Montenegro (Crna Gora/Црна Гора) is a small, mountainous republic on the Balkans, bordering the Adriatic Sea. Between 1945 and 2003 it was a republic of Yugoslavia; it is now one of two constituent parts of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro.

  • area: 13,812 km²
  • population: 650,575
  • capital: Podgorica
  • currency: euro (evro)

The principal cities are the capital Podgorica (130,000 inhabitants), Nikšić (60,000) and Pljevlja (22,000). The former royal capital is Cetinje.

Ethnic Montenegrins constituted 62% of the population of the republic, according to the 1991 census, but that percentage is estimated to drop by the belated next census, expected to be held in November 2003. The Montenegrins are closely related to the Serbs in history, language, religion and ethnic origin, although they maintained their independence during the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans. Since the 1940s, a modern Montenegrin ethnic identity, distinct from the Serbs, has been fostered by the Communist régime in Yugoslavia. This trend has since been taken over by independence-minded Montenegrins, who are supported by a large number of Muslim and Catholic minorities (around 20%, both Albanian and Slavic), because their links to the Orthodox Serbs are weak.

According to the constitution of Montenegro, the official language is Serbian of the Ijekavian standard. It is also slightly different from Serbian in Serbia, but identical to the Serbian of Bosnia. The favorization of Latin over Cyrillic alphabet is also considered as a characteristic of those favoring an idendity separate from the Serbs. Vojislav Nikcevic has become the champion of a separate Montenegrin language and alphabet. Irrespective to political views on the future of Montenegro, most Montenegrins reject the idea altoghether as "newspeak". This, in turn, has been fed by the fact that Nikcevic studied literature in Zagreb and prints his dictionaries in Croatia instead of Montenegro.

On the last referendum on joining Serbia in 1992, some 96% of the votes were cast for the federation with Serbia, although the turnout was at 66% because of a boycott by the Muslim and Catholic minorities as well as some independence-minded Montenegrins of Orthodox Christian background. Today, the political scene is more polarized over this issue.

However, the pro-union Montenegrins and Serbs have gained momentum as a reaction to the government's one-sided policies and a census has been postponed twice (from 2001 to 2002 and then November 2003) and the referendum countless times, to the point of many independence supporters losing faith in the government's will for independence. On January 13, 2002, following a ban on a celebration of the Julian calendar New Year's Eve, an estimated 50,000 people gathered in the capital Podgorica as a show of defiance to the government as well as support to the Serb national identity with the event being coined the 'Serbian New Year's Eve' [1].

Since 1996, Milo Đukanović's government de facto isolated Montenegro from Serbia (back then still under Milošević) in many regards. Montenegro formed its own economic policy and switched to the Deutsche Mark as its currency. It is currently using the Euro, though it is in fact not part of the Eurozone.

In 2002, Serbia and Montenegro came to a new agreement regarding continued cooperation. In 2003, the name Yugoslavia was replaced in favor of Serbia and Montenegro and the possible referendum for Montenegro's independence was postponed until 2006.

The Djukanovic government was further rocked by scandals involving cigarette smuggling as well as sex-slave trafficking (Moldovan girls). The Moldovan scandal, as it was dubbed in the Montenegrin media, involved Montenegrin government officials such as Djukanovic, Bozidar Vukcevic, the former state prosecutor and Misko Perovic a top Djukanovic party aid. Although the practice was known for years the true depth of the issue only began to surface in the last few years.

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