Back 17 - Next 

The First World War

Prince Nikola Nikola Pašić Milovan Djilas
Prince Nikola – Nikola Pašić – Milovan Djilas

After the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, Montenegro, writes Roberts, "exhausted by the savage fighting of 1912-13, was not eager at first for another war." So, Nikola attempted to dampen down support for Serbia amongst pro-Serb nationalists "while attempting to negotiate the country's possible neutrality in return for Austria's agreement to permit its expansion into Albania and possibly even a return to Scutari." [See Page 16 – 1913: Scutari] It was not to happen. In 1915 the Serbian Army, government and much of the civilian population began their epic retreat through Sandžak, Kosovo and Montenegro to the Albanian coast. Many Montenegrins died in covering the Serbian retreat. In January 1916 Montenegro capitulated and King Nikola went into exile in France. He did not want to go to Corfu where he feared being pressured into accepting the polices of Serbian premier Nikola Pašić, either for an expanded and unitary Serbian state and kingdom including Montenegro or a Yugoslavia in which Montenegro would also disappear. Meanwhile in Montenegro, now under Austro-Hungarian occupation, the situation had become increasingly "desperate":

At first the occupiers did not treat the population with excessive harshness, although they displayed a 'severity accompanied by…orderliness' that kept people wary and wholly unreconciled by their presence. But as pockets of resistance began to manifest themselves the Austrians increasingly resorted to stronger measures and at times treated the civilian population with considerable brutality.

Milovan Djilas was the later famous communist leader and then dissident:

The father of Milovan Djilas was one of the many thousands of those taken prisoner and held in camps by the Austrians, while others who attacked the Austrians directly or committed acts of sabotage were hanged on public gibbets erected in the countryside. To the fear occasioned by reprisals were added the constant depredations of indigenous guerrillas, some of whom behaved more as bandits, stealing from the local population rather than helping them. As early as 1916 the German press was reporting: 'In Montenegro there is no more bread, no flour, no tobacco, no salt and no oil.' By 1917 famine, never far removed from the lives of ordinary Montenegrins, was becoming an everyday reality.

Austrian troops left Cetinje on 6 November 1918. They were followed rapidly by Serbian irregulars coming from Macedonia and, shortly afterwards, by Serbian Army units. "To these were added" writes Roberts, "French, British and Italian troops who … were under the overall command of the French…"

The arrangements put in place by the French commander on the spot, General Venel, gave Serbian troops - rapidly reconstituted as 'Yugoslavs' - complete control of the interior of the country, while other Allied forces were largely disposed along the coast. At the same time the French government turned down all of Nikola's requests to return, claiming that the situation in the country was too insecure for him to do so safely. The Allies' de facto policy was thus in contrast to the formal position by which they continued, though with little enthusiasm, to recognise Nikola and his government as officially in charge of the country.

[pp: 304, 318, 319, 320]

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

 Back 17 - Next