Fallmerayer and the Bulgarian Church Schism: The Effect of the Threat to Greek Identity on Religious Ecumenism in the Nineteenth Century

  • 2017

Fallmerayer and the Bulgarian Church Schism: The Effect of the Threat to Greek Identity on Religious Ecumenism in the Nineteenth Century

Author:
Jason Britton
Abstract:

The integrity of nineteenth century Neohellenic culture and heritage was threatened by the writings of the German historian, Jacob Philip Fallmerayer in the 1830s. Fallmerayer's attack on the basic nature of Greek ethnicity created a cultural mindset that permeated Greek society to its highest levels in the Ottoman Empire, rekindling a century’s old rift between the Greek and Bulgarian Orthodox communities of the Rum millet. In this time of Balkan national awakening, Orthodox religious tradition served as a repository of cultural heritage suppressed under Ottoman rule. The "National Church" came to be seen as a means of legitimating a particular community's "nationhood" status. Fallmerayer's challenge went to the heart of the Hellenic character of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the right of national church autonomy based on ethnicity, culture, and language. The Greeks had fought for, and won, this right from the Porte during the Greek War of Independence during the early decades of the nineteenth century. Less than fifty years later the Ecumenical Patriarchate would refuse the Bulgarians’ request for the same right, and ultimately declare their Slav antagonists, schismatic. When Fallmerayer brought into question the authenticity of Modern Greek ethnic heritage he helped set in motion an ethnophyletic controversy that split the Orthodox Church in the Balkans.