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Dreams of the Montenegrin man

The political dreams of the Montenegrin man, obsessed with the glory of the Nemanics and the Serbian empire, easily envisioned a great Orthodox Christian empire - Russia, with whose help the Serbian dream would materialize. Here lies only a part of the answer to the question of how a completely unknown man, posing as Peter III (consort of Empress Catherine II of Russia), came to rule Montenegro. This man, whose antecedents remain unknown to this day, was the Impostor Tsar Scepan the Small (Stefanino Piccolo in Venetian sources). He came to Montenegro at a time of great internal, disorder, banditry had intensified, and tribal anarchy and legal insecurity had attained unprecedented proportions. In the autumn of 1767, Scepan's smooth bearing of a Russian Emperor proved highly successful, arousing no suspicion even in Bishop Sava. But, it cannot be said that the bishop was completely careless: he informed the Russian envoy in Constantinople about the appearance of the "Russian tsar." The envoy replied that the man was an impostor. The bishop sent copies of the reply to the nahiyes, which fanned a conflict from which Scepan emerged victorious, even unto managing to have the bishop incarcerated in prison for several weeks.

Scepan's appearance in Montenegro disturbed the Sublime Porte, the Russian Court and Venice. Their attitude to the impostor reflected the degree of their interest in Montenegro. The methods employed in their efforts to remove the impostor are also highly revealing: Venice at once saw the solution as lying in poisoning the impostor (and offered a reward of 200 sequins), while Empress Catherine II sent a special emissary with orders to induce the Montenegrins to expel the impostor. Their reply was that their first loyalty was to God, and then to Peter III. The problem (and not only for Scepan) came from Turkey, which intervened militarily. Under the command of Bosnian Vizier Osman-pasha, the Turkish army launched its main assault against Niksic. the Montenegrin army, numbering some 2,000 men accompanied by Scepan, met the Turks in the Ostrog Pass in early September of 1768. The superior Turkish army won a swift victory and Scepan escaped to safety. Pressing their advantage, the Turks plundered Crmnica and the Bjelopavlics. Venice followed suit in the Mainas the Pobors and the Brajics, where the impostor was especially popular. Montenegro was spared further destruction by a new Russian-Turkish war. The war imposed new temptations on the Montenegrin and Highland clans, because Empress Catherine II had invited all Balkan Christians to join in the war, and sent Prince J. Dolgorukov as an envoy to Montenegro. The prince failed in his mission the Montenegrins did not join in the war, nor was Scepan the Small sent away. These developments detracted from Scepan's prestige with the people. On the other hand the neighboring countries showed no further interest in him, which enabled him to rule in peace for five years. He perished at the hands of his servant (in September of 1773), who was in the pay of the pasha of Skadar. Scepan's reign was characterized by the emergence of the rudiments of a civilian authority. Draconic punishment succeeded in putting a stop to the vendetta, plundering and tribal anarchy. Unfortunately, this did not last; the old order returned after Scepan's death.

Disunity, characteristic of tribal societies, was heightened in Montenegro by rivalry between the Petrovic family, from which the bishops were recruited, and the Radonjic family of governors. With the departure of Scepan the Small from the scene, the power struggle came to the fore. Both sides strove to win the goodwill of the Russian court. First governor Jovan Radonjic wrote to Empress Catherine in August of 1775 "Do not abandon us to the ridicule of our neighbors and enemies." Almost simultaneously, Bishop Sava and his cousin, the young and gifted Archimandrite Petar Petrovic, conceived of an idea that it would de best if Petar visited St. Petersburg. In the pursuit of this idea and in total secrecy, Petar arrived in Vienna, but got no further. It seems that neither he, nor the governor, managed to obtain a separate audience at the Russian Court. For this reason and in agreement with the headmen, they formed a delegation and sent in to St. Petersburg in 1777. The delegation (J. Radonjic, P. Petrovic and Sirdar Ivan Petrovic) spent six months in St. Petersburg. for all that time, the Empress refused to meet them, and they finally returned disappointed to montenegro. From that moment, for the next twenty years, relations with Russia were extremely cold. During that period, the montenegrin leadership was trying to establish a closer alliance with Austria. however, all Montenegrin suggestions, even that about Austria's protectorate of Montenegro, were met with a negative reception.

In these unfavorable circumstances, Montenegro was hit by another misfortune: the young master of Skadar, Mahmud-pasha of the Bushatli family (considered to be of the Crnojevic clan) attacked Montenegro in June of 1785. The pasha had prepared his punitive expedition well, both militarily and diplomatically. He broke with ease what little resistance he met with, took and torched Cetinje, the monastery and about one hundred houses and then, continuing the expedition, plundered and massacred the Pastrovic clan. There was no help from any quarter. On the contrary, Venice blocked Kotor and the Montenegrins' supply routes.

A development of relations between the Ottoman empire, Russia and Austria in the late 18th century reflected unfavorably on Montenegro. In 1788, when another war broke out, both Russia and Austria sent emissaries to montenegro seeking to win it over for their cause. All their efforts fell through, and Montenegro's involvement in the war was insignificant and defensive. Regardless of this, however, when peace was signed (in Svishtov in 1791 and Iasi in 1792), Turkey began to prepare for another punitive expedition, again because of some clans' refusal to pay taxes. The expedition was again led by Mahmud pasha. But this time, luck was not with him: he was defeated and wounded in the Martinics on July 11, 1796. Undaunted, he mounted another attack. The crucial battle was fought in the Kruses on September 22, of the same year. The Montenegrin army, led by Bishop Petar I and governor J. Radonjic, won a splendid victory. Mahmud-pasha himself was killed in battle. Both these victories, in addition to their direct effects on the struggle for liberation, considerably enhanced the awareness of the necessity of unity of the montenegrins and the Highlanders, and consolidated the reputation and authority of Bishop Petar I.

The late 18th century was highly eventful, not only in southeastern Europe, but in the west of the old continent as well. the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars had produced changes and tremors which had put Montenegro, too, to sore trials. The first of the changes was the fall of the Venice republic, Montenegro's neighbor and doubtful ally. The disappearance of the state of Venice inspired Bishop Petar I and his Montenegrins to take the Mainas, Pobors, Brajics and the city of Budva. But only briefly; under the terms of the Campo Formio treaty (October 1797), France recognized Austria's right to occupy the bay of Boka Kotorska. As of that moment, Boka became the apple of discord in relations between Montenegro and Austria.

After twenty years of unfavorable relations with Russia, Bishop Petar I, striving to improve the overall position of Montenegro, appealed to the Russian Court for help. he accompanied his appeal for financial assistance with a proposal for an organization of the montenegrin state that would be financed by Russia. his proposal was for an assembly, a government praviteljstvo) as the executive body, protection by the Emperor of Russia and the Russian army as guardians of the new order. Emperor Paul of Russia agreed only to give financial assistance: the Cetinje monastery received (after 20 years) 4000 (rubles and clerical vestments and books valued at 2200 rubles. In the early bays of January, 1799, an Imperial Charter arrived, confirming all the previous Charters, promising the assistance of the Russian fleet and announcing that Russia would be paying Montenegro 1000 ducats annually, which the bishop found sufficient reason to proclaim that Montenegro was under Russian protection. this development might indicate a normalization in Montenegrin-Russian relations. However, the fact that Bishop Petar I was maintaining relations also with France motivated the new Russian Emperor, Alexander I, to launch a policy to eliminate the bishop this task was entrusted to Lieutenant-General Count Marko Ivelic (of Risan). Equipped with three important documents (an imperial carter, a charter from the Synod of the Russian Church and a personal letter from the emperor), Count Ivelic came to Kotor in early 1804. all the three documents were strongly critical of Bishop Petar I as both lay and religious leader. However, neither the excessive criticism and even untruths about the bishop nor Ivelic's gossip - mongering and general trouble-making produced the desired result. The Montenegrins simply did not trust him: they demanded that a "true Russian" should be sent. A solution was found when Aleksander Iosifovich Mazurevski was appointed Russian consul in Austria, and came to Kotor in August of 1804. The bishop's stable position in Montenegro, on the one hand, and an inability to admit that the Emperor had been wrong, on the other, were forcing the conflict to a compromise. a compromise was found when the entire situation was blamed on the bishop's secretary, Abbot Francisco Dolci de Vickovic. He was sentenced to death, then pardoned, to finally die in prison, quite suddenly and under unexplained circumstances. This development of the situation seems to have suited the Russian Emperor, who in early 1805 sent the bishop another charter, further aid of 3000 ducats and his personal envoy Stevan Andrejevich Sankovski.

Napoleon's battles and victories had their effect also on Montenegro. After its defeat at Austrlitz, Austria undertook to cede Dalmatia and Boka kotorska to France. The Montenegrins and the population of Boka were against it, and had the support of Russia, which sent several ships to Boka. together, they seized Konavle an Cavtat and laid siege to French held Dubrovnik. In the autumn of 1806, the French won a victory and even tried to take Herceg Novi. The war in these lands ended with the Treaty of Tilsit (July 1807), under which Boka Kotorska was given to France.

Relations between Montenegro and its new neighbor and adversary in the recent war were not good. There ware a multitude of minor offenses on both sides, which made an improvement impossible. It had gone so far that the French made a plan of attack on Montenegro in 1811. The English got involved in the duel with their fleet in the Adriatic. the english immediately informed Bishop Petar I that all their actions were being taken in coordination with Russia. A new pact was formed and fighting began; the French were defeated and cornered in Kotor. This emboldened the bishop to push in earnest for the annexation of Boka to Montenegro. With this aim in view, he sent his man to the Russian Emperor to obtain his consent. Meanwhile, the Catholic population of Boka sent an emissary to Vienna to inform the Austrian Emperor about their wish that Boka should become part of his empire. This came to pass: the peace treaty of Paris of May 30, 1814 gave Boka to Austria.

An uprising in Serbia in 1804 and subsequent events over the next decade proved crucial to the entire Serbian nation. bishop Petar I was awkwardly placed: his (Montenegro's) involvement in the fighting against Turkey was expected equally by the Serbs in Serbia and those in Herzegovina. Fully aware of his position, and advised by Russia to maintain peace with Turkey, the bishop incurred Karageorge's reproaches: "We have always felt at heart and in mind that you shall, at whatever time, be of great help and support to the Serbian people in their liberation."

Change in the bishop's attitude came with Russia joining in the war against Turkey: together with the Serbs in Herzegovina, Montenegro attacked the Turks in Niksic and Klobuk, but was defeated.

Any great suffering was avoided by the 1807 Treaty of Tilsit. The resumption of war between Russia and Turkey in 1809 affected also the Serbs' war campaigns. Karageorge again appealed to Bishop Petar I: "For this reason we advise you to show your love for Christianity by attacking the enemy and advancing to us and raising all Christian brothers in order that we should all join forces and attack the infidel enemy from all sides."

Military cooperation between Serbia and Montenegro in Rascia did not materialize, and Turkey's supremacy over Serbia naturally dictated the bishop's peaceful policy towards Turkey. The Serbs' general misfortune was compounded by an earth-quake in Montenegro in 1817, and a plague epidemic the following year.

Correspondence between Prince Milos Obrenovic and Bishop Petar I, apart from giving evidence of their understanding of the contemporary political developments, reveals no concrete common move of any importance.

The Rule of Bishop Petar II - Rudiments of a State Apparatus

Bishop Petar I was succeeded by his 17. year old nephew Rade. Rade was made metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands in St. Petersburg in 1833, in the presence of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, and took the name of Petar II.

The early years of the rule of Petar II (known in tradition and literature as Njegos) were characterized, in foreign policy, by assistance to Turkish beis who had rebelled against central authority, and in home policy, by the emergence of the first state organs and the strengthening of Njegos's personal power. The Praviteljstvujusci Senat (Governing Senate) was created, which had the prerogatives of a court, and the Guardia (of 388 members) was set up as the executive body for the Senate's decisions. The Guardia functioned as a court of lower instance and the police. The Guardia was upheld by 30 plume-helmeted special police, who guarded the bishop and the Senate and served as a punitive corps. This time saw also the writing of the Zakoni Otacastva (Laws of the Nation), which was a 20-article penal code which also specified the taxes: "Each household in Montenegro and the Highlands shall pay a tribute of one thaler a year per hearth to the national coffers ..." The annual tax revenues stood at between 12,000 and 13,000 florins (depending on the success of the collectors, who regularly encountered resistance).

The consolidation of Njegos's power was helped along by his victory against the governers-giving family of Radonjic, who were the Petrovics' only rivals in the struggle for supremacy and power. The National Assembly divested Vuk Radonjic of governorship on November 17, 1830, "because he has dared, without consulting anybody or obtaining permission, to write to somebody and arrange secret meetings and agreements." On 4 January 1832, the Radonjic family was banished from Montenegro. In (order and security, Njegos was not infrequently ruthless. He believed that the people were devoted to him, "except for the breakers of general peace, who have received their just deserts ... I have destroyed this savagery, established peace and quiet guaranteed life and property to all." (From a letter to I.V. Neselrod, February 26, 1837). There is an independent confirmation of this: "I have finally convinced myself during this journey through Montenegro that the entire population is loyal to the Bishop ... that the Bishop reigns supreme throughout the country." (From a letter from Austrian Captain F. Oreskovic to Dalmatian Governor Count J. Turski, June 10, 1840).

Montenegro's external security during Njegos's rule was considerably improved. Turkey continued to regard Montenegro as part of its sovereign territory, under the direct authority of the vizier of Skadar, who demonstrated his power and superiority in various ways. By seizing Vranjina and Lesendra (islands in Lake Skadar), the vizier of Skadar, apart from actual gain, demonstrated his (Turkish) sovereignty.

An almost identical situation existed on the border with Herzegovina. A dispute over Grahovo in 1836 was resolved to the advantage of Ali-pasha Stocevic Rizvanbegovic, who defeated the Montenegrins and Herzegovinians. The battle of Grahovo shot to prominence Muslim Smail-aga Cengic of Gacko. Smail-aga, together with his son, was notorious for his reign of terror over the Serbs, which ultimately proved his undoing. In the autumn of 1840, he was murdered in the Drobnjaks. This provoked an expedition by Ali-pasha, which took a heavy toll in life and limb on both sides. Relations were finally regulated at Dubrovnik on 9-12 September 1842, when the Pashalic of Bosnia and Herzegovina signed a treaty with the "independent region of Montenegro."

Trouble was coming also from the new neighbor, Austria, whose administration did not possess the same knowledge of the Montenegrins, the people of Boka and their mutual relations that the previous Venice administration had boasted. Austria, as a state of law, found its way about only with the greatest difficulty in the maze of petty quarrels among its subjects of the Pastrovic, Pobor, Maina, Brajic and Krivosija clans, on the one hand, and the Montenegrins and Herzegovinians, on the other. Austria put an end to long years of dispute over the monasteries of the Mains and the Stanjevic's to its own advantage by inducing Njegos to sell both monasteries to Austria. The normalization of life in Montenegro and the Coastlands was helped along by a delimitation between the states of Montenegro and Austria, which was effected by the two sides' representatives and with which Austria de facto recognized Montenegrin authority, circumventing the sovereign Turkish authority.

Good relations between Russia and Austria reflected also on the two powers' attitude to Montenegro. After the powers had signed a treaty on the safeguarding of Turkey in 1833, Montenegro was both advised and instructed to maintain good relations with the Sublime Porte.

Just as his predecessors, Njegos too depended on Russia financially. In order to consolidate his personal position, as well as make sure of Russian help, Njegos visited the Russian court in St. Petersburg in May of 1837. His appearance, comportment and the general impression he created shredded the web of scandal-mongering and intrigues which had been woven around him. His success was complete: the Emperor increased his annual assistance to Montenegro from 1,000 ducats to 9,000.

The Russian court received favorable reports about the' (political situation in Montenegro and about the Bishop himself on two occasions, from its emissaries Lieutenant-Colonel Ozeretskovsky and Captain Kovalyevsky.

Njegos closely followed events in the South Slavic lands in the revolutionary year 1848. He offered military assistance to Croatia's Ban Jelacic, the Serbs in Vojvodina and even the Russian Emperor. He was not satisfied with the outcome of the developments he is recorded to have said it would have been letter if an expedition against Bosnia had been mounted.

Gravely ill, Njegos lived out his last days dealing with disputed with Austria involving munitions imports and trying to effect a reconciliation between Patriarch Rajacic and Bishop Atanackovic. He died on October 19, 1851.

The situation in the economy, finance, trade, education, day-to-day life and social relations in Montenegro in the early 19th century had not changed much from what it had been before. Stock farming remained the basic industry, while agriculture was expanded to the growing of potatoes, brought by Bishop Petar I from Russia. Famines were frequent and were combated with wheat imports from Russia and food bought with money received from Russia and, in part, from Serbia. Domestic trade was modest in volume and existed chiefly among the aristocratic families. The brunt of the exports of live-stock and related products, pelts, fish and wine went to Boka. The most important import articles were salt and armament. It was only during Njegos's rule that the building of roads began. The people lived in villages and only Rijeka Crnojevica looked anything like a town. Illiteracy was rife. The only literate men were the priests. Bishop Petar I had sent first groups of youths to be educated in Boka and Russia, and the first school was opened in Cetinje in 1834. Njegos had a small printing shop, where he printed his works, primers and the Grlica (Dove) Almanac (five annual editions).

In his last will and testament, Njegos designated as his successor his nephew Danilo, who at the time of the bishop's death was in Vienna. His absence of two months from Cetinje made it easy for the bishop's brother Pero, president of the Senate and one of the richest and most prominent men in Montenegro, to take certain steps to seize power. This divided the headmen into two factions. However, the fact that Danilo was the legitimate successor and that he enjoyed Russia's support seem to have been decisive for him to be confirmed as Montenegro's supreme ruler at the headmen's assembly in January of 1852. In March of the same year, the Senate took a decision to set up a principality. The young but determined Prince Danilo skillfully consolidated his position, and his chief political opponents emigrated in November of 1853.

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Serb Land of Montenegro