Montenegro - language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate

Read about Montenegro: language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate ...



Montenegro, country in southeastern Europe, located on the Balkan Peninsula. Montenegro faces the Adriatic Sea, which separates it from Italy, and enjoys a Mediterranean climate. The land is mostly mountainous, with steep slopes jutting up from the sea to the inland borders. Slavic peoples, chiefly Montenegrins and Serbs, make up about three-quarters of the population. The administrative capital and largest city is Podgorica.

From 1946 to 1991 Montenegro was part of a larger federal state of Yugoslavia, which also included the republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. That Yugoslav state broke apart in 1991 when several of the republics declared their independence. In 1992 Serbia and Montenegro proclaimed themselves the successor state to Yugoslavia and took the name Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). In 2003 the FRY adopted a new constitutional charter that gave the member republics more autonomy and changed the name of the country to Serbia and Montenegro. This union dissolved in June 2006 after the people of Montenegro voted in favor of independence from Serbia.


Montenegro is about the same size as Connecticut, covering an area of 13,812 sq km (5,333 sq mi). From west to east, Montenegro is nestled between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Albania. In the southwest Montenegro faces the Adriatic Sea, part of the Mediterranean Sea. The country’s scenic coastline extends 199 km (124 mi).

Mountainous Landscape in Montenegro

The Dinaric Alps run parallel to the Adriatic Sea, forming a natural boundary between the narrow coastal plains and the interior of the Balkan Peninsula. Karst topography of limestone ridges dominates much of Montenegro’s landscape. At the Gulf of Kotor on the coast, steep limestone mountains rise dramatically at the water’s edge, giving the appearance of fjords. Mount Lovcen rises to 1,748 m (5,735 ft) on the southeastern end of the Gulf of Kotor. The name Montenegro, which is derived from the Latin words for “black mountain,” is believed to have originated due to the appearance of Mount Lovcen, either because of the basalt (a black rock) that makes up much of the mountain or the dark pine forests that once blanketed its slopes.

Beyond the coast, Montenegro is a mostly mountainous country. The northwestern part of the country is famed for its rugged beauty. Durmitor, a mountain massif of the Dinaric Alps, includes 15 peaks that exceed 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Bobotov Kuk, the highest of Durmitor’s summits and the loftiest peak in Montenegro, rises to a height of 2,522 m (8,274 ft). Durmitor National Park, listed as a World Heritage Site in 1980, includes one of the last virgin black pine forests of Europe, numerous glacial lakes, and the Tara River canyon (see World Heritage Committee). With gorges reaching a depth of 1,300 m (4,265 ft), the Tara River canyon ranks as the deepest canyon in Europe.

Montenegro’s few regions suitable for farming are in river valleys, mainly the one along the Zeta River; on the plain around Lake Scutari in the southeast; and near the city of Cetinje, at the eastern foot of Mount Lovcen. Lake Scutari, the largest lake of the Balkan Peninsula, straddles Montenegro’s border with Albania.

Plants and Animals in Montenegro

Mixed coniferous (evergreen) and deciduous forests are found in the Dinaric Alps. However, many forests have been cleared or thinned, especially in the southern and western mountains, and the soil has eroded. The deciduous forests include oak, beech, elm, chestnut, and ash trees. Coniferous trees, including pine and fir, grow at higher elevations. The coastal plain of Montenegro contains Mediterranean vegetation, which is adapted to hot, dry summers. This vegetation includes cypress, palm, olive, fig, cherry, almond, and citrus trees, as well as pomegranate shrubs and grapevines.

Mountain slopes are home to wild animals such as brown bears, wolves, foxes, and chamois. Birds include eagles and partridges. Lake Scutari is a freshwater lake that forms one of the largest bird reserves in Europe and abounds in fish. The lake and surrounding marshes provide an important wintering and nesting site for more than 200 species of birds, including pygmy cormorants and Dalmatian pelicans. Lake and river fish include trout, carp, and eel. The Adriatic Sea contains many types of fish, as well as lobster, shrimp, and octopus.

Climate in Montenegro

Montenegro has a pleasant Mediterranean climate, which is especially pronounced along the coast. The coastal zone is influenced by a wind called the sirocco, which blows from Africa’s Sahara and accumulates moisture over the Mediterranean Sea. This wind brings mild, rainy winters and long, hot, and dry summers to the coastal zone of Montenegro. In the capital of Podgorica, located about 40 km (25 mi) inland from the coast, the average temperature in July is 27°C (81°F) and in January, 6°C (43°F). Farther inland, winters are more extreme with colder temperatures and heavy snowfall.


Montenegro had a population of 672,180 in 2009. More than 40 percent of the people in Montenegro identify themselves as having Montenegrin ethnicity. About 30 percent of the people identify themselves as ethnic Serbs. Although they are closely related Slavic peoples, they have distinct ethnic identities. Minority groups include Bosniaks (ethnic Bosnian Muslims), who are concentrated in areas bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina, and ethnic Albanians, who live mostly in areas bordering Albania and the Serbian province of Kosovo. Podgorica, called Titograd from 1946 to 1992, is the capital and largest city of Montenegro. Cetinje, the historical capital of Montenegro, is an important cultural center.

Language and Religion in Montenegro

Most people in Montenegro speak a variant of the Serbian language (see Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian Languages). Many Montenegrins insist that their dialect of the Serbian language should be called Montenegrin. Ethnic Albanians also speak the Albanian language. Both the Cyrillic and Roman alphabets are used in Montenegro.

A majority of Montenegrins identify themselves as Orthodox Christians. The Bosniaks, descendants of Slavs who converted to Islam in the 15th and 16th centuries, are Sunni Muslims (see Sunni Islam). Ethnic Albanians are mostly Sunni Muslims, although there are also Orthodox Christian and Roman Catholic Albanians in Montenegro.

Art and Literature in Montenegro

Montenegro emerged from the Byzantine Empire, for which Orthodox Christianity was the state religion. Early art forms involved the painting of icons (sacred images of the saints) and religious frescoes in Orthodox churches and monasteries. Western artistic movements began influencing artists and architects in the 19th century. Prominent artists of the 20th century included the painters Petar Lubarda and Milo Milunović and the sculptor Risto Stijović.

The first major works of literature appeared in the 19th century. Petar II Petrović Njegoš, a Montenegrin bishop-prince, wrote the epic drama Gorski vijenac (The Mountain Wreath, 1847) in verse, adopting the rhythms of folk epics. In the 20th century Montenegrin writer Milovan Djilas became a famous dissident. While vice president of Yugoslavia in the 1950s, he began to criticize the communist system that he had helped create, and he was jailed for years. His The New Class (1957) is one of the most powerful critiques ever written of communism as practiced in Eastern Europe and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).


The economy of Montenegro is based primarily on agriculture. Important crops include grains, tobacco, potatoes, grapes, figs, citrus fruits, and olives. Food and tobacco processing are staple industries. Winemaking is a growing industry, and vineyards are found in the area around Podgorica. Livestock such as sheep, cattle, and goats are raised. Heavy industries include bauxite mining and aluminum processing. Tourism is increasingly important, as the country draws visitors to its national parks and other scenic areas. Montenegro’s coastline includes ports at Bar, Budva, Kotor, and Herceg Novi that provide shipping access to the Mediterranean.

The Montenegrin economy suffered from the effects of the wars of Yugoslav succession (1991-1995), particularly from economic sanctions imposed on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in response to its support for warring Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The economy of Montenegro was also damaged by the diversion of people, medicines, and financial resources to the war effort. All international economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro were lifted by 2001, after the regime of FRY president Slobodan Milošević collapsed.

During the Milošević era Montenegro separated its economy from that of Serbia, removing it from the control of the shared central government. Montenegro pursued its own, more liberal, program of privatization. However, political conflicts with the Serbian government hindered this process. The beginning of the 21st century ushered in a new era of economic development. Government leaders pursued a more rigorous program to reconstruct the economy and sought stronger economic ties with other European nations. Although it is not a member of the European Union (EU), Montenegro adopted the euro, the monetary unit of the EU, as its national currency in 2002. In January 2007 Montenegro became eligible for greater international economic aid by joining the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (also known as the World Bank) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).


Montenegro is governed under a constitution adopted in October 2007. The head of state is the president, who is directly elected to a five-year term and may serve two terms. A unicameral (single-chamber) parliament called the Narodna Skupština (National Assembly) serves as the country’s legislative body. The 81 members of the National Assembly are elected by direct popular vote to four-year terms. The head of government is the prime minister, who is appointed by the president with National Assembly approval. All citizens aged 18 or older can vote. Montenegro was a partner with Serbia in the shared central government of Serbia and Montenegro until the union of the two republics was dissolved in June 2006.


In the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century) the region of Montenegro formed the principality of Zeta in the kingdom of Serbia. Feudal lords ruled parts of the territory, which was virtually autonomous. The Ottoman Empire conquered Serbia in 1459, and the Montenegrins withdrew to their mountain strongholds, remaining the only independent people of the Balkan Peninsula. From the 16th to 19th centuries, Montenegro was a theocracy ruled by a series of bishop-princes. The first Montenegrin constitution was drawn up in 1868. In 1905 Prince Nicholas I Petrović decreed the end of autocratic government, granted a liberal constitution, and established a parliamentary government; he assumed the title of king in 1910. In 1912 Montenegro joined Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia in forming the Balkan League, a military alliance against the Ottoman Empire. The Balkan Wars began on October 8, when Montenegro declared war on the Ottoman Empire. As a result of the wars, Montenegro almost doubled in size.

After World War I began in 1914, the kingdom of Montenegro joined its traditional allies, Russia and Serbia, against the Central Powers. Austria-Hungary occupied Montenegro in late 1915. A year later Montenegrin patriots met with Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes on the Greek island of Corfu (Kérkira) and voted to unite in a single Slav kingdom. Their pact was endorsed by the Allies, who won the war in November 1918, and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was proclaimed in December 1918. In 1921 Montenegro formally became the province of Zeta in the kingdom, which was renamed Yugoslavia (“Land of the South Slavs”) in 1929. During World War II Axis troops invaded the Balkans in April 1941, and Italian forces occupied parts of Montenegro.

Republic in Federation

In 1946 Yugoslavia was established as a federal republic under Communist Party rule, and Montenegro became one of its six constituent republics. In early 1992, after Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia had declared their independence from Yugoslavia, a referendum was held in Montenegro to determine whether the republic should also become independent or remain in federation with Serbia. Two-thirds of the voters chose to remain in the federation, which took the name Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).

The relationship between Serbia and Montenegro subsequently became strained. Economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations (UN) on the FRY were a major source of this tension. Strong sanctions were originally introduced to punish the FRY for supporting Serbs in the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. Some sanctions remained after those wars ended, and the international community threatened additional punitive measures in 1998 after the federal and Serbian governments launched a bloody crackdown on separatist Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo. Montenegrins who opposed nationalist Serb efforts in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo resented the sanctions their republic was forced to endure as a result.

In 1997 President Momir Bulatović, who had been in office since 1990, lost his bid for reelection to reformist Prime Minister Milo Djukanović. Bulatović was an ally of the Serb nationalist federation president, Slobodan Milošević, but Djukanović was openly critical of Milošević. In Montenegrin parliamentary elections held in May 1998, a reformist coalition led by Djukanović’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) won far more seats than Bulatović’s party, the Socialist People’s Party (SNP). That same month, Milošević engineered the removal of the federation’s prime minister and installed Bulatović. After that time, Montenegro’s government regarded the federal government as illegitimate, and some Montenegrin political leaders spoke openly of possible secession.

Serbian-led attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo worsened in 1999, after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began air strikes against Serbian military targets in March. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians fled Kosovo, with the largest numbers seeking refuge in Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and Montenegro. By early June, when the FRY finally accepted an international peace plan for Kosovo, Montenegro had received nearly 70,000 refugees, according to UN estimates.

Following the collapse of Milošević’s regime and the establishment of a democratic government in Serbia in early 2001, all international economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro were lifted. However, many Montenegrins continued to oppose the domination of their republic by Serbia, stirring concerns at home and abroad of Montenegro’s possible secession from the FRY. In March 2002 leaders of Serbia and Montenegro signed an agreement brokered by the European Union (EU) to preserve the union between the two republics. In parliamentary elections held in October Djukanović’s reformist coalition defeated pro-federation forces in Montenegro. In November, Djukanović resigned as president of Montenegro so he could take the post of prime minister. In the 2003 presidential elections voters chose DPS candidate Filip Vujanović, who like Djukanović advocated the independence of Montenegro.

Nevertheless, in January 2003 the legislatures in both Montenegro and Serbia formally adopted a new constitutional charter that provided the basis for a new shared central government. The charter, which was adopted by the central government’s new parliament the following month, changed the name of the FRY to see Serbia and Montenegro and gave most governmental authority to the member republics. The charter authorized each republic to hold a referendum on full independence after a period of three years.

Independent Montenegro

In May 2006 Montenegrins voted on the issue of Montenegrin independence. According to an agreement negotiated between Serbia and Montenegro by the EU, at least 55 percent of the votes needed to be in favor of independence for the referendum to pass. In the final tally, 55.5 percent of voters chose independence, and in June the two republics formally became separate nations.

Montenegro held its first elections as an independent country in September 2006. Prime Minister Djukanović’s DPS-led coalition won 41 of the 81 seats in the parliament, giving it a slim absolute majority. However, Djukanović announced his resignation as prime minister in October. His close ally, Željko Šturanović, a former justice minister, took office in November after the parliament approved a new government. Djukanović returned as prime minister in February 2008 after Šturanović resigned due to health reasons. Djukanović’s ruling bloc, known as European Montenegro, easily outdistanced its nearest rivals in the 2009 parliamentary elections. The coalition victory was expected to bolster Montenegro’s bid to join the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

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