Religious far-right finds a voice in Balkans

Far-right religious extremism is making an appearance in the Balkans after a long period of Westernization in the region, reports The Economist magazine blog Erasmus (November 27). Religiously inspired nationalism and ultra-nationalism has flourished in Greece under such parties as Golden Dawn, but more recently such currents have been felt in Serbia with the rise of the Serbian Radical Party and its connections to its Greek counterpart. Both parties draw on religious rhetoric to support their view of a state free of Islamic and foreign influence. At a recent event in Thessaloniki, leading members from both groups paid a “visit to two of the most conservative monastic houses on the nearby peninsula of Mount Athos: the ultra-zealous [Orthodox] Esphigmenou monastery and the Serbian monastery of Hilandar.” Both groups share a dislike of alien cultures, often brought by immigrants, and an enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin and warmer relations with Russia. They both cheered the election of Donald Trump. The article concludes that “neither the political life of the Balkans, nor even the religious life, begins or ends with these strident voices. But they are undoubtedly being projected with greater confidence, as though for the first time in a couple of decades, history was on their side.”