Montenegro History – Part I
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 7 th 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 14 th 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.