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1918: The Podgorica Assembly

Coat of Arms of H.R.H. Prince Aleksandar Karageorgevich - Copyright © by The International Register of Arms, 29th November 2006. Registration No. 0080
Coat of Arms of H.R.H. Prince Aleksandar Karageorgevich

The departure of the Austrians in 1918 was followed by the appointment of a National Council organised by a representative of the Serbian High Command. "As soon as it was appointed," writes Roberts, "the Council announced its intention of uniting Montenegro and Serbia." A Grand National Assembly was also to be organized.

Significantly the Assembly was to take place in Podgorica, away from Cetinje and tribes of Old Montenegro with their long history of support for Montenegrin independence. Ballot papers were distributed; green for those supporting the continuation of an independent Montenegro and white for those in favour of unification with Serbia.

Elections for the Assembly took place over two weeks in mid-November.

With the Serbian army in control of the countryside and [Andrije] Radović's [pro-union] Montenegrin Committee actively engaged on the ground, the result - victory for the Whites, whose candidates gained almost the totality of the votes - was never in doubt. Nor, given the composition of the Assembly, could there be any uncertainty about the outcome of the deliberations of its 168 members when they were summoned to meet on 24 November.

Within two days the Assembly had proclaimed the deposition of King Nikola and the unification of Serbia and Montenegro under the [Serbian] Karadjordjević dynasty. The accompanying resolutions passed by 163 representatives - five pleading illness, did not participate - endorsed the establishment of an Executive Committee to administer Montenegro until the arrangements for the union could be brought to a conclusion…On 1 December 1918 Prince-Regent Aleksandar proclaimed the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes…Montenegrins received no mention. Instead their National Executive handed over authority to the new state, declaring: 'Montenegro enters into the new fatherland not only as a pure Serbian land, but purified of all dark and criminal elements.' The reference to Nikola and his court could not be misunderstood.

Nearly nine decades later, the Podgorica Assembly remained a subject of contention for supporters and opponents of an independent Montenegro. For supporters it was an illegal assembly not approved by the 1905 Montenegrin Constitution or by the regular Skupština [parliament]. By contrast, opponents discounted the 1905 Constitution which they saw as having been imposed by an autocratic ruler, and argued that the exceptional situation caused war and occupation more than justified the different procedures undertaken by the Assembly. Yet even leaving aside the question of the Assembly's legality, there are solid grounds for believing it to be an unrepresentative body whose role was to affix its imprimatur to the decision on unification which, since it was demanded by the Serbian authorities and indeed by part of Montenegro's population, was to be imposed on all without further consultation or delay.

[p. 321, 322-323]

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

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