Some Present-day Problems of State-Church Relationships

      in Serbia and Montenegro,   Macedonia, and  Bulgaria:

           the Legal Texts and the Social-political Context



Table of Contents


I. Secularization and Desecularization: Between Nietzsche’s “God is dead” and Dostoyevsky’s “If there is no God, then everything is permissible”


1. Religion – the essence and the existence

2. The religious ethos: suffering

3. The religious ethos: love

4. The religious ethos: ideal and reality

5.  Social niches for religion in a secularized society

6.  Latent functions: religion as an emblem of the community

7. Types of relationships between state and Church in the European countries. Is there a European  identity/standard in this sphere?

8.  The state and Church relations in Spain regarding  some similarities to the situation in the studied countries


II.  Cultural-historical background of the problem


1. Problems of the “nationalization” of the myth of God’s elect in Serbia and Bulgaria

2. Specific national features of the myth of the national mission. Serbia.

3. National particularities of the mythology of mission. The Bulgarian case.

4. The withering of the national mission myth in Bulgaria. For better or for worse?     


III. Phenomenology of the Problem


1.Legal Issues of State-Church Relationships in Serbia and Montenegro. Religion and Politics


1.1.  The legal void and the way towards the law

1.2.  The Draft Law of Religious Freedom /2002/

1.3.  Critique and discussion of the Draft Law of Religious Freedom

1.4.  The Draft Law on Freedom of Belief, Churches, Religious Communities and Religious Associations /2004/

1.5.   Further  evolution of the 2004 Draft

1.6.  Latest developments and versions of the 2004 Draft Law

1.7.  Conclusions and Recommendations

1.8. Some Present-day Problems of the Religious Situation in Serbia and Montenegro  

1.9. The  Church and the  Politics


2. The Legal Texts and the Social-Political Context in the Republic of Macedonia                                                                                                                                                                                                               


2.1.  Legal regulation and religious differences

2.2. The politics: beyond the religious and the ethnic differences?

2.3. The politics, the nation and the Macedonian Orthodox Church

2.4. Cases and issues regarding the legal status of religious communities and groups in the state

2.5. The elaboration of the new democratic law: latest developments

2.6. Conclusions and Recommendations


3. The Bulgarian Religious Situation  Now:  the Law and the Social-political Atmosphere


3.1. Freedom of religious convictions and the equality of religious confessions before the law: general principles

3.2.  Rights relevant to religious activity, education, charitable works

3.3.  Property and Financing

3.4.  Conditions for acquiring legal status and the role of the state

3.5.  Critical analysis of the Act

3.6.  The Schism, the Political Parties  and the Act

3.7.  Conclusions and Recommendations

3.8.    The religious situation in the present-day Bulgaria

3.9. The Bulgarian situation of Religious Education in School

3.10.  Religious pluralism and the religious changes among the main ethnic groups                        


IV. Conclusion



















The democratization of relationships between state and Church in Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bulgaria is taking place in the context of the topical political process of accession of these countries to the European Union. Although this process is at a different stage for each of the three countries (Bulgaria is the most advanced, having signed, on April 25, 2005, an Agreement for Accession to the European Union in January 2007), in all cases democratization requires changes and development in two basic directions: 1/harmonizing legislature on state-Church relationships with the international legal tools and the European legal standards; 2/forming a favorable social context for adequate and effective operation of the relevant laws.


My analysis and recommendations will be focused  mainly on  the first direction, for: 1/dynamic and important changes are currently taking place with regard to it; 2/comparative analysis of the state and problems of this process in all three countries that I am studying, would be useful as a means of mutually “checking our compasses” and obtaining additional information and arguments on disputed issues in the current legislative process.


The comparative picture of the current state of the legal framework of state-Church relationships in the countries being studied shows:

In all three countries modern democratic constitutions have been adopted, which guarantee equal civil rights and liberties with regard to thought, conscience, religion, association; also guaranteed is the equality of national minorities and of religious communities. However, the legislature regulating relationships between state and Church, which is meant to give a concrete and effective legal framework of the general constitutional assertions, is at a different stages for each of the countries:

-      Since 1993, when the Law on the Legal Situation of Religious Communities in the Republic of Serbia was annulled; there is a dangerous legal vacuum with regard to the relationships between state and religious communities: since 2002, three draft laws have been worked out and presented for discussion; they met with criticism on the part of small religious communities, national and international human rights organizations, and even some of the traditional churches; currently an improved version is being prepared of the draft “Law on Freedom of Belief, Churches, Religious Communities and Religious Associations”  of July 2004.


-                     Since 1997, a Law on Religious Communities and Religious Groups was passed in the Republic of Macedonia, the basic articles of which were rejected by the Constitutional Court as unconstitutional and not in harmony with international legal tools in this sphere. This fact makes the law inadequate as a regulatory tool; currently a new draft law is being worked out.


-                     Since 2002 there is an operative Religious Denominations Act in the Republic of Bulgaria, which takes into account the basic European standards and international legal tools, but which has periodically been criticized on separate points by some parties and human rights organizations and by the structures of the European Commission, which implies that this law will evolve and be perfected in the future.


The aim of the current analysis is: 1/ to highlight the disparities between separate article of the /draft/ laws and: a/ general constitutional principles; b/ other articles of these same /draft/ laws; c/ international legal tools; d/ practices and trends in most European countries; 2/ to reveal the causes of these contradictions; 3/ to offer recommendations for removing these contradictions.


This slow and painful evolution is a result of the complex situation of the legislator in the studied countries. He has to move between the Scylla of European imperatives and standards, presented in the criticisms by NGOs and by small religious communities, and the Charybdis of internal political circumstances, mass attitudes, the real social authority and social status of some of the religious communities, and xenophobic attitudes. This is where the deeper meaning and philosophy of our analysis of national legal texts lies; they are not only components of a universal, global, and standardized legal universe, but are embedded in a specific social context and the people involved, the balance between people generate the texts. Moreover, even if the texts of the laws were to be literally adopted and copied from the developed democratic countries, still the question of the application of these texts would remain with so much the greater weight, the question of their acceptance as an organic part of the respective culture.


The Introduction of the study analyzes the secularization/desecularization  question and the historical context of the above issues.


The overview of the basic aspects of the religious ethos and the general cultural function of religion in pre-modern society, provides arguments in support of the view that secularization is a continuous process; as for the contemporary processes of vitalization of religion, which certain authors have denoted as desecularization (P. Berger, G. Davie, K. Dobbelaere, and others), I consider them to be a reaction against some of the extreme aspects of secularization, i.e. excessive rationalization, bureaucratization, scientism, social standardization, rather than its complete rejection as a concept.


The democratization of state and Church relations in the contemporary Balkan countries can not be analyzed and understood without refering to the historical background of the processes and especially to the interaction between the religion and the historical myths, related to the national identities. In one of these countries, Serbia, the Eastern Orthodox Church has been a powerful generator of and channel for the intensification of the national identity, in collaboration with the political elite. In another country, Bulgaria, the Eastern Orthodox Church has been occupied with politically produced internal ecclesiastic problems and divisions and has remained aside from these trends and roles.

I. Secularization and Desecularization: Between Nietzsche’s “God is dead” and Dostoyevsky’s “If there is no God, then everything is permissible”


1. Religion – the essence and the existence


The process of secularization, ushered in by the French Revolution, not only separated the Church from the State, but deprived religion of its absolute prerogatives with regard to the moral aspect of human relationships, which became the object of the secular educational system, based on rationality and science; as for control and sanctions, these were assumed by the legal sphere.


Long before this, philosophers and thinkers had begun to look upon religion as a necessary though outdated instrument of the moral and political sphere or else as a handicap to progress and enlightenment (Kant, Rousseau, Feuerbach, Marx); finally Freud interpreted it as an infantile stage of human development.


The development of science and technology, industrialization, the rational construction of the social sphere under capitalism, eliminated the need for a softening of virtual reality, which function was fulfilled by religion: nature and society were now appropriated directly, practically, and adjusted to human needs.


At the end of the 19th century Nietzsche proclaimed definitively that “God is dead”, while Dostoyevsky formulated the dangerous consequences of this cultural fact: “If there is no God, then everything is permissible.”


The overview of the basic aspects of the religious ethos and the general cultural function of religion in pre-modern society, provides arguments in support of the view that secularization is a continuous process; as for the contemporary processes of vitalization of religion, which certain authors have denoted as desecularization (P. Berger, G. Davie, K. Dobbelaere, and others), I consider them to be a reaction against some of the extreme aspects of secularization, i.e. excessive rationalization, bureaucratization, scientism, social standardization, rather than its complete rejection as a concept.


These features of contemporary developed democratic societies, and secularized Europe appears to be unique by them (G. Davie), give rise to the natural human urge to spiritual-emotional communion and to revive the feeling of the sacred and of salvation; religion also tries to respond to the deficit of such feelings, especially the renewed forms of religion, such as the new religious movements.


But these processes are more or less partial, affecting separate groups of people, whereas the traditional religions continue to lose their hold on the societies of today that are abnormally devoted to the consumer, to pleasure, to pluralism of values, social techniques of control, in other words, to a type of person that is completely the contrary of the traditional religious man and ethos. 


The 20th century saw the continuation of the process of pushing religion out of the public into the private sphere, especially in traditionally Christian countries. At the same time, due to the weakened social control and the growth of personal liberty of religious experience and practice (with the exception of totalitarian countries), interesting and various changes were evident in religion: a weakening of the connections of believers with the traditional churches (G. Davie’s “believing without belonging”); the formalized approach to the ritual aspect of religion (“belonging without believing”); the appearance of untraditional religious formations (new religious movements); the synthesis of various religious traditions in order to connect faith more closely with the life problems and needs of people.


Researchers also note a vacillating downward trend in the number of religious believers, a trend that is connected especially with the taking over by the state and other secular institutions of the social functions of the churches (to educate, create a social bond and be the support of national, ethnic, professional and other identities).


The meta-theoretical level of analysis is defined by several key methodological issues; if sciences of religion fail to solve these issues, they could not hope to achieve a new theoretical identity adequate to our times and reliable. The object of particularly active debate are the following: 1/is the secularization paradigm no longer valid or does the notion of secularization need to be reformulated; 2/ is there really a modern trend toward the weakening of religion, a trend away from religion, or is there rather a crisis of the theory, of the need for change in the contents of the concepts of religion, the sacred, God; 3/ what is the borderline separating religious from quasi-religious formations and practices, such as the  new religions, religious mobilization in conflict situations, the connection of religion with various worldly movements of feminist, fundamentalist, Marxist, or environmentalist kinds, etc.


The striving for salvation through ethical action is the specific and explicit essence of religion, while its secondary, latent functions consist in the sacralization of social unity and identity /B. Wilson “Religion in a Sociological Perspective”/.



2. The religious ethos: suffering


Anthropology, philosophy, literature have for centuries sought the answer to the question ‘What is man?’, what differentiates humans from other living beings? Some authors have seen the specific nature of man as lying in human reason; others, in the ability to labor; others, in laughter; still others, in politics. But besides all this and perhaps above all this, man is a suffering being. This aspect has for ages been the spiritual patent, the reserved area of religions.


One of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism is: “Birth is suffering, maturing is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, grief and weeping, pain and despair are suffering, affiliation with the unpleasant is suffering, parting from the pleasant is suffering, to lack what one desires is suffering”. The desire to decrease human suffering and fulfil life has given birth to art, religion, and, strange as it may seem, to politics.


The sicknesses of body and soul are experiences that connect people, regardless of native country, race, financial position, or power. What is more, often enough, when we look behind the furious pursuit of riches and power, behind the excessive pride in race, family descent, historical past, we find man’s inner need to escape from some kind of suffering and ill. The ailments of the body are usually the result of pains of the soul, pains of unrequited love, of parting, infidelity, of the envy of others, of one’s own pride or faithlessness.


The idea of initial sin in Christianity, of Karma in Hinduism, have also gone in the same direction: although in a negative aspect, they have suggested the idea that there is a connection between the deeds of past, present, and future generations and individuals. In other words, that there are no sinless, ideal people, and that the evil deeds of a person or community accumulate a debt to be paid by the descendents, the children and grandchildren. This view has given a kind of moral, human meaning to suffering, sickness, and death. Through these ills, a person assumes on himself the shared guilt, a past or present shared sin. On the other hand, a person thereby atones for future sins and guilt, his own and those of his children and grandchildren.


Together with this, most religions seek the causes for a person’s sickness and suffering in his individual life, his sins and evil thoughts, his words, and deeds. Religion judges that least tolerable of all are the vices of selfishness: avarice, pride, love of power, envy, and hatred of our fellows. Thus the sickness of the body and soul is a punishment that the higher force and the community inflict on the person who has dared to place himself above them and has neglected the law of the connection of all living beings with, their dependency on the Absolute and on one another.


Confession and repentance are the chance that these neglected forces provide for restoring the balance that egoism has impaired. Forgiveness, granted by God or by the victims of selfishness to the guilty one in return for his sincere confession and repentance, operates a miracle: it breaks the circle of sin and punishment and brings peace to the person suffering spiritual torments, which can often be more terrible and cruel than physical ones. A wise Confucian saying expresses the high significance of this spiritual appeasement: “If you find the right way in the morning, you can die in the evening.”


That is why the main object of care and protection in the holy books of religions is the weak, poor, unhappy, suffering human being; what is more, this is precisely the kind of person to whom superior value is ascribed in the divine perspective; God can show and practice his all-powerful, benevolent nature to the highest degree with regard to this despised and rejected creature (that is probably why Marx characterized religion as “the sigh of the depressed creature”).


Salvation after death, one of the central categories in religion (M. Weber, B. Wilson), is also a gift and reward granted to this poor, unhappy, suffering person who reveres God and honors the divine commands; only through salvation does earthly life obtain value.


3.The religious ethos: love


In order for this mutual movement of spiritual and mental energy and gifts to occur between Man and God, the ethereal space of mutual love must span between them; this is a love greater than all earthly loves, greater than that toward one’s children, toward the opposite sex, towards parents: just as God sacrificed His Son for the retribution of human sins, so too was it demanded of Abraham to sacrifice his son for the love of God (S. Kierkegaard. “Abraham’s Sacrifice”).


From God and through God this love is extended to our fellows and even to our enemies: the idea that all creatures, human and natural, are connected in a single chain, are mutually dependent in life, in pain, and in death, is one of the leading ideas in Christianity, in Buddhism, and in Taoism.


In Christianity this idea is expressed through the concept of “neighbor”, which includes all people, even our enemies; the sincere believer feels love and compassion for all: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clinging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned but  have not love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” / I Corinth., 13/


In one of the Hindu religious traditions, Jainism, we are reminded: “He whom you would strike is no other than yourself; he with whom you would quarrel is no other than yourself; he whom you will torment is no other than yourself; he whom you try to enslave is no other than yourself; he whom you would slay is likewise yourself.”


The superior reality, or God, sets the beginning and sanctifies the value of each element of this interconnected chain. The Koran testifies to the words of Allah: “My mercy encompasses everything”; that is why humility, modesty, forgiveness, repentance, are among the values of the religious ethos.


4. The religious ethos: ideal and reality


But the strict observance of this altruist morality is a difficult and nearly impossible venture in man’s everyday life, full of clashes of interests, struggles for resources and for maintaining one’s place in the world; abidance by this moral code remains the share of rare individuals or small religious groups (Kant considered that this was the deep meaning of religion: it presented moral norms as divine commandments and thus sanctified the duty of obeying them); this moral imperative remains an ideal, unattainable norm for the majority of people.


Instead of setting the example of abidance by this moral model, the ecclesiastical institution often emphasizes rites and rituals, the dogmatic and canonical schema or the community-identifying functions of religion: the church usually draws institutional benefits from this specific reduction of the religious, whereby it is externalized, extended on a massive scale, and thus made amenable to control and management.


The emphasis on rites and ritual, the reduction of religious behaviour to them, signifies enclosure within the framework of this virtual reality of sorts; this leaves us without an exit to reality, to our fellows, to human relationships.


The perception of religion as collective phenomenon appears  in the religious sphere regulated legal texts of the democratic developing Balkan countries.  They intend  to harmonize the national policy in this delicate sphere with European legal standards. Understandably, the  above legal texts – as far as the  European Laws on Religion -  does not refer to  the religious motivation and to the moral attitude of the doer – the most important side of the Early Christianity spiritual universe.



5. Social niches for religion in a secularized society


Modern and post-modern society has substituted social roles for individual virtues, and social techniques of control, bureaucratic rationality, for value motivations (M. Weber); legal regulation has come to predominate over interpersonal ties; and even in these ties, alienation has grown; there is a clear tendency to increasing standardization and routine in social life at the expense of suppressed individuality, of creativity as elements that introduce turbulence into the system (B. Wilson).


The extremes of these trends of modern societies have provoked the desire for spontaneous human ties and closeness, for a fuller emotional life, for more solid values on which to base behavior and interpersonal relations, values such as trust, mutual closeness, good will; the satisfaction of these needs has at times been sought in the religious sphere (B. Wilson).


Quite a few philosophers, including religious philosophers and theologians, have pointed out that interpersonal ties, which have been neglected in bureaucratic and technological rationality, play a constitutive role for human society.  For Plato, the form of state government corresponds to and even depends on the nature, passions and relationships among its citizens. Aristotle determines sociality as a mutual well-meaning and trust among people. Augustine regards friendship among people as a reflection and continuation of the divine harmony of the universe. For many of the prominent Arab philosophers love is a higher value than knowledge.


In modern times religious philosophy accepts and continues this line of thought, which is quite often described as romantic: F. Schleiermacher - every man is a necessary stroke in the landscape of the universe; M. Buber - the most essential relationships in society are not the political and economic, but rather inter-personal ones: of trust, friendship and love; J. Maritain - the moral sphere is the key characteristic of the social; P. Tillich - the courage to create and live with others (“to be part”) can bring power even to the culture-killed God. F.M. Dostoyevski maintained that inter-human solidarity stems from the metaphysical suffering and loneliness of people abandoned by God, from the universal “fragility” of human nature typical of all people /J.Comenius/.



6. Latent functions: religion as an emblem of the community


When religion functions as an emblem of separate communities, such as the nation, the ethnic group, an empire, a civilization, the concept of “neighbor” is usually limited within the boundaries of these small or large communities; the so-called latent functions of religion come into action here (B. Wilson), which turn religion into a tool of community identity and self-affirmation.


Actually, every action of the group or individual, carried out in the name of the faith, but with means that contradict the pathos and ethos of the holy books, tends to deeply erode the spirit and public image of religion. In fact such an action, viewed from a perspective internal to religion, cannot be considered religiously motivated at all.


In such situations religion is usually reduced to “belonging”, to a vivid emblem that signifies the community in its opposition to ethnic, linguistic, psychological otherness, at the expense of “believing”, of the faith and its corresponding moral behavior (G. Davie). Thus the religious universality is subordinated to partial group values, instead of transcending and enhancing these values.


Processes and trends in Eastern Orthodoxy in the Balkans in our times are directly connected with the difficult and painful “opening” of this region to global changes, to the “West”, and to “Europe”. In this complex process, marked at times by dramatic shocks for values, by anomie, etc., Eastern Orthodoxy has become a spiritual and institutional haven and channel for valuation and protection of the local identity, of the local ethnos and state, and of the regional civilization and cultural zone. The power and specifics of these trends have varied in the separate Balkan countries: in some of them the Orthodox Church has acted in collaboration with the political elite (Serbia), in others it has been critical of the pro-European values of that elite (Greece), in others still it has responded to and reflected the party and political division in society (Bulgaria).


The causes for reanimation of the “community emblem” role of Eastern Orthodoxy in the last two decades are the following:

The processes of globalization and social transformation which had to be carried out here in a comparatively brief period of time led to many unfavorable results for the mass of the local populations, such as impoverishment and unemployment; most important, these processes imposed changes in the values system with regard to relationships between individual and society, freedom and security, ideology and pragmatism, personal consumption and gain, etc. These changes, which in the Western mentality and culture have been promoted by Protestantism, in most Balkan countries had to be achieved in short periods of time and without the helpful mediation of a powerful value-defining ideology that would have made them seem familiar and organic for the regional cultures. Without such mediation the new democratic values were more or less perceived as something imported, as a Western phenomenon imposed from the outside, at times even by force.

Due to the fact that the political elites of some of the Eastern Orthodox countries (with the exception of Serbia), gradually accepted a pro-Western and pro-European orientation, the Eastern Orthodox Churches remained the only institutional subject serving as a medium for the fears and discontents produced by social changes. The West-centered mythology found an opposition in East-centered mythology, incubated in Eastern Orthodoxy as an institution and doctrine.


This new and strong social role that the difficulties of global changes have assigned to the Orthodox Churches would eventually wither in the course of a democratic pro-European evolution of Balkan societies. Even the powerful Polish Catholic Church passed through a period of hesitation with regard to the European orientation of Poland, anticipating the narrowing of the social niche and weakening of the social status of the Church in a democratic society.



7. Types of relationships between state and Church in the European countries. Is there a European  identity/standard in this sphere?


It is generally considered that, in the developed Western democracies, there are three basic models of Church-state relationships, characteristic of the epoch of secularisation: 1) the model of a state Church expressing a predominant religion (Finland, Greece, Great Britain); 2) the model of divided existence and co-operation, where the Church is separated from the state but is part of society (Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain); 3) the strict separation of church from state (France – the only European country with a categorical separation between Church and state)[1] .


Another proof of the secular nature of European statehood is the absence of any reference to confession-based religious theses and ideas in the preambles to the constitutions of the European countries. Such references exist in the preambles to the Greek and Irish constitutions. Whereas the French principle of laicité accepts that the state must be completely neutral with regard to all religious matters, the German tradition allows the so-called Invocatio Dei; this difference is reflected in the contrary positions of these two countries on this issue in connection with the European Constitution. [2]


The secular principle of separation between Church and state is evident in the new constitutions of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe: in some of their preambles there is reference to God (Poland, the Ukraine); others refer to their religious traditions (Czech Republic, Slovakia); still others make no such reference or simply have no preambles to the constitution (Romania, Latvia, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan). In the most frequent case there is no reference to God (Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro).[3]


The basic legal acts and documents that establish the principles of state-Church relations in developed democracies are the following: 1/Universal Declaration of Human Rights /1948/, art.18; 2/International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations /1976/, art.18; 3/ European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms  /1953/, art.9: “1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”


In assuming the freedom of religion to be a core principle of European identity with regard to state-Church relationships, the international documents in this sphere affirm the rights of separate countries to take into account in their legislature their national and cultural specificity (Art. 22 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU; Amsterdam treaty Declaration N11 on the status of Churches and non-confessional organisations).[4]


Examining the various emphases and even the philosophy of this legislature in Germany, France, Great Britain, Spain, L.Bloß writes that it: “appears to draw a highly differentiated picture of the European Union as a whole being divided into several major legal approaches in this arena.”[5] But these European models of state-Church relations are not static. There is a trend towards reduction of the relative weight of state Churches and towards granting greater rights to other confessions; in recent years this tendency has become evident in Sweden and Finland, in Italy, Spain, and Portugal.


The same author points out several basic stresses in European legislature with regard to the freedom of religion: freedom of worship, individually and collectively; a certain degree of church autonomy; financial relief in the form of direct support and/or tax relieves; participation and/or representation in mass media and school systems; support on an equal basis in the cultural and social realm. [6]


8. The state and Church relations in Spain[7] regarding  some similarities with the situation in the studied countries


Except for brief intervals, Spain was defined as a confessional Catholic country between 1873 and 1931, and this principle was brought to an extreme during the Franco regime. It was only by the law on religious freedom, adopted in 1967, that other religious communities received rights. The constitution of 1978 instituted a new type of relationship between state and Church in abolishing the principle that Catholicism is the state religion.


Without affirming the principle of strict separation between state and Church, the principle of religious freedom and secularism are predominant in the legal regulation of state-Church relationships, together with the principle of non-discrimination.


In 1980 the General Act of Religious Freedom was adopted in Spain; it binds religious freedom with considerations of public order, health and morality. Through this act legal tools are created for providing cooperation between the state and other religious communities. The first of them is a register on religious communities /the Religious Entities Register Book/, kept by the General Directorate of Religious Affairs at the Ministry of Justice/, which grants legal status to religious confessions. Registration is one of the requirements that guarantee the right of a religious confession to conclude a contract with the state.


The second tool is the Committee on Freedom of Worship, created by the Ministry of Justice, in which government officials and representatives of the various religious communities take part, the emphasis being on those who are influential and authoritative in Spain. If a given religious confession meets the first two conditions, it has the right to conclude a contract with the state.


According to L. Bloß the government gives privileges on the basis of historical principles, not on a quantitative basis; that is why such contracts have been concluded with the Muslim and Jewish communities, but not with Jehovah’s Witnesses, though this confession has a larger following. Spain continues to be a predominantly Catholic country. An indication of this is that religious communities such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Scientology, etc., have been refused registration for more than 10 years.


During my visit to Spain in September 2004 in connection with this project I noticed an expanding scope of admission to legal status of confessions.


Indeed, the public space in that country was dominated by the cultural-religious presence of the Catholic Church, which seemed to be embodied most imposingly in Madrid in the magnificent Catedrala de la Almudena, an exceptional architectural achievement with a grandiose interior and a rich and deep symbolism of the sculptures of saints in front of the entrance to the building. The influence of the Church as an institution in Spain was reflected in the throngs of worshippers in the churches and the numerous religious bookstores full of an enormous quantity of religious publications, newspapers of individual churches, books on religious doctrine, research works, etc.


The vicissitudes in Spanish history and its cultural vitality were obvious in the variety of confessions embodied in the houses of worship in Toledo, religions that had met, fought, and finally come to mutual reconciliation: Islam, Catholicism, Judaism… Lion Feuchtwanger wrote a wonderful book, “Spanish Ballad”, about this city and its religions, about how, together with all-powerful time, love is the other great force that reconciles and pacifies religious contradictions and struggles.… The motley crowds of tourists come from all over the world, transformed the monuments of these fateful age-long struggles into beautiful photographs, into an exciting summer adventure, a colorful souvenir, to be bought for friends or as a remembrance…


At the same time, in its issue of September 16, the daily El Pais, came out with an entire page devoted to la Gran Inauguracion, the official opening of the new building of the Spanish Church of Scientology, a special ceremony that was to take place on September 18. Led by professional interest, I attended this ceremony, which combined dancing and music, a strong presence of the media, attractive (the actor Tom Cruse) and authoritative (representatives of institutions) speakers. Such means of impact traditional religions find hard to adopt. As for the post-modern individual, he seems rather inclined to accept a religious “cocktail”, spiritual “bricolage”, as long as it works for him in relieving his stress and mental torments.


It is hard to strike a balance between fidelity to tradition, to the foundations of traditional religion on the one hand and openness to dialogue and support for contemporary human mentality on the other. But achieving this balance seems to be the source of vitality of these new religious movements. Religious philosophers and theologians are thinking hard on these questions /the interesting book I bought “Teologia para todos” refers to them/, wavering between hope and despair: in one of the bookstores of Madrid I saw a book by a contemporary theologian, entitled “Adios Cristiendad”…


* * *



              II.  Cultural-historical background of the problem



The analyzed in this study countries experienced complicated post-communist transformations from the beginning of the last decade of the past century; some of them – Serbia and Macedonia – even blood ethnic-religious conflicts. After the end of this period the studied countries should solved some very important and complicated problems in the religious sphere: democratization of the legal regulation and acceptance of the Western-European standards; creation of the social-political atmosphere of tolerance, liberties, pluralism in the religious sphere; adaptation to the changes and trends, imposed by the globalization .


The democratization of state and Church relations in the contemporary Balkan countries can not be analyzed and understood without referring to the historical background of the processes and especially to the interaction between the religion and the historical myths, related to the national identities. In one of these countries, Serbia, the Eastern Orthodox Church has been a powerful generator of and channel for the intensification of the national identity, in collaboration with the political elite. In another country, Bulgaria, the Eastern Orthodox Church has been occupied with politically produced internal ecclesiastic problems and divisions and has remained aside from these trends and roles.


1.Problems of the “nationalization” of the myth of God’s elect in Serbia and Bulgaria


The conversion to Christianity of the young states of Serbia and Bulgaria at the end of the ninetieth century (regardless of its high value as a civilising factor) created the possibility for the emergence and many centuries of circulation of the two mutually connected myths or rather of the integral myth, of the nation elected by God and personified in the God-elected state leader. Moreover, the adoption of Christianity from the Byzantine Church in particular determined another interesting feature in the formation and active working of this myth in the histories of Serbia and Bulgaria.


 Byzantium built its imperial ideology and political religion on the myth of divine election. The myth represents a synthesis, a complex product of the beliefs and cultural traditions of the peoples that made up the Empire: the solar cult of the Romans with the idea of the divine sun-emperor, the belief that a holy empire is destined to establish its power across the whole world, the haughty attitude of enlightened Greece towards the rest of the world, considered to be “barbaric”, the view that the empire is the materialization of God’s Kingdom on earth, which echoes the early Christian notion of the Divine King.


These views took shape and acquired official status in the time of Justinian, remaining traditional and unchanging until the fall of the empire. The newly converted Slavic states became part of the Byzantine oikumenos, or the “Byzantine Commonwealth” as D. Obolensky called it; these states were treated by analogy with the children of the powerful pater familias [8].


Together with military rivalry over territories, borderlines, and resources, sharp competition grew for appropriating this myth. This rivalry over the myth became part of the prolonged and painful struggle for state independence, for autonomous institutions, for national spirituality. The struggle acquired particularly dramatic proportions for the Bulgarian state at that time, it being the geographically closest, and militarily and culturally most powerful, rival of the Byzantine Empire.


The idea of Divine election of the head of state and of God’s elect nation can be found in the official and apocryphal literature of both countries. The presence of this idea marks the growth of state and national self-awareness, of finding a place of one’s own, finding one’s identity in the framework of the universal Christian tradition. The idea of imperial status and the recurrent revival of this idea in the states of the Byzantine commonwealth was not only a sign of military and economic rivalry, but also of the striving of the separate states to acquire, by force or through diplomacy, the role of political and religious center within the community of states. This was also a striving to obtain state-political and spiritual status of a causa sui.


2. Specific national features of the myth of the national mission. Serbia.


One of the causes for the difference in how the breakup of the totalitarian systems took place in Bulgaria as compared with Serbia lies in the specific differences between the two countries in the meaning and preservation of what is “theirs” in terms of territory, ethnic identity, resources, mythology. While for Bulgaria, “one’s own” proved vigorous only when united with something “alien” - Europe and/or Russia, in Serbia (and in other Balkan countries) people turned to the historical mythological foundation of their “own” as something superior to the “alien”, whether neighbouring or distant.


I will point out two of the main causes for this distinction: 1/ the national consciousness had preserved over the centuries the force of the myth of uniqueness and national superiority over the “others”, and 2/ this construction has been revived and imbued with aggressive energies for preserving the nation and purging it of the alien (in terms of language, religion, ethnos, territory), all of this being promoted by the political elite and through propaganda.


Among the myths that have maintained the feeling of uniqueness and superiority over others, Serbian researchers point out the cult of Saint Sava and the Kosovo myth. The sacralisation of the dynasty of Stefan Nemanja (1113-1199), including his son Sava, created in the popular consciousness the foundation  of the idea of historical continuity and ethnic kinship. The life of St. Sava is connected with the consolidation and development of Orthodoxy, with the autocephalic status acquired by the Serbian Orthodox Church, with devoted service to the good of the people; all this was strongly mythologised by religious authors and by popular tradition.


St. Sava’s deeds and martyrdom were taken to be a sign and a result of divine election and were likened to the figure of Christ. In connection with this mythologisation, the idea of the indelible bond between the Serbian nation and Orthodoxy, between ethnos and religion, which was one of the ideological pretexts and criteria for ethnic “cleansing” during the war in former Yugoslavia.


As Orthodox Christianity was the religion shared by several Balkan peoples, this confession could become distinctive for the Serbian nation only when linked to the personality of St. Sava, whereby it acquired an ethnic aspect for this specific nation.  Some authors call this saint the spiritual-ecclesiastic father of Serbia, while the contemporary Serbian author Ivan Kolaric calls the St. Sava myth ‘pivotal for the Serbian ethnos and ethos.


The ideas of St. Sava concerning the Christian Church as “God’s State”, which unites the ethnos and is a protector of the Serbian national principle also serves to sacralise and strengthen the myth of God’s elect as a function and a consequence of the merging of the ethnic principle with Orthodoxy. The mythologised figure of St. Sava became a national Jesus Christ[9], and by nationalising Orthodoxy, this faith, common to many nations, became part of “one’s own” for Serbs.


While such a synthesis was something usual in the Middle Ages, its revival in the last years of the twentieth century was a result of the purposeful efforts of politicians and ecclesiastics. Many contemporary Serbian researchers point out the efforts of religious-ecclesiastic figures for reviving and modernising the myth of the uniqueness of Savian Orthodoxy and of the divine election of the Serbian ethnic community, loyal to the saint.


R. Radic discusses the attempts of opposing the European man to the Savian god-man, and the belief that the Serbian people is a nation of Christ with a world mission connected with the spirit and eternity [10]. D. Djordjevic points out that the revival of nationalism during the 1980s in Serbia was a factor for the growing importance of the Serbian Orthodox Church and for the active use of the national-religious synthesis as a feature of divine election, superiority, and intolerance for aliens [11].


When the criterion of “Orthodoxy” is used to define the ethnic origin, not only the non-Orthodox, but even non-religious individuals become foreigners, are excluded from the Serbian ethnic. On the other hand, the revival and consolidation of the Serbian Orthodox Church and its congregation turns out to be a quasi-religious process, for religion in this case proves to be mostly a form of preservation of the ethnos, a recalling of its mission. This process is equally dangerous for the Church, for religion, and for the ethnic community. It makes these elements mutually dependent and interchangeable, impoverishing their separate cultural contents and properties.






3. National particularities of the mythology of mission. The Bulgarian case.


Having reached its peak of effective utilisation of the myth of God’s elect and of the unique mission during the Golden Age of King Simeon, Bulgaria gradually left the historical stage of Balkan missionary mythologies. Historians and philosophers of Bulgarian history have discussed the variety of causes for this abandonment: the strong influence of Byzantine culture, the division between people and state leaders with regard to internal and external goals, the dangerous cross-roads location of the country, etc.


The attempts in modern times, particularly between the First and Second World Wars, to seek new dimensions for a unique and important national mission did not prove successful and were not widely accepted in cultural and political circles, nor in Bulgarian mass consciousness; in other words, they failed to revive and modernize the energy of the medieval mythological archetype.


The myth broke down into competing ideas about the specifics of Bulgarian identity[12]: 1/ the idea of Slavocentric identity involving the idea of union of Slavic countries with Russia; 2/ the Eurocentric identity proclaiming the adherence to European values; 3/ the Bulgarocentric one based on the idea of the unique Bulgarian ethnos, the unique religious-pagan synthesis, the unique features of the Bulgarian national character, etc.


The force, energy, and scale of the mythological idea of God’s elect people and its unique mission also depend on the environment, on the “enemy” that the idea confronts. In the history of independent national Balkan countries /in the ninteenth and in the twentieth centuries/, where periods of good neighbourly relations and rivalry have followed one after the other, the megamyth of God’s elect is broken up into parts. It breaks down to the myths of the “bad other” in the Balkans as opposed to “us, the good ones”; the myth of Macedonia, which has different meanings for Bulgarians and Serbs; the myth of the true faith, of “authentic” Orthodoxy; the myth of the nation that created the Slavonic language, etc.


In our times this resource is entirely under the control and responsibility of the political elite and media. Proof of this is the variety of approaches and usage of each of the above-mentioned myths under the various political regimes in the different Balkan countries. During the totalitarian period most of these myths lost official support, but showed through sharply, and they have obviously not lost their vitality and unifying potential, unfortunately used in recent years at the service of hatred.


The gradual waning and reduction of the myth of the unique and important national mission that is evident in the modern history of Bulgaria is one of the essential differences in the life of this myth here as compared with Serbia. Of course we are not discussing the independent mystical aspect of the myth, but its role as a symbol and symptom of the level of national self-awareness and self-confidence. As M. Lalkov writes, commenting on the strong presence of this myth in the history of Balkan peoples: ‘Only the peoples who are absolutely sure of themselves can do without absolute ancestries.”[13]


4. The withering of the national mission myth in Bulgaria. For better or for worse?


At first glance the processes of change that began in 1989 in Bulgaria differ completely from those in Serbia with regard to the historical mythology involved, especially with regard to the myth of national superiority and “God’s elect”. In the modern and recent history of Bulgaria this myth has gradually lost its hold on the national consciousness, for the question of the civilizational choice of Bulgaria has been set in terms of “accession” - whether it be to the West, to Russia, or to the Soviet Union.


Among the basic causes for this feature, I would point out the following:

First, there is a gap of five centuries separating the time when that myth was active, in the first centuries of the Bulgarian state, especially after conversion to Christianity in the nintieth century, from the modern history of Bulgaria. While in this same period of “timelessness” for Bulgaria, in Serbia the Kosovo myth grew in cultural force; by this myth the fall under the Turkish yoke (after the Battle of Kosovo) was transfigured as a heroic feat of martyrdom in Serbian history. Combined with the myth of unique Savian Orthodoxy, it created a spiritual heritage, a continuity of Serbian history in the national consciousness.



Although it was a factor for cultural and national preservation in Bulgaria as well, Orthodoxy was not connected with the founding myth of nationality. Moreover, during the Turkish domination the religion tended to acquire an overtone of Greek domination, becoming associated with Greek interests promoted by the Patriarchate of Constantinople[14].


This was one of the causes why the attempts in modern times to unite the national idea with Orthodoxy were not particularly active or successful. National mythology about the values and missionary projects of the nation were fueled mostly by the idea of joining “imported” large-scale mythologies such as European values (science, economic growth, pragmatism); or the Slavic idea, usually embodied by Russia and connected with values such as warm human relations, spirituality, etc.


In the first half of the twentieth century Europeanism was less popular than the Slavophile idea. At the same time, even the proponents of the Slavic idea (writers, historians) defended the trend for Bulgarian culture to join universal and the advanced culture, and resisted cultural isolationism. The idea of a unique Bulgarian messianism, upheld by a few thinkers, called for a neo-pagan renaissance, and was inspired by anti-Slavic and anti-European emotions; it usually involved authoritarian and totalitarian trends [15].


The period of totalitarianism (from 1944 to 1989) put an end to these orientations, involving Bulgarian national destiny in a large-scale social project in which  mythology and social pragmatics were tightly interwoven. Bulgaria was now a submissive member of the Soviet “commonwealth”, the Socialist bloc. The ”Golden Age” of King Simeon, the epic rivalry with the Byzantines, the liberation struggles were left behind in history, or rather had become a prehistory, for the triumph of Communism in Bulgaria was considered the crowning achievement  of national development, as well as a completely new social start.


In Serbia the resilience of the Kosovo myth in its quality of “eternal ethics, unchanging with time”[16] served both the Yugoslav unity and proletarian values. Of course, when comparing the mission myth in Bulgaria and Serbia, I am not referring to some advantage on one side or another in this comparison, but simply point out the differences. In Bulgaria the communist missionary mythology engulfed and effaced the already weak missionary strand in the national mythology.


Of course the real social role of the communist mission myth cannot be given a simple assessment. It is ambivalent and its negative sides have been the object of a great quantity of publications. One of its advantages over the national mission mythologies of the Balkans was that it served as a source of scientific-technical modernisation of Balkan societies. Moreover, Arnold Toynbee considered that in the twentieth century the same processes of modernisation had taken place both in the West and in the East, but were carried out in different political and ideological forms.


*   *   *



                    III. Phenomenology of the Problem         



    1.Legal Issues of State-Church Relationships in Serbia and Montenegro. Religion and Politics


1.1. The legal void and the way towards the law


With the formation of socialist Yugoslavia after WWII began the separation between Church and State in this country. The Constitutions of 1946, 1963, and 1974 contained articles that placed the Church outside the sphere of the state. The position of religious communities was regulated by a law adopted in 1953, and after the constitutional reform of 1974, the member states of the Federation adopted separate laws on religious communities. Such a law was passed in Serbia in 1977; it was invalidated in 1993.


After the breakup of socialist Yugoslavia and the creation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a Constitution was voted (April 27, 1992), art. 18 of which stipulates that the Church is separate from the state and Churches are free and equal in rights; art. 20 asserts that citizens are free and equal regardless of race, gender, language, faith, political or other differences, education, social origin; art. 43 affirms the freedom of religious confessions[17].


In the present Constitution of Serbia, adopted September 28, 1990, art. 41 asserts the freedom of religious confessions; Churches and religious communities are separate from the state and are free in the performance of their religious functions; they have the right to create confessional schools and charity organizations. The state has no financial commitments to the Churches and will not return them their nationalized property. By the latest amendments to the Constitution, made early in 2003, the territorial and administrative decentralization of the state and the character of the state community as a union of the two sovereign states, Serbia and Montenegro, are asserted. Civil liberties and the protection of human rights, including religious rights and liberties[18], are not treated in this constitution.


“The Charter of Human and Minority Rights and Civil Liberties”[19], passed several months after the Constitution, stipulates in art. 26 that each person has freedom of thought, conscience, faith and religious confession; art.27, that religious communities are equal in rights and separate from the state and have full autonomy to build their own organizations, to perform their religious functions and rites, to create confessional schools and charity organization. Art. 51 states that the expression of and instigation to national, racial, religious or any other inequality are forbidden and punishable, as are hatred and intolerance based thereon, while art. 30 draws attention to the responsibility of the media in this connection.


Issues of religious communities are also addressed in the Government Decree of the Republic of Serbia pertaining to the organization of alternative religious education in the primary and secondary schools; by this decree, religion was introduced in 2001 as an optional subject in schools. The decree was prepared by a committee organized by the Ministry of Religions and the Ministry of Education and Sports; this committee included representatives of the recognized Churches and religious communities. Civic education was the alternative school subject offered as an option. After the Law on Primary education was amended in 2002, both these subjects became obligatory. Art. 20 of the Law stipulates that the school curriculum on religious education will be determined jointly with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Religions on the basis of proposals coming from the traditional Churches and religious communities in conformity with the law. [20]


After the Law on Religious Communities was abolished in 1993, a legal void set in within the sphere of religion. In the period that commenced, religious communities, especially the new religious movements, were registered according to the Law on Civic Associations, dating from 1990. Legal status was recognized for all the religious organizations registered by 1993.


1.2. The Draft Law of Religious Freedom /2002/


After the authoritarian regime of Slobodan Milosevic fell in 2000, the Ministry of Religious Affairs was created; the latter was renamed Secretariat on Religious Affairs at the time of the administrative reforms of 2002. This Secretariat initiated a Draft Law of Religious Freedom[21]. The objective of the law was to harmonize the national policy in this delicate sphere with European legal standards.


In the Preamble to the law it is indicated that the Serbian Orthodox Church has played a major historical role in preserving and developing the national identity and that the social and cultural importance is acknowledged of the Muslim community, the Roman Catholic Church, the Jewish community, the Evangelical Christian Church, the Reformed Christian Church, as well as the other churches and confessional communities. These religious communities were recognized by law in the late 1920s and early 1930s, which has become the basis for their being specially mentioned in the recent law. The situation of the other Churches and religious communities can be regulated through their applying for registration. In order for a religious community to be registered, a minimum of 10 members is required.


 Art. 1 affirms the liberty of thought, conscience and belief; art. 2 states there is no state religion; art. 4 asserts that religious communities are equal and free in maintaining their religious identity. Art. 5 defines religious communities as legal persons founded for performing religious activities. They obtain their legal status after being registered by a proper organ, while the Churches and communities listed in the Preamble already have legal status and are inscribed in the Register following a simplified procedure.


 According to art. 8 of the draft law, when applying for registration, the religious communities provide information on their name, means of financial support, the person representing them, their status and the basis of their religious doctrine, rites and goals. A religious community may be refused registration if its goals, doctrine, rites or activities are not constitutional, are in contradiction with the social order, or represent a risk to the rights and liberties of others, in particular to life, physical and mental health, the rights of children and the right to protection of the family and property /art. 9/. In these cases the authorities go by the standards of the European Court on Human Rights and by the relevant practice in one or more states of the European community.


 Art. 13 of the law affirms the role of the State for promoting tolerance between religious communities, while art. 14 specifies that the state-run primary and secondary schools provide for the right to religious education of the religious communities listed in the Preamble of this law. Art. 18 also affirms that the State is committed to invalidating the legal consequences of the nationalization of the property of religious communities and can provide material assistance to religious communities. Art. 23 treats of the conditions under which the freedom of religion and conscience may be restricted; these conditions are defined by law and concern the need to protect the security, social order, health, morals, or the rights and liberties of others.



1.3.Critique and discussion of the Draft Law of Religious Freedom


According to Dr. M. Vukomanovich, the legal aspect of the church-state relations “has not gained enough attention from experts” and there are  “many dilemmas and a significant dose of confusion both in the public and in the state institutions”[22]. According to this author, the legal identity of the state that the law refers to is not clear: “Who are the partners in this relationship? Which state /bearing in mind the as yet unresolved issue of Serbian-Montenegrin relations/ will establish its legal relationship with religious communities?[23]


 Moreover, this eminent Serbian sociologist of religion raises the important issue of the legal consistency and continuity in legislation on these issues: “Before any appropriate law had been passed in Parliament, the Serbian Government’s Decree on Religious Education defined in its article 1, that the traditional churches and religious communities are: Serbian Orthodox Church, Islamic Community, Roman Catholic Church, Slovak Evangelical Church, Jewish Community, Evangelical Christian Church and Reformed Christian Church”.[24] A particularly important question is what the criterion should be for dividing communities into two categories, treated differently by the law with regard to registration and religious education: “Is that the constitutional model of the so-called ‘recognized religious communities’? What were the criteria of this selection? Are other religious communities still equal before the law?[25]


 The author points out particularly important questions that have not been addressed in the draft law: How can the churches participate in the protection of the national, religious, ethnic rights of other religious and confessional groups?”[26] and “How to put this principle in practice in actual situations.”[27]


According to G. Bashich, the reason why the legal norm emphasizes the church institution rather than the individual believer, and why these particular religious communities enjoy a privileged status, lies in a nostalgic mentality that is inclined to a restoration of the past situation. In this perspective, the correct relations that existed between state and Churches in the first half of the 20th cent., cut short by the Communist regime, should be restored. [28]


Among circles of the Serbian Orthodox Church, criticism of the draft law is also voiced: there have been comments  that it degrades the status of the Church to one of several traditional religious communities, thereby failing to distinguish the unique historical role of this Church in preserving the Serbian nation and state; the law is said not to assume a clear commitment to restoring nationalized property and providing financial support by the state for religious communities; it has also been said that there is no need for a law on religious freedom at all, but that the state should make separate agreements with each religious community.[29]


The draft law was discussed at a session of parliament in December 2002; the debate showed there was in fact insufficient support for the projected law. In the mean time, the Secretariat on Religious Affairs has been abolished, whose Secretary, B. Shijakovich, was a member of the committee preparing the draft law. The functions of the Secretariat were assumed by the Ministry of Human Rights and National Minorities together with the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Serbia.


The Association for Religious and National Freedoms of Serbia and Montenegro came out with an alternative draft law, which has found support among the religious communities and the government.[30] The views of this  association are that a person is inherently free and there is no need for a law regulating this natural right. The idea is for religious communities in Serbia to sign a contract with the state regarding their legal status. For decades, supporters of this idea claim, the traditional religious communities in Serbia have been formally equal, but their actual situation has depended on the political regime and its ideological bias.


 The key issue is not whether religion is a person’s private affair, but whether a religious person is restricted in his/her rights when belonging to a minority religious community. That is why a concrete contract between each community and the state is necessary /the solution of the issue in Croatia has been similar, although not without its shortcomings[31]/ - this idea has been formulated as a decision of the conference and has been supported by most religious communities[32].


For several years now, a reform of the constitution has been expected in Serbia, which will define the political, social, administrative and territorial order. It will probably also regulate the situation of Churches and religious communities. According to G. Bashich, the basic question in the philosophy of this problem is whether the authors of the constitution will assume as central to their legal perspective the Church as institution or the freedom of the individual believer.



1.4. The Draft Law on Freedom of Belief, Churches, Religious Communities and Religious Associations /2004/[33]

On July 6, 2004 the Ministry for Religious Affairs of the Republic of Serbia presented to the public a new “ Law on Freedom of Belief, Churches, Religious Communities and Religious Associations”. The draft law met with a mixed response: it was approved of by the so-called traditional communities, but was sharply criticized by the small religious communities, by the NGOs, by international experts.


In her interesting study A. Ilic expressed the opinion of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights that the law marks a regress compared with the draft law of 2002, and thus reflects certain political changes that have taken place as a result of the parliamentary elections of December 2003. The elections were won by the nationalistic Serbian Radical Party, which considers Orthodoxy to be an important factor for Serbian identity.[34]

Which are the most debated points and theses?


In the 2004 draft law, unlike that of 2002, there is no reference at the beginning to the basic documents presenting the European standards of state-Church relationships in democratic societies. The general provisions of the draft law begin by affirming the freedom of confession, both for communities and for citizens. It is stipulated that the citizen can neither be discriminated, nor privileged on the basis of his/her religious affiliation /art. 1/


Article 2 defines the importance of Churches, religious communities and religious associations for human and civil liberties, for the cultural identity of the people and of the ethnic communities, for the democratization and harmonization of social relationships in Serbia; art. 3 guarantees the complete autonomy of the Churches, the religious communities and the religious associations with regard to matters of worship and religion and in their organizational structure.


Article 4 is the focus of criticisms and discussions. It gives a legally privileged status to several churches and religious communities which in the preamble to the 2002 draft law are also indicated as being traditional or historical – diversity of positions on that problem is available in the European state-Church related discussions [35]: the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Islamic Community, the Roman Catholic Church, the Jewish Community, the Evangelical Christian Churches of the Augsburg Confession, and the Reformed Christian Church. In the draft law of 2004 the reference to such a privileged status is based on the legal continuity with the legislature of the time of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. According to B. Bjelajac, the small religious communities have criticized this article of the law because it tolerated the mono-ethnic Churches and religious communities. [36]


Mirko Djordjevic told Forum18: "The state wants armed nationalism of the 1990s in Serbia to be no more, but nationalism itself survived and gains new life from religious motifs, or rather from fake religious motifs. We need a politics in this country that will make a clear break with the past and start looking forward to the European future."[37]


Although art. 5 of the draft law guarantees equality of rights and liberties for all Churches and religious communities, in view of the contents of art. 4 this clause sounds more or less formal. Among the privileges of the so-called traditional Churches is the right to introduce religious teaching in state schools financed by the state.


According to art. 6, the state does not have the right to meddle in the internal organization of activities of the religious communities, which, according to art. 7, have the status of legal entities. According to art. 8, the various religious communities do not have the right to mutually limit their rights and liberties. In order for this provision to become a reality, democratic development and culture is required in various social spheres, and the fact that such a culture is still absent is demonstrated by the chronology of attacks against the temples of the smaller religious communities: Pavel Domonji, from the Helsinki Committee, observed to Forum 18  that "Small religious communities are often under attack. It  is probably because they form trans-national communities,  where every believer is a member, regardless of ethnic background."[38]


Article 17 of the section “Social status of the church officers”, which guarantees legal immunity to this category, has also provoked a strong critical response for it is expected that mostly the Orthodox clergymen will benefit by this clause. That violates the principle of separation of church and state, proclaimed under Article 41 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and Article 27 of the Human and Minority Rights and Civil Freedoms Charter.


According to Article 47 of the section “Financing”, the religious communities are self-supporting through their own revenues, but there is also a statement, expressive generally of the desirability of this principle, that the state should financially assist the religious communities. As for the return of confiscated property, much as in the 2002 draft law, here likewise no concrete guarantees are provided, but it is merely pointed out that the question will be regulated by a separate law.


The legal status of religious associations which are not of the religious communities indicated in art. 4, is regulated in section IX. According to art. 63, religious associations that have been legally recognized are automatically entered in the Register, whereby their status of legal entities is confirmed. The Register of religious communities is kept by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.


Articles 64 and 65 guarantee the right of religious associations to free practice of their faith in the way in which this is guaranteed for Churches and religious communities.


The section on “New religious associations” lists the documents required for registration of the new religious associations: name, address, status, basic principles of the religious doctrine, etc., which were also present in the 2002 draft law, but with one important exception. The earlier draft law required a minimal number of 10 members for granting legal status of the associations, while the 2004 draft law requires 1000 members, a change that was also seriously criticized by the smaller religious communities.


The Hare Krishna representative has stated: "However, there are some proposals that are not really good, for instance the proposed requirement for a minimum of 1,000 believers before a new religious association can be registered. We have never been consulted about any issues in this country, and we have not even been sent this draft bill, although we have been registered as a religious community in  Serbia since 1989." In contrast to this attitude, "our sister communities in the former Yugoslavia have received not only state recognition, but in Croatia they will be given 500 square meters of space in the centre of Zagreb for  humanitarian work; in Slovenia we have an agreement with the  state and have received about 1,500 Euros (12,587 Norwegian  Kroner or 1,806 US Dollars) from the [Slovenian] state this year, and in Macedonia, the state invites us whenever there is  an occasion for various religious bodies to meet together.”[39]


Article 69 stipulates that the term for making the decision regarding the registration is 60 days, and there is a 30-day term for making the needed additions to the incomplete registration. There is a better solution, for in the previous draft law the term was 90 days. According to art. 70 another legal entity cannot register under the same name, while art. 72 defines the cases where the legal entity status of the religious association is abolished: when that association violates public order, when it acts against the family and morality, when it instigates national or racial hostility.


1.5. Further  evolution of the 2004 Draft


As a result of the criticisms addressed by the small religious communities, the NGOs and the international organizations, the government withdrew this draft law and in September 2004 the Ministry of Religious Affairs proposed a new, third draft law “On religious organizations”[40], in which an attempt was made to respond positively toward the criticisms.


 In this draft law the rights and liberties of the various categories of religious communities are dealt with together, synthetically, not separately; their equal standing is stressed. The category of “religious organizations” implies the uniting traits of religious communities, but their separation and distinction into types remain in this draft law as well, even more clearly and categorically than in the previous two variants. They are presented in Section Two, entitled “Religious organizations”, which defines three types of religious organizations, respectively three kinds of status.


According to art. 9, there are some “traditional Churches” /the “traditional Church” status is accepted by the specialists as compatible with the European legal standards and practice [41]/ with a long history in the country and a considerable contribution to the development of Christian culture; among these Churches are those indicated in art. 4 of the previous draft law, but not excluding the Muslim and Jewish communities.


 Article 10 gives special status to the Serbian Orthodox Church as first among equals; this Church has the responsibility to protect the rights of all religious organizations and the confessional pluralism of Serbia. This special place given to the Serbian Orthodox Church in a separate article and the description of the merits and social tasks of this Church is probably a kind of response to the criticisms against the 2002 draft law, stating that this law degraded the Church, placing it on an equal standing with the other five religious communities.


Article 11 places the Islamic and Judaic communities in the section “Historical religious communities”, inasmuch as these two have a long historical presence and have contributed to affirming the pluralist European model. Article 12 confirms the privileged legal status of these two religious organizations, which are inscribed automatically in the Register. It is confirmed that this status is based on their traditional legal position in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.



The legal status of the new religious communities dating from the 19th and 20th century is described in a separate section, where reference is likewise made to past legislature, the laws of 1953 and 1973.


In this draft law the idea is missing regarding the legal immunity of Church officers, but the requirement of 1000 members for registration of a new religious organization is repeated.


It is evident from all that has been said that the criticisms of the draft law have not been taken into account fully and categorically; instead, an attempt has been made to pacify criticism by means of general statements without a high regulatory value.


1.6.Latest developments and versions of the 2004 Draft Law


The latest version of the Draft Law, dating from July 2004, entitled Draft Law on the Legal Status of Religious Communities, was offered for discussion to the confessional organizations, to non-governmental national and international organizations, and to the media. According to T. Brankovic, counselor in the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Serbia[42] /interviewed during the International conference in Novi sad, Serbia/, this draft law treated in a qualitatively new, democratic way the issues of freedom of speech, of thought, and of worship. According to T. Brankovic’s presentation at the International conference [43], a particularly important achievement of this last version of the Draft Law was that it recognized religious organizations as being a positive factor in the social and cultural environment of a democratic society.


 In his opinion the much criticized principle of the Law that divides religious communities into three categories according to various criteria, is actually not anti-democratic, for it treats all three groups as equal. This fact has been admitted by Prof. Evans of the University of Bristol, UK, in his expert opinion addressed to the Council of Europe on March 5, 2005. [44]  


Another point of concern in the Draft Law of July 2004 was the large number of members – 1000 people – necessary for registering a religious community. In the course of the current discussions various ideas have  been suggested: for decreasing the number to 700, for abolishing all restrictions for registration involving a minimal number of members


The trend to decreasing the restrictive or prohibitive clauses has been confirmed by the debated idea of giving the religious organizations the right to carry on activities regardless of whether they have been granted legal status and whether they are registered. According to T. Brankovic, the latest discussions and changes in the Draft Law are in the context of the future of Serbia as a European member.


The discussions and the work on the above points completed, the Draft will take the way towards the Parliament.


1.7.Conclusions and Recommendations


Following the main directions of the critics and recommendations by the specialists on the issue, [45] the crucial points to be improved are:


With regard to the requirement for a minimal membership of a religious organization as a condition for acquiring legal status, to decrease the minimum down to what is customary for most European countries, or to completely eliminate this requirement.


In the documents necessary for applying, the one concerning the fundamental principles of the religious doctrine should be eliminated, inasmuch as the object of assessment and the possible sanction should be the actual activity, not the ideas of a given religious community.


The term for obtaining an answer concerning an application for registration should be decreased from 60 to 30 days, which is the term in most European countries. The organ of registration should gradually shift from the state to the judiciary.


The practice of revoking the right of existence of a given religious community should be considered an exceptional, extreme measure inasmuch as it falls under the definition of seeking collective guilt. Interpreting the conditions under which the annulment is possible depends on the democratic culture of a society, and so it is necessary to formulate them more clearly. Violations of the law, connected with such general categories as “spiritual integrity” and “mental health” should be the object of sanctions of the law on health.


In order to achieve equal rights and limit the basis for conflict between the separate religious communities, confessional religious teaching in state schools should gradually be transformed into non-confessional, which is the trend in most European countries.



This slow and painful evolution is a result of the complex situation of the legislator in present-day Serbia. He has to move between the Scylla of European imperatives and standards, presented in the criticisms by NGOs and by small religious  communities, and the Charybdis of internal political circumstances, mass attitudes, the real social authority and social status of some of the religious communities, and xenophobic attitudes.


1.8.Some Present-day Problems of the Religious Situation in Serbia and Montenegro  


There are three main religious traditions in contemporary Serbia and Montenegro: Orthodox Christianity, prevalent throughout the country, Islam, concentrated in the southern regions, and Roman Catholicism, concentrated in the northern regions. The united state is a multi-confessional society in which, besides the majority of Orthodox Christians, there are members of other Christian and non-Christian religious traditions and denominations: Muslims, Catholics, Greek-Catholics, various Protestant denominations, Jews, members of Eastern religious cults, and others. In the province of Vojvodina alone, there are more than 30 different religious denominations.[46]  In the predominantly Muslim Kosovo region during the conflict /1990-1995/ nearly 800 Serbian Orthodox religious sites and 300 mosques and other Islamic sacred buildings were destroyed or damaged, especially in 1998 and 1999.


In the early 1980s, with the start of the Kosovo conflict, a general crisis and transformation of Yugoslav society began, accompanied by a change in the religious situation in terms of quantity and quality. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, sociological surveys registered a growth of religiousness among all confessions and nationalities[47]. The Center for Political Studies and Public Opinion registered a growth of religiousness in Serbia, not including Kosovo, of 7%  /from 35% to 42%/ in the period 1990-1993.[48]


Religiousness is still a predominantly rural phenomenon: the degree of religiousness in Belgrade was 37%, while it was 67% among the rural population.[49] At the end of the period being studied /1993/ a growth of religiousness in the cities was registered /38% of religious respondents and 31% of non-religious/ and among the male population and youth.[50]


The changes in the religious profile of society after 1990 can be accounted for by the growing ethnic homogenization (society has been divided in the course of the civil and interethnic wars of 1991-1995) as a result of which what was once a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia is now a set of communities, differing in religion and in  ethnic belonging.


This process has naturally found expression in the rise of confessional identification: in 1990, 84% of respondents declared their confessional affiliation; in 1991 the percentage rose to 94,7; while in 1993 it was 96,7%, and in 1999 reached 93,5% [51]. This may explain the higher percentage of religious people among the local confessional and demographic minorities, i.e. the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia, the Albanians in Macedonia, the Muslims in Serbia.


Surveys conducted in 1996, show that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, 98,9% of the Serbs in Kosovo indicated they were religious (Orthodox); 95% of the Muslim respondents in Serbia declared their religiousness and 93,7% of them in Montenegro; so did 97,8% of the Albanians in Macedonia[52]. Confessional affiliation usually implies commitment to the faith of one’s ancestors, not necessarily personal religiousness.


As for the correlation between ethnic affiliation and the degree of personal religiousness, the following has been registered: the highest degree of religiousness is evident among the Hungarians – 68 %, and the Muslims – 56 %; the percentage among Serbs is 42% and among Montenegrins 25%.[53]


A sociological survey of religiousness of youths, initiated by the Open Society Foundation of Belgrade and conducted in several large regions of Serbia and Montenegro (Subotitsa, Novi Sad, Pristina, Podgoritsa) has shown that 93,7% of high school pupils indicate their confessional affiliation.Young Serbs, Montenegrins, Albanians indicate their confession in more than 90% of the cases, while 90% of those who have indicated being non-religious also accept their confessional affiliation.[54]


The general picture of religiousness in Serbia as revealed though self-estimation in 1999 was as follows: 59,3% indicated they were “religious”, 21,3% were “not definite” about the question, and 19% stated they were “not religious”.  In Montenegro the highest degree of personal religiousness was registered among the Muslims, an average degree among Catholics, and the lowest degree among Orthodox.[55] As the bitter memories of the interethnic and inter-religious conflicts gradually recede into the past, investigators increasingly turn to the peaceful dimensions of everyday religiousness.[56]


1.9. The Church and the Politics


The interaction between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the government elite has usually served as the basis for organizing and directing the accumulated interethnic and interreligious feelings of people. For centuries the state-political sphere has been the predominant factor in this interaction, and this is true not only for Serbia, but for the Orthodox model of state-Church relations in general, and not only for the Orthodox model in present- day Europe[57].


For the Serbian Church itself, nationalism, as many authors have pointed out, proves to be a last resource for preserving its role as the dominant religious factor in society. The democratization of society would promote a “market” of religious confessions, and would hence have unfavorable consequences for the privileged position of the Church in this respect. The Church is therefore willing to support the state elite in the periods when the national project is politically dominant.


According to a critical analysis made by the Helsinki Committee of Serbia, the social ideology of the Church and the state are involved with the new Serbian right-wing politics[58] or with pro-monarchy parties, which have about 15% support in Serbia. Some radical Serbian parties have attempted to cooperate with the high-ranking clergy in order to attract voters (the Democratic Party of Serbia, Democratic Alternative, the Party of Serbian Unity, etc.) [59].


The Helsinki Committee has criticized the Serbian Orthodox Church for striving to maintain its ecclesiastic monopoly over Macedonia and Montenegro, and not recognizing the legitimacy of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church and the autonomy of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.


On these issues the known Serbian sociologist of religion B. Djurovic gives a different, better argued view. The author points out that the Montenegrins are divided on the matter of their Church; the attitude of the Montenegrin political establishment on the issue is also undefined; given the sharp division of the Montenegrin population concerning their independence and a separate Montenegrin ethnic identity, if the elite vouching for state independence prevails, then the position of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church would be stronger.


According to B. Djurovic, there is now in Montenegro a strong pro-Serbian aggregation of three elites, political, intellectual and clerical[60]. The state financially aids the Serbian and Catholic Churches and the Islamic community, but not the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Ministers of faith of Montenegro have never acknowledged this Church. The coordinator for issues of faith, Prime Minister Vujanovic, has publicly stated that for him the Serbian Orthodox Church is the only canonic church in Montenegro[61].


Prof. Dr. D. Shijakovich, Secretary of the Secretariat on religious affairs of Serbia and Montenegro in the period 2001-2002, has also expressed the same opinion in conversation on June 22, 2004 in the University town of Nikshich, near the capital of Montenegro. He believes that the Montenegrin Orthodox Church amounts to a bunch of schismatics pursuing political goals. He cites the book “Traders in Souls”, which contains a collection of documents, letters and articles reflecting the formation of the Montenegrin Church and the reaction in the Orthodox world and the political elites of Serbia and Montenegro.


 The book contains letters by patriarchs who have expressed support of the Serbian Church in this conflict and rejected the Montenegrin Church as not canonically legitimate (letters from the Patriarchs of Moscow, Bulgaria, Georgia, Constantinople, Serbia, Alexandria, Jerusalem, etc.)[62] as well as letters by M. Dzhukanovich,[63] President of Montenegro, to the Serbian Patriarch Pavle, in which the President expresses support for the Serbian Church.


This division and the uncertainty about the eventual state autonomy of Montenegro, which if it were to come about, would have an impact on the religious situation in the country, came up in conversations I had with Montenegrins of various regions and professions. At a meeting I had on June 23 with the directors of the library in Tsetine, the former capital of Montenegro, people expressed discontent and mistrust of the economic-political situation. Poverty, unemployment, growing drug abuse among the youths, these were the major problems that people indicated.


My interlocutors felt that religious differences were often being used to divert the attention of people from the urgent problems. The intellectual elite of the country has also fallen into apathy due to the low pay, unemployment, the manipulation. The people I talked with feel that, while in Serbia there have after all been some positive changes, here in Montenegro things remain as they were in the totalitarian period. Unlike Serbia, there is no religious education in schools, despite the lively debate on this matter between the high-rank administration, the higher clergy and academic circles. [64]


Two days after I left Podgoritsa, the capital of Montenegro, there was to be a major religious event: seven golden crosses were to be placed upon the nearly finished, imposing construction of the church of the Ascension (June 27, 2004). The announcements throughout the city indicated that the service would be performed by the Montenegrin bishop Amfilohiye of the Serbian Orthodox Church.


Nevertheless  the Serbian Orthodox Church  initiated and supported some inter-religious events and dialog  especially during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina: the Serbian Patriarch publicly condemned a series of  bombing attacks on the Bajrakli Mosque in Belgrade; he also visited the chief rabbi Mr Cadik Danon and directed a very touching ecumenical epistle to the Jewish community after the publication of an  anti-Semitic text”.[65]


According to Dr. M. Vukomanovich, there is no a solid unity of opinion within the Serbian Orthodox Church regarding its relations with the state and politicians. This has been confirmed by the one of the brilliant contemporary Serbian theologians, Prof. Dr. R. Bigovich. According to this author, there are contradictions and vagueness in the social-political doctrine of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Council of bishops, held in May 1990, suggested that the Church would support the democratization of society, would be for political and party pluralism and would remain neutral regarding parties; however these claims have not being strictly realized in practice[66].


Various representatives of the higher clergy have voiced support for a kind of theo-democracy, for a Christian democracy, for monarchy; suggestions have been made about the cooperation, coexistence of state and Church, but mostly in general terms, not involving a concrete programme[67].  According to Bigovich, the political ideal of unity between state, nation, and Church is Utopian; though the nation once gave impetus to the Church, today it weighs the latter down, and the national factor is losing the battle with the civil and international factors.[68]


The author criticizes the prevalent opinion in the Serbian Church that Orthodoxy is synonymous with the Serbian ethnos, for, Bigovich writes, trying to build a unity based on “blood and body” would be tragic and perilous. “We cannot go back. The models and forms of life of the past are no longer applicable. The past should be respected, but not deified.”[69]



* * *



2. The Legal Texts and the Social-Political Context in the Republic of Macedonia




2.1. Legal regulation and religious differences


With the creation in 1991 of the independent state, the Republic of Macedonia, relationships between state and the religious communities entered a difficult period of regulation and democratization[70], a time of internal collisions; the difficulties became obvious especially after 1995, the end of the period of conflict between the two basic ethnic groups, the Albanians and the Macedonians.


The Law on Religious Communities and Religious Groups, published in issue 35 of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia on July 23, 1997[71],  regulates the position of the religious communities, their foundation and operation, religious instruction and religious schools as forms of realization of religious freedom and faith expression (Art. 1).


 Articles 2 and 4 of the Law guarantee the freedom of religious communities and groups in carrying out their religious activities, and the freedom of citizens to participate or not to participate in a religious community or group.


Part Two of the Law deals with the status and rights of religious communities and religious groups, a problem that was subsequently debated in society and on which the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Macedonia took a stand on several occasions.


Articles 8 and 9 define religious community and religious group, the two being almost identical:  A religious community, according to this law, is a voluntarily organized, non-profit association of believers of the same confession of faith. For one confession of faith, only one registered religious community or group may exist /Art.8/; “A religious group, according to this law, is a voluntarilly organized, non-profit association of believers of the same belief who do not belong to an already registered religious community.” /Art.9/.


There are 25[72] religious communities and groups already registered by the Commission on Relationships with the Religious Communities and Groups; among them, the following have the status of religious communities: The Macedonian Orthodox Church, The Evangelical-Methodist Church, The Jewish Community, the Roman Catholic Church, the Islamic Community. The registered religious groups are: the Christian-Adventist Church, the Christian Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Baptist Church, the Congregational Church, the Islam Bectash Community and others.


 According to the former Director of the Office of Relationship with the Religious Communities and Groups, S. Nikolovki-Katin[73], the classification as a community or a group depends on several criteria: 1) the number of adherents of the respective confession /According to the data of the 1994 Census of the population, realized with the financial support of the European Commission, the Orthodox Christians are 66,3%, Muslims – 30%, Roman Catholics – 0.4%, Protestants - 0.1%, Jewish – 0.0%, Atheist – 0.3%, other religion – 0.2%, unknown – 1.1%, Christian – 4.9%/;  2) According to their historical presence in the country and the historical duration of their status  as registered /the Jewish Community, the Evangelical-Methodist Church/.


 A sociological survey carried out in 1997-1998 by a team of researchers of the Institute of Sociological, Political and Juridical Studies in Skopje in the framework of the project “Social-economic Structure and Problems of the Population of the Republic of Macedonia”, gives somewhat different findings: Orthodox – 78.03%, Muslims – 20.99%, Catholics – 0.18%, Protestants – 0.53, others – 0.27%[74] .


According to Yakub Selimovski, Director of the religious-education sector of the Islamic Community of Macedonia, the percentage of Muslims is actually over 30% and is tending toward 40% of the population of Macedonia (he gave this estimate in an interview he gave me on July 8, 2004 in Skopje at the headquarters of the Islamic community).


Whatever the exact figures, it is evident that Macedonian society is to be a “bipolar community, a collective of two opposed sides, which marginalizes the influence of minority religions.[75]. This difference can be perceived by any outside observer of religious buildings in the two parts of the capital Skopje: one sees numerous mosques in the old part of Skopje and the enormous Millennium Cross, erected in honour of the 2000th anniversary of Christianity, on a hilltop overlooking Skopje, and, Selimovski claimed, is accepted halfheartedly by the Muslim community in this multi-confessional capital.


According to him, the Law on Religious Communities and Groups has its positive sides and overall the Muslim community in Macedonia is far better treated by the state today than in the past. But he also believes that the government nevertheless gives some preference to the Macedonian Orthodox Church, especially in giving financial assistance for the construction of religious buildings: thus the equal standing of the religious communities seems to exist more on paper than as an actual fact on that issue.


The social and political environment in which the Law is operating is made more complicated by the distinct trend in the last 15 years, particularly evident in the countries of former Yugoslavia, toward ethno-confessional synthesis. This linking of ethnic and confessional factors is particularly strong and with significant social consequences among the Macedonian ethnos (98.03% of which are Orthodox) and in the Albanian ethnic group, with its 97.36% of Muslims, as registered in a sociological survey in 1999.[76]


The social consequences of this fact become weightier due to the regionalization of the ethnic-confessional relations. In Eastern and Southern Macedonia the Orthodox population predominates (98.40 and 98.42% respectively); in the Western parts, the Muslim population is a majority (57.78%), and in the North of the country it amounts to a high percentage (27.69%). This regionalization of ethnic and confessional groups serves as the basis (or so politicians argue) for the current administrative reforms that legitimize this division at the local level. I was a witness to the discontent provoked by these reforms, expressed very emotionally by the Skopje citizens of Macedonian ethnic origin at a rally organized on July 8 by an opposition party called the Third Road.


The social trend of “Confidence building through interreligious dialog”[77] is supported by the religious communities, NGOs, governmental structures, etc. recent years.


2.2. The politics: beyond the religious and the ethnic differences?


In this connection the political parties, especially those represented in parliament, can play a great role. What is more, the very practical impact of the Law on religious groups depends directly on the political climate. At the time of the former parliamentary mandate, in which the governing party was VMRO – DPMNE, the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Orthodoxy issue were included actively in the nationalistic and political agenda of this party, the Church having been given various kinds of preferences.


The present ruling party, with its social-democratic orientation (SDSM), has no special attitude to any confession, claims Dr. T. Moyanoski, Chairman of the Commission on Relations with Religious Communities and Religious groups, when I interviewed him on July 9, 2004 in the Commission office in Skopje. The examples he gave in support of this claim were the following: 1) in recent years it has become a tradition to exchange teachers between the Theological Faculty and the Islamic Faculty and great interest is shown by students of the respective faculties for these lectures; 2) in the region of Kichevsko, in the church dedicated to Holy Virgin, both Muslims and Orthodox come to worship, which sets an example of religious tolerance that is particularly needed after the time of religious-ethnic conflict (1991-1995); 3) in the time of the late President B. Traykovski, a Forum for Inter-religious Dialogue was created, in the framework of which the various religious communities in the country met to keep up their dialogue; 3) in 2003 in the Macedonian Academy of Sciences, a meeting  was held on the topic of the Holocaust, and all religious communities and groups in Macedonia took part in the discussions; 4) The Commission on Relations between Religious Communities and Religious Groups seeks to find ways to make the forums between religions a traditional way of resolving the problem arising between them and to seek the active cooperation of NGOs in the process, for the latter have proven to be the best mediators promoting inter-religious dialogue.


Dr. Moyanoski also claims that the social-psychological stereotypes, formed by the political ideology and the propaganda, also lie at the bottom of the conflict between Macedonians and Albanians, between Orthodox and Muslims: Albanians perceive Macedonians as people who oppress and exploit them, while Macedonians see Albanians as an ethnos bent on taking over the state. In fact the Albanians, personally and in their family traditions, are mild-mannered and hospitable people, who value friendship and social exchange, said Dr. Moyanoski.


The estimate that the predominant variety of Islam in this country is comparatively tolerant and without theocratic intentions in its religious program, was also expressed by Dr. S. Sasaykovski of the Institute of Sociological, Political and Juridical  Studies at the University St.St. Cyril and Methodiy, when I interviewed him in the building of this institute in Skopje on July 7, 2004.[78]


My personal impressions, limited and sporadic, at meetings and conversations with Albanian Muslims, confirm such a view about relations at the everyday level. In the courtyard of the Suleyman Murat mosque I talked to A., a 50-year old MA in law, unemployed, and with D., a middle-aged mathematics teacher. The two men mostly talked about their children, their family and profession, about the problem of unemployment and poverty, rather than about religious or political issues.


A. expressed the opinion that the Western model of social organization was different from that of his people, for it does not set such a high value on the family, on children, on friendship, on human social communication, things that, A. said, are fundamental values among the Albanians. When I asked him about his attitude towards the Albanian ethnic parties, he answered: “Their ideas have nothing to do with my thoughts and feelings, and I don’t want to have anything to do with them.”


According to D., in their mutual relations Macedonians and Albanians ought to stress what they have in common: “we have a common water supply, electricity supply, we buy at the same markets, we have a common transport service, the difference in religions is not dangerous when we remember haw many things we have in common.”


Such ideas and themes seemed to predominate in my talks with ordinary people, Macedonians that I happened to meet during my travels for my current project: a student at the Musical Academy in Sofia, who was traveling back to Ohrid on vacation and who shared with me his feeling there were no prospects because of the economic stagnation in his country – so he was working in Bulgaria; a middle-aged taxi driver with a higher education in economy, who, due to economic difficulties in his country, was forced to work outside his professional field; a woman working as a hotel clerk, whose son, a university graduate, was unemployed and wanted to emigrate from the country… All these people considered such problems to be the important themes for their country: economic growth, decreasing unemployment, responsible and tolerant political governance. They felt that the solution to these problems would gradually lead to tolerance in the religious sphere as well, and that the differences and conflicts would gradually be overcome.


But Dr. Cacanoska, a known Macedonian sociologist of religion, drew a disturbing conclusion from a survey carried out in 1999-2000: “According to the influence of internal and “external factor”, these two collectivities are developing as independent and clearly distinct communities, who stress with growing clarity their difference of positions. With unnoticeable intensity, the religious collectivities practice mutual exclusion, closure, self-sufficiency, ignorance and indifference to other confessions, which necessarily leads to further disintegration of the confessional community, which does not open possibilities to overcome opposition between them, but instead contributes to growing radicalization.”[79]


Four years after this analysis was made, there is reason to believe that after years of crises and extremist stands, we are now witnessing attempts at opening to one another and dialogue between the religious communities. But the present disturbances, the discussions and discontent about the new regulations on administrative and linguistic matters, suggest that the confessional-ethnic division is still a fact and can easily be exacerbated and manipulated by the state or politicians. All this demonstrates the fragile ground on which the Màcedonian state, church and ethnic identity are standing”.[80]


 2.3.The Politics, the Nation and the Macedonian Orthodox Church


One of the dimensions of this “fragile ground” is the inter-ecclesiastic situation of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, whose struggle for gaining autocephalous status for itself has not been supported by the Serbian Church. The latter has reinstated the autonomous Ohrid Archbishopric within the SOC in 2002. The argument for doing so was that the Macedonian Orthodox Church was said to be a formation of the Communist authorities, schismatic and heretical.[81]


Thus, by not recognizing the independent status of the Macedonian Church and by establishing an alternative archbishopric of Ohrid, the Serbian Orthodox Church has also made a statement about how it sees the independence of the Republic of Macedonia as a state, says the Serbian sociologist of religion B. Djurovic.[82]


The complicated relations between Churches of the Orthodox oecumene on this issue have been analyzed in a study entitled “The Political Sociology of the MOC” /in Macedonian, unpublished/ by the Macedonian sociologist of religion Dr. S. Sasaikovski; they have also been a topic in the Bulgarian press[83], whose journalists have described the complicated situation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, whose loyalty to the Serbian Church has been put to a test in connection with the problem of autocephalous status of the Macedonian Church. 


According to S. Susuykovski, the idea of an autocephalous Macedonian Orthodox Church is the result of the coinciding interests of the clergy, of the religious community and of the political establishment[84]. According to this author the autocephalous status of the MOC is not determined by historical facts, nor does it have a foundation in canon. The achievement of such a status depends entirely on the constellation of relations within the Orthodox universal community and specifically on relations between Constantinople and Moscow.


The link between autocephalous Church and the Macedonian ethnic identity is a process of political use of the issue, according to Susuykovski. Thus the MOC has become a transmission of the ruling parties rather than an authoritative institution in its own right. The canonic principle that a nation with a state of its own should also have an independent Church, is based on the Byzantine Orthodox theocratic model of symphony between state and Church.


According to Susuykovski, this principle is not applicable and not adequate under conditions of secularism where Church and state are separated, and such is the European model. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, the Orthodox Church does not have the status of a state Church. 


Although the Republic of Macedonia has been recognized as an independent state, the institutional status of one of the religious components of its identity is still undefined. In “Declaration of support for the autocephalous status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church”, published in the Official Gazette of the Republic on February 2, 2004, the Parliament of Macedonia has declared in four points its support for the MOC “and its autocephalous status among other Orthodox Churches, with the conviction that these processes will develop in a democratic and tolerant spirit, in mutual cooperation and respect.” The Declaration also stated that “The Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia will continue to work for affirming the freedom of confession as a personal liberty of man and will contribute to the mutual respect between all citizens of the Republic of Macedonia, regardless of religious, national or other affiliation.”





2.4. Cases and issues regarding the legal status of religious communities and groups in the state


Articles 2, 4, 6, and 7 of the Law on Religious Communities and Religious Groups deal with the rights and liberties of religious communities and of citizens in performing religious activities such as rites, publishing, running schools, social and charity organizations, the right of choice of participation or non-participation in religious communities and groups, etc.


The religious communities or groups are free to perform religious  activities and rituals /Art.2/. It is forbidden for a citizen to be forced to or obstructed in any way from becoming or being a member of a religious community or group. It is forbidden for a citizen to be forced to participate or not  participate in religious rituals or other kinds of faith expression /Art.4/.


Religious gatherings, religious rituals, religious press, religious instruction, religious schools, and other kinds of expression of faith cannot be used for political aims, for encouragement of religious, national and other kinds of intolerance, nor for other activities forbidden by the Constitution and law /Art.6/; Religious communities and groups may establish religious schools according to the  procedure and under conditions regulated by this law.


Religious communities and groups may establish social and humanitarian

institutions in procedure and under conditions regulated by law /Art.7/.


Section 3 of this Law, states the rights and conditions for opening religious schools. Religious education is allowed only in religious schools, in accordance with art. 24 of the Law. The latest information indicates that the issue of religious education in the public schools is open again [85]. 


The Second Part of the Law deals with particularly delicate questions as to the conditions under which religious communities and groups may acquire legal status and perform religious activities. The importance of these regulations has been proven by their being examined by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Macedonia several times, when several of them were invalidated, specifically some of the rules pertaining to acquisition of legal status by religious communities and groups.


Some of these annulled articles are numbers 3, 10, 11, 13, 14, and 22, which were entirely or partially invalidated at the sessions of the Constitutional Court on December 23 and 24, 1998. The Court was appealed to by the Christian Baptist Church, the Evangelical Church, the Evangelic-Congregational Church and the Christian Pentecostal Church.


Art. 3, paragraph 1 states that, “Only a registered religious community or group can perform religious activities and rituals in the Republic of Macedonia while art. 10 defines that “A religious group with headquarters in the Republic of Macedonia, must be established by at least 50 adults, citizens of the Republic of  Macedonia, permanently residing in the Republic of Macedonia. The founders of a religious group make decisions for establishment and other rules for regulation of their organization and operation at the  assembly of the founders.


The requirement as to the minimal number of 50 members for registration, obviously represents an obstacle to obtaining legal status for many Protestant Churches, whose members vary in number from 5 to 50.[86] I visited most of the headquarters of these small Church communities in Skopje and could easily make the obvious comparison between the modest size and architectural quality of their buildings and those of the large religious communities.


This outward difference itself reveals a difference of approach towards different categories of believers: in the first case activities are “close up, in small groups or individually”[87]; in the second case work is done at a distance, with a clear division between the clergy and the congregation, a division into a “public” and a sacral scene. That is why supporting mediators are needed to strengthen the fragile link, such as large social projects, national and ethnic emblems of identification, which turn the large social communities into a public and add a backstage political element to the sacral scene.


Art. 13 and 14 confirm the need for registration for obtaining the status of a legal person, while for building religious sites, art. 22 requires the agreement of the Commission for Religious Communities and Groups.


At the initiative of the Helsinki Committee on Human Rights, the Constitutional Court of Macedonia, at its sessions of October 20 and November 10, made annulled articles 19 and 23 of the Law. Art. 19 makes the performance of religious activities outside locations specially meant for this purpose, dependent on the consent of the Ministry of the Interior and the Commission on Relations of Religious Communities and Groups: “Religious rituals and religious activities may be performed in other facilities and places accessible to the people as well, with permission of the authority in charge of internal affairs, and previous opinion of the authority in charge of religious affairs.


The nullification of some articles of the law by the Constitutional Court of Macedonia was due to their being incompatible with art. 9, par.1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, which stipulates that citizens are equal in their rights and freedoms, with article 19, par. 1, which guarantees the freedom of religious confessions, with art. 20, par. 1, which guarantees the freedom of association for pursuing various interests, while according to par. 3 of that article, the activities of citizens and parties cannot be aimed at provoking military aggression or the kindling of national, racial or religious hatred and intolerance.

The grounds for Court’s decisions refer also to art. 18 and 29 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.


2.5. The elaboration of the new democratic law: latest developments


To all appearances, after the decision of the Court, the Law cannot serve as an effective tool for regulating this complex and delicate matter. According to information received from Dr. T. Moyanoski (in the above-mentioned interview of July 8, 2004), the public and the authorities responsible for legislature in this field are considering and discussing several variants of a new, better and more modern law. He believes that the legal status of religious communities and groups will be one of the major issues, and this status is not made very clear in the present law.


Several such laws are being considered, among which the Bulgarian Law on Religious Confessions, which, in Dr. Moyanoski’s opinion, offers a good solution, giving religious groups the status of non-profit organizations. Another possible variant is the American one: civic associations are completely separate and independent of the state. The Commission on relations with religious communities and groups, headed by Dr. Moyanoski, is also considering the Croatian variant of a solution, to conclude separate agreements between the state and each of the religious communities and groups with regard to rights, freedoms, and responsibilities.


Probably this latter, interesting variant will be the topic of serious debate, for in the interview with him, given on July 7, the Director of the Cultural and Educational Department of the Islamic community, Mr. Y. Selimovski, expressed his preference for such a legal variant, as the legal regulation of relations would provide wider legal possibilities for protecting the religious rights through appeal to higher authorities such as the Constitutional Court, the European organs and organizations, etc.


Regardless of what the final result of this process might be, Dr. Moyanoski expressed his conviction that it is imperative to set up a permanent forum at which all religious communities and groups in Macedonia can exchange views, discuss and come to agreements.


According to one of the members of the team preparing the new Draft Law on Religious Communities, Mr. G.Velichkovski (with whom I talked on May 16, 2005 in Novi Sad), currently intensive work is being done for making the kind of changes and improvements in the Law that will bring it closer to the basic European principles of tolerance, freedom, and equality, and to separation between Church and state both de jure and de facto.[88]


That opinion was confirmed by Prof. I. Korubin – another member of the team working on the new Draft Law - at June 4, 2005 in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria at the International conference “Religion and Politics”. The team harmonized the Draft with the main European legal standards and after the completion of the work will present it before the public opinion. According to Prof. Korubin the Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina is an excellent example of the acceptance of the European standards in the state-Church sphere.[89]


But just as in the Serbian Law, one of the main questions is whether the law will “get through” the Parliament and become a legal fact, given the complicated social-political context, analyzed above.


2.6. Recommendations:


Here are summarized some features of the Law that are contested or reveal shortcomings in the democratic sense of the legislators as is the case in some other post-communist countries:[90]


To pass gradually from obligatory to optional legal status of religious communities. To afford the alternative /as in the Serbian and Bulgarian laws/ for religious communities to acquire legal status as civic associations as well under the respective law.


Decreasing the minimal membership requirement for registration of a religious community to the number customary in most European countries or dropping this requirement altogether.


Regarding the application documents, to eliminate the requirement for detailed information about the members, leaders and location of the religious community. To set a specific term for responding to an application for registration, preferably up to 30 days, as in most European countries. To provide the possibility for reapplying when registration is denied after the requirements of the registering organ have been met.


To plan a gradual reorientation of the registration function from the state to the courts of law.


To pass towards a flexible regime of permission and support, not control and prohibition, on issues related to the religious, educational, cultural, construction activities of religious communities. This demands a change of philosophy with regard to them: they should be considered “innocent till proved guilty” rather than “guilty till proved innocent”.


Current debates on the question of introducing religious education in public schools should be oriented to non-confessional education in order to achieve equal standing of religions and limit the field of conflict between separate religious communities, which is the trend in most European countries.




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3.     The Bulgarian Religious Situation Now:  the Law and the Social-political Atmosphere




3.1.Freedom of religious convictions and the equality of religious confessions before the law: general principles



The new democratic Constitution, adopted on July 13, 1991, recognized the equality under law of all citizens, without “any constraints on the rights and privileges, based on race, nationality, ethnos, sex, origin, religion, education, personal or social status, or property status, convictions, political affiliations.”[91] /art. 6, paragraph 2/. The new Law on Religion passed by the Parliament on December 20, 2002 /supported strongly by the ruling party NDSV /National Movement Symeon II/, provided a legal framework for this article of the Constitution.[92]


The democratic evolution to the new Act was slow and difficult[93] as in other post-communist countries.


The new Religious Denominations Act,[94] published in the official State Gazette, No. 120 of December 29, 2002, asserts “the right of each person to freedom of conscience and religion, as well as equality before the law, regardless of religious affiliation and conviction.” And supports “mutual understanding, tolerance and respect with regards to freedom of conscience and religion.” /Preamble/.


 In “General Provisions” of the Law, the legislator establishes that “The right to religious freedom is fundamental, absolute, subjective, personal, and inviolable” /art. 2, par.1/. Likewise, “The right of to religious freedom shall include the right of every person to freely form his or her religious beliefs, and to choose, change, and worship – respectively practice freely his or her religion - individually or collectively, in public or in private, through religious worship, education, rites, and rituals.” /art. 2, par. 2/. Article 3(1) again affirms the freedom of religious convictions: “No one shall be persecuted and no one’s rights shall be restricted on the grounds of religious beliefs…..”


The articles 4 and 6 state that confessions are free and equal under the law, separate from the state; discrimination based on faith is inadmissible, as also the intervention of the state in the internal organization of religious communities and institutions. Art. 6 enumerates the particular rights encompassed in the right of religious freedom: creating and maintaining religious communities and institutions; establishing and maintaining places of worship or religious assembly; creating and maintaining appropriate charitable or humanitarian institutions; writing, publishing and dissemination of religious publications; giving and receiving religious instruction in a language freely chosen by the person; creating and maintaining appropriate institutions for teaching (in the judgment of the communities and institutions) in abiding by legal requirements; the parents and legal guardians have the right to provide religious education for their children according to the parents’ personal convictions.


Compared with the Law on Religious Confessions of 1949[95], the new Law emphasizes much more strongly the religious rights and liberties of citizens and the equality under law of the separate confessions. At the same time the strict regard for these legal principles depends to a large degree on the condition of the political and judiciary system, on the attitudes of the media and on mass public feelings, which  are usually restrictive with regard to some Protestant churches and New religious movements /the so-called sects/. Sociological surveys have shown that the less respondents know about NRM, the more negatively they are disposed toward these movements, which clearly shows that such attitudes are a matter of prejudice and traditional mentality. [96]



3.2.Rights relevant to religious activity, education, charitable works


Art. 12 (1) states that religious confessions, for their own purposes, may establish houses of ritual, worship, or divine service for the purpose of holding public religious rites and services in a building of their own or leased, can organize public activities outside the houses of worship /par.2/, and also maintain cemetery parks.


Article 30 (1) stipulates that “Religious denominations registered under this Act may establish medical, social, and education institutions”, while art. 33(1) states that “Upon permission by the Minister of Education and Science registered religious denominations may establish ecclesiastical schools for their own religious needs in compliance with the National Education Act.” Paragraphs 3 and 6 of this article permit for registered confessions to open secondary and higher schools in observing the respective legal regulations.


In this part of the new law far greater rights and liberties are conferred in various spheres of confessional activity.


3.3. Property and Financing


Chapter Four of the Law regulates this area. According to art. 21, denominations and their divisions, having obtained the status of legal entities, have the right to own property, including the right to property and limited real rights on immovables, on fruits of property, including rent, profits and dividends from participation in commercial association, property rights on movables, including stocks, rights relevant to the Copyright Law and similar rights, revenues from state subsidies, donations, legacies and others.


The state and communities can yield the right of use of state and municipal property to religious institutions and their local divisions, as well as support the latter by subsidies provided for in the state or municipal budget. Art. 23 (1) stipulates that registered religious denominations have the rights to produce and sell items connected with their religious service, rituals, and rites, while art. 27 (1) states that legal entities for non-profit purposes may be created for supporting and popularizing a confession that has the status of a legal entity.


Art. 25(1) defines the right of the state  “to support and encourage religious denominations registered under this Act in their religious, social, educational and health activities through tax, credit, and interest rate preferences, customs and other financial and economic relief under the conditions and procedures established in the respective specialized legislation.


Art. 28 stipulates that the distribution of state subsidies for registered denominations is carried out through the State Budget Act, while the concluding regulations of the Law stipulate that  the property rights of confessions are restored over nationalized, alienated, confiscated or illegally deprived property by legal proceedings – paragraph 5 (1).


With these regulations the rights and liberties of the denominations are also increased in the economic sphere and, most important, the distribution of state subsides now comes under authority of the parliament, which would permit a more just distribution among the non-traditional confessions.



3.4.Conditions for acquiring legal status and the role of the state


Art. 14 states that “Religious communities can acquire the status of a legal entity under the conditions and procedures of this law”, while art. 15(1) states that the registration of religious communities as legal entities is carried out by the Municipal Court of Sofia .


 Chapter 6 of the Law regulates the role of the state – the Council of Ministers and its administrative division, the Directorate on Religious Denominations, for carrying out state policy in the filed of the right of religious confession. states that  According to art. 35, this Directorate makes expert conclusions in connection with the registration of the denominations regarding the request for residing in the country on the part of foreign religious officials, examines signals and complaints by citizens about the violation of their rights and liberties through misuse of religious rights, observes the respect of religious rights and liberties by the officials, checks signals and complaints about unlawful religious activity, and makes proposals before the Council of Ministers on the project for the state budget for distribution of the state subsidy.


In the “Transitional and Final Provisions” par. 2(1) it is pointed out that “Registered religious denominations under art. 6 of the Religious Denominations Act (Repealed by Par. 8 of this Act) shall preserve their legal entity status; (2)”Within one month from this Act’s entry into force the Directorate of Religious Denominations shall submit to the Sofia City Court the register of the registered denominations and their bylaws.”


Critics of the Law point out the defining of legal registration as a condition for exercising rights, as a shortcoming of the law.


The positive aspects are in the transference of registration under the authority of the court, not the Directorate as in the previous law. Moreover, the competence of the Directorate is reduced and consists mostly in expertise and consultation.  According to data of the Directorate on Religious Denominations, by December 29, 2002, there were 31 registered religious denominations.  


Regardless of the problems of some new religious movements, 15 new denominations have been registered at the Sofia Court and 8 new applications have been made.


The Director of the Directorate on Religious Denominations at the Council of Ministers Dr. I. Zhelev is convinced, that the law works well till now and the religious communities  are quite satisfied by the practice concerning the law[97].



3.5.  Critical analysis of the Act


Regardless of its positive aspects, compared to the law of 1949 and the fact that it has taken into consideration the basic European standards in this sphere, the new Religious Denominations Act was quite critically judged by certain organizations for the protection of rights, by representatives of the new religious movements, by the largest opposition party, the Union of Democratic Forces.


As a result of this, the European Commission recommenced temporarily monitoring the religious rights in Bulgaria and, the matter being referred by a group of parliamentary deputies to the Constitution Court; the latter examined at two of its sessions whether the Act was constitutional or not; at its session of July 15 2003 the members of the Court voted not to support the demand of a group of deputies, thereby confirming, according to the Court’s legal procedure, the Religious Denominations Act as constitutional.


The causes for this criticism and disagreement lie in articles 7, 8, and 10 of the Law.


Art. 7(1) states that “The freedom of religion shall not be directed against the national security, public order, public health and morals or the rights and freedoms of persons under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Bulgaria.”; (2) “Religious communities and institutions as well as religious beliefs shall not  be used for political purposes”; (5) Religious communities and institutions cannot include in their activities juveniles, except with the explicit agreement of the parents or guardians. Minors can be included in activities of religious communities and institutions except for the explicit disagreement of their parents or guardians.


According to art. 8(1) “If the requirements of Art. 7 are violated the right to religious freedom may be restricted by: 1/ Terminating the dissemination of a particular publication; 2/Terminating publishing activity; 3/ Restricting public events; 4/Canceling the registration of an educational, health or social institution; 5/ Canceling activity for 6 months; 6/Canceling the legal entity status of a religious denomination.


Critics of the law pointed out that the notion of “national security”, “public order”, “morals” are too vague and imply subjective construing, i.e. they permit freedom of application and abuse by the judiciary regarding given confessions. In the context of anti-“sect” mass feelings, this possibility can easily become a reality. Hence this part of the rights of confessions may be safely dropped.


The chief criticism leveled by the Union of Democratic Forces refers to the art. 10 (1) of the law that states: “Eastern Orthodox is the traditional denomination in the  Republic of Bulgaria.  It has played a historic role in Bulgaria’s statehood and has current meaning in its political life. Its spokesperson and representative is the autocephalous Bulgarian Orthodox Church…/The specialists on the issue accept the “traditional Church” status as compatible with the European legal standards and practice  [98]/ ; (2) The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is a legal entity…(3) No Act or secondary legislature shall use Paragraphs 1 and 2 as grounds to grant privileges  or any advantages.”


Criticism was based on the interpretation of this article whereby the very law assigns legal status to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and to one of the two opposed synods, that headed by Patriarch Maxim. In this way the intervention of the state in the internal ecclesiastic division of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was criticized.  



3.6. The Schism, the Political Parties and the Act


Since 1992, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has been in a state of painful and lasting schism. In coming to power after the democratic changes of the early 1990s, the party Union of Democratic Forces proclaimed that the Holy Synod of the BOC had been a collaborator of the communist regime. Three of the bishops belonging to the circle of associates of the Patriarch Maxim founded a new, authentic synod, which received legal status under the administration of the UDF.


The complicated and contradictory processes around this second synod suggest there was a strong intervention of the state in the religious affairs of the BOC, and show a lack of understanding and respect for Church cannon. After the UDF fell from power in 1993 and the former communist party, the BSP, came to power in its turn, state support was transferred to the Synod headed by the Patriarch Maxim.


None of the canonic Orthodox Churches in the world recognized the new synod, but the administration of the UDF, come back to power in 1997, did recognize it. In 1996 a schismatic ecclesiastic council elected Pimen patriarch.


Analysts believe the schism has political, economic and religious causes.[99] The political causes involve the political interests of the parties coming to power in turn and successively supporting either side of the divided Church.


The economic interests involve ownership of the property of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (it is revealing that in July 2004, with the brutal intervention of the court and police, 250 Church properties were seized and the clergymen of the alternative synod who occupied them were violently thrown out). Yet as strange as it may sound, the BOC has never raised the question of the restitution of its nationalized property.


The participation of the legal institutions and especially of the police in solving the conflict was criticized by the Bulgarian citizens and by media.[100] The critic of the Law has been recommenced recently on the above issue[101].


The ultimate result of the schism, to which the ruling party NMSS coercively put an end, first through the Religious Denominations Act in 2002 and then by the intervention of court and police in 2004, was the complete loss of authority and trust in the BOC. Against the backdrop of this low public status, no kind of activity or stance of the BOC would be respected and significant.


 Thus the political elite failed to win a partner for its cause, but rather eliminated a potential rival.


 3.7.  Recommendations


Here are summarized some features of the Religious Denominations Act that are contested or reveal shortcomings in the democratic sense of the legislators as is the case in some other post-communist countries[102]:


1/Regarding Religious freedom and the equality of religious communities:   

-                     Registration in court as a condition for religious activity

-                     Requiring a presentation of the religious teaching as a condition for registration

-                     The right and obligation of the Directorate of Religious Denominations to give expert opinions in the course of registration      

-                     The criteria for registration and the possibilities for a different type of legal status in the case of refusal are not clearly defined


2/Some problems in the application of the Law[103]:

-                     Local branches of a religious confession are not in all cases granted the right to carry on religious activity even though they have a registration.

-                     Negative public attitudes against the new religious movements exist, but has gradually lessened during the last 5 years.   

-                     Some visa problems connected with prolonging the stay of religious missionaries and leaders. 

-                     Problems concerning return of Church property



The improvement of the Act within the European perspective means:


To decrease the obligatory link between legal status of a religious community and the performance of activities for which legal status is not a necessary condition: cultural, educational, charity; to permit the possibility of extending the distribution of state subsidies to unregistered religious communities as well. In the Law the possibility of religious communities to be registered according to the law of civic associations should be explicitly formulated.


It would be in the spirit of European legal standards to indicate the exact term in which the competent organs must answer an application for registration – usually 30 days – and to allow the renewal of a rejected application after the recommendations of the registering organ, presented in writing, are fulfilled.


If there is a positive fact, the registration of the religious communities should be the obligation of the court; relieving the Directorate on Religious Denominations of some functions in this process (art. 35) would support the democratic trend toward limiting the intervention of the state: giving expert opinion on registration, examining signals and complaints of citizens as to the violation of their religious rights, etc.


In the documents required for registration of the religious community, the element “presenting religious beliefs and religious practice” should be dropped, inasmuch as their assessment is not in the competence of the registering organ.


The category “national security” should be dropped from art. 7(1), as it does not correspond to the formulation of ECHR 9 (2), ratified on September 1992. The sanctions envisaged for violation of the requirements of art. 7 impute collective guilt and concern the public activity of the religious community. In the Macedonian law, for instance, most of the sanctions are monetary fines.


Although no abuses of these legal rules have been established, the practice of abolishing a given religious community should be resorted to as en extreme and exceptional measure, inasmuch as it falls under the definition of imputing collective guilt. The interpretation of the conditions under which abolishment is possible depends on the democratic culture of society, hence a clearer and more precise formulation is needed.


The constitutional idea of the quality of citizens with respect to their religious convictions should be confirmed and all religious communities must be placed under identical conditions for acquiring legal status. The leadership of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church should be chosen on the basis of its internal laws and regulations.



3.8.The religious situation in the present-day Bulgaria


According to data from the statistical census /NSI, 2001/[104], the confessional belonging of the Bulgarian citizens is as follows: Eastern Orthodox – 82.6%; Muslims – 12.2%; Catholics – 0.6%; Protestants – 0.5%; Armeno-Gregorians – 0.1%; other – 0.1%; not indicated – 3.9%. A strong correspondence is observed between ethnic and religious belonging, especially among Bulgarians /Eastern Orthodoxy/ and  Bulgarian Turks / Islam/.


The results are quite different in the analysis of religiousness.


The sociological survey carried out four years after the beginning of the changes registered that religion and the Church were important for about 36% of the respondents. Women and elderly persons attach greater importance to religion than males and persons in the active age groups. The latter groups search for active, pragmatic solutions to the uncertainty and instability attending social challenges.


Research on the “Ethnic-cultural situation in Bulgaria” /unpublished/, carried out by a team of sociologists, ethnographers, demographers, etc. in 1992, gives a more detailed picture of religiosity in the changing Bulgaria. The data show that hardly 10% of the Christians in Bulgaria identify themselves as  “deeply religious”, every fourth person does not attend church services, and 21% of the deeply religious persons do not pray.


The sociological surveys carried out 8 years after the beginning of the changes, showed that 15,5% of the respondents believed definitely in God or Allah, 47% believed “to some degree”, 10% believed but not in God, 8.9% identified as atheists, and 18.7% were not interested in religion [105].


In general, these findings reflect a process of fermentation, of individuation, of a more open and non-traditional attitude to the religious rituals, dogmas, beliefs. As in Western Europe, only a small percentage of people practice the kind of religiosity that includes doctrinal knowledge, strict observation of Christian moral rules and ritual practices as a life style.


At first sight it looks as if the present-day religious freedom is favorable for the authority and the social importance of the Church. The churches are full of people on the major religious feasts; the mass media are devoting growing attention to religion and to ecclesiastic issues; the Theological Faculty has been re-established;  “Religion” is being introduced as an optional subject in the school curriculum; part of the nationalized Bulgarian Orthodox Church property has been returned to the Church.


But the conservatism and the ecclesiastic institutional instability and strife have set the Church away from the cultural fermentation of present-day public consciousness. The Church schism, continuing for more than 13 years, has largely reduced the authority of and public confidence in the Church. The institutional schism has divided the bishops of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church into two hostile alternative synods, both claiming legitimacy, and vying for Church property, holding alternative celebrations of religious holidays, etc.


This division and opposition was a reflection of and was influenced by the political opposition between the two main Bulgarian political parties in the beginning of the democratic changes, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (former Communists) and the Union of Democratic Forces.  


The process of politicization and schism alienated the Church from the need and problems of the believers. There are differences between post-communist  countries with regard to expectations and hopes regarding the social and cultural role of the Church.[106] Bulgaria is among the most skeptical about the role of the Church in solving these problems: the Eastern part of Germany (27.6%), Bulgaria (33.9%), Czech Republic (36.4%), Estonia (38.5%). In the middle range of the scale are Hungary (42.3%), Belarus (44.5%), Slovenia (46.8%), Latvia (52.8%), Russia (55.1%), Slovakia (59.7%), and Croatia (60%). The highest shares of respondents in Rumania (74.7%), Lithuania (74.4%), the Ukraine (63.1%), and Poland (62.7%) feel that the Church can contribute significantly to solving the moral, family, spiritual, and social problems of society.


“We would like to build the future of our peoples by the reason of the past and by the experience of the present-day.”[107] – that hope is still alive. 



3.9. The Bulgarian situation of Religious Education in School

The Bulgarian Law of Public Education stresses the secular type of the education in the primary and the secondary schools/ art.4/.


In 1997-1998 in the Bulgarian schools was introduced “Religion” / “Christianity” and “Islam”/ as optional subject expected to motivate tolerance and pluralism. The Ministry of Education is responsible for approval of the textbooks[108]. The authors of the experimental textbook on “Religion”/Sofia, 1998/ for 5th-6th classes say in the Introduction: “ The content of the book focuses on the most important part of the religious-moral culture of Christianity”. The main issue of the 7th-8th classes text book on “Religion” is “the Church and the Christian life”.  This book gives general information about other religions too: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. The parents are responsible for the choice of the RE in the primary school. The 12th class of the school education introduced two years ago an optional subject “Philosophy” with 5 modules. “World Religions” is one of them, expected to give comparative cognitive vision on the world religions.


The passed years showed no mass interest towards those subjects. In some schools they even could not start.


One of the main problems is the discrepancy and controversy between some of the presented topics and issues, and the knowledge of these same issues given by other subjects at school. For example the idea of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for the separation of body and soul, the miracles of healing, the immaculate conception, life after death and others that are central for Christianity contradict the main postulates in the biology, philosophy and history textbooks. This may lead to ambiguity and consequent choice of one or the other interpretation by the student. It can also lead to lowering the “rating” of the subject because it does not meet the common rational and scientific standards.


Such opinions were expressed by students in 15 Serbian schools interviewed in 2003 – the interest in the “veronauka” /the name of the confessional religious subject in school/ is accompanied by opinions that in some of its parts resembles a fairy tale, with miracles, wizardries and fantasies. Probably this contradiction between religion and the conventional knowledge taught at school not only in Serbia, but also in Bulgaria, explains why the subject’s standard is so frail and is usually preferred as a selective, not core discipline.


At the same time this is one of the reasons why many European countries’ education systems prefer the non-confessional (not connected to any particular faith) teaching of religion – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, Scotland, Holland, Slovenia etc. It offers knowledge and understanding of religion and human experience and does not form confessionally oriented devotees[109]. This alternative has been actively discussed in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. While in Serbia there exists confessional education for 7 traditional (historic) religious communities, there is no solution to the problem in Montenegro and Kosovo yet.


The predominance of the static, the phenomenal side of the Christian teaching (holidays, sacraments, saints, institutions, texts) over its moral spiritual side is another debatable point in the textbooks on religion: how these spiritual, language and ritual components of religion solve or help solve our everyday spiritual emotional issues. Not just on the way man reveres God and the Church, but on the specific help God and religion provide to man: to deal with solitude, with fear of death, with the temptations of money and power, with escape from oneself, often found in drugs, alcohol, suicide. In fact these are the hope and expectation with which students, and not only they, connect their approval for the introduction of religious education at school.


Prof. S. Tomovich, Minister of Confessions of Montenegro believes, that before one sets on learning and changing the world, one needs a spiritual support to overcome the dramas in life, like the loss of loved ones, to have hope, to become a better person; he believes one needs not history of religion as a cold registration of facts, but religious spirituality and inner harmony[110].


A 2004 sociological survey in secondary school students in Kosovo titled: “Should the subject of Religion be taught in schools in Kosovo?” found that: the majority of students would like to know more about religion, but the ways in which this should happen, are different. Those who accept the necessity of studying religion at school expect that it would help them solve their emotional problems and overcome such negative issues as alcohol and drugs; the predominant opinion is that school studies must provide knowledge of all religions with focus on their moral values, ie. with that which unites them, not the dogmas and the rituals that divide them[111]. In response to such expectations, it would be useful to include in the textbooks ideas and views of some of the significant religious philosophers like M. Buber, N. Berdyaev, F. Schleiermacher, who focus on this side of religion.


Furthermore, the edifying, lecturing style is quite tangibly present in the textbooks, in contrast with the widespread in the written and media postmodern style of: “No authorities”, ”Everyone has a right of choice and viewpoint”, “No privileged viewpoint” etc.


The sociological survey on the social opinion concerning above issue gives some light on the reasons for that:  46.7% of the interviewed accept that the religious education should be realized by the family; 38.1% - by the school; 10.6% - by the religious institutions.

80.5% give preference to the optional subject on religion and to the teachers and

not to the theologians.


The subject “Religion” in school should: give knowledge on religion as culture – 46.5%; form spiritual values – 17.4%; form moral values – 15.5% / Sociological Agency ACCA “M”, March, 1996/.


I think that some specific features and even paradoxes of the religious education in some countries could be understood within the framework of the inner and more differentiated approach to the local religious profile.      




 3.10.Religious pluralism and the religious changes among the main ethnic groups


Bulgaria is known for its good and peaceful ethnic-religious model /especially in comparison with the ethnic-religious wars in ex-Yugoslavia/, established here during the democratic changes. In Bulgaria the line of cleavage in society since the start of reforms was not ethnic-based but political, hence religious differences (especially between Orthodoxy and Islam) never became a basis for mutual aggression and contention. The prevalence of political strife over religious-ethnic differences is evident in the  divisions within the Orthodox community itself.


The research on the ethnic-cultural situation in Bulgaria, carried out by a team of sociologists, ethnographers, demographers in 1994, reached very interesting conclusions in a comparative analysis of religious changes among the main ethnic groups [112]: 1/The relations between Christians and Muslims in everyday life are relatively peaceful and neighborly; 2/ The name-changing campaign of the Bulgarian Turks, carried out by the Communist government in the 1980s created animosity between ethnic groups in Bulgarian society, but such feelings are dying out;  3/ There are no fundamentalists here, neither Islamic, nor Christian; neither religious, nor anti-religious;  4/ The younger generation is far more open to contacts and cooperation with people from other ethnic communities or other religions; 5/ Political groups and parties that attempt to play a trump using nationalism are for the time being without any significant influence; 6/ Yet there is an explosive potential in certain ethnic prejudices - especially toward Gypsies - that are rather freely exploited by the press; there are also certain conditions for ethnic tensions above the level of everyday life, sometimes used by politicians; 7/ All these tendencies are cultural forms of the tension between traditional,  collective identities and democratic, individualistic and pluralistic values .


In general these results  were confirmed by the surveys, realized in 1999-2000[113] : the ethnic situation in Bulgaria is calm; the ethnic and religious differences do not occupy  the top ranks as possible causes for conflict between the corresponding groups – only 34% of the respondents indicate such reasons. My local study /interviews with people from both ethnic groups, observation of the local political and cultural process during 2003-2004 / of the ethnic-religious situation in town of Kubrat, characterized by large number of Bulgarian Turks living here, confirms that conclusion too.

At the same time the majority of Bulgarians do not favour rights that institutionalize ethnic interests /and especially those of the Roma/ at the cultural and national level.


Certain specific features in the formation of religiousness and practice of religion among the Roma justify the thesis that religion is a cultural bridge thrown by them, a positive sign of goodwill and a striving to equality with the others. One of the basic proofs of this is that they usually adopt the religion of the community in which they live; where the society has more than one religion, they adopt the more prestigious, the more authoritative one[114].


For instance, in Bulgaria 44% of the Roma identify as Orthodox Christians, 39% as Muslims, 15% belong to various Protestant confessions, less than 1% are Catholics, and 0.5% practice Judaism[115].  Thus this attempt at bridging the distance proves to be not particularly successful: what is considered a bridge, a path by the one side turns out to be unacceptable, is negatively viewed by the others.


This is one of the main reasons for the success of some Protestant churches  among the Roma communities in the studied countries[116].  They give the Roma a feeling of being accepted, of being an equal part of the brotherhood, a way of associating that is quite close to their temperament, through the medium of music and singing, rather than incomprehensible preaching. The field research I realized in town of Kyustendil in 2004 among the Roma supported that observation.


But this proves to also be a new line of distancing and alienation of the Roma from the macro-society, inasmuch as there are negative feelings toward the so-called sects. Thus the ethnic-centric stereotypes on the one hand and the inertia of the ethno-cultural model, the culture of poverty on the other, mutually determine and enhance each other.


But this does not imply that the responsibility for the future development of these mutual relations should be divided equally between the two sides. The greater share of responsibility for the direction of relations /rapprochement vs. confrontation/ falls to the macro-society, which creates the social framework and psychological climate of ethnic relations in society.



* * *



















IV. Conclusion



The analysis of the relations between state and church in the legal sphere of these countries shows they are gradually approaching the European standards in this field: separation of religions from the state, freedom of religions, equality, tolerance[117]. This process has reached a different stage of development in each of the studied countries. In Bulgaria this law is working, although criticized on some points; in Macedonia a corresponding law exists, but it is not completely viable in its regulation of the matter, for important sections of it have been annulled by the Constitutional Court; a new draft law is being prepared currently. In Serbia and Montenegro there is at present a legal void in this sphere, for a draft-law has been prepared, but its future will depend on the developments in the state status of Serbia and Montenegro, a question that is yet to be resolved.



 Analysis of the legal regulation of state-Church relations in these countries, whatever the stage of development of their laws on religions, shows: a) trends toward equality of the religions that were predominant until recently (the Orthodox Churches) with other confessions, and the division of confessions into two categories (for instance in Serbia and Montenegro, and in Macedonia), one of which has certain legal advantages: a simplified registration procedure, the right of religious education in the secondary schools (in Serbia); in Bulgaria this preference is reserved for the Orthodox Church; b) decrease of the role of the state as regulator of confessions, but also preservation of some authority to exercise control, issue licenses and impose penalties, in connection with which religious communities, human rights organizations and political parties have appealed to the Constitutional Courts in Macedonia and Bulgaria; 3) recognition of religious communities as legal subjects whose legal status is currently being defined in Macedonia, while in Bulgaria it has already been defined as that of “non-profit organizations”; 4) The financial commitments of the state toward religions (return of nationalized property, financial assistance) have been more clearly declared in the Bulgarian law, while in the Macedonian and Serbian ones they are referred to in general as something desirable.



This slow and painful evolution is a result of the complex situation of the legislator in the studied countries. He has to move between the Scylla of European imperatives and standards, presented in the criticisms by NGOs and by small religious communities, and the Charybdis of internal political circumstances, mass attitudes, the real social authority and social status of some of the religious communities, and xenophobic attitudes. This is where the deeper meaning and philosophy of our analysis of national legal texts lies; they are not only components of a universal, global, and standardized legal universe, but are embedded in a specific social context and the people involved, the balance between people generate the texts. Moreover, even if the texts of the laws were to be literally adopted and copied from the developed democratic countries, still the question of the application of these texts would remain with so much the greater weight, the question of their acceptance as an organic part of the respective culture.



The overall legal philosophy of the laws on religions in the studied countries can be characterized as ambiguous, trying to combine and reconcile two principles: a) achieving European legal standards of freedom, pluralism, equality, tolerance in the sphere of religion; b) “restoring justice” or restoring the situation that existed in these countries before the communist regime, an approach that has allowed some retreat from these principles. With the overcoming of this “nostalgic” mentality, it will become possible to further democratization of the legislature in this sphere.



The more important elements of the social-political context, whereby the regulations, from being formal legal ones, are actually implemented, are the following: a) the ethno-confessional synthesis that resulted from the post-communist disintegration, which is mostly typical for Serbia and Montenegro, and for Macedonia; as this disintegration process in Bulgaria was more political in nature, the ethnic-confessional synthesis in this country does not have a powerful social resource; b) the process of marginalization of and at times xenophobic feelings toward the religious and ethnic minorities situated outside the ethno-confessional collectivities, for instance toward new religious movements and some Protestant Churches, toward the Roma (Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia), occasional display of anti-semitism (in Serbia), etc.; c) the most important factor that would make these potential dangerous forms of behaviour a reality is the favorable political climate that relies on the appeal to nationalism; a climate that in the studied countries is greatly dependent on international factors.








The dominant religious subjects in these countries (the Orthodox Churches) are in an ambiguous situation with regard to the state and political sphere: a) being institutional elements of the as yet unstable state identity (especially in the case of Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro), the state tends to support and give them preference in some respects; b) being a possible institutional competitor of the political elite when vying for influence over mass demands and moods, the elite is motivated to limit the potential influence of the Church; the Churches are financially dependent and internally divided (the division in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church).



It can be observed that the Orthodox Churches themselves in these countries are  dependent and not autonomous with respect to the state and politics: a) in their competitive situation as one religion among others, where some of the others might have a richer and more effective experience of working in a democratic and pluralistic environment, the kind of environment to which the Orthodox Churches are not used; b) in matters of ownership, financing, religious education, which are hard to achieve where civil society is underdeveloped; c) as concerns the complicated situation of some Churches in their status among other Orthodox Churches (Macedonia, Montenegro), and in controlling internal divisions and schisms (Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro).



These complicated and contradictory tendencies provoke ambivalent public valuations and hopes concerning religious /and especially – confessional/ “revival”. Feelings range from excessive expectations and entrusting religion with important social functions, to accusations of loss of religious ideals - more specifically, that religion remains enclosed in conservative clericalism instead of performing its mission of spiritual and moral consolidation of society. On the other hand, in some extreme forms of the synthesis between religion and ethnos or religion and politics, religion seems to play a role that is alien to it, but which is assigned to it due to the weakness and immaturity of other social subjects and institutions such as the state, political parties, secular ideologies, civil society. The development and modernization of the latter will probably place religions and the Churches in their specific place, that of forms of spirituality and social communion which, in their various social activities, are guided by their own specific motivation and ethos.





What is religion? The answer of this question would  solve some of the above problems and would help the legal process regarding the identification of the   religious organizations: the criteria for  registration as religious community; the reason for granting specific rights; the differentiation between religious and quasi-religious groups, etc. But that answer is not within the competence of a state, of a scientist, of a commission. It requires united and global work of  humanitarians, religious and legal studies specialists, religious leaders, etc.                                                     




All these processes show that the democratization of the religious sphere in the studied countries is difficult and involves collisions in a way that reflects the overall complication in the course of social-political and economic democratization of the respective societies. This process is made even more complicated by the fact that the West European mode of democratization of the religious sphere is also being revised and innovated under the impact of globalization. The pressure of European legal standards, tools, and practices as a fundamental framework of values and motivation is an important element of this necessary and difficult evolution. The success and future of the frail buds of democracy in the delicate sphere of religion, will depend on the future of the European Union.






*   *   *







[1] Horvat,V.Church in Democratic Transition between the State and the Civil Society, in: Religion in Eastern Europe, XXIV, April 2004

[2]Shmid, K. In the Name of God? The Problem of Religious and non-Religious Preambles  to State Constitutions in Post-atheistic Contexts, in: Religion in Eastern Europe, vol. XXIV, N1, February 2004

[3] Ibid.

[4]  Bloß, L. European Law of Religion – organizational and institutional analysis of national systems and their implications for the future European Integration Process, Jean Monnet Working Paper 13/03, in:

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., p.16

[7] See: Movellan, A. La iglesia catolica y otras religions en la Espana de hoy, Madrid, 1999, pp.36-67;  Bloß, L. European Law of Religion – organizational and institutional analysis of national systems and their implications for the future European Integration Process, Jean Monnet Working Paper 13/03, pp.29-35

[8] Obolensky,  D. The Byzantine Inheritance of Eastern Europe, London, 1982, p.17


[9] Kolaric, I.  Harismarhija Nemanjica (Charismarhia of the Nemanjic Dinasty). In: Socioloski pregled (Sociological Review) 30 /4, 1996, pp.  527-535,( Belgrade)

[10]Radic, R. Serbian Orthodox Church and the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In: Religion and the War in Bosnia, ed. by P.Mojzes, 1998,  ( The American Academy of Religion.), p.166

[11]Djordjevic, D. Serbian Orthodox Church, the Disintegration of Second Yugoslavia, and the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Religion and War in Bosnia, ed. by P. Mojzes,  (The American Academy of  Religion), 1998, p.155

[12] Dimitrova, N. Opiti za  nazionalnoculturna  samoidentificazija na bulgarina  (Attempts at a National-Cultural Self-Identification of the Bulgarian). In:  A. Krasteva, N. Dimitrova, N. Bogomilova, I. Katzarski. Universalno i nazionalno v bulgarskata cultura (Universal and National in Bulgarian Culture), 1996,pp.91-93 (Sofia:  ICMSIR).


[13]  Lalkov, M.  Njakoi mitove v Novata  Balkanska istorija /Some Myths in the  New Balkan History/, In: Istorija I mitove / History and Myths/, 1999 (Sofia), p. 36

[14] Stanimirov, S..  Istorija na Bulgarskata Tzarkva  /The History of the Bulgarian Church/, Sofia, 1925, pp.141-142

[15] Dimitrova, N. Opiti za  nazionalnoculturna  samoidentificazija na bulgarina  (Attempts at a National-Cultural Self-Identification of the Bulgarian). In:  A. Krasteva, N. Dimitrova, N. Bogomilova, I. Katzarski. Universalno i nazionalno v bulgarskata cultura (Universal and National in Bulgarian Culture), 1996,pp.70-80 (Sofia:  ICMSIR).

[16] Emmert, Th. Kosovo: Development and Impact of a National Ethic, in: Nation and Ideology, 1981, New York, p.83

[17] Bashich, G. Pravni polozaj crkava i verskih zajednica u Srbiji  /The Legal Status of the Churches and of the Religious Communities in Serbia /,  a part of the project of the Institute for  Social Theory and Philosophy entitledDrustveno razvojne mogucnosti Srbije u evropskim i svetskim procesima” /N 1926/ ,  MNTR Vlade Republike Srbije  “ /The Social Development of Serbia and  the Global Processes”, N 1926/,in Serbian, unpublished 

[18] Ibid;

[19] Official Gazette of Serbia and Montenegro, N 6,February 28, 2003;

[20] Detailed analysis of the problem in:  Aleksov, B . The Religious Education in Serbia. YUNIR, Nis, 2004 /bilingualSerbian and English/; Djordjevic, D, D.Todorovic. Ìëàäè, ðåëèãèjà, âåðîíàóêà /The Youth, the Religion, the Religious Education/, Belgrade, 2000 /in Serbian/

[21]Ïðåäëîã çàêîíà î âåðñêîj ñëîáîäè, â: Ïðàâîñëàâëüå , N847, 1 þëè, 2002, Áåëãðàä / Law of Religious Freedom /draft/, in: Orthodoxy , N847, July 1, 2002/ In Serbian/

[22] Vukomanovich, M. Religious Freedoms in Yugoslavia and the Relations between Religious Communities and the State, in: Religion in Eastern Europe, vol.22, N1, February 2002, p.38

[23] Ibid

[24] Ibid, p.39

[25] Ibid., p.41

[26] Ibid.,

[27] Ibid.,p.42

[28] G.Bashich. The Legal Status of Churches and  of the Religious Communities…  

[29] Áîjuh, M.  Óìåñòî çàêîíà î âåðñêîj ñëîáîäè – çàêîí î öðêâè, â:  Ïðàâîñëàâëüå , N847, 1 þëè, 2002, Áåëãðàä / The Law of Religious Freedom should be Replaced by the Law of Church, in: Orthodoxy, N847, July 1, 2002, Belgrade /, in Serbian

[30] Basich, G.  The Legal Status of Churches and  of the Religious Communities…

[31] Zrinscak, S. Church and State in New Social Circumstances. The Croatian Story, in: Church-State Relations in Central and Eastern Europe, ed. by I. Borowik, NOMOS, Krakow, 1999, pp.124-129

[32] Bashich, G. The Legal Status of Churches and of the Religious Communities…

[33] I obtained in time the text of the Draft thanks to the collegial help of Prof. M. Vukomanovich

[34]  Ilic, A. Church and State Relations in Present-Day Serbia, In: Religion in Eastern Europe, vol.25, February 2005, p.18

[35]  Enyedi, Z. The Contested Politics of Positive Neutrality in Hungary In: John Madeley and Zsolt Enyedi (eds.) Church and State in Contemporary Europe. The Chimera of Neutrality. London: Frank Cass, 2003,

[36] Bjelajac, B. Discriminatory religion bill, in:, Forum 18 News Service, July 30, 2004             

[37],  August 5, 2004

[38] Ibid.

[39], Serbia and Montenegro, August 5, 2004

[40] I obtained in time the text of the Draft thanks to the collegial help of Prof. M. Vukomanovich

[41] Ferrari, S. Remarks on the papers presented at the Strasburg meeting /November 17-18, 2000/, in: The Status of Religion Confessions of the States Applying  for Membership to the European Union, Ed. F.Messner /Proceedings of the Meeting/, Milano, 2002, p.29



[42] Interviews:  May 16, 2005, University of Novi Sad, Serbia and  June 19,2005, Sirogijno, Serbia

[43]  Brankovic, T. Problems of defining religious organizations. A report presented at the International conference “Religion in the Multiethnic and Multi-confessional Society”, Novi Sad, Serbia, May 16, 2005 /, unpublished          

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ferrari, S. Remarks on the papers presented at the Strasburg meeting /November 17-18, 2000/, in: The Status of Religion Confessions of the States Applying  for Membership to the European Union, Ed. F.Messner /Proceedings of the Meeting/, Milano, 2002; W.Cole Durham, Jr., N.P.Peterson and E. A. Sewell, Introduction: A Comparative Analysis of Religious Associations Laws in Post-Communist Europe, in:  Laws on Religion and the State in Post-Communist Europe, PEETERS, 2004, Eds. W.Cole Durham, Jr, Silvio Ferrari;   Ferrari, S. Conclusion. Church and State in Post-Communist Europe, in: Law and Religion in Post-Communist Europe, eds. S. Ferrari, W. Cole Durham, Jr.; ed. E. A. Sewell; Peeters,  Leuven, Paris, Dudley, M.A. 2003;  Bloß. L. European Law of Religion – organizational and institutional analysis of national systems and their implications for the future European Integration Process, Jean Monnet Working Paper 13/03, in:

[46]Vukomanovich, M. The Role of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Protection of Minorities and “Minor” Religious Communities in the FR Yugoslavia, in: Facta Universitatis, vol.2, N6, 1999, University of Nis, p.19;  Kuburich, Z. Rasprostranjenost i polozai protestantizma na Balkanu,- Etno-religijski odnosi na Balkanu, Yóíèð, Nis, 1997 /Diffusion and Position of the Protestantism  in the Balkans, in: Ethnic-Religious Relationships in the Balkan, YUNIR, Nis, 1997 /, in Serbian; Nikolich, Z. Religioznost u pravoslàvnim podrucjima. -  Etno-religijski odnosi…/ Religiosity  in Orthodox Areas, in: Ibid./;   Beshich, M. and  B. Djukanovich. Áîãîâè è ëüóäè. Ðåëèãèîçíîñò ó Öðíîj ãîðè, Ïîäãîðèöà, 2000, ÖÈÄ è ÑÎÖÅÍ è äð. / The Gods and  the People. The Religiosity in Montenegro,  Podgorica,  2000/, pp. 210-213, in Serbian;  Roma Religious Culture, ed D. Djordjevich, YUNIR, Nis, 2003, and others.

[47]Blagojevich, M.  Ðåëèãèjñêà ñèòóàöèjà ó ÑÐ Jóãîñëàâèjè îä êðàjà 80-òèõ äî ïî÷åòêà íîâîã âåêà.â: Òåìå  N3, 2003,  Nèø, ñ. 412  / The Religious Situation in the UR Yugoslavia  from the End of  the 80-s to the beginning of the  New Century,  in: Teme, N3, 2003, University of Nis, p. 412 /, in Serbian

[48] Ibid., p.414

[49] Blagojevich, M.  The Religious Situation in the UR Yugoslavia  from the End of  the 80-s to the beginning of the  New Century,  in: Teme, N3, 2003, University of Nis, p. 415 /in Serbian/

[50] Ibid., p. 416

[51] Vukomanovich, M. Religious Freedoms in Yugoslavia and the Relations between Religious Communities and the State, in: Religion in Eastern Europe, vol.22, N1, February 2002, p.422;

[52] Ibid.

[53] M. Blagojevich. The Religious situation…., p.416

[54] Ibid., p.424

[55] Beshich, M.,  B.Djukanovich. The Gods and  the People. The Religiosity in Montenegro,  Podgorica 2000, pp. 222-223

[56] D.Radisavljevich-Ciparizovich. Ðåëèãèjà è ñâàêîäíåâíè æèâîò, – â: Òåìå  ¹ 1-2, 2005

/The  Religion and the Everyday Life, in:  Teme, 1-2, 2005/, pp. 41-55,  in Serbian

[57] Enyedi, Z. The Contested Politics of Positive Neutrality in Hungary In: John Madeley and Zsolt Enyedi (eds.) Church and State in Contemporary Europe. The Chimera of Neutrality. London: Frank Cass, 2003

[58] Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. Human rights and responsibility. Serbia 2003., Belgrade, 2004, p.63 /in Serbian/

[59] Ibid., p.63

[60]Djurovich, B.  Canonic Disputes or Clerical-political Proselytism: Relations between Serbian, Macedonian and Montenegrin Orthodox Churches  in: Evangelization, Conversion, Prozelytism, ed. by D.Todorovich, YUNIR, Nis, 2004, p.59

[61] Ibid.

[62] Aleksich,  B.,  T.Krstajich. Òðãîâöè äóøàìà  /Traders in Souls, documents/, Nikshich, 2003, pp.103-125

[63] Ibid., pp. 99, 130, 133-135, etc.

[64] Îáðàçîâaíüå è âàñïèòàíüå N1-2, 1999, Ïîäãîðèöà  /Åducation and Instruction, N1-2, 1997, Podgorica/, In Serbian/

[65] Vukomanovic, M. The Role of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Protection of Minorities and “Minor” Religious Communities in the FR Yugoslavia, in: Facta Universitatis, vol.2, N6, 1999, University of Nis, p.19

[66] Bigovich, R.  Öðêâà è äðóøòâî, Áåîãðàä, 2000, ñ..259-260 / Religion and Society. Belgrade, 2000, pp.259-260/,  In Serbian/

[67] Ibid., pp.265-266

[68] Ibid., pp.259-260

[69] Ibid., 273

[70] 2000  Annual report on International Religious Freedom in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the US Department of State, in:



[73] Nikolovski-Katin, S.  Small Religious Communities and Groups in the Republic of  Macedonia, in: Facta Universitatis, vol.2, N6,1999,University of Nis, pp .92-93

[74] Cacanoska, R. Íàöèîíàëíî-êîíôåñèîíàëíàòà äåçèíòåãðàöèjà íà ìàêåäîíñêîòî îïøòåñòâî, â: Óíèâåðçèòåò “Ñâåòè Êèðèë è Ìåòîäèj”, Ãîäèøíèê íà Ôàêóëòåòîò çà áåçáåäíîñò , 20/1 Ñêîïje, 2002, ñ.74  / National-Confessional  Disintegration of the Macedonian Society, in:  Annual Edition for the School of Security,  20/1, Skopie, 2002, p.74 /,  in Macedonian

[75]Cacanoska, R. National-confessional disintegration…, p.74

[76] Ibid., p.75

[77] Mojzes, P. From Crisis to Post-crisis in Macedonia, in: Religion in Eastern Europe, vol.XXII, N4, August 2002

[78] Detailed analysis of the problem in: Sasaikovski, S. Revitalizacija na opshtestvenata funkcija na religijata, versko-politichko soochuvawe so religiskiot fenomen, Doktorska disertacija - Skopje, 1998 godina   / Revitalisation of the Social Function of Religion and the Political Use of the Religious Phenomenon /PhD thesis/, University “St. St.  Cyril and Methodii”, Institute for Sociological,  Political and Juridical  Studies”, Skopie, 1998 /, In Macedonian, unpublished 


[79] Cacanoska, R.  National-Confessional  Disintegration of the Macedonian Society, in:  Annual Edition for the School of Security,  20/1, Skopie, 2002, p.76 /in Macedonian/

[80] Djurovic, B. Canonic Disputes or Clerical-political Proselytism: Relations between Serbian, Macedonian and Montenegrin Orthodox Churches,  in: Evangelization, Conversion, Proselytism, ed. by D.Todorovic, YUNIR, Nis, 2004, p.58

[81] Ibid.

[82] Ibid.,p.57

[83] Blagoev, G. Dramata ma Makedonskata pravoslavna tzarkva, v-k Trud, 8 Juli, 2004  / The Drama of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, in : the daily newspaper Trud, July 8, 2004 /, In Bulgarian

[84]Sasaikovski, S.  Politicka sociologija na MPC / Political Sociology of the MOC /, In Macedonian, unpublished 

[85] Matevski, Z.  Sociological Analysis of the Religious Situation in the Macedonian Post-Communist Society – report, presented at the International Conference “Religion and Politics” held at  June 3-4, 2005 in  Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria /in English, unpublished/

[86]  Nikolovski-Katin, S.  Small Religious Communities and Groups in the Republic of  Macedonia, in: Facta Universitatis, vol.2, N6,1999, University of Nis, p. 98

[87] Cacanoska, R.  Possibilities for Changes in Roma Confessional Matrix in the Republic of Macedonia, in: Evangelization, Conversion, Proselytism, ed. By D. Todorovic, YUNIR, Nis, 2004, pp. 84-86

[88] Interview, May 16, 2005, University of Novi sad, Serbia

[89] Interview, June 4, 2005, West-South University in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

[90] W.Cole Durham, Jr., N.P.Peterson and E. A. Sewell.  Introduction: A Comparative Analysis of Religious Associations Laws in Post-Communist Europe, in:  Laws on Religion and the State in Post-Communist Europe, PEETERS, 2004, Eds. W.Cole Durham, Jr,  Silvio Ferrari



[92] State Gazette, 120/ December 20, 2002

[93] Petkov, P. The Law on Religion in Bulgaria in the Light  of European Integration, In: Orthodox Christianity and Contemporary Europe, Eds. J.Sutton, Wil van den Bercken, PEETERS, Leuven, Paris, Dudley, 2003, pp. 486-489

[94] Religious Denominations Act  / English version/, In: Laws on Religion and the State in Post-Communist Europe, Eds. W.Cole Durham, Jr., Silvio Ferrari, PEETERS, 2004, pp.77-92

[95] Peteva, J. The Legal Status of  Church and Religion in the Republic of Bulgaria, in: The Status of Religion Confessions of the States Applying  for Membership to the European Union, Ed. F.Messner /Proceedings of the Meeting/, Milano, 2002, pp.231-242

[96] Bogomilova, N.  Religijata -  Duh i Institutzija  /The Religion – Spirit and Institution/, Academic Publishing House “Prof.M.Drinov”,  Sofia, 1999,  p.86 , in Bulgarian

[97] Interview, July 15, 2004

[98] Ferrari, S.  Remarks on the papers presented at the Strasburg meeting /November 17-18, 2000/, in: The Status of Religion Confessions of the States Applying  for Membership to the European Union, Ed. F.Messner /Proceedings of the Meeting/, Milano, 2002, p.29


[99] Brîun, J. The  Schism in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Part 2: Under the Socialist Government, 1993 – 97, in: Religion, State, Society, vol.28, N3, 2000

[100] /July 22, 2004/; /July 22, 2004/

[101]  The problems were discussed  at the conference of the Bulgarian Legal Association, titled “Actual problems of the religious communities in Bulgaria”, held on 13.07.2004 in Sofia

[102] W.Cole Durham, Jr., N.P.Peterson and E. A. Sewell, Introduction: A Comparative Analysis of Religious Associations Laws in Post-Communist Europe, in:  Laws on Religion and the State in Post-Communist Europe, PEETERS, 2004, Eds. W.Cole Durham, Jr.,  Silvio Ferrari,  pp.VII-XLIII

[103] Bulgaria: International Religion Freedom Report 2004, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, in:


[105] Vladimirov, Zh.,  I. Katzarski, Ì. Badzhakov, Ò. Òîdorov.  Bulgaria in the Circles of Anomie, Sofia: SOPHILOS,  1998, p.58 /inBulgarian/

[106]  M.Tomka. Tendances de la religiosité et de l’orientation vers les Eglises en Europe de l’Est. In: Social Compass, vol. 49, N4, 2002, pp. 540, 544-545, 547.

[107] Zhelev, I. The Orthodox Theology in the Contemporary World – VI-th Congress of the Higher Theological Schools, in: Church Journal, 1-15.X.2004 /summary of the report/

[108] Peteva, J. The Legal Status of Church and Religion in the Republic of Bulgaria, in: The Status of Religion Confessions of the States Applying  for Membership to the European Union, Ed. F.Messner /Proceedings of the Meeting/, Milano, 2002


[109] Kodelja, Z.,T.Bassler. Religion and Schooling in Open Society, Ljubljana, 2004, Open Society Institute

[110] Îáðàçîâàíüå è âàñïèòàíüå /Education and Instruction/ N4,  1997, Podgoritza, in Serbian

[111] Rogova,V. Kosova, in: Z. Kodelja, T.Bassler. Religion and Schooling in Open Society, Ljubljana, 2004, Open Society Institute, p. 46-47;  Basdevant-Gaudemet, B. Education et religion dans les pays candidates a l’Union Europeenne, in: Le statut des confessions religieuses des etats candidates a l’Union  Europeenne, ed. F.Messner, Milano, 2002

[112] Mitev, P. Relations of Compatibility and Incompatibility  in the Everyday Life of Christians and Muslims in Bulgaria. In: Relations of Compatibility and Incompatibility between Christians and Muslims in Bulgaria, ed. International Center for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations/ ICMSIR/, Sofia, 1994, pp.180-189

[113]Vladimirov, Zh., I.  Katzarski, T. Todorov, M. Badzhakov. 2000. Bulgaria after 1997: Current Situation and Development Tendencies. Sofia: Sofiiski Novini Edition, 2000, pp.89-92

[114]Marushiakova, E., V. Popov. Tziganite v Bulgaria /The Gypsies in Bulgaria/, Sofia: “M.Drinov” Academic Publishing House, 1993, p.,65

[115] Tomova, I.. The Gypsies in the Transition Period. Sofia: International Center for Minority Studies and Inter-cultural Relations /ICMSIR/, 1995, p.25

[116] D.Djordjevich. Evangelization, Conversion, Proselytism: Example of Roma’s  Protestantization, in: Evangelization, Conversion, Prozelytism, ed. D. Todorovich, YUNIR, Nis, 2004, pp.77-78; Cacanoska, R. Possibilities for Changes in Roma Confessional Matrix in the Republic of Macedonia, in: Ibid., pp. 84-86; Slavkova, M. The “Turkish Gypsies” in Bulgaria and their New Religious Identity, in: Ibid., pp.90-92 

[117] Ferrari, S.  Conclusion. Church and State in Post-Communist Europe, in: Law and Religion in Post-Communist Europe, eds. S. Ferrari, W. Cole Durham, Jr.; ed. E. A. Sewell; Peeters,  Leuven, Paris, Dudley, M.A. 2003, p. 421.