MONTENEGRO: SLAVIC SPARTA
Montenegro is fanned by the harsh romance of the eternal struggle for liberation. From the beach lounger you will not notice this, for heroism you need to climb higher in the mountains. In the black mountains, the likes of which in Europe can not be found
text: Andrey Shary
Montenegro: the flavor of the Slavic Adriatic
In the extreme south of the Slavic Adriatic, the traits of the Balkan characters seem particularly prominent. A French-Russian anthropologist and cartographer Joseph Deniker, having traveled along the southeastern European peninsula at the end of the 19th century, listed signs of a separate anthropological type, the Dinaric, which was considered typical of the population of the mountainous regions of Dalmatia and Montenegro. Tall, slender body, long face, straight nose, dull skin. Beautiful, strong-willed, courageous, rude people who arranged their lives in difficult territory.
On this stony land, where the folded mountains are tucked in accordion to the seashore, several civilizations clashed at once. Slavic tribes lived in the local valleys and hills from the VI or VII century. The seaside belt was colonized by the Romans before our era, they were replaced by Byzantium and Venice, and at the beginning of the 19th century the area of Kotor Bay came under the power of the Hapsburgs. At the end of the 15th century, the continental regions submitted to the Ottomans, but the resistance to the conquerors here never ceased, hence the definition of Montenegro as “Orthodox Sparta” in romantic times.
Sveti Stefan, the most glamorous Montenegrin resort, is located on a small island that is connected to the mainland by a thin isthmus. In fact, all 80 buildings of Sveti Stefan, minus three temples and an art gallery, form one huge hotel. The island is popular among celebrities like the Hollywood “stars” and top models. In 1992, Sveti Stefan held a chess match between Robert Fisher and Boris Spassky. Photo: Stipe Surac / SIME / Vostock-photo
The term “Montenegro” was first used in a narrow geographical sense in 1376 by a chronicler from Ragusa (Dubrovnik). The gloomy peaks of the Lovćen massif are considered to be the visual symbol of “lands above the sea”. The lifeless caps of the mountains here are really dark gray, it is perfectly visible from the shore, from the deck of the yacht, and from the plane.
Montenegrins consider themselves a people of warriors and poets. With the song of death on their lips and weapons in their hands, they, defending themselves from the Ottomans, held out for five hundred years to guard their severe Thermopylae. Historians believe that the reason for this is not only the intransigence of the Highlanders, but also the peculiarities of local geography: not only some basurman wanted to climb on a two-kilometer upper-pronger with the risk of getting a bullet in the forehead because of the coal-colored rock.
The geographical parameters of the Montenegrin area of the Adriatic zone are really extremely peculiar. The southern regions of the Dinar mountain range are piercingly beautiful, but extremely inhospitable and the rainiest region of Europe: in the town of Crkwitz, eight thousand millimeters of precipitation falls annually. Climbing to an empty sky, the rocks in some places are interspersed with bottomless failures. The depth of the most famous canyon of the Tara River exceeds 1300 meters, and this gap has no equal in Europe. The cavalry is useless here, with guns do not climb here. Conditions for profitable management in the black mountains did not develop for a long time, and many, but small Slavic tribes, fed by cattle breeding, led a half-starved semi-nomadic existence – but they became stronger, hardening their deprivations.
These people were ready for eternal defense from any invaders and any natural disasters. They lived in communities, according to the laws of blood brotherhood and blood feud, convinced that it was the only way to cling to life in the gloomy mountains. The moral was dictated by the customs of the ancestors, the priest was not only a shepherd, but also a comrade-in-arms, the value of a woman was determined by her ability to give birth to more sons as soon as possible.
In the west of Europe, an industrial revolution has already taken place, and in Montenegro, subsistence farming has continued. Mountain villages existed in isolation from each other, the first horse-drawn road was laid here in 1840, seven years after the opening of the first elementary school. Until 1878, there were no cities in a region with a population of one hundred or one hundred fifty thousand people.
Kotor – a city typical of the eastern Adriatic coast of Byzantine-Venetian architecture. There are two altars in the church of St. Luke, catholic and orthodox, and this is also typical of the common history of the South Slavic peoples who have inhabited this land for almost one and a half millennia. Photo: Shutterstock / Fotodom
Montenegro achieved political independence from the Ottomans in 1796, after the battles of Martinique and Cruz. The payment of tribute to the Sultan immediately ceased. Stara Crna Gora – a mountainous oval about seventy by thirty kilometers around the monastery of Cetinje – turned into the core of the future of the country and nation. The family of Petrovic-Negosha, who ruled the Metropolis of Cetinje, and then the principality, in its hands connected the reins of secular and spiritual power.