Religion and nationalism. Ideas about religion in the interwar period in Bulgaria.

  1. Lemma
  2. Религия и национализъм. Идеи за религията в междувоенния период в България.
  3. Bulgarian
  4. Nachev, Ivaylo
  5. Culture and national identities
  6. 31-03-2017
  7. Димитрова, Нина [Author]. Religion and nationalism. Ideas about religion in the interwar period in Bulgaria.
  8. Religion and nationalism. Ideas about religion in the interwar period in Bulgaria. - Sofia: Faber, 2006.
  9. nationalism
    1. The book analyzed the interplay between nationalism and religion in interwar Bulgaria. It focuses on a number of texts of influential local thinkers which according to the author reflect emblematic ideas of the time. Dimitrova distinguished two sub-periods – a period of ascending materialism after 1918, which was followed by a swing towards a “nationalistically oriented religiosity” from the mid 1920s. The author argued that many of the works have been strongly impacted by intellectual fashions, trying to create in some cases new religious understanding. So, the study deals to a big extent with crisis manifestations in traditional Orthodox Christianity in Bulgaria. According to Dimitrova, the ongoing religious changes in society, which are also reflected in intellectual constructs of the period, are a primary indicator for the evolving national consciousness. Dimitrova presented an overview of major authors and works on religion in general, and on relations of religion with sciences and philosophical thought. 

      The first chapter examined the crisis of religiousness, structuring the text around key ideas, persons and debates about the declining role of religion in public life. The author examined various journal articles dealing with the religious crisis of modern man and withering of traditional religion, including works of Todor Vlaykov and Atanas Dalchev. Theologian writers connected the crisis of religion with the crisis of national consciousness.  Attention is also devoted to authors such as Yanko Yanev who wrote substantially on the national consciousness and its interrelations with religiosity and in the conditions of the 1930s. Religious feeling has been a subject to many speculations in the period, with the opinions ranging from claims that the Bulgarian is a devote Christian, through assertions of paganism and  atheism. Many authors saw the Bulgarian situation in the context of increasing world secularization. Dimitrova highlights as one of the trends in the period “nationalization of Orthodoxy”. In addition, the author referred to the growing number of psychoanalytical works by Bulgarian authors who dealt with theoretical questions of religion.      

      The chapter also made an overview of a number of works dealing with science and religion matters in the 1930s summarized some of the views and elaborated on main discussions between theologian writers and critically-inclined philosophers. So, some authors (both theologians and secular thinkers) argued in the early 1930s that after a period of dominations of the scientific paradigm the time had come for reconciliation between science and religion which triggered polar reactions and resulted in heated debates with a number of pro and contra publications. Among the proponents of harmonious relations between the two spheres stand out psychologist Spiridon Kazandzhiev and Bishop Stefan Sofiiski, while ardent opponent is philosopher Dimitar Mihalchev.      

      The second part of this chapter examined the roots and manifestations of the Bulgarian Gnosticism in the interwar period. The author sees this as an alternative background on which influences between religion and nationalism took place. Gnosticism was picked up as an umbrella term that includes theosophy, occultism and various forms of mysticism, which attracted many intellectuals who regarded traditional Orthodoxy as backwards. So, attention was devoted to life and work of Nikolay Raynov, one of the most prominent and influential theosophy thinkers in Bulgaria. One of the main features of not only Raynov’s works but all Gnostic schools are their cosmopolitanisms. This trend was marginalized by nationalistic views which had gained momentum since the middle of the 1930s.      

      The second chapter analyzed the period of rise of nationalistic views among Bulgarian intellectuals between 1925 and 1944. Characteristic for the period were attempts at rediscovering glorious national past, some authors integrating the Orthodoxy, others denying it. Many intellectuals, both right and left, looked at the 19th century Bulgarian revival period and many of their ideals were integrated in the 1930s political programmes. Among the rediscovered projects was the idea of revolutionary Georgi Rakovski for the establishment of a unique, national religion. So, the religious sphere became part of a process aimed at affirming the originality and uniqueness of the Bulgarians. An expression of this trend was the increased interest in the dualist sect of the Bogomils (Bogomilism). At the same time some Orthodox authors combined in their visions the universal message of Christianity with ideas for a new national revival, while others voiced critique seeing some nationalist manifestations as a revival of paganism.

      The third chapter took a closer look at pro and anti Western (European) thinkers and movements in interwar Bulgaria. Spengler’s idea for the decline of the West, for example, found many ardent admirers. Anti-western sentiments were both present in works of nationalist and Orthodox authors. Another line was the orientation towards German models of all kinds, but this current remained with limited impact. Voices from Orthodox circles have noted during World War II the low appeal of racist concepts. The changing attitudes to religion were also seen through the acquired cult status body and obsession with sport, a tendency that was criticized by Orthodox authors. In addition, there flourished various neo-pagan projects relating the religious with the national, a process that can be described as an attempt for absorption of religion by the national project.