Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Montenegro (Crna-Gora)

Capital : Titograd


The Montenegrins are descended from Slavic tribes from the Baltic and Germany who colonized the Balkan peninsula in the C6th, and the native Illyrians. There were some Roman settlements in the Province of Prevalis and these Christianized the area. This is the only one of the Yugoslav states not to have experienced a great deal of migration, probably due to the mountains which made access and farming difficult. Most areas could not produce enough food to last the whole year and many communities resorted to banditry for survival.

It was part of Serbia from the late C12th and became independent under Venetian protection when Serbia was defeated by the Turks in 1389. The population was small but strongly resisted the Ottoman Turks, who invaded in 1499 and forced it to accept Turkish suzerainty but never completed subdued it. The upland clans, which were probably of Serbian origin and numbered about 100 000, were Orthodox Christians. The area was part of the Nemanja province of Zeta but when the Serbian state was driven north after the Battle of Kosovo it was cut off and began to be known as Crna Gora or Montenegro (both these names mean 'Black Mountain').

After 1516, the bishops began to rule Montenegro, gaining greater temporal powers than those of Serbia had. In 1696, the bishops of the Njegos clan established a continuous line of religious leaders. They strengthened the alliance with Russia dating from the C16th and drew a subsidy from this until 1767 after which they turned to the Habsburg monarchy. After the last Ottoman attack on Montenegro, beginning in 1785, was defeated by Montenegrin and Albanian forces led by an Albanian pasha in 1796, the country went back to Russia for support.

The most famous bishop was probably the last, Petar Petrovic Njegos, who was also a well-known poet, but even he was unable to collect taxes or administer a centralized legal system. In 1851, he was appointed as his successor a secular ruler, his nephew, Danilo, who managed to establish a legal code and a unified army but was assassinated in 1859. Under his successor, Prince Nikola, Montenegro doubled in size and acquired access to the Adriatic coast having previously been landlocked. After Russian encouragement, the European powers recognised it as independent after the bravery of its forces during the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877-8 but the Treaty of Berlin put it under Habsburg supervision.

During the C19th, the Principality of Montenegro was smaller, more isolated and less developed than the other Yugoslav territories but it managed to escape foreign occupation, separate itself from Serbia and conduct diplomatic relations with the rest of Europe. The population was only about 60 000 by the mid C19th. This increased to 117 000 when the new territories were added and had risen to 185 000 by 1900. Education was heavily invested in and literacy increased dramatically. More inland territory was added after the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 with Montenegro doubling in size again and bringing a large Muslim Turk population into the country, much of which was either forced to emigrate or to convert to Orthodoxy. The total population was now about 500 000, including many Serbs who objected to the autocratic rule of Prince Nikola, who had refused to recognise the election victory of the newly formed People's Party in 1905. He used the title of king from 1910 on.

Montenegro had allied itself with the Serbs against the Turks in 1912 but was not in favour of political unity with Serbia. It was becoming more difficult to maintain the independence of the small nation and the idea of a Yugoslav state gathered support. It was overrun by Austria during the First World War and when King Nikola was deposed in 1918, voted to become part of Serbia. In 1946, it became a republic of Yugoslavia, the second state of that name, which was after further Balkan conflict in 1945-6 as the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito, a Croatian. There were six republics: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro, and two autonomous regions, Kosovo and Vojvodina.

The Communist state, against expectation, outlasted the death of Tito in 1980. There was much rivalry amongst the various Communist parties of the different republics and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 further weakened and eventually destroyed the single League of Communists. In Montenegro, a new Communist leader was installed by Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia in 1989. This young reforming leader, Momir Bulatovic, also won the republic's first multi-party elections in 1991 and the League of Communists retained power. He supported the continued existence of the Yugoslavian state, and sided with in the 1991-2 conflict with Slovenia and Croatia, which wanted to secede. Macedonia voted to remain part of the Yugoslav federation in a referendum of March 1992 but this was boycotted by the Muslim and Albanian communities. In the December elections, the Democratic Party of Socialists won a small overall majority in parliament and later formed a coalition with the People's Party, the Liberal Alliance and the Social Democratic Party. In the second round of presidential elections in January 1993, Momir Bulatovic was elected president. With Serbia, Montenegro remains within the rump state of Yugoslavia.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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