Just as the nature, the history of Montenegro is very colourful. The turbulent life of Montenegro was spiced up by many people, but its permanent strive for freedom remained dominant throughout its history. Every part of Montenegro will tell the curious traveller many interesting stories from the various periods in time – from the grand Roman Empire to the modern times. Although its territory is rather small, this proud country has a lot to say when it comes to its history.
The name “Crna Gora” (Montenegro) is mentioned for the first time in the Charter of King Milutin, in 1276. It is believed that it got its name after the dense forests that covered Mount Lovcen and the surrounding area. The forests were so dark that the viewers got the impression of a “black” mountain.
During the Roman Empire, the territory of Montenegro was actually the territory of Duklja (Doclea). With the arrival of the Slovenes in the 7th century, Christianity quickly gained primacy in this region.
Duklja incorporated the area of Skadar Lake with the nearby mountains. The first Prince of Duklja was Vladimir. Duklja got its independence in 1040, and was proclaimed Kingdom in 1077. Thus, it became one of the first independent states in the Balkans. It was named Zeta, which in the old Slavic languages meant the harvesters.
Because of the common unrests and political upheavals, after the death of the rulers from the Vladimir and Vojisavljevic families, the Byzantium gained dominance over Zeta. The great ruler Nemanja, who took the leading position in this region in 1185, did not change the status of Zeta as an independent state, which it had in the past. In the 14th century, under the leadership of the Balsic and Crnojevic dynasties, it became an independent feudal state and slowly expanded, fighting tirelessly the armies such as the Albanian, and later on, the Turkish and the Venetian one.
During the period of the Crnojevic’s rule, due to the strong attacks of the Turkish army, the people, together with the Crnojevic family, had to retreat towards the Lovcen Mountain. Ivan Crnojevic chose Cetinje as his base and constructed a castle and a monastery there. Cetinje thus became the synonym of spiritual freedom and freedom of the state. Djuradj Crnojevic, the son of Ivan Crnojevic, ruled for a short period of time, but left invaluable wealth. During his rule, in 1493, the first printing shop in the Balkans was opened, and one year later, in 1494, the first book was printed – “Oktoih” (Octoechos).
The Turks took the rule over Montenegro in 1496 and join it to the Skadar province. Irrespective of that fact, Montenegro kept a high level of autonomy, and fully regained its independence in 1645.
Then the spiritual leaders, bishops take the rule in Montenegro and also take over the management of the country. At the time, the authorities in Montenegro were the All-Montenegrin Assembly and the Assembly of chiefs, while on the lower levels there were meetings of the chiefs. In 1697, the Montenegrin Assembly elevted Danilo I as the bishop. At that time the establishment of the Petrovic dynasty has started, as well as their fight for the unity of religion and politics.
Petar I Petrovic ( 1784 – 1830 ) is one of the most renowned persons in the Montenegrin history. Lead by him, Montenegro strengthened its independence, and after the great victories over the more numerous Turkish army, it freed itself from the Turkish influence and domination.
He unified the Montenegrin clans and brought them closer to the coastal population, as the coast was under the influence of Austro-Hungary at the time. The successor of Petar I Petrovic was Petar II Petrovic Njegos. He was an extraordinary statesman, philosopher and writer. During his rule, this superb ruler established the state institutions, administrative and state authorities. He maintained links with Russia and engaged often in the fights against the Turks. He wrote many literary works, such as “Gorski vijenac” (“The Mountain Wreath”) and “Luca mikrokozma” (“The light of microcosm), which made him one of the greatest writers of the world. During the rule of his successor, Danilo, the sovereignty of Montenegro was strengthened further and formally recognized. The important victory against the Turks in the Grahovac battle in 1858 contributed to that.
Montenegrin people, although significantly weaker in numbers, won in a significant number of battles against the Turks. During his rule the Prince and King Nikola enabled Montenegro to achieve significant political objectives. Lead by him, Montenegro recovered Bar and Ulcinj, and thus got a part of the Adriatic coast, and it also recovered Podgorica, Kolasin and Niksic. At the Berlin Congress, Montenegro received full international recognition. The fact that Montenegro was the only country in the Balkans that successfully fought against the Otoman Empire impressed Europe, and Montenegro became a kingdom in 1910.
The 20th century represented a difficult period for Montenegro, as it lost its independence at the time and it disappeared from the political map of Europe. When the World War I broke out, Montenegro sided with Serbia and the allies. In 1916, after surrendering to Austro-Hungary, King Nikola went to exile. He spent a period of time in Italy, and then went to France. The attempts of the King and his Government to influence the events in Montenegro at the time were not successful. Serbia annexed Montenegro in 1918 and thus Montenegro lost everything that it gained through the centuries: its statehood, army and dynasty.
With the fall of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia before the fascist Germany in World War II, Montenegro proved again that the spirit of freedom cherished by its people did not disappear. On July 13, 1941, a large number of Montenegrins stood up against the Italian occupiers.
After World War II Montenegro improved its legal and state status and became one of the six equal republics of the Yugoslav federation..
After the turbulent years, in the end of the 20th century, and after the disintegration of former Yugoslavia, Montenegro remained in the union with Serbia, thus these two republics formed the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.
Most citizens at referendum held on May 21, 2006 voted independence of Montenegro. Thus today Montenegro is an independent state internationally recognized. UN received Montenegro as 192nd country member on July 27, 2006.
Every Montenegrin will be proud to speak to you for hours about his history and his ancestors.