Some Key Dates in Montenegro’s History
Montenegro’s journey through the centuries has been characterized by dynamic shifts in political affiliations, battles for independence, and aspirations for integration into the international community. The nation’s historical trajectory is a testament to its resilience and determination to shape its destiny on its terms.
During antiquity, the region that is now modern-day Montenegro was inhabited by the Illyrians, an Indo-European-speaking group. This area was incorporated into the Roman Republic’s domain after the Roman conquest in the Illyro-Roman Wars. It became part of the province of Illyricum, later known as Dalmatia and Praevalitana.
The Arrival of the Slavs:
The territory was divided into three principalities: Duklja covered the southern portion, Travunia occupied the western area, and Raška controlled the northern part. Duklja managed to gain independence from the Byzantine Roman Empire in 1042 and gradually expanded its borders by incorporating neighboring regions like Rascia and Bosnia. It transformed into a recognized kingdom but faced a decline at the outset of the 12th century. After the death of King Bodin (around 1101 or 1108), the kingdom was thrown into civil conflicts. Duklja reached its peak under Mihailo (1046–1081) and his grandson Constantine Bodin (1081–1101).
Internal strife among the nobility weakened the kingdom’s strength. By 1186, the area that is now Montenegro became part of the realm ruled by Stefan Nemanja and subsequently underwent various state formations governed by the Nemanjić dynasty for the following two centuries. When the Serbian Empire collapsed in the latter part of the 14th century, the dominant Balšić family assumed control of Zeta.
By the 13th century, the term “Zeta” replaced “Duklja” in reference to the region. In the late 14th century, the southern part of Montenegro (Zeta) fell under the rule of the Balšić noble family, later succeeded by the Crnojević family. By the 15th century, “Crna Gora” (Black Mountain / Monte Negro) became the more commonly used name for Zeta.
In 1421, Zeta was incorporated into the Serbian Despotate, although after 1455, another noble family from Zeta, the Crnojevićs, emerged as sovereign rulers of the land. This marked the last independent monarchy in the Balkans before the Ottoman conquest in 1496, which led to its integration into the sanjak of Shkodër. Montenegro existed briefly as a separate autonomous sanjak from 1514 to 1528 (known as the Sanjak of Montenegro). Additionally, the Old Herzegovina region was part of the Sanjak of Herzegovina.
15th-18th Centuries – Autonomy Amid Ottoman Rule
During the 15th to 18th centuries, Montenegro maintained a significant degree of autonomy despite being under the influence of the Ottoman Empire.
1798 – Recognition of Independence
In the year 1798, Montenegro’s independence gained official acknowledgment, solidifying its status as a principality.
1878 – International Recognition of Independence
The year 1878 marked a pivotal moment as Montenegro’s sovereignty was recognized on the international stage through various treaties.
1918 – Integration into the Kingdom
After World War One, Montenegro became an integral part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.
1929 – Name Change and Political Shift
The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes underwent a renaming, becoming the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929, signifying a shift in its political identity.
1945 – Formation of Socialist Federal Republic
Following World War Two, Montenegro, along with Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, and Bosnia, came together to form the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito.
1980 – Tito’s Passing
The year 1980 marked the passing of Josip Broz Tito, bringing about a new era for Yugoslavia.
1991 – Djukanovic’s Ascendance and Union Support
Milo Djukanovic assumed the role of Montenegrin prime minister in 1991 and expressed support for a union with Serbia, while other Yugoslav republics were breaking away.
1992 – Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Montenegro joined Serbia to form the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992, but this union was marred by rising nationalist sentiments and conflicts with Croats and Bosnian Muslims.
1997 – Djukanovic’s Victory
In 1997, Milo Djukanovic emerged victorious in the Montenegrin presidential election, defeating a candidate aligned with Milosevic.
1999 – Kosovo Conflict and Currency Change
Amid the Kosovo conflict and NATO air strikes, Djukanovic declared Montenegro not involved in the conflict. Additionally, Montenegro switched its currency from the dinar to the German deutschemark.
2000 – Winds of Change
In 2000, the fall of Milosevic and the rise of pro-Western reformers in Belgrade catalyzed Montenegro’s pursuit of greater independence.
2002 – Adoption of the Euro
Montenegro adopted the euro as its official currency in 2002, solidifying its economic ties with Europe.
2002 – Formation of Serbia and Montenegro
In collaboration with Yugoslav, Montenegrin, and Serbian leaders, an accord was signed under EU mediation, establishing a new state named Serbia and Montenegro in place of Yugoslavia.
2006 – Path to Independence
A pivotal moment arrived in 2006 when Montenegro held a referendum on independence. With just over 55% of voters supporting independence, Montenegro joined the United Nations as its 192nd member.
2007 – International Engagements
Montenegro’s international engagements continued to expand as it gained membership in the IMF and World Bank in 2007.
2008 – Kosovo’s Independence and EU Aspirations
In 2008, Montenegro recognized Kosovo’s self-declared independence and applied for European Union membership.
2013 – Progress Toward EU Membership
The European Parliament noted Montenegro’s progress toward EU membership in 2013, while emphasizing the need to further safeguard media freedom, women’s rights, and gender equality.
2016 – Coup Allegations and Election Turmoil
Accusations of a Russian-backed coup attempt on the eve of parliamentary elections in 2016 created political turmoil within Montenegro.
2017 – Nato Membership and Diplomatic Strains
Montenegro’s decision to join NATO in 2017 strained its diplomatic ties with Russia, a historical ally.
2020 – Challenges to Democracy
In 2020, the organization Freedom House categorized Montenegro as a hybrid regime rather than a full democracy due to declining standards in governance, justice, elections, and media freedom. ■