Montenegrin–Ottoman War (1876–1878)

The Montenegrin–Ottoman War (Serbian Cyrillic: Црногорско-турски рат, romanizedCrnogorsko-turski rat, "Montenegrin-Turkish War"), also known in Montenegro as the Great War (Вељи рат, Velji rat), was fought between the Principality of Montenegro and the Ottoman Empire between 1876 and 1878. The war ended with Montenegrin victory and Ottoman defeat in the larger Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. Six major and 27 smaller battles were fought, among which was the crucial Battle of Vučji Do.

Montenegrin–Ottoman War of 1876–1878
Part of Great Eastern Crisis
Vucji Do flag.jpg
Montenegrin krstaš-barjak from the Battle of Vučji Do, damaged by bullets from the Ottoman forces, one of the symbols of the war and Montenegrin resistance.
Date18 June 1876 – 19 February 1878

Decisive Montenegrin victory;

  • Montenegro gains the towns of Nikšić,
    Kolašin, Spuž, Podgorica, Žabljak and Bar.
  • Montenegro's territory increases from 4,405 km² to 9,475 km²
  • De jure independence of Montenegro
  • Belligerents
     Montenegro  Ottoman Empire
    Commanders and leaders
    Prince Nicholas I
    Marko Miljanov Popović
    Simo Baćović
    Ahmed Muhtar Pasha
    Osman Pasha

    A rebellion in nearby Herzegovina sparked a series of rebellions and uprisings against the Ottomans in Europe. Montenegro and Serbia agreed to declare a war on the Ottomans on 18 June 1876. The Montenegrins allied themselves with Herzegovians. One battle that was crucial to Montenegro's victory in the war was the Battle of Vučji Do. In 1877, Montenegrins fought heavy battles along the borders of Herzegovina and Albania. Prince Nicholas took the initiative and counterattacked the Ottoman forces that were coming from the north, south and west. He conquered Nikšić (24 September 1877), Bar (10 January 1878), Ulcinj (20 January 1878), Grmožur (26 January 1878) and Vranjina and Lesendro (30 January 1878).

    The war ended when the Ottomans signed a truce with the Montenegrins at Edirne on 13 January 1878. The advancement of Russian forces toward the Ottomans forced the Ottomans to sign a peace treaty on 3 March 1878, recognising the independence of Montenegro, as well as Romania and Serbia, and also increased Montenegro's territory from 4,405 km² to 9,475 km². Montenegro also gained the towns of Nikšić, Kolašin, Spuž, Podgorica, Žabljak, Bar, as well as access to the sea.

    Montenegrin clan chieftains and military commanders on the eve of the war in 1876.
    The Wounded Montenegrin by Paja Jovanović, painted a few years after the end of the Montenegrin–Ottoman War.
    Battle of Vučji Do (18 July 1876).
    The return of Montenegrin refugees to their home village, 1877


    In October 1874, an influential Ottoman statesman, Jusuf-beg Mučin Krnjić, was murdered in Podgorica, which at the time was an Ottoman town near the border with Montenegro. It is believed that he had been killed by a close relative of vojvoda Marko Miljanov, a Montenegrin general who also, most likely, instigated the assassination. As a consequence, the Ottomans launched an action of retaliation against the local population and Montenegrin citizens present at the farmers' market in Podgorica, modern-day capital of Montenegro. It is estimated that 17 unarmed Montenegrins had been killed. This event is known as the "Podgorica's slaughter" (Podgorički pokolj). It resulted in bad relations between Montenegro and the Ottoman Empire, which further deteriorated with the outbreak of the uprising in Herzegovina (1875). Montenegro conducted the uprising, providing the rebels with military and financial aid and representing their interests to the Porte. Montenegro requested that part of Herzegovina be handed over to the Montenegrins, but the Porte declined. Because of this, Montenegro declared war on 18 June 1876 (30 June), immediately followed by its foremost ally, the Principality of Serbia.


    In the beginning of the war, when Miljanov arrived at Kuči, at the Ottoman frontier, the Kuči revolted and attacked the Ottomans.[1] The Pasha filled Medun and other small forts, Fundina, Koći, Zatrijebač and Orahovo with soldiers.[1]

    The Piperi and Kuči tribes together attacked Koći, killing a small part, while they found Ottomans in tower houses whom they wanted to destroy with wooden cannons.[2] An epic poem about the war tells how Abdi Pasha the Cherkessian with 20,000 soldiers of the sanjak of Scutari was sent by the sultan to attack the Kuči and Piperi.[3] The poem tells how part of the army advanced on Koći and then fought in Zatrijebač and Fundina.[3]

    In the Montenegrin-Ottoman war, the Montenegrin army managed to capture certain areas and settlements along the border, while encountering strong resistance from Albanians in Ulcinj, and a combined Albanian-Ottoman force in the Podgorica-Spuž and Gusinje-Plav regions.[4][5] As such, Montenegro’s territorial gains were much smaller. Some Muslims and the Albanian population who lived near the then southern border were expelled from the towns of Podgorica and Spuž.[5] These populations resettled in Shkodër city and its environs.[6][7]

    Notable battlesEdit

    See alsoEdit


    1. ^ a b Marko Miljanov; Jovan Čađenović; Ljubomir Zuković (1990). Primjeri čojstva i junaštva: Život i običaji Arbanasa ; Fragmenti ; Pisma ; Bibliografija. Crnogorska akademija nauka i umjetnosti. ISBN 9788672150179. У почетак рата, ја сам доша у Куче, у турску границу, те су се поб- унили Кучи и обрнули пушку на Турке. Паша турски је потпу- нио с војском Медун и фортице, Фундину, Коће, Затријебач и Ора'ово. У Ора'ово је метнуо Арбанасе, ...
    2. ^ Марко Миљанов (1904). Племе Кучи у народној причи и пјесми. p. 221.
    3. ^ a b Mirko Petrović; Nićifor Dučić (1864). Junački spomenik, pjesne o najnovijim Tursko-Crnogorskim bojevima, spjevane od velikoga vojvode Mirka Petrović-Njegos̐a. U khjažeskoj štampariji. pp. 141–142.
    4. ^ Roberts, Elizabeth (2005). Realm of the Black Mountain: a history of Montenegro. London: Cornell University Press. pp. 22–23. ISBN 9780801446016.
    5. ^ a b Blumi, Isa (2003). "Contesting the edges of the Ottoman Empire: Rethinking ethnic and sectarian boundaries in the Malësore, 1878–1912". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 35 (2): 237–256. doi:10.1017/S0020743803000102. JSTOR 3879619. S2CID 162217114. "What one sees over the course of the first ten years after Berlin was a gradual process of Montenegrin (Slav) expansion into areas that were still exclusively populated by Albanian-speakers. In many ways, some of these affected communities represented extensions of those in the Malisorë as they traded with one another throughout the year and even inter-married. Cetinje, eager to sustain some sense of territorial and cultural continuity, began to monitor these territories more closely, impose customs officials in the villages, and garrison troops along the frontiers. This was possible because, by the late 1880s, Cetinje had received large numbers of migrant Slavs from Austrian-occupied Herzegovina, helping to shift the balance of local power in Cetinje's favor. As more migrants arrived, what had been a quiet boundary region for the first few years, became the center of colonization and forced expulsion." ; p.254. footnote 38. "It must be noted that, throughout the second half of 1878 and the first two months of 1879, the majority of Albanian-speaking residents of Shpuza and Podgoritza, also ceded to Montenegro by Berlin, were resisting en masse. The result of the transfer of Podgoritza (and Antivari on the coast) was a flood of refugees. See, for instance, AQSH E143.D.1054.f.1 for a letter (dated 12 May 1879) to Dervish Pasha, military commander in Işkodra, detailing the flight of Muslims and Catholics from Podgoritza."
    6. ^ Gruber, Siegfried (2008). "Household structures in urban Albania in 1918". The History of the Family. 13 (2): 138–151. doi:10.1016/j.hisfam.2008.05.002. S2CID 144626672.
    7. ^ Tošić, Jelena (2015). "City of the 'calm': Vernacular mobility and genealogies of urbanity in a southeast European borderland". Southeast European and Black Sea Studies. 15 (3): 391–408. doi:10.1080/14683857.2015.1091182.