foto: Al Jazeera Balkans
Montenegro is very unique and by many aspects very special country within region of former Yugoslavia or West Balkan as it is now common to say. It’s the smallest former Yugoslav republic by population and territory, but also by having a portion of Adriatic coast strategically interesting and important for many outside strategic players outside of Europe. Its strategic importance significantly outpaces its size and population.
Unlike almost all the other former Yugoslav republic Montenegro is only former Yugoslav republic that avoided horrible bloodshed that had been ravaging all over the former Yugoslavia which took around 140 000 victims elsewhere in former country. It’s unique almost by its ethnical and religious tolerance and unique as the only country from former Yugoslavia with full functioning civil society. It’s worth to mention that over the period of ethnic conflicts and bloody wars in former Yugoslavia over 120 000 of refuges from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo found save haven in Montenegro, which is equivalent to around quarter of then population of the country which is probably one of the highest in the world.
However the picture is far away from being such rosy, and the country is faced with many challenges and divisions. Montenegro is very divided country. Division lines in Montenegro are not coming across ethnic lines, but over the issue whether is someone for independent Montenegro as sovereign country or to be a part of Serbia, which could be translated into further question whether Montenegro ought to be a part of EU or part of Russian world?!
Montenegro is a country with long history of about 1000 years, but it had renewed independence at referendum which had taken place at May 21, 2006 which was held under the full EU supervision and just to avoid any dispute that eventually might occur majority required for independence decision to pass was 55% which was pretty unique, and hardly can be found elsewhere in the world for a referendum! Even though the referendum had even exceeded full standards of European democracy, and was recognized by all participants of the process (both Montenegrin independists and Serbo-Montenegrin unionists) there are still many of them which now dispute the referendum results and that’s unofficial attitude of basically the most political players on Serbo-Montenegrin unionists in Montenegro including Serbian Orthodox Church!
After break-up of former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and further State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, Serbian Orthodox Church remained the only institution left from former state. Serbian Orthodox Church took over formally autocephalic Montenegrin Orthodox Church in 1918, which was officially recognized by Fanar in 1922. In the centerpiece of division lines in Montenegro is an issue of existence of Serbian Orthodox Church, and its allegiance. Serbian Orthodox Church is a religious institution which basically is not religious institution in proper sense of that word, but extended arm of state of Serbia which pretends not to be a religious cult as every other, but to be recognized by state of Montenegro as key religious institution in the country, and as well as state religion! A religious cult which does not comprise majority of population of Montenegro, but comprise at best 40% of entire population of Montenegro, which is by no means majority, and by the way is a religious cult which headquarters are in another country, pretends to force the state of Montenegro and its all citizens to recognize itself as supreme religious institution.
Former legislation that manage religious matter in Montenegro dates from 1977, and Montenegrin parliament passed at December 26, 2019 new law that regulates religious matters and relations between state and religious communities. The key piece of that legislation is that all churches that had been erected before 1918, if a religious community could not otherwise prove that used its proper funds to erect them become property of Montenegian state! It’s worth saying that all churches erected before 1918 in territory of than The Principality of Montenegro and The Kingdom of Montenegro from 1910 were property of Montenegrin state!
Those pieces of legislation spur outrage of Serbian Orthodox Church and led to 8 months of street protests and sometimes riots! What is worth to say about this law? It’s worth to say few things: 1. The law received positive opinion by the Commission of Venice, 2. the law was at first conceived in 2015, and the government of Montenegro was trying to negotiate with Serbian Orthodox Church multiple times without success, 3. the government of Montenegro offered to SOC temporary suspension of the law’s implementation (via parliamentary vote to suspend) until the Constitution Court of Montenegro provide its opinion! However non of it convinced the SOC to cease protests! It brings us to conclusion that the law was just trigger not real motive for protests! The real motive for protests was to overthrowing of the Montenegrin government and further installing some new government which would lead Montenegro away from EU and NATO and towards Russia! In fact let’s say in plain English, real goal is to nullify the referendum’s results, and to nullify the independence of Montenegro and to return Montenegro to be de facto a part of Serbia!
In Montenegro pro-serb electorate which supports these goals is somewhere between 40-45%, and sovereigntist electorate is somewhere between 55 – 60%, and no matter what anyone says independents electorate has clear majority! Actually this new legislation that regulates religious freedoms in a modern European style manner and which passed all checks and verification by all relevant European law experts, newly elected government wants to remove and reinstate Serbian Orthodox Church a religious institution with headquarters in another country as supreme and privileged religious institution, an institution of cult which is core promoter of all malign Russian influence, war crimes and which tends by using of intimidation, threats and force to strengthen its grip to state Montenegro and its citizens!
The pre-election activities of the biggest government constituent -DF- were strongly supported by Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC). In fact, the SPC has installed Mr Zdravko Krivokapic- the newly appointed Prime Minister- as the leader of the DF’s election list, a fact admitted and confirmed publicly by several DF officials. The Serbian Orthodox Church has a strong influence on the politics of the Balkans. Moreover, it is considered to be one of the strongest opponents to Balkan’s progress towards NATO and more democratic, free type of societies. In 2016, the late leader of the SOC in Montenegro Amfilohije Radovic compared NATO to Hitler and Mussolini in the light of Montenegro’s accession to the organization while he also cursed everyone who dares to denounce the “legacy of Russia.”
In addition, Russia has sided with the Orthodox Church in Montenegro during the so-called church street protests. “In May, Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, accused the United States of having “an obvious intention to bring a schism into the Orthodox world, to destroy the integrity of the spiritual space in the Balkans,” and of dividing the Montenegrin population.” Aleksandar Zaldostanov, the leader of the Kremlin-backed biker group The Night Wolves also voiced his support for the SOC-supportive people who took the protests to streets due to the Law on Freedom of Religion.
Montenegro is now led by a new government whose leader is Mr Zdravko Krivokapic from the Coalition For Better Life. This government is made of several parties – of which the biggest one is the Democratic Front (DF). The DF leaders have close ties to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. One of them, Mr Andrija Mandic- is a proud “Cetnik Duke”- Cetnici – a fascist movement which fought on the side on NAZI in the WWII and whose members committed many crimes against non-Serbs in the bloody Bosnian war in 1990s. In addition, the leaders of the DF- who also have close ties to Russia and Kremlin officials strongly deny that the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia ever occurred thus continuing the aggressive rhetoric of late war criminal Slobodan Milosevic. One of the smaller parties which participates in the government is the United Reformative Action (URA) whose official program -pro-NATO- pro-EU- pro-green- is completely opposite to its own actions and words now that they are in power. They claim they want a more democratic and fair society that gives a chance to all. Yet they publicly stated that they want to continue the partocracy by populating administration with the voters of people who voted for the ruling government. They claim they want to build a better and more equal society. They are “building” it with the most retrograde, fascist supportive forces in Montenegro.
In addition, we are sending you documentary videos about SOC, about priests and newly elected government ministers and prime minister violating COVID rules at the time when Montenegro is facing the biggest COVID-caused death rate.