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Cetinje: 1858

Copyright © by Alan Grant

In 1858, Montenegro was a minor region centred on Cetinje.  At a time when the Great Powers were striving to dictate the future of the Balkans, the following piece appeared, unsigned in the 2 March edition of Ost Deutsche Post.  In her history of Montenegro, Elizabeth Roberts reports that it was considered “sufficiently representative of the official [Austrian] government view to warrant its inclusion in a despatch sent to the Foreign office by the British ambassador to Vienna, Sir Hamilton Seymour.”  

The article began: “The existence of a so-called state like Montenegro is a comical curiosity in the system of European states…”

What is Montenegro? A barren rocky district of rather more than eighty square miles (German), with not more than 120,000 inhabitants, hardly tinged by the lowest degree of civilization. The whole population possesses only two or three schools, and priests who can neither read nor write are as common as workmen are uncommon. Manufacturers, engineers, physicians etc., are quite unknown. In the whole country there is not a single road; out of 300 villages the chief town of Cettinge [sic] alone has more than 1,000 inhabitants. The lowest degree of production, such as is due to nature itself with the least help of man, and by the side of this constant trade of arms, such as it is, carried on by brigands; this is the sum total of Montenegrin activity.

Realm of the Black Mountain: A History of Montenegro. Elizabeth Roberts. 2007.
[pp. 225-26 / Hurst]

January 2007
Tim Judah

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