War In The Balkans: The Balkan Question: Key Issues Behind The War Explained

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The Independent Online
What is the role of the Orthodox Church in the war?

To most Serbs, the wars they have fought against Croatia, Bosnia and now the Kosovars have a religious dimension, involving a defence of the Orthodox Church against its historic Muslim and Catholic enemies.

Although few Serbs are religious or go to church, they tend to venerate the Serbian Orthodox Church as the guardian of their national identity and the institution that kept Serb nationalism alive during the long centuries of Ottoman rule. In the optimistic climate of the 19th century, many middle-class Serbs grew impatient with the Church's reactionary outlook and became secular and anti-clerical. But since Yugoslavia's Communist dictator, Tito, died in 1980 there has been a resurgence in Church power. Today, old Communists such as Slobodan Milosevic and the Church share a fear and dislike of the West and Islam. The Church would fiercely oppose any sell-out of Kosovo, which is home to important monasteries at Pec, Gracanica and Decani.

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