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Copyright © by Kristof Bender

Cetinje was the capital of the independent state of Montenegro that existed from its international recognition at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 until 1918, when it was merged into Serbia and subsequently into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929).

Except for the old government buildings and embassies from the first Montenegrin state, this small, sleepy town of 15,000 inhabitants does not remind the visitor of a former capital city. Indeed, the same could have been said of the time when the Montenegrin rulers resided here and foreign officials of 13 consulates tried to intervene in the political life of the small Balkan state. Edith Durham, who travelled through the Balkans in the early 20th century, described Cetinje as a toy city "no one had played with yet".

During socialism, Cetinje – like many other towns in Yugoslavia – experience extensive industrialisation, in particular driven by "Obod", a huge company producing white goods such as wash machines and refrigerators.

Today these companies have fallen into decay. Cetinje again is a city without industry. The recent economic boom in Montenegro has largely bypassed Cetinje. Except for the renovation of historical buildings, which attract some day-trip tourism from the coast, there is very little construction. People live by commuting to the coast or Podgorica, both not more than half an hour's drive away.

Cetinje's economic backwardness contrasts strongly with its bold political role. The former capital was the centre of Montenegrin resistance to the Milosevic regime and his Montenegrin allies. It was the stronghold of the Liberal Party, which openly criticised the war and advocated Montenegrin independence already in the early 1990s. The Montenegrin ruling party under Milo Djukanovic eventually distanced itself from Milosevic and committed itself to the achievement of Montenegrin independence. However, Cetinje can rightfully claim the first modern champions of an independent Montenegro.

September 2007

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