Saturday, July 07, 2007

Serbian Early History, Communist Times, Kosovo

The priest at Žiča willingly shared more historical information about Serbia and the Church. Serbia was the center of education, literature, and religion, long before the rest of Europe. Many of these people then moved to other parts of Europe (likely fleeing the Turks) where they began to prosper, while Serbia fell backwards under Turkish rule. For 411 years, education was forbidden by the Turks – a way to subdue the population. Serbia was under Turkish rule for 523 years. Crusaders from the First Crusade went through Serbia. When one of these kings came to Serbia, he had to use his fingerprint as a signature, while the literate Serbian king could sign his name. During King Mulitin’s 41 ½ years of reign, 42 churches were built in Serbia (including several in Kosovo region), including the impressive Gracanica in Kosovo.

During Communist times, churches had their own rule and even were allotted a certain number lf hectares depending on the age of the church, with older ones getting more land. The land was tax-free. People during Communist times were allowed to go to church. No new churches could be built, but current ones could be used and were not harmed. The only church falling under state rule was Oplenac, as it was the burial place for the kings. The priest also described how St. Sava Cathedral in Belgrade was used as a garage for tanks and trucks. In 1985, construction finally began once again at this massive cathedral, the second largest Orthodox cathedral in the world – smaller only to one in Russia.

The priest expressed deep concern about the fate of the churches in Kosovo – the cradle of the Serbian Orthodox Church and home to many significant churches. Since the UN peacekeepers have come to Kosovo, 158 churches have been destroyed. What will happen, he feared, to those that are remaining if Kosovo becomes an independent Moslem state?

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