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Who Are the Montenegrins?

People from Crna Gora (Montenegro), 1910 - Copyright  © by Marie Šechtlová
People from Crna Gora (Montenegro), 1910

"Who are the Montenegrins?" asks Elizabeth Roberts at the beginning of her book. "Montenegrins are not simply a collection of mountain Serbs, nor are they 'pure' Montenegrins. Identities are neither primordial nor set in stone, as nationalists would have us believe. Instead they are, within limits, fluid and opportunistic; they evolve over time." Besides which, of Montenegro's 672,000 people some 26% of them are minorities - Albanians, Slav Muslims (Bosniaks), Croats and Roma, all of whom as Roberts notes are "'Montenegrins' in the political sense of being citizens of that territory." However it is amongst the Orthodox majority that one finds ambivalence and a contest for identity:

How then are we to describe and account for the problem? One prominent Montenegrin sociologist, Srdjan Darmanović, describes the Montenegrin condition as that of a 'national homo duplex, a victim of his 'double or divided consciousnesses'. Why is this so? Why if Croats define themselves clearly as Croats and Serbs as Serbs are Montenegrins different? The most common explanation is that the sense of shared Serbian-Montenegrin identity conferred by religion and language - both powerful totems of ethnicity in the Balkans - is offset in Montenegro's case by recent political history. As Darmanović explains, 'Many of those who nationally declare themselves Montenegrins have besides their "Montengrin-ness" a strong Serbian ethnic feeling, based on sharing the same language and religion. Consequently Montenegrins as a nation have been caught - especially in the twentieth century - between their "Montenegrin-ness" and their "Serbian-ness", between the particular interests of the Montenegrin state and those of Serbs in general.'

[pp. 3- 5]

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

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