Central European University


A Thesis Submitted to
the Department of History
in Candidacy for the Degree of
Master of Arts


Bojan Aleksov

First Supervisor: Professor Marsha Siefert
Second Supervisor: Professor Ivo Banac

June 1999


Historical Background 1
Thesis Structure 3
Terminology 5
Sources 6
Introduction 9
All-out Conflict (1945-1953) 12
De-escalation (1953-1962) 17
Liberalization of the 1960s 20
System Decay 21
Conclusion 22
Introduction 24
The Nazarenes and Compulsory Military Service in Yugoslavia after 1945 27
"It was the Harshest Time for our Faith" 42
Division 44
Family Consequences 47
Emigration 48
"The Dissolution of the Traditional, Coherent, Sacred Cosmos" 52

Historical Background

Massive 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.
The roots of the Nazarenes go back to the first half of 19 th-century 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. [1]
Despite 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. [2]
Unlike 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. [3] Nevertheless, one can concretely observe that most of the converts came from the Orthodox or Protestant churches. In 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." [4] 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.
As 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. [5] 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. [6]
In 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.
Despite 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 expansion. [7]

Thesis Structure

The 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.
In 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. [8] 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.
Because 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 period observed.
In 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, [9] 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 dominant culture.
All 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.


The Nazarenes were always characterized by the rest of society as what Wilson defines as a sect, [10] 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 Troeltsch. [11] 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. [12]
Following 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. [13] 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.
In the following chapters, I will use the term community when referring to the Nazarenes instead of sect, which always 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. [14] It also better conveys the less organized institutional practices which have concentrated Nazarene doctrinal discussion at primarily local and occasionally a regional level.


The 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 peace churches. [15]
The 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.
Despite 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.
I 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 the topic.
In 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. [16]
For 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 matter.




The 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. [17] 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. [18] 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.
Some 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. [19] 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 Witnesses. [20] 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 Community. [21]
The 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 [22] 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.
In 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 system destruction (In Yugoslavia from 1943-1953), system building (1950-1963), system stabilization(1963-1980) and system decay (1980s). [23] 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). [24] 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 community.

All-out Conflict (1945-1953)

Throughout 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. [25] The Nazarenes inhabited territories least affected by the war and did everything to stay away from it.
Nevertheless, 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.
In 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. [26] They were deported or exterminated, while the entire German property was expropriated without payment. [27] 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 atrocities. [28] 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.
In Yugoslavia's Constitution of January of 1946, which was modelled closely after Stalin's Soviet Constitution of 1936, equal 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 the Constitution.
The 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 Building sites.
Any 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 occupation forces". [29] This practice had no parallel in the Communist world. It was a part of the Yugoslav regime's strategy in solving the national question.
For 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. [30] 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. [31] Furthermore, the Nazarenes were not of a particular ethnic origin as the Mennonites, which also accounts for lack of attention by the foreign public.
The 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. [32] 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.
The 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. [33] 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.
The rupture of ties with Soviet Union and other Communist countries in June 1948 tightened the revolutionary discipline among Yugoslav Communists. [34] 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.

De-escalation of the Conflict (1953-1962)

The 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 abandoned. The pressure continued through taxation, administrative vexation and most importantly, absolute supervision of all activities, especially religious education.
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.
Despite 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". [35] 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.
To 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 " Nation-wide defence and social self-protection. "[36]
According 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 law". [37] 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 chapter.
Being 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.

Liberalization of the 1960s

During 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 Self-management 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 Self-management 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 Self-management 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. [38]
However, 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." [39] 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. [40]

System Decay

The 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 relationship. [41] 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. [42] 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" [43]
The 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.


The 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. [44] 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.
As 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 the communists.



Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. (Matthew 26.52)
Thou 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)


This 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. [45] 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:

...I 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. [46]

Wherever 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. [47] In this hostile environment, the Nazarenes showed the greatest strength and endurance in suffering for their principles. The Nazarenes made converts even among the Grenzer (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.
After 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.
In 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.
A 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: God saves Yugoslavia. Then he said: "If God cannot save it, how can I?" He was put in prison, along many others, where they usually spend years together with Communists, who were also disloyal to the Monarchist government.

The Nazarenes and Compulsory Military Service in Yugoslavia after 1945

Forms 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. [48]

The 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. [49] 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.
Almost 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. [50] 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.
At 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.
Faced 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:

The 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. [51]

What 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. [52]
The 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 Harp of Sion [53] was severely punished with solitary confinement. No books or bible were allowed
Generally, 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:

When 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. [54]

The 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. [55] 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.
It 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.
In 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. [56]
In 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. [57] 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.
After 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. [58]
Without 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. [59] 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 military service." [60] However, there is no independent confirmation of this official figure.
Elsewhere 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. [61] Similarly, although less successful, campaigns to recognize conscientious objection followed in Poland and Czechoslovakia.
In 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. [62]
The publisher of Religion 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. [63] 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 the daily Novosti on October 30. The article by Natasa Markovic states that the above mentioned Committee represents 10,000 Yugoslav Nazarenes. [64] 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." [65]
Consequently, 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. [66] 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 Yugoslavia. [67]
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. [68] 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'.
The 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. [69] 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
attention of a wider public or join secular campaigns in protest against the military requirement.
Another 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". [70]
Finally, 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. [71] 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. [72] The offer, however, came too late. By then, the Nazarene community in Yugoslavia was almost on the verge of extinction.
The 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 Serbia. [73] 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 agricultural labor.
Most 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.
Pavle, 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.
In 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 society. [74] 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.



"It was the Harshest Time for our Faith"

In 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 faith.
Furthermore, 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:

It 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. [75]

Although 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.
The 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.

Then, 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. [76]

Following 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 organizers. [77] This caused a long lasting division of the community. The state continued to put more pressure on the so called "reactionary'' or Vrbas group. [78] 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.


This 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 persecution." [79] 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. According 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. [80]
The 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.
Despite 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." [81] 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.

Family Consequences

Facing 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.
According 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.
Some 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. [82] 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". [83] The stricter the community, the fewer choices there were. In this case there were only two - emigration or abandonment of the faith.
Unfortunately, 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.


As we could see, decisions to emigrate were mostly taken to avoid the military service and life conditions of deep poverty and daily harassment. [84] The fact that the Nazarenes, for the most part, were not taking a journey into the unknown further facilitated these decisions.
Even 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. [85] It was preparing for many others who were expected to come once the borders open. In the spring of 1946, HILFE representatives searched the refugee camps in Austria and even sent out radio messages looking for their exiled brethren. [86] HILFE 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 by 1949. [87] At the same time, the Evangelisationskomitee was founded for spiritual care of refugees and the journal Freuet Euch (Rejoice). These facilities were used to deal with the continuing influx of Nazarene refugees, which increased especially in 1956, after the uprising in Hungary. [88] 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. [89]
Ostracized 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:

The 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 disappeared. [90]

Although 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 tasks for HILFE."[91]
The 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.
Today 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. [92] Émigré communities are also to be found in Germany, Sweden and Australia.

"The Dissolution of the Traditional, Coherent, Sacred Cosmos" [93]

It 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 life. [94] The Nazarenes could not stay out of these general trends.
Urbanization 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.
All 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 formed accordingly. [95]The 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.
In 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.
A 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. [96]
Under 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.
In 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. [97] 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. [98]
A 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. [99] However, I do not believe these to be the only reasons for their growth and these groups deserve a study of their own.
Nevertheless, 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. [100] 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.
Therefore, 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. In 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. [101] 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.


The 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
Under 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 the community.
The 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.
In 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.
Nevertheless, 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.


Archival sources
Evangelische T äufergemeinden ETG (the Nazarene Community in Germany and Switzerland) Archive, Zurich
HILFE (ETG relief agency) Archive, Zurich
Open Society Archives , Budapest

Periodicals and News Services
Religion in Communist Lands
Mennonite Quarterly Review
Keston News Service - KNS

Articles, Books and Monographs
Aleksov, Bojan. Deserters from the War in Former Yugoslavia . Belgrade: Women in Black, 1994.
Alexander, Stella. Church and State in Yugoslavia .
Banac, Ivo. With Stalin against Tito . Ithaca and London: Cornel University Press, 1988.
Brankovic, T. "Protestantske verske zajednice." in Religija i Drustvo ("Protestant Religious Communities in Religion and Society"). Beograd, 1988.
Brock, Peter. Freedom from Violence: Sectarian Nonresistance from the Middle Ages to the Great War . Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.
_________. Pacifism in Europe to 1914 . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Bruce, Steve. ed. Religion and Modernization . Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.
Bush, Perry. "Military Service, Religous Faith, and Acculturation: Mennonite G. I.s and their Church, 1941-1945." MQR (no date).
Dimitrijevic, Vladimir. Nazarenstvo njegova istorija i sustina (Nazareanism, its History and Principles). Novi Sad: Srpska Manastirska Stamparija, 1894.
Epp, H. Frank. "The Mennonites" in A spects of Religion in the Soviet Union 1917- 1967. The University of Chicago Press, 1971.
Frid, Zlatko. ed. Religija u samoupravnom socijalizmu (Religion in Selfmanagement Society). Zagreb: Binoza, 1971.
Harpern, M. Joel. A Serbian Village . New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
Johnson, A. Ross. The Role of the Military in Communist Yugoslavia: A Historical Sketch. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, n.d.
Luckmann, Thomas. The Invisible Religion: The Problem of Religion in Modern Society. New York: Macmillan, 1967.
Mojzes, Paul, " Christian-Marxist Encounter in the Context of a Socialist Society." in Journal of Ecumenical Studies 9. 1972.
Niebuhr, H. Richard, The Social Sources of Denominationalism . New York: Holt, 1929.
Ott, Bernard. Missionarische Gemeinde werden . Uster: Verlag ETG,1996.
Pavlowitch, Stevan. The Improbable Survivor: Yugoslavia and its Problems 1918- 1988. London: C. Hurst & Company, 1988.
Peterson, David. "Ready for War: Oregon Mennonites from Verailles to Pearl Harbor."Mennonite Quarterly Review, 64. July, 1990.
Radic, Radmila. Verom protiv Vere (With Faith against Faith). Beograd: INIS, 1995.
Ramet, Petra Sabrina. ed. Protestantism and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia . Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1992.
________________. ed. Adaptation and Transformation in Communist and Post- Communist Systems. Boulder:Westview Press, 1992.
Redecop, C. "The Mennonite Identity Crisis." Journal of Mennonite Studies 2, 1984.
Rupnik, Jacques. T he Other Europe . London: Wiedenfled and Nicolson, 1989.
Singleton, Fred. Twentieth Century Yugoslavia . New York: Columbia University Press, 1976,
Stojkovic - Djurdjevic, Biljana. Lovci na duse (Soul Hunters). Beograd: Zig, 1997.
The Church and State under Communism, vol.III Yugoslavia. Washington: US Government Printing Office. 1965.
The Church in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia . Belgrade: Information service Jugoslavija, 1959.
Troelstch, Ernst. The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches . New York: Macmillan, 1931.
Vidic, Rastko. The Position of Churches in Yugoslavia . Belgrade, 1962.
Wilson, Bryan, Religion in Sociological Perspective . Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Winland, Naomi Daphne. "The Quest for Mennonite Peoplehood." Canadian Review for Sociology and Anthropology, 30 (1), 1993.
Zakic, Milan. Interview . Novo Milosevo, Yugoslavia, November 1, 1998.

[1]Short 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.
[2]According 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 - Vladimir Dimitrijevic, Nazarenstvo (Novi 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.
[3] They follow strictly the word of the Bible: Praise ye the Lord,... Kings of the earth, and all peoples (ps.148,11)
[4]Brock, ibid, 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 ( Nazarenstvo, p. 103).
[5]"Hungry 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, p. 199.
[6]Brock, ibid, p.498.
[7]The Yugoslav major daily newspaper Politika, for example, reported on February 18, 1925 (No 6042), that whole Serbian villages are joining the Nazarenes or Adventists and estimated their number at 150 000.
[8]Walter 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 Religion and Communist Society ed. by Dennis J. Dunn (Berkeley: Berkeley Slavic Specialties, 1983), p.111.
[9]This definition was first used in Bryan Wilson, Religion in Secular Society (London: Watts, 1969), p.xiv.
[10]J. Wilson defines sect as a group that covets obscurity and engages in exclusive membership policy, total commitment, purity, and uniqueness - Religion in American society (Englewood Cliffs:Prentice-Hall, 1978)
[11]The basic study by Ernst Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches (New York:Macmillan, 1931, 2 vols)
[12]Bryan Wilson, Religion in Sociological Perspective (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), p.102.
[13]H.Richard Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Denominationalism (New York: Holt, 1929)
[14]Wilson, Religion in Sociological Persective , p. 102.
[15]Peter Brock, Freedom from Violence (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), p. 188.
[16] For example, see Walter Sawatsky, Soviet Evangelicals since World War Two (Kitchener, Scottdale: Herald Press, 1981), Steve Durasoff, The Russian Protestants (Fairleigh: Dickinson, University Press, 1969), Dennis J. Dunn, ed. Religion and Communist Society (Berkeley: Berkeley Slavic Specialties, 1983).
[17]Fred Singleton, Twentieth Century Yugoslavia (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, The Improbable Survivor (London: C. Hurst & Company, 1988) and Pedro Ramet, "Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslavia" in Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politics , ed. by Pedro Ramet (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1989). .
[18]Other churches or non-Christian faiths accounted for less than one percent The Church in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Belgrade: Information service Jugoslavija, 1959), p. 3.
[19]These 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 zajednice," in Religija i drustvo (Beograd, 1988), p.403-413.
[20]The Jehovah's Witnesses are usually not included in neo-Protestant denominations as they departed from original protestant teachings. See various articles in Protestantism and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia , ed. by Sabrina Ramet (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1992).
[21] 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 (INIS: Beograd, 1995), p. 361.
[22]I refer to liberation only as liberation from Nazi occupation.
[23]Sabrina Petra Ramet, Adaptation and Transformation in Communist and Post-Communist Systems (Boulder: Westview Press, 1992), p.142.
[24]Paul Mojzes, "Christian-Marxist Encounter in the Context of a Socialist Society" in Journal of Ecumenical Studies , 9, no. 1, (1972).
[25]According 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.
[26] 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.
[27] 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.
[28]The 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, Lovci na duse (Beograd: Zig, 1997), p.37.
[29]Rastko Vidic, The Position of Churches in Yugoslavia (Belgrade,1962), p. 31.
[30]For more see various histories on this period or the most concise work in English by Stella Alexander, Church and State in Yugoslavia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
[31] "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.), Protestantism and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1992), p. 333.
[32]The 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 Ramet, ed. Adaptation and Transformation in Communist and Post-Communist Systems , p. 146.
[33] Assembly is the Nazarenes’ prayer house.
[34] "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.
[35]The Church in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia , p. 5.
[36]This 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
[37]The Fundamental Law on the Legal Status of Religious Communities, The Official Gazette of the F.P. R. of Yugoslavia (No 22 of May 27, 1953).
[38]Zlatko Frid, Religija u samoupravnom socijalizmu (Zagreb: Binoza, 1971), p. 89.
[39]Zlatko Frid, ed. Religions in Yugoslavia (Zagreb: Binoza, 1971), p.77.
[40]This was not the single case. After the forced expulsion of Germans, Jews and Turks were allowed to leave Yugoslavie en masse in the 1950s.
[41]Ramet, Adaptation and Transformation in Communist and Post-Communist Systems, p.170.
[42]Pavlowitch, ibid, pp. 108-111.
[43]Pavlowitch, ibid, p. 108.
[44]Research 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.
[45]The 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, Freedom from Violence (University of Toronto Press, 1991), p. 173.
[46] Letter to Joachim Keller, 22 May 1840, excerpts printed in ibid., p. 176.
[47]For 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.
[48]This paragraph comes from a top Yugoslav official and an authority on morality and religious policies, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Todo Kurtovic, Church and Religion in Socialist Self-Management Society ( Socialist Thought and Practice: Belgrade, 1980), p. 244-245. Emphasis added.
[49]M. Pavlovic, Zablude na tudj pogon, Vecernje Novosti , 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.
[50]The 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 Protestantism and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia.
[51]Interview with Milan Zakic, 1 November 1998.
[52]The 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).
[53] The Nazarene hymn book
[54]Interview, ibid.
[55]A.Ross Johnson, The Role of the Military in Communist Yugoslavia: A Historical Sketch (RAND Corporation: Santa Monica, n.d.), p.5.
[56]Nikola Popovic, "Nazareni na vojnoj vezbi," Front, M arch, 28, 1969, pp. 34-35.
[57]This 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.
[58]George Schopflin, "Total Defence in Yugoslavia," Defence 107, RFE CR. U. talk n. 117/71, 22.4.1971.
[59]"Bogovi lutaju ravnicom" Politika, 2 April 1969, or the official news agency Tanjug report (1439 GMT, 27 June 1973), or "Crkve u Jugoslaviji," NIN, 7 September 1980.
[60]Interview with General Daljevic in Narodna Armija, 1 January 1987, also published in "Conscientious Objection: The Situation in Yugoslavia," Religion in Communist Lands , vol. 15, N º 3 (Keston College, Winter 1987), p. 332 - 335.
[61]"Church of the Nazarenes Recognized," Religion in Communist Lands, vol. 6, N º 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.
[62]Religion in Communist Land, vol 15, N º 3 (Keston College, Winter 1987).
[63]Keston News Service (KNS) N º 271, 19 March 1987.
[64]KNS N º 264, 27 November 1986. The number stated does not accord with my estimations.
[65]Domovina preca od Religije, Vecernje Novosti , 3 October 1986.
[66]KNS N º 271, 19 March 1987.
[67]Borislav Vucetic, Jedinstvo-brana svim negativnostima, Komunist, 20 february 1987.
[68]War Resisters International Newsletter, N º 215 (March-April 1987), p.9.
[69]KNS N º 296, 17 March 1988.
[70]Studentski list, 18 May 1988, reported in KNS N º 309, 22 September 1988.
[71]KNS N º 323, 13 April 1989, and KNS N º 325, 11 May 1989.
[72]In 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).
[73]Bojan Aleksov, Deserters from the War in Former Yugoslavia (Women in Black: Belgrade,1994).
[74]Compare 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.
[75]Interview, Milan Zakic, ibid.
[76]Interview, ibid.
[77]From personal testimonies and official sources cited in Radmila Radic, Verom protiv Vere (INIS, Beograd, 1995), p. 36.
[78]"Vojvodjanskih 27 bogova," Politika, 30.1. 1972.
[79]Gerd Stricker, "Afterword" in Sabrina Petra Ramet (ed), Protestantism and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia , p. 343.
[80]Georg Davatz , Bericht uber die Reise nach Jugoslawien vom 26. Juli bis 2. August 1952 (Georg Davatz), Archiv HILFE, Zurich.
[81]Bericht uber die Besprechungen von 3 schweiz. Aeltesten mid den Brudern in Jugoslawien, vom 10-13. September 1961. Archiv ETG, Zurich.
[82]Perry Bush, "Military Service, Religious Faith, and Acculturation: Mennonite G.I.s and their Church, 1941-45,” Mennonite Quarterly Review (no date), 261-281.
[83]David Peterson, "Ready for War: Oregon Mennonites from Versailles to Pearl Harbor, " Mennonite Quarterly Review, 64 (July, 1990), 224-228.
[84]The 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).
[85]HILFE 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 HILFE see Bernard Ott, Missionarische Gemeinde werden (Verlag ETG, Uster, 1996), p. 108.
[86]Bernard Ott, p. 138.
[88]Other 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 arrested. HILFE also intervened through high representatives of UN to Yugoslav authorities to allow the exiled Hungarian Nazarenes, in refugee camps in Yugoslavia to leave for Austria( Protokoll der Jahresversammlung der Genossenschaf "HILFE" Zurich vom 5. Oktober 1957), Archiv HILFE.
[89]Bernard Ott, p. 141.
[90]Interview, ibid.
[91]Protokoll der Jahresversammlung der Genossenschaf "HILFE" Zurich vom 5. Oktober 1957, Archiv HILFE, Zurich.
[92]see www.acpub.org (Apostolic Christian Church Directory).
[93]Thomas Luckmann, The Invisible Religion: The Problem of Religion in Modern Society (New York: Macmillan, 1967), p. 101
[94]Joel M. Harpern, A Serbian Village (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 317.
[95]This 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 Bryan Wilson, Religion in Sociological Perspective (Oxford University Press: Oxford, New York, 1982), p. 106.
[96]Point 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 during prayer and worship as a symbol of their submission according to God's order of creation. I Cor.11:1-16. Emphasis added.
[97]Alan Scarfe, "Romanian Baptists and the State" in Religion in Communist Lands Vol 4 , No2 Summer 1976, p.18.
[98]For a brief sketch on Russian Mennonites see Frank H. Epp, "The Mennonites" in Aspects of Religion in the Soviet Union 1917-1967 (The University of Chicago Press, 1971).
[99]"The capacity to bring together ancient teachings and modern techniques is part of a formula of success for modern sects." Wilson, ibid. p. 106.
[100] 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 Peoplehood,” Canadian Review for Sociology and Anthropology , 30 (1) 1993.
Redecop 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 Crisis,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 2, 1984.
[101]Wilson, ibid. p. 93.