Nikola (Montenegro)

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Nikola I.
Monogram of King Nikola I.

Nikola I. Petrović Njegoš (born September 25th July / October 7th  1841 greg. In Njeguši , Montenegro, † March 1, 1921 in Antibes , France) was 1860-1910 prince and 1910-1918 king of Montenegro .


Nikola - sometimes also called Nikita - was born as the great-nephew of the ruling Prince-Bishop ( Vladika ) Petar II. Petrović-Njegoš of Montenegro and became heir to the throne under the reign of his uncle Danilo I (1852-1860), the first secular prince of Montenegro , since this male offspring were denied. When his uncle was murdered on August 13, 1860, his nephew succeeded him as Prince Nikola I. Succession to the throne forced the nineteen-year-old to break off his Western European education at the Paris Lycee Louis le Grand, which he received as the first member of his dynasty, and to return to Montenegro. When he on October 27 jul. / November 8th 1860 greg. Milena Vukotić († 1923) married, who was to give him three sons and nine daughters, this marriage was a symbol of the clan-related alliance structure of his rule. Nikola was to modernize this ruling structure considerably in the following period, before he himself fell victim to more far-reaching modernization processes.

Nikola I with Queen Milena (1899)

Its first military test was a war against the Ottoman Empire in 1862, which had claimed rule over Montenegro for centuries without ever enforcing it permanently. In the following period, Nikola seems to have subordinated himself to the Serbian liberation war plans of Prince Mihailo Obrenović of Serbia (1860–1868). After his assassination, however, the Montenegrin prince tried more and more to claim leadership of the reunification of all Serbs for his dynasty and his country. The domestically weak position of the following Obrenović rulers and their foreign policy likeness to Austria-Hungary (after 1878) actually made it possible for Nikola to play this role for a long time, closely following Russia , which he also played as a poet (in an attempt to succeed his great-uncle Peter II.) Claimed for himself (see his drama Die Balkanzarin . Balkanska Carica). In order to consolidate his social position in Serbia, he made Prince Peter Karageorgević his son-in-law. After a military coup in Belgrade in 1903, he ascended the Serbian throne as Peter I. After the liberation of the last Serbian territories from the Ottoman Empire in 1913 and from Austria-Hungary in 1918, the Montenegrin king was overthrown on November 26, 1918 by the decision of a manipulated Montenegrin national assembly in Podgorica and the Serbian king Peter I took over the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes proclaimed on December 18, 1918, to which Montenegro now also belonged.

Princely headwear of Queen Milena and King Nikola I.

Nikolas close ties to Russia initially paid off. After a common war against the Ottoman Empire, Montenegro was recognized as a sovereign principality at the Berlin Congress in 1878 , Tsar Alexander III. (1881–1894) later celebrated Nikola as “Russia's only friend”. The tsarist empire took on a far-reaching protector role against Montenegro and granted diplomatic protection, financial aid and military training. In return, it required unconditional obedience, which Nikola was only partially ready to obey. Nevertheless, the collaboration remained pretty close until 1903. Nikola managed to marry two of his daughters to Russian grand dukes, including the influential Nikolai Nikolayevich , and in return Russia propagated the appointment of a Petrović prince as governor-general of Crete in order to resolve a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and Greece, but this did not materialize . Even Nikolas promotion to a "Royal Highness" in 1900 required Russian support for international recognition. After the Belgrade coup, however, Russia turned increasingly to the larger and more powerful Serbia and advocated the unification of the two Serbian states.

Another important dynastic success was the marriage of Nikolas youngest daughter Elena to the Italian heir to the throne and later King Victor Emmanuel III. (1900-1946). The prince and his country could not derive any greater benefit from it.

After the Belgrade coup of 1903, Nicholas' political situation deteriorated more and more. Serbia increasingly became the recognized, militarily and economically more powerful carrier of the “Serbian Association” and the “South Slavic” ideas. This undermined Nikola's position within. In 1905 Nikola had to grant his country a constitution and a parliament, but the opposition's room for maneuver was drastically restricted. Numerous critics of his government were arrested, silenced or driven into exile. A compliant parliament finally elevated Nikola to the 50th anniversary of the reign on August 28, 1910 as King of Montenegro, which also received international recognition. The precarious situation of the dynasty hardly improved this. Although the old king still enjoyed great personal respect, the same could hardly be said of his sons and heirs to the throne, Princes Danilo and Mirko. Even then, many foreign observers expected that Montenegro would probably unite with Serbia after the death of Nicholas. The emergence of such a large “Serbian state” was, however, a thorn in the side for Austria-Hungary because it felt disturbed in its sphere of influence. This was also a reason for the settlement of Muslims between the Serbs , in the so-called Sanjak .

Prince Nicolaus of Montenegro

In an economic emergency and in the dynastic conflict of prestige, the Nikolas government urgently needed foreign policy and military success. In 1912, Montenegro took part in the " Balkan League ", a war alliance with Serbia , Bulgaria and Greece directed against the Ottoman Empire, which was originally initiated by Russia but then worked on its own account . It was Montenegro that became the first state to open combat operations in October 1912 - which linked hostile rumors to alleged stock market speculation by the Montenegrin king. “The old robber captain”, as the German Emperor Wilhelm II. Nikola I called internally contemptuously, had little military or political success in the First Balkan War of 1912/13. The losses of the Montenegrin army against the Turks were high, the conquest of the long besieged Scutari ( Shkodra ) only succeeded in 1913 through bribery and betrayal . It was all the more devastating that the major European powers forced Montenegro to withdraw immediately from Scutari in 1913 due to Austro-Hungarian pressure. This loss of territory was compensated with other territorial gains and paved the way for negotiations with the Kingdom of Serbia about the establishment of a common Serbian state, which began in the spring of 1914 .

Consequently, Nikola I found himself on the side of Serbia and thus the Entente at the beginning of the First World War in the summer of 1914 . The three-front war against Serbia at the end of 1915 led to the occupation of Montenegro by the Austro-Hungarian army at the beginning of 1916. But here later there were renewed rumors about the most extreme leadership errors, if not betrayal. Nikola - unlike his Serbian ally Peter I  - fatally did not choose to stay with his troops and attempt an orderly retreat with them, but simply went into exile in Italy with his government . This move seems to have ruined his prestige for good. Only his younger son Mirko, number two in the line of succession, remained in Austrian custody in Montenegro, which encouraged speculations about separate peace efforts between Nicolas and the Central Powers . Nikola and his government, on the other hand, went via allied Italy to allied France, where they stayed after the war.

When the Central Powers collapsed in autumn 1918 and the world war ended, a resolution by the “National Assembly” calling for unification with the Kingdom of Serbia in a common Serbian state was celebrated in November 1918.

In terms of domestic politics, Nikola I provided important modernization services for his country - especially between 1860 and 1900 - in particular in establishing a modern administration as well as in legal and educational systems. However, he was unable to solve the fundamental problem of economic underdevelopment with ever increasing population growth, especially since numerous Muslim residents of conquered areas preferred to flee or emigrate to a dangerous future in a hostile Orthodox state, thereby further weakening the already low urban traders and craftsmen . After 1900 it also became apparent that Nikola was unwilling to give up his traditional feudal-patriarchal rule in favor of modern forms of political participation, even if he was forced to take the path to becoming a constitutional state, at least formally. The increasingly obvious clan and clique rule of his last years secured him personal power.

The ex-king of Montenegro died on March 1, 1921 in Antibes, France. In October 1989 his remains (as well as those of his wife and two daughters) were transferred to Montenegro.


King Nikola I. Petrović Njegoš with his children and their spouses, around 1900
∞ King Peter I of Yugoslavia (1844–1921)
∞ Grand Duke Peter Nikolajewitsch Romanow (1864–1931)
Georg de Beauharnais (1852–1912)
∞ Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolajewitsch Romanow (1856–1929)
  • Marija (1869-1885)
  • Danilo (1871-1939) 
Jutta von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1880–1946)
∞ King Victor Emanuel III. (1869–1947)
  • Anna (1874–1971) 
Franz Joseph von Battenberg (1861–1924)
  • Sophia (* / † 1876)
  • Mirko (1879-1918)
  • Xenia (1881-1960)
  • Vera (1887-1927)
  • Peter (1889-1932) 
∞ Violet Ljubitza Wegner (1887–1960)


Web links

Commons : Nikola  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Local messages. Distinguished visitor .. In:  Badener Bezirks-Blatt , September 2, 1882, p. 3 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / bbb
predecessor Office successor
Danilo I. Prince of Montenegro
- King of Montenegro
Petar I. Karađorđević
(King of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes)
- Titular King of Montenegro
Danilo III.