Cover image for Heavenly Serbia : from myth to genocide
Heavenly Serbia : from myth to genocide
Anzulovic, Branimir, 1928-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiv, 233 pages ; 22 cm
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DR1965 .A59 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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As violence and turmoil continue to define the former Yugoslavia, basic questions remain unanswered: What are the forces behind the Serbian expansionist drive that has brought death and destruction to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo? How did the Serbs rationalize, and rally support for, this genocidal activity?

Heavenly Serbia traces Serbia's nationalist and expansionist impulses to the legendary battle of Kosovo in 1389. Anzulovic shows how the myth of "Heavenly Serbia" developed to help the Serbs endure foreign domination, explaining their military defeat and the loss of their medieval state by emphasizing their own moral superiority over military victory. Heavenly Serbia shows how this myth resulted in an aggressive nationalist ideology which has triumphed in the late twentieth century and marginalized those Serbs who strive for the establishment of a civil society.

"Modern Serbian nationalism...and its contradictory connections...have been sources of considerable scholarly interest...Branimir Anzulovic's compendium is a good example of the genre, made all the more useful by Anzulovic's excellent command of the literature."
--Ivo Banac, History of Religions

Author interview with CNN:

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Like George Mosse's analyses of the intellectual roots of Nazism, Heavenly Serbia traces the myths that contributed to the brutality of Serbian actions after the collapse of Yugoslavia. The title describes the core myth of Serbian superiority, tied to defeat at the 1389 Battle of Kosovo. But the drive for a Greater Serbia also drew upon centuries of control by the Ottoman Empire, fragments of pagan religion, a religious establishment supportive of radical nationalism, and an intellectual elite that romanticized Serbs' sufferings and superiority just as German intellectuals did. "The main culprits for the explosion of Serbian violence," Anzulovic holds, "were . . . highly educated, sophisticated, and powerful people . . . who used a Western ideology to convince Serbs that their moral superiority is menaced by a worldwide conspiracy; leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church . . .; political leaders who fanned and used nationalist passions . . .; and well-paid generals . . . [trying to] ensure their control of all of the former Yugoslavia." And Western nations, the author argues, accepted many of Serbia's destructive myths in delaying intervention far too long. --Mary Carroll

Library Journal Review

An independent scholar living in Washington, DC, Anzulovic interprets Serbia's violent history as a consequence of historical legacies: Saint Sava's mystical identification of the church and nation, glorified killing in such works as Petar P. Njego s's Mountain Wreath (1986), and the "pagan-tribal ethos" of the Balkans and of Serbia in particular. The book's strength consists of illustrating a national ideology woven from myth and historical episode. Indeed, its title derives from the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje, in which a messenger from Saint Elias offered Prince Lazar a "heavenly kingdom" in accepting Serbian defeat. Anzulovic posits the revitalized myth promoted by Orthodox clergy, popular writers, and urban intellectuals as the source of the recent genocidal war. Although acknowledging policies imposed from without, the author overlooks Serbia's experience as a victim of past aggression. Likewise, the "many" Serbs who want a life of peace and toleration are only passingly recognized. Nevertheless, the book's grasp of Serbian culture extends far beyond the superficial "ancient hatreds" thesis of Balkan war. Scholars will find it a good companion to Timothy Judah's more general The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (LJ 3/15/97). Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.√ĄZachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.