DYNAMICS OF EXTINCTION:
NAZARENE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY
YUGOSLAVIA AFTER 1945
Thesis Submitted to
Department of History
Candidacy for the Degree of
Supervisor: Professor Marsha Siefert
Supervisor: Professor Ivo Banac
POSITION OF THE NAZARENES IN CHURCH
STATE RELATIONS IN COMMUNIST YUGOSLAVIA 9
of the 1960s
NAZARENES AND COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE 24
Nazarenes and Compulsory Military Service in Yugoslavia after 1945 27
COMMUNITY IN CRISIS
was the Harshest Time for our Faith"
Dissolution of the Traditional, Coherent, Sacred Cosmos"
war resistance and draft evasion in the most recent war in the former
Yugoslavia (1991-present) have revived the memory of the previous resisters to
war and military service in the newly originated peace movement. This motivated
me to attempt to reconstruct the history of the Nazarene religious community
which was the first group that was persecuted for these reasons in the 19th
century. The Nazarenes were the first and largest neo-Protestant group in what
is now Yugoslavia. Inhabiting mostly the ethnically diverse region of
Vojvodina, the Nazarenes their attitudes towards the national question and
state were important points of differentiation from the rest of society, which
provides interesting material for historical investigation.
roots of the Nazarenes go back to the first half of 19
Switzerland, where a pietistically inclined Reformed pastor Samuel Froelich
(Frölich, Fröhlich) moved to organize his own church in 1831, known
as the Evangelical Baptists (Neutäufer). Reviving the old Mennonite
nonresistant principles, which had begun to whither in the process of
Mennonites' accommodation and secularization, Froelich vehemently opposed
accepting any office or oath or military service and also refrained from
voting. Only such a Christian community would be able to recover its
"authentic" apostolic identity and separate itself from wrongdoings of states
and state controlled churches. A further distinguishing feature was their
striving for high ethical standards as a part of the religious commitment. The
moral conduct together with the revived sense of communal bonding which gave
early Christianity its great strength gained most converts.
the persecution, Froelich's call was echoed by numerous disciples and a
movement emerged. The missionaries spread way over Swiss borders. The community
of emigrant offshoots in the United States became known as the Apostolic
Christian Church. Groups were founded in Alsace and South Germany. The largest
growth of the community, however, was witnessed in the Habsburg Empire and the
Balkans where its adherents were called Nazarenes.
the Mennonites who were predominantly ethnic German, the Nazarenes were of an
extremely mixed ethnic origin. By the middle of the century, the Nazarenes
spread to southern parts of Hungary, which were traditionally the most diverse
in terms of ethnic composition, inhabited by Magyars, Serbs, Germans,
Romanians, Slovaks and others. Up to the present day, ethnic background is a
matter of minor if any importance to the Nazarenes who, united in faith,
actively sought out a solution to the troublesome nationality question, which
had historically rent the region.
Nevertheless, one can concretely observe that most of the converts came from
the Orthodox or Protestant churches.
fact, "Pre-Trianon Hungary contained the largest settlements of Nazarenes,...
especially Serbs and Romanians. The Hungarian Nazarenes may have numbered as
many as thirty thousand members, perhaps even more."
These Serb-speaking Nazarenes carried the faith across the border to newly
independent Serbia, whose church and civil authorities were outraged as this
was the first sect ever to spread among their people.
in Hungary, the Serbian Nazarenes were almost exclusively a peasant sect, with
few artisans and craftsmen. Their common social status united them and eased
the evangelization among the poor.
Sentences of up to ten year 'in chains' were imposed on Nazarene conscientious
objectors in Serbia but they continued to expand, and even reached Bulgaria.
Their peasant stubbornness in defence of their religious beliefs was similar to
that of the Russian Dukhobors which moved Tolstoy and his disciples to stand up
in their defence.
both Hungary and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Nazarenes were perceived as a
kind of social movement of the oppressed, as their ethical and religious
perfectionism prompted them to strongly criticize the prevailing religious and
political order. Their national and social origins and the potential for such
movements' expansion provoked extremely severe persecution from both the
Austro-Hungarian and Serbian and later Yugoslav kingdom.
the persecution the Nazarene community in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia continued
to expand, which was always portrayed as alarming. Newspapers often featured
articles on them, projecting their numbers from one to two hundred thousand
which was certainly an exaggeration aimed at drawing more attention to their
growth of the Nazarene community was succeeded by rapid decline in the period
after the Second World War in Communist ruled Yugoslavia, which is the focus of
this paper. The aim of my research is to explain the process and dynamics of
the extinction of this once quite large and significant religious community.
More specifically, I will concentrate on three issues - on the attitude of the
Communist state towards the community, the issue of compulsory military service
and the responses of the community to these dramatic challenges which were
further influenced by the effects of modernization, intensively and often
forcefully exercised on the Yugoslav society at large.
the first chapter, I will summarize and analyze the position of the Nazarenes
in the larger framework of church and state relations in Yugoslavia after 1945.
This is prerequisite for further analysis as for nonconformist religious
groups, conflict with the communist state was often the key factor accounting
for their growth or decline.
Moreover, the history of the Nazarene community could be also viewed as a test
case for an analysis of the politics of the Yugoslav state, which was usually
perceived as the most tolerant among the Communist countries.
of their pacifistic and nonconformist stand, the Nazarenes were to face very
severe persecution of the new Communist state. The second chapter will thus be
devoted to the problems the community faced in relation to their refusal to
undertake compulsory military service, which I believe to be crucial in the
a region with an overwhelming military culture, and exposed to long term
imprisonment, the Nazarenes opted either to emigrate, to conform or to endure
and resist. They suffered from internal fractional divisions and the loss of
members who abandoned the faith. In order to understand these personal
decisions, in the third chapter I will analyze how the consequences of
secularization, defined as the process by which religious institutions, actions
and consciousness, lose their social significance,
added to state pressure. This chapter will also examine to what extent and in
which ways the members of the closed religious group in the conditions of
extreme societal pressure deemphasize and abandon their own religion and the
subculture connected to it, and replace them with cultural elements from the
these processes and issues have shaped the dynamics of the community or rather,
the dynamics of its extinction in the period observed. According to the 1953
census, there were 15 650 Nazarenes in Yugoslavia, which accounted for the most
numerous Nazarene community in the world. Today, according to the sources from
the community, there are no more than nine hundred baptized members. We might
suggest that their beliefs, patterns of thinking and modes of organizing were
radically different from the rest of society in which they lived. In these
differences and the improbability of their overcoming, I will search for the
answers to the problem brought up by the title of my thesis.
Nazarenes were always characterized by the rest of society as what Wilson
defines as a sect,
underlining its tension with the surrounding culture as compared to
conventional religious organization that accepted the norms of society
according to the church-sect typology in the Christian world devised by Ernst
In the nineteenth century, however, they began and expanded as a movement of
religious dissent and were rapidly spreading, even though very high ethical
standards were demanded from new recruits for “true” conversion.
According to Wilson, after a while a movement acquires some institutionalized
procedures and becomes a sect.
Troeltschean typology, Niebuhr developed, later much criticized, the theory of
'institutionalization' or 'denominationalization' of sects in which, through
the process of accommodation, they became denominations.
According to this theory, sects follow the same course of development and
gradually the intensity of their protest attenuate, their moral stringency
relaxes and they open to other churches. As the thesis will show the Yugoslav
Nazarenes apparently reveal the deficiency of this model.
the following chapters, I will use the term
when referring to the Nazarenes instead of
conveyed and retained up to a present day a strong pejorative connotation in
everyday speech. The communitarian nature is an innate feature of almost all
sects. However, I believe it to be critical for Yugoslav Nazarenes, who lived
in an extremely hostile environment, where they were fully oriented towards the
religious community, and lived out the greatest part of their lives within its
boundaries, developing distinctive cultural and social orientations. The term
community is more inclusive, covering not only the structure of communitarian
groups that was deliberately instituted and amended, but also many incidental
cultural features that have been incorporated into what appears like their
distinctive, almost ethnically determined way of life.
It also better conveys the less organized institutional practices which have
concentrated Nazarene doctrinal discussion at primarily local and occasionally
a regional level.
greatest challenge of this work is the lack of written sources. The Nazarenes
have left no written trace of their existence as an aid to recognition and
scholarly investigation. They wrote no history of their "sufferings" which,
according to Brock, equal, and even surpass, those endured elsewhere by other
story of their uncompromising disobedience to the state was also simply and
completely neglected by Yugoslav communist historiography, even though, as I
wish to emphasize, their audience was much the same as that entertained by the
labor movements first communist groups. Numbering now only in the hundreds,
their faith and practices attract negligible attention.
lacking official recognition, memory of the group has been preserved both
within the community and by outside observers. Therefore, I attempted to use
oral interviews as sources. However, the ongoing war in my country has
prevented me to fully achieve this aim. For this reason, I often had to rely on
testimonies I had heard from the members of the community before I began to
record them on tape. The use of oral history in this project, however, does not
apply solely because it deals with oppressed groups who have no written
history. It is essential in discovering the feelings and motivations of the
members of the community, the beliefs and reasons behind their endurance, the
personal and group reactions to their being oppressed, the reasons for
emigration or abandoning the faith, and ultimately the perceptions of the
society in which they lived and all the influences exerted.
also used the sources of various religious, peace and human rights
organizations, which were to date the only outsiders concerned, at least
occasionally, with the fate of the Nazarenes in Yugoslavia, who have
matter-of-factly accepted prison terms without appealing to outside human
rights organizations. The most precious archival collections related to my
research are the archives of Swiss Nazarenes and their relief organization
HILFE. Unfortunately, the reports found there address the issues exclusively
from the point of view of an outside observer. In the Open Society Archives in
Budapest I was able to review the clippings from the Yugoslav press relevant to
order to draw any conclusion, comparisons with other similar groups in similar
circumstances will be made, notably with the Mennonites in the Soviet Union and
America and Baptists in Romania, who have been widely researched.
the chapter on Church and state I had to overview a vast existing
historiography which, sadly enough, barely mentions the Nazarenes. Numerous
works on Church and state relations in the Communist Yugoslavia, from various
provenance, had helped me, however, to situate the Nazarenes in this
framework and to realize the shortcomings of most of the approaches to this
POSITION OF THE NAZARENES IN CHURCH AND STATE RELATIONS IN COMMUNIST YUGOSLAVIA
issue of Church and state relations in multiethnic Communist ruled Yugoslavia
had a particularly significant importance because of the traditionally close
identification of national and religious allegiance among Yugoslav peoples, for
whom religion is not simply a matter of one's personal faith but also a badge
of national identity.
This had an enormous impact within various conflicts throughout the existence
of Yugoslavia, including its fatal demise. In other words, the state policy
towards religious communities was inevitably linked to the national question,
the crucial problem of both Yugoslavias. Studies on this issue focused
primarily on three major confessions: the Orthodox which amounted to 48%, Roman
Catholics to 36% and Moslems to 14%, out of the total number of inhabitants who
declared themselves to belong to various religious communities, according to
the population census of 1953, the last which showed religious affiliation.
Bearing in mind the World War II fratricidal war experience between members of
these three comunities, this focus is even more understandable. Being less
numerous (1% in 1953), the Protestants are usually omitted from historical
research and analysis. Their history in Yugoslavia, however, becomes
interesting if one is to look for major confessions' attitudes towards
minorities or to test the state's position on religion as such.
early Protestant settlements among South Slavs were destroyed during the
Counter-Reformation. It was only in the late 18th century, after the tolerance
act of Joseph II, that Protestant Germans, Slovaks and Hungarians were allowed
to move and settle into south Habsburg lands, previously populated by Catholic
and Orthodox Slavs.
Apart from these traditional ethnic Protestant communities there was a number
of neo-Protestant groups including the Nazarenes, Methodists, Baptists, the
Christ church of Brethren, the Adventists and the community of Jehovah's
These congregations were quite small, not exceeding a couple of thousand
members, most of whom inhabited the Vojvodina region, which because of its
specific ethnic composition acquired an autonomous position within Serbia and
theYugoslav federation in the Constitution of 1946. The oldest and by far the
most numerous with over 15 thousand adherents was the Nazarene Christian
national and, consequently, religious policy of Yugoslav communist state was
determined by pre-war policy of the Komintern and the prestige that Yugoslav
communists acquired during the World War II. They alone, for the most part,
were able to liberate
their country, and, unlike their counterparts in the rest of Eastern Europe,
establish a new political, economic and social system. The past, especially the
war, had deeply tainted both the relations among religious communities and
their relations with the state. On the other hand, the acquired prestige and
relatively early rupture of ties with Soviet Union and other Communist
countries also account for the somewhat unique policies of Yugoslav communists,
including those dealing with churches and religion. Consequently, the Church
and state relations in Yugoslavia have undergone a series of changes which mark
different stages in their development.
analysing the transformation of religious policy in Communist systems, Sabrina
Ramet demonstrated how modulations in religious policy coincided closely with
modulations in other policy spheres and thus identified four distinct phases in
the revolutionary development in Communist states as
destruction (In Yugoslavia from 1943-1953), system building (1950-1963), system
stabilization(1963-1980) and system decay (1980s).
Paul Mozes develops similar periodisation, using concrete changes affecting the
religious policy as chronological parameters, recognizing all-out conflict
(before 1953); de-escalation (1953-1962); suspension of hostilities and
de-escalation (1962-1967); constructive rapprochement and dialogue (1967-1972).
Both authors agree that there was a noticeable increase in tension between the
authorities and the religious communities since 1972. Preserving this
periodization, I will analyze how it applied to the case of the Nazarene
most of World War II, in order to prevent the alienation of a large, mostly
peasant following, the communist leadership of the Yugoslav resistance movement
was tolerant toward the Church and allowed priests to celebrate mass with the
troops. Even non-combatant service in partisan units was permitted for members
of religious groups whose conscience was not allowing carrying weapons.
The Nazarenes inhabited territories least affected by the war and did
everything to stay away from it.
as the end of the war approached, and the communists became more assured of
their victory, the attitude toward the Church began to change in accordance
with their ultimate goal of secularization and atheization. Moreover, Yugoslav
communists were the first to introduce anti religious legislation and measures.
Having fought for four years and having acquired recognition of their struggle
from the Allies, Yugoslav communists were able to establish a new governing
structure already in 1945, much ahead of other East European countries.
the process of liberation and establishing new governing authorities, serious
retribution was meted out against collaborators and the members and supporters
of other warring factions in the war. Many were killed without any legal
proceedings, but even those who were put on trial by military court could
expect very little in terms of legal defence rights. After the German armies'
retreat, the remaining ethnic Germans were collectively persecuted.
They were deported or exterminated, while the entire German property was
expropriated without payment.
Among the expelled or imprisoned were hundreds of ethnic German Nazarenes, who,
by principles of their faith, were not involved in any of war time German
They were the first victims among the Nazarenes in the post World War II
persecution, and also the first in the long story of emigration from Yugoslavia
that began thereafter.
Yugoslavia's Constitution of January of 1946, which was modelled closely after
Stalin's Soviet Constitution of 1936,
rights were to be enjoyed by all the religious communities. This was not the
case with the pre-war Constitutions of 1921 and 1931 respectively, which had
favored the recognized religions and persecuted the others. In the religious
sphere the 1946 Constitution proclaimed two basic principles: the freedom of
conscience and religion and the separation of the Church from the State. At the
same time, it prohibited the misuse of the Church for political purposes and
religious teachings and practices, which were considered in contradiction to
reality was strikingly different. Religious instruction was removed from
schools in Yugoslavia as early as 1945, and religious publications practically
banned by confiscation of churches' presses. Other administrative, marriage and
school matters were brought to accordance to these provisions like replacing
the church with civil marriage, etc. Religious schools were put under the
supervision of the State. The churches were the most successfully undermined on
the financial level, by the confiscation of land holdings, residence buildings,
hospitals, schools and so forth. This was done first by The Law on Land Reform
and Settlement of 1945 which set the maximum in land ownership of religious
communities and subsequently with The Law on Nationalization of Rent-Houses and
social advancement was strictly dependent on party membership, which was, in
turn, dependent on the rejection of religious belief. The leading dogma of the
period was best expressed in the famous and widely used Marx's quotation,
"Religion is the opium of people", which easily opened the way for persecution
or "curing the addicted". Moreover, the regime's propaganda never ceased
attacking the churches and their adherents for their "passive attitude to the
struggle of the Yugoslav peoples for liberation", and "collaboration with the
This practice had no parallel in the Communist world. It was a part of the
Yugoslav regime's strategy in solving the national question.
this reason, and contradicting its own Constitutional principle, the government
did not deal with all religions equally. The biggest difficulties were
encountered in regulating the relations with two largest congregations, The
Serbian Orthodox Church, and, especially, The Roman Catholic Church and severe
measures were used to suppress their resistance.
Similar, if not harsher pressure was exercised over small nonconformist
religious groups, such as Nazarenes, although this fact is usually less known
and accentuated due to their less numerous following. Besides, the Nazarenes
did not have a strong organizational structure and powerful center abroad who
could alert the public to their sufferings as it was the case with the Catholics.
Furthermore, the Nazarenes were not of a particular ethnic origin as the
Mennonites, which also accounts for lack of attention by the foreign public.
chief instrument for promoting state influence within the churches, striking at
their solid hierarchical structure, was the system of priests' associations
which sprang up after the war, with the regime's encouragement.
The state found it much harder to subordinate the Nazarenes to its political
authority and, or infiltrate and control them by secret police because of their
close communal bonding and their concept of the priesthood of all believers.
The problem with the Nazarenes was that they did not have appropriate head of
the community or one leader with effective power, which, in a way, precluded
the authorities to exercise direct supervision and control of their activities.
Therefore, the state and local authorities decided to punish and bring to
compliance the elders - the leaders of dispersed communities. The intensity of
their religious feelings and the lack of patriotism intensified the state's
hostility. Eventually, the state and police managed to create a division in the
community and thus make it more vulnerable.
collectivization and requisition of agricultural surplus seriously affected
many in post war years, but applied to the Nazarenes, who were almost
exlusively peasant, these measures affected the whole community. Another
difficulty that small communities, like the Nazarenes, had to face was the
provision that prayer was allowed only in specially designated areas. Because
of it, many times were the Nazarenes arrested for gathering and holding prayers
in private houses, which sometimes they could not avoid as many of their
communities did not have special buildings for assemblies.
Throughout this period, it was extremely difficult to receive building
permission for religious purposes. But this administrative persecution affected
the Nazarenes more than the others as being illegal in pre WWII Yugoslavia
they did not have sufficient Community infrastructure.
rupture of ties with Soviet Union and other Communist countries in June 1948
tightened the revolutionary discipline among Yugoslav Communists.
However, after the period of increased terror, the break-up with the Soviet
world brought many positive changes in the long run, including in the religious
policy, as an attempt to ideologically challenge other enemy communist states,
principally the USSR. The relaxation of relations in the process of gradual
destalinization in the 1950s was not so much result of any liberal concepts but
of Tito's instinct for survival, for which all the support of domestic social
and political forces was needed, including the churches and believers. Not
being a political force, the Nazarenes, unfortunately, could not benefit from
this policy change.
of the Conflict (1953-1962)
beginning of de-escalation of stabilization was marked with a new Law on the
Legal Status of Religious Communities in 1953. The Law of 1953 basically
implemented the principles expounded in the Constitution of 1946. Compared with
the legislation of other Communist states, it was much more liberal, as it
neither required state's consent for taking an office in the church, nor
demanded an oath of loyalty of church officers. More importantly, in the same
year, in a public speech, Tito condemned physical assaults on priests which had
become daily practice of anti-religious indoctrinated youth. Consequently, the
public harassment ceased for the most part and the number of trials decreased.
The change did not mean, however, that the previous means were completely
pressure continued through taxation, administrative vexation and most
importantly, absolute supervision of all activities, especially religious
According to Ramet, the second -
system building phase
(1953-1960) in Yugoslavia brought liberalization and not systematic repression
as in the other communist countries in the sphere of religious policy. Although
repression against Churches in Yugoslavia is certainly incomparable to the one
conducted in Soviet Union, I would rather side with Mojzes who designates this
period as de-escalation of conflicts and extends it to 1962. Guided by changes
in foreign policy and rising of Tito's Yugoslavia international image,
non-Yugoslav authors tend to neglect the fact that 1950s and early 1960s were
still characterized by the strong influence of central authorities in all
spheres of life and considerably in the pressure against all churches, for
which there is numerous evidence.
their Constitutional acknowledgement of the freedom of conscience and religion
and the equality of religions and denominations, the state and the party
preserved an essential tool in controlling and repressing these principles.
Religious communites were tolerated as long as neither they nor their members
abuse a religious freedom for political purposes, i.e. meaning that "under the
guise of religious teaching, act against the social system of the country, the
brotherhood and unity of the people, its social development and the
strengthening of its defensive power".
In practice, this condition could be used to curb almost everything related to
religious teachings and activities. This practice had particular consequences
for the Nazarene community, which, although omitted from official records and
reports, had not seen the advancements of the religious policies and practices
of the new state.
illustrate this case, I refer to the official bulletin of Yugoslavian
information service of 1959, which stresses that in the interwar Kingdom of
Yugoslavia, non-recognized communities were persecuted, even if they were not
directed against the social system. This meant the justification of the
Communist Yugoslavia's continued persecution of the Nazarene church and
Jehovah's Witnesses who were seen as non-patriotic and a direct threat to the
communist social system and teachings. Unlike the Catholics and the Orthodox
who were perceived primarily as a threat to the communist policy of ethnic
balance, the Nazarenes and Jehovah's Witnesses in Yugoslavia questioned the
militarization, the intrinsic component of Yugoslav communism, the so-called "
defence and social self-protection.
to this doctrine, all citizens were regarded as soldiers or parts of defence,
while the Yugoslav army was held as a guardian of Communist system and
"brotherhood and unity" of Yugoslav peoples. The third paragraph of the article
7 of the 1953 law stated that "The belonging to a religious community, or the
profession of a religion, does not exempt anyone from the general civil,
military or other obligations which the citizens must perform according to the
In fact, all constitutions of communist countries, regardless of the declared
right of freedom of conscience, insisted that it was the duty of citizens to
defend their country, if need be, by taking up arms. The conflict over
compulsory military service is one of the most important for the plight of
Yugoslav Nazarenes after 1945 and will be examined in detail in the next
smaller in number made the Nazarenes even more vulnerable against pressures
from the communist state apparatus. For a small religious community it was
difficult to enter in any theological discussion or open ideological conflict
with the state or with local authorities like it was the case with powerful
Roman Catholic Church. Moreover, because of their insulation from the rest of
society, the Nazarenes could not profit from some positive developments of the
"socialist" system, such as welfare benefits or state housing.
of the 1960s
the 1960s, different voices within the Yugoslav Communist party ideologists
appeared condemning previous attitudes towards the churches and believers and
labelling them as political sectarianism. Zlatko Frid, the author of a few
books on religion in Yugoslav society at the end of 1960s, noticed these
attitudes in the media; the intolerance against believers in the Army; the
incidents on the funerals where often the communists would not take part if
there was a religious ceremony. Frid believed such an attitude was
counterproductive because many citizens felt rejected by the society and thus
were turning to churches. He advocated the strengthening of
ideology in which the society would take over all the spheres of life,
previously engaged by the Church as well, leaving it with the religious
function only. The utopian ideology of
created by Yugoslav communists was, as it proved later, a failed attempt to
empower the people and build a more democratic society. In the spirit of
the communist theorists claimed that the relations with the Church in
Yugoslavia were no longer a ''governmental" responsibility, but belonged to the
entire society. Nevertheless, in reality the monopoly of the Communist party
was never brought in question and therefore could not provide alternative
approach in any matter, including religion.
some reductions in the length of imprisonment for religious conscientious
objectors and opening of borders were events which, for the first time,
affected the Nazarene community as well. Opening of borders was not aimed at
moderating the tensions but to avoid conflict. Party ideologists in the 1960s
openly admitted that "Difficulties were encountered with those religious
communities whose teaching was in contrast with our juridical system ...
(which) for instance forbade their congregation any participation in public
life, their followers could not elect or stand for election, do the compulsory
military service, carry weapons, etc."
Together with hundreds of thousands of other unsatisfied Yugoslavs, the
Nazarenes could leave freely. In their case, however, this almost signified the
extinction of the community.
new Constitution of 1974 marked a decisive step towards the confederalization
of the state. Following the general idea, the religious policy was also
entrusted to the eight constituent federal units (six republics and two
autonomous provinces of Serbia whose status rose to constituent members of
federation) and their Commissions for Religious Matters. Individual republics
continued the previous policy of supervising churches and the new republics'
laws (1973-1975) did not bring any change, as the party maintained control of
religious life. However, as the system decayed, according to Ramet, it brought
both flexibility and liberalization founded on governmental weakness and chaos
and degree of unpredictability and uncertainty in the Church and state
Following the nationalist revolt in Croatia in 1971, most observers noticed an
increase in tension between the religious communities and authorities who
resorted again to pressure to thwart the increasing role of religion,
indicating thus the political importance of religion and admitting the failure
of their own ideology.
Galloping economic and political crisis in the 1980s turned increasingly
independent leaderships of Yugoslav republics in the opposite direction. Ever
more evidently they were searching solutions to legitimize their power, and
they found it in nationalism and consequently in the churches. As Pavlowitch
concludes: "The process whereby religion merges with nationalism is brought to
a head, paradoxically, under a regime whose ideology is both internationalist
and antireligious. It is brought to a head, no less paradoxically, in a society
that has already, to a large extent, been secularised"
position of Nazarenes in this period was increasingly marginal as their numbers
decreased. Nevertheless, the remaining Nazarenes, loyal to their beliefs,
continued to face the same difficulties and dilemmas in their conflict with the
Army, which strove to retain the old order, despite the political
transformations of Yugoslav Communist leadership.
relations with churches in post World War II Yugoslavia had been embittered
ever since the creation of new social and political order which used all means
to strengthen its power, on the expense of previous elites, which included the
hierarchies of major confessions. Given the uncertainty surrounding the
institution of a new political order, this conflict was unavoidable. Forty
years of communism had eventually resulted in the wide atheization of the
population, which was the highest among the Orthodox and the lowest among
Catholic, with Muslims in between.
Nevertheless, the Churches remained the only institutions outside direct
Communist control and influence, and thus, evoked considerable attention. The
relations with the state improved over time, but could never satisfy any of the
sides as their approaches to the issue were antagonistic by their very nature.
The failure to establish good relations with various churches was the first
sign of the weakness of the national policy of Yugoslav communists, which,
despite some successes and a long period of apparent stable inter ethnic
relations, eventually failed.
for the Nazarenes, whose members did not identify with any particular nation,
the issue of non-conformity proved to be in extreme conflict with the new
Communist order. The small neo-Protestant group such as the Nazarenes were
politically and numerically weak and thus easily targeted. Such treatment was
intended to silence their political opposition and frighten them into
compliance. Furthermore, living in situation of self-imposed isolation, without
much support from outside and without strong organizational structure, their
believers were often left alone to cope with everyday problems of life under
NAZARENES AND COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE
up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall
perish with the sword. (Matthew 26.52)
shalt not build an house for my name, because thou hast been a man of war, and
hast shed blood. (Lord to David, I Chronicles 28.3)
chapter details problems the Nazarenes experienced in communist ruled
Yugoslavia, because of their refusal to carry weapons. The history of the
Nazarenes prior to the World War II is also the one of persecution in relation
to compulsory military service. Therefore, it is necessary to take a brief look
at the reasons for Nazarene objection to military service and overview their
unfortunate experience as a result of this principle in the period preceding
World War II.
Besides their devoted adherence to Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5,6,7), the
Nazarenes' refusal to carry weapons or take the oath of obedience is influenced
by the practice of adult baptism adopted from the Mennonites (Anabaptists).
From this belief that the true Christian church could only be made up of adults
who had freely chosen to be Christian, followed the notion that the church
could not be allied with any state. This was a truly radical idea because it
was associated with the belief that Christians could not take up arms and fight
in defence of any state.
It also meant that obedience to authorities, as preached in the Bible, did not
imply following "wicked orders of rulers". Writing on this issue, Samuel
Froehlich, the founder of the community said:
cannot tell you what you should or should not do: everyone must decide that for
himself... It is, though, a more blessed state for you to suffer wrong than to
do wrong; and whenever such service entails committing sin, I would for my part
much rather be the victim than sacrifice [the life of] another. I do believe
you are being obedient to God's will when you won't do military service.
they appeared, the Nazarenes met strong resistance from both church and civil
authorities, discomfited by their stance against military service. Once they
began to spread across the Habsburg Monarchy, their refusal to bear arms
together with their missionary zeal and the fact that they mostly attracted the
peasantry in multiethnic areas was perceived as a major threat by its political
and military establishment.
In this hostile environment, the Nazarenes showed the greatest strength and
endurance in suffering for their principles. The Nazarenes made converts even
(the frontier regiments), who were mostly Serbs and whose privileged position
depended on the life long military service and border defence commitment, which
further provoked the harsh persecution by the authorities. First reports of
execution of Nazarenes date from the Italian war in 1859, followed by more in
the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and Austria-Hungary's occupation of Bosnia and
Herzegovina in 1878. In peace times the objectors to military service were
tortured and sentenced to long term prison.
the establishment of liberal government in Hungary at the end of the century,
there were unsuccessful attempts to recognize the sect and to ease their
situation. The Nazarenes, themselves, were occasionally accepting the
noncombatant services. But again in World War I, some Nazarenes from the
Serb-inhabited southern frontier districts of the Hungarian kingdom were
executed under the martial law imposed by the government.
the successor states to Austria-Hungary, the situation of the Nazarenes did not
improve and Nazarene conscientious objectors continued to undergo long terms of
imprisonment. In newly created Kingdom of Yugoslavia, most of Nazarenes were
Serbs and no longer an ethnic minority, and the authorities expected change in
their attitude against the military service. However, they stayed steady. In
turn, the state refused to grant them recognition.
story common told among the Nazarenes recalls a Nazarene who was put on trial
and asked why did he refuse to bear arms. He took out a banknote [the money of
the Kingdom of Yugoslavia] and showed what was written on it:
Then he said: "If God cannot save it, how can I?"
was put in prison, along many others, where they usually spend years together
with Communists, who were also disloyal to the Monarchist government.
Nazarenes and Compulsory Military Service in Yugoslavia after 1945
of resistance are many, ranging from Nazarene opposition to national defence
and attempts to have this endorsed, even if it is political destruction. Of
course, when Nazarene behaviour is in question, their conditions differ from
the way they were in pre-war Yugoslavia. They are recognized as religious
communities but their doctrines on the use of weapons, allegiances, etc.,
cannot be acknowledged as
they clash with the interests of our people and therefore with regulations
Viewed globally, this is an attempt to reduce Man to a helpless being who
neither thinks nor criticizes, an object from which absolute obedience and
passivity is demanded.
issue of compulsory military service was critical for the plight of the
Nazarenes in Yugoslavia after 1945. According to many observers their number
decreased most severely due to the basic stances in their teachings, namely the
refusal to take an oath and carry weapons.
The legal recognition of the community by the new authorities did not bring any
change as far as state and military duties were concerned. However, due to the
mounting political pressure and the drastic social transformation through rapid
urbanization, modernization and collectivization, non-compliance became even
more difficult and detrimental for the community.
immediately after acquiring power, the communist governments of Eastern Europe
began building strong military systems based on universal conscription and
compulsory military service, whose role in building a new society and
strengthening the regimes in power was increasingly emphasized.
Consequently, those regimes introduced laws which all included very stiff
penalties for those who refuse to fulfil their military duties. All these
elements were brought to an extreme in Yugoslav case.
the end of war, Yugoslavia had an army of almost a million, which grew out of
partisan units. In the aftermath of the war, the large army was preserved and
used to fight the remaining units of Nazi collaborators and anti-Communist
resistance. Moreover, the party ideologists developed the new defence doctrine
of "nation-wide defence and social self-protection." The roots of the Yugoslav
system of "total" defence lie in the partisan warfare tradition during the
Second World War and the tense post-war period, especially the imminent threat
of Soviet invasion, after Tito's break with Stalin in 1948. The most important
part of the doctrine was the conscripted army in which all men above 18,
without exception, had to do service, whose length varied from three years in
the late 1940s to one year in late the 1970s and 1980s. Furthermore, military
training for both men and women was compulsory both in school and at the
workplace. As the total defence system required a permanent state of
war-readiness, all trained soldiers were translated into reserve units after
their service and continued to be called up for military exercise and training
until the age of 50.
with extreme pressure at home, the Nazarenes generally accepted the call-ups
and headed to their units. The conflict began only after a couple of months of
compulsory political instruction, when the conscripts were supposed to take the
oath and proceed with military training in weapon handling. Having been raised
with the stories of their fathers' long imprisonment in pre-WWII Yugoslavia,
the first generations of Nazarene conscripts in new Yugoslavia were ready to
stand any consequence of their beliefs. Surprisingly enough, the regime, which
showed its brutal face in political pressures and requisitions in villages, was
rather lenient in condemning these first objectors from two to three years of
prison, compared to ten year sentences which were common in the Kingdom of
Yugoslavia. However, the surprise was short lasting, and once the objectors
reached the prisons, they encountered the true face of the new regime. The old
notorious prisons of Lepoglava, Sremska Mitrovica, Zabela, Idrizovo and others,
were now packed with political enemies and the living conditions were
horrifying. Milan Zakic, the Elder of Nazarene community in Novo Milosevo
imprisoned in Lepoglava in 1948 testifies:
prison regime was so strict that I still dream about Lepoglava after so many
years. For any small matter they would put you in a solitary, and many never
got out. Only those there knew what was happening to them. From the window of
my cell, I could see corpses being taken away every day. In Mitrovica, which
was a much bigger prison, only two people died in four years while I was there
[in the 1950s]. In Lepoglava every day somebody died, as they said. Human life
was completely worthless. Mostly Ustasas [Croatian fascists during WWII] were
there. I was never so hungry as when I was there. They were giving us 250g of
something they called bread per day. Our cell was so small that you could
barely stand in it. It had 3 beds for 6 people and one could not sit or lay on
the bed until ordered so. Whoever did was taken to the solitary. If was full
with bedbugs. There were wooden beds and a chamber pot. Only one small window.
I was scared just to think that I would have to spend two years there, and I
was extremely happy when they took us out of there.
saved this group of Nazarenes was the increasing repression which was mounted
against the new wave of enemies - the cominformists, those communists who had
sided with the Resolution of Stalin's Communist Information Bureau in the
conflict with Tito.
Nazarenes, as hard working and confident, were chosen together with others
sentenced for minor offences (for up to four years) and secretly brought to an
island, completely bare, without a single tree - the infamous Goli otok, the
site of future concentration camp for cominformists. None of them knew what
they were building. Dysentery took its death toll too. Later, they were
transferred to other prisons whose living conditions remained frightening for
years. No communication or visits were allowed. The prisoners were not informed
about the death of their loved ones. The Nazarenes, however, stuck together in
prisons and helped each other, no matter where they came from, whether they
were ethnic Serbs, Slovaks, Germans, Hungarians or Romanians. However, any
attempt to gather, say prayers or sing the songs from their
was severely punished with solitary confinement. No books or bible were allowed
the prison conditions were worse than those in monarchist Yugoslavia when the
communists shared the same destiny with the Nazarenes. Now Communists were deaf
to the complaints of their fellow prison inmates. Moreover, right after they
were released, the Nazarenes were called up again by the army and the whole
procedure repeated. To them it seemed that they would be tried infinetely and
incarcerated until they turn 55. First generations of post WWII Nazarene
recruits spent up to 12 years in prison, depending on the year they were
recruited. Here is how one of them experienced his third oath ceremony and
imprisonment in the late 1950s:
my turn came, everybody was staring at me. I said that my faith would not allow
me to make an oath. The commander then stopped the ceremony. All the
journalists were there; the officers were dressed in parade uniform; the canons
were taken out, the stage was decorated. The commander interrupted the ceremony
and ordered me to come in front of everybody and started to yell at me, saying:
"This man is a criminal; a foreign agent; he was thrown in to spoil our army."
And the mob screamed: "To prison with him, to prison." The commander knew I was
not an agent or criminal. Nevertheless, he commanded: "In the name of the
people, Zakic, I arrest you." And the guards took me to prison immediately.
ruthless treatment of religious, predominantly Nazarene, objectors could be
explained with the general sense of military insecurity, heightened by the
permanent fears of foreign military intervention during the crisis with the
Soviet Union and Italy in early 1950s. By 1952, Yugoslavia was devoting nearly
a quarter of the national income to defence, and the Yugoslav armed forces
numbered nearly half a million men.
The military service was also the most important source for developing
patriotism and political support among the youth and the cases of such open
disobedience could not but outrage the military personnel.
is important to notice here that the Nazarene draftees were registering and
reporting to military camps. It remains unclear whether this was a community
devised strategy to diffuse and lessen the conflict with the authorities by
complying with some military initiatives. Nevertheless, it gained them some
respect and confidence from the officials which most of the times secured at
least better prison treatment.
1960, Tito urged against the practice of repeated sentencing for conscientious
objectors which, together with the 1962 Amnesty law, ceased the period of
Draconian punishment of the Nazarenes. In the 1960s, Amnesty International
adopted a number of Nazarene conscientious objectors as prisoners of
conscience. However, there were fewer and fewer reports and Amnesty
International could only allege that Nazarenes continued to be persecuted on
this ground. According to a story in the official army newspaper "Front", by
1969 the cases of Nazarene objection to military service were rare. The story
focuses on the case of A.V., poor and uneducated farmer from Vojvodina who was
sentenced to five years of imprisonment.
its later 1982 report on Yugoslavia, Amnesty International stressed that in the
1960s and 1970s many conscientious objectors had chosen to stay abroad rather
than face imprisonment. However, international human rights organizations or
governments were not interested in this issue at the time.
There were more than 1000 other political prisoners to focus their attention
on. To cope with the foreign pressure Tito and the government occasionally
granted amnesty to political prisoners, including those who did not respond to
army summons or avoided army service, provided it was not a question of
deserters, who fled abroad from the army directly. After 1962, such amnesty
laws were passed in 1973 and 1977, but it remains unknown how many
conscientious objectors, and Nazarenes in particular, benefited from such
provisions. The numbers were high, as the amnesty was also granted for illegal
border crossing and in 1962, the Nazarenes were numerous in this group.
the Soviet led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Yugoslav leadership was
increasingly fearful of a similar situation in their own country and it
promulgated a new National Defence Law, which further strengthened the concept
of "Nation-wide" Defence System. It claimed that it put the Marxist doctrine
of "armed people" into practice. Nevertheless, the officer corps remained
professional and under the tight grip of communist leadership, which believed
and practised strong control over the population through militarization.
access to the archives of military courts, it remains impossible to estimate
the number of those imprisoned for conscientious objection on religious grounds
in 1960s and 70s. The newspapers mentioned the problem only occasionally.
In its survey on the situation of conscientious objection in Yugoslavia,
Religion in Communist Lands, the only Western periodical concerned with this
issue, quotes the Yugoslav official news agency Tanjug which reported on 24
December 1986, that "over the past 15 years, only 152 Yugoslav citizens have
been convicted for refusing to carry weapons for religious reasons during
However, there is no independent confirmation of this official figure.
in the communist world, the rigid stance towards conscientious objectors began
to ease in the 1970s. The trend was initiated in Hungary, where on the supposed
intervention of some communist leaders born in Nazarene families, the Nazarene
community finally gained official recognition in 1977. With it came the
privilege of exemption from military service, and placement in non-combatant
service to which the community conformed.
Similarly, although less successful, campaigns to recognize conscientious
objection followed in Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Yugoslavia, however, there were still a number of Nazarenes in the 1980s
serving sentences in different parts of the country for their refusal to do
military service, and the right to conscientious objection, which would involve
establishment of an alternative civilian service, seemed to be far from
recognition. Amnesty has not been granted since 1977 and the practice of
repeated sentencing was renewed. At that time, the Nazarenes were already
outnumbered by Adventists and especially Jehovah's Witnesses, whose members
started to receive the attention of international media and human rights
groups, as well as the Peace Movement Working Group founded in Ljubljana, under
the auspices of the Conference of Socialist Youth of Slovenia. For the first
time, the details of individual cases have been made known since the release of
a group of Nazarenes who were imprisoned in the1960s.
in Communist Lands
Keston college reported in its news service that in April 1986 the Committee of
Christian Nazarene Communities issued a petition stating "In principle, we are
not protesting against serving sentence for ... (the refusal to bear arms), but
are protesting against the breach of Tito's decree of 28 October 1960, which
ruled out the practice of repeated sentencing" for the same offence.
What that meant in practice is that most religious conscientious objectors
spent between five and ten years in prison. This petition was also reported in
on October 30. The article by Natasa Markovic states that the above mentioned
Committee represents 10,000 Yugoslav Nazarenes.
The problem was also raised in the prestigious Belgrade weekly NIN, regarding,
the famous case of Ivan Cecak who was sentenced for the third time to 5 years
of imprisonment in 1986. Justifying the verdict, the judge Saljic stressed that
"Cecak was not condemned because of his religious beliefs, that are inviolable,
but because of his concrete violations of the law and Yugoslav defence policy."
the discussion to allow a civilian alternative to military service for
religious objectors failed in 1987. According to the official Yugoslav news
agency, the Presidium of the Socialist Alliance of the Working Peoples of
Yugoslavia upheld the position of its 'coordinating committee for all-people's
defence and social self-defence' that the initiative for the introduction of
so-called civilian military service was unacceptable and that no further debate
should be conducted on this. Further, it stated that defence could not be a
question of the free choice of the individual.
This decision, however, left the problem of repeated sentencing unresolved. The
Presidium's spokesman, Renovica, stressed that no changes were being sought in
the Constitution and that no one raised the question of changing the concept of
"nation-wide defence". The Army officials considered the attempts to recognize
conscientious objection, even on strictly religious grounds, as attacks of the
right wing opposition in collaboration with nationalist extremists, with the
intention to undermine the Army's strength in a period of grave crisis in
a period of the crisis and dissolution of Yugoslav Federation, the communist
leadership of the Army believed it was the only force that could preserve the
country, and therefore resisted any attempts at the reform. Together with
Bulgaria, the Byelorussian SSR, the GDR and the USSR, Yugoslavia abstained from
the voting on the UN resolution of 10 March 1987 demanding for the recognition
of the right to conscientious objectors.
Given the importance the Army had for the security and stability of the country
as well as for the maintenance of the existing social order, such challenges
were perceived and rejected as threats on the essence of military legitimacy.
The initiatives put forward by the Ljubljana peace group, which won support
from some Slovenian party officials, were interpreted as a further indication
of Slovenia's aspirations towards decentralisation and eventual secession. At
the same time, as Klippenstein describes: "Notable achievements had occurred in
several countries, but an 'old guard,' with an almost 'Stalinist' frame of
mind, remained in Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and the GDR, which had made some
provisions twenty-five year earlier...". In this respect, Yugoslavia apparently
revealed its 'Stalinist' origins, despite the various attempts in the previous
period to disassociate from the 'hardliners'.
following year, among numerous Jehovah's witnesses, Keston College also
reported a Nazarene imprisoned for refusing military service. Milorad
Doroslovac, 21, from the town of Baranda in Vojvodina, was sentenced to two and
a half years' imprisonment and served in Slavonska Pozega prison in Croatia.
Doroslovac worked in an abattoir before his arrest, and his widowed mother was
reported to be seriously ill while he was in prison.
Although this report assumed that there were other imprisoned Nazarenes, it is
rather significant that, news of these quite numerous cases as I could confirm
later, were not reaching the public. Only a part of the explanation lies in, by
then, the Nazarenes' traditional refusal to draw the
of a wider public or join secular campaigns in protest against the military
reason lies in an unofficial change in the Yugoslav's army attitude towards
conscientious objection in 1988, despite the recent, above mentioned, decision
of the SWPOY Presidium. In an article in the Croatian student magazine, a
lawyer of the imprisoned Jehovah's witnesses, Slobodan Perovic, is quoted as
saying that after completing one sentence for refusing military service, some
conscientious objectors were allowed to serve in non-combat areas, where they
were part of the army and wore uniform, but did not handle arms. Perovic went
on to explain that this solution was usually acceptable to Seventh Day
Adventists and Nazarenes "who have a negative attitude to weapons but not to
the army as an organisation".
on 23 March 1989, the Yugoslav government presented a bill to parliament to
amend conscription rules for objectors. The amendments freed objectors from
bearing arms during their military service, but their term of service was set
for two years, instead of the normal period of one year. Moreover, this
non-combatant service within the army was envisaged only for religious
objectors. The law was passed by the Parliament on 21 April, but its conditions
were categorically rejected by Jehovah's Witnesses as it still assumed the
taking of the military oath.
There were no reports on the attitude of the Nazarenes, who apparently
conformed to the new practice. The acceptance of the noncombatant service was
an event without precedent for the Yugoslav Nazarenes. The acculturation of the
community reached the point where the community could accept and actually
looked for such a compromise. It was perceived as a way to preserve the
remainings of the community.
The offer, however, came too late. By then, the Nazarene community in
Yugoslavia was almost on the verge of extinction.
peace activists were disappointed, as for them conscientious objection was not
an individual matter, deriving from one's religious convictions, but a means to
promote a real alternative to militarism in society. Once the most liberal in
its legislation among East European countries, Yugoslavia was by then lagging
behind in various ways, with the republics' leaderships fully engaged in the
disintegration processes. Even today Slovenia alone of all republics, and now
independents states, has an appropriate conscientious objection law and genuine
civilian alternative service, that meets international standards. With the
outbreak of the war which brought the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991,
thousands evaded their military duty or deserted the troops, especially in
Many were persecuted until the Amnesty act was passed in 1995, as a part of the
wider Dayton peace agreement. Finally, the new Yugoslav (Serbia and Montenegro)
Constitution of 1992 and the Army Law of 1994 provided the possibility of a
civilian service of double length instead of the one-year compulsory military
training, thus bringing the Yugoslavian regulations closer to the standards of
other European countries, which had adopted such provisions much earlier (with
the exception of Greece, Albania and Russia). In practice, however, military
training was only replaced by unarmed service on military premises, usually
of the Nazarenes conformed to such regulations. However, Pavle Bozic, who had
already served a nine-month sentence in 1993, before the new Army Law
provisions, refused such an “alternative service” in 1998 and
insisted on a purely civilian character of service, as envisaged by the Law.
Unwilling to set a precedent, Yugoslav military authorities condemned Pavle
Bozic in February 1998 to one year of prison for disobeying military orders,
which he served in full in the notorious Zabela prison, near Pozarevac in Serbia.
28, is the youngest of nine children of a glass cutter from Novi Banovci, north
of Belgrade in the Vojvodina region . His brothers had all served prison
sentences in pre-1991 Yugoslavia. Unlike the other remaining Nazarenes, who
have chosen to conform to military regulations and, contrary to the position of
the elderly leadership to accept conditions offered and thus prevent further
emigration and shattering of the community, Pavle remained persistent in his
pacifist beliefs and revived the long tradition of Nazarene pacifism in Serbia.
With the help of his family and friends, Pavle managed to attract considerable
attention and interest both for the faith of conscientious objectors in Serbia
and for his, largely forgotten, religious community. He was recognized as a
‘prisoner of conscience’ by both Amnesty International and War
Resisters International, which organized support campaigns on his behalf.
Hundreds of letters, petitions and interventions by members of parliaments
(Germany, Italy, European Parliament and others) and various international
organizations as well as appeals to higher military courts on the ground of the
obvious Constitutional and legal violations remained without an answer from the
Yugoslav authorities. In fact, Pavle’s trial coincided with the beginning
of the war in Kosovo, which drew much of the local and international attention,
thus drowning any interest for this single, if flagrant violation of human
rights in Yugoslavia behind.
conclusion, the insulation of the Nazarene communities, the history of
persecution and exclusion from Serbian, Yugoslav or any other ethnic group
provided no space for national appeals or the discourse of patriotism or the
peer pressure versus their deeply embedded religious pacifism. Unlike the
Mennonites or Quakers, the Nazarenes did not attempt to connect this belief to
the secular value of pacifism promoted, although quite superficially, by the
The society was inimical and from it the Nazarenes only received the hardship.
The length and harshness of imprisonment for conscientious objection had no
parallel in any other country. The Nazarenes fled en masse to escape this
extreme situation. By the time the Yugoslav state established noncombatant
service, there were almost no Nazarenes to apply for it.
COMMUNITY IN CRISIS
was the Harshest Time for our Faith"
any modern nation, but particularly in a Communist state, it is not possible to
separate change in any segment of the society from the role of the government.
Communist authorities had by means of coercion subjugated all aspects of local
political, economic, educational, and even recreational activity. In Chapter 1
we have seen that the communists in Yugoslavia had initiated a fierce
antireligious campaign from as early as 1945. In schools, offices, in their
native villages, at every step the Nazarenes were humiliated because of their
the traditional rural environment of villages in Vojvodina, the home to most
Nazarene communities, underwent a series of other changes. The expulsion of the
Germans and the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of mountain peasants from
Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro loyal to the new regime, from 1945 to 1949
changed the ethnic composition of Vojvodina and contributed to the cultural
disintegration of village communities. Forced collectivization of farm land,
industrialization and urbanization, all common features of Communist system
building, were devastating for the Nazarene community. Here is how these events
were perceived by one of them:
was the hardest time for my family. The time of requisitions. My father was
imprisoned for it and I was in prison for the army at the same time. They
sealed our attic with all the wheat that we had to hand in. We had nothing to
feed our cattle with.
all peasants, regardless of religion, were affected by the state measures in
agriculture, the Nazarene community, comprised almost exclusively of peasants,
was affected as a whole. The collectivization and requisition meant not only
poverty, but a loss of a degree of economic independence they enjoyed before,
which helped them to maintain their distinctive faith, customs and moral values.
deeply traumatised community held a General Assembly of all the village elders
in Vrbas in 1946 to discuss the new circumstances and relations with the state.
The elders agreed that the members of the community should not participate in
"elections"; should not join the "People's front"; should not take and carry
weapons; should not join 'zadrugas' (the Yugoslav type of kolhoz or
agricultural cooperative) or workers' unions etc. Over the next months, the
state responded in kind to each act of resistance. According to personal
testimonies, the elders were arrested on various pretexts such as refusal to
vote, resistance to collectivization and distribution of previously German
owned land, refusal to join the newly formed mass political organizations,
refusal to hand over the alleged agricultural surplus etc. They were often
severely beaten and harassed.
they also imprisoned the elders for not voting... It was the harshest time for
our faith. They [the state] recognized it, but did everything to suppress it
and we suffered a lot. For voting, for requisitions, for everything. Especially
the elders. Then the split happened in our faith.
this intensified pressure on the elders, there was another General Assembly of
the community, in March 1948, in Stara Pazova, in which only those advocating
loyalty to the authorities took part. This Assembly of 42 members unanimously
rejected the decisions taken by General Assembly in 1946, accepted the
redistribution of houses and fields nationalized from Germans, and agreed to
participation in the "People's front" and other mass organizations. Those
elders who desired to hold to the cause of resistance attempted to prevent the
meeting in Stara Pazova. When they failed, they tried to call for another
General Assembly in Kisac, but the police banned the meeting and arrested the
This caused a long lasting division of the community. The state continued to
put more pressure on the so called "reactionary'' or Vrbas group.
In the stories of those who remained committed, this moment is known as "the
division." As my informant explained, it is seen as the event following
directly upon the state repression, and no responsibility is attributed to the
community and its leaders.
division was not a rare case in Neo-Protestant communities in conditions of
extreme pressure imposed by communist authorities. Usually "one part would
adapt to the communist system, try to observe the letter of the law, and
advance the church's interests in relations with the state; the other would
reject the legal premises of the communist state and operate underground.
Wherever they took root, the underground groups were subjected to harsh
This conclusion could be adopted with regard to the followers of Milorad
Doroslovac, the elder who headed the Vrbas group and strongly rejected any
compromise either with the authorities or with the rest of the community.
to the report of the first official visit of the Swiss Nazarenes in 1952, the
community in Yugoslavia was under pressure but thriving. There is no mention of
any split in the community. In Novi Sad, more than three hundred faithful
gathered in the local assembly and 50 children sang in choir welcoming the
visitors. It was similar in Belgrade, Pancevo and Vrbas. There were still many
Germans among the Nazarenes in Vojvodina and in Belgrade's assembly, the choir
sang both in Serbian and German. The delegation reported that the elders were
very concerned for the future of the community, pointing out the pressure,
imprisonment and especially the conditions of extreme poverty faced by most
Nazarene families, in which one or more members remained in prison. The Swiss
brethren were shocked that children were not receiving any religious
instruction, which certainly attenuated the faith and adherence to the
community among new generations. They concluded that the consequences of
imprisonment, long stays in concentration camps [in the case of German
Nazarenes], and consequently broken family ties resulted not only in loss of
material wealth but in spiritual strength. All they could do for the Nazarenes
in Yugoslavia was to make appeals and provide some financial help.
deep crisis in the community continued throughout the 1950s. The Swiss,
Hungarian and other communities sided against Doroslovac, asking for his
resignation. When he refused, in 1959 they dismissed him from the ranks of the
elders. However, Doroslovac and his followers remained steady and in their
turn, disassociated the others as apostates.
numerous visitations of Swiss brethren and appeals for reconciliation, the gap
between the two factions only widened. The leaders were not capable of dealing
with the multitude of problems. At the same time, the community heavily
depended on them. In the report of the General Assembly held in 1961, Swiss
participants described the monopoly of decision-making by elders in the
Yugoslav community: "The elders bring decisions without even consulting other
brothers and sisters, who in most cases do not know about the reasons for the
split or attempts at reunification."
Hence, personal vanity, abuse of power and the paternalistic attitude of a few
elders further contributed to the alienation of many members of the community.
repeated imprisonment for refusal to carry weapons was each Nazarene's most
difficult test of adherence to the community and faith. Various factors
influenced each member's decision to refuse the military service and face all
the consequences or to comply with state requirements and thereafter break the
umbilical cord with the community and basically start a new life. The most
important were socio-economic considerations.
to personal testimonies, those who had some land in private possession could
not afford the 'luxury' of staying in prison, away from their fields for so
long. Their families needed them back home and many prisoners indeed felt as
burdens to their families. Those who married before the imprisonment left their
wives and children behind and their families or community had to support them.
Those who did not marry and returned from prison in their thirties faced a
danger of no longer being able to. Not that these same problems did not exist
before, but in this period living circumstances were rapidly changing. Fewer
people could work in agriculture, and other had to go and look for jobs
elsewhere. The extended family was no longer able to provide comfort to all.
similarities could be drawn with the Mennonite GIs in America. Those Mennonites
who had left the rural community and settled into employment away from the farm
or those who had established non-Mennonite social and cultural networks were
the ones who joined the army.
However, the choices among the Nazarenes were more limited than those of
already acculturated Mennonites in the US. The decision to refuse military
service became tightly connected to the bonding of the community each Nazarene
felt. Similarly to "old" or conservative Mennonites, "the question of
nonresistance was removed from the realm of individual conscience and placed in
the context of a tightly knit Mennonite community".
The stricter the community, the fewer choices there were. In this case there
were only two - emigration or abandonment of the faith.
there is no statistical data which would allow more precise elaboration on any
of these processes. Moreover, those who abandoned the faith are usually
excluded from the collective memory of those who remained. Therefore, the
crucial question of how many Nazarenes emigrated and joined new communities
overseas and how many simply deserted the community remains open.
we could see, decisions to emigrate were mostly taken to avoid the military
service and life conditions of deep poverty and daily harassment.
The fact that the Nazarenes, for the most part, were not taking a journey into
the unknown further facilitated these decisions.
before the end of the war, HILFE, the humanitarian organization of the Swiss
Nazarenes, began to collect aid to support hundreds of exiled ethnic German
Nazarenes from Vojvodina, who found refuge in Austria.
It was preparing for many others who were expected to come once the borders
open. In the spring of 1946, HILFE
searched the refugee camps in Austria and even sent out radio messages looking
for their exiled brethren.
also hired a renowned lawyer from Zurich, who had good relations with the
Russians and Yugoslav president Tito, to negotiate the release of remaining
ethnic German Nazarenes from newly founded concentration camps for Germans.
With the help of American Nazarenes and Mennonites, HILFE was able to build
four refugee camps for 400 Nazarenes from Yugoslavia, who were still in Austria
At the same time, the
was founded for spiritual care of refugees and the journal
(Rejoice). These facilities were used to deal with the continuing influx of
Nazarene refugees, which increased especially in 1956, after the uprising in
Most refugees used Austria only as a transit stop on their way to America and
Canada. The overseas communities arranged immigration visas for their brethren
and HILFE paid for travel expenses.
from the society and traditionally disassociated from their ethnic group, most
Nazarenes could only have hard feelings for leaving their native villages. But
they were leaving in groups of close friends, and often family members
followed. According to personal testimonies, many Nazarenes decided to flee
while in prison. There, whole groups would make plans to leave the country once
they are out of prison, and before the next sentence. One of them testifies:
guy who was supposed to take us [a group of recently released Nazarenes] over
was a traitor. A former Nazarene, who [as it turned out later] abandoned the
faith and worked for UDBA [Yugoslav communist secret police]. Before, he
managed to get one of us out, S., who was imprisoned with me in Belgrade. And
he told us how everything worked well. He found us accommodation in Rijeka
[near the border] where we waited for another guide to come and bring us over
the border. Later on, I figured out that everything was set up. One day as we
walked around with this guy, a photographer came up to us to take photos as a
souvenir. Actually he was from UDBA and just made a record of us. When the day
came we boarded on the bus to Umag. The road passed near the border to Trieste.
On the closest point we got out with our guide and walked on. As we approached
a narrow path between two cliffs, policemen suddenly jumped in front of us and
pointed their guns at us. They got us as chickens, and our guide just
this attempt failed, many others ended more successfully. One can not but
notice the paradoxical situation in which the Nazarenes, who were crossing the
border illegally found themselves. On one hand, their high ethical and
religious principles of nonresistance gained them long term imprisonment, while
on the other, they were consciously breaking the law and leaving the country.
The community did not sanction these attempts. Even the report from the annual
assembly of Swiss Nazarenes in Zurich in 1957, mentions that "the border
control in Yugoslavia in the last period eased considerably, allowing thus
great number of brothers and sisters to flee to Austria, which posed many new
opening of the borders and possibility of Yugoslav citizens to obtain passports
and travel freely in the 1960s had pushed the emigration of the Nazarenes to
its peak, with hundreds leaving every year. Tito's decision to open the borders
and thus purge many potential political enemies was a pragmatic one and a
unique one in the communist world at that time. In the case of the Nazarenes,
it meant that the persecution could be avoided and basic tenets of faith and
community preserved. Their emigration has not ceased ever since. Those who left
before helped the newcomers and overseas communities grew at an ever faster pace.
the Directory of Apostolic Christian Church in America (Nazarean Conservative
Conference) lists around 40 communities scattered around Canada (8), the United
States (28), and Mexico (1), the most numerous being in Ohio, California and
Ontario/Canada. Strangely enough, the Nazarenes in America preserve their
Serbian (or Romanian, Slovak, Hungarian) language and names to an apparently
higher degree than the Orthodox Serbs and other emigrants from majority
denominations. These languages are used in religious services, and Vojvodina
Nazarenes clearly dominate the overseas community.
Émigré communities are also to be found in Germany, Sweden and
Dissolution of the Traditional, Coherent, Sacred Cosmos"
was already noted that industrialization and urbanization undermined
traditional village community and employment patterns in Vojvodina and thereby
subverted the basis on which Nazarenes were able to flourish. Of a nation-wide
survey conducted during 1963-64 among 4, 293 village pupils and 2,271 young
villagers whose parents worked exclusively in agriculture, only 1.3 percent of
the boys and 0.4 percent of the girls indicated a preference for this way of
The Nazarenes could not stay out of these general trends.
necessarily caused a shift in the focus of communal life, which in cities
ceased to revolve around the church. Traditional status hierarchies and
communal relationship that entail trust, loyalty, respect for seniority and
clear patterns of authority were all shaken dramatically.
churches had to contend with the adjustment of their doctrines and structures
to the impact of modernization and state pressure. However, the Nazarenes'
ability to adjustment was low as they were heavily influenced by the social
order and practices of the period of their emergence and growth, that is the
19th century. Not only religious dogma, but also lifestyle and practices were
Nazarene marriage principles remained very traditional, conservative and
inflexible to modern circumstances. They marry young, exclusively within a
community and have a lot of children. Married women usually do not take jobs
in public sphere, although there have been some changes recently.
Traditionally, the Nazarenes also do not practice worldly joys, do not sing and
dance, do not celebrate weddings, do not drink or smoke and moderation in
everything is strictly expected. Challenged by changes, the Nazarenes had to
constantly demonstrate through their behaviour to the others the intensity of
their religious commitment and high ethical standards which stood out as their
points of distinction. But some of their principles and customs and the intense
level of devotional involvement could not be sustained in the new circumstances
and were a source of more internal pressure within the community.
this period, the Nazarenes in Vojvodina were unavoidably exposed to some degree
of acculturation and modernization. Their lifestyle and culture was slowly
changing, adopting the dress, hairstyles, new invented technical devices,
recreational activities, and even the political ideas of their neighbors.
There, one might find reasons for the decision to accept the noncombatant
service within the army, which occurred in the 1980s. The future will prove
whether this compromise will influence the further life and growth of the
community. One is sure, it came too late.
good example of change under pressure is shown by the case of the traditional
head covering of women, one of the basic customs and tenets of the Nazarean
faith. Traditionally, the Nazarenes' dress code was very plain and women
covered their heads with black scarfs. Nowadays, Nazarene women in Yugoslavia
continue to wear scarfs, but more and more buy colourful and fashionable ones.
In the overseas community, this custom underwent even more radical change.
the influence of general liberalization of the country and opening of the
borders, the religious landscape in the 1960s and '70s became far more
heterogeneous than before. Not only did the traditional churches gradually lose
their monopoly, but so did the Nazarenes, which ceased to be the only group to
attract new followers with their alternative communal and religious concept.
a climate of increasing and harsh restrictions elsewhere in the Communist
world, the number of neo-Protestant believers was mounting. For example, when
Baptists in Romania openly refused to be intimidated, large numbers of new
believers were attracted to the faith.
Even the Russian Mennonites underwent an unexpected revival in the late sixties
and seventies, following the ease of pressure by the authorities which
previously decimated the group.
similar development could be observed in the rise of Adventists in Yugoslavia.
During the Communist period, they became by far the largest Protestant
community, reaching tens of thousands of the faithful. They also established
very strong organizational structures and educational facilities and replaced
the Nazarenes as a thorn in the eye of the authorities. The Adventists and
Jehovah's Witnesses have shown much greater adaptability, adopting modern
rational methods of proselytizing.
However, I do not believe these to be the only reasons for their growth and
these groups deserve a study of their own.
the transformation or 'institutionalization' of the sect as defined by Niebuhr
never happened within the Nazarene community. According to testimonies, those
who remained in faith have discovered an inner freedom after accepting the cost
of being a Nazarene Christian. Their commitment, emphasis on simple life, the
sense of community and love for the brethren still survive. But the community
turned static, very conservative and ceased the evangelization. Instead of
aiming to increase in size, it aimed at increasing respect for its principles,
one of them being a separation from the rest of the world.
Their moral stringency was not relaxed, nor did they open to other churches and
society in general. The style of worship and leadership structure also remained
the same. As I could observe in the interviews, the mentality of "us versus
them" was cultivated against the compromising stance up to the late 1980s. This
isolation and strong communal spirit prevented contacts and association with
similar congregations such as Baptists, which was often the case in
neighbouring Romania or Soviet Union.
the answers to the problem stated in the title must be looked at the historical
context of the Nazarene community. During the period of communist Yugoslavia,
secularization was coerced by all means in addition to the processes of
economic and cultural transformation of the traditional community setting.
these conditions, one can not apply to the Nazarenes Wilson’s
sociological assumption about the forces of secularization. He has argued that
secularization, which meant a loss of power for conventional religion, did not
in itself affect sects to anything like the same extent.
The case study of the Nazarene community in Yugoslavia demonstrates that in
response to the coerced secularization, a sect may split, many members may
abandon it or emigrate, while those who remain may never "institutionalize."
Because of these contradictions, the results of my research can contribute to
the wide debate on the impacts of secularization.
most devastating period for the Nazarene community in Yugoslavia came in the
aftermath of World War II, amid the distressing social, economic, religious,
and political conditions that prevailed during the building of new Communist
society. After the initial period of intense persecution of churches, Church
and state relations in Yugoslavia presented an example of rather usual
Communist religious policy, which was a mixture of pragmatic and ideological
considerations. However, the pragmatic and ideological changes that took place
under Communist government did not refer to the Nazarenes, although they were
officially recognized in this period for the first time. Because of their
nonconformist attitude, their religious freedoms were never fully granted,
especially the right to refuse military service on religious grounds
extreme pressure, leaders and rank and file members of the community had to
choose between preserving doctrinal purity or conforming to the society.
Whether to accept or reject military service became the most important test of
the Nazarene doctrine of nonconformity - the point which together with other
problems of cooperation with the Communist state caused the first division in
personal decisions of village community elders played a very important part in
different responses to similar challenges, and these could be the reasons why
some of scattered groups remained, and other vanished. Most Nazarenes estimated
that only insulation can preserve the purity of their faith and the community
together. Rather than acculturation and permeation, the Nazarenes chose
emigration. As we have seen the community, both local and international, did
not condemn and sanction the emigration, but actually organized and helped it.
conclusion, the manifold sufferings of the forties and fifties, together with
the massive disruption of traditional modes of existence and inadequate
response from the community leadership gave way to a decline in spiritual
strength among the Yugoslav Nazarenes and increased their likelihood of opting
for the way out of the community or alternately out of the country. Unlike
other sects, of more recent provenance, who have shown a greater adaptability
to challenges of the secularization, the Nazarenes were locked in postures
heavily conditioned by the time of their emergence and its subsequent formative
period in this area. Despite some compromises made with the state, they never
became fully acculturated.
these conclusions, based on the available sources and testimonies of my
informants from the community, present only a partial answer to the problem
stated in the title of my thesis. For more insight to the issue, one has to
interview those who have abandoned the Nazarene faith, the
émigrés, the Communist party ideologists and functionaries, and
certainly research in, for the moment, inaccessible Yugoslav archives of
military and civil courts. This task awaits a more peaceful era in Yugoslavia.
(the Nazarene Community in Germany and Switzerland)
(ETG relief agency)
and News Services
in Communist Lands
News Service - KNS
Books and Monographs
from the War in Former Yugoslavia
Belgrade: Women in
and State in Yugoslavia
Stalin against Tito
Ithaca and London: Cornel University Press,
T. "Protestantske verske zajednice." in
Communities in Religion and Society"). Beograd, 1988.
from Violence: Sectarian Nonresistance from the Middle Ages
the Great War
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.
in Europe to 1914
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.
Service, Religous Faith, and Acculturation: Mennonite G. I.s
their Church, 1941-1945."
Nazarenstvo njegova istorija i sustina
and Principles). Novi Sad: Srpska Manastirska Stamparija, 1894.
H. Frank. "The Mennonites" in A
of Religion in the Soviet Union 1917-
University of Chicago Press, 1971.
u samoupravnom socijalizmu
New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
The Role of the Military in Communist Yugoslavia: A Historical
Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, n.d.
Invisible Religion: The Problem of Religion in Modern
New York: Macmillan, 1967.
Paul, " Christian-Marxist Encounter in the Context of a Socialist Society." in
of Ecumenical Studies 9. 1972.
Social Sources of Denominationalism
New York: Holt,
Uster: Verlag ETG,1996.
Improbable Survivor: Yugoslavia and its Problems 1918-
C. Hurst & Company, 1988.
David. "Ready for War: Oregon Mennonites from Verailles to Pearl
Quarterly Review, 64. July, 1990.
(With Faith against Faith). Beograd: INIS, 1995.
Petra Sabrina. ed.
and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia
and London: Duke University Press, 1992.
and Transformation in Communist and Post-
Boulder:Westview Press, 1992.
C. "The Mennonite Identity Crisis." Journal of Mennonite Studies 2, 1984.
London: Wiedenfled and Nicolson, 1989.
New York: Columbia University
- Djurdjevic, Biljana.
Hunters). Beograd: Zig, 1997.
Church and State under Communism, vol.III Yugoslavia.
Printing Office. 1965.
Church in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Belgrade: Information service
Social Teaching of the Christian Churches
The Position of Churches in Yugoslavia
in Sociological Perspective
Oxford, New York: Oxford
Naomi Daphne. "The Quest for Mennonite Peoplehood." Canadian Review
Sociology and Anthropology, 30 (1), 1993.
Novo Milosevo, Yugoslavia, November 1, 1998.
overview of the early history and beliefs of the Nazarenes in Peter Brock,
Pacifism in Europe to 1914
(Princeton University Press, 1972), pp.495-498.
to the 19th century Serbian writer on the Nazarenes, their name comes from the
similar Pietist group, founded by Jakob Wirz in Switzerland and Virtemberg at
the begining of the century. They were called "New Church" (Neukirche) or
"Nazarene community" (Nazarenergemeinde), and similarly were characterized by
millenniarism, forbearance, humbleness, repudiation of oaths, nonconformity -
Sad: Srpska Manastirska Stamparija, 1894) p.15. They are not to be confused
with the Church of the Nazarene, founded in the US in this century.
They follow strictly the word of the Bible: Praise ye the Lord,... Kings of the
p. 497. Dimitrijevic gives numbers for 1891, when there were 6829 Nazarenes in
Hungary, among whom 4400 were Serbs (out of 1 million), acknowledging, however,
that numbers might be bigger (
people does not look at what is offered but takes it with confidence, even more
so when the giving hand is blistered just like his own." Georg Schwalm,
Lutheran pastor in Pancevo commenting on the Nazarenes, in Dimitrijevic ibid,
Yugoslav major daily newspaper
for example, reported on February 18, 1925 (No 6042), that whole Serbian
villages are joining the Nazarenes or Adventists and estimated their number at
Sawatsky stresses in his study that the evangelical sects by definition must be
in conflict with a state with totalitarian pretensions - "Recent Evangelical
Revival in the Soviet Union: Nature and Implications" in
and Communist Society
ed. by Dennis J. Dunn (Berkeley: Berkeley Slavic Specialties, 1983), p.111.
definition was first used in Bryan Wilson, Religion in Secular Society (London:
Watts, 1969), p.xiv.
Wilson defines sect as a group that covets obscurity and engages in exclusive
membership policy, total commitment, purity, and uniqueness -
in American society
(Englewood Cliffs:Prentice-Hall, 1978)
basic study by Ernst Troeltsch,
Social Teaching of the Christian Churches
York:Macmillan, 1931, 2 vols)
Religion in Sociological Perspective
(Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), p.102.
Social Sources of Denominationalism
(New York: Holt, 1929)
Religion in Sociological Persective
Freedom from Violence
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), p. 188.
For example, see Walter Sawatsky,
Soviet Evangelicals since World War Two
(Kitchener, Scottdale: Herald Press, 1981), Steve Durasoff,
(Fairleigh: Dickinson, University Press, 1969), Dennis J. Dunn, ed.
Religion and Communist Society
Berkeley Slavic Specialties, 1983).
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), p. 194. Other authors who vies the
Church and state relations in Yugoslavia in this context are Stevan Pavlowitch,
C. Hurst & Company, 1988) and Pedro Ramet, "Religion and Nationalism in
and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politics
ed. by Pedro Ramet (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1989).
churches or non-Christian faiths accounted for less than one percent
Church in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
(Belgrade: Information service Jugoslavija, 1959), p. 3.
German and Slovak Lutheran Churches and the Hungarian Reformed Christian Church
(Calvinist) remained exclusively ethnic and attracted few, if any, other
converts. The largest Protestant group in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia before the
Second World War was the German (Lutheran) numbering more than 120 000. After
the dramatic deportations and extermination of the members of this church, the
Protestants remained as largely splinter groups with only regional
significance, the most numerous being the Slovak Evangelicals, numbering around
60 000 after the war. The predominantly Hungarian Reformed Christian church
also lost many of its followers and claimed around 40 000 members in 1946. For
more on other Protestant denominations see T. Brankovic, "Protestantske verske
Jehovah's Witnesses are usually not included in neo-Protestant denominations as
they departed from original protestant teachings. See various articles in
and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia
ed. by Sabrina Ramet (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1992).
There were also 1644 baptists, 333 methodists, 3239 adventists or all together
21 241 members of neo-Protestant communities in Vojvodina. Radmila Radic,
Verom protiv Vere
Beograd, 1995), p. 361.
refer to liberation only as liberation from Nazi occupation.
and Transformation in Communist and Post-Communist Systems
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1992), p.142.
Mojzes, "Christian-Marxist Encounter in the Context of a Socialist Society" in
of Ecumenical Studies
9, no. 1, (1972).
to testimonies this was the case with the few Jehovah's Witnesses and
Adventists in partisan units. In one interview I also learnt about the Nazarene
who was executed at the end of the war for refusing to take arms, but I could
not confirm it.
Out of more than half a million of ethnic Germans (Donau Schwaeben), the
largest pre-war national minority, around 370 000 (70.7%) were evacuated or
managed to escape in front of Yugoslav Partisan or Soviet Red Army forces in
1945. - Manfred Straka (ed.), Handbuch der europaeischen Volksgruppen (Vienna,
Stuttgart: 1970), p.406.
The Anti-Fascist Council for National Liberation of Yugoslavia, the war time
provisional government, issued a law on November 21, 1944, providing for such a
policy. This property, including some areas of best acreage and over 80 000
houses later became the conflicting issue among the Nazarenes. Zoran Janjetovic,
The Expulsion of the Vojvodina Germans after the Second World War
MA thesis (Budapest: Central European University, 1995), p.15.
authors close to the Yugoslav state and army claim that some ethnic German
Nazarenes joined the Kulturbund (the pro-Nazi association of Yugoslav Germans)
and that the most respected elder Milan Doroslovac collaborated with the
occupation forces. Biljana Djurdjevic - Stojkovic,
(Beograd: Zig, 1997), p.37.
Position of Churches in Yugoslavia
(Belgrade,1962), p. 31.
more see various histories on this period or the most concise work in English
by Stella Alexander,
and State in Yugoslavia
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
"The link with the Vatican and with the church elsewhere in the world generally
gave the Catholic Church in the communist countries a unique inner
independence, a spiritual strength, which provided it with the fortitude to
resist by means of delaying tactics or even open defiance" - Gerd Stricker,
"Afterword" in Sabrina Petra Ramet (ed.),
and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia
(Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1992), p. 333.
state offered social insurance and pensions when the impoverished churches
could not provide their clergy with it. By July 1952, 80 % of Orthodox priests
joined the association which became the main vehicle through which the
communist regime conducted business with the Serbian Orthodox Church. Sabrina
and Transformation in Communist and Post-Communist Systems
Assembly is the Nazarenes’ prayer house.
"At the end of the war, Yugoslav Communists were, if anything, too unabashedly
Stalinist in their behaviour even for Stalin's liking. They demonstrated that a
Soviet-type political system can be introduced without an actual Soviet
presence. It was precisely Moscow's attempts to penetrate these instruments of
'Sovietization', and their failure, which became one of the main causes of
Stalin's break with Tito". - Jacques Rupnik, The Other Europe (London:
Wiedenfled and Nicolson, 1989), p. 80.
Church in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Yugoslav communist syntagm for the Marxist concept of 'total' defence was also
translated as All People's Defence, General People's Defence, etc. In
Serbo-Croatian: Opstenarodna odbrana i drustvena samozastita, ONO i DSZ
Fundamental Law on the Legal Status of Religious Communities,
Official Gazette of the F.P. R. of Yugoslavia
(No 22 of May 27, 1953).
u samoupravnom socijalizmu
(Zagreb: Binoza, 1971), p. 89.
(Zagreb: Binoza, 1971), p.77.
was not the single case. After the forced expulsion of Germans, Jews and Turks
were allowed to leave Yugoslavie en masse in the 1950s.
and Transformation in Communist and Post-Communist Systems,
ibid, pp. 108-111.
ibid, p. 108.
in the mid eighties demonstrated that among young people of Catholic origin 62%
considered themselves religious, 43 % Moslems did so, and only 26% of Orthodox
- Srdjan Vrcan, "Omladina osamdesetih godina, religija i crkva," in Polozaj,
svest i Ponasanje mlade generacije Jugoslavije: Preliminarna analiza rezultata
istrazivanja (Belgrade, 1986), 159. One should note that there were enormous
regional differences and the accuracy and objectivity of such polls is
doubtful. Also religiosity in eighties was on the rise.
connection of two principles is best demonstrated in the testimony of one of
the first Froelich's disciples in Switzerland:"To shoot at a man or even just
to carry a rifle is roughly as sinful as to allow children to be baptized."
cited in Peter Brock,
(University of Toronto Press, 1991), p. 173.
Letter to Joachim Keller, 22 May 1840, excerpts printed in ibid., p. 176.
the English summary of the history of Nazarenes in Hungary before 1914, and
especially of the persecution because of the objection to military service see
ibid., p. 172-190.
paragraph comes from a top Yugoslav official and an authority on morality and
religious policies, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Todo Kurtovic,
and Religion in Socialist Self-Management Society
Socialist Thought and Practice: Belgrade, 1980), p. 244-245. Emphasis added.
Pavlovic, Zablude na tudj pogon,
24. 8. 1986. This and most other press clippings are found in the Open Society
Archives, Budapest. The sources are identified but the page number is missing.
only exception, for obvious reasons, was the GDR, where conscription was
introduced only in 1962. The motto of GDR's rulling Socialist Unity Party
prior to 1962 was "No German may again take a weapon in hand," cited in
Lawrence Klippenstein, "Conscientious Objectors in Eastern Europe" in
and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia.
with Milan Zakic, 1 November 1998.
Yugoslav party and the secret police staged an all-out war against as much as a
fifth of their membership.The existing prisons could not accommodate thousands
of newly arrested, so the party leadership decided to build a new and special
camp, designed to "re-educate and rehabilitate" former 'comrades' through
process of complete debasement and annihilation. For more see Ivo Banac,
With Stalin against Tito
(Cornel University Press: Ithaca and London, 1988).
The Nazarene hymn book
The Role of the Military in Communist Yugoslavia: A Historical Sketch
(RAND Corporation: Santa Monica, n.d.), p.5.
Popovic, "Nazareni na vojnoj vezbi,"
28, 1969, pp. 34-35.
problem is not even mentioned in the otherwise very detailed American Senate
report - The Church and State under Communism, vol. III Yugoslavia, US
government printing office, Washington, 1965.
Schopflin, "Total Defence in Yugoslavia," Defence 107, RFE CR. U. talk n.
2 April 1969, or the official news agency Tanjug report (1439 GMT, 27 June
1973), or "Crkve u Jugoslaviji,"
7 September 1980.
with General Daljevic in Narodna Armija, 1 January 1987, also published in
"Conscientious Objection: The Situation in Yugoslavia,"
in Communist Lands
vol. 15, N
3 (Keston College, Winter 1987), p. 332 - 335.
of the Nazarenes Recognized,"
in Communist Lands,
vol. 6, N
1 (Keston College, Spring 1978), p.53.
The exemption was further extended to Jehovah's witnesses, Seventh-Day
Adventists, and Bokor (Bush) Catholic base worshipping communities. Many
problems remained, especially in the case of the later who were members of a
Church which did not share the same pacifist views.
in Communist Land, vol 15, N
(Keston College, Winter 1987).
News Service (KNS) N
271, 19 March 1987.
264, 27 November 1986. The number stated does not accord with my estimations.
preca od Religije,
3 October 1986.
271, 19 March 1987.
Vucetic, Jedinstvo-brana svim negativnostima,
20 february 1987.
Resisters International Newsletter, N
(March-April 1987), p.9.
296, 17 March 1988.
list, 18 May 1988, reported in KNS N
309, 22 September 1988.
13 April 1989, and KNS N
325, 11 May 1989.
other countries the noncombatant service was accepted by the Nazarenes much
earlier. The credo of American Nazarenes under point 12 says:"... Laws and
ordinances - local, state, and national - are to be respected and
conscientiously obeyed, except when to do so violates the commandment of God.
The call to military service likewise is to be respected and obeyed, but with
the Biblical limitation to non-combatant service as taught by Jesus Christ:
"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,
and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." Matt.5:44;
Heb.12:14; Rom.13:1-10; I Pet.2:13-14; Matt.22:21(www.acpub.org).
Aleksov, Deserters from the War in Former Yugoslavia (Women in Black:
to Perry Bush, "Military Service, Religious Faith, and Acculturation: Mennonite
G.I.s and their Church, 1941-45," Mennonite Quarterly Review (no date), 261-281.
Milan Zakic, ibid.
personal testimonies and official sources cited in Radmila Radic,
Beograd, 1995), p. 36.
Stricker, "Afterword" in Sabrina Petra Ramet (ed),
and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia
Bericht uber die Reise nach Jugoslawien vom 26. Juli bis 2. August 1952 (Georg
uber die Besprechungen von 3 schweiz. Aeltesten mid den Brudern in Jugoslawien,
vom 10-13. September 1961.
Bush, "Military Service, Religious Faith, and Acculturation: Mennonite G.I.s
and their Church, 1941-45,” Mennonite Quarterly Review (no date), 261-281.
Peterson, "Ready for War: Oregon Mennonites from Versailles to Pearl Harbor, "
Mennonite Quarterly Review, 64 (July, 1990), 224-228.
emigration to United States, where the Nazarenes joined the Apostolic Christian
church, dates back to the 19th century. The first and most famous chronicler of
the Nazarenes Makovicky does not connect it closely to their objection to
military service (Dusan Makovicky, Nazarenova v Uhrah, Nasi dobra 1886). From
the field work, I came to quite opposite conclusions, especially during WWI
(interview in Elemir, March 1999).
was founded in 1921 in Zurich to cope with the needs of the seriously affected
Nazarene community in the First World War. For more on
see Bernard Ott,
(Verlag ETG, Uster, 1996), p. 108.
reports recount in more details the miserable conditions in refugee camps for
Hungarians in Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav Nazarenes were trying to help and visit
the refugees, which was often forbidden and sometimes, the visitors were
also intervened through high representatives of UN to Yugoslav authorities to
allow the exiled Hungarian Nazarenes, in refugee camps in Yugoslavia to leave
der Jahresversammlung der Genossenschaf "HILFE" Zurich vom 5. Oktober 1957),
der Jahresversammlung der Genossenschaf "HILFE" Zurich vom 5. Oktober 1957,
www.acpub.org (Apostolic Christian Church Directory).
Invisible Religion: The Problem of Religion in Modern Society
(New York: Macmillan, 1967), p. 101
York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 317.
is a very common phenomenon for sects. The Amish Mennonites, who retained their
original peasant styles of clothes, recreation and work habits, despite their
subsequent migrations and passing of time, are the most famous example. See
in Sociological Perspective
University Press: Oxford, New York, 1982), p. 106.
18 of the doctrine of the Apostolic Christian Church in America says: We
believe that a veil or head covering is to be worn by sisters in the Lord
prayer and worship
as a symbol of their submission according to God's order of creation. I
Cor.11:1-16. Emphasis added.
Scarfe, "Romanian Baptists and the State" in
in Communist Lands Vol 4
No2 Summer 1976, p.18.
a brief sketch on Russian Mennonites see Frank H. Epp, "The Mennonites" in
of Religion in the Soviet Union 1917-1967
(The University of Chicago Press, 1971).
capacity to bring together ancient teachings and modern techniques is part of a
formula of success for modern sects." Wilson, ibid. p. 106.
Similar challenges have also seriously affected the Mennonites, and made their
isolationist practices improbable, if not impossible: "Whereas in the past,
Mennonite social structure displayed a high degree of institutional
completeness typical of small-scale societies, the Mennonite world is now
characterized by a multitude of loosely-integrated organizations, networks and
lifestyle choices.” Daphne Naomi Winland, “ The Quest for Mennonite
Review for Sociology and Anthropology
30 (1) 1993.
identified the Mennonite response to these challenges as the "Mennonite
identity crisis.” As for the Mennonites, the change in the meaning of
community from a geographically-bounded social entity, the community of place,
as Winland put it, to a community with symbolic connotations (community of
believers) has inevitably led to an ‘identity crisis,’ but also to
major adjustments and strengthening. C. Redecop, “ The Mennonite Identity
of Mennonite Studies
ibid. p. 93.