THE modern history of Montenegro may be said to have begun on the 29th of July, 1696, with the accession of the present dynasty to the throne. For a period of one hundred and eighty years the destinies of the Black Mountain had been entrusted to the hands of an elective Prince-Bishop, or Vladika, who was assisted in temporal matters by a civil governor. But in their constant struggles against the Turks, the mountaineers had learnt by experience the disadvantages which inevitably attend an election to the Crown. They felt that, if they were to hold their own, they must strengthen the position of their ruler by making his office hereditary in one powerful family. As the Prince-Bishop, by virtue of his episcopal station, was forbidden to marry, the Montenegrin ruler had no sons to succeed him. But, in order to secure continuity of government, the Vladika was empowered to nominate his successor from his relatives, and the people have never hesitated to ratify
his choice. From 1696 onwards, nephew has succeeded uncle in unbroken line. But the separation of the temporal from the ecclesiastical functions of the sovereign by Danilo II. in 1851 has altered the character of the Montenegrin monarchy by permitting the Prince to marry; and, though Danilo II. was followed by his nephew, in future the dignity may be expected to descend from father to son.
Having resolved upon this change in their form of government, the Montenegrins had little doubt whom to choose as the founder of the new dynasty. Every visitor to Cetinje has passed through the village of Njeguš, which lies about half-way between Cattaro and the Montenegrin capital. In the distance the cold grey houses of the hamlet look like a heap of stones, hardly distinguishable from the gaunt lime-stone rocks which surround it. But no spot in his mountain country is dearer to the Prince than this unpretentious hamlet, for it was the cradle of his race, the impregnable stronghold of Montenegrin independence. The village derives its name from a mountain in the Herzegovina, whose inhabitants had fled for refuge from the Turks to Montenegro a couple of centuries before, and had called their new settlement after their old home. One of the descendants of these Herzegovinian exiles, Danilo Petrović, was a leading man at Njeguš two hundred years ago, and it was upon him that the choice of the people fell. For a long time he declined the proffered honour. He pleaded youth, inexperience, and lack of ambition. He preferred the cloister at Cetinje to the leadership of the nation. But, at last,
THE FIRST THREE HEREDITARY PRINCE-BISHOPS.
he yielded to the necessities of his country, and though he was not actually consecrated as Vladika till 1700, his accession dates from the 29th of July, 1696. The date will ever be memorable in Montenegro's rough mountain story. This summer Prince Nicholas celebrates the bicentenary of his dynasty by a national festival, or, to use his own phrase, a "rejoicing of his people." Prizes will be awarded for the best history of his family, and a monument is to be erected to the first of its princes.
The long reign of Danilo I. was remarkable for numerous invasions of the Turks, especially during the first few years, and for the first connection between the Principality and the Czar of Russia—a connection which has lasted down to the present day. The ruler found upon his accession that he would have not only to defend his country against the enemy from without, but also to free it from traitors within. Whenever the Turks had invaded the Black Mountain, they had derived great assistance from the Montenegrin subjects who had embraced the Mussulman faith, just as in our own generation the Bosnian converts to Islam have sometimes been more Turkish in their sympathies than the Turks themselves. Danilo soon had an opportunity of ridding himself of this internal danger, and at the same time of striking a heavy blow at his external foes. We will tell the tale in the words of one of those beautiful piesmas, or national ballads, in which much of Montenegrin history is enshrined. This song, called Sve-Oslobod, or "Wholly Free," is still sung by the Martinović family, and thus graphically describes the
THE "MONTENEGRIN VESPERS."
treachery of the Turks, the Vladika's sufferings, and his people's vengeance:-
"The Christians of the Zeta, by means of gifts, gained permission from the Pasha of bloody Scutari to build a church. The humble building was completed, and the priest Jove went to the chieftains of the tribes assembled in council and said to them: 'Our church is built, but it will be no place of God until it has been consecrated: let us therefore give money to the Pasha for a safe-conduct for the Bishop of the Black Mountain, that he may come and bless it.' The Pasha granted the pass for the Black Monk [the Turkish name for the Vladika, derived from his monkish garb], and the chosen men of the Zeta went in haste to give it to the Vladika at Cetinje. Danilo Petrović read the writing and shook his head, and said: 'There is no promise held sacred by the Turks; but for the love of our holy faith I will go, even if I never return.' So he bade saddle his best horse and went with them. But the treacherous Mussulman waited till he had blessed the church, and then seized him and dragged him, with his hands tied behind his back, to Podgorica. At this news, all the men of the Zeta, plain and mountain alike, rose and went to accursed Scutari to implore the Pasha to let the Vladika go. But he fixed the ransom at three thousand golden ducats. So the people of the Black Mountain agreed with the tribes of the Zeta, and sold perforce all the holy vessels at Cetinje. The Vladika was set free; and when they saw the glorious sun-shine of their nation returning, the mountaineers could not restrain their transports of joy. But Danilo,
THE FIRST THREE HEREDITARY PRINCE-BISHOPS.
long afflicted by the spiritual successes of the Turks in his land and foreseeing the apostasy of his people from the faith, bade the assembled tribes at once fix a day for the massacre of every Turk throughout the country. At this demand, most of the leaders were silent; the five brothers Martinović alone offered to carry out the plot. Christmas Eve was chosen as the night of the massacre, in memory of the victims who fell at Kossovo. The fatal evening arrived: the brothers Martinović lighted their holy tapers, prayed with fervour to the new-born God, drank each a cup of wine to the glory of Christ, and, seizing their consecrated clubs, rushed off through the darkness. Wherever a Turk was to be found, the five avengers appeared; all who refused baptism were massacred without pity; those who embraced the cross were presented as brothers to the Vladika. The people, assembled at Cetinje, greeted the dawn of Christmas with songs of gladness; for the first time since the fatal day of Kossovo, they could cry: 'The Black Mountain is free !'"
These "Montenegrin Vespers," as the massacre of Christmas Eve, 1703, has been called, cleared the land of the Turkish renegades for some time to come. But in 1707 the survivors returned to the attack. The mountaineers not only inflicted upon them an overwhelming defeat, but showed their contempt by demanding a pig as the ransom for every prisoner. Upon this curious incident an eminent British states-man once based an elaborate defence of the Montenegrins against the charge of cruelty. But the nation gained something more important than a herd of
FIRST CONNECTION WITH RUSSIA.
swine by this decisive victory. The inhabitants of the seven "mountains," or Berda, which now form the eastern portion of the principality, chose that moment for concluding a defensive alliance with the victors, with whom they were formally incorporated eighty years later. In memory of their former independence, the full title of the sovereign is still "Prince and Lord of Montenegro and the Berda" (kniaz i gospodar slobodne Crnegore i Brdach).
Scarcely less productive of results was the first appearance of Russia in Montenegrin history. In 1710 Peter the Great, involved in war with the Turks, sought to raise the Christians of the Balkan Peninsula against them. Following the advice of a Herzegovinian noble, he included the Montenegrins in his appeal. One of the national ballads describes the enthusiasm with which the Czar's emissary, Milo Radović, was received at Cetinje. The Emperor's letter, we are told, began with an account of his victories over the Swedes, "Pultava's day," and the treason and death of Mazeppa, and went on to say how, in revenge, the Swedish monarch had urged on the Turks against him. "But," so runs the letter, "I place my trust above all in the stalwart arms of the Montenegrin braves, who assuredly will help me to deliver Christendom, to raise up temples of the true faith and to add splendour to the Slav name. Warriors of the Black Mountain, you are of the same
creed, the same language as ourselves; like us, you
know no fear. Arise then, heroes worthy of the brave days of old, and remain a nation, which has no peace with the Turks." At these words the
THE FIRST THREE HEREDITARY PRINCE-BISHOPS.
excitement was intense. Every warrior demanded to be led at once against the foe. But this enthusiasm was short-lived. The Czar quickly made peace, with-out taking thought for his plucky allies, who were now abandoned to the vengeance of the Turks. But the courage of the Montenegrins did not desert them. At that time, the whole population of the country did not exceed twenty thousand persons, and as Achmet Pasha was despatched with fifty thousand soldiers against them, the odds seemed enormous. From the plain of Podgorica the Pasha wrote to Danilo: "Send me a small tribute and three braves as hostages. If thou Bost not obey, I will set the whole land ablaze from the river Moraca to the salt lake [the Adriatic]; I will take thee alive and torture thee to death." The assembled chiefs replied that the fire from their guns would be their only tribute. Three warriors were sent to spy out the enemies' camp, and the Vladika, falling upon the Turks as they slept, defeated them with tremendous slaughter, According to the legend, only three hundred Montenegrins fell, while twenty thousand Mussulmans remained dead on the rocks. The victory was the greatest that the Montenegrin arms had won. The date, by a curious coincidence the anniversary of Danilo's accession, is still remembered in the Black Mountain, and the "glorious 29th of July" has thus a double significance for the nation. The battlefield is known to this day as the " felling of the Emperor," or Tsarevlaz, because the Sultan's soldiers were cut down like trees. But all danger was not over, Kiuprili, the Governor of Bosnia, collected an army
THE TURKS AT CETINJE.
of one hundred and twenty thousand men on the Herzegovinian frontier, and, resolving not to rely on numbers alone, managed, under pretext of negotiations, to obtain possession of thirty-seven Montenegrin chiefs. Kiuprili hung his prisoners, and, having thus deprived Montenegro of its ablest leaders, invaded their helpless country. Once again the Turks occupied Cetinje, and once again its monastery, re-built by Danilo after the "Montenegrin Vespers," was razed to the ground. "Not a single altar," says a ballad, "not a single house in all Crnagora was left standing. The young men fled to the mountain fastnesses, the others took refuge on Venetian territory, convinced that the Doge, to whom their long war had been so useful, would not surrender them to the Turks. In vain! The Venetians allowed the Mussulmans to invade their land and put the vanquished to the sword." But the Montenegrins bore no malice against the Doge for his desertion. When the Venetians were blockaded by the Turks in the ports of Dulcigno and Antivari they came to their assistance, and a letter of thanks from the proud "Queen of the Adriatic" was sent to the Vladika, whose authority in ecclesiastical matters over the orthodox population of the Bocche di Cattaro was recognised by the Republic. Peter the Great showed his gratitude to his former allies in a more practical way. The year 1715 is remarkable as the first occasion when a Montenegrin ruler visited Russia to seek aid or counsel of its Czar—a journey which every subsequent prince has undertaken. Peter the Great issued two ukases, in which he assured the mountain-
THE FIRST THREE HEREDITARY PRINCE-BISHOPS.
folk of his friendship, and sent them ten thousand roubles as well as one hundred and sixty gold pieces. This was the first of many subsidies which Montenegro has received from the Czars.
Sava, who had performed the ecclesiastical functions of the late Vldika for many years past, was suited by nature for the cloister rather than the throne. He is the only one of the seven Petrović
SAVA AND VASSILI.
Princes who has lacked character, and a large part of
his reign was really a regency, carried on by his
nephew Vassili. But his government, if not remarkable for its vigour, is still remembered for the closer
connection with Russia which he and his nephew
promoted, and for the strange episode of Stephen the
Little, one of the most successful impostures in all
Weak as was the new ruler, he soon had to exert
himself to defend his country from the Turks. The
Peace of Belgrade had left them free to devote their
undivided attention to Montenegro, and no sooner
had it been concluded than they blockaded the Black
Mountain. Without either allies or ammunition—for
the faithless Venetians had forbidden the traders of
Cattaro to sell them arms- the beleaguered warriors
were forced to trust to their own exertions and to
the weapons which they captured from their enemies'
camp. Their triumph was, however, disgraced by a
horrible act of revenge. Severity Turkish officers
were shut up in a stable and then burnt alive. Their
repulse of the next invasion was a more legitimate
source of satisfaction to the mountaineers. "The
vizier of Bosnia," in the language of the ballad,
"wrote a letter to the Black Monk, Vassili Petrović,
saying, 'Black Monk, send me the tribute of the
mountain with twelve of thy loveliest maidens, all
between twelve and fifteen years, or I swear by the
only true God to ravage the country and carry off
every male, young and old, into slavery.'" Then the
Vladika replied as follows: "Renegade, cater of the
plums of the Herzegovina, how durst thou ask tribute
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of the children of the free Mountain? Tribute we will send thee, but it shall be a stone of our rocks, and instead of a dozen virgins, thou shalt have a dozen pigs' tails for thy turban. If thou wilt attack us, come. We trust thou wilt leave thy head with us, and that it will roll down our mountain slopes, already strewn with many a Turkish skull." Infuriated at this reply, the Pasha sent his lieutenant with forty-five thousand men against his scornful foes. For fourteen days the two armies kept up a constant fusillade; then, from lack of ammunition, the Montenegrins had to retire. But an unexpected succour was at hand. Braving the displeasure of the Venetians, a Serb of Cattaro came and sold them in one night many thousands of cartridges. "Like wolves upon a flock of sheep they fell upon the Turkish camp, and pursued the enemy till nightfall over hill and valley." Till the close of Vassili's reign, in 1766, no Turkish soldier set foot again on the rocks of Montenegro.
Meanwhile its rulers had both re-opened relations with Russia. Before he retired into the new monastery which he had built at Staniević, and resigned all power into the hands of Vassili, Sava visited the Empress Elizabeth at Moscow, paying his respects on his return to Frederick the Great at Berlin. The Empress received him graciously, and, in pursuance of an unfulfilled promise of Peter the Great, allowed his country a sum of three thousand roubles a year as compensation for the losses which it had incurred during the war of 1711. Vassili, in his turn, was made equally welcome. The Empress gave him one
STEPHEN THE LITTLE.
thousand ducats for his schools, which had fallen into disuse during the Turkish raids, and, in order to assist him in improving his military organisation, admitted fifteen young Montenegrins to the Military Academy at St. Petersburg. During a third journey to Russia, Vassili died on the 10th of March, 1766, and his remains lie in the church of St. Alexander Nevski at St. Petersburg. Sava, unfitted for the work of government by nearly twenty years of monastic seclusion, was compelled to reassume the reins of power. But he had been little more than a year in office, when a pretender appeared in Montenegro and relieved him of his duties. There is no more curious episode in Balkan history than the successful imposture of this man.
Towards the end of 1767 there arrived in the Bocche di Cattaro a certain Stephen the Little, or Stepan Mali, who gave himself out to be the Czar Peter III. of Russia, believed to have been murdered five years earlier. The impostor acted his part well; under the guise of a doctor, he had paid a previous visit to the Black Mountain, studied carefully the customs of its inhabitants, and convinced himself of their attachment to Russia. Few of them had ever been in that country, fewer still had ever seen the features of the murdered Czar. Marco Tancović, one of the small number of travelled Montenegrins, declared that in the face of Stephen he recognised the Lmperor, whom he had met with Vassili at St. Petersburg. The simple people were greatly influenced by what Tancović said. From far and near the chiefs gathered together to see and hear him, and
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for the moment the dissensions, which had divided them under the feeble sway of Sava, were healed. Stephen told them the story of his life. He said that he had escaped from the daggers of his assassins, and after a long voyage had landed on the eastern shores of the Adriatic. He disclaimed all desire to return to Russia, and said that he asked nothing better than to devote the rest of his days to the cause of Montenegrin independence. The people heard him gladly, thinking that the times demanded a man and not a monk as their ruler; the Serb Patriarch of Ipek, who had delegated to Sava the spiritual jurisdiction hitherto enjoyed by himself and his predecessors, implored his protection from the Turks; even the Serbs inhabiting the picturesque Venetian town of Risano on the Bocche di Cattaro rose in favour of the impostor. Sava was too weak to resist, and was allowed to live on condition that the usurper governed. Whatever his origin, Stephen, at any rate, governed well. He punished crime with the utmost severity; he dared to have two of his subjects shot for theft, and such was the fear which he inspired, that no one ventured to touch a purse and a silver-mounted pistol which he left on the frequented road between Cattaro and Cetinje for several weeks. He established courts of justice, prohibited work on Sunday, ordered a census of all men fit to bear arms, and anticipated the present Prince in his desire to improve the means of communication. But his energy excited the suspicions of his great neighbours. Venice was alarmed for the safety of her Dalmatian possessions; the Turks regarded the usurper as a
DEFEAT OF THE TURKS.
Russian agent in disguise. Both declared war against Montenegro. The Venetians encamped near Budua, now the southernmost Austrian outpost in Dalmatia; the Turkish troops, following their usual tactics, attacked Montenegro on three sides at once. The position was critical, all the more so as Stephen showed no desire for fighting, and is even said to have sought safety in flight—a piece of cowardice unheard of in a genuine Montenegrin Vladika. But the elements were once more on the side of the mountaineers. After a nine months' struggle, on the 1st of November, says the ballad, a heavy storm of rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning, fell upon the Venetian and the Turkish camps. Next day, the Montenegrins descended and seized the ammunition of their enemies, who fled in terror. The piety of the people saw in this deliverance the hand of Providence, and the bard calls upon his "dear pobratim," or brother-in-arms, to "believe in the God from whom the men of Crnagora receive joy, courage, and health." The Russian Government, which had hitherto taken no notice of the pretended Emperor, now sent Prince Dolgorouki to Montenegro with presents and war material in large quantities. Arrived at Cetinje, the Russian envoy assembled the people and read aloud to them two letters of the Empress Catharine II., in the first of which she invited them to join her in war against the Turks, while in the other she denounced Stephen as an impostor, and demanded that he should be deposed. Stephen, confronted with his accuser, admitted the fraud which he had committed. In spite of the
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entreaties of some of his subjects, who admired his administrative qualities, he was put under arrest, and had it not been for the incapacity of Sava, who was now once more called to the direction of affairs, his career would have been over. But war was impending, the winter was at hand, and as Sava still lingered in his monastic retreat, Prince Dolgorouki resolved upon the bold step of recognising his prisoner as Regent and installing him in office. Another and less probable account of Stephen's restoration to power is that he was rescued from prison by the people, whom he had convinced of his Imperial birth by the fact that he was lodged in a room above the Russian envoy. For five more years he governed Montenegro, and even the loss of one eye from an explosion during the blasting of a new road did not lessen his activity. Borne about his rocky principality on a litter, a gift from the rich citizens of Ragusa, he reigned till 1774, when a Greek servant, said to have been suborned by the Pasha of Scutari, strangled him while he was asleep. By a curious irony of fate, he died like the Emperor whose name he had assumed. Prince Dolgorouki states in his " Memoirs" that he came from Bosnia, and that the Archimandrite Marcović suggested to him the part which he played so successfully. Other writers believe him to have been born in Dalmatia. But upon his abilities as a ruler all are agreed, and Montenegro owes a debt of gratitude to his memory.
Upon his murder, the Pasha of Scutari at once took the field against the Montenegrins. But, though the feeble Sava was now their leader, the valour of
DEATH OF SAVA.
his subjects repulsed the Turks with great loss. The
victories of Russia had crippled the Ottoman power,
and though the victors, as in 1711, did not take the
trouble to have their Montenegrin allies included in
the treaty of peace, the rest of Sava's reign was free
from disturbance. In 1782 he died, after forty-seven
years of titular rule, and Vassili's nephew, Peter
Petrović, who had held his dying uncle in his arms
at St. Petersburg, reigned in his stead.