Montenegro is a small Balkan country, but one which seems to have everything- beautiful mountains and lakes, an Adriatic shore, good food, and more. Over the years that bounty made it a target for conquest by its regional neighbours. Montenegro experienced rule by Illyrians, Macedonians, Romans, Serbs, Bulgarians and Ottomans. This made for a colourful but at times violent history.
In this episode we explore the country’s “wild beauty” during a trip from the coast, through several mountain ranges, to the capital Podgorica (formerly Titograd) and back to the coast. Visits to two of Montenegro’s most famous monasteries- Morača and Ostrog- help us understand the role played by the Orthodox Church, especially in times of turmoil. The Ostrog Monastery was literally built into the side of a mountain to protect its inhabitants from invaders, particularly the Ottomans, who controlled the broader region for centuries.
While enjoying the spectacular views from the mountaintops and valley lakes, we consider a literary reference to the Montenegrin landscape- The Mountain Wreath- written by the Serbian Prince-Bishop Petar II Petrović-Njegoš. This epic poem describes the search for the “true” Montenegrin identity and debates whether Christians and Muslims could share the fruits of the land and live in peace. It is considered one of the most important pieces of literature in the Serbian language. Because of its content, however, it was more recently removed from the curriculum of neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina over fears that it flamed ethnic conflict.
Montenegro’s historical and cultural links with Serbia played a key role in its 20th century trajectory. Following World War II it became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Even after the the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, Montenegro initially remained with Serbia in a successor state. But the 21st century saw Montenegro going its own way, even joining NATO and applying for membership in the European Union. Where all this leads, and what it means for its relations with kindred Serbia remains to be seen.
Head to the summit and learn more about this fascinating country in the southwest of the Balkans!