FREEMASONRY IN SERBIA
The first Masonic Lodge on the territory of Serbia was established in Petrovaradin, under name “Probitas” in 1785. Among fisrt Serbian Freemasons were Bishop Josif Jovanović Šakabenta and Archbishop Stephan Stratimirovic who were members of the Lodge vigilantia in Osijek (Croatia) around the same time.
There are some information about Lodge in Belgrade around 1790. Not much was known of this Lodge except that some of the most prominent Serbs at the time were members, like Archbishop of Belgrade Metodije, Petar Ičko, Duke Aleksa Nenadović, and Janko Katić. Among members were Serbs, Turks and Jews.
During the First and Second Serbian uprising against Turkish rule from 1804 to 1813, important role in the uprising was played by Freemasons Petar Ičko and Janko Katić. In first Serbian government in 1811 the Minister of Education was Dositej Obradović, also a Freemason.
In 1842 the lodge Ali Koch was founded in Belgrade and it was active until 1853. It had ove 200 members.
In 1876, with the assistance of Italian Freemasons, a Lodge “The Lights of Balkan” was founded in Belgrade under the protection of the Grand Orient of Italy.
In 1882. Serbia became a kingdom officialy. At that time two new lodges under the Grand Orient of Italy were founded in Belgrade „Srbska zadruga“ and „Sloga, rad i postojanstvo“. Lodge „Stella Orientalis“ was founded in Zemun in 1890 and in 1891 Lodge “Pobratim” in Belgrade. In 1892. Lodge “Nemanja was open in Nis and in 1897. Lodge “Filantropija” in Sombor ( Under the protection of the Grand Lodge of Hungary). With thse new lodges founded starts very fruitful period for Serbian Freemasonry. In 1893. The very first book on the subject of Freemasonry was published in Belgrade. In 1894 the President of the Serbian Government was Svetomir Nikolajevic, a Freemason. In 1905. Lodge Aurora was established in Vrsac, and in 1909 lodge “Unity’ in Belgrade ( under Grand Orient of France) and Lodge Sumadija (under Grand Lodge of Hamburg).
The Kingdom of Serbia didn’t have a Grand Lodge all untill 1919. Before Grand lodge was formed, in 1912 the Supreme Council of the AASR for Serbia was founded and it had blue Lodges under its rule all till 1919.
On June 6th 1919 the Grand Lodge of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians was founded and consisted of six founding Lodges, three from Belgrade and three from Croatia. The same year the Supreme Council of the AASR changes its name into Supreme Council AASR of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians.
In 1929, with the change of the name of the Kingdom into kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Grand Lodge changes its name accordingly into Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia. The first Grand Master was George Weifert, thre Governer of the Central Serbian Bank. Until the 1940 the Grand lodge had thirty Lodges with over 1000 members and was recognized by over 50 world Jurisdictions including UGLE.
Political situation before the Second World War caused Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia to go dormant in August of 1940. German occupation during the Second World War made Masonic activities completely imposible. During the communist rule after the war Freemasonry was outlawed as well, but never completely stopped its activities. Two Lodges in Belgrade, consisting of prewar Masons, were meeting in secret during sixtees and seventees of the last century. There were several attempts to renew Masonic activities in Yugoslavia with the help of American Grand Lodges and Grand Lodge Alpina, but they all failed. However, Masons in Serbia, particularly those associated with Serbian academy of Arts and Sciencies and Belgrade University never gave up. One of them, Bro. Ivo Andric received in 1961 Nobel Price for literature.
During seventies some of Serbian men were initiated passed, and raised to Master Mason degree by the Lodges of the Grand Lodge Alpina, in an effort to renew Freemasonry in Serbia. Many Serbs living abroad were becoming Freemasons in Lodges in USA, Germany, Great Britain, and Switzerland.
Finaly, in 1989, the political changes in former Yugoslavia brought changes in the Government’s attitude toward Freemasonry. In March of 1989, three Lodges “Pobratim”, Sloga, rad, i postojanstvo”, and “Maksimilijan Vrhovac” were registered with Govermnent. After the contacts with representatives of the United Grand Lodge of Germany, The Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia was awakened and reestablished on June 23rd 1990 by the MW Bro. Ernst Walter, Grand Master of the UGLG. For the first Grand Master was elected Bro. Zoran Nenezic from Belgrade.
Turbulent political, economical, and social events in Serbia during the end of last century didn’t spare Freemasonry. Only three years after being established, disharmony erupts among the leaders of the Grand Lodgeand Grand Master Nenezic was abruptly suspended, then expelled from Grand Lodge. This caused split in the membership and one smaller number of members supporting expelled Grand Master remained with him working under the same name. The majority of members elected new Grand Master and continued working under the name Regular Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia. In 1997, with the support of the Grand Lodge of France, another Jurisdiction was established under the name Grand Nacional Lodge of Yugoslavia. With political changes and changes of the name of the country, both Grand Lodges changed their names as well into Regular Grand Lodge of Serbia and Grand National Lodge of Serbia.
Many Freemasons in Serbia were not happy with the situation on which Freemasonry in Serbia has been split into three Jurisdictions antagonistic to each other. They didn’t see the real need for such situation. Desire to work together within one Masonic body caused that Brothers from various groups started talking about unification into one Masonic body. Finaly, this resulted in formation of the United Grand Lodges of Serbia on June 8th 2006. For the first Grand Master was elected Vladimir S. Markovic from Belgrade. During his two terms in the Office (from 2006 to 2014) Grand Lodge grew fast and achieved many important results in work. From three founding Lodges in 2006, UGLS grew into 22 Lodges in eight cities in Serbia with over six hundred members.
Soon after establishment of the UGLS, on the initiative of the Grand Master Bro. Vladimir S. Markovic, the works on the erection of the Masonic Temple in Belgrade had started. The Temple was finished and dedicated in 2008. This was the very first Masonic Temple erected in Serbia after the Second World War. Financing for the building was provide by the donations of members and half of all funds was donated by the Grand Master Bro. Markovic. In the Temple Building were housed Office of the Grand Lodge, UGLS Masonic Library and Fraternal Club.
Charity work wasn’t neglected as well. In 2007 UGLS founded its own Charity organization which worked as independent non for profit organization. In seven years, large number of charity events and causes were supported through this organization by the Brothers of the UGLS. Many public recognitions for their work had been received, from Serbian as well as from European Agencies.
On the initiative by the Grand Master Bro. Markovic, UGLS Masonic Library had been founded in 2009. This library represents the very first specialized Masonic library on the Western Balkan. For the purpose of educating its membership, UGLS funded publishing of nine books with the Masonic subjects. Also, Manuels of all three degrees, Catechiseses, and Ritual Books were published. In order to educate new leadership for the Lodges, a Masonic Course “Road to the East” was established as mandatory for all desiring to serve in the East.
Also, by the initiative of the Grand Master Bro. Markovic, in 2010 UGLS started publishing its quarterly publication “Builder.” Up to now, seventeen issues of this publication have been released. The same year, with the support of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, three new Lodges were founded with the purpose of working Emulation Ritual. With this, today Lodges of the UGLS work three rituals: Schreader, Emulation and Scotish Rite Ritual.
With the help of the Brothers from Prince Hall Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of South Carolina, in 2013, three capitular Chapters started their work in Belgrade. In 2014, these three Chapters founded Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Serbia. As Grand High Priest was elected Bro. Vladimir S. Markovic, Past Grand Master of the UGLS.
On the initiative of the UGLS, in November 2014, with the help of the Prince Hall Grand Council of the Royal and Select Masters of South Carolina, three Cryptic Councils started their work in Belgrade.