History of Montenegro

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The history of Montenegro encompasses both developments in the Montenegrin Republic and developments on its territory from ancient times to its founding.

Old map of Montenegro from 1862 (author Heinrich Kiepert )

Ancient and Byzantine rule

The Illyrians settled in the region of today's Montenegro since the Iron Age . Some Illyrian tribes founded small kingdoms, the Labeaten and Ardiärer . When the Romans were able to subdue the Illyrian tribes in the Illyrian-Roman Wars , they were partially Romanized. The cities of Bar , Doclea and Ulcinj are originally Illyrian. The territory of today's Montenegro comes with the division of the Roman Empire in 395 to the Italian prefecture of the province of Illyria and shares the fate of the Western Roman Empire during the Germanic migrations ( Ostrogoths , Vandals ). After the incorporation into the Eastern Roman Empire in 535 under Justinian I, the Byzantine administration remained until 1077, even when South Slavic tribes following the Avars assimilated the Romanized population in the 7th century and formal Byzantine control, especially through the Arab storm during the 7th century . and 8th century could not be effectively exercised. Only the Macedonian dynasty regained control of the coastal towns of Risan , Kotor , Bar and Budva in the theme of Dalmatia (869), to which the present-day Montenegrin territory belonged . While the coastal cities experienced continuous development from ancient times to the Middle Ages, the inland was characterized by a complete lack of urban continuity. The first historical mention of the culturally and historically important Kotor , which replaced the ancient Rizon as the capital of the Bay of Kotor , fell in the period of Basil I (867-886). After the reign of Basil II (976-1025), under which the Eastern Roman Empire reached its medieval climax, the empire fell into a protracted crisis due to the invasion of the Seljuks.

middle Ages

When Byzantium was in dire straits due to the consequences of the Battle of Mantzikert in 1071, the South Slav peoples seized the opportunity and formally separated themselves from Byzantium, which was underlined by the Roman Curia with the coronation of local princes. The now strengthened, still weak principalities of the region between Dubrovnik and Cattaro (Kotor), in which the nucleus of the first Serbian nation-state can be seen in the Middle Ages, only became a result of the catastrophic defeat in the battle of Myriokephalon in 1176 by the Byzantines against the Turks Independent in the 12th century. The Western Balkans can break free from the grip of a great power for three centuries, which is then renewed in the 15th century by the further advance of the Ottomans from Anatolia into the Balkans.

The first Serbian prince of the Duklja (Dioclitia) is named Peter (called Archon ) in the 10th century. Duklja temporarily recognized the sovereignty of the Serbian Greater Župan Časlavan . At the end of the 10th century , Duklja was ruled by Johann Wladimir (992-1016), who is referred to in Byzantine sources as the Serbian Princeps under the sovereignty of Byzantium. The Byzantine chronicler Johannes Skylitzes (Synopsis historiarum, Georgius Cedrenus Ioannis Scilitzae) named Johann Wladimir as the ruler of Tribalia and the surrounding areas of Serbia . In 998, Vladimir was captured by the Bulgarian Tsar Samuel . He married Samuel's daughter and was allowed to return to his homeland. Both were killed by Ivan Wladislaw , Samuel's nephew, in 1016 in Prespa ( Macedonia ).

Johann Wladimir followed Stefan Vojislav as Archon of the Duklja (around 1040-1052), the son of Dragomir. He is considered the progenitor of the Vojislavić family . Ioannis Scilitza named Stefan Vojislav as the archon of the Serbs, the Duklja named Serbia (Servia). Another Byzantine chronicler, Kekänkeos , who reported on the armed conflicts between the Duklja and Byzantium, referred to Stefan Vojislav as a Travunian Serbs ( Travunia , old name for the east of Herzegovina ) in his work "Strategikon" . Stefan Vojislav fought for the independence of the Duklja from Byzantium, and at the same time brought Travunia and Hum in today's Bosnia and Herzegovina under his sovereignty. His son Mihailo Vojisavljević (1052-1081) extended his territory for a short time in Bosnia and Raszien made and received in 1077 by Pope Gregory VII. The royal crown. In 1089 a Catholic archbishopric was established in Bar for all Serbian countries between (the rivers) Cetina (south of Split ) , Save (between Old Serbia and Vojvodina ) , Drin (northern Albania) and Boyana (between Albania and Montenegro). Konstantin Bodin (approx. 1081–1101), the son of Mihailos, reunited Bosnia and Rascia under the sovereignty of the Duklja. After his death the kingdom of the Duklja broke up and the center of gravity of the Serbian lands shifted to Raszien, under whose rule the Duklja later came.

The Duklja was part of the Serbian state of the Nemanjids (1168-1371). With the breakup of the Serbian Empire under Stefan Uroš V , an independent principality called Zeta was established in 1360 under the Balšić dynasty (from 1360-1421). After the Balšićs died out, the Zeta came under the rule of the Raszischen princes Stefan Lazarević and Đurađ Branković for a short time in 1421 . Since 1427 the Crnojevići ruled the Zeta. The Ottoman Empire , which had ruled most of the Balkans since the 15th century , contented itself with control over the coastal towns and the poljes of Grahovo and Nikšić in Montenegro . The Tımar system was not applied to Montenegro. Since 1496, part of what is now Montenegro was formally subordinate to a governor based in Žabljak on Lake Skadar. From 1530 the territories of Montenegro, which were under Ottoman suzerainty, belonged to the Sanjak of Shkodra . The core area of ​​the Zeta, characterized by inhospitable mountain and karst nature, as well as the lack of strategic larger settlements, was never completely dominated politically.

Ruler of Zeta in the 14th and 15th centuries




  • Rade († 1396), in Budva and the surrounding area
  • Đurađ and Alexander (1396–1427?) In Budva and the surrounding area
  • Stefan I (1427–1465) Prince of Zeta
  • Ivan I (1465-1490)
  • Đurađ (1490–1496)
  • Stefan II (1496–1498)
  • Ivan II (1498-1515)
  • Đurađ (1515-1516)

16th to 19th century

The Return of Montenegrin Refugees to their Home Village by Jaroslav Čermák , 1877

After 1528 the Orthodox bishops of Cetinje were formally at the head of the community. In 1603 the Sultan recognized the autonomy of Montenegro. This is the beginning of the modern history of Montenegro as a state. In fact was this "state" but an inside only loosely connected, embossed by rival clan structures community , which - without modern bureaucratic state leadership - under the most likely symbolic leadership of the respective bishop mainly by the external threat of the Ottomans and the resulting common Combat experience was held together. A skilfully acting bishop - under the title Vladika (Wladika) - could, however, also be more than a symbolic leader and temporarily unite spiritual and secular power - on the condition of cooperation with the leaders of the free Montenegrin mountain tribes. Since 1697 the office of Vladika in the Petrović Njegosch family had become hereditary. It was always passed on from uncle to nephew, since Orthodox bishops had to be unmarried and therefore could not have legitimate descendants. This uncle-nephew successor of Petrović even survived the abolition of the prince-bishopric in 1852, as the first secular prince (knez) of the Petrović family, Danilo I, remained childless and in 1860, Nikola I, was also succeeded by a nephew .

In addition to powerful and influential Vladikas - for example the founder of the episcopal dynasty Danilo I (1697–1735) or Petar I (1782–1830), who successfully defended and enlarged the territory against the Turks - the Petrović dynasty also had weak figures, who only nominally held power and next to whom usurpers such as the adventurer Stefan Mali established themselves as the alleged Russian tsar Peter III. reigned as the de facto ruler of Montenegro for several years around 1770 until his assassination. In 1781/82 the Petrović even seem to have been ousted from their top position for a short time by a Wladika from the Plamenac clane. At the same time, a secular "governor" (guvernature) from the Radonić clan was established, whose successor could only be ousted after 1830. Thus, until well into the 19th century, rule in Montenegro was based on authoritarian-patriarchal clan structures and personal relationships, marriage networks and alliances based on them.

Meanwhile, part of today's Montenegrin coastal area around the Bay of Kotor was under Venetian rule and was then known as Venetian Albania . In 1797 this area, like the former Venetian Dalmatia, became part of the Austrian monarchy as the Kingdom of Dalmatia . Between 1803 and 1814, the Montenegrins repeatedly hoped to join the port city of Kotor to their state because the Austrians were weakened by Napoleon , but they did not succeed.

In 1868 Austria-Hungary passed a new military law that provided for a service period of several years for all conscripts. The population of the Krivošije region near Kotor fought against this plan and there was fighting between insurgents and army units supported by the Austro-Hungarian Navy . In 1882 there was another uprising in the Krivošije, which made the intervention of the navy necessary. The area around the Bay of Kotor remained part of the province of Dalmatia, which belonged to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy , until 1918 . From the last third of the 19th century it was used as an important base for the Austro-Hungarian Navy, which had stationed naval aircraft and submarines there in addition to warships from the beginning of the 20th century .

After 1830, two powerful representatives of the Petrović family succeeded, Wladika Petar II. Petrović-Njegoš (1813–1851) and his successor Daniel II (1852–1860), who was briefly called Wladika, but then as secular prince (Daniel I .) ruled to curb the clan conflicts, to smash competing claims to leadership and to establish approaches to a modern state administration. However, it was precisely the attempt to enforce the regulatory competence of a modern “state” over traditional thought patterns that led to the murder of Prince Daniel in 1860.

Montenegro map.png

His nephew and successor Nicholas I (1860–1918) continued the authoritarian modernization policy of his two predecessors more smoothly and successfully. Nicholas I tried to free his country from dependence on Austria. In addition, the principality bound itself to the Russian Empire . There had been connections since the time of Peter the Great and Vlads Daniel I. Russia towards the end of the 19th century had a strong interest in the Balkans because it pursued a policy of weakening the Ottoman Empire and conquering parts of it in the Balkans To gain shore connection to the Bosporus and thus to obtain an unhindered passage of his ships through the Bosporus . Russian support initially took advantage of the small Montenegro, but increasingly brought it into a new vassal relationship. In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877/78, Montenegro (alongside Serbia and Romania) sided with the Russian victor.

Independence of Montenegro in 1878

At the Berlin Congress that followed the war in 1878, the independence of Montenegro from the major European powers, agreed in the Peace of San Stefano , was recognized, and the country was awarded the Port of Bar . Montenegro had its own access to the sea for the first time. In the period that followed, the Montenegrins were able to forcibly wrest various areas from the weakened Ottoman Empire and double their national territory by 1913. The country received a code of law based on foreign models, built up a modern bureaucracy, at the head of which for the first time a government cabinet under a "Prime Minister" was established in 1879 (but typically an uncle of the Prince until 1905), and in the military sector, in addition to traditional volunteer associations (the more like guerrilla troops) a small army trained and financed by Russia was built up.

Territorial development of Montenegro since 1830

However, these successes also led to problems: With every increase in the area, Montenegro received an increase in population: people who had nothing to do with the Petrovic dynasty and the established balance of power, including a strong Albanian minority, partly Catholic, partly Muslim. The high population growth in Montenegro towards the end of the 19th century, which doubled the population density in the country between 1860 and 1910, led to increasing emigration and a widespread "guest worker" phenomenon with a focus on Serbia, in the Ottoman Empire, in the absence of economic development opportunities and especially in the US. These "guest workers" not only sent foreign currency home, but also brought new ideas into the country that accelerated and exacerbated the country's modernization crisis after 1900.

Proclamation for the re-establishment of the first Serbian kingdom (line 6) by King Nikola in 1910
King Nicholas of Montenegro, propaganda postcard (around 1914)

After 1900, the domestic and foreign policy situation of the Principality of Montenegro deteriorated . The 1903 military coup in Belgrade, which brought the Karađorđević dynasty and the Serbian Radical Party to power along with a politicizing officer caste, had a signal effect . The "South Slav" idea of ​​unity, which Prince Nikolaus had previously tried to claim for himself as a representative of the oldest Balkan dynasty, quickly passed to the economically and militarily more powerful neighboring state, which had long had a constitution and parliament. To many Montenegrins - especially the educated younger generation - Montenegro now appeared backward and secondary. From the point of view of the rulers in Montenegro, it was particularly problematic that Russia's benevolence was increasingly turning to the “new” Serbia. In 1907 a bomb attack against the dynasty, presumably organized in Serbia, was foiled with difficulty. Since then, opposition groups in Montenegro have been severely persecuted by the police.

The prince and his entourage tried to control the crisis by hastily obtaining a constitution and a parliament in 1905 - not by chance in the year of the first Russian revolution. In the period that followed, however, both were restricted again in favor of monarchical rule, and quite a few opposition politicians - including Prime Minister Radowitsch, who was temporarily in office in 1907 - went into exile. Nicholas I managed to stabilize his rule again: in 1910, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his reign, he was promoted from prince to king of Montenegro by a compliant parliament - not least to draw level with his Serbian rival. In terms of foreign policy, the small kingdom leaned on Russia and Italy, relations with neighboring Austria-Hungary (shared border with southern Dalmatia) were not particularly good, although tactical approaches were sometimes made here too.

100 perper . Gold minted on the occasion of the elevation of Nicholas I to king

The compulsion to create new agricultural land for an exploding young population has been resolved time and again by Montenegro (as well as by other Balkan states) through wars of liberation against the Ottoman Empire with simultaneous murder or expulsion of Muslims and the seizure of their agricultural land. In addition to this social-imperialism, the competing prestige memory of the monarchs and governments in the Balkans also played a role that triggered the war. In the case of the First Balkan War, which was started in October 1912 by the small state of Montenegro against the Ottoman Empire (the other allied Balkan states attacked a little later), stock market speculation by King Nicholas is said to have played a role. In any case, with these Balkan Wars (1912/13) the antagonism between Montenegro and the Danube Monarchy intensified : The latter wanted at all costs to prevent Serbia from getting an overland route to the Adriatic, which was caused by Montenegro (whose union with Serbia at that time was only a question of Time seemed to be) was thwarted by the fact that it occupied the Albanian city of Shkodra in the spring of 1913, after a long siege with heavy losses . The Viennese diplomacy had given this to the newly founded buffer state Albania . Since Austria-Hungary threatened war, all major European powers forced Montenegro to withdraw from Shkodra. The city of Ulcinj (Alb. Ulqin ), which is mostly inhabited by Albanians , stayed with Montenegro, but this did not mitigate the severe loss of prestige for King Nicholas and his government. In the Second Balkan War, which was waged in 1913 between Bulgaria and all other participants in the First Balkan War and Romania, Montenegro only played the role of the Serbian junior partner. As a result, in the spring of 1914, the Montenegrin government - under both Russian and domestic pressure - was forced to negotiate with Serbia about the establishment of a common federal state. Only the sudden beginning of the First World War shattered these unification plans.

First World War

Signing of the surrender of Montenegro on January 23, 1916
For the authenticity of the photo of the signature

In August 1914, Montenegro entered World War I on Serbia's side. On the territory of Montenegro, the Lovćen Pass was located above Cattaro , from which the base of the warring Austro-Hungarian Navy in the Bay of Kotor could be observed and shot at. This position was expanded by allied French batteries. But the Austrian warships "SMS Radetzky" and other ships managed to destroy these positions. In January 1916, Austro-Hungarian army and naval units were able to capture the pass. This enabled the expansion of the Austrian facilities in the now secured port, which also developed into the most important submarine base for the Austro-Hungarian Navy. From here the enemy ships were pushed back through the Strait of Otranto . After the conquest of Serbia in November 1915, German and Austrian troops occupied Montenegro in their campaign in Montenegro in January 1916, which led to the involuntary end of independence. Military Governor General of Government of Montenegro was Viktor Weber Edler von Webenau . The king and government fled into exile (first to Italy, then to France). Even after the defeat of the Central Powers, they should not return. Montenegro lost 20,000 soldiers in the World War, 40% of all mobilized and 10% of the total population. Other figures even speak of 39,000 and 16% total casualties, making Montenegro the worst affected war participant of all.

The end of the war, which Montenegro actually found on the side of the victorious powers, did nothing to change that. Under the assertion that Nikola had tried to conclude a separate peace with the enemy, and with the help of an allegedly manipulated "National Assembly" (an assertion by opponents of the State Union of Serbia-Montenegro; in fact 90% of the MPs from 1914 were there, about 70% voted for the unification with Serbia to form a common South Slavic state) the country was unified with Serbia ( November 29, 1918 ) and then part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes ( First Yugoslavia ). After attempts at rebellion loyal to the king were suppressed in 1919 and protests by the government-in-exile against the international community were unsuccessful, King Nicholas I died in France in 1921, and the government-in-exile dissolved in 1922.

Montenegro as part of Yugoslavia

Between the world wars

Within the South Slavic Kingdom created in 1918, the old national borders were not taken into account in the administrative structure; Montenegro did not exist politically at this time. Politically, the population of Montenegro was deeply divided around 1920 on the question of independence or unification with Serbia - similar to again in the 1990s.

Second World War

In the Second World War, Montenegro came under Italian occupation from 1941 after the military defeat of Yugoslavia by German troops . The Italians proclaimed an "Independent State of Montenegro" and tried to reestablish a Petrović monarchy allied with Italy: The then Italian Queen Elena, wife of Viktor Emanuel III. 'was a daughter of King Nicholas', but her nephew Prince Michael - the head of the Petrović dynasty at the time - seems to have refused to collaborate. Therefore, between 1941 and 1943 there was only one “National Committee” under Blažo Đukanović . The armed partisan resistance (partly communist and anti-fascist, partly pro-Serb and monarchist) made both the Italian and the German occupying power, which followed shortly after 1943/44, controversial.

After the Second World War

After the Second World War , Montenegro (now including the area around the Bay of Kotor , but excluding the area around the city of Peć, which was briefly part of Montenegro from 1913 ) was restored as one of the six republics of the now socialist Yugoslavia ( Second Yugoslavia ). The republic was one of those areas of Yugoslavia that showed major economic development deficits. The communists tried to remedy this by promoting heavy industry. The largest project was the construction of the Nikšić steelworks. In 1976, Montenegro was given a rail link to the rest of Yugoslavia for the first time with the elaborate mountain railway from Belgrade to Bar .


In 1992, after Croatia and Slovenia left the state association, Montenegro decided to remain in association with Serbia and became part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ( Third Yugoslavia ).

After the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s , the differences between Montenegro and Serbia increased because the population of the smaller country of Montenegro no longer wanted to bear the isolation and the burden of the war. The government of Prime Minister Đukanović, who has ruled since the beginning of the 1990s, sought to break away from Serbia. More and more areas, for example with the official introduction of the D-Mark, which had already dominated the black market, also currency policy, were transferred from the jurisdiction of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to that of the Republic in a legal gray area. Despite this policy, Montenegro suffered from the sanctions, especially economically, and the once flourishing tourism was almost exclusively restricted to guests from Serbia.

Montenegro deliberately stayed out of the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s. In the course of the NATO attacks in the Kosovo war , Montenegro was excluded from the NATO attack, although objects and cities in Montenegro were bombed. However, the international community wanted to prevent a permanent replacement of Montenegro.

Federation of States "Serbia and Montenegro"

Map of Montenegro and Serbia

In view of the crisis, in which Serbia was in the midst of losing the Kosovo war and for which no solution was in sight in terms of domestic or foreign policy, the Montenegrin government sought to sever ties with Serbia. In addition, as the much smaller member state in the two-state federation, Montenegro had little chance of asserting its own interests. Only under pressure from the European Union , Montenegro refrained from secession in 2002 and agreed with Serbia on the establishment of a loose association of two independent states called Serbia and Montenegro . After three years, it should be possible to leave this confederation.

In spring 2003, a smuggling and trafficking in women scandal rocked Montenegro. Several ministers and even the prime minister or temporary president Milo Đukanović, who has ruled since 1991, are also said to have been involved. In the following investigation, however, nothing could be proven. However, there are doubts about the independence of the process.

In a referendum on May 21, 2006 on independence and thus on the further status of the Union with Serbia, 55.5 percent of those eligible to vote voted for its dissolution and thus for the independence of Montenegro. With the declaration of independence of the Montenegrin parliament on June 3, 2006 this was formally implemented.

Independent Montenegro in the 21st century

Since Montenegro was the part of the state that had left the common union with Serbia and the treaties had been transferred to Serbia as the successor state, it had to re-conclude all international treaties as an independent state and reapply for membership from all international organizations. As the legal successor, Serbia took over all previous joint seats of the State Union.

Croatia , North Macedonia (then Macedonia ) and the EU member states recognized Montenegro on June 12, 2006 . Among other things, the Croatian government expressed the hope that good neighborly relations would develop, with the wish for a friendly reappraisal of the role of Montenegro in the Yugoslav wars and in questions of restitution.

On September 10, 2006, the first parliamentary elections after the declaration of independence took place, from which the coalition of DPS (33 seats, Democratic Socialist Party), SDP (5 seats, Social Democratic Party), BP (3 seats Bosniak Party) and LDP (3rd Seats, Albanian party) emerged victorious (44 of the total of 80 parliamentary seats). The opposition had 36 seats. The turnout was around 70%.

Filip Vujanović, the incumbent President of Montenegro, was also able to assert himself against his rival Miodrag Lekić in the 2013 presidential election .

On June 5, 2017, Montenegro became a member of NATO .

See also


  • Katrin Boeckh: Serbia, Montenegro. History and present. Pustet, Regensburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-7917-2169-9 .
  • Caspar Heer: Territorial development and border issues of Montenegro in the time of its state formation. 1830-1887. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1981, ISBN 3-261-04899-9 .
  • Ulrike Tischler: The Habsburg policy towards the Serbs and Montenegrins 1791-1822. Funding or collection? Oldenbourg, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-486-56525-7 .

Web links

Commons : History of Montenegro  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Katrin Boeckh: Serbia, Montenegro. Past and present . Pustet, Regensburg 2009, p. 40.
  2. Kenneth Morrison: Montenegro. A modern history . Tauris, London 2009, ISBN 978-1-84511-710-8 , p. 17.
  3. Šerbo Rastoder: A short review of the history of Montenegro . In: Florian Bieber (Ed.): Montenegro in transition. Problems of identity and statehood . Nomos, Baden-Baden 2003, ISBN 3-8329-0072-1 , pp. 107-137, here p. 113.
  4. Šerbo Rastoder: Montenegro 1914–1991 . In: Österreichisches Ost- und Südosteuropa-Institut (Ed.): Serbia and Montenegro: Space and Population, History, Language and Literature, Culture, Politics, Society, Economy, Law . Lit, Münster 2006, ISBN 3-8258-9539-4 , pp. 315-332, here p. 319.
  5. ^ Arnold Suppan : Yugoslavia and Austria 1918–1938. Bilateral foreign policy in the European environment. Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, Vienna 1996, ISBN 3-486-56166-9 , p. 30.
  6. Republic of Montenegro Parliamentary Elections 10 September 2006 OSCE / ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report - Annex 1 Official Results of the 10 September 2006 Parliamentary Elections
  7. nzz.ch