History and Culture

The name Montenegro appeared for the first time in 1296 in the charter of Serbian King Stefan Uroš II of Milutin, from the Nemanjić’s dynasty. Legend has it that the name Montenegro, or Crna Gora, comes from the forests of Mountain Lovćen which were so dense and dark that from afar it looked like a black mountain.

Long before that, Montenegro was known as Illyria in the 1000s BC, and during the Roman reign, at the territory of present-day Montenegro, the tribe of Dokleata appeared, whose capital was located not far from today's Podgorica, called Doklea, from which the term Duklja was created in the Middle Ages. With the division of the Roman Empire in 395, almost the entire area of today's Montenegro is part of the Eastern Roman Empire. During the ensuing centuries, the entire Balkan Peninsula was exposed to barbaric attacks that destroyed the history of the Roman state, a large number of cities were destroyed, including Doklea.

The Slavic people arrived in the 6th century. Developed in the early Middle Ages, Duklja together with the surrounding Serbian coastal principals, became part of the first Serbian state founded by Prince Vlastimir in the middle of the 9th century. Around 1077, Duklja aka Zeta was elevated to the rank of kingdom, becoming the first Serbian Kingdom. In 1331, the later King Dušan Nemanjić became the ruler of the Serbian Kingdom, transforming it into an empire, and tripling its territories. The family Balšići was given the right to reign over Zeta. But after the King Dušan died and the Serbian Empire fell apart, Balšići got into the dispute with another family, Crnojevići, who have had pretensions over Zeta, and eventually Zeta, now being referred as Montenegro, has fallen under the occupation of the Ottoman Empire 1499.

Centuries will have to pass before Montenegro would gain its independence at the Berlin Congress in 1878 when it was finally recognized as an independent state, de facto and de jure. The family Petrović Njegoš is one that has fought through these years to make Montenegro a free and independent state. This has not lasted for too long, as in the 1919 Montenegro was unconstitutionally annexed to Serbia when it entered the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians. Later this Kingdom was renamed into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, until its dissolution in 1990, after which Montenegro stayed in the union together with Serbia. Finally, in 2006, Montenegro renewed its independence, becoming a sovereign state that is today.

When we talk about its culture, Montenegro is rich in art and ethnographic collections and holds sizable archives of historical documents. There are some fascinating museums and exhibitions on offer here. Furthermore, this is a place esteemed for its architecture, which includes ancient monasteries and medieval murals which have survived since the 10th century.

Traditional crafts in Montenegro include woodcarving, weaving to make textiles, and painting icons. Montenegro is also home to the oldest discovered musical instrument in Europe; a whistle made from bone dating right back to the Old Stone Age (the Paleolithic era).  Despite that, traditional Montenegrin music, still played today is actually renowned for gulse, a traditional and authentic Montenegrin instrument, which looks a bit like a fiddle. Many of the best makers create them resembling a billy goat, a deer, or a horse. Much of the folk music is closely knitted to traditional literature and folklore. 

Montenegrins have a strong legacy of storytelling and literature. The first printing shop in the Balkans was actually set up here on Cetinje, in 1493, which has set the precedent for a rich literary tradition. Petar II Petrović Njegoš is one of the most influential poets of the 19th century, who has left a rich legacy for Montenegrins to be proud of.