History of Montenegro

CRNA GORA, (Black Mountain) known to the outside world by its Venetian name of Montenegro was the only part of the Balkans to escape Ottoman rule. According to legend, when God created the earth a lot of rocks were left over; so He made Montenegro.

The Slavic colonisation of the Balkan Peninsula occurred during VI century. It is believed that the predecessors of Montenegrins came from an area in the north called Slavia and were known as the Velet and Odobriti tribes. The Velet and Odobriti tribes longed for the warmer waters of the Mediterranean Sea and settled in the Roman province of Prevalis. There they found the urban Roman settlements of Kotor, Risan, Budva, Bar, Ulcinj and Duklja, which lie within the borders of present-day Montenegro and also the native Illyrian tribes. The Montenegrins were pagans, but through coexistence and assimilation they accepted Christianity from the Romans. They brought with them the name of the old native country Slavia and more than 860 toponyms. Even today, in the Baltic, there are around 800 settlements, rivers, lakes and mountains with names similar to corresponding places in Montenegro.

Montenegro’s traditional culture revolved around clans, each headed by a ‘UPAN’ (Chieftain), groups of patrilineal related families that at one time maintained tribal identities on their own traditional territories. Faced with incessant threats of Ottoman armies and rival groups, clans traditionally emphasised personal courage in combat as a major virtue.

The division of the Roman Empire between Roman and Byzantine rule was marked by a line that ran northward from Skadar through modern Montenegro, symbolising the status of this region as a perpetual marginal zone between the economic, cultural and political worlds of the Mediterranean people’s and the Slavs. Stephen Crnojevic, the founder of Montenegro, spent his life defending his country against the Ottomans. When his position became impossible he went up to lofty Cetinje, which thereafter remained the capital of his people. There, he and his descendants established a tiny mountain commonwealth, which the Turks often invaded, but never permanently conquered.

From 1515 to 1696, Montenegro was a theocratic state ruled by monkish bishops. From then on until 1918 hereditary princes of the Petrovic dynasty ruled. The princely office was made hereditary during the reign of Danilo Petrovic. This arrangement of a hereditary prince-bishop was continued until 1851, when the incumbent established himself as a secular ruler with the title Prince Danilo I.

In 1688 Montenegrins began their long struggle for independence and were finally rewarded at the Berlin Congress. After 1860 the political life of Montenegro was dominated by the strong personality of Prince Nicholas. On the St. Nicholas Day Assembly in 1905, Prince Nicholas introduced Montenegro’s first formal Constitution. According to the new Constitution, Montenegro was a constitutional but not a parliamentary monarchy. He was also very successful in arranging marriages for his daughters; two married Russian grand dukes and thereafter played an important role in the Russian court; one became the wife of Petar Karadjordjevic, but died in 1890 before he became the Serbia’s king. The fourth married Victor Emmanuel III and became Queen of Italy.

In 1910, the parliament proclaimed Montenegro a constitutional monarchy with Nicholas as King (Nicholas I). Despite becoming king, Nicholas’s authority was diminishing.

Austria occupied Montenegro in 1915, during WWI, when Serb-led forces protecting the region fled to Greece via Albania. The Allies quickly declared their solidarity with the defeated Montenegro. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George promised, “The Allies will do justice to the heroism of the Montenegrins.” Montenegro and Serbia unified in 1918 marking one of the most interesting and most important issues of contemporary Montenegrin history.

In November 1945 a constitutional assembly met and the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was proclaimed. Post-war Yugoslavia was organised on a federal basis and the state was divided into six republics: Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. The break-up of the Yugoslav federation after 1989 left Montenegro in an acutely precarious position. The first multiparty elections in 1990 returned the reformed League of Communists to power, confirming Montenegrin support for the disintegrating federation. The Republic therefore joined Serbia efforts to preserve the Federation and in 1992 it acceded to the “Third Yugoslavia,” a federal republic comprising only it and Serbia.

In February 2003 the state changed the name into the Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Euro as its currency.