Croatian Viewpoint
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Croatia at a Crossroad in History

The Croatian Orthodox Community has recently been registered in Croatia, with its base in Sibenik. It's time that the rights of the Croatian people of the Orthodox faith are respected and that the unjustified complaints and censored history in Croatia are exposed. Now at a crossroad in its history the Croatian nation now must remain on the pathway of freedom of religious expression. It's time for the genocide against Croatian people to end!
The history of Christianity in Croatian lands is one of the longest of any region in the world and for this reason the Croatian Orthodox Community should have been one of the first recognized Orthodox communities in the world, and not one of the last. Today, if Montenegro and Macedonia have an Orthodox Church, why not Croatia? The usurpation of Croatian Orthodoxy under Serbian leadership in the 19th and 20th century has been proven to be the main source of destabilization in Croatia as it provided the foundation for a vicious Serbian siege against Croatian civilians between 1990 and 1995. Serbian propaganda in Croatia continues to cast a dark shadow over the so-called 'yugosphere' process and reconciliation. The Croatian Orthodox story is told in recorded and oral history, handed down over generations.

Early Christianity in Croatia

The bible records the apostles' journeys to Illyricum and Dalmatia in Timothy 2, 4:10 and in Romans 15:19. If Hadrian's Wall is part of English history then the first Christian See in 65AD is part of Croatian history, a fact noted by Pope John Paul II when in Croatia. Pope John Paul referred to the nearly 2000 years of Christianity in Croatia, at Solin, and to the martyrs of the first three centuries. Since that time many early Orthodox churches in Croatia came under the jurisdiction of Constantinople beginning with Greek Orthodox churches along the Croatian coast and islands.
Briefly, Orthodox Christians in Croatia include descendants of the original Christians of Dalmatia, Croatians (for example Uskoks) and descendants of Vlahs, Stradioti, Czech, Greek, Russian, Romanian, Macedonian, Ukranian, Serbian and other minorities in Croatia. There have been several distinguished Croatian Orthodox leaders of historical importance. All along the Adriatic coast, and inland, Greek Orthodox churches were built to serve the various Orthodox settlers, many becoming Uniate from 1611.

Orthodox Vlahs

Historians acknowledge that the Ottomans Turks brought with them nomadic Vlahs (Morlacchi or Wallachs) to settle Croatian lands depopulated by the plague or Ottoman sieges. The presence of Vlahs is established in history, philosophy, novels, decrees or statutes, and place names on genuine original maps.
These Orthodox Vlahs became mostly assimilated into Croatian civilization by the 18th century, between Istria and Dubrovnik, and throughout Lika, Dalmatia, and other parts of Croatia. If these Vlahs had been of Serbian ancestry as claimed by Serbia, why is it that the land where they originated from was known as 'Turkish Croatia'? In addition it's of great significance that if these migrating Vlahs had been exclusively of mixed Serbian ancestry, as claimed by Serbia, it is unlikely that they would have been at the centre of the enlightenment debate. After all, the Vlahs were the virtuous so-called noble savages romanticized by the enlightened French philosopher Rousseau, in contrast to the famous French philosopher Voltaire who cited the Dalmatian Morlaque as an example of people who had a lowly place in the development of enlightened civilization.
In one of many sources which allude to the ethnicity of the original Orthodox in Croatia, Larry Wolff, an American professor, in his book, 'Venice and the Slavs: The Discovery of Dalmatia in the Age of Enlightenment' writes that "The heterogeneous Orthodox society of Zadar included Montenegrin officers and Sarajevo merchants ... and (others) from Corfu and Crete. The Venetians were concerned to reduce foreign influence on Orthodox Dalmatians, including the Morlacchi".
A 19th century Catholic Encylopaedia refers to Dalmatia's 527,500 Catholics and 80,900 Greek Schismatics (with Bishoprics in Zadar & Kotor).
Place names such as Latinski Islam or Grcki Islam or the 'Vlasko More' (or, 'Vlah Sea' changed to 'Karin Sea' in 20th century) in the Zadar vicinity, as well the existence of Greek or Eastern rite churches in Croatian history testify to the existence and identity of the Vlahs and other Orthodox people in Croatia. Vlahs spoke an old vulgar Latin language and used the Latin script, but this history is lost by Misha Glenny in his book, 'The Fall of Yugoslavia', 1992: "According to moderate Knin Serbs I met in 1990, only about 5 per cent of the local Serbs used the Cyrillic script, the rest not only spoke the Croatian variant, they used the Latin script. Eighteen months later, on my return, I witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a Knin Serb attempting to write the address of his relations in Belgrade in Cyrillic - he could not do it. Half-way through the address, he gave up and wrote it in Latin. The Croatian language was already dominant in Knin..."
According to the book about the life of Pavlinovic, a 19th century Croatian priest, on the topic of the Orthodox faith in Croatia, the Orthodox peoples of Croatia were not Serbian, a fact which matched other Venetian records. According to Pavlinovic the Orthodox in Croatia were members of the old Croatian Greek Orthodox church from the early middle ages, for example, Vlahs or Romanians, Greeks, and other merchants who had assimilated into Croatian society under the Habsburg dynasty. These Vlahs had been recognized as such in Venetian and Habsburg statues since the 17th century.

Orthodox Stradioti

Just as the Vlahs had been brought to Croatia by the Ottoman Turks, the Stradiotii had been brought by the Venetians from occupied Greece to Venetian-occupied Croatian land to fight land battles there. For half a millennium the Stradioti were behind the establishment of the Eastern Greek Orthodox communities in Venetian occupied Croatia. Their existence has been documented in Venetian archives and by many other European contemporaneous sources. Not only did the borders of Venetian occupation change frequently but forced migrations of these Orthodox communities also occurred, leading to new settlements in inland Croatia.

Orthodox Churches in Croatia

In Zagreb the church known as St. Margaret was first a Greek Orthodox church and later taken over by the Serbian Orthodox Church. Today's church of the Serbian Orthodox Metropolis of Zagreb-Ljubljana on Preobrazenska Street Zagreb was originally the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Preobrazenja on Petar Preradovic Square, built in 1866 on the site of a former Catholic church.
Likewise in Sarajevo or Zadar or Lika, the churches now called Serbian Orthodox were originally known as Greek Orthodox churches. In Sarajevo what is now the Serbian Saborna Church was once a Greek Orthodox Church, built in 1882 on site of Freedom Square (formerly Tomislav Square).
The church of St. Ilijah in Zadar (St. Elias) once served the Greek Orthodox community there and not the Serbs. St. Ilija's Church (St. Elias) church built in 1773 in place of a medieval church (1563) of the same name once served the Greek Orthodox congregation of soldiers, merchants or sailors etc. who had settled there. St. Ilijah only came under the Serbian Dalmatian Eparchy at the end of the 19th century. According to Wolff, one Obradovic, a visiting Serbian-born pioneer of Serbian nationalism in Croatia, was preaching in Zadar in 1771 to the "Schismatic" Orthodox community, but was denied settlement in Skradin because Venetian authorities did not want a "foreign" influence on the Orthodox Dalmatians and Morlacchi. If the Orthodox settlements there had been Serbian then how would the situation arise that a visiting Serbian priest would be called a 'foreigner' by the Venetian authorities? If the so-called 'slavicized' Orthodox were under "foreign" threat from a visiting Serb, it is not likely that they were at that point in time of mixed Serbian origin. In 1876 in Skradin itself a new church replaced the original Greek Orthodox church which at some point was taken over by Serbian priests.

Serbian Orthodox Ascendancy in Croatia

The migration of Serbs to Croatia is a distinct migration apart from the migration of Vlahs or Stradioti to Croatia. The 17th century migration of Serbian people led by their church Patriarchs into north-east Croatia (Vojvodina) occurred following the Ottoman decline there. This Serbian migration gradually led to Serbian political claims over a wide geographical area of Croatia with the support of Hungary. By 1848 the Serbian Patriarchate of Srijemski Karlovci became established in Habsburg-occupied Croatian lands.
The ethnic status quo in 19th century Hapsburg-occupied Croatia had been destabilized when the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate was given the opportunity to proselytize and gradually take over existing Greek Orthodox or (Uniate) Greek Catholic churches, a destabilizing process which was encouraged by the Croatian Bishop Strossmayer as part of the deliberate 19th century ecumenical and pan-slavist political platform. In the London Times issue of May 1, 1870 Strossmayer was strongly criticized, "Strossmayer wanted to fuse the Catholic minority in South-East Europe with the Greek Orthodox Slavs for the sake of obtaining political unity of the South-Slav nations "
Meanwhile, in 1879 the Serbian Orthodox Church in Serbia regained its autocephaly and in 1882 the Kingdom of Serbia was recognized. By the end of the 19th century most if not all former Greek Orthodox Churches in Croatia were being taken over by Serbian priests, and Serbia in this way began to claim all Orthodox people as Serbian constituent people in Croatia, a policy also endorsed by Croatian pan-slavist politicians in the parliament.
Following the union of the independent Kingdom of Serbia together with the newly created 'State of Serbs Croats and Slovenes' in Croatia and other areas formerly occupied by the defeated Austro/Hungarian empire, the Serbian Patriarchate of Srijemski Karlovci was shifted to Belgrade. By the 1930s the constitution and reorganization of the Serbian Orthodox church was finalized. From this time all Orthodox peoples of the whole of Yugoslavia, including Croatia, became classified officially as of Serbian ancestry no matter what their ethnic background.

Serbian Historical Revisionism

In 1931 Nikola Tesla, born in Croatia of the Orthodox faith, appeared on the front of Time Magazine (Vol XV III No. 3, 1931 20 July). Not long afterwards in 1936 a book was published by Dorothea Orr "Portrait of a People" which was a sort of travelogue. In it a chapter entitled "A Night in Lika" described the visit of an American Consul to Gospic with no mention of Tesla at all, even though the centralist Serbian dictatorship ruled over Croatia at the time—a fact well described in the above book and even though Tesla, born in Lika, had been on the front of Time Magazine a couple of years earlier! Even in America, during Tesla's lifetime little interest appeared in his ethnicity. Tesla had identified himself as a Croat on his arrival at the Castle Garden Immigration office in Manhattan in 1884, as written in this document, even though the Croatian region of his birth was administered from Austria and not directly from Croatia at the time Tesla was living there.
Allegations circulate that at some point during his life Tesla uttered that he was equally proud of his Serb origin and his Croatian homeland but this alleged statement was never spoken by Tesla, but it was allegedly written by Tesla, though not in his handwriting, and it appears that this alleged written statement is a fake telegram. The story goes that Tesla allegedly answered a telegram from Vlatko Macek, leader of the Croatian Republican Peasant Party, who had first sent a congratulatory telegram to Tesla, possibly on the occasion of Tesla's birthday which is on July 10, but the problem is that this telegram is dated May 26. The 26th May 1919, according to the Serb Milos Obrknezevic, is an important date in Serbian Orthodox history which marks the unification of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade. The 26th May is therefore an important date for Serbian Orthodoxy and for Yugoslav propaganda, though not important enough for Macek himself to mention it in his own book. In addition, there is little doubt that the telegram allegedly sent from Nikola Tesla to Vlatko Macek in 1936 is a fake because it does not have the distinguishing characteristics of a 'received' telegram.

Croatian Orthodox Church

At the beginning of WWII the Kingdom of Yugoslavia collapsed and so during WWII a legitimate Croatian Orthodox Church emerged with the direct intervention, assistance, and blessing of Milos Obrknezevic, a church legal adviser in Srijemski Karlovac of Serbian birth. Yet Obrknezevic himself describes how he, together with the Croatian leadership, drafted and finalized the constitution of the Croatian Orthodox Church. According to Obrknezevic, "The formation of the Croatian Orthodox Church ... was not established with 'anti-Catholic tendencies', neither was its intention to 'attract' the Serbs. It was a solution to the problem of professing the Orthodox faith on the territory of the Independent State of Croatia for all the Orthodox Serbs, Croats, Ukrainians, Russians, Montenegrins, Macedonians, etc. ." ( Obrknezevic, Milos, 'Razvoj Pravoslavlja u Hrvatskoj i Hrvatska Pravoslavna Crkva', published first in Croatian language in 'Croatian Review', Munchen-Barcelona, June 1979. (Translated into English language as 'Development of Orthodoxy in Croatia and the Croatian Orthodox Church' on the website of 'Croatian Studies', appearing in 2010 on the new website of the Croatian Orthodox Community.)

Seizure of Croatian Orthodox Churches

At the end of WWII the Metropolitan Germogen and 42 priests of the Croatian Orthodox Church were executed under the Yugoslav communist regime by those who Obrknezevic described as "Great Serbian chauvinists" ... "a communist system was biased to such an extent regarding the existence of the Croatian Orthodox Church that it took a standpoint of militant intervention for the exclusiveness of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as the only Orthodox Church..." In the 21st century, as in the 19th and 20th century Serbia uses the Croatian parliament and the Serbian Orthodox church as a platform for their irredentist policies.
An atmosphere of greater religious freedom and equality in Croatia should be non-negotiable. Why is the creation of a Croatian Orthodox Church not 'politically correct' if every other nation in the world has its own national Orthodox church.
Jean Lunt Marinovic
December 2010
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