No. XLVIII (2017)

Activities of Father Nikolai Velimirovich in Great Britain during the Great War

Slobodan G. Markovich
University of Belgrade, School of Political Sciences

Published 01.12.2017


  • Father Nikolai Velimirovich (Velimirović),
  • pro-Serbian and pro-Yugoslav propaganda in Britain,
  • reunion of the Orthodox churches and the Church of England

How to Cite

Markovich, S. G. (2017). Activities of Father Nikolai Velimirovich in Great Britain during the Great War. Balcanica - Annual of the Institute for Balkan Studies, (XLVIII), 143–190.


Nikolai Velimirovich was one of the most influential bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the twentieth century. His stay in Britain in 1908/9 influenced his theological views and made him a proponent of an Anglican-Orthodox church reunion. As a known proponent of close relations between different Christian churches, he was sent by the Serbian Prime Minister Pašić to the United States (1915) and Britain (1915–1919) to work on promoting Serbia and the cause of Yugoslav unity. His activities in both countries were very successful. In Britain he closely collaborated with the Serbian Relief Fund and “British friends of Serbia” (R. W. Seton-Watson, Henry Wickham Steed and Sir Arthur Evans). Other Serbian intellectuals in London, particularly the brothers Bogdan and Pavle Popović, were in occasional collision with the members of the Yugoslav Committee over the nature of the future Yugoslav state. In contrast, Velimirovich remained committed to the cause of Yugoslav unity throughout the war with only rare moments of doubt. Unlike most other Serbs and Yugoslavs in London Father Nikolai never grew unsympathetic to the Serbian Prime Minister Pašić, although he did not share all of his views. In London he befriended the churchmen of the Church of England who propagated ecclesiastical reunion and were active in the Anglican and Eastern Association. These contacts allowed him to preach at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster and other prominent Anglican churches. He became such a well-known and respected preacher that, in July 1917, he had the honour of being the first Orthodox clergyman to preach at St. Paul’s Cathedral. He was given the same honour in December 1919. By the end of the war he had very close relations with the highest prelates of the Church of England, the Catholic cardinal of Westminster, and with prominent clergymen of the Church of Scotland and other Protestant churches in Britain. Based on Velimirovich’s correspondence preserved in Belgrade and London archives, and on very wide coverage of his activities in The Times, in local British newspapers, and particularly in the Anglican journal The Church Times, this paper describes and analyses his wide-ranging activities in Britain. The Church of England supported him wholeheartedly in most of his activities and made him a celebrity in Britain during the Great War. It was thanks to this Church that some dozen of his pamphlets and booklets were published in London during the Great War. What made his relations with the Church of England so close was his commitment to the question of reunion of Orthodox churches with the Anglican Church. He suggested the reunion for the first time in 1909 and remained committed to it throughout the Great War. Analysing the activities of Father Nikolai, the paper also offers a survey of the very wide-ranging forms of help that the Church of England provided both to the Serbian Orthodox Church and to Serbs in general during the Great War. Most of these activities were channelled through him. Thus, by the end of the Great War he became a symbol of Anglican-Orthodox rapprochement.


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