Montenegro - Introduction

Mount Lovc´en is the Black Mountain from which Montenegro gets its name. Montenegro's landscape consists of large mountains. The densely forested mountain ranges earned the nation its name. Located in the Dinaric Alps, Bobotov Kuk is Montenegro's highest peak. Montenegro is a small Balkan country currently undergoing significant political and economic changes. Slightly smaller than Connecticut, Montenegro is a small nation that lies on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea.

In terms of geographic position and population, Montenegro is among the smallest European states. Montenegro is a stable, democratic and multi-ethnic country which shares common values with the countries from its close environment and also with the whole European continent and democratic world. Montenegro is at the crossroads of the East and the West, connected to its Balkan and Mediterranean neighbours, recognised as a stability factor and part of European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes.

A robust mountain people with a warrior tradition, the Montenegrins were the smallest in population of Yugoslavia's nations. In 1981 they made up 68.5 percent of Montenegro's population, 1.6 percent of Serbia's, 2.1 percent of Vojvodina's, and 1.7 percent of Kosovo's. Of its estimated 690,000 people, approximately half are of the Montenegrin group (or South Slavs), tied closely to the Serbs through language and religion. The remaining population are Serbian, Bosnian, and Albanian. Serbo-Croatian is spoken by 95 percent and the Albanian language is spoken by 5 percent of the population. The majority of the people belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Muslim and Roman Catholic groups exist in smaller groups.

Back in the 1990s, refugees and internally displaced people represented up to 20 per cent of Montenegro's population. Nowadays they account for just over 4 percent.

The Montenegrins and the Serbs shared strong political and cultural ties, including the Eastern Orthodox faith, the Cyrillic alphabet, the Serbo-Croatian language (different dialects), and a history of bloody struggle against the Ottoman Turks. Many historians maintain that the Montenegrins are Serbs. Montenegro's most renowned poet and ruler, the nineteenth-century bishop-prince Petar Petrovi Njegos , considered himself a Serb; likewise, the founder of Serbia's medieval kingdom, Stefan I Nemanja, was born in Podgorica, now Titograd, capital of Montenegro.

For centuries Montenegrin society was composed of patrilineally related extended families organized into clans. The extended family tradition lasted well into the twentieth century. Loyalty to kin and protection of family honor were the paramount values. Civic responsibility was a foreign notion, and pragmatism a sign of weakness. Scratching out a living in the remote, rocky hills, the Montenegrins stubbornly defended their independence against incursions by the Ottoman Turks. Personal tenacity and combat skills were the most valued male virtues; women tended the fields and livestock, maintained the home, nursed the wounded, and nourished the next generation of warriors. Stories of ancestral courage and honor were passed from one generation to the next by bards who recited epic poems to the accompaniment of a gusle, a simple, single-string instrument. Practices such as bride theft and blood brotherhood were common, and blood vengeance survived late in the twentieth century.

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