From "Traitor" to "Saint": Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović in Serbian Public Memory

Byford, Jovan (2004). From "Traitor" to "Saint": Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović in Serbian Public Memory. Analysis of Current Trends In Antisemitism, 22 pp. 1–41.

URL: http://sicsa.huji.ac.il/22byford.pdf

Abstract

The paper explores the political rehabilitation, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, of the recently-canonized Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović, a controversial early 20th-century Serbian Orthodox Christian philosopher who, having been vilified by the communist authorities as a “Nazi collaborator,” “antisemite” and “Fascist,” is today revered by the majority of Orthodox Serbs as the greatest Serbian religious figure since medieval times. The rehabilitation of Nikolaj Velimirović will be shown to have involved continual suppression and sidelining of a number of controversial aspects of his biography, most of which are related to his antisemitic views and right-wing political activism in the 1930s and 1940s. Drawing on the work of Irwin-Zarecka (1994) and Michael Billig (1997a, 1999a, 1999b), it will be suggested that embarrassing aspects of the bishop’s life were “repressed” by substituting a “replacement myth”—namely the portrayal of Velimirović as a martyr and a victim of Nazi persecution. A look at specific rhetorical and discursive dynamics demonstrates how the transformation from traitor to saint took place.

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