Accessed 18 April 1997

Short Summary of The Bridge Betrayed:
Religion and Genocide in Bosnia

by Michael Sells

1996. ISBN 0-520-20690-8 (Cloth) $19.95.
ISBN 0-520-21662-8 (Paper, New 1998 Edition) $14.95

[This summary is by the author]

The Bridge Betrayed portrays from a human perspective assault on Bosnia and the resistance by Bosnians. It shows how the genocide was motivated and justified through the manipulation of the mythology of Kosovo which culminated at the 600th anniversary passion play of Kosovo, the remembrance of the death of Prince Lazar--portrayed as a Christ-figure, fighting the Turks at the battle of Kosovo in 1389, the "Serbian Golgotha." Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian religious nationalists, including the leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church, worked to militarize the Kosovo story. Through exploiting the powerful symbols of Kosovo, Milosevic came to power, overthrew the governments of Kosovo, Montenegro, and Vojvodina, broke apart Yugoslavia, and carried out genocide in Bosnia, and then Kosovo.

The Bridge Betrayed also demonstrates the activities of Croat religious nationalists in destroying non-Catholic culture and communities throughout Herzegovina and especially in the Mostar Region, culminating in the deliberate destruction of the ancient bridge that symbolized the bridge of cultures, religions, and peoples in Bosnia throughout the centuries.

At the Kosovo commemoration of 1989, Serbian religious nationalists combined four symbols into a lethal mythology: (1) a militarized portrayal of the sacred time of 1389, (2) the sacred space of Kosovo or the "Serb Jerusalem," (3) the historical memory of WW2 atrocities against Serbs, and (4) false accusations that Albanians were carrying out WW2 style genocide against Serbs. Through media control they generated a mass psychology of fear and hate. The militarized mythology of Kosovo was instrumentalized by the militias, religious leaders, and secret police of Serbia throughout the genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Kosovo story had become ideology of Christoslavism, the view that Slavs are Christian by essence and that conversion from Christianity entails a race transformation and a race betrayal. Most ominously, the militarized mythology maintains that those who converted to Islam became "Turks" and are responsible, along with their descendants, for the killing of Prince Lazar, the Christ-prince of the "Serbian Golgotha" of 1389.

To understand the genocidal intentions of militant Serb nationalists we must understand Kosovo. But the cliché that the conflict is "age old and inevitable" is false; and indeed, it reflects the distorted history of the "ethnic cleansers" rather than historical reality. The abuse of the Kosovo legend to motivate genocide has been carried out by Serbian religious, intellectual and political leaders, and there was nothing inevitable about such manipulation. Serbia will retrieve its greatness when it finds a vision of Serbian heritage, including the Kosovo story, focused upon building community rather than destruction. New leaders such as Father Sava Janjic, quoted at the beginning of the new edition of The Bridge Betrayed, offer a more inclusive and humane vision of Serbian religious heritage.

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update19/04/99
©S D Stein
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