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Some Aspects of Serbian Religious Development in the Eighteenth Century1

  • Charles Jelavich (a1)


The eighteenth century was an era of conflict and radical change within the Serbian church. After the establishment of Ottoman control in the Balkan peninsula, the Serbian nation remained united solely by the bonds of the church. It was the center of life and the unchallenged leader of the community. However, in the eighteenth century new ideals and new loyalties emerged which threatened the position of predominance previously enjoyed by the church. Religious nationalism gradually gave way before secular nationalism as the ideas of the enlightenment took root among the Serbs living within the Habsburg empire, until by the end of the century the church as an instrument of national unification had been relegated to a position of secondary importance. Moreover, the change was the result not only of the absorption of western thought by the Serbian intellectuals, but also of the rivalries of the Christian churches in the Balkans, a conflict whose roots are to be found in this century.



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2. The most recent general survey of the Serbian church under the Turks is by Hadrovics, Ladislas, L'église serbe sous la domination turque (Paris, 1947). See also the review of this book by Radonié, Jovan in Istoriski časopis (Organ istoriskog instituta srbske akademije nauka), 1:1–2; (1948), pp. 273277.Grujić, R., “Pećska patrijarška,” Narodna enciklopedija srpsko-hrvatsko-slovenačka, (Zagreb, 1928), III, 389399, is an excellent historical survey of the patriarchate of Peć. Radonić, Jovan, Rimska kurija i južnoslovenske zemlje od XVI do XIX veka (Belgrade, 1950), 746 pp. is valuable for the period in general. In addition, the two articles by K. S. Draganović are of great interest, “Massenübertritte von Katholiken zur ‘Orthodoxie’ im kroatisehen Spraehengebiet zur Zeit der Türkenherrschaft’ and ‘Über die Gründe der Massenübertritte von Katholiken zur ‘Orthodoxie’ im kroatisehen Spraehgebiet,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica, III: i-ii, iii-iv (1937), pp. 181–232, 550–599.

3. Grujić, Ibid., pp. 395–396; Hadrovics, op. cit., pp. 106–121; Popović, Mihailo I., Istoriska uloga srpske crkve u čuvanju narodnosti i stvaranje države (Belgrade, 1933).

4. Veselinović, Rajko L., Arsenije III Crnojević u istoriji i književnosti (Belgrade, 1949), pp. 543; Ivić, Aleksa, Istoriju Srba u Vojvodini (Novi Sad, 1929), pp. 285298; ćorović, Vladimir, Istorija Jugoslavije (Belgrade, 1933), p. 356; and, Gruji^, Rad. M., “Prilozi za istoriju Srba u Austro-Ugarskoj u doba patrijarha pećskog Arsenija III Crnojevića,” Srpska kraljevska akademija: Spomenik (Belgrade, 1913), LI, 1642. For the role of Branković in this period see Radonić, Jovan, Grof Djordje Branković i njegovo reme (Belgrade, 1911).

5. Ivić, op. cit., pp. 299–306, and Corović, op. cit., pp. 360–361.

6. Stanojević, St., Istorija srpskoga naroda (Belgrade, 1910), pp. 228229; 237242, and Ćorović, op. cit., pp. 374–375. See also the articles by Grujić, Radoslav M., “Prilozi za istoriju srpskih škola u prvoj polovini XVIII veka” and “Prilozi za istoriju srpskih štamparija u Ugnrskoj u polovini XVIII veka,” Srpska kraljevska akademija: Spomenik (Belgrade, 1910), XLIX, 99143, 144152; “Pisma pećskih patrijaraha iz drugog i trećeg decenija XVIII veka”, Ibid., (1913), LI, 105–144; “Prilozi za istoriju Srbije u doba austrijske okupateije (1718–1739),” Ibid., (1914), LII, 84–208.

7. Ćorović, op. cit., pp. 376–379, 393–398; Stanojević, op. cit., pp. 229–230, 248. For the general background of RussoSerbian relations see Dimitrijević, S. M., Gradja za srpsku istoriju iz ruskih arhiva i biblioteka in Srpska kraljevska akademija: Spomenik (Sarajevo, 1922), LIII, 329 pp; Bogoiavlenskii, S., “Iz russko-serbskikh otnoshenii pri Petre pervom,” Voprosi istorii, no. 8–9, (1946), pp. 1941; Grujić, Rad. M., “Prilozi za istoriju seobe Srba a Rusiji,” Srpska kraljevska akademija: Spomenik (Belgrade, 1913), LI, 7079; Sumner, B. H., Peter the Great and the Ottoman Empire (Oxford, 1949), pp. 2636, 4549; Skerlić, Jovan, Istorija nove srpske književnosti (Belgrade, 1921), pp. 3742; and, Kostić, Mita, Dositej Obradović u istoriskoj perskeptivi XVIII i XIX veka (Belgrade, 1952), pp. 223227.

8. Arnakis, G. Georgiades, “The Greek church of Constantinople and the Ottoman empire,” Journal of Modern History, XXIV:3 (09, 1952), pp. 247248.

9. The complete list of the Serbian patriarchs is to be found in Grujić, “Pećska patrijaršija,” pp. 398–399. It is interesting to note that between 1623 and 1700, a period of seventy-seven years, the patriarchate of Constantinople changed hands approximately fifty times. Arnakis, op. cit., pp. 247–248.

10. The exact steps which led to the abolition of the patriarchate are a matter of dispute. One point of view is that the last patriarch of Pcć, Kalinik II (1765–1766), who was a Greek, in collaboration with the Constantinople patriarch, Samuel, urged the sultan to abolish the patriarchate of Peć. The arguments advanced are, in general, those stated above. For this interpretation see Grujić, “Pećska patnijaršija,” pp. 396–397; Radonić, Rimska kurija, pp. 664–668; Ćorović, op. cit., p. 395, Mousset, Jean, La serbie et son église, 1880–1904 (Paris, 1938), pp. 3542 and, especially, Djordević, Nikola, Die Selbständigkeiten der serbischen Kirche (Sremski Karlovci, 1922), p. 217. The other point of view is found in Papadopoullos, Theodore H.. Studies and documents relating to the history of the Greek church and people under Turkish domination (Brussels, 1952), pp. 8990. Basing his arguments on contemporary sources, he states that “the authorities of that see [Peć] unanimously demanded, by ‘application and supplication’ and protection and association of the Oecuumenical Patriarchate, acknowledging their subjection to it; … that the Patriarch Samuel was viewing reluctantly the abolition of the autonomy of a see which enjoyed independence from old, and it was only at the instance of the Authorities of that see that he decided the question in conformity with their demand.” The differences between the two views are that Papadopoullos merely states that “the nuthorities” at Peć asked for the abolition, whereas the other group emphasizes that “the authorities” were Kalinik II, the Greek patriarch of Peć and his Greek hierarchy. Thus the Greeks, not the Serbs, made the request. Papadopoullos emphasizes the financial bankruptcy of the Pcć patriarchate; the others blame the condition on the rapid changes from 1737 to 1766, the time when the Greek influence became allimportant. Papadopoullos exonerates Patriarch Samuel of any desire to abolish the see; the others implicate him directly. For further information on the Serbs and the Greeks in the eighteenth century see Novaković, Stojan, Balkanska pitanja (Belgrade, 1906), pp. 411455; Popović, Dužan J.. Srbija i Beograd od Požarevačkog do Beogradskog mira (1718–1739), (Belgrade, 1950), pp. 118159, 329354; and, Panteić, Dušan, Beogradski pašalukpred prvi srpski ustanak, 1794–1804 (Belgrade, 1949), pp. 104113.

11. The best discussion of the anti-clerical trend is to be found in the two latest works on Dositej Obradović, Kostić, op. cit., pp. 140–166, and Noyes, George Rapall, The life and adventures of Dimitrije Obradović (Berkeley, Calif., 1953), pp. 98100. See also Skerlić, op. cit., pp. 10–18, 67–102.

12. Stanojević, op. cit., pp. 246–247, 251.

13. Dela Dositeja Obradovića (Belgrade, 1911), p. 102.

14. Noyes, op. cit., p. 136.

1 This paper was read at the Chicago meeting of the American Historical Association, December 29, 1953.

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Church History
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