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Serbian Orthodox priests say Montenegro’s government backs satanists


MONTENEGRO IS ONE of these nations whose panorama—glittering mountain peaks, azure seas—is each bit as magnificent because it appears in vacationer brochures. The marketing campaign for its normal election on August 30th, nevertheless, has been ugly. The government’s supporters accuse the principle opposition coalition of being “clerical fascists”. The opposition name on voters to not again “unbelievers”. How issues got here to this cross requires a little bit of rationalization.

President Milo Djukanovic has dominated Montenegro since 1989, whether or not as president, prime minister or head of the ruling social gathering. His social gathering will in all probability win this time too. However issues haven’t been completely placid. In 2016 the government mentioned it had foiled an election-day coup plot led by opposition leaders and backed by Russia. This yr Mr Djukanovic has been rattled by recurrent protests, which draw tens of hundreds of individuals waving Serbian flags and led by priests. You may suppose Montenegrins could be upset concerning the financial system: tourism generates a fifth of GDP, which can shrink by 9% this yr due to covid-19. Certainly, many protesters are fed up with poor government companies, corruption, nepotism and different ills. However reasonably than addressing such considerations, the massive events are arguing about faith.

Final December the government handed a legislation stipulating that until spiritual teams can show their title to property owned earlier than 1918, when Montenegro turned a part of the brand new nation of Yugoslavia, it belongs to the state. Priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the nation’s predominant denomination, accuse the government of attacking spiritual freedom and selling a “satanic cult”, by which they imply the small Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which they say Mr Djukanovic favours. Whether or not or not the brand new legislation is a land seize, says Kenneth Morrison, a historian, the dispute has turn out to be a wrestle for the nation’s political soul.

About 75% of Montenegrins are Serbian Orthodox, and since 1918 the problem of whether or not they need to merely be thought-about Serbs (and therefore whether or not their state must be a part of Serbia) has waxed and waned. Now it has returned in a distinct type. Serbian nationalists have begun speaking of the “Serbian world”, a lot as Russian nationalists name their space of affect the “Russian world”. This doesn’t essentially imply that Montenegro and ethnic-Serb elements of Bosnia and Kosovo must be fused with Serbia, however that they need to keep firmly in its sphere of affect.

Montenegro’s opposition is split between those that fly Serbian flags and those that don’t. When protesters chant “Montenegro, Serbia—one household”, they remind Bosniaks (Muslims by heritage), Albanians and Croats, who collectively are 18% of the inhabitants, that as a lot as they might not like Mr Djukanovic, they dislike Serbian nationalism much more. This, with added vote-buying and fraud, has made a democratic switch of energy in Montenegro reasonably theoretical. No government has ever modified fingers in an election.

This text appeared within the Europe part of the print version beneath the headline “Not very Christian”

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