious persecution. It was a model of successful co-habitation and co-existence even of the bitterest enemies of the most disparate backgrounds. Only the rise of the modern nation-state exacerbated long-standing and hitherto dormant tensions. Actually, the modern state was established on a foundation of artificially fanned antagonism and xenophobia.
Religions in the Balkan were never monolithic enterprises. Competing influences, paranoia, xenophobia and adverse circumstances all conspired to fracture the religious landscape. Thus, for instance, though officially owing allegiance to the patriarch in Constantinople and the Orthodox “oikumene”, both Serb and Bulgarian churches collaborated with the rulers of the day against perceived Byzantine (Greek and Russian) political encroachment in religious guise. The southern Slav churches rejected both the theology and the secular teachings of the “Hellenics” and the “Romanians” (Romans). In turn, the Greek church held the Slav church in disregard and treated the peasants of Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Albania to savage rounds of tax collection. The Orthodox, as have all religions, berated other confessions and denominations. But Orthodoxy was always benign – no “jihad”, no bloodshed, no forced conversions and no mass expulsions – perhaps with the exception of the forcible treatment of the Bogomils.
It was all about power and money, of course. Bishops and archbishops did not hesitate to co-opt the Ottoman administration against their adversaries. They had their rivals arrested by the Turks or ex-communicated them. Such squabbles were common. But they never amounted to more than a Balkanian comedia del-arte. Even the Jews – persecuted all over western Europe – were tolerated and attained prominence and influence in the Balkan. One Bulgarian Tsar divorced his wife to marry a Jewess. Southern Orthodox Christianity (as opposed to the virulent and vituperative Byzantine species) has always been pragmatic. The minorities (Jews, Armenians, Vlachs) were the economic and financial backbone of their societies. And the Balkan was always a hodge-podge of ethnicities, cultures and religions. Shifting political fortunes ensured a policy of “hedging one’s bets”.
The two great competitors of Orthodox Christianity in the tight market of souls were Catholicism and Islam. The former co-sponsored with the Orthodox Church the educational efforts of Cyril and Methodius. Even before the traumatic schism of 1054, Catholics and nascent Orthodox were battling over (lucrative) religious turf in Bulgaria.
The schism was a telling affair. Ostensibly, it revolved around obscure theological issues (who begat the Holy Spirit – the Father alone or jointly with the Son as well as which type of bread should be used in the Eucharist). But really it was a clash of authorities and interests – the Pope versus the patriarch of Constantinople, the Romans versus the Greeks and Slavs. Matters of jurisdiction coalesced with political meddling in a confluence of ill-will that has simmered for at least two centuries. The southern (Slav) Orthodox churches contributed to the debate and supported the Greek position. Sects such as the Hesychasts were more Byzantine than the Greeks and denounced wavering Orthodox clergy. Many a south Orthodox pilloried the Catholic stance as an heresy of Armenian or Apollinarian or Arian origin – thus displaying their ignorance of the subtler points of the theological debate. They also got wrong the Greek argumentation regarding the bread of the Eucharist and the history of the schism. But zeal compensated for ignorance, as is often the case in the Balkan.
What started as a debate – however fervent – about abstract theology became an all out argument about derided customs and ceremonies. Diet, dates and divine practices all starred in these grotesque exchanges. The Latin ate unclean beasts. They used five fingers to cross themselves. They did not sing Hallelujah. They allowed the consumption of dairy products in Lent. The list was long and preposterous. The parties were spoiling for a fight. As is so often the case in this accursed swathe of the earth, identity and delusional superiority were secured through opposition and self-worth was attained through defiance. By relegating them to the role of malevolent heretics, the Orthodox made the sins of the Catholics unforgivable, their behaviour inexcusable, their fate sealed.
At the beginning, the attacks were directed at the “Latins” – foreigners from Germany and France. Local Catholics were somehow dissociated and absolved from the diabolical attributes of their fellow-believers abroad. They used the same calendar as the Orthodox (except for Lent) and similarly prayed in Church Slavonic. The only visible difference was the recognition of papal authority by the Catholics. Catholicism presented a coherent and veteran alternative to Orthodoxy’s inchoate teachings. Secular authorities were ambiguous about how to treat their Catholic subjects and did not hesitate to collaborate with Catholic authorities against the Turks. Thus, to preserve itself as a viable religious alternative, the Orthodox church had to differentiate itself from the Holy See. Hence, the flaming debates and pejorative harangues.
The second great threat was Islam. Still, it was a latecomer. Catholicism and Orthodoxy have been foes since the ninth century. Four hundreds years later, Byzantine wars against the Moslems were a distant thunder and raised little curiosity and interest in the Balkan. The Orthodox church was acquainted with the tenets of Islamic faith but did not bother to codify its knowledge or record it. Islam was, to it, despite its impeccable monotheistic credentials, an exotic Oriental off-shoot of tribal paganism.
Thus, the Turkish invasion and the hardships of daily life under Ottoman rule found Orthodoxy unprepared. It reacted the way we all react to fear of the unknown: superstitions, curses, name calling. On the one hand, the Turkish enemy was dehumanized and bedevilled. It was perceived to be God’s punishment upon the unfaithful and the sinful. On the other hand, in a curious transformation or a cognitive dissonance, the Turks became a divine instrument, the wrathful messengers of God. The Christians of the Balkan suffered from a post traumatic stress syndrome. They went through the classical phases of grief. They started by denying the defeat (in Kosovo, for instance) and they proceeded through rage, sadness and acceptance.
All four phases co-existed in Balkan history. Denial by the many who resorted to mysticism and delusional political thought. That the Turks failed for centuries to subdue pockets of resistance (for instance in Montenegro) served to rekindle these hopes and delusions periodically. Thus, the Turks (and, by extension, Islam) served as a politically cohering factor and provided a cause to rally around. Rage manifested through the acts against the occupying Ottomans of individuals or rebellious groups. Sadness was expressed in liturgy, in art and literature, in music and in dance. Acceptance by conceiving of the Turks as the very hand of God Himself. But, gradually, the Turks and their rule came to be regarded as the work of the devil as it was incurring the wrath of God.
But again, this negative and annihilating attitude was reserved to outsiders and foreigners, the off-spring of Ishmael and of Hagar, the Latins and the Turks. Moslem or Catholic neighbours were rarely, if ever, the target of such vitriolic diatribes. External enemies – be they Christian or Moslem – were always to be cursed and resisted. Neighbours of the same ethnicity were never to be punished or discriminated against for their religion or convictions – though half-hearted condemnations did occur. The geographical and ethnic community seems to have been a critical determinant of identity even when confronted with an enemy at the gates. Members of an ethnic community could share the same religious faith as the invader or the heretic – yet this detracted none from their allegiance and place in their society as emanating from birth and long term residence. These tolerance and acceptance prevailed even in the face of Ottoman segregation of religious communities in ethnically-mixed “millets”. This principle was shattered finally by the advent of the modern nation-state and its defining parameters (history and language), real or (more often) invented. One could sometimes find members of the same nuclear family – but of different religious affiliation. Secular rulers and artisans in guilds collaborated unhesitatingly with Jews, Turks and Catholics. Conversions to and fro were common practice, as ways to secure economic benefits. These phenomena were especially prevalent in the border areas of Croatia and Bosnia. But everyone, throughout the Balkan, shared the same rituals, the way of life, the superstitions, the magic, the folklore, the customs and the habits regardless of religious persuasion.
Where religions co-existed, they fused syncretically. Some Sufi sects (mainly among the Janiccary) adopted Catholic rituals, made the sign of the cross, drank alcohol and ate pork. The followers of Bedreddin were Jews and Christians, as well as Moslems. Everybody shared miraculous sites, icons, even prayers. Orthodox Slavs pilgrims to the holy places in Palestine were titled “Hadzi” and Moslems were especially keen on Easter eggs and holy water as talismans of health. Calendars enumerated the holidays of all religions, side by side. Muslim judges (“kadis”) married Muslim men to non-Muslim women and inter-marriage was rife. They also married and divorced Catholic couples, in contravention of the Catholic faith. Orthodox and Catholic habitually intermarried and interbred.
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com