Tribes of Montenegro
The tribes of Montenegro (Montenegrin and Serbian: племена Црне Горе / plemena Crne Gore) or Montenegrin tribes (Montenegrin and Serbian: црногорска племена / crnogorska plemena) were historical tribes in the areas of Old Montenegro, Brda, Old Herzegovina and Primorje,[A] and were geopolitical units of the Ottoman Montenegro Vilayet (or Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro, 1697–1852), eastern Sanjak of Herzegovina, parts of the Sanjak of Scutari, and Venetian Albania, territories that in the 20th century were incorporated into Montenegro. Many tribes were united into the Principality of Montenegro (1852–1910). The tribal assembly (zbor) of the Principality of Montenegro initially officially composed of the two communities of Old Montenegro (Crnogorci, "Montenegrins") and Brda (Brđani, "Highlanders"). In anthropological studies these tribes are divided into those of Old Montenegro, Brda, Old Herzegovina, and Primorje, and then into sub-groups (brotherhoods/clans – bratstva, and finally families). Today they richly attest to social anthropology and family history, as they have not been used in official structures since (although some tribal regions overlap contemporary municipality areas). The kinship groups give a sense of shared identity and descent.
The tribes in what is today Montenegro were formed and developed in different times, in a process which was not uniform. The organization of the tribes can be followed during the Ottoman period. A basic condition of forming a tribe was the possession of a collective land (shepherding economy's property) defended by the whole tribe. Neighbouring tribes, and also members of the same tribe, fought each other over flocks and grazing lands. The winter pasture, katun, was the economic basis whose deprivity could threaten the survival of the tribe. Tribes were formed more often through agglomeration than through blood relation, although tribal lore has its members descending from a common ancestor; the core drew together smaller groups that would adopt the lore as their own.
According to B. Đurđev, the tribes of Old Montenegro, Brda and Old Herzegovina developed from the katun. The katun was primarily a kinship organization, the shepherds (vlachs) also serving as soldiers, thus a military organization as well. The župa (county), the territorial organization of the feudal Nemanjić state, was replaced by the katun in provinces where the katun transformed into tribes. Be it via the kinship katun which emerged and turned unrelated elements into one basic group allegedly blood-related, or united families without imposed blood association, they entered elements of their kinship organization and military democracy into the tribes that were created in the ruins of feudal territorial organization.
The tribes (plemena, sing. pleme) were territorial and socio-political units composed of clans (bratstva, sing. bratstvo) in historical Montenegro. The tribes are not necessarily kin as they only serve as a geopolitical unit. The tribes enjoyed especially large autonomy in the period from the second part of the 15th century until the mid-19th century. Initially they were recorded as katuns - a basic Vlach social and ethnic structure not always homogeneous by blood on which head was katunar - tribal chief. With Slavicization, former katuns began to be called plemena (meaning both tribe and clan), while the katunar became Slavic vojvoda or knez. Following the Ottoman occupation, the relative isolation from one another and lack of centralized authority made them local self-governing units.
The brotherhoods or clans (bratstvo) are contemporary patrilineal kin groups which trace their origin to a particular male ancestor and share the same surname. The bratstvo is an exogamous group. Names of brotherhoods are derived from either names, nicknames or profession of the ancestor. In most cases marriage within the bratstvo is forbidden regardless of the biological distance between the would-be spouses. However, this is not the case with some larger brotherhood who sometimes allow endogamous marriages if the genealogical distance between spouses is large enough. In war, the members of the bratstvo (bratstvenici) were obliged to stand together. The size of such units varied in size, ranging from 50 to 800 warriors (1893). Through time the bratstvo would split into smaller subdivisions and acquire separate names. Contemporary surnames of Montenegrins usually come from these smaller units. The members tend to guard their family history and many are able to recite the line of ancestors to the originator of the bratstvo.
The relationship between tribe and brotherhood is loose. At times of tribal autonomy, brotherhoods usually lived concentrated in the same place for long time and therefore formed a part of the tribe. Different brotherhoods living on the territory of one tribe were often not related to each other. A new brotherhood could be established (and often was) if a stranger sought refuge, usually because of conflict with Ottoman authorities or because of a blood feud, within a tribe.
The tribes were an important institution in Montenegro throughout its modern history and state creation. Every tribe had its chief, and they collectively composed a "gathering" or assembly (zbor or skupština). The tribal assembly elected the vladika (bishop-ruler) from exemplary families, who from the 15th century were the main figures in resistance to Ottoman incursions. The uniting of tribes (and mitigating blood feuds) was their core objective, but the results were limited to narrow cohesion and solidarity.
The Dinaric society of highland herdsmen had a patriarchal-heroic culture with endemic culture of violence caused by the survival from poverty on barren terrain, isolation from cities and education, and preservation of tribal structures. Illiteracy was not uncommon, and folk songs had higher influence on moral standards compared to Orthodox religious teaching. Sharp father-son clashes were common as violent self-assertion brought respect. Danilo Medaković in 1860 noted the paradox in Dinaric men "He is as courageous in combat as he is fearful of harsh authorities. Harsh authorities can turn him into a true slave", resulting in willingness to fight, but never true political freedom. Guerrilla warfare also had a negative impact on respect of the laws, with robbery and loothing making important part of economical income. The harsh Montenegric life perspective is reflected in The Mountain Wreath (1847).
The clans were often in intertribal conflicts and blood feuds (krvna osveta). Collaborating with external enemy (Ottomans, Austrians) against domestic wasn't uncommon, as Milovan Djilas relates "We Montenegrins did not hold a grudge against the enemy alone, but against one another as well". Djilas in his boyhood memoirs described the blood feuds and resulting vengeance as "was the debt we paid for the love and sacrifice our forebears and fellow clansmen bore for us. It was the defence of our honour and good name, and the guarantee of our maidens. It was our pride before others; our blood was not water that anyone could spill... It was centuries of manly pride and heroism, survival, a mother's milk and a sister's vow, bereaved parents and children in black, joy, and songs turned into silence and wailing. It was all, all". Although made life miserable, "threat of vendetta helped to hold individuals within marriage pattern... individual tribes remained viable as political units under the vendetta system because truces usually could be made when needed".
In modern censuses of Montenegro, descendants identify as Montenegrins, Serbs, Muslims and Bosniaks, and Albanians. Paul R. Radosavljevich in 1919 noted that the contemporary tribal assembly collectively identified as Serbs, and Orthodox, and also referred to their polity as "a Serb land", and he considered it has been viewed as an ethnic Serb tradition.
The organisational structure varies significantly between various clans and tribes. Traditionally, the Vojvoda was regarded as the highest authority in the tribe. However, the appointment on such position also diverged among clans and evolved in the process of time. In some tribes the position was hereditary, and not necessarily from father to son, while in some was elective. Tribes of Old Montenegro rarely had Voivodas until 18th century. The authority was thus in the hand of the local knez (similar to the Anglo-Saxon Esquire). The Highland tribes appointed Voivodas since mid 15th century, while the tribes of the Old Herzegovina started the practice a century later. Voivoda had the authority to represent the tribe overall and thus his allegiances, either to the Ottomans or to the Prince-Bishops of Montenegro, even proclaiming himself independent marked the political course of the tribe. With the stronger central authority, Voivodes were gradually recognised as a sort of nobility in Montenegro, with the ruler having a power to strip them off the title. This historical process laid foundation for the creation of modern Montenegro, which evolved to the country from a loose federation of the tribes in the 18/19th turn of the century. The title of knez gradually disappeared, and thus was replaced with Sardar (similar to Count, but below Voivoda). During the period of theocracy, the highest religious authority was reserved for the Hegumen of some of the medieval monasteries which tribe claimed as its own and for whom it developed a worshiping cult. Morača is a particular example since it served as a gathering place of both Rovčani and Moračani tribe and, up to the beginning of the 19th century, Vasojevići, who later developed their own cult after Đurđevi Stupovi.
Each tribe has a complex historical and geographical origin. During the Middle Ages the Slavic population managed to culturally assimilate the native Romanized descendants of "Illyrian" tribes. Tribal names (including a few non-Slavic) left traces in the toponymy of Montenegro and surrounding countries. As far as historical records by age and testimony go, it is shown that at least between 14th and 15th century many tribal migrations in Montenegro from Kosovo, Metohija, Old Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina took place.
Early modern periodEdit
The burning of Saint Sava's remains during the Banat Uprising (1594) provoked the Serbs in other regions to revolt against the Ottomans. In 1596, an uprising broke out in Bjelopavlići, then spread to Drobnjaci, Nikšić, Piva and Gacko (see Serb Uprising of 1596–97). It was suppressed due to lack of foreign support.
In 1689, an uprising broke out in Piperi, Rovca, Bjelopavlići, Bratonožići, Kuči and Vasojevići, while at the same time an uprising broke out in Prizren, Peć, Priština and Skopje, and then in Kratovo and Kriva Palanka in October (Karposh's Rebellion).
In 1697, with the election of the Danilo I Šćepčević from the Njeguši tribe as the metropolitan (vladika) of Cetinje, succession became restricted to the Petrović clan until 1918 (with exception of short periods of rule by Šćepan Mali and Arsenije Plamenac). As Orthodox bishops could not have children, the office title was passed from uncle to nephew. Danilo I established Montenegro's first code of law, a court to arbitrate legal matter, and struggled to unite the tribes.
The lack of intertribal cohesion weakened Montenegro's defences in war with the Turks, as well failed centralized system, making Montenegro backward and parochial. Petar I Petrović at the Assembly of Cetinje in 1787 for the first time managed to successfully unite the Old Montenegrin tribes against the Ottoman enemy. The result were victories and gaining of territory, especially the Brda, then in Eastern Herzegovina, Zeta valley, littoral from Bar to the south of Ulcinj, bringing more tribes under control. However, due to previous Serbian influence in those parts, these tribes revolted if there were attempts by Cetinje to tax them. Although most of those seven tribes were incorporated in 1796, the Rovčani and Moračani were only in 1820, while Vasojevići in 1858. From these tribes later descended Karađorđe (Vasojevići) and Miloš Obrenović (Bratonožići).
In 1789, Ivan Radonjić, the governor of Montenegro, wrote for the second time to the Empress of Russia: "Now, all of us Serbs from Montenegro, Herzegovina, Banjani, Drobnjaci, Kuči, Piperi, Bjelopavlići, Zeta, Klimenti, Vasojevići, Bratonožići, Peć, Kosovo, Prizren, Arbania, Macedonia belong to your Excellency and pray that you, as our kind mother, send over Prince Sofronije Jugović."
Prince-Bishop Petar I (r. 1782-1830) sought the help of Russia in 1807 to create a new Serbian Empire centred on Montenegro. He waged a successful campaign against the bey of Bosnia in 1819; the repulse of an Ottoman invasion from Albania during the Russo-Turkish War led to the recognition of Montenegrin sovereignty over Piperi. Petar I had managed to unite the Piperi, Kuči and Bjelopavlići into his state. A civil war broke out in 1847, in which the Piperi and Crmnica sought to secede from the principality which was afflicted by a famine, and could not relieve them with the rations of the Ottomans, the secessionists were subdued and their ringleaders shot. Amid the Crimean War, there was a political problem in Montenegro; Danilo I's uncle, George, urged for yet another war against the Ottomans, but the Austrians advised Danilo not to take arms. A conspiracy was formed against Danilo, led by his uncles George and Pero, the situation came to its height when the Ottomans stationed troops along the Herzegovinian frontier, provoking the mountaineers. Some urged an attack on Bar, others raided into Herzegovina, and the discontent of Danilo's subjects grew so much that the Piperi, Kuči and Bjelopavlići, the recent and still unamalgamated acquisitions, proclaimed themselves an independent state in July, 1854. Danilo was forced to take measurement against the rebels in Brda, some crossed into Turkish territory and some submitted and were to pay for the civil war they had caused.
Petar II Petrović-Njegoš further united Montenegrin tribes, forging structure of the state, and Montenegro independence in 1878, as well solidarity with Serbia and Serbdom. Croatian historian Ivo Banac claims that with Serbian Orthodox religious and cultural influence, Montenegrins had lost sight of their complex origin and thought of themselves as Serbs. Like at the time of Danilo I, was advocated physical persecution of Muslim population, also making part of religious definition of Montenegrin identity. Under Prince Nikola I Petrović-Njegoš and the Congress of Berlin recognition (1878), the tribes of Pivljani, Banjani, Nikšići, Šaranci, Drobnjaci and a large number of the Rudinjani formed the Old Herzegovina region of the new Montenegrin state.
In 1904 Nikola I Petrović-Njegoš reorganized the Principality of Montenegro into "captaincies", each organized on a tribal level. Every nahija had its own elder (from the corresponding tribe). The tribal assemblies were attended regularly by all grown men from the corresponding clan. The "General Montenegrin Assembly" was the highest political body and a mediator between the Montenegrin people and the Ottoman authorities. It was composed of chiefs of all tribes in Montenegro.
The territorial expansion of Montenegro continued, and after the Balkan Wars (1912–13), it included substantial parts of Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania. Since 1880 the ambitions of Nikola I collided with those of Obrenović and Karađorđević dynasty for leadership of the Serbs. Montenegrin nationalism (federalism) eventually suffered from the political activity of young Montenegrins living in Serbia. During the Podgorica Assembly (1918) which decided the fate of Montenegro as either an independent state (supported by the Greens) or a united part of the Kingdom of Serbia (supported by the Whites), the tribes were divided, even internally. The Greens consisted of the highland tribes of Moračani, Piperi and Rovči, the Katun clans of Bjelice, Cetinje, Cveto and Cuce and the Hercegovinian tribes of Nikšići and Rudinjani. The Greens ethnically declared themselves as Serbs, but did not support, what they saw, as a Serbian annexation of the Montenegrin state. However, the Whites supported by the rest of the tribes eventually won.
During World War II, the tribes were internally mainly divided between the two sides of Chetniks (Serbian royalists) and Yugoslav Partisans (communists), that were fighting each other for the rule of Yugoslavia. As a result, the conflict spread within the tribal and clan structures.
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Czech historian Konstantin Josef Jireček (1918) considered that the population of Duklja was a very mixed population of newly arrived Slavs and older people like Albanians and Romanians. Croatian historian Milan Šufflay (1925–1927) considered that the Vlach-Albanian-Montenegrin symbiosis is seen in the etymology of the names, in Piperi, Moguši, Kuči, and the surnames with suffix "-ul" (Gradul, Radul, Serbul, Vladul), and toponymical names of mountains, Durmitor and Visitor. Serbian historian Vladislav Škarić (1918) considered that many brotherhood names, like Sarapi, Radomani and others in Montenegro, belonged to migrants from central Albania, while Bukumiri from Bratonožići, Vajmeši from Vasojevići, Ibalji from Herzegovina came from northern Albania. Serbian ethnologist Jovan Cvijić (1922) noted the Slavic assimilation and migration of many groups of Mataruge, Macure, Mugoši, Kriči, Španji, Ćići and other Vlachs who were mentioned as brotherhoods or tribes. He considered that all gornji ("upper") tribes lived in the parts of currently Serb tribes in Brda and Old Herzegovina, and that many groups were assimilated into the tribes of Piperi, Kuči, Bratonožići, Bjelopavlići among others, who preserved their old name. American cultural anthropologist Christopher Boehm stated that some clans descended from the pre-Slavic Illyrian population of present-day Montenegro, while a majority of the clans were of Slavic origin, either from earliest Serb settlers, or from later Serb immigrants who came to the area from neighbouring regions during Ottoman rule over the Balkans.
Croatian linguist Petar Skok (1918–1919) while researching 15th-century Ragusan documents, noted that in the territory of Žabljak and Stolac there existed a specific domain called donji Vlasi or Vlachi inferiores ("lower Vlachs"), and that thus somewhere there had to exist a gornji Vlasi ("upper Vlachs"), not mentioned in documents; he believed it could have been located in today's Katunska nahija in Montenegro, to which probably referred catunos/catuni Cernagore from 1435.
Jovan Erdeljanović spoke of the amalgamation of Serbs (Slavs) and Vlachs, and noted that in the older phase of forming of Dinaric tribes, the Serb and Serbicized native brotherhoods united into a tribal unit under one name. Jovan Cvijić noted the uncertainty whether the term "Vlach" in medieval Serbia and other parts was always used for genuine Vlach, or also Serb shepherds, since the term gradually developed a secondary meaning of "shepherd", regardless of ethnicity. According to Croatian-Albanian historian Zef Mirdita (2009), some Serbian scholars like D. Đurđev (1951) often totally rejected Vlach ethnic uniqueness, considered them only a social category and proclaimed them as Serbs or Slavs, against the fact that the Vlachs were always mentioned as, according to Mirdita, a genuine ethnicity in medieval records until the 16th century. Franz Babinger (1951) also opposed Đurđev's point of view. Montenegrin ethnologist Petar Šobajić stated that the first Slavic settlers in the area of Zeta mixed with local Romanized Illyrian natives and Slavicized them, though accepting the natives' tribal names (Španji, Mataguži, Mataruge, Malonšići, Macure, Bukumiri, Kriči). Later Serb settlers entered into conflicts with these early mixed tribes, which eventually resulted in the latters' annihilation, and new stronger tribes were formed.
Serbian historian Ivan Božić pointed out that Slavicization wasn't completed in the 15th century, and that contemporaries made clear distinction between Slavs and those who were Vlachs/Morlachs or included Vlach admixture, and also traced Vlach contribution in Montenegro. Serbian historian Sima Ćirković (1968–1973) noted that throughout the entire medieval age Vlach was used as an ethnic term along Greek, Albanian, Bulgarian, Latin, Saxon, and although almost linguistically Slavicized and culturally adapted to the environment, their division from other Slavs in documents show their different origin, economic activities and status, and that they were not completely accepted as members of the same ethnical and social society. In 14th-century records from the Bay of Kotor, the term Vlach (Nos Vlaci, cum Vlachis, dictorum Vlacorum) had an ethnic meaning along that of Slavs and Turks, according to Zef Mirdita (2009). Montenegrin historian Špiro Kulišić (1980) considered that in the business contracts it was necessary to establish the identity of the interlocutor, including ethnic and local. In 1296 people of Čeklići were identified as Vlachs (R. Kovijanić, 1963).
Jireček argued that in Ragusan documents the katuns and vlachs (shepherds) were described as being part of a tribe, not constituting the whole tribe. Serbian anthropologist Petar Vlahović (1996) argued that the Slavs that had settled by the 7th century came into contact with the remnants of Romans (Vlachs), who later became a component part of all the Balkan peoples. Although the old Balkan population had for long retained particularities, they did not have greater influence on the Slavic tribal communities. Part of the old Balkan population that viewed themselves as Roman inheritors withdrew ahead of the Slavs from the interior to the littoral cities. Meanwhile, the Romans (Vlachs) who stayed in the mountains of the interior became subjects of the Slavs. These mountainous Vlachs, in their numbers or by culture, did not have noticeable effect on the development of society, and lesser so on the formation of a special ethnos. The Roman population's influence in the cities of Zeta was small, as evident also in Serbian royal charters from the 13th- and 14th centuries in which the ethnic groups of Serbs, Latins, Arbanasi, and Vlachs are mentioned, the order bearing witness to their numbers; the Albanians, who could not have been many, were more than Vlachs. According to him, the name Vlach also denoted the profession of shepherding, because along with ethnic Vlachs, there were Slavic shepherds who were called "Vlachs", not in an ethnical- but in economical status. Slavic geographical nomenclature, except for minor cases, is a certain confirmation, as Slavs settled along roads and rivers, and also katuns.
Jovan Cvijić listed 21 tribes in the territory of Old Montenegro, 7 in Brda (Highlands), 16 in Old Herzegovina and 2 in Primorje (Montenegrin littoral). They were divided into two distinct groups; Old Montenegrin, and the tribes in the Highlands. The latter were concentrated in the northeast of Zeta river, and predominantly consisted of tribes who fled Ottoman occupation, and got incorporated into Montenegro following the battles at Martinići and Kruši (1796).
The Old Montenegrin tribes were organized into five (later four) territorial units called nahija (term borrowed from Ottoman nahiye); Katunska, Lješanska, Pješivci (later incorporated into Katunska), Rijeka, and Crmnička nahija.
The list below also contains many groups which should be classified as clans. Note that the territory of contemporary Montenegro consists of several historic regions (Old Montenegro, Brda, Old Herzegovina and Primorje), including territories added to Montenegro comparatively recently (Old Herzegovina, Austrian). None of these regions and districts are reflected in the official territorial division of contemporary Montenegro.
The Stara Crna Gora ("Old Montenegro"), or simply "Montenegro", stretch from central to southern Montenegro.
The Brda ("highlands, hills"), also known as the "seven hills" (sedmoro brda) stretch from central to eastern Montenegro.
There are also large dispersed or emigrant brotherhoods, such as Maleševci, Pavkovići, Prijedojevići, Trebješani (Nikšići), Miloradovići-Hrabreni, Ugrenovići, Bobani, Pilatovci, Mrđenovići and Veljovići.
- The four main regional and historiographical units are known as:
- Stara Crna Gora ("Old Montenegro"), or simply Crna Gora. Tribes are known as crnogorska plemena. The population is known by the demonym crnogorci.
- Brda ("Highlands, Hills"), or Sedmoro brda ("Seven hills"). Tribes are known as brdska- or brđanska plemena. The population is known by the demonym brđani.
- Stara Hercegovina ("Old Herzegovina"), or simply Hercegovina. Tribes are known as starohercegovačka- or hercegovačka plemena. The population is known by the demonym hercegovci.
- Primorje ("Littoral"). Tribes are known as primorska plemena. The population is known by the demonym primorci.
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