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Published by Historical Museum of Serbia, 1999. Resume in English

After the Serbian medieval empire and other Serbian countries had fallen under the Ottoman control in the second half of the 15th century, the national consciousness of people living in Serbia and Montenegro was preserved by Kosovo oath, legend and tradition as well as a persistence of its liberation action. Factors of that continuity were: the Serbian Orthodox Church preserving the national consciousness, tradition, education and statehood; folk literature expressing the national spirit by telling the past in order to teach and educate for the future; and Serbia and Montenegro, statehood centers from where the two Serb states were restored after the numerous uprisings and liberation wars and then built and expanded following ethnic principle. For centuries priests, national and military leaders, public workers and statesmen have tried to provide necessary conditions to liberate their people. Having defeated the Turks on Krusi and Martinici (1796) and established the borders with Austria (1841) and Turkey (1859), Montenegro went into the process of establishing its own independent state. Almost at the same time, during the First and Second Serbian Uprisings (1804-1813, 1815) a part of Serbian territory was freed from the Turkish authority. By the 1830 and 1833 Hatisherifs (Sultan's Edict) it became autonomous within the Ottoman Empire, as well as in 1831 it was given autonomy in religious affairs by the ecumenical patriarchate Concorde. Thus was prepared the way for further restoration.

Simultaneously, Serbia and Montenegro tried to free and unify all Southern Slavs in one country. Having aimed their efforts to common action and support to the Serbs in the areas still under the Turkish and Austrian authority, they sought the cooperation with other Slavic and Southern Slavic nations as well as the support of Great Powers, especially Russia.

Both individual achievements and cooperation between the two Serb states resulted in restoration and further development of Serbia and Montenegro and their recognition as completely independent states at the Congress of Berlin (1878). Furthermore, the Serbian church became autocephalous (1879), the Turks were finally eliminated from the Balkans and common border given to the two Serb states for the first time (1912-1913); projects of unifying in common country were made; countries were defended and liberated of Austria-Hungarian, German and Bulgarian aggression and occupation (1914-1918); Srem, Baranja, Backa and Banat were absorbed into Serbia (1918) and Serbia and Montenegro were united (1918).

Thus the centuries-old dreams of the peoples "of the same blood, language and aspiration, same religion and customs" were finally fulfilled and prerequisites created that the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes from former Austria-Hungary, together with Serbia and Montenegro could be taken into the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918.

Liberation and development of Montenegro and Serbia as independent states and their mutual cooperation until 1875

Preserved state tradition and unique national consciousness enabled Serbia and Montenegro gradually to liberate themselves from the Turkish authority, to develop their state institutions, to expand their territories and permanently to aspire and work on liberation and unifying of all the Serbs.

In Montenegro such process was accomplished by arms in long and often fights with the Turks from the 15th century on, and particularly from the end of the 18th and during the 19th century to the Great war (1876-78). Since then the state was formed and ruled by vladika, prince-bishop of the Orthodox Church, metropolitan, while in 1852 the Montenegrin ruler assumed the title of knjaz (prince). Tribal institutions - Opste crnogorski zbor (Assembly) and Zbor vladara (Government) were replaced by permanent governmental authorities - Praviteljstvo suda crnogorskog i brdskog (The Court), Praviteljstvujusci senat crnogorski i brdski (Senate, the highest institution of authority and a court of last resort), Gvardija (Guard), Perjanici (Bodyguard of the Prince and the members of his House as well as the members of Senate), while local power passed into the hands of nahija kapetan, performing his local executive duties. It was the period when the first written laws were introduced: "Stega" (Declaration of joining of neighboring regions to Montenegro, which at the same time introduces a obligation of defense of the country and brandes treason, 1798), Zakonik obsci crnogorski i brdski (Common Montenegrin legal code, 1798-1803), Opsti zemaljski Zakonik (Common legal code, 1855). Such changes heralded an era of modernization, transforming Montenegro into organized country. Tax liability was introduced; schools, printing shops and other institutions were founded; newspapers and books were printed. The military reforms carried out to reform the tribally organized army into modernly equipped and armed people's army were of great importance.

The process of liberation from Turkish rule and achieving independence began in Serbia in the First and Second Serbian Uprisings (1804-1813; 1815) what was later formulated in Article VIII of the Treaty of Bucharest (1812), what Turkey, under Russian pressure, confirmed by the Ackerman Convention (1826), the Treaty of Edirne (1829) and Hatisherifs issued in 1830 and 1833 by the Sultan, involving local autonomy for the Serbs, hereditary office and six already liberated areas incorporated into Serbia. In 1831 Serbia was given autonomy in religious affairs by the ecumenical patriarchate Concord. A turning point in the fortunes of Serbia came with the withdrawal of the Turkish garrisons from the Serbian towns (Sabac, Belgrade, Smederevo and Kladovo) in 1867, achieved by diplomatic channels.

Although the administration in Serbia existed even before, it was formally shaped during the 1840s by articles of the 1835 and 1838 Constitutions, and afterwards completed with the 1862 Central Administration Law. The administration was consisted of Prince (as the Head of the State), the State Soviet ministries and Assembly (common and great) as well as the district officers in the provinces. At same time numerous cultural, scientific and other institutions were established; the Civil Law (1844), Constitution (1869) and many other laws were passed; language reform was carried out; newspapers published... Due to military reforms the people's army was formed, while from its first calliope the standing army was established on the eve of the Serbo-Turkish war of 1876-78.

Simultaneously, during the entire 18th and 19th centuries, the Serbs in Austria, i.e. Austria-Hungary constantly fought to keep both themselves as nation and to preserve autonomy in religious and school affairs, given them as privileges by the Austrian Emperor Leopoldus I at the end of the 18th century.

The South Slav idea and state were imagined by every ruler and leader in Serbia, Montenegro and within the Serbs in Austria. Thus the Cetinje prince-bishop Petar I Petrovic dreamt about the Slav-Serbian Empire; the Sremski Karlovci metropolitan Stevan Stratimirovic about the Slav-Serbian state; and Sava Tekelija, the learned Serb from Temisoara about the Serbian state. Such idea of united Serbian state could be also recognized in Petar Petrovic Njegos's literature work as well as among other outstanding Serbs. For the first time the idea was partially brought to life in 1809 when Serbian rebels, led by Karageorge penetrated in Raska region and tried, as agreed with the prince-bishop Petar I Petrovic, to involve Montenegro in the uprising, what could be only a partial success. The same happened to the demands for Serbian and Montenegrin union, set by Karageorge's deputies in 1808 and 1809 at the Jassy Peace Conference. All those demands were indicators of new political course taken by Serbia and Montenegro, which was never abandoned.

In 1844 the South Slav idea was finally formulated by Ilija Garasanin, Serbian minister of Internal Affairs, whose Nacertanije (National Program) foresaw the step-by-step disintegration of Ottoman Empire. It could be also recognized in the 1848/49 plans concerning the liberation of Serbs, Croats and Bulgarians and in prince Mihailo Obrenovic's Balkan alliances, particularly that one concluded in 1866 with Montenegrin prince Nikola Petrovic, involving mutual state and leadership. At the same time, both Serbia and Montenegro supported the Serbian rebels in Herzegovina in 1852, 1858 and 1862 as well as the Serbs in south Hungary in 1848-49 who tried to create the Serbian Duchy (Vojvodina).

Faced with the denial of their own nationality within the Hungarian Kingdom (i.e. in south Hungary) the Serbs set up a demand for the Serbian autonomous region to be created. The May Assembly held in Sremski Karlovci in 1848 announced the Duchy. Consequently, the patriarchate of Sremski Karlovci was established, governed by Josif Rajacic, metropolitan awarded the title of patriarch. The Assembly also announced Stevan Supljikac the duke of Duchy and independence of the Serbs within Hungary. When a Magyar rebellion was quelled, by the 1849 Francis Joseph's decree a semiautonomous Vojvodina was created together with Banat of Tamish with the Russian and German majority. With its center in Temisoara, on the outskirts of the Serbian ethnic territory, Duchy proclaimed by the Hungarian king mostly differed  from that one proclaimed by the Serbs. Even so, it kept the idea of Vojvodina being the only political solution for the Serbs within Hungary. Its foundations laid in the middle of the 19th century, Vojvodina seceded Austria-Hungary and united with Serbia in 1918.

Until 1878 Montenegro hasn't been recognized by any international treaty. Thus, two opposite opinions regarding its international status were supported. One, considering Montenegro still the Turkish province, was confronted by the other considering Montenegro as the independent state. However, having in mind that from the end of the 18th century Montenegro was ruled by its own rulers, who were not subjugated to the Sultan and thus had right to maintain diplomatic relations as well as that its borders with Austria (1841) and Ottoman Empire (1859) were established by international treaties, it is more than obvious that Montenegro was independent state - really but not formally. Somehow, it was confirmed by the Article XXVI of the Treaty of Berlin when Montenegro was recognized as independent not only by the Sublime Porte but the other signatories of the Treaty that haven't done that yet.

From the period ended by 1878 Serbia and Montenegro emerged as ordered states, their territories almost doubled, faced to each other and ready, with Russian support, to arise both Serbian and Eastern Question in order to free and unite their ethnic territories.

Serbia and Montenegro solving the Serbian and Eastern Question 1875-1878

In the period 1875-1878 the Serbian question, as their mutual national interest, was arisen by Serbia and Montenegro, involving still enslaved Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Old Serbia and other Serbian areas. The two Serb states supported the Bosnian rebels in 1875. Furthermore, having concluded military agreement, Serbia and Montenegro declared war on the Ottoman Empire in 1876, and Russia came into the war on their behalf the following year. Considerable number of volunteers from the Serbian lands within Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Empire took part in those operations. Liberating four districts on its south-eastern frontier (Nis, Toplica, Pirot and Vranje) Serbia almost doubled its territory. Although its army reached Kosovo Polje, the negotiations associated with the end of the war, forced it to withdraw. On the other side, Montenegro successfully fought and liberated a part of Herzegovina, but the part of it was given and divided between Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of San Stefano, concluded on March 3, 1878, proposed a radical redrawing of frontiers in the Balkans, including the creation of a large independent Bulgarian principality under Russian protection, deeply encroaching on Serbian national interests in Old Serbia and Macedonia.

Unacceptable to the other Great Powers for a variety of reasons, this solution was revised in the Treaty of Berlin (June 13 - July 13, 1878) defining for a longer period both Great Powers and the Balkan states' positions in solving the Eastern Question. By reducing the territory of the Bulgarian state, Russia's military-political gains from the war as well as its influence in the Balkans were severely restricted. The Congress of Berlin also decided that Bosnia-Herzegovina, remaining notionally under Turkish sovereignty, would be occupied and governed by Austria-Hungary. So happened to the neighboring western part of Raska region. Supported by Germany, the Dual Monarchy aimed its claims to the Balkans, making it fertile soil for further disturbances and wars. Contrary to Serbia's gains from the war, Old Serbia and Macedonia remained within the Ottoman Empire.

The Treaty of Berlin not only enlarged the territories of Serbia (on the southern frontier) and Montenegro (towards Herzegovina and the sea) but also recognized them as completely independent states. In 1879 the Serbian Orthodox Church was recognized by ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople as autocephalous. However, their South Slav plans were disabled by Great Powers. Serbia and Montenegro were ousted from Bosnia-Herzegovina while they remained separated by a strip of land in Raska region where Austrian garrisons were allowed. In Kosovo and Metohija the Dual Monarchy supported the Albanians confronting their and Serbian national interests.

In order to acquire its support at the Congress of Berlin, Serbia was obliged to rely on Austria, which demanded in return from Serbia to link its railroads and its economy with Austria's, to leave it a control over Djerdap as well as to refrain from territorial gains in Old Serbia. Only after these concessions were made, the Great Powers would, supported by Austria, recognize Serbia as independent state. Simultaneously, the path was made for Great Powers to invest their capital through their citizens who were, according to the Treaty of Berlin, given the right to perform public duties in Serbia as well as to be engaged in trade and industry, no matter of their religion. Such rights were to be achieved in Montenegro as well. Beside that, Serbia was obliged not to collect any transit tax for the foreign goods as well as keeping in effect all foreign citizens' privileges and the right of consul jurisdiction until they were changed by mutual agreements. Thus all those concessions somehow restricted Serbian sovereignty. The acquisition of independence had to be paid by relying on Austria.

Similarly, although Montenegro secured vital access to the sea at Antivari (Bar) and Dulcigno (Ulcinj), some restrictions were placed on the use of these ports and the rest of Montenegrin territorial waters, including hostility to every warship presence. The hostility of Great Powers to Montenegrin warships placed further restrictions on its right to keep them as well as the war standards. By the Treaty of Berlin Montenegro was obliged to accept a maritime law applied in Dalmatia by Austria which was allowed to supervise the entire Montenegrin sea border. In 1909. those restrictions, with exception of that one regarding the port of Antivari, were abolished.

Thus the Drang nach Osten policy (drive to the East) adopted by Austria-Hungary brought it into deepening conflict with Serbia and Montenegro. At the beginning of the 20th century the rivalry between Austria-Hungary and the two Serb states became more than evident. By imposing the tariffs on Serbian exports through Austria-Hungary in 1906 in the so-called Pig War and announcing the right out annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908 Austria-Hungary disturbed the status quo in the Balkans set by the Congress of Berlin.

Serbia and Montenegro from the Berlin Congress to the Balkan wars, 1878-1912

After being recognized as independent states, Serbia and Montenegro entered the period of the state and institutional modernization, establishing the diplomatic missions and experiencing the economic prosperity. Subsequently, two principalities were declared kingdoms - Serbia in 1882 and Montenegro in 1910. From the Berlin Congress to the end of the 19th century and even later, national liberation action that Serbia and Montenegro had already begun in still unliberated areas aiming to liberate them and establish a common frontier, was restricted both by bad foreign circumstances and rivalry in their mutual relationship based on dynasty question. The achievement of national aspirations of two independent states was suppressed by an expansionist policy adopted by Austria-Hungary which, having occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina, forced hostility towards the Serbs and opposite to them favored Albanian League in Old Serbia and Montenegro.

In such situation, contrary to its national interest, Serbia favored the pro-Austrian policy. Even Montenegro, traditionally relied on Russia, whose positions in the Balkans were restricted, had no strength to develop its, already more radical, attitude towards the Dual Monarchy. Therefore the Serbian and Montenegrin national policy was based on physical and diplomatic protection as well as the maintenance of the Serbian national identity in Old Serbia, Macedonia and elsewhere from the Albanian and Turkish terror, Islamization, Albanization and Bulgarization, i.e. Germanization and Magyarization in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Such task of immense importance was taken over by newly established diplomatic missions, the Serbian Orthodox Church headed by the Serbian bishops, the net of Serbian schools, bookshops, reading rooms, the Serbian periodical press... all of them expressing national programs and subjects.

Status quo in the Balkans made difficult Serbian and Montenegrin attempts in solving the Serbian question. The crisis was settled by enthronement of Peter I Karageorgevich, when Serbia, politically, economically and military strengthened and supported by Montenegro and Russia, could be considered the guarantee that Serbian question would be solved satisfactorily.

Useless was an Austria-Hungarian attempt to block Serbian advance applying economic pressure in the so-called Pig War in 1906, as well as the act of annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908 aimed to humiliate little Balkan states and to make end of their aspirations towards their ethnic territories across the Drina and to paralyze their national work in Old Serbia by preventing the liberation from the Turkish role and establishment of common frontier. On the contrary, the Serbs under the Turkish authority became politically organized (1908) while the annexation brought together the two Serb states, "shoulder to shoulder as it should be". Consequently, common national liberation action of Serbia and Montenegro was followed by military and afterwards war alliance in the Balkan wars of 1912-1913.

Serbia and Montenegro in final solution of the Serbian and Eastern Question 1912-1913

In September 1912 Serbia and Montenegro joined in mutual alliance, by which the two states agreed a cooperation together with the other Balkan League states to oust Turkey from its remaining European possessions, trying to prevent Austria-Hungary benefiting from the disintegration of the European areas of the Ottoman Empire.

In the First Balkan war Serbia and Montenegro took a cooperated action in Raska region, Kosovo and Metohija. While the Serbian main forces were directed to Macedonia, the Montenegrins, directed to Scutari, cooperated with the parts of the Serbian army operating on the Adriatic coast.

The Treaty of London (1913) finally removed Turkey from Europe (to the Enos-Midia line) and it also resulted in a division of liberated areas among the allies. By the Austria-Hungarian support the new Albanian state was recognized although it disabled the Serbian access to the sea and left Montenegro without the plain of Scutari, where the mediaeval capital of its rulers Bojisavljevics and Balsics were situated.

The Second Balkan war (1913), waged against the Bulgarian predominance in the Balkans, what was opposed by Serbia, Montenegro, Romania and Greece, resulted not only in breakdown of the Balkan Entente but also in Serbo-Bulgarian conflict, since Bulgaria, unhappy with its shares of the spoils in Macedonia, attacked Serbia. Although this war, in which Bulgaria was soon defeated on the Bregalnica river, was waged far away from its territory and with no immediate interests, Montenegro supported the Serbian army by sending the Decani detachment consisting of 13.000 men, what made almost one third of the whole Montenegrin army.

In the Peace of Bucharest (August 1913) the European areas of the Ottoman Empire were divided among the Balkan states as well as the frontiers among them were established. The Serbo-Montenegrin border was detailed later by bilateral agreement signed on October 24, 1913.

Serbia and Montenegro emerged victorious and strengthened from the Balkan wars, with their territories almost doubled and with common border, having plans for further actions aimed to possible union of the two countries as well as the liberation of all Serbian areas across the Drina and the Sava. Thus was the Austria-Hungarian expansionist policy towards the Balkans paralyzed by liberation action led by Serbia and Montenegro. Supported by Germany, Austria-Hungary began to advocate the war option against Serbia considering it the only way to annulate both the achievements and further national plans of the two Serb states.

Serbia and Montenegro in World War One and their union in 1918

When Serbia and Montenegro were for the first time given a common border in 1912-1913, discussions began about the possible union of the two countries with mutual administration, judiciary, finance, postal service, customs, military and foreign affairs. Unfortunately, they were interrupted by Austria-Hungarian aggression on Serbia and World War One. As many times before, Serbia and Montenegro fought together according to the mutual military plan. In 1914 the defense of the upper Drina as well as the offensive in eastern Bosnia were organized, in order to support the Serbian main forces fighting heavily on Tzer, the Drina and Kolubara.

In 1915, when Serbia, attacked by Austria-Hungary, Germany and Bulgaria and left without allied support, was forced to retreat its government and army to Corfu, Montenegro defended the Serbian troops withdrawing across its territory. In spite to its heroic defense in the operations on the Drina, the mountain Javor, the Lim, Mojkovac and elsewhere, Montenegro had to cease offering resistance to the powerful Austria-Hungarian and German armies, but only when Serbian troops, government and the King had been already withdrawn. Afterwards, king Nicholas and its government emigrated, while the Montenegrin army was disbanded.

Experiencing its most difficult days in war, Serbia succeeded in its attempt to preserve both its state institutions and the main forces which, recovered on Corfu, transferred and then reinforced by numerous Serbian volunteers at the Salonika front, breached the front in mid-Septembre 1918 and consequently liberated Serbia, Vojvodina and Montenegro. As agreed, the breakthrough continued resulting in a liberation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dalmatia, Croatia and Slovenia. Simultaneously, given the international support, Serbia succeeded in realizing its national concept - union with Montenegro and subsequently their incorporation into new Yugoslav state. Thus the Montenegrin project to join the new state as the independent one was excluded.

Following the end of hostilities the Assembly of the Serbs, Croats, Bunjevacs, Slovaks, Ruthenians and other nations announced on its sessions in Ruma on November 11, 1918 and in Novi Sad the day after, the incorporation of Srem, Banat, Backa and Baranja in Serbia, while the National Assembly met at Podgorica declared the union with Serbia.

Such decision, announced by the Podgorica National Assembly on November 13 (25. New Style) 1918 was the crown success of the liberation attempts originating from the period of the Turkish conquest of the Balkans in the second half of the 15th century, whose realization began from the beginning of the 19th century on. Since then, the two Serb states, with exception of numerous uprisings and fightings with the Turks, had waged five mutual wars against the common conqueror. As the result, Serbia and Montenegro emerged strengthened from these wars, with their territories almost doubled and given for the first time a common border. Consequently that was followed by their integration plans finally achieved after the World War One by the act of union.

The union of the two countries, Serbia and Montenegro was predecessor to the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes announced in Belgrade on December 1, 1918. Giving their statehood to the new Yugoslav state, Serbia and Montenegro enabled the nations living in former Austria-Hungary to join the victors and get their own state.