On the 5th and 6th of December 2014, Faculty of Orthodox Theology of the University of Belgrade hosted the International Scientific Conference “Orthodox World and the First World War”.
The First World War, which started a hundred years ago, represented a significant historical milestone, which had a profound impact on European and world history. The conflict of apocalyptic proportions in which more than 60 million military personnel were mobilised and which took more than 15 million lives, brought immense grief and suffering to the mankind and raised profound questions about the meaning of human existence. On the other hand, the aftermath of the First World War saw drastic geopolitical changes throughout Europe. Four empires collapsed due to the war, new countries were formed, mass migrations led to a complete transformation of geopolitical reality of the “Old World”, particularly in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, which is considered to be the cradle of the European Orthodox Church. During the war and the postwar period the Orthodox world faced many challenges – mass crimes against the civilian population, including the killing of clergy and destruction of cultural heritage, especially in Eastern and Southeastern Europe to name but a few. The same territories saw bloody conflicts and massacres among Orthodox Christians. The fact that even the Church was not spared represented a radicalisation of ethnophyletistic tendencies in the Orthodox world. The issue of Orthodox diaspora arose as one of the consequences of the World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Relations between the Orthodox Church and other Christian communities in Europe gained new dimensions. This human tragedy, expressed through four years of suffering and massacre, deeply affected Eastern Orthodox Christian theological thought.
Regarding the far-reaching consequences of the First World War on the entire Orthodox world, particularly on the Serbian Orthodox Church, nation and state, which also suffered huge losses, in the spirit of this year’s commemoration of the Centenary of the First World War, the Academic Council of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology decided to organise the International Scientific Conference “Orthodox World and the First World War”. The work and organisation of this Conference were blessed by His Holiness the Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Serbian Patriarch Irinej. The papers in History and Theology will be presented in the Conference. They will examine the role of Eastern Orthodox Christian countries in the First World War and the consequences of above-mentioned conflict upon the Orthodox world. The Conference will also include the topics dealing with the development of theological thought in the context of the effects of the World War, as well as those which consider the relations between the Eastern Orthodox Church and others Christian Churches – in other words – the effects of the above-mentioned conflict on the ecumenical relations among Christian Churches. A special attention will be given to the position and role of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Serbian state and people in the First World War.
Apart from the professors and associates of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology at the University of Belgrade, the representatives of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Academy of Sciences and Arts of the Republic of Srpska, the University of Belgrade, Novi Sad and Niš, the delegation of the University of Defence from Belgrade, the representatives of domestic scientific research institutes, as well as the researchers from Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Great Britain, France, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro will be attending this Conference.
A special artistic and cultural contribution to our Conference will be the performance of the Serbian Army Orchestra Stanislav Binički and the exhibition “Serbia in the First World War” by Anđelija Radović, museum advisor at the Military Museum in Belgrade and Predrag Lažetić, museum advisor at the Yugoslav Aeronautical Museum. We are very grateful to the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Serbia, which made possible the concert of the Serbian Army Orchestra and the exhibition of the Military Museum within the Conference organised by the Faculty of Orthodox Theology. Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to the Office for Cooperation with Churches and Religious Communities of the Republic of Serbia, as well as the other donors for providing material support for this Conference.
Vladislav Puzović, Th.D. Assistant Professor
President of the Organizing Committee