History of Montenegro

History of Montenegro
History of Montenegro
Coat of Arms of Montenegro
This article is part of a series
Crownland of Zeta
Lordship of Zeta
Venetian coastal Montenegro
Sanjak of Montenegro, Ottoman Empire
Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro
Principality of Montenegro
Kingdom of Montenegro
Zeta Oblast
Zeta Banovina
Independent State of Montenegro
Socialist Republic of Montenegro
Republic of Montenegro (federal)

Montenegro Portal
v · Middle Ages, into the former Roman province of Dalmatia that forms present-day Montenegro.


Early history


Roman Roads in Montenegro

Before the arrival of the Slavonic peoples in the Balkans during the 6th century AD, the area now known as Montenegro was inhabited principally by the Illyrians.

"Greek-Illyrian" type helmet. Bronze, 6th-5th century BC.

During the Bronze Age, the Illirii, probably the southernmost Illyrian tribe of that time, that gave their name to the entire group[1] were living near Skadar lake on the border of Albania and Montenegro and neighboring with the Greek tribes south.[1][2] Along the seaboard of the Adriatic, the movement of peoples that was typical of the ancient Mediterranean world ensured the settlement of a mixture of colonists, traders, and those in search of territorial conquest. Substantial Greek colonies were established on the coast during the 6th and 7th centuries BC and Celts are known to have settled there in the 4th century BC. During the 3rd century BC, an indigenous Illyrian kingdom emerged with its capital at Scutari. The Romans mounted several punitive expeditions against local pirates and finally conquered this Illyrian kingdom in the 2nd century BC, annexing it to the province of Illyricum.

The division of the Roman Empire between Roman and Byzantine rule – and subsequently between the Latin and Greek churches – was marked by a line that ran northward from Skadar through modern Montenegro, symbolizing the status of this region as a perpetual marginal zone between the economic, cultural, and political worlds of the Mediterranean peoples. As Roman power declined, this part of the Dalmatian coast suffered from intermittent ravages by various semi-nomadic invaders, especially the Goths in the late 5th century and the Avars during the 6th century. These soon were supplanted by the Slavs, who became widely established in Dalmatia by the middle of the 7th century. Because the terrain was extremely rugged and lacked any major sources of wealth such as mineral riches, the area that is now Montenegro became a haven for residual groups of earlier settlers, including some tribes who had escaped Romanisation.


Duklja within a Balkan political context, mid 9th century
Saint Jovan Vladimir (990-1016), Prince of Duklja
Kingdom of Duklja, about 1100 AD

In the second half of the 6th century, Slavs migrated from the Bay of Kotor to the River of Bojana, an area of land given to them by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. They formed the Principality of Doclea. Under the following missions of Cyril and Methodus, the population was Christianised. The Slavic tribes organised into a semi-independent dukedom of Duklja(Doclea) by the 9th century.

Middle Ages

After facing subsequent Bulgarian domination, the people were split as the Doclean brother-archonts split the lands among each other after 900. Prince Časlav Klonimirović of the Serbian House of Vlastimirović extended his influence over Doclea in the 10th century. After the fall of the Serbian Realm in 960, the Docleans faced a renewed Byzantine occupation through to the 11th century. The local ruler, Jovan Vladimir Dukljanski, whose cult still remains in the Orthodox Christian tradition, was at the time struggling to ensure independence.

Stefan Vojislav started an uprising against the Byzantine domination and gained a huge victory against the army of several Byzantine strategs in Tudjemili (Bar) in 1042, which put to an end the Byzantine influence over the Doclea. In the 1054 Great Schism, the Doclea fell on the side of the Catholic Church. Bar became a Bishopric in 1067. In 1077, Pope Gregory VII recognised Duklja as an independent state, acknowledging its King Mihailo (Michael, of the House of Vojislavljević founded by nobleman Stefan Vojislav) as Rex Doclea (King of Duklja). Later on Mihailo sent his troops, led by his son Bodin, in 1072 to assist the uprising of Slavs in Macedonia. In 1082, after numerous pleas the Bar Bishopric of Bar was upgraded to an Archbishopric.

The expansions of the Kings of the House of Vojislavljević led to the control over the other Slavic lands, including Zahumlje, Bosnia and Rascia. The might of the Doclea declined and they generally became subjected to the Grand Princes of Rascia in the 12th century. Stefan Nemanja was born in 1117 in Ribnica (today Podgorica). In 1168, as the Serbian Grand Zhupan, Stefan Nemanja took Doclea.

Duklja (Zeta) in the Nemanjić State (1186-1360)

Zeta in the Serbian Empire (1345-1360)


The earliest State of Balsic
The State of Crnojević in the 15th century
Coat of arm (House of Balšić)

The Principality of Zeta was ruled by the houses of Balšić (1356–1435) and Crnojević (1435–1498).

Zeta (Principality of Balšić) 1360-1421

Zeta in the Serbian Despotate (1421-1456)

After the death of Balša III, last representative of House of Balšić, Zeta joined the Serbian Despotate.

The Venetian coastal Montenegro

Citadel in Old Town (Budva)
Kotor (City wall)

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476), the romanised Illyrians of the coast of Dalmatia survived the barbarian invasions of the Avars in the 6th century and were only nominally under the influence of the Slavs in the 7th and 8th centuries. In the last centuries of the first millennium, these Romanised Illyrians started to develop their own neo-Latin language, called Dalmatian language, around their small coastal villages that were growing with maritime commerce.

The Venetian areas of Montenegro

Venice started to take control of the southern Dalmatia around the 10th century, quickly assimilating the Dalmatian language with Venetian. By the 14th century the Republic of Venice was able to create a territorial continuity around the Bay of Kotor (Cattaro).

Early modern period

The Republic of Venice dominated the coasts of today's Montenegro from 1420 to 1797. In those four centuries the area around the Cattaro (Kotor) became part of the Venetian albania-montenegro, called in those centuries Albania veneta.

Ottoman Empire

Much of today's Montenegro was under Ottoman control from 1498 to 1699, while coastal Montenegro was under Venetian control and central Montenegro (Upper Zeta) was independent.

Half of today's Montenegro was part of the Ottoman Sanjak of Scutari, while the other was part of the Sanjak of Bosnia, but central Montenegro, also known as Upper Zeta, was independent.

In 1514, the Ottoman-controlled territory of Montenegro was proclaimed as a separate Sanjak, by the order of Sultan Beyazid II. The first Sanjak-beg (governor) who was chosen was Ivan Crnojević's son Staniša (Skenderbeg Crnojević), who converted to Islam, and governed until 1528. Despite Skenderbeg's emphasized cruelty, Ottomans did not have real power in Montenegro. After Skenderbeg's death, the Sanjak of Montenegro was annexed to the Sanjak of Scutari. However, Montenegro was, for a time being, in the Sanjak of Dukagjin and the Sanjak of Herzegovina, but then being annexed back to the Sanjak of Scutari.

Montenegrins used the Great Turkish War of 1683-1699 (Also known as War of the Holy League) to expel Ottomans and their rule from Montenegro, which didn't quite work. The Montenegrins then declared war on the Turks in 1876 after a rebellion in Herzegovina, starting their liberation from the Ottoman Empire. Montenegrins won the war in 1878 and increased its territory to about four times its original territory.

By the end of the 17th century the romance speaking population was already a minority. But still in 1880 there were in the city of Cattaro, according to the Austrian census, 930 ethnic Italians (or 32% of a total population of 2910 people).

In 1516, the secular prince Đurađ V Crnojević abdicated in favor of the Archbishop Vavil, who then formed Montenegro into a theocratic state under the rule of the prince-bishop (vladika) of Cetinje, a position transmitted from 1697 by the Petrović-Njegoš family of the Riđani clan, from uncle to nephew as the bishops were not allowed to marry.

Modern history

Flags of Montenegro,about 1800 AD

Petar Petrović Njegoš perhaps the most influential vladika, reigned in the first half of the 19th century. In 1851 Danilo Petrović Njegoš became vladika, but in 1852 he married, threw off his ecclesiastical character, assuming the title of knjaz (Prince) Danilo I, and transformed his land into a secular principality.

Proclamation of the Kingdom of Montenegro.
Montenegro territory expanded (1830-1944)

Following the assassination of Danilo by Todor Kadić in Kotor, in 1860, the Montenegrins proclaimed Nicholas I as his successor on August 14 of that year. In 1861 – 1862, Nicholas engaged in an unsuccessful war against Turkey, Montenegro holding onto its independence only by the skin of its teeth.

He was much more successful in 1875. Following the Herzegovinian Uprising, partly initiated by his clandestine activities, he yet again declared war on Turkey. Serbia joined Montenegro, but it was defeated by Turkish forces in 1876 only to try again the following year after Russia decisively routed the Turks. Montenegro was victorious throughout, though. The results were decisive; 1,900 square miles (4,900 km2) were added to Montenegro's territory by the Treaty of Berlin; that the port of Bar and all the waters of Montenegro were closed to the ships of war of all nations; and that the administration of the maritime and sanitary police on the coast was placed in the hands of Austria.

The reign of Nikola I (1860 – 1918) saw the doubling of Montenegro's territory and international recognition of her independence (1878).

Montenegro was an ally of Russia in the Russo-Japanese war. Volunteers from Montenegro were fighting in the Russian Army.[3] In 1906 Japan recognized Montenegrin independence and declared the war being over.[4] A peace treaty was signed.[5]

Nicholas I also granted the country's first constitution (1905) and was elevated to the rank of King (1910).

In the Balkan Wars (1912–1913), Montenegro did make further territorial gains by splitting Sanjak with Serbia.

In addition, the newly-captured city of Skadar had to be given up to the new state of Albania at the insistence of the Great Powers despite the Montenegrins having invested 10,000 lives for the conquest of the town from the Ottoman]-Albanian forces of Esad Pasha.

World War I

Kingdom of Montenegro in 1913.
Kingdom of Montenegro in 1914.

Montenegro suffered severely in World War I. At the first invasion of Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian armies, Montenegro lost no time in declaring war against the Central Powers. Austria-Hungary despatched a separate army to invade Montenegro and to prevent a junction of the Serbian and Montenegrin armies. This force, however, was repulsed, and from the top of the strongly fortified Mount Lovćen, the Montenegrins carried on the bombardment of Kotor held by the enemy. On August 10, 1914, the Montenegrin infantry delivered a strong attack against the Austrian garrisons, but they did not succeed in making good the advantage they first gained. They successfully resisted the Austrians in the second invasion of Serbia and almost succeeded in liberating Sarajevo. With the beginning of the third Austro-Hungarian invasion, however, the Montenegrin army had to retire before greatly superior numbers, and Austro-Hungarian and German armies finally overran Serbia. However, Serbian army survived and led by King Peter I of Serbia started retreating across Albania. In order to support Serbian retreat, Montenegrin army, led by Janko Vukotic, engaged in Battle of Mojkovac. Montenegro also suffered invasion (January 1916) and for the remainder of the war remained in the possession of the Central Powers. See Serbian Campaign (World War I) for details. Military governor of Montenegro between 1916 and 1917 was Viktor Weber Edler von Webenau. Afterwards Heinrich Clam-Martinic filled this position.

King Nicholas fled to Italy and then to France; the government transferred its operations to Bordeaux. Eventually the allies liberated Montenegro from the Austrians. A newly-convened National Assembly of Podgorica (Podgorička skupština, Подгоричка скупштина), accused the Кing of seeking a separate peace with the enemy and because of that deposed him, followed by a ban on his return and decided that Montenegro should join the Kingdom of Serbia on December 1, 1918. A large part of the Montenegrin population started a rebellion, which is known as the Christmas Uprising.


In the period between the two World Wars, Nikola's grandson, King Alexander Karageorgevich dominated the Yugoslav government. In 1922 Montenegro became part of Zeta area and later Zeta Banate.The administrative seat of banate became former Montenegrin capital Cetinje. During this period, Montenegrin people were still divided between politics of Greens and Whites.

The puppet "Kingdom of Montenegro" and World War II

During World War II, Italy under Benito Mussolini occupied Montenegro in 1941 and annexed to the Kingdom of Italy the area of Kotor (Cattaro), where there was a small Venetian speaking population. (The Queen of Italy - Elena of Montenegro - was daughter of the former king of Montenegro and was born in Cetinje.)

The English historian Denis Mack Smith wrote that the Queen of Italy (considered the most influential Montenegrin woman in history) convinced her husband the King of Italy Victor Emmanuel III to impose on Mussolini the creation of an independent Montenegro, against the wishes of the fascist Croats and Albanians (who wanted to enlarge their countries with the Montenegrin territories). Her nephew Prince Michael of Montenegro never accepted the offered crown, pledging loyalty to his nephew King Peter II of Yugoslavia.

The puppet Kingdom of Montenegro was created under fascist control while Krsto Zrnov Popović returned from his exile in Rome in 1941 to attempt to lead the Zelenaši ("Green" party), who supported the reinstatement of the Montenegrin monarchy. This militia was called the Lovćen Brigade. Montenegro was ravaged by a terrible guerrilla war, mainly after Nazi Germany replaced the defeated Italians in September 1943.

During World War II, as was the case in many other parts of Yugoslavia, Montenegro was involved in some sort of Civil war. Besides Montenegrin Greens,two main fractions were Yugoslav army in fatherland,who swore allegiance to government in exile and were consisted mainly by Montenegrins who declared themselves as Serbs (many of its members were Montenegrin Whites) and Yugoslav partisans, whose aim was the creation of Socialist Yugoslavia after the war. Since both fractions were sharing some similarities in their goal-unified Yugoslavia and anti-Axis resistance, the two sides joined hands and in 1941 started the 13th July uprising, the first organised uprising in occupied Europe, just two moths after Yugoslavia capitulated, liberating most of Montenegrin territory, but still unable to regain control of major towns and cities. After the failed attempts to liberate the towns of Pljevlja and Kolasin, Italians were reinforced by Germans and all the gained territories were recaptured. At the top of all, disagreement regarding state policy (Centralist monarchy-Federal Socialist republic) eventually led to split between two sides who from then on became the bloodiest enemies. Constantly, both fractions were trying to gain support within population. Chetniks among their members had influent and educated people, such as Blazo Djukanovic, Zaharije Ostojic, Radojica Perisic, Petar Bacovic, Mirko Lalatovic, Bajo Stanisic, the hero of uprising, etc. But eventually they lost the support as did other Chetnik fractions within Yugoslavia. De facto leader of Chetniks in Montenegro, Pavle Djurisic, along with other prominent figures of movement like Dusan Arsovic and Djordjije Lasic, was held responsible for massacres of Muslim population in eastern Bosnia and Sandzak during 1944. Their ideology about homogeneous Serbia within Yugoslavia proved to be a major obstacle in recruiting minorities as well as Montenegrins who regarded themselves as nation with its own identity. All this contributed to the fact that some small fractions were negotiating with the Axis, and finally in 1943 Yugoslav army in fatherland lost support among the Allies. The same year Italy] who was until then in charge of occupied zone capitulated and was replaced by Germany, and fights continued.

Josip Broz Tito's partisans won the war of liberation and acknowledged Montenegro's massive contribution to the war against the Axis powers by establishing it as one of the six republics of Yugoslavia.

Montenegro within Socialist Yugoslavia

From 1945 to 1992, Montenegro became a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Montenegro became economically stronger than ever, since it gained help from federal funds as an under-developed Republic, and it became a tourist destination as well. After war years proved turbulent and were marked by political eliminations. Krsto Zrnov Popović, the leader of Greens was assassinated in 1947, and 10 years later, in 1957, the last Montenegrin Chetnik Vladimir Šipčić was also murdered. During this period Montenegrin Communists such as Veljko Vlahović, Svetozar Vukmanović-Tempo, Vladimir Popović and Jovo Kapicić emerged as a important factor in whole Yugoslavia and went on holding major positions in federal government. In 1948 Yugoslavia faced Tito-Stalin split and the resolution of Informbiro. Political turmoils started inside communist party itself as well as between nation itself. Pro-Soviet fractions faced prosecution,charges and imprisonment in various prisons across Yugoslavia, the most notable one being Goli Otok. Many Montenegrins, due to their traditional allegiance with Russia declared themselves as Soviet-orientated. Political split in communist party saw the downfall of many important communist leaders,the ones from Montenegro including Arso Jovanović, Vlado Dapčević and others. Many of the people imprisoned during this period, regardless of nationality, were innocent and their innocence was later admitted by government. 1954 saw the prominent Yugoslav Montenegrin Communist Milovan Đilas expelled from the party along with Peko Dapčević. Montenegro was the Yugoslav smallest republic and had the lowest population.

Trough the second half of the 1940s and the whole 1950s, the country was rebuilt. Montenegro's historic capital Cetinje was replaced by Podgorica, which in inter-war period emerged as the biggest city in country, but was in ruins due to hard bombing in the last stages of war. Podgorica had much favorable position and in 1947 the seat of republic was moved to the city, now named Titograd in honor to Marshal Tito. Instead Cetinje received a title of hero city within Yugoslavia. Youth work actions built a railway between the two biggest cities of Titograd and Nikšić, and embankment over Skadar lake linking the capital with the major port of Bar. The port of Bar was also rebuilt after being mined during German retreat in 1944. Other ports include the ones in Kotor, Risan and Tivat. In 1947 Jugopetrol Kotor was founded. Electronic company Obod was founded in Cetinje, steel mill and Trebjesa brewery in Nikšić, and finally the crown of Montenegrin industrialization Podgorica Aluminium Plant was completed in 1969.

Breakup of Yugoslavia and Bosnian war

The breakup of communist Yugoslavia (1991–1992) and the introduction of a multi-party political system found Montenegro with a young leadership that had risen to office only a few years earlier in the late 1980s.

In effect three men ran the republic: Milo Đukanović, Momir Bulatović and Svetozar Marović; all swept into power during the so-called "anti-bureaucratic revolution"—an administrative coup of sorts within the Yugoslav Communist party, orchestrated by younger party members close to Slobodan Milošević.

All three appeared devout communists on the surface, but they also had sufficient skills and adaptability to understand the dangers of clinging to traditional rigid old-guard tactics in new and changing times. So when the old Yugoslavia effectively ceased to exist and the multi-party political system replaced it, they quickly repackaged the Montenegrin branch of the old Communist party and renamed it the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro (DPS).

Inheriting the entire infrastructure, resources and membership of the old Communist party gave the DPS a sizable head start on their opponents in the newly-formed parties. It allowed them to win the first multi-party parliamentary election held on 9 and 16 December 1990, and presidential elections held on 9 and 23 December 1990.[6] The party has ruled Montenegro ever since (either alone or as a leading member of different ruling coalitions).

During the early-to-mid 1990s Montenegro's leadership gave considerable support to Milošević's war-effort. Montenegrin reservists fought on the Dubrovnik front line, where Prime Minister Milo Đukanović visited them frequently.

In April 1992, following a referendum, Montenegro decided to join Serbia in forming the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), which officially put the Second Yugoslavia to rest.

During the 1991–1995 Bosnian War and Croatian War, Montenegro participated with its police and military forces in the attacks on Dubrovnik, Croatia[7] and Bosnian towns along with Serbian troops, aggressive acts aimed at acquiring more territories by force, characterized by a consistent pattern of gross and systematic violations of human rights.[8] Montenegrin General Pavle Strugar has since been convicted for his part in the bombing of Dubrovnik.[9] Bosnian refugees were arrested by Montenegrin police and transported to Serb camps in Foča, where they were subjected to systematic torture and executed.[10]

In May 1992, the United Nations imposed an embargo on FRY: this affected many aspects of life in the country.

Due to its favourable geographical location (access to the Adriatic Sea and a water-link to Albania across Lake Skadar) Montenegro became a hub for smuggling activity. The entire Montenegrin industrial production had stopped, and the republic's main economic activity became the smuggling of user goods - especially those in short supply like petrol and cigarettes, both of which skyrocketed in price. It became a de facto legalized practice and it went on for years. At best, the Montenegrin government turned a blind eye to the illegal activity, but mostly it took an active part in it. Smuggling made millionaires out of all sorts of shady individuals, including senior government officials. Milo Đukanović continues to face actions in various Italian courts over his role in widespread smuggling during the 1990s and in providing safe haven in Montenegro for different Italian Mafia figures who also allegedly took part in the smuggling distribution chain.

Recent history (1996 to present)

In 1997 a bitter dispute over presidential election results took place. It ended with Milo Đukanović winning over Momir Bulatović in a second-round run-off plagued with irregularities. Nonetheless, the authorities allowed the results to stand. Former close allies had by this time become bitter foes, which resulted in a near-warlike atmosphere in Montenegro for months during the autumn of 1997. It also split the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro. Bulatović and his followers broke away to form the Socialist People's Party of Montenegro (SNP), staying loyal to Milošević, whereas Đukanović began to distance himself from Serbia. This distance from the policies of Milošević played a role in sparing Montenegro from the heavy bombing that Serbia endured in the spring of 1999 during the NATO air-campaign.

Đukanović came out a clear winner from this political fight, as he never lost power for even a day. Bulatović, on the other hand, never held office again in Montenegro after 1997 and eventually retired from politics in 2001.

During the Kosovo War, ethnic Albanians took refuge in Montenegro, but were still under threat by Serbian soldiers, who were able to take refugees back into Serbian controlled areas and imprison them.[11]

In the spring of 1999, at the height of NATO offences, 21 Albanians died in several separate and unexplained incidents in Montenegro, according to the republic’s prosecutor. Another group of around 60 Albanian refugees was fired upon in Kaludjerski Laz by Yugoslav Army members, leading to the death of six people, including a woman aged 80 and a child, killed in crossfire that allegedly came from three machine-gun posts of the then Yugoslav Army.[12] In all, 23 Albanians were killed in Kaludjerski Laz, and Montenegrin prosecutors have charged 8 soldiers, among which is Predrag Strugar, son of convicted Montenegrin war criminal General Pavle Strugar, with "inhuman treatment against civilians".[13] During the war Montenegro was bombed as part of NATO operations against Yugoslavia,though not as heavily as Serbia.The targets were mostly military ones such as Golubovci Airbase. By some claims the airport was attacked because of operation Yugoslav pilots undertook on 26 April, when they (without knowledge of supreme command) flew over a border into Albania with 4 G-4 Super Galebs and bombed Rinas Airport which housed 24 AH-64 Apache helicopters and parts of 82nd Airborne Division.They ended up with destroying nine Apaches and damaging the rest while also destroying Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) training camps in the vicinity of airport.Eight civilian casualties are reported during the course of the war. During the operation,allegedly 10 aircraft were shot down over Montenegro. The first one was Luftwaffe's Tornado IDS,eventually crashed in Skadar Lake, and the second one was Mirage 2000 of French Air Force, whose pilot catapulted before plane crashed in mountain Rumija.Apparently both planes were shot on 15.04.1999. The rest of them are Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) downed on various locations,including Valdanos, but the only model that has been identified is IAI RQ-5 Hunter, downed in Bay of Kotor on 28 May.However, this has never been confirmed.

In 2003, after years of wrangling and outside assistance, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia renamed itself as "Serbia and Montenegro" and officially reconstituted itself as a loose union. The State Union had a parliament and an army in common, and for three years (until 2006), neither Serbia nor Montenegro held a referendum on the break-up of the union. However, a referendum was announced in Montenegro to decide the future of the republic. The ballots cast in the controversial 2006 independence referendum resulted in a 55.5% victory for independence supporters, just above the 55% borderline mark set by the EU. Montenegro declared independence on June 3, 2006.

In March 2007 Montenegrin officials apologized for involvement in attacks on the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, which caused several hundred civilian deaths and destroyed countless homes, and agreed to pay damages. Some estimates place the value of the damage at around €35 million. So far, Montenegro has paid up only €375,000 as compensation for looting the area's cattle.[14]

See also


External links

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