(Mis)use of historiography in relations between Serbia and Montenegro: Historians reduced to servants of current regimes

In the Balkans today, everyone writes and rereads their histories. Therefore, for a long time this area of ​​Europe will be an unread book written with contents that are difficult to accept and understand

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Cetinje Monastery, Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Cetinje Monastery, Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

The history of the South Slavic and other Balkan peoples and countries, once and today, is in deep disharmony with the principles of the profession, which persistently calls for truthfulness, which can be reached if, despite all the difficulties towards that goal, one respects Tacitus "Sinae ire et studio".

In the Balkans today, everyone writes and rereads their histories. Therefore, for a long time this area of ​​Europe will be an unread book written with contents that are difficult to accept and understand. Faced with the challenge of rethinking the historiographical discourse on the Balkans and the role of their country and people in that area, they are looking for new syntheses. Time and space are looking for a certain knowledge from nativeness to recognizable statehood, ethnicity derived to national distinctiveness, confessionalism as religious heritage, culture of living as distinctiveness and tradition, so that all of this would be valid for others according to the model of civic life. To meet such knowledge about oneself and others, one goes with the question - how to overcome the Balkan syndrome - Balkanism and become a member of the European community of peoples and states.

The goal of the topic titled as such is to seek answers to these questions by offering arguments "for" and "against" with the clear intention of helping to clarify the understanding of commitments and beliefs that often do not correspond to the profession and remain in the sphere of politics and its powerful instrument - propaganda.

Therefore, historiography and propaganda in the relations between Serbia and Montenegro are today more than before a legitimate topic, not to exacerbate the already numerous and long-standing historiographical differences in opinions and understandings.

In order to avoid the usual method of starting from distant foggy strands of the always inspiring and enigmatic past, we will use the method of inference based on decades of studying these phenomena. There are numerous, different and very conflicting judgments and understandings in the available archives and literature of Serbian and Montenegrin historiography on the issue dealt with in this presentation.

This wealth of intellectual work, however, suffers greatly from the ideas, programs, goals and efforts of the political elites to subordinate the historiographic guild to the given goals and oblige it to serve them.

Thus, the very first statement would support the thesis that the aforementioned historiographies on these issues depend greatly on the power and influence of the elites, who often reduced historians to the servants of the current regimes, often giving them the sound characteristic of "national workers". Thus, their performance in the professional and scientific sense, even when it was in full accordance with the "craft of the historian", was used for political and propaganda purposes and goals.

This fundamental weakness of the practitioners of Serbian, Montenegrin and Serbian historiography has boomerang effects on the overall connections and relations between Serbia and Montenegro to the extent that today, and even more so tomorrow, requires persistent, professional, meticulous and responsible comparison of known and new facts and author's results , in order to find more reliable, non-political and propaganda-free courts for all three historiographical determinants - Serbian, Montenegrin and Serbian.

A seductive temptation

If in the interpretation of the work of political and scientific elites in politics, culture, science, confession and tradition, we start from the premise that it is they who shape national individuality and create states, then in this case we have the possibility that the historical experience of Serbia as an unrealized state project, as opposed to Montenegro and Serbia as realized state programs, we look at them in the light of the historiographical results of Serbian and Montenegrin historiography and propaganda.

Although propaganda follows them as a dare, it makes them interesting to study, right now. Thanks to it, we can follow not only the use and abuse of the elite's program goals, but also the very important transformation of these concepts in the ethnic, cultural, national, confessional, territorial and state sense.

Thus, Serbia, as a general determinant of the political idea of ​​a common state of all who are considered Serbs within the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy and the Republic of Venice, will exist and persist in the understandings of the spiritual and worldly champions who are predominantly in Serbia, and occasionally in Montenegro, in the matter of unification , gave a "Piedmont role". Precisely thanks to such workers in the creation of political, national, confessional and cultural programs, the differences in the understandings of the Serbian and Montenegrin elites arose; first the court ones, and then the others, around the issue of Serbia as a general national liberation movement for liberation and unification.

From the idea of ​​liberating "subjugated compatriots" during the first half of the 1848th century, when the dynastic circles and political elites of Serbia and Montenegro understood that the principle of nationalism could be used to realize national programs, we reached the first common hopes and disappointments in 49/1866. and XNUMX due to different expectations. In both cases, the political leadership of Serbia, despite the formulated national program in the variant of Serbia and Serbianness, estimated that it was better to remain at the level of propaganda than active warfare, for which they wholeheartedly advocated Petar II Petrovic Njegos, Prince Danilo i Prince/King Nicholas.

Then, during the Eastern Crisis (1875 - 1878), when with the war alliance of June 1876 they entered the war for the liberation of their compatriots in the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, the elites of Montenegro and Serbia, based on their war experiences in Herzegovina and northern Albania, recognized in to this successful war effort to stand with each other on the same path to the goal - who will unify and dynastically lead Serbia.

If the Peace of San Stefano could strengthen such hopes, the decisions of the Berlin Congress, despite the full international recognition and territorial expansion of Montenegro and Serbia, were a clear warning that the future realization of their special and common national and state ambitions could not be realized outside of the European powers.

In the independent states of Montenegro and Serbia, all previous good and bad experiences were given the necessary political, diplomatic and propaganda interpretations, adjusted from case to case with the goals of those from the circle of powers whose influence could be useful. As Belgrade, after this Congress, became attached to Vienna, and Cetinje remained close to Petrograd, the feeling and desire for a more effective application of the principles contained in the gradual realization of "Načertani" (1844), by suppressing war propaganda, intensified in the circles of the Serbian dynastic and political elite. which in Montenegro called for the unification and liberation of the whole of Serbia with a common wartime fear.

For this seductive temptation, Prince Nikola had enough reasons to be cautious. In the views of a very influential Jovan Ristic he could recognize the poisonousness of Serbian propaganda, which will follow him all the time Obrenović i Karađorđević, although he persistently "wrestled for Serbia" in Aberdare.

The history of the Balkan peoples and states does not know a ruler who, fighting and subordinating the fate of his own people and state to the goals of liberating and unifying Serbia as an ideology of liberation, regardless of confessional point of view, has long been the target and distance of the hideous court camarilla and obedient press of Serbia since the 1921s. years of the XNUMXth century until his death in XNUMX, only because his political charisma bothered both Obrenović and Karađorđević.

Serbian king Aleksandar Obrenović, painting by Vlaho Bukovac
Serbian king Aleksandar Obrenović, painting by Vlaho Bukovacphoto: Wikimedia Commons

Therefore, the question arises as to what kind of Serbia the prince and king Nikola Petrović fought for with sword and pen, when his political, statesmanship, dynastic and personal fate is known for its tragic outcome for both the Petrović dynasty and Montenegro. Does it seem more logical to conclude, as we often read in historiographical works, that he, like numerous rulers, was a victim of his own unfulfilled ambitions? King Nikola, in contrast to those, really had as much success as none of his predecessors from the House of Petrović, because he combined all their wishes, efforts, sacrifices for the benefit of the people and the state and put them under the roof of an internationally recognized and completely independent Montenegro, organized according to the model of European countries both externally and internally.

The fact that Montenegro, not only because of the liberation but also because of the ideological thought, considered it to be the leader in the gathering of the Serbs, and that he saw himself in the role of the leader because of his personal feeling and the prestigious importance of the Petrović dynasty, is not a sufficient reason for the brutal and monstrously channeled propaganda in which, through decades of repetition of his ruling failures, created stereotypes about an absolutist ruler who sells Montenegro to Austria-Hungary, stifles every free thought, rules unconstitutionally, does not respect the Parliament, and even when he sacrifices Montenegro for the sake of the attacked Serbia, he is again a traitor because, abandoned by of all allies, offers Emperor Francis Joseph honorable peace for Montenegro, aware of its sacrifice and ruin.

And when they remove him from power in an illegal and illegitimate way, destroy his property and dehumanize Montenegro, for propaganda in which Serbian and Montenegrin historians participated significantly with their works, he is the main culprit and he is tried without the institutions and important personalities responsible for such the outcome of the Montenegrin state and people.

Precisely because of this and much that is known about him and Montenegro, from the point of view of dynastic, party and propaganda views, the question - what kind of Serbia and Montenegro King Nikola Petrović fought for - is multifold significant for historians unencumbered by political and national propaganda. Here's how I feel about it.

The Serbia of King Nikola in the liberation struggle with cultural-linguistic, national and traditional kinship beyond confessional differences, occupied the spaces of the Ottoman and Habsburg empires at the time with the predominant political and military role and influence of Montenegro and Serbia.

Knowing the political intentions of the ideologues of Serbian Serbs, who see Serbia as a political unifier of Serbia in such a way that the borders of Serbia would move to the extreme areas of Macedonia, northern Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, part of Croatia and all of Montenegro, King Nikola, from the mid-80s years of the XNUMXth century began to affirm the ideas of Montenegrinism in the national, territorial and conceptual sense without questioning the idea of ​​liberation for the Serbs in the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Empire.

Viennese fear

Such a simplified statement about the concepts of Serbia, Montenegro and Serbia, which were extremely manifested in positive and negative terms during the time of Prince and King Nikola, is an occasion to say something more about the historiographic understandings and content of such, often contradictory, interpreted concepts.

By the way, in addition to the previous indications, Serbia is understood politically as a religious and ethnic designation that the term Serbs connects and equates with Orthodoxy in the ethnic sense.

In this way, the cult of its founder was built in the Serbian Orthodox Church Sava Nemanjić as a "holy place" that does not recognize Serbs of the Catholic and Islamic faiths in the national sense, ideologically and religiously. This excludes them from the Serbian ethnic group. Thus, "holiness" becomes the basis of national ideology within Orthodoxy.

Likewise, it is interesting to note why Serbia, as the mother country of the Serbs, renounces the ethnonym Serbian, even though it is an adequate name for its population. It is clear that this is intended to emphasize the role of Serbia as a country - the motherland of all who feel themselves to be Serbs, because it is based on the understanding that the church is the basic cohesive and integrative factor, and the state is the full expression of the unity achieved in this way.

For Serbs outside of Serbia, there is no other national expression other than Serbs, unless they are attached to the political and state name of the country in which they live.

On the contrary, Montenegrins clearly express themselves ethnonymically and nationally and are connected to Montenegro in the state and national sense. Unlike the majority of Balkan nations, Montenegro, in its strategy of expanding its borders through liberation wars, did not impose national assimilation on the new population (Serbs, Muslims, Bosniaks, Albanians and Croats).

Namely, the rulers from the Petrović dynasty did not use this as a means of strengthening the national corps, although, due to the small number of the basic population - Montenegrins, there were reasons to strengthen the Montenegrin national feeling among the people of Brđa and Hercegovina, who during the XNUMXth century were related to Montenegro in the national sense. and in the sense of state law. Since the end of the Eastern crisis, with the decision to hand over Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria-Hungary, the area of ​​the Novpazar sandjak, under the military control of Vienna, has become an impassable border between Montenegro and Serbia. The relations between these states will be filled with rivalries of dynastic circles and political champions, from which behind-the-scenes politicians and military analysts at the Austro-Hungarian Balplatz reaped the main benefit.

Precisely on the plan of the mentioned differences regarding the understanding and use of the terms - Serbia, Montenegro and Serbia, during the administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina Benjamin Kalaj (whose mother was a Serb), mechanisms were built to separate the Serbs across the Drina, Sava and Danube from Serbia and Montenegro.

Recognizing their ethnic and national sentiments, in Vienna there was reason to fear that the Slavic sentiments of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes with Czechs and Slovaks, already included in the dualist monarchy (since 1867), would lead to a trialist rearrangement of the monarchy in which the South would be dominant. Slavs.

In order to suppress such predictions, full control over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sandžak was needed, along with the removal of any national propaganda from Montenegro and Serbia, while at the same time encouraging Serbian-Montenegrin differences and plans for a further liberation mission towards compatriots in Old Serbia and Macedonia.

By promising to help Serbia's efforts in politics in the south, with the strict observance of the government in Belgrade to distance itself completely from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Habsburg military-political circles encouraged king of Milan that by signing the Secret Convention of Serbia with Austria-Hungary, he became an arrogant rival of Prince Nikola, to an extent that did not bode well for the future relations between Belgrade and Cetinje.

Cetinje Monastery
Cetinje Monasteryphoto: Shutterstock

In such circumstances, marriage Zorke Petrović for the prince in exile Petar Karađorđević it served the always active Serbian propaganda, the right and left hand of the government in Belgrade, to take this fact as a threat to the house of Obrenović, with the aim of the effort of the house of Petrović to take a leading role in the unification of Serbia. At that time, the Government of Serbia made public the program for the liberation of the southern parts of Serbia with Kosovo and Macedonia, whereby every announcement by Prince Nikola that he was always ready to lead Montenegro into a war against the Ottoman Empire in order to liberate southern Serbia, along the line through Sandžak, via Metohija, of northern Albania and western Macedonia to Debra, ignored and considered premature.

At that time, as a reaction to the Serbian understanding of Serbia, texts about Montenegrinism as a program design of the Montenegrin national project appeared in "Glas Crnogorca". This gave wind to the mutual campaign from Belgrade and Cetinje about the leadership in Serbia from the positions of political and state prestige of Serbia and Montenegro.

(End in next issue)

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