"Serbs and Russians are Brothers Forever": Russian Religious Influence in the Western Balkans

Author: Harun Karčić

July 17, 2023

Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has once again placed the Western Balkans under the spotlight. It has given the EU new impetus to the enlargement process and has reinforced its diplomatic and military presence in the region. Despite polls showing considerable support for EU membership across the region, majorities in Serbia and Bosnia’s Republika Srpska continue to consider Russia to be their true ally. The complex political architecture created following the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s has proved fertile ground for Moscow’s interference. In this working paper, Harun Karčić explains how this architecture has also noticeably stepped up its political and economic influence and mobilized proxy organizations to project its narratives, protect its interests, and slow the region’s integration into Western institutions.

This working paper was written as part of the Geopolitics of Religious Soft Power project, a research initiative of Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. This article arises from a partnership between the project and the United States Institute of Peace focused on understanding how the geopolitics of religion shapes peace and conflict dynamics in particular regional and country settings. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the respective author(s).

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