Republic of Montenegro

Republic of Montenegro

Geographically, Montenegro is situated in the central Mediterranean. It has a wide swath of land on the Adriatic Sea, and borders on Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, with which it is a common state. The name Montenegro (Serbian: Crna Gora) is derived from the dark pine forests that cover the steep ledges of the coastal mountain ranges. The same name was fixed for Montenegro in Western languages (English, French, German, Spanish, etc.), but comes from the Italian Monte Negro (translated as the same Black Mountain), which suggests the ancient ties of the region with Italy (especially with Venice). In the Middle Ages Montenegro was also called Duklja and Zeta.

There are four physiographic zones within the borders of the Republic: The narrow coastal plain, occupied by beaches, hotels and recreational facilities; the coastal mountain ranges (Orien, Lovcen, Rumija), the front edge of the Balkan mountain country; the inland plains lying near the coast of Lake Skadar and along the Moraca and Zeta rivers; Inland mid-mountains with more than two kilometers of height massifs Durmitor, Bjelasica, Sinyavina (the highest point of Montenegro is Mount Bobotov Kuk, the top of which rises to 2,522 meters above sea level). The coastline of the Adriatic Sea within the Republic is not so long – nearly 300 km, the shoreline is much less indented than in Croatia, only a few hundred kilometers to the north-west. Only the Bay of Kotor, which is called the southernmost fjord of the Northern Hemisphere, is inshore.

Montenegrin climatologists believe that within their country is the wettest place in Europe. This area is Krivošije, lying in the mountains above Kotor. However, despite the abundant moisture, this area lacks moisture. Rainfall water is immediately lost in the karst cracks and sinkholes in the famous Balkan limestone paddies. Running through the system of underground rivers and cavities, the filtered, purified and mineralized water pours out in springs with healing properties.

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Fragments of History

In spite of the fact that among all former Yugoslav republics Montenegro is the smallest (the area is not more than 14 thousand km2) and sparsely populated, it has a reputation of the territory with the longest continuous statehood in the Balkans. Montenegrins are known for their love of freedom, tenacity and irreconcilability to invaders. The Montenegrins successfully defended their independence against the Byzantine Empire, and when a new powerful and cruel occupant – the Ottoman Empire appeared in the Balkans, the Montenegrins fearlessly stood up to fight this enemy. The domination of the Turks in Montenegro lasted only about 200 years, from 1496 to 1669, but even then it was not complete. In the inaccessible mountainous valleys of Montenegro, the proud mountain Slavs could not tolerate the presence of foreign troops for long.

A peculiarity of Montenegro’s political regime in the post-Ottoman period was the concentration of the supreme – both secular and spiritual – power in the same hands. The independent principality was for a long time ruled by lords – princes and metropolitans in one person. The place of stay of the reigning court became the mountain stronghold Cetinje – the ancient capital of Montenegro. The mountain Slavic principality reached the greatest blossoming during the reign of lord Peter II Negoš (1830-1851) – not only the statesman and the church figure, but also the poet and the educator. Peter II, like his father Peter I, was a fervent advocate of rapprochement with Russia, both politically and culturally. In addition, this ruler managed to create a favorable image of Montenegro at leading European courts and achieve the final establishment of the principality as an independent state. As a result of the Russian-Turkish war of 1878 Montenegro almost doubled its territory and reached the Adriatic. Under the last prince Nikola Petrovic (1860-1918) Montenegro became the kingdom (1910) and took part in the unsuccessful for itself First World War. Though Montenegro stayed in the Entente camp, the situation on the front with its main enemy, Austria-Hungary, did not develop in the best way, and in 1916. Montenegro was forced to capitulate, and the royal court was taken away to allied Italy. It was the evacuation of the ruling dynasty of Montenegro that prevented the country from a loud assertion of its rights at the creation of a unified Yugoslav state in 1918. Therefore, for several decades Montenegro found itself essentially absorbed by Serbia, leading the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later renamed Yugoslavia.

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During World War II, Montenegro was occupied by Fascist Italy. During the years of armed resistance to aggression at the hands of Italian and German fascists and local nationalists who joined them, almost one in ten Montenegrins died. As a result of liberation from Nazism the Socialist Republic of Montenegro was proclaimed as a part of SFRY. Despite the dramatic events of the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the early 90s, Montenegro remained faithful to Pan-Slavism and, together with Serbia, formed a bifurcated renewed Yugoslav federation. This new union, by the way, was not recognized by the U.S. for a long time, referring to Serbia and Montenegro exclusively separately. Since March 14, 2002, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia became known as Serbia and Montenegro.

Population

Like most other Yugoslav republics (only Slovenia is an obvious exception), Montenegro is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional region. Although the population of the republic is predominantly Montenegrins (62%), there are also many minority nationalities, such as Slavs-Muslims (14.6%), Serbs (9.3%) and Albanians (6.6%). Despite the mosaic national composition, Montenegro has never encountered either overt ethnic manifestations or domestic nationalism. Even relations with Albanians, extremely difficult in other parts of the former greater Yugoslavia, are fairly peaceful here. It should be taken into account that the militant circles of Albanians, who want to create a Greater Albania, intend to add a large chunk of Montenegro to their future possessions. Their claims mainly extend to the southeast of the republic. Here, in the area of the city of Ulcinj, are the places of compact residence of the Albanians.

Montenegrins speak a dialect of Serbian. Both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets are used in the republic. The use of Albanian language is legalized in the areas inhabited by the Albanians. According to religion, 69% of Montenegrins belong to Orthodox Church, 19% are Muslim, and 4% are Catholics. In 1998 in the republic lived 650 thousand people.

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