A general educational and simply useful article for any tourist who wants to come here on vacation. The history of Montenegro will help to better understand the events that took place and find out how the country of Montenegro appeared. I will briefly highlight the main points and events.

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history of montenegro
The center of the old cities of the coast almost everywhere looks like this. The history of Montenegro has more than 3000 years

Montenegro name origin: etymology

A little preface to better understand Montenegro name origin.

  • More than 80% of the country’s territory is occupied by mountains. Moreover, these mountains are difficult to pass. When there were no roads 100-200 years ago, it was impossible to move around this area.
  • The only flat piece of land is a thin line along the coast, where people actually settled.
  • The Venetians dominated the entire Adriatic around the 14th century. They had a strong fleet known throughout the Mediterranean. Visiting modern Montenegro was possible only by sea at that time.
  • It was the Venetians who first gave the name to these lands.

Interesting to know:

This territory was named as “Montenegro” in the Venetian language. Where “mons” is a mountain, “negro” is black. Literally, the Venetians called these lands Black Mountain.

When they sailed to Montenegro, they could see mountain ranges and the highest mountain Lovcen along the entire coast to the horizon. Lovcen is not the highest mountain in Montenegro, but definitely the highest on the coast and it is clearly visible from the sea. Today, the Lovcen National Park and many interesting tourist locations are located here.

In fact, Mount Lovcen and all the other mountains of Montenegro are very green, there is a huge amount of forests. These lands were called Black Mountain not by the color of the mountains, but by their inaccessibility. Here in this region it was difficult to move and trade, there is no arable land for agriculture, it was generally difficult to live here and produce food for survival.

name of ancient montenegro
Mountains of Montenegro. Not black at all, they are green, but in the photo it’s just November. Look how many trees there are.
  • And after Montenegro, other peoples began to call these lands in their own way.
  • Serbs and Croats call it Crna Gora, which also means Black Mountain.
  • The Greeks – Μαυροβούνιο, the Albanians – Mali i Zi, the Turks – Karadağ. Which translates similarly – Black Mountain.

Brief history of Montenegro from ancient Illyrian tribes to Yugoslavia

I will not rewrite a 500-page Montenegrin history textbook in detail. There is a very good article about the history of Montenegro on Wikipedia, who are interested in the details, read the link. And then it will be short for a general understanding.

  • The sites of the first people on the territory of modern Montenegro appeared 40 thousand years BC. This is the Neanderthal period.
  • The first inhabitants of Montenegro with a state system in ancient times were the Illyrian tribes. Also BC
  • The Greeks begin to build cities on the Montenegrin coast around the 3rd century BC. They do not go deep into the mainland because of the inaccessible mountains, but the coast completely passes under the control of the Greeks.
  • In the 1st century AD The Roman Empire captures these lands, as well as almost all of Europe.
  • And after the fall of the Roman Empire, Montenegro comes under the dependence of Byzantium. The Byzantines established control over Montenegro for as much as 5 centuries.
montenegro origin name
Montenegro was on the very edge of Byzantium, so it was constantly attacked by its neighbors
  • Anti-Byzantine revolts have been taking place in Montenegro since 1035. Not all of them were successful, most often they were brutally suppressed. But the Byzinthian Empire was already struggling to maintain control in all its provinces by the end of the 11th century.
  • The first prerequisites for the emergence of an independent state appear at the beginning of the 12th century. A state that will not be anyone’s province.
  • First it was Dukla. This principality united partially the lands of Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
  • Regular wars, uprisings and the redistribution of spheres of influence between noble families wiped off the principality of Duklja from the map and the principality of Zeta arose. And a little later – the Serbian Despotate. But all attempts to gain real independence were unsuccessful.
  • By 1499, the entire territory of modern Montenegro was completely occupied by the Turks. Montenegro became a colony – part of the Ottoman Empire for the next 300 years.
  • In 1711-1713, during the Russian-Turkish war, Peter 1 tried to liberate these lands from the Turks. At the same time, the first decree was signed on financial assistance to some monasteries in Montenegro. It was not possible to liberate Montenegrins and Serbs, but then the foundations of strong friendship between the Serbian and Russian peoples were laid.

About the monasteries of Montenegro: a large overview of the shrines of Montenegro.

  • Montenegro gained independence and became a Serbian state only in 1796 after the victory over the Ottomans.

About the reasons for the good attitude of the Serbs towards the Russians:

In the entire history of Montenegro, the only country in Europe that did not attack and did not fight with Montenegro and Serbia, but provided financial assistance and support, was the Russian Empire. The history of Montenegro knows hundreds of wars, but not a single one was with the Russians.

A new independent state appeared on the world map in 1918, the Union of South Slavs: Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia united 6 countries of the Balkan Peninsula.

Modern history of Montenegro: war and breakup of Yugoslavia and union with Serbia

And now about modern history.

  • Yugoslavia from the first day headed for communism and tight integration with the USSR.
  • Fascist Italy occupied the entire territory during World War II.
  • The People’s Liberation War of Yugoslavia from the Italian invaders began and ended there in 1945.
  • The disintegration of Yugoslavia into 6 independent Balkan states began in the 90s. Ethnic clashes followed. The collapse ended only in 2008.
  • In 1999, in response to the massacre of Albanians by the Yugoslav army in the village of Racak, NATO troops began bombing Belgrade and major cities in Serbia. Belgrade at that time was the capital of Yugoslavia, which included Montenegro.

Good to know:

The perpetrators and people responsible for the execution of Albanians and the death of representatives of ethnic minorities have been punished today. However, the names of those who gave orders to bomb Belgrade and kill thousands of civilians in Serbia have not yet been announced. For this reason, today in Serbia and Montenegro, the influence and authority of NATO as a political alliance is negligible.
war in montenegro yugoslavia
Civil bridge in the center of the Serbian city of Novi Sad after another NATO bombing in 1999

Yugoslavia finally disappeared from the political map of the world in 2003. All countries became independent, and Serbia and Montenegro formed a union, which was called: the state community of Serbia and Montenegro.

  • 55% of Montenegrin citizens voted for the independence of the country and Serbia recognized this right of Montenegrins in 2006 at a popular referendum.


The country of Montenegro has appeared on the world map since 2006. The history of Montenegro has never known complete independence without any external influence or control. This happened for the first time in 3,000 years of the country’s history.
  • The current generation 40+ remembers the NATO bombings well. Many of their relatives and friends have died. That is why, today, Serbia refuses to join NATO, and Montenegro joined in 2008, although more than 60% of the country’s population was against this decision, according to polls.

And another interesting article about religion in Montenegro.

In conclusion: the history of Montenegro, like any other country in Europe, remembers hundreds of wars, uprisings, divisions of territories. All of Europe has been at war for millennia. But since 2006, a new page has begun from scratch, the young and independent state of Montenegro, the country of the Black Mountains.

Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Montenegro

  • Aviasales – Cheap Flights and best deals.
  • Car rental in Montenegro:
    • DiscoverCars – a large international platform.
    • LocalRent – works with local rental companies. Leader in car rental in Montenegro.
  • Hotels and apartments all over the country:
    • Hotellook compares the prices among dozens of other booking services and offer the best price
    • Booking – the most popular booking platform
    • Agoda – even more accommodation options in Montenegro
  • Tours, excursions and activities (including extreme ones):
    • GetYourGuide – more than 430 tours
    • Viator – 780+ excursions and activities throughout the country
  • Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
  • Internet and Calls:
  • Taxi and airport transfers: Intui.Travel