Serbian church leaders turn on Milosevic

The Serbian Orthodox Church, once an ardent supporter of President Slobodan Milosevic's nationalist ambitions in the Balkans, yesterday added its voice to the groundswell of public opinion turning against the government with a withering attack on what it called a "Communist, Godless and Satanic" regime.

An unambiguous statement of support for the anti-government protests, now into their eighth week, was read out at the regular afternoon opposition rally in central Belgrade to a rapturous reception.

"He [Milosevic] has already set up against the whole world and now he wants to pit us against each other and trigger bloodshed in order to preserve power," said the statement, was drawn up by the Church's governing Synod at an emergency session earlier in the day and signed by Patriarch Pavle.

The Church has had its share of problems with Mr Milosevic because his government refused to return property confiscated by Tito's Communists in 1945 and failed to encourage the growth of religious schools. But in the run-up to the 1991-95 war it threw its weight behind Mr Milosevic's expansionist ambitions, seeing the dream of a Greater Serbia as an opportunity for an Orthodox revival.

Yesterday's statement was still nationalist in tone, accusing Mr Milosevic of betraying Serbs in Bosnia and the Krajina region, now reconquered by Croatia. But it was a significant indication of the way in which public opinion is moving away from Mr Milosevic. In recent days, scores of judges, university professors and other prominent officials have come out openly in favour of the anti-government protests.

On New Year's Day, the Writers' Union, which initially applauded Mr Milosevic in the 1980s, issued a fierce attack saying the President was the "enemy of Serbia". The union has revived its famous "protest evenings" - originally established to bring together dissidents of Tito's regime.

On the streets of Belgrade, tens of thousands of people again turned up yesterday to repeat the demands they have been making since late November: for Mr Milosevic to acknowledge the victory scored by the opposition coalition Zajedno [Together] in elections for city councils across the country.

Although the numbers were relatively modest, partly because of the bitter ice and cold and partly because of a menacing presence of armed riot police a few streets away from Republic Square, the focus of rallies and protesters was infused with a new spirit of optimism. Opposition political parties hoped that Mr Milosevic was on the verge of accepting the results of an inquiry by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) into the local elections and grant the opposition the victories it has been claiming. Mr Milosevic had been due to respond to the OSCE survey by yesterday, but it is now believed he will make a statement today or on Monday.

He has shrouded himself in silence in recent days, permitting no reference to the demonstrations either in his own communiques or on state media. His New Year message to the nation referred only to his intention of liberalising the economy in an effort to pull the country out of a deep slump exacerbated by war and four-and-a-half years of international sanctions that have yet to be completely lifted.

While Mr Milosevic's message was broadcast, hundreds of thousands of Belgraders thronged into the streets in their hundreds of thousands - an unmistakable political statement despite the overtly festive motive for the gathering.

Yesterday, the atmosphere remained good-humoured, with demonstrators cheering, setting off firecrackers and blowing through brightly coloured party whistles, while loudspeakers blasted out the frenetic, wildly energetic gypsy music from Underground, Emir Kusturica's prize-winning film about the wars in Yugoslavia.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on