"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Albanian Orthodox Church

Is it just me, or has Albania long been difficult to see as part of the Eastern Christian world? It seems about as obscure as, say, the Moldovan Orthodox are, or perhaps the Carpatho-Rusyns. In any event, two new books will remedy our ignorance or deepen our knowledge. 

The first is an affordable paperback version of a book published two years ago: The Albanian Orthodox Church by Ardit Bido (Routledge, 2022), 256pp. 

About this book the publisher offers this description:
Religion in Albania has had a complicated history, with Orthodoxy, Bektashi and Sunni Islam, Catholicism coexisting throughout much of the history of this Balkan nation. This book traces the rise of the Albanian Orthodox Church from the beginnings of Albanian nationalist movements in the late nineteenth century until the end of the Second World War and the Communist takeover. It examines the struggles of the Albanian state and Church to establish the Church’s independence from foreign influence amid a complex geopolitical interplay between Albania, neighbouring Greece and its powerful Ecumenical Patriarchate; the Italian and Yugoslav interference, and the shifting international political circumstances. The book argues that Greece’s involvement in the Albanian "ecclesiastical issue" was primarily motivated by political and territorial aspirations, as Athens sought to undermine the newly established Albanian state by controlling its Orthodox Church through pro-Greek bishops appointed by the Patriarchate. With its independence finally recognized in 1937, the Albanian Orthodox Church soon faced new challenges with the Italian, and later German, occupation of the country during the Second World War: the Church’s expansion into Kosovo, the Italian effort to place the Church under papal authority, and, the ultimate threat, the imminent victory of Communist forces.

The second is Communism, Atheism and the Orthodox Church of Albania: Cooperation, Survival and Suppression, 1945–1967 by Artan R. Hoxha  (Routledge, 2022), 252pp. 

About this book we are told:

This book examines the relations between the Albanian communist regime and the Albanian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (AAOC) from 1945, when the communists came to power, to 1967, when Albania became the only atheistic state in the world, and religion of all kinds was completely suppressed. Based on extensive archival research, the book outlines Orthodox Church life under communism and considers the regime’s strategies to control, use, and subordinate the Church. It argues against a simple state oppression versus Church resistance scenario, showing that the situation was much more complex, with neither the regime nor the Church being monolithic entities. It shows how, despite the brutality and the constant pressure of the state, the Church successfully negotiated with the communist authorities and benefited from engaging with them, and how the communist authorities used the Church as a tool of foreign policy, especially to strengthen the regime’s ties with their East European allies.

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