8 September 2005, Volume 7, Number 26
POPULISM AND THE CHURCH IN MONTENEGRO
A program of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Omer Karabeg
RFE/RL: Today we will discuss the role and status of the Serbian Orthodox Church [SPC] in Montenegro with our guests: Budimir Dubak, spokesman of Montenegro's opposition People's Party and former Montenegrin minister of religious affairs, and Branislav Radulovic, spokesman of the Social Democratic Party [SDP] of Montenegro, a member of the ruling coalition.
Radulovic: Allow me to quote Bogdan Bogdanovic, a famous former mayor of Belgrade and world-renowned architect. When he was asked whether he feared nationalism, war, and the other things that characterized the early 1990s, he sad that what he fears the most are primitive people. Asked about Amfilohije Radovic, he said, "Cut off both my legs if that Amfilohije believes in God."
Dubak: Who can say things like that? People like you: agnostics, unbelievers, and the like.
Radulovic: Mr. Dubak, are you a god, since you feel able to tell us who are believers and who are unbelievers, or are you a spokesman of a political party?
Dubak: I judge on the basis of the things you say against God and the church. This is how I determine who is an unbeliever. However, the problem is not with those unbelievers whom I respect. The problem is with people like you who attack the faith and God.
Radulovic: You are accusing a person of attacking God and being an unbeliever. You behave like the famous inquisitor Torqemada, who determined who should burn at the stake and who should not.
But let me return to the real topic of this debate. The fact is that the Montenegrin political public is irritated by the fact that the SPC has seriously and even radically entered the political sphere, which is not good.
I would like to contrast this with the positive example shown by the Russian Orthodox Church. During the attempted coup against the then President [Boris] Yeltsin, the Russian patriarch successfully stayed above political conflicts. He said that the Russian Orthodox Church is a national institution and its role is to ensure the unity of Russia.
By contrast, just look at Mr. Amfilohije Radovic's speech about nailing the Dukljani [the pro-independence members of Montenegro's Duklja Academy of Science and Art] to the Vizier's Bridge. As far as the international public is concerned, his most scandalous speech was the one [in May] at the funeral of Radovan Karadzic's mother, whom he ranked among the great heroic mothers [of Serbian history, see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2005].
Dubak: Unfortunately I could not attend the funeral. But let me tell you, I would have been glad to attend the funeral of Radovan Karadzic's mother.
What you are doing now is simply not good. You are talking about funerals and speeches. There is something necrophilic about it. It is horrible to see how you are trying to use other people's suffering for your political purposes. However, nothing surprises me from [your] minor political party -- a political sect as we call it -- that lives as a parasite in Montenegro but reigns supreme [in the governing coalition]. And that party's president is known for his Nazi statements.
Radulovic: Mr. Dubak is the last person who should dare to talk about someone's necrophilia, since his party was the one that sent volunteers to make war on and kill other people. I reject with indignation his claims about Nazism, since Nazism is rooted in the persecution of the Jews, and so much ethnic cleansing was carried out in our region [in the 1990s] in the name of Christ and in the name of [the Serbian medieval] St. Sava.
Amfilohije himself compared [the role of] Radovan Karadzic as the "guardian" of his people with [that of 19th-century linguist and author] Vuk Karadzic as the preserver of our language. [Amfilohije also compared former Bosnian Serb President] Biljana Plavsic with the Kosovo Girl [who took water to wounded Serbian soldiers in the medieval Kosovo epic in Serbian folk poetry]....
Dubak: Mr. Krivokapic belongs to the extreme right. He is a follower of what I have already mentioned, and I repeat it now: Nazism. If someone says that some 260,000 citizens of Montenegro living in Serbia are not worth a shot of gunpowder, what he is trying to say is that ammunition should not be wasted on them, that they should be dealt with some other way. With gas chambers or what? Something cheaper? A person who decides to congratulate only one part of the national team after the world championship title is won…is worse than Hitler, with his negative reaction to [African-American athlete Jesse] Owens' victories in the Berlin Olympics of 1936. And third, if someone says that the SPC has no chance of winning in "a war" with Montenegro, that is a formal declaration of war against the SPC....
Radulovic: Such statements are scandalous..., but that is not the topic of this debate, which is the role of the SPC. Please allow me one more quote: "It is very bad for a country if an organization is under no control whatsoever, even if it is a church, and if the authorities cannot [control] it. This is especially so if the organization is involved in political activities, and if one of those activities is hiding war criminals." This is not a quote from Mr. Krivokapic but from a Hague tribunal document.
The old Balkan pattern of clerically inspired political violence has once again emerged in recent years: first come the priests [popovi] and then the cannons [topovi]. The Muslim, Croatian, and Serbian clerics first reopened old wounds [in the 1990s], and once nationalist sentiments had been worked up, the civil wars began.
The younger generation of Montenegrins must be made aware of this connection.... After losing in Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo, the SPC has one last battlefield to conquer, and that is Montenegro. This is not a question of faith, the Gospel, or spirituality, but of the political role of the church....
Didn't the SPC hold a meeting in Majine in 2001 with the assembly of the Council of People's Leaders, or whatever you call it? Did you hold an assembly in the Monastery Dajbabe in 2005, with the public blessing of Metropolitan Amfilohije, and adopt a declaration on protection of the joint state [of Serbia and Montenegro], the church, and [Serbian] language? Was it a political meeting? Is the SPC behind the Movement for Preservation of the State Union? Hasn't the church provided political aid to [Montenegro's pro-Belgrade] Serbian People's Party at times? Have not some priests openly declared their political orientation? Even your performance here makes you look more like a spokesman of a clerical than of a political organization. This is precisely the point: the church has gone beyond its constitutional limits. Mr. Amfilohije Radovic is the political leader of a clearly defined part of the political spectrum.