Montenegro – A Divided Country

Montenegro – St. Nicholas’ Church
Image by Dennis Jarvis

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On May 21, 2006, Montenegro held a referendum in which 55.5 per cent of voters backed independence for the tiny former Yugoslav republic, effectively ending almost a century of union with Serbia. On June 3, 2006, Montenegro formally declared independence after parliament by a majority vote accepted the results of the referendum held on May 21. The turn-out in the referendum was 85.5 per cent, or 419,240 people. About 55.5 per cent of eligible voters voted in favor of independence, and 44.5 per cent voted against. The large Serbian ethnic community, making up about 30 per cent of the population, overwhelmingly voted against breaking away – and those divisions over independence last to this day. 

For a full 15 years, the former government fought to protect Montenegro and its independence from imaginary external and internal enemies. Thanks to this permanent struggle, Montenegro became the private property of the Democratic Party of Socialists leader Milo Djukanovic, his family, business partners and individuals from the criminal underworld. Montenegro is a captive state and a country of endemic corruption. This has brought the country to the abyss and to the overall disastrous consequences that we have to face.

In economic terms, the former government did not valorize the benefits of the country’s small social and economic system. Since 2006, massive robbery and destruction of state resources has taken place; the current president of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic and his associates have benefitted enormously. Today, Montenegro is economically devastated. 

Since independence, the former government perceived half of the population as enemies of Montenegro. Based on that, discrimination was carried out against Serbs and Montenegrins who support the Serbian Orthodox Church. The enemy of Montenegro was anyone who was considered to be a political opponent of the government of that time. Among those enemies were the opposition and numerous journalists, media outlets, certain NGOs, independent intellectuals and non-partisan figures from the ranks of minorities. 

The absolute majority of Montenegrin analysts expected that in the future the absolute majority of citizens would be loyal to an independent Montenegro, and that ethnic Montenegrins would make up more than half of the population. However, the situation is completely different. Montenegro today is a deeply divided state. Montenegrin Serbs still do not accept the results of the referendum. They consider and publicly point out that the referendum was undemocratic with many irregularities. 

According to the 2011 census, Montenegrins make 44.98% of the population, Serbs 28.73%, Bosnians 8.65%, Albanians 4.91%, Muslims 3.31%, Roma 1.01%, and Croats 0.97%. It is important to point out that Christian Orthodox citizens were pressured to declare themselves as Montenegrins and not as Serbs. The goal of the former Montenegrin government (which ruled for 30 years) was that Montenegrins become an absolute majority in the state, and that plan was implemented even before separation from Serbia. According to the census from 2003, 63.49% of the population said they spoke the Serbian language, but the Montenegrin government decided in 2004 to rename the Serbian language. To that end, Montenegro has completely changed school programs. The Cyrillic alphabet is almost completely out of use, and almost all state correspondence is in the Latin alphabet. Serbian poets were removed from school textbooks. In the 2011 census, 42.88% of the population said they spoke the Serbian language. 

The president of the Montenegrin parliamentary party URA, Dritan Abazovic, who is now Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro and the coordinator (chief) of all security services, stated few years ago “that it was most difficult to be a Serb in Montenegro“, because of state discrimination against Serbs. It should be noted that Mr. Abazovic is an ethnic Albanian and not a Serb.

Discrimination against Serbs is best illustrated by the statistics. In the last couple years on average only 13 Serbs received a state job annually. This is 37 times less than the number of Montenegrins. State institutions annually employ on average 486 citizens who declared themselves as Montenegrins. The average number of employed Serbs is smaller even when compared with Bosniaks. According to official statistics, 82.11% of ethnic Montenegrins work in public administration, and only 7% of Serbs.

All this is done with the aim that Montenegrin Serbs are no longer a significant demographic and political factor in Montenegro. Basically, Montenegrin Serbs were the main opponents of Milo Djukanovic and the Democratic Party of Socialists. It is important to note the Democratic Party of Socialists is the ruling political party in Montenegro since the introduction of the multiparty system in 1990. After the change of government on August 30 last year in Montenegro, the pressure on Serbs stopped. The democratization of society is visible, as is the hope of Montenegrin citizens that the economic situation in Montenegro will be better. 

However, almost a year after the change of government, the division of Montenegro remains very strong. Pro-Montenegrin protesters even tried to attack the Montenegrin prime minister’s daughter, while beating two soldiers. This was done for only one reason, because they consider the new government pro-Serbian. What is good is that the pro-Serbian forces in Montenegro are calm and passive, so there is no response to Montenegrin nationalistic protests. However, if that were to change, there could be serious violence in Montenegro.

One fact is becoming clearer to everyone – Montenegro is a divided country. Because of this, and having in mind that Montenegro is highly centralized state, for Montenegro it would be best to implement decentralization of the state which would ease ethnic tensions, but also would open new economic opportunities.

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1 comment

Gina June 12, 2021 at 9:21 am

Excelent article we need more of these from different countries. Thank you


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