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Author’s Name, “Title of Essay,” Religious History and Culture of the Balkans, Edited by Nicolae Roddy, Journal of Religion & Society Supplement 19 (2019), Pages of the essay [URL of this page].
This ethnographic study explores the daily enactments and negotiations of self and religious practice performed by hijabi women living in Sarajevo, a city marked by gender inequality in social and economic rights on one hand, and civil and political rights on the other. Against this backdrop of severely challenged positions in both public and private spheres, ten women share stories that reveal how embracing and reinterpreting faith can be an act of personal fulfilment and moral regeneration. It is also a public actualization of agency that problematizes the hegemonic narrative of Islamophobia which renders hijabi women oppressed and disempowered.
This article examines how, in a post-war setting, memorialization and the increasing presence of religious buildings support not only processes of repair and dealing with a difficult past, but also of sustaining conflict through processes of humiliation. It analyses new and repurposed memorials and religious buildings in post-war Sarajevo, a divided, contested city where identity politics has been mobilized both in wartime and in its aftermath. It also discusses how local understandings of the urban image and urban imaginary of Sarajevo have been related to religious pluralism, but also to conflict and antagonism. Furthermore, it shows how construction of new religious buildings has changed from pre-war patterns and serve to create new spatial appropriations and transformed forms of conflict. Finally, it discusses how memorials take part in identity politics formation in a cityscape dominated by nation-building, contributing not only to dealing with the past, but also to supporting continued divisions and animosities. The underlying argument is that the politics of identity not only shapes memorial acts, but is itself shaped by interventions in urban space, in connection with identity claims.
The hodge-podge architectural heritage is among Bucharest’s most unique attractions, a result of the multicultural background of those who contributed to its modernization. In this respect, a paramount role was played by Jewish and Armenian architects, who designed emblematic buildings that still constitute today landmarks of the Romanian capital, but also businessmen who commissioned private mansions and public utility edifices (hotels, restaurants, hospitals, etc.) that transformed the city. From the nineteenth century onwards, and particularly in the interwar period, Bucharest was a crossroad of civilizations, where East met West, and various ethnic and religious groups coexisted. The best exemplification of this outstanding circumstance is the fact that during this time Christian architects designed not only churches, as one would expect, but also synagogues; while Jewish craftsmen decorated not only synagogues, but also churches. Moreover, Jewish businessmen commissioned Armenian architects to design their houses and decorate them with Armenian religious symbols. The article brings to light several of the more interesting cases, demonstrating the complexity of religious presence in Bucharest’s architectural legacy.
Generations of Bulgarians have been inspired by the national legend relating how the Bulgarian state and its monarch, King, Boris III, mobilized to save Bulgaria’s 48,000 Jews, plus more than 11,000 Jews in regions annexed by Bulgaria in Macedonia, Serbia, and northern Greece during the war. This paper calls the national myth into question, examining the historical realities behind the deportations in response to the questions of who exactly acted to save Jews, and from whom were they actually being saved? The paper asserts that the hierarchy of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, most notably Metropolitans Kiril and Stefan, were among the true heroes, mobilizing actions aimed at protecting Bulgaria’s Jews. It argues that the moral dimension of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church created a timeless historical moment, that despite the national myth to the contrary, neither the government nor the monarch’s territorial and realpolitik ambitions were able to bring about.
By the turn of the twentieth century, considerable change in several aspects of social life was obvious in the Levantine ports, stemming largely as a result of developments in the Ottoman economy and expansion of trade in the eastern Mediterranean region. Salonica (modern-day Thessaloniki), one of the main commercial hubs of Balkan trade, profited greatly by this development. As a result, the establishment of the first European schools in Salonica, in 1888, signaled a major turn in the outlook of the city, and provided evidence for the fact that a sufficient number of people were ready to entrust the new environment with their children’s western education and exposure to different cultures. Along with the rise of international schools a rising number of clubs were established, confirming that a new and diverse bourgeois class had been shaped, enjoying expanded ties through social contacts and economic networks. When the first labor strikes broke out in 1908, there was no ethnic or religious component, only a class distinction. Whether Jew, Muslim, or Orthodox Greek or Bulgarian, or others, workers of all stripes united for their rights in demanding better wages and working conditions. The aim of this paper is to present a transnational approach to life in Salonica at the beginning of the twentieth century, tracing the interactive limitations among various communities during the rise of religious and ethno-nationalism.
A critical survey of the religious medieval monuments and art of the western Carpathian mountains, Lower Mureş Valley, and the Hațeg region witnesses to the history of Romanian communities in what was once part of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. As such, the interpretation of this peripheral artistic corpus remains a never-ending matter of dispute among the religious and cultural complexities of Transylvanian society. This paper asserts that while Transylvania lies outside the usual geographical boundaries of the Balkans, medieval Transylvanian Romanians largely followed cultural norms from south of the Danube, and thus belong within the Balkan milieu.
This article addresses the representation and conceptualization of the Balkans in musical culture since the nineteenth century. It argues that typical strategies of (self-)exoticizing and the approximation of dominant musical tendencies promoted Balkan musical uniqueness by underlining its naturalness and authenticity and are part of the legacy of nineteenth-century ideological and musicological theories. A few carefully selected examples, namely, Viennese operettas, popular films by Emir Kusturica, and Balkan performances in the Eurovision Song Contest (specifically the 2007 winner Marija Šerović’s “Molitva” [“Prayer”] which transcended religious and ethnic boundaries in its appeal), will demonstrate the primary types of narratives used to depict Balkan music to the outside world.
Several churches and monasteries commissioned by the rulers of fifteenth and sixteenth-century Moldavia are decorated with frescoes colorfully adorning their exterior walls, eight of which are on UNESCO’s list of world treasures. The scenes reflect and reinforce Romanian Orthodox Christian identity formation, as evidenced by depictions of the Other in images of the Last Judgment. There are multiple and varying discourses that accomplish the task of “othering,” including conversation, meta-narratives, plays, politics, religion, war, and so on. In the religious domain, the Other functions as a symbol against which a community can unite and fortify itself. This paper examines the theological and political implications of Bucovina’s Last Judgment frescoes in mobilizing against Ottoman Turks, while depicting Jews as infidels and presenting Armenian and Roman Catholic Christians as heretics.