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Montenegro, country located in the west-central Balkans at the southern end of the Dinaric Alps. It is bounded by the Adriatic Sea and Croatia (southwest), Bosnia and Herzegovina (northwest), Serbia (northeast), Kosovo (east), and Albania (southeast).



Montenegro’s administrative capital is Podgorica, though its cultural centre is the historical capital and older city of Cetinje. For much of the 20th century Montenegro was a part of Yugoslavia, and from 2003 to 2006 it was a component of the federated union of Serbia and Montenegro.


Montenegro, map

Montenegro, map

The country’s names—both Montenegro (from Venetian Italian) and Crna Gora—denote “Black Mountain,” in reference to Mount Lovćen (5,738 feet [1,749 metres]), its historical centre near the Adriatic Sea and its stronghold in the centuries of struggle with the Turks. Alone among the Balkan states, Montenegro was never subjugated. The old heartland of Montenegro, in the southwest, is mainly a karstic region of arid hills, with some cultivable areas—e.g., around Cetinje and in the Zeta valley. The eastern districts, which include part of the Dinaric Alps (Mount Durmitor), are more fertile and have large forests and grassy uplands. The drainage system of Montenegro flows in two opposite directions. The Piva, Tara, and Lim rivers follow northerly courses, the Morača and Zeta rivers southerly ones.



Durmitor massif (background), Montenegro.

Karstic terrain

Karstic terrain near Cetinje, the historic capital of Montenegro.

Montenegro’s section of the Karst lies generally at an elevation of 3,000 feet (900 metres) above sea level—although some areas rise to 6,000 feet (1,800 metres). The lowest segment is in the valley of the Zeta River, which is at about 1,500 feet (450 metres). The river occupies the centre of Nikšić Polje, a flat-floored, elongated depression typical of karstic regions, as is the predominantly limestone underlying rock, which dissolves to form sinkholes and underground caves.

The high mountains of Montenegro include some of the most rugged terrain in Europe and average more than 7,000 feet (2,000 metres) in elevation. Notable is Bobotov Peak in the Durmitor Mountains, which reaches 8,274 feet (2,522 metres) and is the country’s highest point. The Montenegrin mountains were the most ice-eroded section of the Balkan Peninsula during the last glacial period.

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Montenegro’s surface runoff in the north is carried away by the Lim and Tara river systems, which enter the Danube via the Drina River, which forms the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. In southern Montenegro, streams flow toward the Adriatic. Much of the drainage of the karstic region is not on the surface but travels in underground channels.

Lake Scutari (known in Montenegro as Skadarsko Jezero), the country’s largest lake, lies near the coast and extends across the international border into northern Albania. It is 25 miles (40 km) long and 10 miles (16 km) wide, with a total surface area of 140 square miles (360 square km), and some three-fifths of it lies within Montenegrin territory. The lake occupies a karstic polje depression, the floor of which lies below sea level. Montenegro’s mountainous regions are noted for their numerous smaller lakes.


A distinctive feature of Montenegro is the accumulations of terra rossa in its coastal area. This red soil, a product of the weathering of dolomite and limestone rocks, is also found in depressions in the Karst. Mountainous areas above the plateaus have typical gray-brown forest soils and podzols.


Montenegro’s lower areas have a Mediterranean climate, with dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Temperature varies greatly with elevation. Podgorica, lying near sea level, is noted for having the warmest July temperatures in the country, averaging 81 °F (27 °C). Cetinje, in the Karst region at an elevation of 2,200 feet (670 metres), has an average temperature that is 10 °F (5 °C) lower. Average January temperatures range from 46 °F (8 °C) at Bar on the southern coast to 27 °F (−3 °C) in the northern mountains.

Montenegro’s mountainous regions receive some of the highest amounts of rainfall in Europe. Annual precipitation at Crkvice, in the Karst above the Gulf of Kotor, is nearly 200 inches (5,100 mm). Like most areas along the Mediterranean Sea, precipitation occurs principally during the cold part of the year, but in the higher mountains a secondary summer maximum is present. Snow cover is rare along the Montenegrin coast, averaging 10 days in karstic polje depressions and increasing to 120 days in the higher mountains.

Plant and animal life

One-third of Montenegro, principally in the high mountains, remains covered with broad-leaved forest. However, bare rock characterizes most of the southern Karst zone, where soils generally are absent. This area remained forested through Classical times, with oaks and cypresses predominating, but removal of forests for domestic fuel and construction led to widespread soil erosion and, ultimately, to replacement of the woodlands by the Mediterranean scrub assemblage known as maquis.

Sparsely populated Montenegro is noted as a habitat for numerous mammals, including bears, deer, martens, and wild pigs (Sus scrofa). It has many predatory wild animals, including wolves, foxes, and wildcats. The country also has a rich variety of birds, reptiles, and fish.

People of Montenegro

Ethnic groups

Differences between Montenegrins and Serbs are a matter of continuing controversy. Although isolated from each other for centuries during the Ottoman period, when Albanian families came to dominate the intervening Kosovo region, both groups retained their Orthodox religious traditions and many other common cultural attributes—including the Cyrillic alphabet. Because of such obvious commonalities, most Serbs see Montenegrins as “Mountain Serbs,” and many—but certainly not all—Montenegrins see themselves as Serb in origin.


Fluctuations between a Serb and a Montenegrin identity have been reflected in census figures. In 1981, for example, more than two-thirds of the residents of Montenegro identified themselves as Montenegrin, while only a tiny percentage reported themselves as Serb. By the early 1990s those proportions had changed to about three-fifths and one-tenth, respectively. In the early 21st century almost half of the population was identified as Montenegrin and about one-fourth as Serb. The largest non-Serb minorities are Bosniaks (Muslims) and Albanians, the former concentrated in the northern mountains and the latter along the Adriatic coast. Nearly three-fourths of the population of the coastal community of Ulcinj is Albanian.

Languages and religion

Podgorica, Montenegro

Monastery in Podgorica, Montenegro.

During the long period of separation from Serbia, Montenegrins developed characteristics and institutions of their own. For example, they did not adhere to the Serbian Orthodox Church but were led by their own metropolitan until the Montenegrin church was absorbed into the Serbian patriarchate in 1920. In addition, Montenegrin pronunciation is closer to Croatian than to Serbian. A strong nationalist movement grew alongside Montenegrin resentment of Serbian attempts to minimize their distinctiveness. Many (but by no means all) Montenegrins joined Bosnians, Croats, and Serbs in insisting that what is spoken in each of their respective countries is a language distinct from neighbouring languages, despite mutual intelligibility. Thus, they prefer that their language be called Montenegrin. Montenegrin, Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian, and Croatian are all recognized by the constitution as official languages.

Settlement patterns

In the 1940s about seven-eighths of Montenegrins were classified as rural, but over ensuing decades this proportion changed dramatically. By the early 21st century less than two-fifths of the population lived in rural areas. Montenegrin villages are found mainly in the polje depressions of the Karst. Houses are most often constructed of stone, frequently without mortar. The largest city by far is Podgorica, followed in size by Nikšić, Pljevlja, Bijelo Polje, Cetinje, and Bar.


Agriculture, forestry, and fishing

Although the country is endowed with only limited areas of suitable soil and climate, farming dominated Montenegro’s economy until the mid-20th century. Less than one-tenth of the land is farmed, and about two-fifths of this is devoted to grains. In upland areas the principal agricultural activity is sheepherding. With woodlands covering more than two-fifths of Montenegro, forestry is economically important. Despite the country’s significant seacoast, commercial fishing is negligible.

Power and resources

Bauxite, the principal raw material for aluminum, is Montenegro’s chief metallic resource. It is found principally near Nikšić. Significant hydroelectric power is produced at the Piva River plant on a tributary of the Drina and at the Peručica installation on the Zeta River. Montenegro also has a thermoelectric plant, which burns lignite mined near the town of Pljevlja.


About one-tenth of Montenegro’s manufacturing labour force is employed in the steelworks at Nikšić, the country’s largest industrial facility despite a location generally unsuited to steelmaking. (Lacking local sources of both coking coal and iron ore, the works long depended on imports of pig iron from Zenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina.) Podgorica, where agricultural products (including tobacco) are processed, provides even more manufacturing jobs than Nikšić. Refrigerators are manufactured in Cetinje.

Finance and trade

Established in 1993, the Central Bank of Montenegro is responsible for monetary policy, the development of a sound banking system, and payment operations. The German mark was declared the sole means of payment in Montenegro in November 2000, and in 2002 Montenegro’s official currency became the euro, the EU’s single currency. A stock market began operating in 1996. Most enterprises in Montenegro have begun privatization, and it is expected that most of these will eventually trade on the exchange.

Labour and taxation

Because of the small numbers of nonagricultural workers, labour union activity is minor and local. Montenegrin taxes include personal and corporate income taxes, excise duties, sales taxes, property taxes, taxes on financial transactions, and use taxes. Montenegro was constitutionally required to remit a portion of its revenue to federal institutions while part of Yugoslavia but stopped doing so in 1998.


Sveti Stefan

Sveti Stefan, Montenegro.

Montenegro’s 150 miles (240 km) of seacoast have long been a major tourist destination. Attractive landscapes, picturesque old stone houses, and beaches draw both domestic and foreign tourists. The kings of prewar Yugoslavia had a summer palace near Miločer, and the postwar regime transformed the ancient fishing village of Sveti Stefan into a luxury resort. The city of Ulcinj—whose architecture has been influenced by the Greeks, Byzantines, Venetians, and Asians—is an important tourist destination.

Transportation and telecommunications

Montenegro’s first railroad was a short line connecting the port of Bar with Virpazar on Lake Scutari. During the period between World War I and World War II, another rail line was constructed between Podgorica and Nikšić. Improvements continued during the communist era, including extension of a rail link in 1986 to the newly constructed Albanian system. The completion of the long-planned route between Bar and Belgrade in 1976 extended Montenegro’s rail lines considerably. About three-fifths of the country’s roads are classified as modern. The country’s sole maritime port is the small community of Bar; closed briefly in the early 1990s, it reopened in 1996.

Under Yugoslav regimes, Montenegro developed a modern telecommunications system. Unlike the Serbian telecommunications infrastructure, Montenegro’s was not damaged during NATO’s bombing campaign in 1999. Indeed, the system was augmented by access to European satellites and increased Internet availability.

Government and society


Montenegro is a parliamentary republic that gained full independence from Serbia in June 2006, following a referendum in May in which just over the required 55 percent of Montenegrins voted to secede from the federation. In 2007 Montenegro’s parliament adopted the country’s first constitution. Montenegro is governed by independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president is the head of state, elected directly for a period of five years. The unicameral parliament of Montenegro is led by a prime minister. Its judicial branch includes a constitutional court composed of five judges with nine-year terms and a supreme court with justices that have life terms.

Local government

Montenegro’s local government has 20 communes that range in size from about 18 to more than 770 square miles (50 to 2,000 square km) and in population from 5,000 to more than 130,000.


In August 2006, just two months after declaring independence from Serbia, Montenegro formally abolished conscription and transitioned to a fully professional military. The country maintains an army, navy, and air force, and all three branches are open to both men and women. In the second decade of the 21st century, women represented almost 10 percent of active-duty service members and more than 40 percent of reservists and auxiliaries. At that time, Montenegro’s military consisted of roughly 2,000 active-duty troops, with the army accounting for roughly three-fourths of that number. This total was bolstered by approximately 4,000 special police personnel and some 6,000 security officers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In June 2017 Montenegro became the 29th member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).


Eight years of primary education are compulsory in Montenegro, beginning at age seven. Four years of secondary education also are available, divided between two types of schools: general secondary schools, which prepare students for universities; and vocational schools, which offer training that usually leads to admission to two-year technical colleges. The University of Montenegro, located in Podgorica, was founded in 1974. Britannica QuizGeography Fun Facts

Cultural life

Daily life and social customs

Montenegro’s traditional culture revolves around clans, groups of patrilineally related families that at one time maintained tribal identities on their own traditional territories. Increasing integration into the Yugoslav state, including general provision of public education, brought an end to clan autonomy, but clans themselves remain an important element in Montenegrin social life. A continuing object of complaint has been rampant clan nepotism in the staffing of governmental bureaucracies.

Faced with incessant threats from Ottoman armies and rival groups, clans traditionally emphasized personal courage in combat as a major virtue. This was reflected in the disproportionate role, before the republican secessions of the early 1990s, of Montenegrins in Yugoslavia’s armed forces. Montenegrins constituted a high proportion of noncommissioned and commissioned officers in the Yugoslav People’s Army, including about one-fifth of its generals. Another factor explaining this influence is the limited economic opportunities available in Montenegro itself.

The arts

Montenegro is perhaps best known to the outside world for its rich architectural heritage and medieval murals. Among the most notable structures are the Romanesque cathedral of St. Tryphon in Kotor, the 16th-century Husein-Pasha Mosque in Pljevlja, and the Baroque church of Our Lady of the Rocks on an islet in the Bay of Kotor. This region was recognized in 1979 by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The old town of Budva was of particular importance until it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1979; since rebuilt, it now serves as a beach resort and amusement park.

Montenegro’s medieval murals date back to the 10th century. A 13th-century mural depicting the life of St. Elias, located in the Moraca monastery, is perhaps most notable. In subsequent centuries, Montenegrin artists sometimes showed the influence of western European styles such as the Baroque, but traditional art forms such as icon painting, wood carving, and textile weaving also continued unabated. By the turn of the 20th century, western European styles—generally inherited many years after their popularity in artistic capitals such as Paris—began to dominate. At mid-century Milo Milunović used aspects of Post-Impressionist technique to depict the landscape of Montenegro, while in the postwar period Petar Lubarda used Expressionist techniques to portray his homeland. In the late 20th century a younger generation of artists blended international trends and styles with Montenegrin imagery and political concerns. Beginning in the 1990s, new forums for exhibition, such as the Montenegro Cetinje Biennial, allowed work by Montenegrin artists to be seen by an increasingly large number of people.

Montenegrin literature has its roots in folk literature sung to the accompaniment of the gusla (a type of folk fiddle). As elsewhere in Europe, monasteries were the centres of literacy and, not surprisingly, religious leaders produced the first written works. Early manuscripts include Miroslavljevo jevandjelje (1186–90; “Miroslav’s Gospel”), transcribed from an earlier Macedonian text. Only a 17th-century Latin-language copy remains of the first written work of Montenegrin literature, Kraljevstvo Slovena (1177–89; “The Kingdom of the Slavs”), by Pop (Father) Dukljanin of Bar. Thirty-eight years after Johannes Gutenberg’s invention (in 1494), the first state-owned printing press was established in Cetinje. In that year the Ostoih (“Book of Psalms”) was printed; it is believed to be the first book printed in Cyrillic from the South Slavic region. Without question the greatest poet of the region is Petar Petrović Njegoš (Peter II), who also is celebrated widely among Serbs.

Music too has an ancient history in Montenegro. A bone whistle from the Paleolithic Period (Old Stone Age) found in what is now Montenegro is the oldest musical instrument in all of Europe. Early church chants, as well as a number of organs built in the coastal region, testify to a lively tradition of church music. The above-mentioned Miroslavljevo jevandjelje gives the Old Slavic names of traveling musicians. Significant contemporary composers include Borislav Taminjzic (1933–92) and Zarko Mirkovic.

Along the Montenegrin coast there are several annual arts festivals each summer that cater to tourists. Perhaps most significant is a theatre festival in Budva. The Montenegrin National Theatre, with a recently enlarged and renovated building, operates in Podgorica.

Cultural institutions

Despite a relatively small population, Montenegro has developed a wide range of cultural institutions. These include theatres, art galleries, museums, and libraries, as well as an independent Academy of Arts and Sciences. Cetinje, the historical capital of Montenegro, boasts many historic buildings, including the five-complex National Museum of Montenegro, which maintains separate art, ethnographic, and historical museums. The city is also home to the Cetinje Monastery, which is the repository of an important collection of medieval manuscripts. The archives in Kotor contain historical documents that are of interest to researchers. There are also museums of note in Perast and Herceg Novi. Nikšić and Podgorica both house well-stocked art galleries, each of which is located in a historic castle.

Sports and recreation

The government emphasizes physical education and sports. Fishing and hunting are popular. The state also has set aside substantial areas for recreation, including three national parks: Durmitor, Biogradska Gora, and Lovćen. Durmitor National Park was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1980.

Media and publishing

Scores of newspapers, including Pobjeda (“Victory”), are published in Montenegro. Local presses publish a few hundred books each year. There are several radio stations and a television studio and transmitter in the country.Thomas M. PoulsenThe Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

History of Montenegro

Illyrians, Romans, and Slavs

Before the arrival of the Slav peoples in the Balkans in the 6th and 7th centuries ce, the area now known as Montenegro was inhabited principally by people known as Illyrians. Little is known of their origins or language, but they are claimed today as ancestors by the modern Albanians. Along the seaboard of the Adriatic, the movement of peoples that was typical of the ancient Mediterranean world ensured the settlement of a mixture of colonists, traders, and those in search of territorial conquest. Substantial Greek colonies were established on the coast during the 6th and 7th centuries bce, and Celts are known to have settled there in the 4th century bce. During the 3rd century bce an indigenous Illyrian kingdom emerged with its capital at Skadar (modern Shkodër, Alb.). The Romans mounted several punitive expeditions against local pirates and finally conquered this kingdom in 9 ce, annexing it to the province of Illyricum.

The division of the Roman Empire between Roman and Byzantine rule—and subsequently between the Latin and Greek churches—was marked by a line that ran northward from Skadar through modern Montenegro, symbolizing the status of this region as a perpetual marginal zone between the economic, cultural, and political worlds of the Mediterranean peoples and the Slavs. As Roman power declined, this part of the Dalmatian coast suffered from intermittent ravages by various seminomadic invaders, especially the Goths in the late 5th century and the Avars during the 6th century. These soon were supplanted by the Slavs, who became widely established in Dalmatia by the middle of the 7th century. Because the terrain was extremely rugged and lacked any major sources of wealth such as mineral riches, the area that is now Montenegro became a haven for residual groups of earlier settlers, including some tribes who had escaped Romanization.

Medieval South Slav kingdoms

The South Slav peoples of the region were the ancestors of today’s Serbs and Montenegrins, though the degree of differentiation between those two groups remains controversial. The peoples were organized along tribal lines, each headed by a župan (chieftain). In this part of the Adriatic littoral, from the time of the arrival of the Slavs up to the 10th century, these local magnates often were brought into unstable and shifting alliances with other larger states, particularly with Bulgaria, Venice, and Byzantium. Between 931 and 960 one such župan, Česlav, operating from the županija of Zeta in the hinterland of the Gulf of Kotor, succeeded in unifying a number of neighbouring Serb tribes and extended his control as far north as the Sava River and eastward to the Ibar. Zeta and its neighbouring županija of Raška (roughly modern Kosovo) then provided the territorial nucleus for a succession of Serb kingdoms that in the 13th century were consolidated under the Nemanjić dynasty. (See also Serbia: Medieval Serbia.)

Although the Serbs have come to be identified closely with the Eastern Orthodox tradition of Christianity, it is an important indication of the continuing marginality of Zeta that Mihiajlo of Duklja, the first of its rulers to claim the title of king, had this honour bestowed on him in 1077 by Pope Gregory VII, head of the Western, or Roman Catholic, church. It was only under the later Nemanjić rulers that the ecclesiastical allegiance of the Serbs to Constantinople, and thus to Eastern Orthodoxy, was finally confirmed. On the death of Stefan Dušan in 1355, the Nemanjić empire began to crumble, and its holdings were divided among the knez (prince) Lazar Hrebeljanović, the short-lived Bosnian state of Tvrtko I (reigned 1353–91), and a semi-independent chiefdom of Zeta under the house of Balša, with its capital at Skadar. Serb disunity coincided fatefully with the arrival in the Balkans of the armies of the Ottoman Empire, and in 1389 Lazar fell to the forces of Sultan Murad I at the Battle of Kosovo.

After the Balšić dynasty died out in 1421, the focus of Serb resistance shifted northward to Žabljak (not far from Podgorica). There a chieftain named Stefan Crnojević set up his capital. Stefan was succeeded by Ivan Crnojević (Ivan the Black), who, in the unlikely setting of this barren and broken landscape and pressed by advancing Ottoman armies, created in his court a remarkable, if fragile, centre of civilization. Ivan’s son Djuradj Crnojević built a monastery at Cetinje, founding there the see of a bishopric, and imported from Venice a printing press that produced after 1493 some of the earliest books in the Cyrillic script. During the reign of Djuradj, Zeta came to be more widely known as Montenegro.

Under the prince-bishops

In 1516 a shift occurred in the constitution of Montenegro that many historians regard as having ensured its survival as an independent state. The last of the Crnojević dynasty retired to Venice and conferred the succession on the bishops of Cetinje. Formerly, the loyalty of minor chieftains and of the peasantry to their rulers had been unstable. It was not unusual for political control throughout the Balkans to pass from Slav rulers to the Ottoman Turks, not because of the defeat of the former in battle but because of the failure of local magnates to secure the support of their subjects. In Montenegro the position of vladika, as the prince-bishop was known, brought stability to the territory’s leadership. The link between church and state elevated it in the eyes of the peasantry, institutionalized a form of succession, and excluded the possibility of compromising alliances with the Turks.

Nevertheless, this period was a difficult one for the small, then landlocked Montenegro, which was almost constantly at war with the Ottoman Empire. Cetinje itself was captured in 1623, in 1687, and again in 1712. Three factors explain the Ottoman failure to subdue it completely: the obdurate resistance of the population, the inhospitable character of the terrain (in which it was said that “a small army is beaten, a large one dies of starvation”), and the adroit use of diplomatic ties with Venice.

From 1519 until 1696 the position of vladika had been an elective one, but in the latter year Danilo Nikola Petrović was elected to the position (as Danilo I) with the new provision of being able to nominate his own successor. Although Eastern Orthodox clergy are generally permitted to marry, bishops are required to be celibate; consequently, Danilo passed his office to his nephew, establishing a tradition that lasted until 1852.

Two important changes occurred in the wider European context for Montenegro during Danilo’s reign: the expansion of Ottoman territory was gradually reversed, and Montenegro found in Russia a powerful new patron to replace the declining Venice. The ebbing of the Ottoman tide proved significant for Montenegrin religious identity, which appears to have been particularly unstable throughout the 18th century. In spite of the establishment of an Orthodox theocratic polity and the apocryphal mass slaughter of those who had converted to Islam (the “Montenegrin Vespers” of Christmas Eve, 1702), there is contested evidence that Montenegrin lineages shifted in a very fluid manner not only between the Roman Catholic and Muslim faiths but also between Montenegrin and Albanian identity. It seems that, given the uncertainty over who held power in the region, diversity was often regarded as a kind of collective insurance policy. Montenegro’s Orthodox identity gradually stabilized, however, as Ottoman power declined. Roman Catholicism retained a toehold in the area, and only in modern times have Montenegrin Catholics identified themselves as Croats.

The replacement of Venice by Russian patronage was especially significant, since it brought financial aid (after Danilo I visited Peter the Great in 1715), modest territorial gain, and formal recognition in 1799 by the Ottoman Porte of Montenegro’s independence as a state under the vladika Petar Petrović Njegoš (Peter I). Russian support at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, following the final defeat of French emperor Napoleon I, failed to secure for Montenegro an outlet to the sea, even though Montenegrins had participated in the seizure of the Gulf of Kotor from French forces in 1806.

Modernization and statehood

The accession of Peter II as vladika in 1830 heralded an era of modernization and political integration, in spite of further wars against the Ottoman Turks. The authority of tribal chieftainships was significantly attenuated after a brief civil uprising was suppressed in 1847. The position of “civil governor” was replaced by a senate, and much progress was made in the suppression of blood feuding. After Peter’s death in 1851, his nephew and successor, Danilo II, introduced major changes in governance. Because he was already betrothed, Danilo was precluded from becoming vladika; therefore, he assumed the title of gospodar (prince) and, by making it a hereditary office, separated the leadership of state from the episcopal office. Danilo also introduced a new and modernized legal code, and the first Montenegrin newspaper appeared in 1871.

A turning point in the fortunes of Montenegro came when Serbia declared war on the Ottoman Empire in 1876. (See Serbo-Turkish War.) Montenegro, under Prince Nikola Petrović (Nicholas I), joined Serbia immediately and Russia the following year. Although the territorial gains awarded to Montenegro by the initial Treaty of San Stefano were reduced at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, the state virtually doubled in area, and for the first time its borders were set down, however vaguely, in an international treaty. Most significantly, Montenegro secured vital access to the sea at Antivari (modern Bar) and Dulcigno (Ulcinj). Although the hostility of the other great powers to a Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean tended to restrict the use of these ports, Montenegro was now far more open to communication with the developing industrial economies of western Europe. Trade expanded, tobacco and vines were cultivated, a state bank was founded, motor roads were built, a postal service was initiated, and in 1908 the first railway (from Antivari to Virpazar on Lake Scutari) was opened. The majority of the investment was by foreign (especially Italian) interests. Economic openness had another side, however, as a flow of emigrants began to leave Montenegro, especially for Serbia and the United States.

The steady expansion of educational opportunity and contact with the outside world produced further pressure to modernize governance. The legal code was thoroughly revised in 1888, and parliamentary government was introduced in 1905. Prince Nicholas’s autocratic disposition nevertheless made for frequent conflict between parliament and the crown. He took the title of king in 1910.

The peaceful economic expansion that the country experienced after 1878 ended with the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. Montenegro sided with Serbia and the other Balkan League states to oust the Ottoman Turks from their remaining European possessions. The Treaty of London (1913) brought territorial gains on the Albanian border and in Kosovo, and it also resulted in a division of the old Ottoman sanjak, or military-administrative district, of Novi Pazar between Serbia and Montenegro. This brought Montenegro to its greatest territorial extent and for the first time gave the two states a common border. Discussions began about a possible union between the two countries, but these were interrupted by World War I, when Austrian troops drove Nicholas into exile in Italy.

Following the end of hostilities in November 1918, a national assembly in Cetinje deposed the king and announced the union of the Serbian and Montenegrin states. Although Montenegrin representatives had had little contact with the Yugoslav Committee—a group of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes who advocated the establishment of a unified South Slav state—or with the Serbian government-in-exile of Nikola Pašić during the war, Montenegro was taken into the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes on Dec. 1, 1918. Of all the constituent parts of this newly unified state (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929), Montenegro had suffered the greatest proportionate loss of life during the war.

Montenegro in the two Yugoslavias

In view of the dominant place of the Serb-Croat conflict in Yugoslav politics, almost no attention has been given by historians to the development of Montenegro between the two World Wars. Economic development—including foreign investment—followed the lines of political patronage, and therefore little of it filtered into Montenegro. No new railroad building took place, no new mineral extraction was initiated, and there was little road construction. Having few large estates to expropriate, it was almost untouched by agrarian reform. Port development in the Gulf of Kotor was largely confined to military facilities; in the words of one historian, Bar in 1938 was “of very little importance.” By almost all indicators of economic well-being, the Zetska banovina, the administrative district in post-1929 Yugoslavia that roughly corresponded to Montenegro, vied for the lowest level of economic development with the banovina of Vardarska, which comprised parts of Macedonia. Montenegro’s most important export in this period was probably emigrants.

It is difficult to determine whether this neglect had a lasting effect on the Montenegrins, as Yugoslav politics was centralized and multiparty politics was proscribed under the royal dictatorship after 1929. It is perhaps indicative that the Communist Party drew support as much in such marginalized areas as Montenegro as it did in the large industrial centres of Zagreb (Croatia) and Belgrade (Serbia).

During World War II, after Yugoslavia was invaded and partitioned by the Axis powers in April 1941, Montenegro was occupied by the Italians under a nominally autonomous administration. Spontaneous armed resistance began within a few months; it was divided in its aims and loyalties between communists and their sympathizers and noncommunist bjelaši (advocates of union with Serbia). At the same time, many Montenegrin nationalists (zelenaši), disappointed by the experience of Yugoslav unification, supported the Italian administration. Notwithstanding this local conflict, which was soon entangled within the wider Yugoslav struggle, the local strength of the Communist Party gave the communists an effective base in Montenegro. In addition, the area’s remoteness and difficult terrain made it an important refuge for Josip Broz Tito’s communist Partisan forces during the most difficult stage of their struggle, and it became a relatively safe haven after the fall of Italy.

The Montenegrins’ traditional Pan-Slavism made them natural allies of the communist plan to reunify Yugoslavia. Consequently, after the war many Montenegrins found themselves in high positions within the military, political, and economic administration—in contrast to their former marginality. That same devotion to the Communist Party and to Soviet leadership, bolstered by Montenegro’s pro-Russian tradition, helps to explain why a large number of Montenegrins sided with Joseph Stalin in the 1948 dispute between the Soviet-backed agency of international communism, Cominform, and the Yugoslav leadership. Many of those people who backed Stalin were victims of subsequent Yugoslav purges.

Nevertheless, Montenegro’s elevation to the status of a republic—part of the communist strategy of unifying Yugoslavia through a federal structure—ultimately secured Montenegrin loyalty to the Yugoslav regime. Montenegro later became a regular recipient of the large sums of federal aid disbursed to less-developed regions, which enabled it to embark for the first time on a process of industrialization. In spite of an attempt to develop the Nikšić area as a centre of both bauxite mining and steel production, economic progress was constantly hampered by the republic’s marginality to the communication networks of the Yugoslav federation. The Montenegrin coast did not emerge as an important tourist area until the 1980s.

Federation with Serbia

The breakup of the Yugoslav federation after 1989 left Montenegro in a precarious position. The first multiparty elections in 1990 returned the reformed League of Communists to power, confirming Montenegrin support for the disintegrating federation. The republic therefore joined Serbia in fighting the secession of Slovenia and Croatia, and in 1992 it joined Slobodan Milošević’s “third Yugoslavia,” a federal republic comprising only Montenegro and Serbia. Still, in 1989 the remains of King Nicholas I and other members of the former royal family had been returned to Montenegro to be reinterred with great ceremony in Cetinje. This sign of the continuing sense of distinctive Montenegrin identity was matched by lively criticism of the Serb conduct of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (see Bosnian conflict). In addition, the United Nations’ sanctions against Yugoslavia seriously harmed Montenegro, especially by undermining its lucrative tourist trade; their impact, however, was somewhat softened by the opportunities created for smuggling, in collaboration with coastal networks in Albania.John B. AllcockJohn R. Lampe

Relations between Montenegro and Serbia began to deteriorate at the end of 1992. Montenegrins reacted negatively when an attempt to settle the dispute over Montenegro’s frontier with Croatia in the Prevlaka Peninsula was headed off by the Milošević regime in Belgrade (though the matter was later settled). Montenegrins also became increasingly frustrated with Serbia’s unequal access to power in the new federation and impatient, in particular, with its failure to address economic reform. Disagreements over the conduct of the wars in Bosnia and Croatia led to the withdrawal of Montenegrin units from the Yugoslav army.

Matters came to a head in 1997, when the ruling party, the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro (Demokratska Partija Socijalista Crne Gore; DPS), split into factions that either supported or opposed Milošević, who had ascended from the Serbian to the Yugoslav presidency in July. After Milošević’s protégé and close ally Momir Bulatović was defeated by Milorad Ðjukanović in Montenegro’s presidential elections that October, Ðjukanović began to steer an increasingly independent course of action, and within a year Montenegrin representatives had been withdrawn from most of the federal institutions. Ðjukanović was also critical of the Serbian policy toward Kosovo, fearing that once Milošević had settled accounts with the rebelling Kosovar Albanians, Montenegro would be forced to submit to a firmer hand from Belgrade. As the Kosovo conflict escalated, however, Ðjukanović’s active opposition to Serbian policy did not entirely save Montenegro from military action carried out by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against Yugoslavia in 1999: the port of Bar as well as communication facilities and military targets in the republic were bombed.

Despite widespread support for independence in Montenegro and plans to hold a referendum on secession in April 2002, Ðjukanović negotiated an agreement with Yugoslav and Serbian authorities in March, calling for Montenegro’s continued association with Serbia in a virtual federation. The agreement, approved by the Yugoslav parliament and the Montenegrin and Serbian assemblies in 2003, renamed the country Serbia and Montenegro, gave wide powers to the governments of Montenegro and Serbia, and allowed each republic to hold a referendum on independence and to withdraw from the union after three years.

Independence of Montenegro

In a referendum held on May 21, 2006, 55.5 percent of Montenegrins (just over the necessary threshold of 55 percent) voted to end the federation of Serbia and Montenegro. On June 3, 2006, Montenegro declared its independence, which was recognized by the Serbian parliament two days later.

The principal feature of the first years of independence was the economic boom of 2006–08, with growth rates exceeding 6 percent each year. The boom was followed, however, by a contraction of roughly the same percentage in 2009. Sharp declines in European bank credit, real estate sales (to Russians in particular), and direct foreign investment—factors that had been partly responsible for the boom—accounted for the economic retreat.

Both contributing to the boom and also easing its end in the midst of a broader international financial crisis was the unchanged political dominance of the Democratic Party of Socialists. Its leader, Ðjukanović, who had been serving as prime minister at the time of independence, had stepped down in November 2006 but returned to the post in February 2008. He then led the party, as part of the Coalition for a European Montenegro, to victory in the parliamentary elections of March 2009. Subsequently, in consultation with the International Monetary Fund, the government and Montenegro’s central bank worked to restart the flow of bank credit, keep unemployment from rising, and reduce both the current-account and state budget deficits.

In the meantime, the successful conclusion of Montenegro’s Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union (EU) was marked by the lifting in late 2009 of the restrictive visa requirements for Montenegrins traveling to the Schengen zone, which included most EU member states. (See Schengen Agreement.) Montenegro’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence in 2008 troubled relations with Serbia, however, and the status of Serbs within Montenegro remained unsettled. Continuing controversy over whether Montenegrin constituted a language separate from Serbian added to the disquiet. (See also Serbo-Croatian language.) For the government that matter was settled in 2010 when it published a Montenegrin grammatical code and declared Montenegrin the official language of the country’s broadcasting and education systems.John R. Lampe

Montenegro’s relations with the rest of southeastern Europe were promising, but reviving economic growth in the face of fiscal austerity remained a major domestic challenge for the country. As part of Montenegro’s continuing efforts to join NATO, in March 2010 a contingent of Montenegrin soldiers was dispatched to Afghanistan as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. In November the European Commission recognized Montenegro’s sustained progress in meeting EU membership goals when it recommended the country for candidate status. Ðjukanović resigned as prime minister the following month, but he remained head of the DPS and continued to exert a strong influence on Montenegrin politics. Ðjukanović’s finance minister, Igor Luksic, succeeded him as prime minister, and Luksic continued his predecessor’s efforts to achieve greater integration with the rest of Europe and with the West.

Luksic presided over a modest economic recovery that stalled in early 2012 as foreign direct investment—one of the chief engines of financial growth in Montenegro—dried up in the wake of the euro-zone crisis. In spite of the economic downturn, a small measure of optimism was restored in June when Montenegro began formal accession talks with the EU. The ruling DPS-led coalition claimed the largest share of seats in parliamentary elections held on October 14, 2012, but strong showings by opposition and ethnic-minority parties prevented the DPS from obtaining an outright majority. The DPS was able to forge a coalition with the support of several minor parties, and Ðjukanović returned as prime minister to form a new government in December. In April 2013 Filip Vujanović of the DPS was reelected president in polling that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) characterized as “professionally and efficiently administered.” Nevertheless, opposition parties claimed fraud and initially refused to recognize the result. The economy began to recover in 2014, and the European Commission concluded that Montenegro had made considerable progress toward EU membership.

In December 2015 Montenegro was invited to become the 29th member of NATO, a move that was strongly opposed by Russia, and a wave of antigovernment protests in September and October of that year were widely seen to have been orchestrated by Moscow. Demonstrators called for Ðjukanović’s resignation, but an ultimatum delivered by opposition pro-Russian legislators backfired, and police dispersed the protest camp that had been established. The threat of violence marred parliamentary elections on October 16, 2016, when 20 people, including the former commander of Serbia’s special forces unit, were arrested by Montenegrin police for suspected terror offenses. The election had been widely seen as a choice between closer ties with the EU or Russia, and the pro-Western Ðjukanović decried the plot as an attempt by Russia to influence the election. This proved to be a massive understatement, as Montenegrin authorities and Western intelligence agencies later revealed that the foiled operation was nothing less than an attempted coup, allegedly with Russian backing, that was to have included the assassination of Ðjukanović.

As in 2012, Ðjukanović’s DPS captured the most votes in the election, but they failed to gain a clear majority, and 10 days later Ðjukanović—who had held power as either president or prime minister for most of the previous 25 years—resigned. He was succeeded by Duško Marković, who assembled a governing coalition and was elected prime minister on November 28, 2016. On June 5, 2017, Montenegro formally became a member of NATO, the first expansion of that alliance since 2009. As NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg oversaw the hoisting of the Montenegrin flag over NATO headquarters in Brussels, Russia claimed that it reserved the right to take “retaliatory measures” against Montenegro’s “hostile course.”

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica