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1878: Congress of Berlin

Congress of Berlin
Congress of Berlin

The anti-Ottoman wars of 1875-78 and the Congress of Berlin which was to see Montenegro recognised as an independent state saw a huge increase in the size of the territory under Cetinje's control. While the Congress left Serbia which had hoped to acquire Bosnia disappointed Roberts notes that Montenegro:

…appeared to have emerged from it in a far better position than Serbia. To the north, in what had been Hercegovina, it kept Nikšić, a town which would soon lose both its Muslim population and distinctive Turkish houses and markets as incoming Montenegrins and its local Orthodox Hercegovinians set about eliminating all traces of the 'oriental'. Arthur Evans [correspondent of the Manchester Guardian] was…an eyewitness and his account, though generally favourable to the Montenegrin side, was not without sympathy for the departing Muslims.

It has been a striking sight to watch long cavalcades of Turkish fugitives, sometimes as many as sixty at a time, streaming out of town. Now and then one of the little ones would look disconsolate enough, but the women were muffled in long white sheets, so you could see hardly as much as a nose, and the men were too proud to betray any symptom of regret, and were even dressed out in their brightest holiday costume. How dull look the Montenegrins who escort them beside these brilliant Orientals! How strange and characteristic is this transformation of which I am at this moment a witness!

Montenegro gained other parts of Hercegovina and also areas to the south which as Roberts points out "contained ever greater concentrations of Albanians." Podgorica too was acquired in 1878. A former Ottoman fortress, it was then still largely a Muslim town. The country also finally gained an outlet to the sea at Bar but provisions in the treaty closed it to warships, ie., the Russians and stipulated that "all Montenegrin ships using the port should fly the Austrian flag."

All in all, the Congress of Berlin left Prince Nikola and the Montenegrins deeply disappointed and for a simple reason: although the Ottoman Empire had been forced into retreat, Montenegro now found itself effectively ring- fenced by Austria-Hungary.

[pp: 252, 253, 254]

Realm of the Black Mountain: A History of Montenegro. 2007. [C.Hurst & Co]

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