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Montenegro and her share in Serbian national development

Chapter VIII from the book by Harold W. V. Temperley, History of Serbia, Bell & Sons, London, 1917, pp. 134-161

It is an old saying in Montenegro that her fate has been nothing but war for five centuries, and an older saying in Europe that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Each is as true as such sayings can be, and if there has always been some part of the Montenegrin rocks held by a few Christian shepherds and goatherds against Islam, this hard liberty has only been won by a tireless warfare. Nor has it been simply a ceaseless struggle with men against overwhelming odds; it has been a struggle against climate and conditions which have imposed almost superhuman trials upon the Montenegrins. The relation of a Venetian traveller at the beginning of the seventeenth century makes it probable that the climate was then warmer, and that the beech, ash, and fir covered the slopes of the Black Mountain more thickly than they do to-day. But even so, nature must have imposed appalling trials of endurance upon man. The face of even a young Montenegrin is often wrinkled from exposure to the weather; and it is common for him to sleep out on the mountain-side, exposed to the cruel wind amid mist and rain, covered only with a cloak. It is obvious that the bravest, fiercest, and hardiest warriors could alone survive under such conditions of nature and warfare.

The present borders of the country form a rough square -- with a long arm stretched out eastwards along the Albanian Alps. This territory was greatly enlarged both in 1878 and again in 1913. As it now stands it very fairly corresponds to the territory of the Old Serb kingdom of Zeta. Except for the fact that Zeta had an outlet to the sea at the port of Cattaro and a great fortress in Skodra at the east end of the lake of Scutari, the limits are almost identical. But Old Montenegro, which beat back Islam for five hundred years, contained hardly one-fourth of the existing territory and numbered less than one-sixth of its population.

The approach from the blue bay of Cattaro, at the end of which is a mediæval walled town wedged under the heights, leads to the mountain plateau of Cettinje up infinitely steep limestone cliffs, which sparkle in the sun like frosted silver. This great rock barrier, with Mount Lovtchen as its highest peak, is typical of Old Montenegro. Cattaro was nearly always under the influence of Venice, and from it provisions could be painfully carried up the goat-tracks to the impregnable rock fortresses lying between it and Cettinje.[1] It is almost impossible to see how life could have been supported among these wildernesses of bare grey stone, where "God threw a shower of granite from heaven," according to an old ballad. The earth seems to have disappeared altogether in many places, leaving a heaving mass of stones. Even where there are cultivated patches of earth some twenty feet square, they seem to have been painfully smoothed in the rock and then to have been covered with earth drawn from the clefts and the crannies in which it has drifted. The conditions in winter are sometimes appalling, and the mountain, which glistens so brightly in the sun, is called Tchernagora, or Black Mountain, by Montenegrins, from the gloom which the winter rain and mist bring upon it. This is Old Montenegro, waterless, barren and wildly romantic, full of caves and gorges, and admirably suited for mountain warfare. To descend from Cettinje to the lake of Scutari and then follow up the rivers of the Moratcha and the Zeta is to find a wholly different country. These streams run through valleys which are broad, fertile, and smiling. Maize and tobacco, figs, apples, oranges, and mulberries are easily cultivated, and Podgoritsa, the only large town of modern Montenegro, lies here.[2] It has an old Turkish quarter, and beyond it again to the north lies the ruined Turkish fortress of Spuz. North-east of this fertile strip lies the district of Brda, or New Montenegro, a hilly district cleft with streams, well wooded, and with high pasture-lands.

This brief description of the natural features makes clear the military aims of the Turks. They attempted always to hold the valley of the Zeta with their fortresses at Spuz and Podgoritsa, and thus to sever Old Montenegro from Brda. There was then a real chance of starving the former into submission -- a purpose which would certainly have been effected but for the backdoor connection with Cattaro. The battles, such as they were, usually took place in the valleys. Sometimes the Turks made an advance in force into the hills, and Cettinje itself has been at least thrice in the hands of the invaders. But even when their numbers or their strongholds failed, the Montenegrins could always rely on famine. A small Turkish force was always beaten, an army always had eventually to retire, and there was a Montenegrin behind every rock to hasten its retreat.

The early history of the kingdom of Zeta has already been touched upon. Here it is enough to say that Zeta proved the refuge of Serb national feeling in the tenth and eleventh centuries, and took up the task again after the fatal defeat of Kossovo. Shortly after that era Zeta was in the hands of the Balsha princes, who alternately quarrelled and allied themselves with Venice. These were eventually succeeded by a mysterious person known as Stephen Tchernojevitch, who appears as ruler of Zeta in the middle of the fifteenth century just at the moment when Islam was winning great victories over all the Christian powers. In 1444 the Turks utterly routed the Hungarians at Varna, in 1448 they crushed the Serbs of Rashka a second time on the field of Kossovo, in 1453 they buried the last Byzantine Emperor and his Venetian allies beneath the ruins of Constantinople. Effective resistance was only offered by the heroic Scanderbeg in Albania and Epirus, and by Stephen Tchernojevitch as Lord of the Zeta, who fought as allies. The struggle was severe and the odds too great to withstand, and Scanderbeg died in 1468, almost at the end of his resources.

Stephendied just before Scanderbeg, and was succeeded by his son Ivan. The latter was compelled to withdraw from the lake of Scutari and from the great fortresses of Skodra (Scutari)[3] and Zabliak. He fixed his capital high up in the mountains of Old Montenegro, at Cettinje, on a lofty plateau surrounded by mountains, and in this rock stronghold bade defiance to the Turk. Though he had been defeated and forced to abandon territory, Ivan instilled into his subjects that dauntless spirit of heroism which they henceforth displayed. That Ivan thus inspired them is shown by the fact that he is the hero of so many legends and that guslars (bards) still sing his prowess. They tell how he pierced with his arrow the side of a giant goat and caused a river to flow from its side, of how he sailed over the sea to Venice to bring back the Doge's daughter as a bride for his son, and how the Doge and a hundred nobles attended him to his galley. They sing too of his great fortress of Zabliak, where the gold was piled in the cellars, where horses and falcons abounded, and where Ivan judged the people sitting on a silver settle. Lastly they sing of how he lies sleeping in the cave of Obod, his head pillowed on a veela's (fairy's) breast, and destined to awake when the time is at hand when the Turk shall be chased from the land.[4]

Between 1478 and 1696 Montenegro has almost no history; the only records are a few ballads and an occasional account by a Venetian agent. The population numbered some eight thousand, of whom some were certainly never subdued. That thousands of unknown heroes died in scores of nameless battles we may be sure, but there is nothing but legend to tell how the Turkish assaults were repelled. It is worth while, then, to pause for a moment and try and estimate the racial characteristics of the Montenegrins. During these years hundreds of Serbs from Bosnia and "Old Serbia" sought refuge on these heights, which thus became peopled with the boldest and most enterprising of the race. The tradition that many of them were nobles is probably correct, for the Montenegrin women still have pale, beautiful, regular profiles, clean-cut as a cameo, and the men have an air of true dignity about them and an eagle look such as I have seen in no other Slavonic land. Over the border Albanians have the same martial, chivalrous air, but their women have neither the dignified bearing nor aristocratic features of the Montenegrins.[5] In stature the men are often gigantic -- the average must be very high -- and men exceeding six feet are quite common, just as tall men (though not such tall men) abound in Dalmatia and Bosnia. Their features are often fine, the hair light brown, with blue or light eyes. The Northern Serbians, who are a more mixed race, have darker hair and features and are shorter in stature, the same suggestion of grace but not the same dignity. The Montenegrin type has many of the primitive Slav characteristics, and suggests relative purity of blood.

On the other hand there are certainly strong Albanian and Roumanian influences present, whilst other elements have been introduced through Montenegrin commerce which is as of old in the hands of Italians, and by the dark-skinned gipsies who wander freely over the land as they have always done. The Montenegrin type is mixed, as is that of every Balkan race, but is probably more pure than that of any other. The weaklings have been exterminated by warfare and the rigours of the climate, and the generous blood of the old Serbian nobles is the strongest current in the veins of a Montenegrin.

The social system in Montenegro is different from that of the Serbians, but the differences can be explained by the pressure of new conditions produced by a life of permanent poverty and warfare. The fact that Byzantine armies penetrated to Zeta is shown by the annihilation of one in 1043, somewhere on the boundaries of Zeta along that white and purple line of mountains which lie west of Prisrend. With Byzantine armies entered Byzantine influence and Byzantine methods of taxation. At any rate the administrative and financial system in Zeta had caused the erection of a Zadruga system at an early date. The Zadruga, we may again remark, is not a primitive type of community, but a change imposed by an economic system at a relatively late date. The Zadruga system then remained as the basis of organisation, and though the house communities were collected in small spaces, Montenegrin villages were, and still are, scattered over wide areas and ill-adapted for defence. The Zadruga system has always had a remarkable influence in promoting equality, and even in rendering it permanent after the Zadruga itself has disappeared. Equality was and is a notable feature of Montenegro. Peasants, shepherds, and warriors were all crushed by a common poverty and attacked by a common enemy, and the natural conditions allowed no difference to exist between man and man. The distinction between noble and peasant was soon blurred. The Sabor, or Serbian National Assembly, had ceased to be popular in any real sense under Stephen Dushan, and represented only nobles and higher clergy. We do not know whether a similar fate befell that of Zeta when transferred to Montenegro. In all probability the National Assembly disappeared. There seem to have been four districts or nahies in Tchernagora, each probably with a local or county Assembly. But of these districts Rijeka, as being relatively fertile and approachable by river, is known to have been constantly in the hands of the Turks. It is equally probable that some of the others were at different times. At any rate there is abundant reason for seeing why a central Assembly may have been formed from these four county Assemblies. Now in Serbian local Assemblies, as distinguished from national ones, the democratic and popular element had always remained. It is then very likely that the Assembly called to Cettinje would naturally have that character. At any rate liberty revived again in the free air of the Black Mountain, and each warrior was free to attend the Assembly where, with yataghan in his belt and musket in his hand, he gave his vote for peace or war.[6] But this wild liberty, which each Montenegrin now won, was not all to the good. The blood-feud existed in a most savage form in Montenegro until the nineteenth century, and this relic of extreme barbarism was either introduced from Albania or revived by the new life. Some of their myths, too, seem too primitive to have been retained by the Zetans before 1450, and were, like the blood-feud, probably borrowed from the Albanians.

Every forest, lake, mountain, and even house has its siren or evil spirit (the Turkish dzin). There are woods in which the gathering of a leaf brings on mist and fog and terrible visions; there are districts in which it is dangerous to kill a bee. These myths and these influences indicate a reversion to a more primitive state of things, for though all Southern Slavs still retain many quaint superstitions, the Serbian nobles could hardly have been the most credulous of Slavs. In all probability during the wild days of Stephen and Ivan Tchernojevitch the Serbian nobles and Zetans, associated with the ferocious Albanians in resistance to the Turk, actually retrogressed and borrowed primitive lawlessness from the Albanians which the new life favoured. There can be no question that the scattered villages, the roving existence, and the wild life threatened the stability of the little state, and that the dwellers or refugees on the Black Mountain threatened to develop into robbers who valued Christian property and life as little as they valued Turkish.

It is at this point that the immense influence of the Orthodox or Eastern Church made itself felt on Montenegro, and gave it a special character. At some time between the days of Ivan and the Vladika Danilo (i.e., between 1468 and 1696) Montenegro was transformed from a civil kingdom into a theocratic state governed by a Prince-Bishop. The transition was not as abrupt and remarkable as it would have been in a Western state, for the Church and State were always very closely allied in the East. Constantine the Great was known as ισαποστολóς, the equal of apostles; every Emperor was in some sense a religious person, and no Byzantine Patriarch ever claimed the same independence of the Byzantine Cæsar as the Pope did his German master. Czar Dushan, who was deeply imbued with Byzantine models, showed exactly his conception of the Church when he proclaimed himself Emperor of Romans and Serbs and made the Serbian Archbishop of Ipek a Patriarch, in order to make the extension of his Imperial power evident in both Church and State. The inseparability of the altar and the throne was then a Serbian conception transmitted by the greatest of Serbian rulers. But whereas under Dushan the Czar was always supreme over the Church, the Vladika or Bishop in Montenegro ruled the State for over three centuries.

It is not altogether easy to account for this change, but the monks of Cettinje, from whom the Bishop was elected, had always exercised great influence over the Black Mountain. They were fanatically patriotic: their black gowns were often seen on the battlefield; their monasteries were always a fortress and a refuge against the Turk. They must have conducted such diplomacy and correspondence as the relations with Venice and Ragusa required. They founded and controlled the printing press of Obod until the Turks destroyed it, and represented the only permanent cultural or civilising influence in the land. Finally, the Tchernojevitch rulers seem to have been often absent on missions to obtain succour from Venice; these missions sometimes lasted years, for the Tchernojevitches were seduced by its delights to remain longer in Italy than was necessary. It is probable that on these occasions the Bishop would govern the state in the lay ruler's absence, and would in this way gradually increase his power. Also the Montenegrin Bishops were always consecrated by Serbian Patriarchs, and at Ipek the Serbian Patriarch though conquered by the Turk was becoming a civil ruler as well as an ecclesiastical one. He may have given advice, or the Montenegrin Bishops may have taken the hint. There is no evidence on the subject but tradition, though in Montenegro that is often the best history. The story goes that the last Tchernojevitch, about the year 1514 or 1515, decided to leave the Black Mountain, solemnly convoked an Assembly of the people, and transferred his whole authority to the revered Bishop of Cettinje, the Metropolitan of the old kingdom of the Zeta. The legend sounds very like that of the origin of the papal supremacy, when Constantine, obliged to leave Rome to found Constantinople, conferred his powers on the Pope. There is, however, this difference, that the Pope of Rome claimed secular supremacy over Princes but seldom in practice exercised it; on the other hand, the Vladika once elected became actually reigning Prince as well as supreme Bishop. There can be no doubt that the legend is true in one respect. The fusion of Prince with Bishop was made peaceably and gradually, and was an arrangement carried out with the thorough approval of the whole community.

The consequences of power being concentrated in the Vladika were exceedingly important from every point of view. A civil governor indeed remained and his office became hereditary, but his status and position were inferior to the Vladika, who could dismiss him at will. Thus the Church had swallowed the State, and the Orthodox Church was the eternal foe of the Turk. It was not impossible for a lay ruler to make terms with the Turk. Indeed, there are several heroic ballads which relate how one of Ivan's sons became a Mohammedan and how other Christian princes were won to Islam by the offer of splendid marriages or of rich bribes. King Nicholas's drama, The Empress of the Balkans, is based on this idea, and tells how the love of a Montenegrin maiden rendered unavailing the seductive temptations offered by the Sultan to one of the Balsha dynasty. The Vladika was more effective than any maiden in rendering such a betrayal impossible. As a celibate Bishop, he was not to be won by the offer of a Turkish princess; and his religion, which never sat as lightly on him as on a lay ruler, made him the eternal foe of the Turk. His connections with the Serbian Patriarchs in Hungary or in Turkey were all with open or concealed enemies of Islam, and his faith and his interest both led him the same way. Further, the Vladika's election prevented any of those jealous quarrels which were so common in Serbian dynasties, and guaranteed a perpetual succession of men who were men of some intellect as well as deadly enemies of the Ottoman, and whose whole wealth and influence could be thrown into the patriotic scale.

We know very little of Montenegro from 1515 to 1600. During this period the Turkish power increased, all but one-third of Hungary was conquered, Vienna was besieged, and the only real check received by the Turks was the naval victory of Spain and Venice at Lepanto in 1571. Certainly during this period the Turks advanced far up the Tchernagora; the fortress of Obod was destroyed, and the famous Slavonic printing press broken into fragments by the barbarous conquerors. Rijeka seems to have been in their hands, and it has even been asserted that tribute (haratch) was paid by the Montenegrins.[7] There can be no doubt, however, that they inflicted a severe defeat on the Turks in the year 1604, when the Pasha of Skodra was caught in the defiles. Bolizza, a Venetian envoy to the Turk, writes a report on the Montenegrins at this time, estimating their fighting force with suspicious accuracy at 8027 warriors and their villages at 93, and describing the strictly limited independence which the mountaineers had then obtained. In 1612-13, 1623, and 1627 severe defeats were again inflicted on the Turks, who fell back
"Before their dauntless hundreds in prone fight By thousands down the crags and through the vales."

These victories were gained at the time that no nation in Europe was equally successful against the Turk, yet they did not serve to avert grave perils from Montenegro. During the seventeenth century at least two-thirds of the Albanians became converted to Islam, and a number of Mohammedanised Slavs seem to have inhabited the lower slopes of the Tchernagora. Even when it could not win its way by arms, Islam was pursuing a slow process of assimilation which seemed bound in the end to convert Montenegro as it had converted Bosnia, Herzegovina, and parts of Rashka.

The failure of the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, and the great defeats which befell the Ottoman arms in Hungary in 1686-87, enabled the Montenegrins to win a great victory near Castelnuovo in the latter year. But this success was followed by disaster: the Turkish attention was turned to this hornets' nest in the mountains; a huge Turkish army advanced up the valleys, was aided and guided by Montenegrin renegades and enabled once more to occupy Cettinje. In spite of risings in Bosnia and of aid rendered by Austria to the Southern Slavs, the Montenegrins were unable to gain any real advantages over the Turks, though they eventually compelled them to evacuate Cettinje. The independence of Montenegro was still insecure, and it might have perished but for the election of a new Vladika, the remote ancestor of the present reigning house, whose powerful personality impressed a new character on the warfare of Turk and Christian, and began a fresh era in Balkan history.

In 1696 or 1697 a new Vladika was elected, by name Danilo Petrovitch Njeaush, a native of Njegush, that barren, stony, inaccessible village just below the heights of Mount Lovtchen, where dwelt the oldest and noblest families in the land. Like so many of the famous Serbs, Danilo came from Herzegovina. The fables which trace his descent to French or Italian houses are needless, for he himself was of the type of whom ancestors are made. Attaining chief power at the early age of twenty, he saw that Montenegro could only be saved to Christianity and independence by deeds of savage rigour. There was no rigid line drawn between Christian and Mohammedan communities; Turkish garrisons still lingered in fortified posts in the defiles of Tchernagora, there were Montenegrin traitors who abjured Christianity or betrayed military secrets for a bribe, there were Christian communities which lived amicably with Turks in the vales of the Zeta and of the Moratcha. Mohammedan influence was slowly and insensibly spreading up the lower slopes of the Black Mountain itself. How Danilo freed Montenegro from this danger may be learnt from a grim ballad of the time named Sve Oslobod ("Entirely emancipated"). In the winter of 1702 Danilo was asked to consecrate a church for the Christian community at Podgoritsa. When the little building was finished, the pope (priest) appeared before the elders of the tribes assembled in Sabor (Assembly) and said to them: "Our church is built, but it is no better than a heathen cavern until it hath been blessed; let us therefore obtain a safeconduct by money from the Pasha (of Skodra) that the Bishop of Tchernagora may come and consecrate it." The Pasha delivered the safe-conduct for the black Vladika.... Danilo Petrovitch, on reading it, shook his head and said: "No promise is sacred among the Turks; but for the sake of our holy faith I will go, though it be my fate not to return." He had his best horse saddled and departed. The treacherous Mussulmans let him bless the church; then they seized him and marched him with hands bound behind him to Podgoritsa. At that news the whole Zeta, plain and mountain, rose up and went to the accursed Skadar (Scutari) to implore Omer Pasha, who fixed the Bishop's ransom at 3000 gold ducats. To complete that sum along with the tribes of the Zeta, the sons of Tchernagora had to sell all the sacred vessels of Cettinje.

"The Vladika was unbound. At the return of their dazzling sun the mountaineers could not restrain from transports of joy." Danilo, who had long mourned over the spiritual conquests of the Turks settled in Tchernagora, now called on the assembled tribes to agree upon a day on which the Turks should be attacked and massacred all over the country. Otherwise the people would bow the knee to Baal. Most of the war captains were silent at that proposal; the five brothers Martinovitch alone offered themselves, to execute the plot. The night before Christmas Day was chosen for the massacre, which was to take place in memory of the victims of Kossovo.

"The time fixed for the holy vigil arrives; the brothers Martinovitch light their holy tapers, pray earnestly to the new-born God, drink each a cup of wine to the glory of Christ. Seizing their consecrated maces, they set out in the dark." Wherever there were Turks the five executioners appeared: all who refused baptism were massacred without pity, all who embraced the Cross were presented as brothers to the Vladika. The people, assembled at Cettinje, hailed the dawn of Christmas with songs of gladness; for the first time since the battle of Kossovo they could exclaim, "Tchernagora is free."[8]

This massacre, more terrible than Glencoe, Drogheda, or St. Bartholomew, was celebrated by monks with hymns of gladness on the day that brought goodwill to men and peace on earth. The spirit of the poem and the needs of the time are remote from almost anything that we can conceive. Memories of Kossovo in the past, deadly danger from Islam in the present, a hatred as intense as that of Israel for Moab or Amalek, a stern holy exultation as of an Ironside -- these seem the elements in this horrible tragedy. There should be no attempt to obscure the fact of a cold-blooded murder, organised and deliberate, of all men (and apparently of all women) who refused to abjure Islam. But there were political motives behind the deed and necessities in the case such as did not exist at Glencoe or St. Bartholomew. The standards are those of Homer or of Joshua, of clan and tribal morality when the knife is at the throat and the struggle one of death. We cannot compare the rage or design of the iron Vladika with the deeds of silken diplomatists.

Highlanders did not threaten the third William, nor Huguenots the ninth Charles, as Turkish renegades threatened the Vladika. Montenegro was not in the ordinary sense a state with an organised and unified system, but a collection of scattered villages, which could be separated from one another and slowly absorbed and devoured one by one and inch by inch. The remedy was the amputation of a diseased limb to prevent its growing corruption causing mortification in the body. It was a measure of sternest military precaution, though carried out with a savage religious exultation. "Danilo's Purge" saved Montenegro for the moment, and though it was a crime, it was not in any immediate sense a blunder. The Montenegrins themselves have always looked back on this massacre with proud rejoicing, and Peter II., the poet-predecessor of King Nicholas, composed an epic on the event. Henceforward the ranks were closed, and there were no traitors in the Montenegrin camp. The Mohammedan was now eternally abhorred: during the eighteenth century a Turk who approached the boundaries of Montenegro was fired on as a matter of course without being challenged. The Albanians, who had often been friendly with the Montenegrins, became their most resolute foes, and this savage enmity has existed till the present day,[9] and is still the most serious obstacle to Montenegrin advance in Albania. The fact shows that great historical crimes may be profitable for the moment, but that ultimately they need to be expiated.

Henceforward it was a fight to the death. Though he had eternally estranged one race, Danilo was more than to balance this evil by the kinship which he claimed with another, a mighty Power whose friendship and riches have almost ever since been at the disposal of Montenegro. In 1711 two messengers reached Danilo from the greatest of all Russian Czars, and told of how Peter the Great had conquered Charles XII. at Pultava and was now advancing against the Turks. Russia explicitly recognised the independence of Montenegro a century and a half before any other great Power did so, and called on her Slavonic brethren to unite against the Crescent. It was an epoch in history as important as that Christmas Eve of eight years before, for it meant that the future of Montenegro was bound up with that of her mighty protector in the North.

Popular feeling is always well expressed in the Montenegrin pjesma or ballad. One tells how the Czar's letter was read to a Grand Sabor at Cettinje. "Warriors of the Black Mountain, you are of the same blood as the Russians, of the same faith, of the same language. Are you not too, as are the Russians, men without fear?... Awake you who are heroes worthy of old times, and remain that terrible people eternally at war with the Turks." "At these words of the Slav Czar, of the great Christian Emperor, all brandish their sabres and run to their muskets," The pjesma goes on to relate the victories of the Montenegrins and of how, though they heard with sorrow of Peter's defeat and humiliating treaty with the Turks, they resolved to fight on alone for their liberty. "Oh -- it is no shadow the freedom of Tchernagora. No other than God could quell it, and who knows but God Himself would tire of such an enterprise." The Turks were not prepared to do so yet, and another pjesma tells how fifty thousand Turks came to Podgoritsa. Their leader demanded hostages and a little haratch (or tribute) from the Vladika. Danilo wept sorely, and summoned the chiefs of Tchernagora to Cettinje. "Let us give the haratch," said some. "Let us give stones rather," said others. "Comrades, give what you please," said one chief; "as for me, I will not give up my brethren as hostages, unless they carry off my head with them." At length the Sabor resolved, "We will die to the last man for faith and for sweet liberty rather than surrender to the tyrants."

While the Vladika was praying to the veela which dwelt on Mount Koumo, the spies were observing the Turkish camp. They came back and said, "We found the enemy so many that, were we all three turned into salt, we should not have been enough to salt their soup." The bard then tells how the spies had to encourage the timid, and how the Vladika set out their order of battle -- then having "received their dear Vladika's blessing and sprinkled with holy water," they advanced on the foe. The sleeping Turkish camp is assailed, rich booty captured, Turks hurled from precipices and blasted by fire. "Oh, it was a fine sight to see how Serb sabres flashed, how they drove in the heads of the foe, and how the very rocks flew in splinters when they came in their way! Thus it was that in July 1712 Tchernagora covered itself with glory and was filled with the richest booty. O brother Serbs and all you who have free hearts in your breasts, rejoice, for the ancient liberty will not perish so long as we possess the Black Mountain."

This fine ballad reveals the solid historic fact that Montenegro won a great victory over the Turks in 1712 at a trifling cost, though Danilo himself was wounded. As often happened, however, a defeat roused the Turks to renewed efforts, and in 1714 Cettinje was again captured and occupied by the Turks, and only evacuated after some time. In the next year Corinth and the Peloponnese were captured from Venice by the Turks, and Danilo went on a mission to Petrograd, whence he brought back promises and money, and the first of those annual subsidies which Russia has since abundantly bestowed on Montenegro. During the next few years the pressure on Montenegro was relieved by the victories of Prince Eugèene over the Turks, and the capture of Belgrade by the Austrian General in 1717. In 1727 the Montenegrins won another great victory, and were uniformly successful in a series of smaller actions. The Vladika was always at their head, and Montenegrins still tell how twenty-two Turks fell to his sword in one battle. The general result of all these operations was that he not only preserved Tchernagora inviolate, but that the rulers of the Brda, the fertile district to the north-east of the valley of the Zeta, were induced to throw in their lot with freedom. Thus Danilo left his country immensely increased in territory and in power, and with allies, near at hand in the Brda, far distant at Moscow, promising a brilliant future. He so extended the prestige of Orthodoxy that the Venetian Catholic prelate of Antivari complained of his proselytising influence; he doubled the prestige and territory of Montenegro, and his personal renown as Vladika, as general and as diplomatist, was immense. It is not without reason that the present King Nicholas has erected a memorial to him on a hill overlooking Cettinje.

Danilo's last service to his country was the devising of a system by which the Vladika appointed his successor, usually or nominally a nephew. This strange system of nepotism combined the merits of hereditary and elective rule, for it secured the succession within one family, but allowed the ruling Vladika some discretion. Danilo's own choice was not happy, for his nephew and successor Sava was more of a saint than a ruler, and in his period of government (1735-82) he was frequently superseded by bolder or more ambitious men, and was unable to control the different plemena (clans) in the country. The events of the period do not need a long relation; they include a great victory gained by the Montenegrins over the Turks in 1754. The spirit of the Montenegrins during this period is finely shown in a pjesma about this date. The Vizier of Bosnia demanded of the Vladika the haratch or tribute, along with the twelve handsomest girls on the Black Mountain. After communicating with his captains, the Vladika replies: "How canst thou, renegade, eater of Herzegovina plums, demand the haratch of the sons of the free mountain? The tribute we will send thee will be a stone from our soil, and instead of twelve virgins thou shalt receive twelve pigs' tails with which thou mayst adorn thy turban, to make thee remember that maids are reared in Tchernagora neither for Turks nor renegades, and that rather than give up a single one of them, we would all die palsied, blind. If thou wilt attack us, come on! We hope thou wilt leave thy head amongst us, and that it will roll in our valleys, where so many Turkish skulls lie strewn." The voice is the voice of Sava, but the spirit is that which the heroic Danilo had created in Montenegrins by his bloody massacre of Christmas Eve.

Another and still greater victory was won by the Montenegrins in 1768, near Cero. This battle is often called the Marathon of Montenegro. Certainly the situation was highly critical. Venice had abandoned them, and by a blockade at Cattaro cut off Montenegro not only from food, but what was worse, from gunpowder. Ultimately an advance of three Turkish armies, a larger force than had ever previously assailed Montenegro, was frustrated. Two of the armies were beaten with enormous losses at Cero, and the third was pursued down the mountain amid a great storm of thunder and lightning. For these successes the Montenegrins were indebted not to the Vladika, but to a mysterious Russian monk called Stephen, who had contrived to make the simple mountaineers believe that he was the dead Czar Peter III. Stephen practically ruled Montenegro till his death in 1774. He was not a warrior, but his influence was so great that he could order two mountaineers to be shot for robbery -- a deed which the Vladika himself would not have dared to do. His influence was used to humanise and compose the local clan feuds, and with the splendid effect that was seen on the battlefield in 1768. By these victories Montenegro secured recognition for herself, and concluded a very important alliance with Maria Theresa in 1779, which gave Montenegro the assurance of Austrian support.

Sava died in 1782, and was succeeded by his nephew Peter I., one of the ablest and strongest of the Petrovitch line, quaintly termed the Louis XIV. of Tchernagora. He ruled for nearly fifty years, dying in 1830, and leaving a deep impress on the country. Like Louis XIV., his greatest service to his country was to organise and develop its internal resources; like him, his foreign policy was brilliant but chequered. He found a loose coalition of clans and tribes, he left a relatively united state. The Brda and Tchernagora, previously joined by only a loose alliance, were formally united to one another. A code was drawn up in 1798, which systematised and made uniform the customary law, and made it applicable both to Tchernagora and Brda. The government was systematically organised from the clan or pleme, and the tribal gathering up to the National Assembly or Skuptchina (the old Sabor), and a regular judicial system was worked out, ending in the final court of appeal, where the Vladika himself sat to judge in person under the oak at Cettinje.[10] These considerable changes were effected by the diplomatic skill of the Vladika.

Peter I. was also a valiant warrior, and commanded in person when the Turkish troops were hopelessly routed in a defile near Kruze in 1796. But Montenegro gained little save what it already held in all the wars of this period. During the Austro-Russian war against. Turkey of 1788-91, Montenegro only repulsed attacks. Peter's attempts to support Russia against Napoleon between 1805 and 1810 were not successful, and the Montenegrins were ultimately repulsed by the French from Cattaro and Ragusa. In 1813-14 Montenegrins aided the English to recover Cattaro, but this coveted seaport was soon wrested from them by Austria. In 1820, however, Peter achieved another success over the Turks, and once more drove them headlong from the valley of the Zeta.

The state of the Montenegrins in 1806-7 was described by a Russian officer, Bronievski. He testifies to their military efficiency, and mentions that their whole forces could be collected in twenty-four hours. Their military system is described as the offensive-defensive, one of sending out a small number of skirmishers as decoys, luring the enemy into rocks and defiles and then destroying him by the attack of the main body. He admits their efficiency as irregulars, in scouting and ambush work, but says they cannot compete with regular troops. It is impossible, says he, to keep them in reserve, and they cannot calmly bear the view of the enemy. When in inferior numbers they allured him from the heights with opprobrious names, just as do the heroes in Homer. When equal in numbers they rushed on with savage cries, some with heads of foemen slung round their necks. They pillage and destroy wherever they come, and leap on the enemy "like wolves on a white flock." When the country was in danger all private feuds were forgotten, and these primitive republicans thought that there was no happiness like that of dying in battle for their country. This account of Montenegrin warfare under Peter I. has considerable interest, for it exhibits how unchanging are the real characteristics of the Montenegrins. During the recent Balkan War the whole army mobilised in four days, and proceeded to the front with an heroic disregard of the modern impedimenta of hospitals, transport, and baggage.[11] In their great success in the minor operations and reductions of small fortresses and in their relative failure against Scutari, in their contempt of death, of science, and of discipline, in their unparalleled heroism and endurance of hardships, they showed that the old traits still remained. The impression produced on them by the modern disciplined army of Serbia at Tarabosh and Durazzo is well known. A Montenegrin described it to me, and added: "It is wonderful; their troops do not fire until an officer gives the word!" An army of this kind is like that which Prince Charlie led to death at Culloden.

Peter II. succeeded Peter I., and ruled from 1830-51, carrying on the traditions of his uncle. He still further centralised government, and abolished the blood-feud and the civil governor of Cettinje, thus removing the greatest cause of local disunion and centralising all powers of the state in the Vladika. The last step which remained to make the system of government a modern one was to substitute a civil conception of rule for that of the Vladika. This was done by his successor, Danilo II. (1851-61). Danilo fell in love with a beautiful girl at Trieste, and in order to marry her changed the Constitution of his country, abolished the Vladika-ship, and substituted for it the office of a hereditary absolute Prince (1853). A new Code was published in 1855 which defined his powers, and separated the person of the Prince from that of the Metropolitan.

In foreign affairs and war the reign of Danilo was remarkable, though it was bound up with the larger events outside Montenegro, which will be described elsewhere. Danilo had the greatest difficulty in preventing his subjects from fighting Turkey during the Crimean War. Love of Russia and hatred of the Turk made them forget their respect for their ruler, and a rebellion, a thing as unheard-of in Montenegro as it was common in other Balkan states, was only suppressed with difficulty. The treacherous Turk in no way requited this service, and declared war on Montenegro in 1858. The Montenegrins, commanded by Mirko, the brother of Danilo, a wild and savage leader, caught the Turks in the defile of Grahovo and inflicted a colossal defeat upon them. It was again a decisive moment in Montenegrin history, for disaster would have left them a prey to the Turk at a moment when Russia was weakened and humiliated.[12]

Between the accession of Peter I. in 1782 and that of Danilo II. in 1861 Montenegro lost her most primitive features, and slowly advanced along the path of civilisation. The work has been most ably carried on by the present astute and diplomatic ruler Nicholas, who is equally renowned as a warrior, as a poet, and as a statesman. A system of free e`ducation and a magnificent network of roads, together with a reorganisation of the army, a grant of a free Constitution, and the erection of the principality into a kingdom, constitute his internal achievements. The real domestic difficulties of Montenegro are administrative, for it is hard to find clerks and governors among a nation of warriors, and it is impossible for any Montenegrin to obey a stranger. Corruption or inefficiency can hardly fail to be the result, for the modern bureaucrat is as out of place in Montenegro as was Mark Twain's Yankee at the court of King Arthur. These difficulties have been increased by the fact that thousands of Montenegrins have emigrated to America and have returned with new ideas and higher standards of living, which are bound in the end to work havoc in a primitive community. Those who have only seen the magnificent embassies and relative civilisation of Cettinje do not realise the primitive conditions prevalent in the interior or the difficulty of grappling with them. An efficient administration would meet with savage opposition, an indolent one cannot adapt the old conditions to the rapidly changing circumstances. A civilisation of its own Montenegro possesses. The Montenegrin of Podgoritsa is certainly superior to the Albanian of Dibra or El Bassan. He has forgotten the blood-feud, he treats his women-folk with relative kindness, he welcomes strangers with courtesy and dignity. His loyalty is to Montenegro, not to the Zadruga or to a clan chief. But his civilisation is strictly limited; he certainly has shown himself unable to assimilate the Albanians, who have been under his rule since 1878, and it is in such a test that we find proofs of a high civilisation. The younger generation of Montenegro has no longer the old savage religious fire, which was nurtured by hatred of the Turk. The Ottoman danger is now over, and with it the age-long traditions of Montenegro. There is a Young Montenegrin movement which looks forward to progress, improvement, and civilisation. Yet, in spite of everything, the conservative forces of Montenegro are tremendous, and conservatism there means a mild anarchical equality. Extreme poverty and the mediæval tradition of equality both retard any capitalistic movements. The Montenegrin of the interior at bottom cares little what administrative efficiency may be, resents external interference, and loathes the machinery of syndicates, exploiters, financial agents, and capitalists who introduce civilisation. He cares almost equally little for the Liberal Constitution granted by the King in 1905.[13] What he wishes to do is to live quietly on his plot of land, to wander over his mountains free and armed as of old, to listen to the old ballads of the guslar over the hearthstone, and to teach his children the sword-dance of winter evenings. Such a man likes "Nikita" far better for having played on a gusle before announcing his declaration of war on Turkey in 1912, than for all the benefits the King has brought to his country.

Certainly until the present war King Nicholas had cause for pride when he looked back on Montenegro as it was in 1860. His reign began with a series of defeats, and the Turks as of old moved up the valleys and severed Tchernagora from the Brda. Yet in 1875-76 Prince Nicholas was not afraid to declare war against the Turks. After a chequered campaign, he inflicted immense losses upon them, eventually captured Niksitch and Podgoritsa, and drove the Ottoman for ever from the vale of the Zeta. Into the details of the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 and its subsequent modifications we need not enter. Eventually the independence of Montenegro was formally recognised, and the vale of the Zeta and access to the sea at Antivari secured. In 1881 the harbour of Dulcigno was added by the aid of Gladstone; in 1912-13 the limits of  Montenegro were extended to Plava, Gusinje, Djakova, and Ipek. Thus during this reign the territory of Montenegro has been for ever freed from the Turk, has been more than doubled in extent, has reached something like the limits of the old kingdom of Zeta, and has secured a legal and universal recognition of that independence which it has in fact enjoyed for five centuries. In all these achievements King Nicholas has done much, perhaps more than any other could have done; for it is still true that in Montenegro as in every primitive community the man can do more than the ruler. What is still more remarkable is that a ruler with the peculiar qualities which appeal to a wild race should also have been able to exercise great influence on the statesmen of Europe.

In the more ambitious scheme of securing the leadership of the Serbian race for himself and Montenegro, King Nicholas has failed. This is the ideal which seems to be presented to Montenegro in the King's drama The Empress of the Balkans, and in view of the past glory of Zeta and Montenegro is one which was entirely legitimate. Unfortunately, it is no longer a possible one, for the very history of Montenegro itself and the services which it has rendered to the Serb race make it now necessary for her to surrender these claims. So long as the kingdom of Serbia was weak and divided and the vassal of Austria, so long Montenegro stood for all that was best in the past -- the heroic freedom of the Serb race. But when Serbia showed herself armed and strong, conquered Turkey, crushed Bulgaria, and defied Austria, Montenegro's part became that not of a leader but of an ally. In the last few months before the war King Nicholas practically agreed to a peaceful economic and political union with the kingdom of Serbia. If this agreement ever becomes effective, it will be not only the most selfsacrificing, but probably the most real, of all "Nikita's" great services to his country. At all events it is now certain that Montenegro can only survive as the "little brother" of Serbia. The fact appears recognised by the Montenegrins themselves, whose enthusiasm for Serbia and for Crown Prince Alexander after the Balkan War was evident to the most casual observer.

Montenegro survived the storm which crushed the Serb race, but it survived at a cost. The Turks could only be repelled by a system which saw to it that every man was a soldier, and destroyed all the arts of peace. The results of the long struggle now ended are that Montenegro remains free and Serbian, but still primitive in ideas and organisation and economics, despite all the civilising efforts of her rulers. The traces of the struggle for survival must remain for very long, and perhaps will never be effaced. Freedom Montenegro has, but it is primitive, savage and uncontrolled, and the stern spirit of many of her sons accords ill with modern ideas. Her task in history is really over, for she has achieved that for which she struggled, and has enabled the Serb race to be united. During their period of despair the eyes of Serbs in Bosnia, in Kossovo, and in Serbia itself, were ever turned to that white and purple mountain line where the unconquerable "sons of Tchernagora maintained their freedom, the eyrie of the eagles." There is a story of how Marko Kraljevitch when wounded was restored to life by eagles who brought him water in their beaks. The same service was rendered to the wounded Serb nation by the "falcons of the Black Mountain."

[1] The present magnificent roads of Montenegro are of very recent creation.
[2] It has between 10,000 and 14,000 inhabitants.
[3] The Building of Skadar (Scutari) is one of the most beautiful of all Serb poems. It has been finely translated by Sir John Bowring, Servian Popular Poetry (1827), and the translation has been reprinted in Petrovitch, Hero Tales and Legends, pp. 198 sqq.
[4] It was at Obod that a printing press was set up in 1493 which is claimed as the first one that ever set up Slavonic type. In fact, there were earlier ones at Cracow and in Bohemia, but none in Russia till 1553. The press at Obod was eventually smashed by the Turks. Another printing press set up in Montenegro by Peter II. in the nineteenth century had to be melted down into bullets at a critical moment.
[5] Until recently the status of the Montenegrin women was almost as low, relatively to the man, as that of the Albanian. Chivalry in Montenegro as in Albania is usually shown to unprotected women, so that the air of greater refinement, beauty, and dignity of the Montenegrin woman is probably due to birth and heredity.
[6] On the other hand several of the pjesmas or ballads represent questions of peace and war as being decided by the glavars or captains; but these may, as in Homer, only have formed a preliminary council before the question was submitted to the General Assembly. At any rate the democratic General Assembly ultimately triumphed.
[7] There is some evidence for this fact, and it is certain that tribute was demanded even in the eighteenth century.
[8] A slightly different version of this fierce ballad is given by F. S. Stevenson in his excellent History of Montenegro, pp. 123-4.
[9] Even the Catholic tribes, as the Mirdites, of Albania have usually been hostile to the Montenegrins.
[10] This practice has now been abolished, but King Nicholas still gives audiences to peasants, sitting on a chair in front of his palace and conversing with them in true patriarchal style.
[11] Near Rijeka in 1913 I saw a very old Montenegrin and asked him if he had fought in the war. Finding him unable to understand my question, I put it to a younger man. A look of astonishment came over his face: "Why, everyone went." It is still true in Montenegro, and in no other country in the world, that the army is the State.
[12] Some of the history of Montenegro between 1848 and 1878 is so connected with that of the other Serbs that it has been related elsewhere (vide pp. 253-6).
[13] The Constitution provided for an Assembly of 74 members, 62 elected on the basis of universal suffrage, and for 12 ex-officio members. Up to the present, however, the strong personal authority of the King and the strong local independence of the districts have prevented any noticeable growth of its power.