Academic journal article Military Review

Montenegro's Tribal Legacy

Academic journal article Military Review

Montenegro's Tribal Legacy

Article excerpt

Knowing the traditional territories of tribes that openly support the Belgrade regime could aid force protection measures in those regions While armed conflict between Serbia and Montenegro is not a foregone conclusion, US Army planners should be aware of the cultural, political and tribal relationships is Montenegro and their potential impact on military operations in the republic.

The mentality of our people is still very patriarchal. Here the knife, revenge and a tribal (plemenski) system exist as nowhere else.1 The whole country is interconnected and almost everyone knows everyone else. Montenegro is nothing but a large family- all of this augurs nothing good.

-Mihajlo Dedejic2

WHEN THE MILITARY receives an order to deploy into a particular area, planners focus on the terrain so the military can use the ground to its advantage. Montenegro provides an abundance of terrain to study, and it is apparent from the rugged karst topography how this tiny republic received its moniker-the Black Mountain. The territory of Montenegro borders Croatia, BosniaHerzegovina, Serbia and Albania and is about the size of Connecticut. Together with the much larger republic of Serbia; Montenegro makes up the current Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).

But the jagged terrain of Montenegro is only part of the military equation. Montenegro has a complex, multilayered society in which tribe and clan can still influence attitudes and loyalties. Misunderstanding tribal dynamics can lead a mission to failure. Russian misunderstanding of tribal and clan influence led to unsuccessful interventions in Afghanistan and Chechnya.3 In Afghanistan, the naral population's tribal organization facilitated their initial resistance to the Soviets. In the early stages of the Soviet-Afghan War, the Mujahideen mobilized the Afghan population along tribal lines to defeat Soviet equipped and trained government troops.4 In Chechnya, the Russians overestimated the importance of the clan's role in Chechen society, which contributed to the Russian decision to intervene.5 This article addresses the nature of the tribe (pleme) in Montenegro and how the tribe fits into modern Montenegrin society.

Montenegro's 680,000 people are ethnically mixed. Citizens who identify themselves as Montenegrin make up an estimated 62 percent of the population. The largest minority are Slavic Muslims at 15 percent. People who identify themselves as Serbs make up slightly more than nine percent of Montenegro's inhabitants. A variety of other minorities in Montenegro include those identifying themselves as Yugoslavs, Albanians, Croats and several other Central and Southeastern European ethnic groups.6 The cities and towns around Montenegro indicate the country's ethnic diversity. For example, Montenegrins make up 77 percent of the population in the capital, Podgorica, but they share the city with a large Albanian minority of almost ten percent. Albanians are the majority in the southern town of Ulcinj, where they comprise 73 percent of the population. Plav, a town near the border with Kosovo, has a population 52 percent Serb, 23 percent Montenegrin and 21 percent Albanian. Religious diversity also follows from the mix of ethnic groups in Montenegro. The majority of Montenegrins and Serbs are Eastern Orthodox. Some Slavs and Albanians are Muslim. Croats and another segment of the Albanian population are Roman Catholic. There are also small minorities of Protestants and Jews.7 The aggregation of groups in Montenegro makes for a political landscape as variegated as the terrain.

In addition to sharing the ethnic and political cleavages inherent in the other parts of the former Yugoslavia, groups in Montenegro are also staking political positions along tribal lines. Open media sources have reported that "tribal assemblies" are convening in northern Montenegro. These assemblies have stated that if Montenegro declares independence from Yugoslavia, they will declare independence from Montenegro and remain part of Serbia. …

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