For a small and little-known country, Montenegro has a long, convoluted and eventful history. Its rugged terrain and shoreline have witnessed movements of peoples, momentous events and idiosyncratic characters aplenty.
Montenegro is an independent nation located in Southeastern Europe. Croatia borders it to the west, Macedonia to the east, Serbia to the north-east, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north-west, and Albania to the south-east. It also has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the south-west. Montenegro's capital and largest city is Podgorica, and the city of Cetinje is the country's Old Royal Capital.
Montenegro's history began in the early Middle Ages into the early Roman Province of Dalmatia that makes up modern-day Montenegro. In the 9th century, there were three principalities in Montenegro: Rascia to the north, Travinua to the west, and Dukljia roughly corresponding to the southern half. A revolt led by Stefan Vojislav took place in 1042 and it led to the independence of Dukljia and the creation of the Vojislavljević dynasty. Duklja reached its peak under Mihailo, Vojislav's son, between 1046 to 1081, and his grandson between 1081 to 1101. By the 13th century Dukljia was referred to as Zeta, and in the 14th century Zeta, southern Montenegro, came under the governorship of the Balšić noble family, which was then succeeded by the Crnojević noble family. By the 15th century, Zeta was mostly referred to as Crna Gora. From 1496 to 1878, most portions of Montenegro were controlled by the Ottoman Empire and a few others controlled by Venice. Between 1515 and 1851, Cetinje was ruled by prince-bishops, and the House of Petrović-Njegoš was in power until 1918. Since 1918, Montenegro had been a section of Yugoslavia and it was through the independence referendum held on 21 May 2006 that Montenegro was able to declare its independence on 3 June of the same year.
Some key events in Montenegro's history will be discussed in brief below.
The first people to settle in the region were the Illyrians who arrived during the late Iron Age. By 1000 BC, a general Illyrian dialect and culture had spread throughout most of the Balkans. Hill forts were the most common form of settlement. With time, the Illyrians developed a loose coalition of tribes concentrated on what is presently Macedonia and northern Albania. Around 400 BC, the maritime Greeks established coastal colonies in the regions with Illyrian settlements. After that, the Hellenic culture spread slowly from Greek centers, especially from Bouthoe.
The Romans followed soon afterwards. The Romans came to the region in 228 BC after the Greeks requested for their protection from an Illyrian named Teuta. She fled to Risan but the Romans stayed in the region due to the natural resources available. The Romans faced resistance from the Illyrians until 168 BC when Gentius, the last Illyrian king, was defeated. By 100 BC the Romans had fully absorbed the Balkans into their provinces. They also established roads, networks of forts, and traded routes from the Danube to the Aegean. The Romans also created the Province of Dalmatia, which included present-day Montenegro. In 395, the Roman Empire was split into two administrative halves: the western half retained Rome as its capital city, and the eastern half became the Byzantine Empire and was centered in Constantinople. Present-day Montenegro lay on the dividing line between the two entities.
Duklja attained its independence from the Byzantine Roman Empire in 1042. In the few decades that followed, Duklja extended its territory to neighboring Bosnia and Rascia. It was also recognized as a kingdom. Its power began to decline at the start of the 12th century and after the death of King Bodin, a number of civil wars followed. While the nobility fought for the throne, the kingdom became weak, and by 1186 it was seized by Stefan Nemanja and integrated into the Serbian kingdom as a province called Zeta. The Serbian Empire fell in the second half of the 14th century, and the Balšićs became governors of Zeta.
In 1421, Zeta was annexed to the Serbian Despotate. However, after 1455, the Crnojevićs, another noble family from Zeta, became rulers of the country, thus making it the last free monarchy of the Balkans before it was seized by the Ottomans in 1496, and got annexed to the sanjak of Shkodër. During the tenure of Crnojevićs, Zeta was referred to by its current name - Montenegro. From 1514 to 1528 Montenegro was a separate sovereign sanjak, and another version existed again between 1507 and 1614.
In the 16th century, the country established a type of sovereignty within the Ottoman Empire that permitted Montenegrin clans freedom from some restrictions. The Montenegrins were, however, still displeased with the Ottoman rule and in the 17th century, they carried out a number rebellions which led to the defeat of the Ottomans in the Great Turkish War.
Montenegro became a theocracy governed by the Metropolitans which thrived after the Petrovi-Njegoš became the prince-bishops who were often referred to as "Vladika of Montenegro". Governors were introduced by the Venetian Republic and they meddled in the country's politics. in 1797, the republic was succeeded by the Austrian Empire and in 1832, Prince-Bishop Petar II abolished the governors.
Principality of Montenegro
Under Nicholas I, the principality was expanded a number of times in the Montenegro-Turkish Wars and was recognized as sovereign in 1878. Under the governorship of Nicholas I, Montenegro and the Ottoman Empire were able to establish diplomatic relations which led to 30 years of peace between the two nations until the deposition of Abdul Hamid II.
The state became modernized, and in 1905 a draft of a constitution culminated. Political rifts, however, materialized between the ruling People's Party, who were in favor of the democratization process and union with Serbia, and those of the True People's Party who were mostly monarchist.
Kingdom of Montenegro (1910-1918)
Montenegro became a kingdom in 1910, and due to the Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913, a common border with Serbia was formed.
During World War I, Montenegro was among the Allied Powers. The country was occupied by Austria-Hungary from 1916 to October 1918 and during this period Kind Nicholas fled the nation and formed a government-in-exile in Bordeaux. Montenegro was liberated by the Allies and soon afterwards the Podgorica Assembly was organized and it voted for the unification of the country with the Kingdom of Serbia in November 1918.
In 1922, Montenegro officially became the Oblast of Cetinje in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, alongside other coastal regions around Bay of Kotor and Budva. In 1929, the country became a section of a bigger Zeta Banate of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia that stretched to the Neretva River.
World War II
In April 1941, the Kingdom of Italy, Nazi Germany and other Axis allies attacked and occupied the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Montenegro was occupied by Italian forces who established it as a puppet Kingdom of Montenegro.
Like the rest of Yugoslavia, Montenegro was freed by the Yugoslav Partisans in 1944. It became one of the six constituent republics of the communist Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) and its capital became Podgorica. When the war ended industrialization began, the infrastructure of Yugoslavia was reconstructed and the University of Montenegro was established. More sovereignty was developed until the Socialist Republic of Montenegro approved a new constitution in 1974.
In 1992, the SFRY was dissolved but Montenegro and Serbia remained a section of a smaller Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1996, Montenegro's government led by Milo Ðukanović cut off ties between Montenegro and Serbia. Montenegro came up with its own economic policy and assumed the German Deutsche Mark as its currency and soon afterwards adopted the euro despite it not being a part of the Eurozone currency union.
In 2002, Montenegro and Serbia reached a new agreement for continued cooperation and started negotiations on the future status of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. These negotiations led to the Belgrade Agreement which saw the country transform into a more decentralized state union called Serbia and Montenegro in 2003. This agreement also had a provision that delayed any future referendum on the sovereignty of Montenegro for at least three years.
On 21 May 2006, the status of the union between Serbia and Montenegro was decided by a referendum on Montenegrin independence and 55.5% of the votes were in favor of independence while 44.5% were against. The vote surpassed the 55% threshold required to confirm the referendum under the regulations of the European Union. As a result, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the member-states of the European Union, and Serbia all acknowledged Montenegro's independence. On 3 June 2006, the Montenegrin Parliament declared Montenegro's independence, officially affirming the result of the referendum.
Montenegro has been classified as an upper middle-income country by the World Bank and it is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Central European Free Trade Agreement, and a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean. On 2 December 2015, Montenegro received a formal invitation to join NATO, thus making it the 29th member country. Montenegro is also an applicant negotiating to join the European Union.