In ancient times, the area of Montenegro was inhabited principally by Illyrian tribes. During the 3rd century BC, an indigenous Illyrian kingdom emerged with its capital at Skadar (today Albania). Since the Illyrians were daring pirates and often attacked Greek and Roman ships in the Adriatic Sea, the Romans mounted several punitive expeditions against them and their legendary queen Teuta. The Romans forced queen Teuta to retreat to a well-fortified town of Risan. In 168 BC, the Romans finally conquered the Illyrian kingdom, annexing it to the province of Illyricum.

As Roman power declined, this area suffered from intermittent ravages by various seminomadic invaders, especially the Goths in the late 5th century and the Avars during the 6th century. The process of populating the southern, coastal areas of the Balkans by the Slavs started in the 6th century. It is assumed that the Slavic tribes settled from the area between Poland and Germany, Magdeburg and Baltic, during the first migration of Slavic peoples.   

The Slavic state of Duklja was founded in the early 7th century on the territory of the former Roman province Prevalis, within the borders and under the formal sovereignty of the Byzantine Empire. The initial developmental stages of the Doclean state are characterized by the continuous struggle with Byzantium for full autonomy and independence. Upon settling in the Balkans, the Slavs accept Christianity, followed by their assimilation and mixing - ethnical, cultural and political - with the native Roman, Illyrian and other non-Slavic population.

Direct sources on Duklja and its rulers are scarce until the reign of knez (duke) Vladimir (late 10th century). During the reign of Vojislav, Vladimir's nephew, Duklja (from that time on known as Zeta, the name first referred to in Byzantine sources) won a great victory over the Byzantine army near the town of Bar in 1042, which was followed by Duklja's further rising. In 1077, duke Mihailo received the royal insignia (as Rex Sclavorum) from Pope Gregory VII with which Zeta was recognized as a kingdom.

In 1185, Zeta was subjected by the Serbian state of Raška under Nemanjić dynasty. The Nemanjićs did not change the system of Zeta’s previous independent statehood. In Nemanjić times, the construction of the road network from the coast to Serbia, together with the development of trade and handicrafts, enabled significant progress and prosperity of the coastal towns. Kotor played particularly important role in the trading between the inland countries and the south of Italy.

In the second half of the 14th century, Zeta became independent and continued to exist as an independent feudal state, first under the Balšić and later the Crnojević dynasty (15th c.). In that period, Turkish attacks became more frequent and fiercer, reducing the territory of Montenegrin state and forcing its people to retreat to the area of Mt. Lovćen. Ivan Crnojević chose the field of Cetinje as the site for his new capital, where he built his palace in 1482 and a monastery two years later. From that time on, Cetinje became the capital of reduced Montenegro and cultural and spiritual centre of Montenegrin people for the next four centuries. Under the support of Ivan's son Djuradj, the first printing house among the South Slavs started operating in Cetinje in 1493. It produced five Cyrillic-type service books.

In 1496, Montenegro fell under the Turkish domination. Montenegro was organized as a separate territorial and administrative unit within the Skadar Sanjak.  

Most of the coast of Montenegro was controlled by the Republic of Venice from the 15th century to the Napoleon times (1420-1797) although the towns of Bar and Ulcinj were conquered by the Ottomans in the 1570s. The rule of Venice was succeeded by that of Austria (1797-1806), Russia (1806-1807) and France (1807-1813). From 1813 to 1814, the Temporary government of Montenegro and Boka Kotorska, better known as the Central Commission was established. It was followed by the second Austrian rule, from 1814 to 1918, when Boka Kotorska became part of the Kingdom of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.   

The roles of secular and state leadership were assumed by the Cetinje vladikas (prince-bishops), the General Montenegrin Assembly (Opšti crnogorski zbor) and the Assembly of Tribal Chiefs (Zbor glavara) - as the bodies of state administration. From 1697, when the Montenegrin Assembly elected vladika Danilo I – the founder of the Petrović Njegoš dynasty, began the organized struggle for a political and religious unity of the country. 

With the consolidation of power of vladika Petar I Petrović (1784-1830) Montenegro was set on a faster lane to securing its independence, particularly after the great victories over the superior Turkish armies in 1796. During the reign of Petar I Petrović legislation was passed that provided for the departure from the traditional, clan-based organization of the society and for laying the foundations of a modern state and modern administration.

Vladika Petar II Petrović Njegoš (1830-1851), a great poet-philosopher, was the last Montenegrin ruler to combine the secular and ecclesiastical powers. He continued to develop the Montenegrin state successfully by setting up bodies of judicial, administrative and military powers. 

His successor prince Danilo Petrović (1851-1860) was the first secular ruler of Montenegro since the times of Ivan Crnojević. During his reign, a significant part of former Montenegrin lands was liberated, Montenegrin tribes were unified and the modern functions of state were developed.  

King Nikola Petrović (1860-1918) was the last Montenegrin ruler. In liberation wars 1876-1878 Montenegro won the magnificent battles against the Ottoman troops at Vučji Do and Fundina, some of the aims of its politics were achieved: full international recognition of Montenegrin independence at the Berlin Congress in 1878. The struggle of the small Montenegrin people won the sympathies and support of the entire Europe, which, among other things, helped Montenegro to proclaim kingdom in 1910.

Montenegro entered World War I immediately after it had been declared and fought on the side of Serbia and the allies. Following the capitulation before the Austria-Hungary in 1916, king Nikola Petrović and the Government were driven into exile to Italy and then to France. In 1918, Montenegro was incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia

In 1929, the Kingdom of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. On 13 July 1941, Montenegrin people mounted an uprising against the Italian occupiers. In World War II (1941-1945), Montenegro fought with Yugoslav troupes against the fascists. After the war, from 1945 to 1992, Montenegro became a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as one of six republics (Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro).

After the turbulent years at the end of the 20th century and the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1992, Montenegro agreed on a federation with Serbia, first as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, then from 2003 as a looser State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.

At the referendum of 21 May 2006, most citizens voted for the independent Republic of Montenegro.


  • the site www.montenegro.yu – Government of the Republic of Montenegro, the official presentation of the Republic of Montenegro
  • EXPEDITIO, “Perast – Three Hundred Years of Solitude”, Kotor 2006
  • Stevan Kordić, “Kotor – City Guide”, Kotor 2004

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85330 Kotor - Montenegro
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The material displayed on the separate country pages has been prepared by:
Albanian Heritage Foundation
Bosnia and Herzegovina: CHwB Regional Office in Sarajevo
Kosovo: EC MA Ndryshe
Montenegro: EXPEDITIO and Notar
Serbia: Civic Association SUBURBIUM

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