Eastern Europe, including historically Communist nations and the former Yugoslavia.
1. Brief Introduction:
This entry focuses on four issues: the historical split between Catholic and Orthodox in the region; the religious opposition to Communist rule; and the crisis of the ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s; and the current role of religion in the formation of individual and social identity. First, Eastern Europe is divided culturally between those areas traditionally oriented toward Rome and those areas traditionally oriented toward Constatinople and the “third Rome” of Moscow. The final break between Rome and Constantinople took place in 1054, and the Ottoman Turks captured the city in 1453. On the Roman side of this line sit Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia. On the Orthodox side of the line are Russia, Belarus, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece. Ukraine is a “cleft country.” (Huntington). National political tensions are also reflected in relationships between Orthodox and Uniate churches with non-Latin liturgies that are in union with Rome.
Following the Second World War much of this area came until control of Communist governments which sought to minimize the influence of religion. Hanson (1987, pp. 206-33), for example, compares the battles between the Catholic Church and the Communist leadership in various states, and then compares these Catholic battles with those in the Orthodox and Protestant churches. With the Democratic Revolutions of 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the situation changed greatly. For a while, many missionaries came from the West and Christianity became very popular. This period has subsided, however, and traditional church-state relationships have strengthened.
In Yugoslavia, the removal of Communist power led to the breakup of the nation into its prior cultural unities. From the late 1980s Serbian President Milosevic used state television to denigrate Croats and Muslims. He then began his push for a Greater Serbia carved out of the ex-Yugoslavia. While he used culturally religious themes, the dictator was never particularly close to the Orthodox Church. Steele (below) details the roles of the Catholic, Orthodox, and, less completely, the Muslim religious traditions, moving from the religions’ ethnic captivity to their support for reconciliation in both Bosnia and Kosovo. In the most prominent case of the latter, the leaders of the Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish communities formed a new inter-religious council in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1997. In 1999 Milosevic and the Serbs moved against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, which generated a strong international response. NATO bombed Belgrade and eventually settled peacekeeping troops in the region. On June 15, 1999, Orthodox Patriarch Pavle and the Serbian Holy Synod called for Milosevic’s resignation and new elections. Kosovo declared its independence in February 2008 with the support of the West and the opposition of Serbia, Russia, and China, all of which are concerned about their own territorial integrity. See decision of International Court of Justice, July 2010, below.
As Tomka states (2009 article "Religious Identity" below, p. 23),"The post-communist world is in a fundamental identity crisis individually and socially." What role is religion playing in the formation of these new identities? The cultures of the various countries are very different in regards to religion.
2. Religion and Politics Sections:
Media in the Yugoslavian Crisis (pp. 34-37)
“Western Christianity and the Byzantine Empire” (pp. 98-101)
“Orthodox Europe in the Post-Communist Period” (pp. 150-55)
“Religion and Politics in the Contemporary West” (pp. 155-63)
3. A Short Introductory Course:
Lindzey and Krotov describe the state of religion in Russia in 2000. Ramet details some of the conflicts between religion and the Communist state. Steele explains the role of the Christian churches in the Yugoslavian conflict of the 1990s. Byrnes and Katzenstein’s volume treats the role of religion, especially Catholicism, Islam, and Orthodoxy, in the 2004 enlargement of Europe. Perica’s analysis is especially strong on the ambivalent nature of Serbian Orthodoxy, looking both to Europe and to the Orthodox civilization. The Wolchik and Curry volume introduces and summarizes the politics of Central and Eastern Europe to 2007. The Hungarian sociologist Tomka has brought together much of the survey and theoretical material, plus a long-informed Budapest perspective, on the role of religion in the formation of contemporary individual and social identities. Read the book for the entire communist and post-communist period, plus sociological interpretations and comparison of religious traditions. Read the article for a summary of the current situation.
Linzey, Sharon, and Krotov, Iakov, “The Future of Religion and Religious Future in Russia,” Kontinent (May 2000), translated in Religion in Eastern Europe (October 2001): 26-47.
Steele, David, “Christianity in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo: From Ethnic Captive to Reconciling Agent,” in Johnston, Douglas, Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 124-77. See above. The article ends with recommendations on Christian methods for reconciliation and conflict resolution.
Byrnes, Timothy A., and Katzenstein, Peter J. Religion in an Expanding Europe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). See throughout, but especially Chapters Six (Ramet, Orthodoxy and its “Idyllic Past”), Seven (Perica, “Serbian Orthodox Chruch”).
Wolchik, Sharon L., and Curry, Jane L., eds. Central and East European Politics: From Communism to Democracy (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008). This volume includes an historical introduction, six chapters on policy issues (Political Transition, Re-Creating the Market, Ethnicity, Women, EU Accession, and Security), and eight national case studies (Poland, Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary, the Baltic States, Bulgaria, ex-Yugoslavia, Romania, Ukraine).
Tomka, Miklos. Church, State and Society in Eastern Europe (Washington, D.C.: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2005).
Tomka, Miklos, "Religious Identity and the Gospel of Reconciliation," Religion in Eastern Europe (February 2009): 20-28.
4. Other Resource Materials:
Allen, John L. "The German shepherd bids farewell to a 'wolf in winter,'" National Catholic Reporter, September 25, 2009. Fine summary of the life and religious-political impact of soon to retire Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Prague, one of the "John Paul II" bishops. Written at the time of Benedict's visit to Czechoslovakia.
Byrnes, Timothy A. Transnational Catholicism in Postcommunist Europe (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001). Chapters One, Two (Poland), Three (Hungarian Minorities), Four (Croatia), Five.
Chryssavgis, John, ed. In the World, Yet Not of the World: Social and Global Initiatives of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010). Fine selection of talks by the Constantinople Patriarch on Orthodox approach to social issues, e.g., five talks on "Religious Communities in the European Union."
Curry, Jane, ed. The Black Book of Polish Censorship (New York: Vintage, 1984). Fine source of protest letters and reaction of the Gierek regime.
Davis, Nathaniel. A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1995).
Ellis, Jane. The Russian Orthodox Church: A Contemporary History (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1986).
Emerson, Michael. Redrawing the Map of Europe (London: Macmillian Press, 1998). Emerson situates this geographic area in the general context of Europe.
Hanson, Eric O. “Catholic Poland and Ostpolitik,” in The Catholic Church in World Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 197-233.
Miller, Leon. "Religion's Role in Creating National Unity," International Journal of World Peace (March 2009): 91-138. Miller argues that civil religion benefits a secular pluralistic society, especially Eastern Europe and Estonia, as a means of unity.
Karcic, Harun. "Alija Izetbegovic and the Myth of the Islamic State: Separating Fact from Fiction," Religion in Eastern Europe 29 (November 2009): 32-39. Response to those, mostly Serbs, who claim that the Bosniak President favored an Islamic state. Article especially good on period of fighting up to Dayton Accords.
Mojzes, Paul, and Swindler, Leonard. “Interreligious Dialogue Toward Reconciliation in Macedonia and Bosnia,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 39, Vol. 1-2 (Winter-Spring 2002).
Ondrasek, Lubomir Martin, "On Religious Freedom in the Slovak Republic," Religion in Eastern Europe 29 (August 2009); 1-9. Discussion of continued restraints on religious freedom in the Slovak Republic.
Perica, Vjekoslav, “The politics of ambivalence: Europeanization and the Serbian Orthodox Church,” in Byrnes, Timothy A., and Katzenstein, Peter J. Religion in an Expanding Europe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Payton, Calvin. "Calvin and Eastern Europe: What Happened?" Religion in Eastern Europe 30 (May 2010): 10-19. The early history of Calvinism in Eastern Europe, from fast rise to decline in areas like Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary. Calvinism offered a non-German (cf. Lutheranism) Protestantism, especially attractive to nobles and cities, but the Counter-Reformation, led by Jesuit education, proved much stronger in all areas except Hungary, the only remaining area of Calvinist strength.
Ramet, Pedro. Cross and Commissar: The Politics of Religion in Eastern Europe and the USSR (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1987).
Ramet, Pedro. Ed. Catholicism and Politics in Communist Societies: Christianity Under Stress Volume 2 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1990).
Steele, David, “At the Front Lines of the Revolution: East Germany’s Churches Give Sanctuary and Succor to the Purveyors of Change,” in Johnston, Douglas, and Sampson, Cynthia, eds. Religion, The Missing Dimension of Statecraft (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 119-52.
Vermaat, J.A. Emerson. The World Council of Churches and Politics. New York: Freedom House, 1989.
CAREE (Christians Associated for Relationships with Eastern Europe), See journal Religion in Eastern Europe, formerly Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe.
5. Recent Articles (a. Religion and European Integration; b. Religion and Society; c. National Politics; d. Conflict and Politics in the ex-Yugoslavia):
a. Religion and European Integration
"Romania and Bulgaria Celebrate Entry Into European Union," New York Times, January 2, 2007.
"In a Visit, Putin Tries to Ease Rifts With Poland," New York Times, September 2, 2009. Putin visits Polish prime minister Donald Tusk in the Baltic resort town of Sopot. He praises Polish bravery during World War II, a sore spot due to the early cooperation between Germany and the Soviet Union.
b. Religion and Society
“European Union’s Plunging Birthrates Spread Eastward,” New York Times, September 4. 2006. Czech Republic, etc. have lost Communist family supports, gained women’s opportunities, and emigration to the West. Birthrate at 1.2 per woman in Czech Republic, Slovenia, Latvia, and Poland.
"Fascist Overtones From Blithely Oblivious Rock Fans," New York Times, July 2, 2007. Some Ustashe and Nazi symbols in rock concert by Marko Perkovic. Debate over significance.
c. National Politics
"Europeans Welcome Victory of Romanian in Ouster Vote," New York Times, May 21, 2007. European Commission urged Romania to continue anti-corruption efforts after anti-graft crusader, President Traian Basescu, easily won referendum to remain in office. The parliament had sponsored the referendum in an effort to impeach him.
"Hungarian Extremists Reflect Discontent, and Add to It," New York Times, October 24, 2007. On October 23rd anniversary of 1956 uprising, uniformed members of Hungarian Guard attend ceremony. Their uniform reminds some of the Arrow Cross Party, wartime Nazi allies. General discontent with current government's strict economic reforms.
"Thousands Rally in Capital Against Georgia President," New York Times, November 3, 2007. Protests against President Mikheil Saakashvili, who rose to power in Rose Revolution of four years earlier. Georgia has enjoyed rapid economic growth, but also rising prices, unemployment, and a weak judiciary. Saakashvili ordered a police crackdown on November 7, shortly thereafter announcing a snap presidential election for January 5.
"After Crackdown, Saturday Vote Tests Georgian Leader," New York Times, January 5, 2008. Election debate not principally about democracy, but focused on uneven economic development (10% in 2007) which has left large pockets of poverty for roughly one-fourth of the population. Strong orientation to the United States and the E.U., plus tension with Russia, not a big issue. Saakashvili wins 52.8 percent of the vote, with second finisher Levan Gachechiladze at a little over one-fourth of the votes.
"For Thousands of Refugees From the Conflict in Georgia, the Fear Lingers," New York Times, September 2, 2008. Georgia attack on South Ossetia on August 7 resulted in Russian attack on Georgia. On August 26, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia withdrew its troops from uncontested Georgia in October, but they remain in the two disputed areas. Rare example of Orthodox on Orthodox violence deplored by both Russian Patriarch Alexy II and Georgian Patriarch Ilia II.
d. Conflict and Politics in the ex-Yugoslavia
“Bosnia’s 3 Groups Reach Unity Agreement,” New York Times, November 23, 2005. Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim groups agree to reform Bosnian government to stronger unitary one, for example, with one president instead of three.
"War Crimes Case Revives Passions in a Divided Croatia,” New York Times, December 12, 2005.
“Fiery Campaign Imperils Bosnia’s Progress, Officials Warn,” New York Times, August 27, 2006. Resurgence of ethinic nationalism in all three communities in run up to parliamentary and presidential elections of October first. Current constitutional structure is too complex, but reform failed by two votes. Weakening and possible closure of the Office of the High Representative.
"Tensions Rise as Kosovo Awaits Word on Its Future," New York Times, June 25, 2007.
"Divisive Serbian Vote Offers Stark Choice of East and West," New York Times, February 2, 2008. Contrast between pro-EU Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party and the charismatic pro-Russia Tomislav Nikolic of the Radical Party. Both oppose independence of Kosovo. Tadic won the next-day's election, 50.5% to 47.9%, in a massive turnout of almost 68% of eligible voters. Economic troubles. Democratic Party helped overthrow Milosevic, and Nikolic visited Russia's likely next President Dmitri Medvedev accompanied by Milosevic's brother.
"In a Showdown, Kosovo Declares Its Independence," New York Times, February 18, 2008. This desparately poor, prodominantly Muslim landlocked country is supported by the West, who argued that Serbian brutality meant that country could never rule it. Serbia and Russia argued that it has always been a part of Serbia and that it independence would start a string of successions in Europe. Ethnic Serbs in the northern part of the new country protested, and there were many incidents in the week that followed. The former guerrilla commander Hashim Thaci was elected prime minister on Janurary 9.
"Tilt to West Is Seen In Elections In Serbia," New York Times, May 12, 2008. May 11 elections for 250-seat parliament give pro-EU Democrats 38.4% (102 seats), ultranationalist Radicals 29.5% (77), and Socialists 11.6% (30). Socialists are led by Kostunica who ousted Milosevic. In wake of Kosovo independence any coalition is possible.
"Serbs Set Up Government That Favors The West," New York Times, July 8, 2008. Coalition formed by Democrats and Socialists with aim of European integration for this poor country.
"Bosnia Serb UInder Arrest In War Crimes," New York Times, July 22, 2008. Arrest of Radovan Karadzic, one of "the three most evil men of the Balkans." (Richard Holbrooke) Milosevic was arrested in 2001 and died in 2006. General Ratko Mladic still at large.
"Kosovo's Declaration of Independence Is Within Law, U.N. Rules," New York Times, July 24, 2010. The International Court of Justice at the Hague ruled that Kosovo's declaration was legal under international law, but did not rule whether or not the state of Kosovo was legal. This narrow opinion avoided ruling on the issue of the weights of the right of the people to self-determination versus the right of a state to territorial integrity.
July 28, 2010.