Brief Chronology of Freemasonry in Serbia (1785-2015)
History of the Freemasonry in Serbia is still shrouded in a thick veil of mystery, and is insufficiently researched area that awaits new masonologysts, armed with knowledge and patience. Although the existence of the first Belgrade Lodge “Mustafa Pasha” is considered as indisputable fact, the reality is different. There are no relevant historical sources that this Lodge really existed, and little information is based solely on verbal tradition. Also, despite numerous indications, no evidence was found that Dositej Obradović was a Mason.
On the other hand, Lodge “Ali Koč” was set into the background with no reason, although that Lodge was of which the world media of the 19th century wrote more than of any subsequent Serbian Lodges together. Information that this Lodge belonged to an ancient branch of “Oriental Masonry”, which is considered to be a missing link that connects the pre-Christian with modern Western Masonry, provides an extraordinary character to this Lodge. Besides the numerous historical figures, honorable members of this Lodge were both the German Emperor and the Turkish Sultan, which will soon be published in a book that the author of these lines has been preparing during many years.
Whether the Serbian rulers belong to the Masonic Brotherhood is also unexplored topic. It has been considered during long time that Prince Mihailo Obrenović belonged to the Brotherhood. However, recently found information (which is also going to be published soon) about the participation of the Serbian Masons in the assassination of this Serbian ruler, casts a different light on this important topic. Long lasting friendship of King Petar I Karadjordjević with French general and with the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of France, Paul Peigné, still waits for evidence supported by serious historical explanation, as well as alleged Masons’ participation in the assassination of his son, King Alexander Karadjordjević.
So far, even entire list of Serbian Masons in the period from 1876 to 1940 is not yet fully reconstructed, and particularly the list of members of the Lodge “Lights of the Balkans”. The first Serbian educated policeman Tasa J. Milenković has, at the beginning of the 20th century, published the initials of dozen of members of the Lodge “Lights of the Balkans”, which cannot be found on the list of 44 known members of this Lodge.
Indicative is the fact that almost all the most famous pre-WW2 Yugoslav historians were members of the Masonic Fraternity (Vladimir Ćorović, Viktor Novak, Ferdo Šišić, Vasilj Popović, Dragoslav Stranjaković, Stanoje Stanojević, Milan Prelog, …), and that, despite an order of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia, they did not succeed to make any more or less complete and relevant overview of the Freemasonry history development in our region.
Even further development of the modern Serbian Freemasonry is not analyzed adequately. Vast of Grand Lodges that do not recognize each other, the division to the “English” and “French” line, insufficient understanding of the concept of regularity, and a different view of the events in past 25 years, hinder even to well informed persons the understanding of the current situation in the Serbian Freemasonry.
Hence, a brief chronological overview of the development of Serbian Freemasonry is a modest attempt to clarify certain deficient data from the past and nowadays of the Serbian Freemasonry. I grateful to Brothers S.Š. and M.S. (from other Serbian Obediences) on their Fraternal assistance and cooperation.
1785 – The Lodge “Probitas” (“Honesty”) was established in Petrovaradin, near Novi Sad.
1796 – The 1st “Turkish” Lodge in Belgrade was established, which gathered the Turks, Serbs, Macedon-Armans and Greeks (Hajji Mustafa Pasha, Janko Katić, Petar Ičko, Rhigas Pheraios, …)
1836 – Metropolitan Stratimirović (1757-1836) died, who, along with Bishop Josif Jovanović Šakabenta (1743-1805), was a member of Lodge “Vigilantia” (“Vigilance”) in Osijek, from the 70’s of the 18th century.
1842 – The Lodge “Ali Koç” was established in Belgrade, which achieved broad international cooperation with Brothers from Germany, Hungary, Romania, France… Its members were: the Turk of Slavic origin Ismail Čolak Mehmedović – chief of Sheikh Bektashi Order, Check František Zach – lawyer, secret agent and Serbian general, Toma Vučić Perišić – Serbian Duke and defender of the constitution, Pole Leopold Moraviecky “Moro” – secret agent and the French consul in Bosnia, a Jew Joseph Schlesinger – founder of the 1st Serbian military band and composer of the first Serbian opera, Serb Nikola Šopović – trader and creator of the first Serbian economic program, Macedon-Arman Guta Be – merchant and patriot, German Ludwig von Zabarte – diplomat, revolutionary and industrialist, Frenchman Charles Arain – professor, Serbian Sima Milutinović “Sarajlija” – the most famous Serbian patriotic songs writer of the 19th century, and many others. Honorary members of that Lodge, which belonged to an ancient Oriental Branch of Freemasonry and worked until 1867, were the Prussian prince, and later German Emperor Wilhelm I, the Turkish sultan Abdülaziz, and other famous Europeans of that era, which made the Lodge “Ali Koç” to be unique in the entire history of world Freemasonry.
1848 – The Lodges in Niš were established, who worked under the protection of the Belgrade Lodge “Ali Koç”.
1870 – The Lodge “Egalitas” (“Equality”) was established in Vršac, who worked until 1879.
1873 – The Lodge “Der Fels zum Wahrheit” (“The rock of the Truth”), who worked under the protection of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary.
1875 – The Lodge “Libertas” (“Liberty”) was established in Novi Sad, which had been working for two decades under the protection of the Grand Orient of Hungary.
1876 – “Italian military Lodge” was established in Belgrade, whose members were Garibaldi’s volunteers. The Lodge “Light of the Balkans” was established. A “wild” independent Lodge in Užice was established, which, according to some testimonies, had been working all until 1890.
1877 – The Light was brought into the Lodge “Svetlost Balkana” (“Light of the Balkans”), which was established at the end of 1876. The members of this Lodge were Jovan Antula – trader and Serbian Assembly Delegate, Haim S. Davičo – consul and writer, Božidar Bodi – banker and publicist, Jovan Đaja – professor and minister, Mićo Ljubibratić – Duke and the leader of the rebels in Herzegovina, Dragutin Milutinović – engineer, designer of the railway station building in Belgrade, and the son of the poet Sima Milutinović “Sarajlija”, Svetomir Nikolajević – professor and prime minister, Petar Ubavkić – founder of Serbian sculpture, Mihajlo Valtrović – professor and academician, and many other famous Belgrade citizens of that time. Using international contacts, Masonic Lodge “Light of the Balkans” has collected substantial funds to help Serbian army in the Serbian-Turkish wars. This significant Lodge, who worked under the protection of the Grand Orient of Italy, ceased operation at the end of December 1882. At the same year, the Lodge “Thales” was established in Zrenjanin, under the protection of the Grand Orient of Hungary.
1881 – In early October, the Lodge “Srbska Zadruga” (“Serbian Association”) was established in Belgrade, which was under the protection of the Grand Orient of Italy, and which had been worked until December 19th 1882. Its members were Emilian Josimović – professor and the first Serbian urbanist, Miloš Cvetić – actor, Đoka Milovanović – painter and professor, Mihailo Vujić – professor and minister, Svetomir Nikolajević, Laza Paču, …
1883 – The Lodge “Sloga, Rad i Postojanstvo” (“Unity, Work and Sustainability”) was established in Belgrade, which, with short breaks, had been working until 1940. Over the years, through that Lodge had passed more than 150 members: Milan Aćimović – lawyer and Minister of Internal Affairs, Juraj Demetrović – minister in several governments, Velizar Janković – Minister of Economy, Milivoje Jovanović – Minister of Social Policy, Dušan Letica – Minister of Finance, Tihomilj Marković – lawyer and governor of the National Bank, Spasoje Piletić – Minister of Public Health, Ljubomir Tomašić – President of the Senate of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of Yugoslavia, Dragiša Vasić – lawyer, academician and ideologist of the Četnik movement, …
1889 – The Lodge “Stella Orientalis” was established in Zemun, which was moved to Pančevo in 1896.
1890 – At the end of this year, the most important Serbian Masonic Lodge “Pobratim” (“Twinned Brother”) was established in Belgrade, which had been working, with the two years break (1903-1905), until 1940. For this occasion we will mention the following Brothers, among more than 220 members: Jovan Aleksijević – editor of “Neimar” over very long time and Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia, Jakob Bajloni – industrialist, Stanislav Binički – composer, Damjan Branković – industrialist and Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia, Aleksandar Deroko – architect and academician, Andra Đorđević – minister, Jovan Jovanović “Pižon” – Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kosta Kumanudi – Mayor of Belgrade and the minister, Aleksandar Mišović – Minister of Forests and Mines, Stevan Mokranjac – composer, Momčilo Ninčić – Minister of Foreign Affairs and president of the League of Nations, Archimandrite Platon, Đorđe Vajfert – industrialist, Governor of the National Bank, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge if Yugoslavia, and the Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of Serbia… At this year, the 1st newspaper article that talks about the history of Serbian Freemasonry was published (at the “Male Novine”, from May 25th to May 26th, 1890, article “Freemasons – Prejudice”).
1892 – The Lodge “Nemanja” was established in Niš. The 1st Masonic book in the Serbian language was published: Svet. (omir) Nik. (olajević) – “Freemasonry and female”.
1893 – The 1st Freemasonry history book in the Serbian language was published, elaborating the history of Freemasonry in Serbia and the Balkans: Sr. (etene Stojković) – “Freemasonry, its purpose and principles, its present and the past: letters from Brother Sr. to his profane friend”.
1897 – The Corolla “Philantropia” was established in Sombor, which had changed its name to “Jövendő” (“Future”), after the introduction of Light in 1908.
1903 – The Lodge “Aurora” was established in Vršac.
1909 – The Lodge “Ujedinjenje” (“Unification”) was established in Belgrade, which had been operating until 1914, under the protection of the Grand Orient of France. Members of this Lodge were Leon Deko – French Ambassador in Serbia, Ljubomir Jovanović “Ljuba Čupa” – journalist and member of “Crna Ruka”, Vasa U. Jovanović – industrialist and Secretary of the Ministry of National Economy, Milan Milovanović – colonel, Božin Simić – colonel, ambassador and member of “Crna Ruka”, Kosta Stojanović – scientist and minister, Bogoljub Vučićević – police commissioner and member of “Crna Ruka”, … In early March 1909, with the assistance of the Supreme Council of Romania, in Belgrade was established the 1st body of higher Degree of Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite – Rose-cross Chapter “Serbia” (AASR 18th Degree Lodge).
1910 – The Lodge “Šumadija” was established in Belgrade, under the protection of the Grand Lodge of Hamburg, and whose members were: Jovo Banjanin – senator, Andra Dinić – cassation Judge and the last Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia, Tihomir Đorđević, academician and 1st Serbian ethnologist, Bogoljub Jevtić – Prime Minister, Dragutin Kojić – minister in several governments, Mihajlo Konstantinović – dean of the Faculty of Law and minister, Gustav Krklec – writer, Fran Kršinić – sculptor, author of the monument to Nikola Tesla in front of the Faculty of Engineering, Vojislav Kujundžić – medical doctor, founder of the Rotary in Serbia and cremation affirmation handler, Živojin Lazić – Minister of Internal Affairs and ban of the Vardar Banovina, Dimitrije Magarašević – Minister of Education, Mile Novaković – dean of the Faculty of Law, Jovan Tanović – director and chief editor of the “Politika”, … During 30 years of work of this important Serbian Masonic Lodge, it had around 150 members . At the same year the Lodge “Alkotas” (“Creation”) was established, which had been working under the protection of the Grand Symbolic Lodge of Hungary until 1924, and then under the protection of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia. This lodge was one of the largest in Serbia, and was gathering economic and intellectual cream of northern Vojvodina.
1912 – The Supreme Council of Serbia was founded. Light in this the highest Masonic body brought a representative of the Supreme Council of Greece J. S. E. Cefalas. For the 1st Sovereign, Grand Commander, was elected Đorđe Weifert. Acting other duties were: Svetomir Nikolajević – Lieutenant of the Grand Commander, Jovan Aleksijević – Grand Chancellor – General Secretary, Milutin Perišić – Grand Orator, Dimitrije Janković – Grand Treasurer, Peter Šreplović – Grand Archivist, Manojlo Klīdīs – Grand Master of the Ceremony, Petar Pačić – Grand Captain of the Guard, and Dimitrije Mijalković – Grand Expert. The Supreme Council of Serbia changed its name to the Supreme Council of Yugoslavia at 1929. Grand Commander SCY, Ljubomir Tomašić, and Vojislav Paljić, unsuccessfully tried to reestablish the SCY in post-war Yugoslavia, which had been existed in exile (Switzerland, Rome, Paris) until 1967.
1914 – Masonic newspaper “Neimar” was launched in Belgrade, which had been managed by Jovan Aleksijević, and published until 1926.
1919 – The Grand Lodge of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes Yugoslavia was established (later called Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia).
1920 – The Lodge “Istina” (“Truth”) was established in Belgrade. The members were: Lazar Atanacković – Orthodox priest, Živojin Balugdžić – Secretary of King Petar I and Ambassador in Rome and Berlin, Milan Bartoš – the Faculty of Law professor and expert on international law, Petar Dobrović – painter and professor, Miloš Đorić – the doctor and the Mayor of Zemun, Jovan Erdeljanović – professor and academician, Rudolf Ertl – a famous opera singer, Hinko Marzinec – conductor and choirmaster, Slavko Milosavljević – general, Sima Milošević – professor of medicine and member of the Executive Board of Antifascists Council of the People’s Deliberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ), Stanoje Nedeljković – dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, David Popović – Minister of the ban of the Danube Banovina, Guido Tartalja – writer, Jevrem Tomić – minister, Mihajlo Vukdragović – composer, … About 120 members in total.
1922 – The Lodges “Preporođaj” (“Renaissance”) and “Dositej Obradović” were established, which came under the protection of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia by 1926. Members of the Lodge “Preporođaj” were: Mehmed Begović – professor of Law, Aleksandar Belić – Rector of Belgrade University and president of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Abdulselam Džumhur – the chief imam of the Ministry of the Army and Navy, Pjer Križanić – cartoonist and painter, Vladimir Kurilov – President of the Court, Petar Lazarević – an artillery colonel and journalist, Predrag Lukić – ban of Morava Banovina, Ivan Ribar – lawyer, Yugoslav Assembly Delegate, President of the Assembly of AVNOJ and Assembly of Democratic Federative Yugoslavia, Branislav Vojnović – manager of the National Theatre, … Among 150 members of the Lodge “Dositej Obradović” we will mention the following Masons: Ivo Andrić – Nobel Prize winner, Rafo Arneri – ambassador, Niko Bartulović – writer and national worker, Vladimir Ćorović – historian, professor, Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia and a member of the Supreme Council of Serbia, Momir Glomazić – director of the national mortgage Bank, Blagoje Jocić – industrialist and owner of the Resava mines, Aleksandar Leko – professor and chairman of the Serbian Chemical society, Ciril Ličar – pianist and professor, Milan Marjanović – journalist, writer, politician and member of the Yugoslav Committee, Ivan Meštrović – sculptor, Velizar Mitrović – dean of the Faculty of Law, Viktor Novak – historian and member of the Supreme Council of Serbia, Božidar Pavlović – Director of the Belgrade municipality, Rastko Petrović – writer and diplomat, Rasa Plaović – actor, director and professor, Vasilj Popović – historian and professor, Dragutin Protić – Governor of the National Bank, Dimitrije Stanojević – financial journalist and director of “Politika”, Risto Stijović – sculptor and academician, Juro Tkalčić – cellist and professor, Jovan Zorko – violinist and pedagogue, … About 150 members in total.
1926 – The Lodge “Mitropolit Stratimirović” (“Metropolitan Stratimirović”) was established in Novi Sad. The large Masonic International Congress entitled “Manifestation of Universal Freemasonry for peace and reconciliation of the people” held in Belgrade, organized by IMA (International Masonic Association), whose member was also the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia.
1927 – The Lodge “Martin Kovalevski” was established in Belgrade, whose members were Russian immigrants. At the same year the Lodge “Stella Polaris” (“Northern Star”) was established in Subotica.
1931 – The Lodge “Vojvodina” was established in Zrenjanin.
1937 – The Lodge “Banat” was established in Pančevo. Brother Đorđe Weifert, one of those the most responsible for the development and prosperity of the Serbian Freemasonry, passed to the Eternal East.
1938 – The Corolla “Pomoravlje” was established in Jagodina, which did not turn in the Lodge, ever.
1939 – The Corrolla “Rad” (“Work”) was established in Niš, which did not turn in the Lodge, ever.
1940 – The Lodge “Čovečnost” (“Humanity”) was established, and at August 2nd the decision on the auto-suspension of Serbia Masonry was made.
1941/1942 – Anti-Masonic exhibition held in Belgrade, organized by the German and Serbian fascists.
1944 – According to some sources, the Masons, members of Ravnogorski movement, established the Lodge “Ravna Gora” (sometimes referred as “Sveti Jovan”, “Saint John”), who worked until the end of the WW2.
1947 – The work of the Supreme Council of Yugoslavia was reestablished in Rome, who worked under the name the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite “Yugoslavia”. Grand Commander was Vladimir Belajčić, and was succeeded by Sima Adanja. The Supreme Council ceased its operation in 1967.
1950/1960 – During the 50’s and 60’s, informal Masonic Lodge worked in Belgrade, composed of prewar Freemasons, also known under the names of “Beogradska Loža” (“Belgrade Lodge”) and “Jugoslovenska Loža” (“Yugoslav Lodge”). A prominent Greek Mason has stated in Belgrade few years ago (during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Supreme Council of Serbia), that his guarantor was telling that in the late 50’s he went to Belgrade, where in a hotel near the railway station (probably hotel “Astoria”) the Ritual Works were maintained. The ceremony was brief, but according to Masonic Ritual. Tyler was a senior officer of the Yugoslav Peoples Army, who wore the Masonic apron over the uniform.
1989 – The first Lodges after 50 years break were established (“Pobratim”, “Sloga, Rad i Postojanstvo”, and “Maksimilan Vrhovec”).
1990 – With help of Serbian Masons from abroad, the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia (GLY) was reestablished in Belgrade, at June 23rd. The 1st Grand Master was Zoran Nenezić. Even nowadays, under Nenezić as a leader, there is the Grand Lodge of Old and Accepted Masons of Serbia.
1991 – The Supreme Council of Yugoslavia was reestablished. The 1st Grand Commander was Zoran Nenezić, inherited by L.R, and then by I.D. Members of Regular Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia established its Supreme Council of Serbia, with M.M. Grand Commander, inherited by M.P. The duty of the Grand Commander of that Supreme Council has been performed by N.M, P.M, M.A. and D. H. At 2015, that Supreme Council of Serbia enters into C.S.C.E. – Union of the Supreme Councils of Europe.
1992 – Grand Orient of France (GOF) brings the Light into the Belgrade Lodge “Zora” (“Dawn”). At 2000, the Lodge “Vernost” (“Fidelity”) was established, at 2006 the Lodge “Ujedinjenje” (“Unification”). At 2007 and 2009, several Lodges required and got the protection of GOF. Nowadays, GOF in Serbia gathers 10 active Lodges, most of which are in Belgrade.
1993 – With the help of German and Italian Masons, in Italy (Rimini) was established Regular Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia (later renamed Regular Grand Lodge of Serbia, RGLS). After several Masonic earthquake’s, this is the largest Serbian Obedience, which nowadays counts around 40 lodges and about 1300 members.
1997 – After a large number of members stepped out from the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia, the Grand National Lodge of Yugoslavia was established by most of them (later renamed to the Grand National Lodge of Serbia and Montenegro, and then the Grand National Lodge of Serbia, GNLS). A key role in the founding of this Grand Lodge and establishing contacts with the French Masonry was played by Dragan Malešević Tapi (painter and Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of Yugoslavia) and M.L. After still mysterious Tapi’s death, the duty of the Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of Serbia was inherited by D.Z, D.Đ. and B.S. After several Masonic earthquakes and schisms, the Grand National Lodge of Serbia has around 300 members, organized in 10 Lodges.
2000 – The Grand National Lodge of Yugoslavia, Grand Lodge of France, and the Grand Traditional Symbolic Lodge “Opera” was established GLUDE (United Grand Lodges of Europe), which in 2013 has transformed into ICUGL (International Confederation of the United Grand Lodges), whose members nowadays are 20 Masonic organizations from around the world.
2003 – P.M.M. with around 100 Brothers leaves the Grand National Lodge of Serbia, and enters the Regular Grand Lodge of Serbia.
2004 – The work of Jewish Masonry of the Independent Order of B’nai B’rith was reestablished (B.B. Lodge “Serbia 676”).
2006 – This year was announced as the year of the great unification of Serbian Freemasonry. However, it turned out that it was a year of great schism. At June 17th, the Grand United Lodge of Serbia (GULS) was established, consisting of several members of Nenezić’s GLY, part of membership from GNLS, the Lodge “Sloboda” (“Freedom”), and around 50 Masons from RGLS. Unification was of very short breath. The Lodge “Sloboda” decided to become independent, and the greatest part of the membership decided to leave VULS and establish the United Grand Lodge of Serbia (UGLS). At the zenith of its activities in 2012-2013, this Obedience numbered about 500 members, gathered in 20 Lodges. At 2015, UGLS had experiencing great Masonic earthquakes, and after the fall of two Grand Masters, its fate is uncertain. The GULS, with much spangled membership, continues to work to these days, under the leadership of D.P.
2007 – The work of the Supreme Council of Serbia is reestablished, with D.Đ. as the Grand Commander selected. Within a number of Serbian Masonic schisms, the Grand Masonic Lodge of Serbia (GMLS) was established, consisting of three Lodges, whose members stepped out from GULS. This Masonic organization (which mostly consists of former members GNLS), exists nowadays. At 2007, the female Masonic Lodge “Vera Fides” was established, under the protection of GLFdF (United Female Grand Lodge of France). Part of the GULS membership and 15 members of RGLS, at November 2007 established “Regular Grand Lodge of Serbia, Belgrade” (RGLS-B), under the direction of Čedomir Vukić, which leads it up to the present the litigation versus RGLS.
2008 – Around 80 members of GNLS, led by B.Ž, established the Regular Grand Lodge of the High Masonic Council of Serbia, which stopped working a few years later.
2009 – Several Lodges, led by N.B, stepped out from GNLS and placed under the protection of GOF. At June 2nd, the Lodge “Misir” was established, practicing Ancient and Original Rite of Memphis and Mizraim. The Lodge now has around 30 members from all Serbian Obediences, and maintains Fraternal relations with 50 Masonic organization in the world that practice this ritual, which is engaged in research of ancient Egyptian esoteric mystery. In the same year, the 1st mixed Masonry (male-female) Lodge was established. The name of that Lodge is “Singidunum Istok 1899” (“Singidunum East 1899”), and it works under the protection of the French “Le Droit Humain” (Human Rights).
2011 – By stepping out from RGLS-B, part of the membership of RGLS-B established the Grand State Lodge of Serbia (GSLS) in Belgrade.
2012 – Part of the membership of GMLS, under the leadership of B. B, established the Traditional Grand Masonic Lodge of Serbia (TGMLS) in Belgrade. GLUDE held its annual meeting in Belgrade, attended by representatives from about 15 countries.
2014 – The 2nd female Lodge under the protection od GLFdF was established, under the name “Danica”.
2015 – Six Lodges and Brothers from other Lodges of GNLS, have decided to place themselves under the direct protection of the Supreme Council of Serbia. Soon, they founded the Grand Lodge of Serbia (GLS). The Grand Female Lodge of Serbia (GFLS) was established in Belgrade. The Alliance of United Grand Lodges of Serbia (AUGLS) was established, whose founders and members are from UGLS and RGLS-B.