the end of the first year of rule of Prince Danilo, Montenegro was facing
great trials because of an incursion by the ruler of Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Omer-pasha Latas. The reason for Omer-pasha's expedition was the Montenegrins'
assistance to the Serbs in Herzegovina, their banditry and plundering,
and the immediate cause was the fall of Zabljak to Montenegro. Prince Danilo
carried out a general mobilization: according to one source, all men between
the ages of 13 and 80 years were mobilized.
Austrian estimated put the size of the Montenegrin army at between 3,000 and 4,000
men under arms, as against between 23,000 and 24,000 Turks. The Montenegrins'
heroism, the fierce resistance they offered, with their women at their
side, was not enough to foil Omer-pasha's purpose: the separation of the
Highlands from Montenegro, which would be followed by a concentrated attack
on the ancient Montenegro. Total defeat was averted by Prince Danilo's
appeal to the big powers to intervene, to which Russia and Austria responded,
and the Sublime Porte ordered Omer-pasha to discontinue operations. Suffering
and destruction had been the worst in the Pjesivacs, the Bjelopavlics and
Crmnica. The rule of Prince Danilo was characterized by a further consolidation
of state authority, its efficacious functioning and the emergence of Prince
Danilo as an absolute monarch, in which the promulgation of a General National
Code (known also as the Code of Danilo I) at the assembly of headmen and
chieftains in Cetinje on April 23, 1855 was of considerable importance.
The Code had 95 articles, which regulated numerous questions of the social,
political and economic life of the country. The Code finally did away with
the patriarchal way of life, abolished the autonomy of the tribes and consolidated
the authority of the state. However, this process did not go smoothly or
without opposition. Four uprisings in as many years erupted to resist it:
in the Pipers (1852), the Bjelopavlics (1854) and the Kucs (1855 and 1856).
All were ruthlessly stifled, with the Kucs taking the heaviest toll. About
200 people, children among them, were murdered, thirteen villages were
torched, 800 homes were plundered and 1,000 head of cattle and 3,000 other
domestic animals were seized. Prince Danilo paid due attention to the organization
of the army and police (plumehelmeted corps) as indispensable to every
state apparatus. As early as 1853, he had organized his "cross-bearing
army." The army is believed to have numbered 9,700 men, divided into decuries
(companies of ten men commanded by decurions), centuries (companies of
one hundred men commanded by centurions) and millenaries (companies of
one thousand men commanded by millurions). The armament was modest, but
it is interesting that an artillery made its first shy appearance. Prince
Danilo's own guard numbered about 1,000 men, and there were seventy plume-helmeted
troops, who now had special powers.
Danilo's firm hand and strong rule were evident also in tax collecting. During his
rule there were no cases of tax evasion on record, and tax collection was
regulated under the Code. Article 59 regulated that the people had the
obligation to pay "a tribute now and forever in the future, which the local
chieftains and headmen shall collect and in the national coffers at the
appointed day each year deposit." It was also regulated that he who should
refuse to pay the taxes should be punished as a "traitor and enemy of our
The annual revenues from the taxes amounted to 500 florins more than during
Njegos's rule. Prince Danilo rendered no account to anybody about the disposal
of the moneys.
The economic life of Montenegro during the eight years of the rule of Prince
Danilo progressed in the direction of the creation of a single Montenegrin
economic space, which was achieved by the introduction of tariffs. This
measure protected Montenegrin products from Austrian goods which were imported
from the coastal towns. The customs service was rented out, and so became
a source of income and a factor of economic differentiation and the creation
of a headmen's bureaucracy, which was a natural outcome of the creation
of a state. Trade and usury were in the hands of the headmen and the clergy.
In the foreign policy, Prince Danilo continued to rely on Russia, but in March
of 1856 transferred allegiance to France because of Russia's failure to
support his aspiration for an independent and internationally recognized
Montenegro. The decisive event occurred at a conference in Paris in March
of 1856, when Turkish representative Ali-pasha said: "What else is there
to say about Montenegro, when it is well known that it is a part of the
Turkish Empire." These words went unchallenged by the Russian emissary.
There is no evidence that Prince Danilo was unaware of the insurmountable obstacles
to an international recognition of his state. He therefore turned his energies
towards a more realistic goal: a demarcation with Turkey, the way Njegos
had done with Austria. Montenegro supported the Serbian liberation movement
in the Herzegovina and Highland tribes, which led to war with Turkey. Truth
to tell, the war never flared up the decisive and only battle was fought
at Grahovo on May 13, 1858, where the Montenegrins and the Herzegovinians
scored a brilliant victory. The war did not continue because France, Russia
and Austria intervened. Owing to their intercession, a commission for delineation
was set up, and finished work on November 8, 1858. The Turkish Sultan's
sovereign authority over Montenegro was not challenged and the demarcation
brought to Montenegro Grahovo, parts of the Banjans, Drobnjaks, Vasojevics
and Kucs, the Niksic district, Rudine, Tusina, Lipovo and the Dodoses.
Thus, for the first time in its history, Montenegro had official state
borders. This was a great historic achievement, regardless of the fact
that the land had actually not been internationally recognized as a sovereign
state. The rule of Prince Danilo was abruptly cut short by his murder in
Kotor on August 12, 1860, whether at the hands of his political or personal
enemies, it has remained a mystery to this day.
An independent state
Prince Danilo was succeeded by his nephew Nikola, son of Mirko, who had been carefully
groomed to ruler. The young ruler had the complete support of his father,
the most influential man in Montenegro in his day. Events and tribulations
looming on the horizon called for strong men, and it would appear that
the Petrovics, father and son, were first and foremost aware of the historical
moment in which they lived.
Prince Nikola had hardly taken his place on the throne when he began supporting
the Serbian insurgents of Luka Vukalovic in Herzegovina, prompting a Turkish
declaration of war in April of 1962. The assault was led by Omer-pasha,
who initially commanded 29.000 men, subsequently increased army to 55.000.
The montenegrins and Herzegovinians, whose army numbered 15.000 men, offered
strong resistance in the Duga gorge and at Medun, but not strong enough
to bloc the steady advance of the Turkish army. Fighting which continued
through the and of August weakened the Montenegrin army to the point where
it barely could to prevent the Turks from taking Cetinje, which would certainly
have happened if Russia had not interceded wit Constantinople. A heavy
defeat was averted, but not a Turkish ultimatum and dictate of a peace
treaty signed of September 8. 1862 in Rijeka Crnojevica. Under the treaty,
the state borders remained intact, but Montenegro undertook not to support
insurgents in Turkey. The other provisions, unfavorable to Montenegro,
were how suppressed and circumvented in later years, with the help of the
The experience of the war of 1862. proved invaluable to Montenegro. It had
become clear that the army must be given greater attention. With Serbia's
help, domestic arms production was increased, and Montenegro also received
5.000 rifles, one battery of mountain cannon and a quantity of ammunition.
Serbian officers trained the arm and helped implement army reforms of 1871.
The Montenegrin army numbered 17.000 troops at the time. Thus strengthened
militarily (with financial assistance from Russia and Serbia), Montenegro
facet up the the great eastern crisis and the war of 1876-78.
The crisis originated with an uprising of the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina,
which Serbia and Montenegro supported both overtly and covertly. The two
Serbian lands regulated their mutual relations in a secret treaty signed
in Venice on June 9, 1876, and together declared war on Turkey on June
30. This time, the luck of war was with Montenegro: the Turkish army was
heavily defeated at Fundina on August 14, and at Vucji Do on August 28,
1876. Meanwhile, the Vasojevic insurgents were also celebration successes.
A truce was negotiated of November 1, 1876 with Russia's mediation, and
continued until April 24, 1877, when Russia declared war on Turkey. Montenegro
did the same two days later.
The Turkish army (numbering some 65.000 troops) mounted a three-pronged attack:
from the directions of Gacko, Berane and Podgorica, with a view to reaching
Cetinje via the territory of the Bjelopavlic clan. Heavy battles were fought
in the Ostrog Gorge and at the Moraca Monastery. The Turkish army's defeats
against the Russians in northern Bulgaria proved favorable for Montenegro.
In the course of January of 1878, the Montenegrins took Bar, Ulcinj and
a number of fortifications of Lake Skadar. The war ended with a truce signed
at Edirne of January 13, 1878. and a subsequent peace treaty signet at
San Stefano on March 3, of the same year recognized Montenegro's independence.
This glorious war of Russia and the Serbs against Turkey had its grand finale
at the Berlin Congress on July 13, 1878, which revised the San Stefano
Treaty. At the Congress, Montenegro was finally recognized as and independent
state and acquired extensive territorial gains.
The state territory was increased from the original 4.000 square kilometer
to 9.475, the towns of Niksic, Kolasin, Spuz, Podgorica, Zabljak, Bar,
Ulcinj were annexed, to country gained access to the sea, which created
the preconditions for a successful overall social development and civilization
progress. In 1869, there 75.622 furrows of arable land (one furrow equals
1.820 square meters) and 36.571 swaths of pastures, and in 1889, there
162.566 furrows of till able land and 1804.405 swaths of pastures. Livestock,
too, had increased proportionately: in 1883, there were 754.201 head of
sheep, 104.551 head of cattle and 12.862 horses. The annexation of the
towns increased the participation of trades and crafts in the economy and
access to the Adriatic sea created the first necessary precondition for
navigation and foreign trade of any significant volume.
The war the overall post-war situation in Montenegro, and particularly in the
annexed territories, exercised a vital influence on the migration of the
population. Turkish and Muslim populations emigrated to Turkey in large
numbers Montenegrin authorities did not carry out an agrarian reform on
an organized basis. Instead, Prince Nikola himself appropriated large complexes
of land, which he then gave away as rich gifts to his relatives, friends
and deserving men. Still, a large numbers of peasants acquired land , too.
In this way, the Turkish feudal system was done away with and replaced
by a system of peasant freeholds. However, all this was not enough to put
a stop to migrations and, specifically, emigrations of the population for
purely economic reasons. In the period from 1879 to 1892, as many as 48.186
people moved out, 20051 of them to Serbia (about 3.607 families). In the
early 20th century Montenegrin immigrants were to be found in America.
There were changes also in the organization of the state apparatus: the Senate
was abolished, and a State Council, ministries and a High Court were set
up. The State Council was a legislative body with the highest supervisory
power. A new administrative division into five districts was carried out.
District administrators were the highest representatives of state authority,
directly answerable to the interior minister. The districts were divided
into captaincies, and the captains wielded administrative, judicial and
financial powers. A law of 1904 defined 56 captaincies. The basic criterion
of defining a captaincy was tribal territory. People in the administrative
apparatus were inadequately trained and ill paid, so that corruption and
arbitrariness were rife.
The functioning of the state was directly influenced by Prince Nikola himself.
Undisputed war successes, enormous territorial gains and the international
recognition of the state had enhanced Prince Nikola's reputation and facilitated
the establishment and consolidation of his personal power. He regarded
Montenegro as his personal property. This attitude and his autocratic rule
naturally gave rise to dissatisfaction and indignation among a part of
the headmen, but not to a point where a standing opposition would emerge.
On the other hand, most of the headmen-bureaucratic stratum supported Prince
Nikola and blocked all change. It was only in the early 20th century, when
young and educated people and Serbs from other Serbian lands began to find
their way into the administration, public and economic life, that changes
for the better began to be made.
Prince Nikola personally, for reasons of dynasty, upheld the oral tradition about
Montenegro's "eternal" independence, about Montenegrins as the "best Serbs",
about Montenegro as the Serbian Piedmont. This uncritical awareness of
self left an indelible imprint on the minds of the people and the policy
of the state, which would produce somewhat harmful effects in subsequent
social and political upheavals and wars for the liberation and unification
of the Serbs.
After the Berlin Congress, Montenegro established diplomatic relations with a
number of European states, so that Russia, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, France,
Italy, Serbia, Bulgaria, England, Greece and Germany opened missions in
Cetinje. For financial reasons Montenegro had a mission only in Constantinople,
a consul in Skadar and a diplomatic agent in Kotor. The foreign policy
was in the hands of Prince Nikola.
Relations with Serbia during the reign of King Milan Obrenovic were poor and burdened
with personal hatreds. A constant source of animosity lay in national work
in Ancient Serbia, especially in those parts which Prince Nikola maintained
were in his sphere of interest. Even later, all efforts to negotiate a
settlement of questions in dispute with the young King Alexander fell through.
Prince Nikola would not renounce his ambition that he and his dynasty (as
the older) should have priority in the unification of the Serbian lands.
Very good relations were maintained with Russia, and were further strengthened
by the marriages of Prince Nikola's two daughters to cousins of the Emperor
of Russia. In the year 1910, a military treaty was concluded with Russia,
under which that country undertook to equip and train the Montenegrin army,
while Montenegro pledged not to embark on any military operations without
Russia's consent. Montenegro dishonored these undertakings both in 1911
and in 1912.
Russia's support for Montenegro was considerable also in the later resistance to
Austrija-Hungary's efforts to subjugate in economically, and particularly
its influence in Boka, Herzegovina and northern Albania. It was the strategic
objective of Austria-Hungary to prevent a unification of the states of
Serbia and Montenegro.
Probably under in the influence of changes in Serbia and Russia, and in order not
to remain the only unconstitutional ruler, apart from the Turkish Sultan,
Prince Nikola promulgated a Constitution on December 19, 1905. The National
Assembly, elected on November 27, had not even debated on it, and the entire
procedure was speeded up us though to be done with and forgotten as fast
as possible. Under the Constitution, Montenegro was made a hereditary,
constitutional monarchy. The ruler was sacrosanct and accountable to nobody.
The ruler shared legislative power with the National Assembly. He was the
supreme commander of the army, had the right to declare war and enter into
alliances with other states. He appointed state officials, convened the
National Assembly. Executive power was vested in a Ministerial Council
which was directly accountable to the ruler, who also appointed ministers.
The courts were declared independent, bud judges, too, were appointed by
the ruler. Private property was declared inviolable.
Montenegro received its first civic political party in the early 20th century. It
had grown out of a club of peoples deputies from the ranks of the young,
educated generation. Its name was the National Party and its program and
statute were a copy of those of the Radical Party in Serbia. The members
of the party (known to the people as The Clubmen) were local to the ruler
and were not opposed to monarchy principle. However, regardless of all
this, the prince counterbalanced it by organizing the True National Party
(The True-Blues) out of people of the most conservative outlook. The princes
fiercest critics were Montenegrin students in Belgrade. In May of 1907,
they issued a proclamation of the "Serbian Youth from Montenegro," which
the prince and his government received as an invitation to revolution.
The National Party was accused of being behind it, and a persecution of
its members began. There was no resistance, except that it was decided
in September of 1907 that the National Party would not contest the elections,
after which some of its members emigrated. This state of affairs proved
fatal for the Party, which never again managed to restore its membership
and climb back to on the political stage of Montenegro.
But the prince was not satisfied. He organized a political trial of his opponents,
and used as a pretext 15 grenades sent to Montenegro by Montenegrin students
in Belgrade. The grenades were seized and the prince brought a stiff indictment
against the "bombers," charging them with plotting against him, his home
and the state. The trial was held in Cetinje from May 25 through June 13,
1908, against 132 defendants, 43 of whom were sentenced to prison terms.
Those sentenced to death were pardoned by the prince. To "trial of the
bombers" served nobody's purpose, least of all the princes. However, it
appears that Prince Nikola was unaware of this, because he soon organized
another political trial, again against followers of the National Party.
The closed-door trial of 161 people accused of "treason and conspiracy
to over-throw the government of Montenegro" was held before the Grand Military
Tribunal in Kolasin. The court sentenced 59 defendants to prison terms,
and five were executed on November 29, 1909. In August of 1910 the prince
celebrated the 50th anniversary of his rule by crowning himself king and
proclaiming Montenegro a kingdom.