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Yugoslavia: Montenegrins
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Yugoslavia's People > The Yugoslav Nations > Montenegrins


A robust mountain people with a warrior tradition, the Montenegrins were the smallest in population of Yugoslavia's nations. In 1981 they made up 68.5 percent of Montenegro's population, 1.6 percent of Serbia's, 2.1 percent of Vojvodina's, and 1.7 percent of Kosovo's. The Montenegrins and the Serbs shared strong political and cultural ties, including the Eastern Orthodox faith, the Cyrillic alphabet, the Serbo-Croatian language (different dialects), and a history of bloody struggle against the Ottoman Turks. Many historians maintain that the Montenegrins are Serbs. Montenegro's most renowned poet and ruler, the nineteenth-century bishop-prince Petar Petrovi Njegos, considered himself a Serb; likewise, the founder of Serbia's medieval kingdom, Stefan I Nemanja, was born in Podgorica, now Titograd, capital of Montenegro.

For centuries Montenegrin society was composed of patrilineally related extended families organized into clans. The extended family tradition lasted well into the twentieth century. Loyalty to kin and protection of family honor were the paramount values. Civic responsibility was a foreign notion, and pragmatism a sign of weakness. Scratching out a living in the remote, rocky hills, the Montenegrins stubbornly defended their independence against incursions by the Ottoman Turks. Personal tenacity and combat skills were the most valued male virtues; women tended the fields and livestock, maintained the home, nursed the wounded, and nourished the next generation of warriors. Stories of ancestral courage and honor were passed from one generation to the next by bards who recited epic poems to the accompaniment of a gusle, a simple, single-string instrument. Practices such as bride theft and blood brotherhood were common, and blood vengeance survived late in the twentieth century.

After World War I, political forces in Montenegro were deeply divided between the Greens, who supported an independent Montenegro, and the Whites, who advocated unification with Serbia. The Whites prevailed, and in censuses taken during the interwar period Montenegrins were classified as Serbs. Montenegrins played a significant role in the defense forces of the interwar Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Montenegrins enlisted in the communist Partisans in large numbers during World War II and were disproportionately represented in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) and the government after the war. Although a large number of Montenegrin communists were expelled from the CPY for pro-Soviet sympathies after Yugoslavia broke with the Soviet Union in 1948, Montenegrins remained overrepresented in the Yugoslav bureaucratic and military services. In the early 1970s, Montenegrins made up roughly 5 percent of the population. But about 15 percent of the leaders of federal administrative bodies were Montenegrins, nearly 20 percent of the generals in the Yugoslav People's Army (YPA) were Montenegrin, and their presence in the overall officer corps was also disproportionately high The Montenegrins' postwar loyalty to the CPY yielded plentiful development funds for their republic. For this reason, Montenegrin industries developed dramatically, although often without rational distribution of resources. Much investment was inordinately capital-intensive and wasted, and the republic suffered from low prices for the raw materials it sold to other republics.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Yugoslavia was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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