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Montenegrins (Montenegrin: Црногорци, Crnogorci) are a South Slavic people, associated to Montenegromarker. The term denotes both the nation and the ethnic group with a slightly different meaning, as well as being a regional designation.

Identity and population

In today's Montenegro, ethnic Montenegrins and Serbs are divided largely on the basis of political identification. Slavs were present in the region since the 5th century and Serbs were native to the area since the 7th century A.D. and both remained majority peoples all the way to the 20th century. Since the violent Christmas Uprising (1919), which saw fighting between the pro-Petrovic guerillas and the Karadjordjevic troops, there was a significant opposition to unification with Serbia. Following the end of the World War II the population was shifted overwhelmingly in favour of separate Montenegrin ethnicity (91%). Following the collapse of Communism in Yugoslavia however, more and more Montenegrins began to again self-identify as Serbs (32%), while the greatest proportion of citizens of Montenegro still declare 'Montenegrin' as their ethnicity (43%). This has deepened further since the movement for full Montenegrin independence from the Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker began to gain ground in 1991, and ultimately narrowly succeeded in the referendum of May 2006 (having been rejected in 1992). The Montenegro Serbs do not consider themselves separate from the Montenegrin nation but instead believe that all genuine slavic Montenegrins are Serbs by ethnicity, and that Montenegrin nation is one fraction of "Serbdom".In the 2003 census, over 270,000 or 43% of the population of Montenegro identified themselves as ethnic Montenegrins, while around 200,000 or 32% identified themselves as Serbs. The number of "Montenegrins" and "Serbs" fluctuates wildly from census to census, not due to real changes in the populace, but due to changes in how people experience their identity. According to the 2002 census, there are around 70,000 ethnic Montenegrins in Serbiamarker, accounting for 0.92% of the Republic's population. The number of Montenegrin citizens in Serbia runs to several hundreds of thousands (nearly 300,000 est.), but most of them identify as Serbs. In addition, a significant number of Serbs in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovinamarker are of Montenegrin ancestry, but exact numbers are difficult to assess – the inhabitants of Montenegro contributed greatly to the repopulation of a depopulated Serbia after two rebellions against the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century, with a half of the population of Sumadija and the surroundings being populated by people originally from Montenegro, and several prominent individuals of the Serbian 19th & early 20th century intelligentsia and entrepreneurs being descendents of people originally from Montenegro.

On 19 October 2007, a new Constitution was adopted that proclaimed the Montenegrin language official, and attributed Montenegrin statehood and sovereignty primarily to the Montenegrin People.


Medieval Times

During medieval times, Montenegrin territories often shifted possession, but the medieval principalities of Doclea and Zeta under local rulers were fairly long-lived and have paved the path for what will ultimately become the modern Montenegro. In 1496, Zeta fell under Ottoman rule, but the Turkish influence was fairly limited to cities while Montenegrins tribes, although disunited, had control over the surrounding hills. They formed a loosely governed theocracy of "prince-bishops", starting with Archbishop Vavil in 1516.

During the 12th century, the area became known as the Principality of Zeta. Between 1276 and 1309, Zeta was ruled by the Queen Jelena, widow of the Serbian King Uroš I. She secured autonomy for Zeta within Nemanjić's Serbia and built and restored around 50 monasteries, most notably Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Srđ and Vakh) on the Bojana River under Shkodër/Skadarmarker. The name Montenegro (Crna Gora) is mentioned for the first time in the charter of St. Nicholas' monastery in Vranjina, dating to 1296 during Jelena's reign. Under King Milutin (Uroš II) Nemanjić, at the beginning of the 14th century, the Archdiocese in Bar was the biggest feudal lord in Zeta.

Throughout the 14th century, the Houses of Balšić and Crnojević contested for control over the Montenegrin territories until the Crnojevićs attained supremacy in the 14th century. Under the Crnojevićs, the Montenegrin Church reached its peak. In 1496, the Ottomans conquered part, but not all, of Montenegro.


The Montenegrins maintained their independence from the Ottoman Empire, during the Ottoman's reign over the entire Balkan region (Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, etc). The Montenegrins were gathered around the Metropolitans of the Cetinje Metropolitanate, which further led to national awakening of the Montenegrins all around. The creation of a theocratic state and its advancement into a secular and independent country was even more evident in late 15th and early 16th centuries.

The rule of the House of Petrović in the 18th and 19th century unified the Montenegrins and established strong ties with Russia and later with Serbia(under Ottoman occupation), with occasional help from Austro-Hungarian Empire. That period was marked by several clashes with Turkish conquerors as well as by a firmer establishment of a self-governed principality.

In 1878, the Congress of Berlin recognized Montenegro as the 27th independent state in the world. Montenegro participated in the Balkan Wars of 1911–1912, as well as in World War I on the side of allies.

Yugoslav era

Montenegro unconditionally joined Serbia in November 26, 1918 in a controversial decision of the illegal Podgorica Assembly, and soon afterward became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker, later renamed to Yugoslavia. A number of Montenegrin chieftains, disappointed by the effective disappearance of Montenegro, which they perceived to have resulted from political manipulation, rose up in arms during January 1919 in an uprising known as the Christmas Rebellion, which was crushed in a severe, comprehensive military campaign in 1922–23. Annexation of the Kingdom of Montenegro in November 13, 1918 gained international recognition only at the Conference of Ambassadors in Parismarker, held on July 13, 1922. In 1929 the newly renamed Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker was reorganised into provinces (banovine) one of which, Zeta Banovina, encompassed the old Kingdom of Montenegro and had Cetinje as its administrative centre.

Between two world wars, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia opposed the Yugoslav monarchy and its unification policy, and supported Montenegrin autonomy, gaining considerable support in Montenegro. During World War II, many Montenegrins joined the Yugoslav partisan forces, although the portion joining the chetniks was also significant. One third of all officers in the partisan army were Montenegrins. They also gave a disproportional number of highest ranked party officials and generals. During WWII Italymarker occupied Montenegro (in 1941) and annexed to the Kingdom of Italy the area of Kotor, where there was a small Roman community (descendants from the populations of the renaissance Albania Veneta). The Independent State of Montenegromarker was created under fascist control (the Queen of Italy, Jelena of Montenegro, was daughter of the former king of Montenegro) when Krsto Zrnov Popović returned from exile in Romemarker in 1941 to attempt to lead the Zelenaši ("Green" party), who supported the reinstatement of the independent Montenegrin monarchy. These forces were called the Lovćen Brigade. Montenegro was ravaged by a terrible guerrilla war, mainly after Nazi Germany replaced the defeated Italians in September 1943.

When the second Yugoslaviamarker was formed in 1945, the Communists who led the Partisans during the war formed the new régime. They recognized, sanctioned and fostered a national identity of Montenegrins as a people distinct from the Serbs and other south Slavs. The number of people who were registered as Montenegrins in Montenegro was at 90% in 1948, it has been dropping since, to 62% in 1991. With the rise of Serbian and Montenegrin nationalism in the late 80's the number of citizens who declared themselves Montenegrin dropped sharply from 61.7%, in the 1991 census, to 43.16% in 2003. For a detailed overview of these trends, see the Demographic history of Montenegro.

Initially, after the fall of Communism in the early 1990s, the idea of a distinct Montenegrin identity has been taken over by independence-minded Montenegrins. The ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) (reformed communists), led by the prime minister Milo Đukanović and the president Momir Bulatović, was firmly allied with Slobodan Milošević throughout this period and opposed such movements.

During recent Bosnian War and Croatian War (1991–1995) Montenegro participated with its police and paramilitary forces in the attacks on Dubrovnikmarker and Bosnian towns along with Serbian troops. It conducted persecutions against Bosniak refugees who were arrested by Montenegrin police and transported to Serb camps in Foča, where they were executed.

Seeking Independence

However, in 1997 a full-blown rift occurred within DPS, and Đukanović's faction won over Bulatović's, who formed a new Socialist People's Party of Montenegro (SNP). The DPS distanced itself from Milošević and gradually took over the independence idea from Liberal Alliance of Montenegro and SDP, and has won all elections since.

In the fall of 1999, shortly after the NATOmarker bombing of Yugoslavia, the Đukanović-led Montenegrin leadership came out with a platform for the re-definition of relations within the federation that called for more Montenegrin involvement in the areas of defence and foreign policy, though the platform fell short of pushing for independence. After Milošević's overthrow on October 5, 2000, Đukanović for the first time came out in support of full independence and succeeded in his quest by winning a vote on independence on 21 May 2006.

Controversy about Montenegrin ethnic identity

Both present-day Montenegro and Serbia were part of medieval Serbia, until the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, which resulted in separation of the two that lasted for 3 centuries. In the 19th century national romanticism among the South Slavs fueled the desire for re-unification. A number of works published during this period see Montenegrins as Serbs.

Cover of the "Serbian textbook" of 1836
  • During Petar I Petrović Njegoš's reign, the basic textbook in state schools was called "The Serb elementary reading book". Another edition was published during Petar II Petrović Njegoš's rule;
  • During the reign of Danilo II Petrovic Njegos, the pupils had classes in Slav Grammar; Montenegrin History; and Slavic History.
  • The geography syllabus at the College of Theology consisted of "studying the Slavic lands independent, subjugated and occupied as well as the main cities, places and villages in the entire Slavhood".
  • The geography textbook for the 3rd grade of elementary school, in 1911, said:
:In Montenegro live only true and pure Serbs who speak the Serbian language... Besides Montenegro there are more Serb lands in which our Serb brothers live... Some of them are as free as we are and some are subjugated to foreigners.
  • Numerous school certificates, passports and similar documents preserved marked the bearer's nationality as "Serbian";
  • The 1909 census, undertaken by the Principality of Montenegro, recorded that 95% of the population spoke Serbian.
  • Milovan Djilas, a Yugoslav Partisan leader and close associate to Tito, said: "All Montenegrins are Serbs, but not all Serbs are Montenegrins".

On the other hand, it is undeniable that the uniqueness of the Montenegrin identity is based on centuries-long distinct traditions, statehood, and dialectal and cultural particularities, formed under the rule of the Ottomans and Italians. The exact roots of the Montenegrin ethnic identity are easy to trace, as the Serbian and Montenegrin identities were considered opposing rather than compatible, as Montenegrins were documented as a nation since the 1900s.

Perhaps the turning point came with the Podgorica Assembly, where the pro-independence group called zelenaši (" the greens"), which promoted "nationalism, localism, and chauvinism" lost to the pro-unionist bjelaši ("the whites"), which promoted "national nihilism" under debatable conditions. The repercussions of that split last to this day. The proponents of Montenegrin uniqueness are sometimes pejoratively referred to as "zelenaši" by the pro-unionists, while the proponents of Montenegrin-Serb dual identity are sometimes called pejoratively "bjelaši" by the Montenegrin independentists. The split into communist partisans and royalist chetniks during World War II, although chiefly ideological, was not without consequences to the national identity issue. The communists, who won the war against the Chetniks, actively promoted Montenegrin ethnicity and nationhood since 1945. The censuses of 1948–1991 describe majority of Montenegro's residents as Montenegrins. Proponents of pro-unionist ideas in Montenegro maintain that this was due either because it was not actively confronted by a Serbian identity, or because it was imposed by propaganda and force. However, during the latest national census that was conducted in a free and democratic manner (as Montenegrin authorities claim), the majority of Montenegrins still declared themselves as having a Montenegrin ethnicity – without opting for the optional Serbian identity.

Present situation

The political rift in late 1990s caused the Serb/Montenegrin ethnic issue to resurface.
Montenegrins in Montenegro according to the 1991 census
Montenegrins in Montenegro according to the 2003 census
Montenegrins in Vojvodina, Serbia (2002 census)
The population of Montenegro is presently roughly divided on ethnic and political issues between the group composed of the ethnic Montenegrins, ethnic Bosniaks, ethnic Muslims, ethnic Croats and Albanians on one side, and the group composed of the ethnic Serbs on the other. The former group forms a majority over the latter and has repeatedly won national elections.

Various notable people in Montenegro supported Montenegrin independence and acknowledge the right of citizens in Montenegro to declare themselves as ethnic Montenegrins. Noted supporters of independence include famous statesman Milo Đukanović and the Speaker of Montenegro's Parliament Ranko Krivokapić. Of the minorities, these include the historical scientist Šerbo Rastoder (a Bosniak from Beranemarker), don Branko Sbutega (a Roman Catholic priest from Kotormarker, declared as a Croat, who died April 27 2006), and journalist Esad Kočan (a Bosniak).

A number of notable Montenegrins include famous footballer Dejan Savićević, politician Slavko Perović and Filip Vujanovic, comedian Branko Babović, Sekula Drljević, popular folk singer Sako Polumenta, actor Žarko Laušević, fashion model Marija Vujović, members of the rock group Perper, Miraš Dedeić, Montenegrin ruler Ivan I Crnojević and former President of Serbia and Montenegro Svetozar Marović.

A number of Montenegrins living outside of Montenegro, primarily in Serbia, still maintain the Montenegrin lore, family ties and clan affiliation. They remain Montenegrins by these standards, yet at censa they declare themselves mostly as Serbs. Some have risen to high cultural, economic and political positions and are widely known as Serbs while few know that they are of Montenegrin roots. For example, even Slobodan Milošević was a Serb of Montenegrin descent, the first generation of his family to be born in Serbia. His daughter, Marija Milošević, and his brother, the former ambassador to Russiamarker Borislav Milošević, declare themselves ethnic Montenegrin.

Other prominent Serbs descending from partly or fully from Montenegro include linguist and major reformer of modern Serbian language Vuk Karadžić, revolutionary leader and founder of the Karađorđević dynasty Đorđe Petrović (most notably Aleksandar Karađorđević), first Serbian modern monarch and founder of the Obrenović dynasty Miloš Obrenović, notable Balkanologist and geographer Jovan Cvijić; Serbian monarchist politician and one time opponent of Milosevic in the Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker, Vuk Drašković; the wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadžić, current democratic President of Serbia Boris Tadić, assassinated warlord Željko Ražnatović-Arkan who was only half-montenegrin, famous poet and writer Matija Bećković, editor-in-chief of high circulation Večernje novosti daily Manojlo Vukotić, former basketball star Žarko Paspalj, current BIA chief Rade Bulatović, Serbian Interior Minister Dragan Jočić[63303], Serbian constitutional court president Slobodan Vučetić[63304], and half-montenegrin actress Milla Jovovich.


Montenegrins speak the Ijekavian variant of the Shtokavian dialect of the Serbo-Croatian language, considered Serbian by 75% of Montenegrin nationals. Neo-shtokavian Eastern-Herzegovinian sub-dialect is spoken in the North-West (largest city Niksic), and old shtokavian Zeta subdialect is spoken in the rest of Montenegro, including capitals Podgorica and Cetinje, and eastern Sanjak. The North-Western, Eastern-Herzegovinian is also base of Serbian standard language.

The Zeta dialect features additional sounds: a voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative ( ), voiced alveolo-palatal fricative *( , (occurring in other jekavian dialects as well) and a voiced alveolar affricate ( , shared with other old-štokavian dialects). Both subdialects are charactericized by highly specific accents (shared with other old-štokavian dialects) and several "hyper-ijekavisms" (i.e. nijesam, where the rest of shtokavian area uses nisam) and "hyper-iotations" (đevojka for djevojka, đeca for djeca etc) (these features, especially the hyper-iotation, are more prominent in Zeta subdialect), that are common in all Montenegrin vernaculars.

On sociolinguistic level, the language has been classified as a dialect of Serbian, being previously a dialect of Serbo-Croatian. Montenegrin constitution currently defines Serbian as the official language. However, along with the campaign for independence, a movement for recognition of Montenegrin language as separate from Serbian has emerged, finding the basis for separate language identity mostly in above-mentioned dialectal specifics. The current pro-independence government did not particularly embrace the movement, but did not oppose it either; trying to overcome the situation, the language school classes were renamed from "Serbian language" to "native language", with fierce opposition from pro-Serbian circles. In the 2003 census, 63.49% of Montenegrin citizens stated that they speak the Serbian language, while 21.53% stated that they speak Montenegrin.


The most important dimension of Montenegrin culture is the ethic ideal of Čojstvo i Junaštvo, roughly translated as "Humanity and Bravery". Another result of its centuries long warrior history, is the unwritten code of Chivalry that Marko Miljanov, one of the most famous warriors in his time, tried to describe in his book Primjeri Čojstva i Junaštva (Examples of Humanity and Bravery) at the end of 19th century. Its main principles stipulate that to deserve a true respect of its people, a warrior has to show virtues of integrity, dignity, humility, self-sacrifice for the just cause if necessary, respect for others, and Rectitude along with the bravery. In the old days of battle, it resulted in Montenegrins fighting to the death, since being captured was considered the greatest shame.

It is still very much engraved, to a greater or lesser extent, on every Montenegrin's ethical belief system and it is essential in order to truly understand them. Coming from non-warrior backgrounds, most other South-Slavic nations never fully grasped its meaning, resulting in reactions which ranged from totally ignoring it, in the best case, to mocking it and equating it with backwardness.

Most of extraordinary examples of Montenegrin conduct during its long history can be traced to the code. Its importance is also reflected in the generally very low level of religiousness in the Montenegrin population. It is probably fair to say that the ethical beliefs of Montenegrins more closely match those of Stoicism than those of Christianity.

Montenegrins' long-standing history of fighting for independence is invariably linked with strong traditions of folk epic poetry. A prominent feature of Montenegrin culture is the gusle, a one-stringed instrument played by a story-teller who sings or recites stories of heroes and battles in decasyllabic verse. These traditions are stronger in the northern parts of the country and are also shared with people in eastern Herzegovina, western Serbiamarker, northern Albaniamarker and central Dalmatia.

On the substratum of folk epic poetry, poets like Petar II Petrović Njegoš, the Montenegrin icon, have created their own expression. Njegoš's epic book Gorski Vijenac (The Mountain Wreath) presents the central point of Montenegrin culture.

On the other hand, Adriatic cities like Herceg-Novimarker, Kotormarker and Budvamarker had strong trade and maritime tradition, and presented an entry-point for Venetianmarker, Ragusan and other Catholic influences. Possession of those cities often changed, but their population was basically a mixture of Orthodox and Catholic religions and traditions. These cities were incorporated into Montenegro only after the fall of Austria-Hungary. In those cities, stronger influences of medieval and renaissance architecture, painting, and lyric poetry can be found.


Most Montenegrins are Eastern Orthodox Christians, belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church, Montenegrin Orthodox Church. There are also Muslims belonging to Sunni Islam, as well as a small number of Roman Catholic Montenegrins. Though nearly 17% of Montenegro's population is Muslim, not all Muslims in the country are ethnically Montenegrin, but many are Bosniaks (descendants of Slavs who converted to Islam in the 15th and 16th centuries who were prodimant in the old Sanzak region) or Albanians. Further, some declare to be "Muslims by nationality", but speak Montenegrin as a mother tongue.


See also

External links


0 Note: The majority of people originating from within Montenegro's present borders declare ethnic affiliation in censuses as Serb. Thus, it is difficult to establish the exact numbers; up to few million people in Serbia and BiH might have one or more ancestors from Montenegro.

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