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Djordje Capin

Myth about Bogomils

The text is published in the magazine "Pogledi" nr 179., Kragujevac, September 1995., page nr 24-25 and in the review "Vidoslov" – church fair review of diocese of Zahumlje, Herzegovina and Primorje nr 9., Trebinje 1996., page 59-62.

There are a very few problems in the entire Serbian history, which exceeded the strict scientific framework, as it is falsehood about so called "Bogomils" or "patarens" in the medieval Bosnia and Hum. It is almost unbelievable the fact that from so few initial elements was built an enormous system of falsehoods and half-trues, which were until recent period an official and untouchable "scientific truth", frequently repeated in elementary schools and universities. Therefore like everything built on falsehood even such historical hypothesis would have fallen apart like Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia if anyone had dared in the previous decades to subject it to serious criticism. Very few authors who succeeded in it (Petranovic and Glusac) are intentionally overlooked in official historiography whenever it was possible. In cases when it was not possible they were called "uneducated historians" or it was said for them "they tried to prove themselves unsuccessfully" and it was often done without profound criticism or polemics. Because the knowledge about this topic is poor and public is familiar only with the official and distorted version in educational books or programs we shall try to bring it closer to public and to recognize forces, which maintained it until these days.

The beginning of the story we shall locate in the nineteenth century and in the Austro-Hungarian politics towards the Balkan region (separation of the western Serbian lands from Serbia and Montenegro and a try of creation of "Bosnian nationality"). Myth about Bogomils was created by Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and they were supporting it until the moment when Monarchy fell apart. The same concept and the same politics was continued by Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but more primitive and more aggressive in the artificial and illogical creation called Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (when following the same concept was created "Muslim nation" in Bosnia).

The base of the story is very simple and bare – without the protection of "authorities" from scientific and political circles it appears to be naïve. Majority of inhabitants professed dualistic heresy, which was widespread religion in the land. Taking into consideration that this heresy had certain similarities with Islam religion soon after these regions came under the Turkish rule vast number of inhabitants were converted into Islam. The conclusion is that the Bosnian Muslims were not previous Orthodox Christian Serbs, and that they are the only autochthonous guardians of the old pre-Turkish traditions and the only who had right to create their state!

However, despite the fact how naïve this story was (it was slightly modified throughout the of time) its constantly repetition caused very serious consequences. The ultimate results of consciousness built on this theory are the present remains of Alija's Bosnia and the bloody civil war which took away hundreds of thousands human lives.

"Bogomils" are taken into scientific consideration by Franjo Racki in 1869., who was very uncritical towards extremely suspicious Latin resources. Despite the fact that he is sometimes in controversy with his own theory, even within the single text and despite the fact that he offered explanations in cases when the facts say something different, his theory was accepted and politically supported by the force of authority until nowadays.

The very term "Bogomils" in Bosnia is familiar neither in historical resources nor in Bosnian tradition. Even the most bitter defenders of the term do not agree in the basic suppositions and manifestation of that "religion". It is described as "the religion" of distinct dualism (good-evil), rejection of the Old Testament, scorn of icons and the Holy Cross, unrecognition of the Holy Trinity, ignorance of the Holy Communions and absence of temples and organized hierarchy. To prove the existence of something like that in the medieval orthodox Bosnia whose entire material and spiritual culture is of orthodox origin was not very easy. As time was passing the base of this fairy tale was slightly modified to seem more probable, therefore the official historical theory (based on Communist brotherhood and unity and national equality) was that there equally existed Bogomils, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

The lack of much space, does not allow me polemic discussion about all suppositions of the myth about Bogomils but the every superficial insight into those thesis make them indefensible. There were not ever so called "Bogomils" or any other heretical group in the medieval Bosnia. From the first historical resources until the fall under the Turkish rule at the end of fifteenth century (and even later until the moment of larger spreading of Islamic tradition and religion) Bosnia was purely Serbian and Orthodox Christian land. It was so provocative at the very entrance of the West that many Crusades were undertaken to extinct the Orthodox Christian population. In those wars the far ancestors of today's extortioners as Hungarian servants, did the same atrocities over the Bosnian Serbs as their descendents are still doing it nowadays. The receiving of the Pope's legacies, formal recognition of the Pope, allowance of spreading of some western monastic orders and similar projects were only diplomatic tactical moves which did not have any serious influence on the internal religious life in Bosnia. This was confirmed in various Latin historical resources which are full of the most pejorative qualifications about the inhabitants and the Bosnian rulers. According to their opinion the inhabitants of Bosnia are "heretics", "manichaeans", "Bogomils", and their land is the hotbed of every kind of evil and heresy like in the other Orthodox Christian lands as they said. According to Roman Catholic Church of that period heretic is every Christian, thus Orthodox Christian also which does not recognize the absolute power of the Pope, Roman Catholic dogma and rite (nowadays this attitude is considerably moderated). The very term "Patarens" which very often stands for the all inhabitants of Bosnia, denotes those who learn that the Holy Spirit comes out from the Lord (ex Patre), therefore those Orthodox Christian, differently of those Roman Catholic which learn that the Holy Spirit comes out from the Lord and the Son (ex Patre Filioque). Rulers of Bosnia call the inhabitants of their land explicitly as Serbian, and their language as Serbian (charters of governor Matija Ninoslav to Dubrovnik). The most charters begin with the cross and the mentioning of the Holy Trinity. The sign of cross which was despised by fabricated "Bogomils", exists on the most graves called "stecci". Contrary to the falsehood about "Bogomils" which did not have religious buildings, there are numerous medieval churches with the Orthodox Christian’s altars, which face the East just like in other Serbian lands. Characteristic tombs called "stecci" are announced "Bogomil's" a priori without the firm facts and were for the long period of time one of the pillars on which is the based the theory or myth about "Bogomils". The vast majority of such tombs is situated on the direction of the East – the West with the face towards the West, just like Orthodox Christian tombs are. Mapping of the small number of tombs on the line the North – the South in the border areas of Bosnia will let us know more about converting to Catholicism of Serbs and something more about the earliest roots of nowadays "Croats" in Bosnia, Herzegovina and the Adriatic coast. The vast majority of tombs called "stecci" are situated next to Orthodox Christian churches (including ruins and churches that are later taken over by Roman Catholics). Tombs called "stecci" are typical for Serbian Dinaric area (Lika – Skadarsko Lake and the Adriatic coast – Pakrac). There are no such tombs either outside the Serbian ethnic areas or within them that cannot be proven to belong to Serbs. Therefore a lot of them are demolished, especially on the Adriatic coast. All news from the period of Turkish rule mentions Orthodox Christian Serbs. There is no evidence (such event should have left some traces) about mass conversion to Islam for a short period of time. Not a single heretic or "Bogomil" fled from Turkish Bosnia into neighboring lands but always and exclusively Orthodox Serbs. All the proofs about the Serbian devotion to their church and tradition are hard to name in a few words. Contrary to them there are only falsehoods and theories which could be hardly taken as serious and they would not have existed or would have lasted until today if there had not been a political intention of dismantling and taking away of Serbian territories.

Behind all and at the very beginning of such politics there is Austro-Hungarian sphere of interest in Serbian lands. After the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878. there is the first organized action of depopulation of Serbs, pushing into background of local Serbs and a try to separate the western Serbian lands from the eastern ones. This process needed a "scientific background" therefore the Bosnian past with "Bogomils" should have had a special role of proving "particularities of Bosnian land". In that sense a very "efficient" period of Austro-Hungarian rule was that of Governor Benjamin Kallay (1882-1903).

A very suitable material for achieving its goal Austria-Hungary has found in Bosnian Muslims whose heads they tried to stuff with the newly created pre-Turkish "Bosnian" tradition and conscience. With this they tried to push into background the lively Serbian traditions and the Turkish idea of independence. Muslims were devoted to this idea because it created them anyway. Such politics is accepted by a part of Muslim aristocracy, especially the bey Mehmed Kapetanovic who wrote the brochure "What do Mohammedans think in Bosnia" (1886). That was the first time one Muslim stated that Bosnian Muslims are descendents of "Bogomils". The Bosnian newspaper "Bosnjak" which was close to upper Muslim class continue and develop this theory and makes Muslims learn "Bosnian tradition" and Latin alphabet which was unknown in that time. With all one’s strength it is worked on affirmation of "Bosnian" nation and "Bosnian" language. "Bosnian language" gets its grammar in 1890. In history and mother tongue’s textbooks has been forged violently everything Serbian from history to folkways. Latin alphabet is imposed to the detriment of Cyrillic alphabet (which was beside the limited use of Turkish language and Arabic alphabet the only alphabet of all the inhabitants of Bosnia). The naturalized Croat from Bjelovar Kosta Herman (Hormann), counselor of the National government and one of the crucial figures in the foundation of the National Museum, published the Muslim folktales in Latin alphabet which provoked surprise and protest of the entire literate Europe.

By the foundation of the National Museum in Sarajevo in 1888. starts the systematic work on "scientific" creation of "particularities" of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Museum itself is from the moment of its foundation under the direct control of the National government and Mr. Kallay personally. Beside the very significant scientific results on various fields, which cannot be lessened or denied, the Museum works according to Mr. Kalay instructions and is particularly directed towards exploring of historical basis of particularities of Bosnia and Herzegovina with the accent on "Bogomils" and tombs called "stecci". There are numerous examples of tendentious reviews of the Bosnian past from uncritical ones to sheer forgery. Mr. Ciro Truhelka made up a new alphabet from the local variant of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet (bosancica), which was supposed to be completely independent from the previous one. Despite the fact that this forgery was so obvious to survive any critical consideration the term still came into usage. So a person who is interested in this can read under the term "bosancica" that it is "bosanica", Bosnian alphabet or Croatian Cyrillic alphabet also called female alphabet in the Encyclopedia of fine arts, volume 1, Zagreb 1959., page nr 442., thus everything except what it really is – Serbian Cyrillic alphabet. The National Museum had survived Austria-Hungary and continued its work in the first and second Yugoslavia (with the exception of the short war period in so called NDH – independent state of Croatia when it became "Croatian"). Results of generation’s work are impressive but the thesis about "Bogomils" is still existing. Although objective scientists refuted one by one suppositions of the myth, theory has evolved to the equal attitude of brotherhood and unity (all inhabitants, "Bogomils", Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christian lived equally next to each other in peace and love in "heretic" Bosnia). Nobody dealt with entirety of the problem and nobody dared at that time because such a step would have endangered the means of the Communist rule in Bosnia.

The wide public has heard about this fraud not until the falling apart of Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, after the republishing of the book "The Truth about Bogomils" written by dr Vaso Glusac (the first edition – Belgrade 1941., finished in 1945.) in the edition of "Knjizevne novine" (literary magazine) in Belgrade 1992. Djordje J. Janic gives us in an outstanding epilogue the answer on the question who and why insists on the myth about "Bogomils".

At the conference about museum activities, archives and the protection of cultural heritage in the Republic of Srpska and the Republic of Serbian Krajina, held in Bijeljina in May of this year (1995), dr Miodrag Petrovic gave a remarked lecture about "Christians in Bosnia". The lecture was argumentative and profound critic of all current thesis about "Bogomils", especially the works of Sima Cirkovic who is the last persuaded defender of Austro-Hungarian's views on Bosnia and the problem of "Bogomils".

Serbian science easily but securely puts an end on another anti-Serbian and anti-Orthodox Christian false. The cleaning out of school programs from these and all other incorrect remains would go harder and last longer but it depends more upon official authorities than upon science itself.

Herceg Novi, 07. 08. 1995.
translation – Dejan Djurovic

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