Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

The World Alliance for International Friendship through the Churches and Religious and Political Rapprochement between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in the 1920's and 1930's

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

The World Alliance for International Friendship through the Churches and Religious and Political Rapprochement between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in the 1920's and 1930's

Article excerpt

Introduction

From the middle of the nineteenth century up to the 1930's, Serbian-Bulgarian and later Yugoslav-Bulgarian relations were marked by conflicts over Macedonia, the national revival of the Macedonian population, and wars. The "Macedonian Question," that is, the status of Macedonia, though officially settled with treaties of Bucharest, London, and Paris (1912, 1913, 1919), remained a constant problem in the Balkans throughout the interwar years. (1) During the first stage, in the 1920's, the main issue on the agenda was the enforcement of the peace agreements and the curbing of the Macedonian nationalist movement. In the second stage, in the 1930s, a gradual rapprochement between the two countries took place, in which the Serbian and the Bulgarian Orthodox Churches played an essential part. (2)

In 1937, the representatives of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Tsardom of Bulgaria signed a Pact of Eternal Friendship. The declaration of friendship was a result of a process of political and religious rapprochement, which had begun at the end of the 1920's. In this context, the influence of the ecumenical movement--especially a peace organization, the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches (hereafter, W.A.)--has to be highlighted. The history of the ecumenical movement briefly mentions that discussions held among the leading ecumenical representatives and Balkan religious leaders led to an exchange of visits between official delegations of the Serbian and Bulgarian churches. These visits paved the way for similar action on the political level. (3) The activity of the ecumenical movement and the discussions and visits mentioned above have been largely neglected in the national histories of the two countries and in the history of international relations between the two world wars. To understand fully the chain of events and the role the W.A. had in the process of rapprochement, we first examine the foreign policy and the ideology of the two countries, as well as the activity of the W.A.

I. The World Alliance and Its National Committees in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria

The W. A. was established in 1914 as a successor to an Anglo- German organization that was founded after mutual visits by British and German church leaders and theologians in 1908 and 1909 in order to promote friendly relations between the two nations. (4) By 1920, the longer name was usually shortened to the "World Alliance for International Friendship through the Churches."

After the First World War, the W.A. gathered for its first meeting in October, 1919. There was a brief confrontation, followed by conciliation between the German and the French representatives. First, it was decided to support the proposition presented by Swedish Archbishop Nathan Soderblom to convene a global Christian conference to discuss the challenges that the societies and the churches were facing. (5) Second, the W.A. dealt with its constitution and appointed its officers. (6) Third, the W.A. declared its support to the League of Nations, proposing that the League accept all states that had expressed their wish to join the League and calling on the League to respect human rights and religious freedom. (7)

One of the cornerstones of the W.A.'s identity and ideology was the understanding that the organization was the spiritual equivalent of the League of Nations, the soul of the League. As Sir Willoughby Dickinson stated in 1920, the League of Nations was based on those principles of international Christian fellowship, the recognition of which the W.A. was formed to encourage. (8) The League of Nations was seen as a valuable piece of machinery for dealing with international troubles in a peaceful manner, but, as the W.A. stated, a will on the part of the people was needed in order to work the machine in a peaceful way. (9) From the League's viewpoint, the W.A. was one of many social organizations surrounding the League. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.