Books in English
General history
Medieval history
Orthodox Christianity
Petrovic Njegos Dynasty
Facsimiles of old books
State insignia and heritage
Boka Kotorska
Unification with Serbia
Ethnic identity
Video & audio
Interesting items
What's new
Montenegro FAQ
Recommended readings in Serbian
Articles in French
Montenegrin sites
Who recommends or quotes
Humanitarian corner

Literary work in Montenegro and the lands which would subsequently form part of the Kingdom of Montenegro depended, just as any other form of spiritual and intellectual work, on the objective situation in which the population found itself. The people, whose life was little more than a perpetual struggle for survival and who forever carried the saber and the musket at their side, could hardly devote themselves wholeheartedly and systematically to art. Folk (epic) poetry, narration to the accompaniment of the national musical instrument - the gusle (folk fiddle) - was for centuries the basic form of artistic and literary expression. In the Coastlands, which had for years been under Venetian rule, literary work was more diverse, precisely as it was in the metropolis and in the western Mediterranean. The monasteries in Montenegro, just as in the other Serbian lands, were the first and only centers of literacy, fresco painting and spiritual life.

Orthodox Christian spiritual leaders were the authors of the first literary works. Bishop Vasilije Petrovic with his Istorija o Cernoj Gori (A History of Montenegro) is regarded as the founder of literature in his homeland. His work (43 half-scap pages) was published in St. Petersburg in 1754, giving the author his full resplendent title of "the blessed metropolitan of Montenegro, Skadar and the Coastlands, and heir to the Serbian throne Vasilije Petrovic". He announced his subject as being a description of the position of Montenegro and its former rulers "with a supplement on the Serbian holy kings and despots whoever and wherever they might be". This work was less true history than a political memorandum. Its literary characteristics are evident in the geographic descriptions of the authors native land and of the Serbian nobility, their mutual relations and the Battle of Kosovo.

The first (chronologically speaking) Montenegrin pet is believed to be Bishop Petar I. In point of fact, there are no known collections of poems by him, his poetic work was mostly anonymous, but some works are known beyond a doubt to be his. In the first place, there is the poem Pohvala Karadjordju (In Praise of Karageorge) written in the decasyllabic verse. Through Vuk Karadzic, we know that Petar I was the author of six poems about battles against Mahmut-pasha Bushatli. Nicifor Ducic published in the Serbian Dalmatian magazine in 1864 Poucenje u Stihovima ( A Lesson in Verse), which he attributed to Petar I. The 200 decasyllabic verses were actually the bishops advice of a political, national and moral nature conveyed to the people in the most easily assimilated form.

The efforts of Bishop Petar II Njegos, and not only literary efforts, contributed to Cetinje seeing the publication of several literary pieces in a short time owing to the acquisition of a printing press, Njegos published his first literary works; Lijek Jarosti Turske (Remedy for Turkish Fury), Pustinjak Cetinjski (The Hermit of Cetinje), and the work by Sima Milutinovic, Dika Crnogorska (The Pride of Montenegro) in 1834, and Narodne Poslovice (Folk Adages) by Vuk Karadzic in 1836. The almanac Grlica (The Dove), which was appearing from 1835 to 1839, included works by Njegos and editor Dimitrije Milakovic, a series of originals and translations, such as Kratak Pregled na Geografsko-Statisticko Opisanije Crne Gore( A Brief look at the Geographic and Statistical Characteristics of Montenegro); folk poems, Istorija Crne Gore (A history of Montenegro) by Milakovic and Pushkins Poem About Karageorge.

In the year 1845, Njegos published a collection of folks poems (61) entitled Ogledalo Srpsko (Serbian Mirror), which was a kind of anthology, a reference book about the "heroic feats and battles for liberation". The Mirror was dedicated to Pushkin and contained several of Njegos's poems.

Njegos's opus was created under influence of great masters (Derzhavin, Lamartine, Dantes), and advice by Sima Milutinovic Sarajlija, in an epic milieu. Thence Njegos appears as a folk poet, whose, poems are sung by the bards to the accompaniment of the fiddle, and as an artist with a philosophical turn of thought. His greatest works are Luca Mikrokozma (The Torch of Microcosmos), Lazni Car Scepan Mali (Scepan the Small, the Impostor King), Gorski Vjenac (The Mountain Wreath), al a fine blend of poetry and philosophy. Gorski Vijenac has been acclaimed as the "finished edifice of Njegos's philosophical structure" and "the national Gospel".

Njegos's nephew Stevan Petrovic Cuca (born 1830, died 1857) may have had the ability and the ambition to carry on, at least in some respect, the literary torch of his great uncle, but fell at the hands of the mercenaries of Prince Danilo. During his brief but turbulent life, he wrote some thirty lyric poems, as well as several in the decasyllabic tradition.

Marko Miljanov Popovic (born 1833, died 1901), Haiduk, duelist, general, a true moral giant, learned to write and took up letters only at an advanced age. After example of Vuk Karadzic, he began by writing down folk poetry, and then started to write down his own work. His best-known works include Pleme Kuci u Narodnoj Prici i Pjesmi (The Kuc Clan As Described in Folk Narration and Poetry), Primjeri Cojstva i Junastva (Examples of Manfulness and Heroism), Zivot i Obicaji Arbanasa (The Life and Customs of the Arbanas), Nesto o Bratonozicima (Some Facts About the Bratonozics). Skerlic wrote about Primjeri Cojstva i Junastva: "This rare book is full of vitality and good health, booth physical and moral", and this applies to all of Popovic's opus.

King Nikola (born 1841, died 1921) carried on the proud name of Petrovic not only as prince and subsequently king, but also as an author. During the sixty years of his literary activity, he created lyric and epic poems, drams, short stories and a novel. Some of the lyric poems were published in the collection Skupljene Pjesme (Collected Poems) in 1889, and the first epic, Zenidba Bega Ljubovica (The Marriage of Ljubovic-bei) was created in 1868. Nova Kola (New Kolos) is a collection of lyric and epic poems; his drams include Vukasin, Kako se ko Rodi (As One is Born), Knjaz Arvanit (Prince Arvanit); his best-known short story is Despa. King Nikola's biographers are agreed that he had not published much of his work, and it is known that he wrote right up to the end of his life.

Stjepan Mitrov Ljubisa (born in Budva 1824, died 1878) created his first works under Italian influence and, after becoming acquainted with the work of Vuk Karadzic, himself turned to folk literature for his epics, such as Boj na Visu (The Battle of Vis), and his stories, such as Pripovijesti Crnogorske i Primorske (The Stories of Montenegro and the Coastlands), Pricanja Vuka Dojcevica (The Narratives of Vuk Dojcevic) and Kanjos Macedonovic.

Great Progress and the Balkan Wars | Contents | Chronological Table
Serb Land of Montenegro