10 April 2013

Country Spotlight: Montenegro

It's been a long, long time since I have spotlighted a country and it's time to revive it.  Today will be focused on Montenegro!  I have completely neglected the country, but here I am to shed some light on the country, which has been popping up in the news due to some presidential problems.  Though besotted with corruption, the EU approved accession talks.  Let's dive in to Crno Gora!



The name Montenegro actually comes from the Venetian word for Crna Gora (sometimes transliterated as Tsrna Gora): Monte Negro.  It means "black mountain".


The Balkan nations always delight with their complex, messy history, and Montenegro is no exception.

Conquered by the Romans in 9 AD, it was settled by Slavs in the 6th century.  By the 10th century, it became a relatively independent principality named Duklja, but in 1042 it achieved official independence from the Byzantine Empire after some guerilla fighting.  It then expanded to Bosnia and became a kingdom.  This did not last long, because in 1186 it became incorporated into the Serbian realm and was known as Zeta.  The 14th century brought the collapse of the Serbian empire and Montenegro to independence under the Crnojević family, though under the Serbian Despotate.  Đurađ Crnojević ruled for a short period of time, but left invaluable wealth. During his rule, in 1493, the first printing shop in the Balkans was opened, and one year later the first book was printed - "Oktoih" (Octoechos).  Like most of eastern Europe, it finally fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1496.  Despite unusual freedoms in the empire, Montenegrins had no interest in being ruled by Turks (as they were Christian) and contributed to rebellions and the Great Turkish War, which won them their independence in 1645.

The area became a theocracy, ran by the Metropolitanate of Montenegro--the largest diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  The highest office was Prince-Bishop and ruled over religious and secular matters.  Petar I Petrović Njegoš (1784 - 1830) is the most famous and beloved figure of Montenegro's independent history since he united the tribes, consolidated control over the lands, and created a system of laws.  He worked towards a unified Serbian state and his successor, Petar II, further his alliance with the Russian Empire.  Danilo I, the successor of Petar II, employed many reforms, creating a secular system of rule and formally gave up his religious title.  His successor, Nikola I Mirkov Petrović-Njegoš, successfully established amiable political relations with the Ottomans, but eventually led a successful military campaign against the Turks to achieve full independence in 1878.  A constitution was drafted in 1905 and a common border with Serbia was established.  Montenegro's alliance with Serbia led to fighting against the Central Powers (aka Habsburgs and friends) and suffering a horrible defeat in 1916.  The Allied Powers freed the country in 1918 and merged with Serbia while also banning Nikola from returning from his exile in Bordeaux.

1922 was the official year joining of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes and Nicholas I's grandson dominated the Yugoslavian parliament.  The Kingdom of Yugoslavia has a fascinating history of political struggle and intrigue, which resulted in the "January 6th" dictatorship of King Aleksandar I Karađorđević.  He was assassinated in 1934 and his cousin, Prince Paul Karađorđević, took the helm.  Fearing an invasion from Axis Powers, he signed an agreement to cooperate.  The United Kingdom helped facilitate a coup d'état, which placed Aleksandar's son (Peter II Karađorđević) in power and placed the Kingdom in opposition of the Axis Powers.  This lead to the Axis invasion, which divided the kingdom among neighbors and drove the royal family into exile.  The occupation continued until Josip Broz Tito's rise to power in 1944, which lead to the formation of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  This time period brought infrastructure, industrialization, and the founding of the University of  Montenegro.  The country received more independence in the 1974, but the SFR of Yugoslavia eventually came to an end in 1992.  It was then part of a smaller Yugoslavia with Serbia and an undemocratic referendum was held to determine if Montenegro would stay in the republic (it did).  During the Bosnian and Croatian Wars (1991-1995), Montenegrins joined Serbian troops in Dubrovnik.  Montenegrins were a huge part of the bombing of Dubrovnik and the Albanian genocide at Foča.  In 1996, Milo Đukanović severed ties with Serbian, then under the rule of Slobodan Milošević.  Fast forward to 2003 and Serbia and Montenegro agree to a decentralized state of Serbia and Montenegro, which was split after the 2006 referendum.


National dress
Fun fact: It originated from Petar II Petrović Njegoš, the Prince-Bishop of Montenegro from the 19th century, who eschewed the robes of his religious office later in life and began wearing the colorful costume of the mountain chief.

It's traditional for an olive tree to be planted on the day of a wedding.  You can take tours to see Montenegro's olive groves and sample the wares. 

You can miss a wedding, but do not miss a funeral.  They are social events and your absence will never be forgotten.

Their cuisine is heavily influenced by Italy, Turkey (from the occupation), Hungary, and Croatia.  They have a mix of food from the heart of Europe and the Mediterranean and the cuisine differs between the coast and the inland.

Great cultural survey here and a breakdown by region here.


Montenegrin was only considered a separate language after Yugoslavia broke up and uses both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.  It's still considered Serbo-Croation by many, including the citizens of Montenegro.  It's not on the language tree I often refer to either.  This is an item of debate and according to Wiki:
In 2004, the government of Montenegro changed the school curriculum so that the name of the mandatory classes teaching the language was changed from "Serbian language" to "Mother tongue (Serbian, Montenegrin, Croatian, Bosnian)". This change was made, according to the government, in order to better reflect the diversity of languages spoken among citizens in the republic and to protect human rights of non-Serb citizens in Montenegro who declare themselves as speakers of other languages.
This lead to a strike by many parents.

Montenegrin Beauty/Geography

If these photos doesn't interest you in visiting Montenegro, you are hopeless. 

Bay of Kotor looks beautiful, beautiful and I want you all to know it.

Considering the name means "black mountain", there are a fair number of mountains in the country.  You can see all of the ranges hereDurmitor is the most famous of their mountains.

Geopolitical Influence

Montenegro is a member of the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe, the Central European Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organization, and a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean. Montenegro is currently an official candidate for membership in the European Union and official candidate for membership of NATO.  

Pop Culture

Casino Royale is set in Montenegro, hence its swagger.  They can now boast hosting the ultimate man figure in modern pop culture.