The Ottoman Province of Montenegro was created in 1514 from the remains of the Principality of Zeta that belonged to the Province of Scutari. The first known governor of the province was Skenderbeg Crnojević, son of Ivan Crnojević, who governed from 1514-1528. Although the Ottoman Empire controlled the lands to the south and east from the fifteenth century, they were unable to subdue Montenegro completely because of stubborn resistance by the population, the inhospitable terrain, and use of diplomatic ties with Venice. The province disappeared when the Montenegrins expelled the Ottomans in the Great Turkish War of 1683-1699 (also known as War of the Holy League).
The position of vladika was transmitted from 1697 by the Petrović-Njegoš family of the Riđani (Serb) clan, from uncle to nephew as the bishops were not allowed to marry. Peter II became vladika in 1830. A brief civil war was suppressed in 1847, a senate replaced the position of “civil governor,” and progress was made suppressing blood feuding.
In 1851, Danilo II Petrović Njegoš became vladika, but in 1852 he married, left the priesthood, assumed the title of knjaz (Prince), and transformed his land into a secular principality. Danilo introduced a modernized legal code, and the first Montenegrin newspaper appeared in 1871. After the assassination of Knjaz Danilo by Todor Kadic, on August 13, 1860, Knjaz Nikola, the nephew of Knjaz Danilo, became the next ruler of Montenegro, which officially confirmed its independence in 1878.
Picture 1: King Nikola I Petrović Njegoš
From 1861 to 1862, Nicholas engaged in an unsuccessful war against Turkey, with Montenegro barely holding on to its independence. He was more successful in 1875. Following the Herzegovinian Uprising, partly initiated by his clandestine activities, he again declared war on Turkey. Serbia joined Montenegro, but both were defeated by Turkish forces in 1876, only to try again the following year after Russia decisively routed the Turks. Montenegro was victorious. The results were decisive; 1900 square miles were added to Montenegro’s territory by the Treaty of Berlin, the port of Bar and all the waters of Montenegro were closed to all warships, and coastal policing was placed in the hands of Austria. On August 28, 1910, Montenegro was proclaimed a kingdom by Knjaz Nikola, who then became king.
The background to the two Balkan Wars in 1912–1913 lies in the incomplete emergence of nation-states on the fringes of the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth century. In October 1912, King Nicholas declared war on the Ottoman Empire. The Montenegrin army attacked the Ottoman fortress city of Shkodër, and forced the empire to gather a large army in neighboring Macedonia. The Ottoman army faced a pre-arranged attack by the forces of Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria. The Treaty of London in 1913 redefined borders in the Balkans. Montenegro doubled in size, receiving half of the former Ottoman territory known as Sandžak, but without the city of Shkodër, Montenegro’s major goal in the war, which went to the independent country of Albania.
Picture 2: Montenegro uniforms
During World War I, although the Montenegrin army numbered only about 50,000 men, it repulsed the first Austrian attack, resisted the second Austrians invasion of Serbia, and almost succeeded in reaching Sarajevo in Bosnia. However, the Montenegrin army had to retreat before greatly superior numbers of the third Austrian invasion. Austro-Hungarian and German armies overran Serbia and invaded Montenegro in January 1916, and for the remainder of the war remained in the possession of the Central Powers.
King Nicholas fled to Italy and then to France, and the government transferred to Bordeaux. Eventually, Serbian forces liberated Montenegro from the Austrians. A newly-convened National Assembly of Podgorica (Podgorička skupština), supervised by Serbian forces, accused the king of seeking a separate peace with the enemy and deposed him, and banned his return. Montenegro joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on December 1, 1918, thus becoming the only Allied nation to lose its independence after the war. Pro-independence Montenegrins revolted on the Orthodox Christmas Day, January 7, 1919, against Serbia. The revolt was suppressed in 1924, although guerrilla resistance remained in the Highlands for years after.