The historical interest that attaches to Montenegro is utterly out of proportion to the space that country occupies on the surface of the earth. With the exception of the politically insignificant republics of San Marino and Andorra, and of the principalities of Monaco and Liechtenstein, it is the smallest unit in the aggregate of European states; and yet it is able to exhibit in the pages of its annals a record of persistent heroism to which not one of them can furnish a parallel. For nearly five centuries its hardy mountaineers have carried on a struggle for existence against an enemy many times superior to them in point of numbers; and, whilst the remaining Slavs of the Balkan peninsula have been compelled, during the greater part, at least, of that period to submit to an alien domination, the Montenegrins alone have succeeded in preserving intact their national independence.
Yet the history of Montenegro should not be regarded as consisting merely in a series of heroic achievements. The superficial observer may, perhaps, adopt that view; but the more philosophical historian, though tempted to linger longest over those scenes of the protracted struggle for Faith and Freedom which appeal most strongly to the imagination, and which will ever so appeal, as long as human nature remains the same, will endeavour rather to trace their connection with the course of general history. He will show how the inhabitants of the Black Mountain cooperated, in a measure unconsciously, with the greater military powers of Venice, Hungary and Poland, in the work of saving the civilization of Eastern Europe from being entirely and irreparably withered and blasted by the barbarism of its Turkish invaders. He will point out how Montenegro occupies a place of paramount importance among the South Slavonic nations, and more especially among those that belong to the Serbian branch of that great family, inasmuch as, by maintaining its own liberty, it has at the same time kept up the continuity of their history, and rendered it possible for them to acquire again the position to which they are naturally entitled; how it forms, in fact, the connecting link between their greatness in the past and the greatness to which they may someday attain. Lastly, if from the external relations of the principality he turns to the consideration of its internal development, he will note the peculiar type of its institutions, and explain their existence with reference to the special circumstances by which their character has been determined.
It would be impossible to fix with any degree of accuracy the date at which Montenegrin history may be said to have commenced. The year 1389, in which was fought the great battle of Kossovo, has frequently been adopted as a convenient starting-point. The choice of that date, however, is, in more than one respect, unsatisfactory and misleading. On the one hand, it seems to imply that Montenegro arose at that moment, in all the fullness of its national independence, out of the ruins of the Serbian Kingdom. On the other hand, it loses sight of the fact that the Duklja, or Zeta, the district out of which the modern Montenegro was formed, possessed extensive liberties of its own long before the time when Serbs and Turks were brought face to face. In the course of human events there is nothing abrupt, nothing isolated; and the history of Serbia passes into that of Montenegro by a gradual process of transition. It is impossible to say where the one terminates and the other begins; and the truest view would seem to be that of a recent historian, who declares that the independence of the Montenegrin people extends in reality over a period of twelve hundred years. It will be necessary, therefore, in the following pages, to trace, first, the history of the Zeta in its origin and development, and, secondly, the manner in which it became transformed into Montenegro.
ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF the Serbian people—Importance of the House Community in their history—The Zupans and Grand-Zupans—Greatness and fall of the Serbian Empire—Importance of the Zeta throughout the period.
The Slavonic migration which resulted in the permanent settlement of numerous Croatian and Serbian tribes, belonging to the same race and speaking the same language, within the confines of Illyria, took place during the reign and at the instigation of the Emperor Heraclius, who wished to re-people a region the old inhabitants of which had been driven by the Avars into the highlands of which is now called Albania, and at the same time to erect a durable bulwark against any who should attempt to penetrate from the north-west into the heart of the Eastern Empire. The Avars disappeared, in their turn, with a rapidity which has passed into a proverb; and the new settlers soon occupied the whole country that extends from the Save to the Drin, from the Adriatic to the Morava, with the exception of the majority of the towns upon the Dalmatian sea-coast, which still remained in the possession of the Romans, or Romanized Illyrians, whom neither Turanian nor Slavonic invaders were able entirely to dislodge. The river Zentina, which falls into the sea at a point opposite the island of Brazza, may be said to form the boundary between Serbs and Croats. With the latter we are not at present concerned. Various circumstances have contributed to isolate them, to a great extent, from those with whom they were connected by the closest ties of race and of language. The Croats adhered to the Latin, the Serbs to the Orthodox Church; and the difference of their creeds finds a parallel in the diversity of their destinies, inasmuch as the history of Croatia is connected with the Empire of the West, that of Serbia with the Empire of the East. This being so, it is only natural that Dalmatia, inhabited as it was both by Serbs and by Croats, should have fluctuated for several centuries between the kingdom of Hungary, which owed allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire, and the Venetian Republic, which acknowledged, in a certain measure, the supremacy of the Basileus ton Romaion residing at Byzantium.
Restricting our attention, therefore, to the Serbian group, we find that it extended over an area that corresponds approximately to the modern kingdom of Serbia, to Bosnia, Herzegovina, the district round Novibazar, Montenegro, and the northern part of Albania. It was divided into a certain number of districts, the names and boundaries of which have been preserved to us by the assiduity of the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Yet it is not until the present century that the true significance of those districts has been understood. “Rascia”, or “Serbia proper”, “Bosnia”, “Zachlumje”, “Neretwa”, “Travunja”, “Konawlje”, and “Duklja”, are not merely geographical expressions, but denote that every tract of land called by one of these names was peopled by a separate aggregate of Zupas, which were themselves aggregates of House Communities, such as appear to have existed in most of the branches of the Aryan race at some period of their social development, but are found at present in a stereotyped form only among the Southern Slavs and a few Hindu tribes.
The tendency which arises, in proportion as knowledge becomes more accurate and more systematized, to investigate phenomena of every description, not only by viewing them in their formed and fully developed condition, but by examining their antecedents and instituting a search into their origin, has induced sociologists to devote special attention to the subject of the House Community. The conclusion at which their researches point would seem to be that this institution, consisting as it does in the association of several families all descended from the same ancestor, inhabiting a common dwelling or group of dwellings, governed by the authority of one Chief, and yielding the produce of their labour to a common fund, occupies an intermediate position between the single family, on the one hand, and, on the other, the village community, which is “essentially an assembly of separate houses, each ruled by its own chief”. “The House Community of the South Slavonians”, said Sir Henry Maine “corresponds to one or other of the larger Roman groups, to the Hellenic genos, the Celtic Sept, the Teutonic Kin, especially the Joint Family of the Hindus”. It would be out of place to inquire why it is that the organization of the House Community has lingered on down to the present time among the Southern Slavs, especially the Serbs of Montenegro, whereas among their northern kinsmen of Russia it has passed into the more developed stage. To whatever cause we attribute its continuance, there can be no doubt that the institution itself has exercised a most important influence upon the history of the Serbian people.
The Zupas, then, as is implied in the original signification of the word, which was tribal, not territorial, and denoted not a shire but a ga, were formed by the union of several House Communities, which placed themselves under the political and military leadership of one of their house-chiefs, in order to acquire additional security and power. But the centralizing process could not end at this point. The Zupas, in their turn, tended to coalesce, or at least to recognize the supremacy of the strongest among their number. Amid the haze that surrounds the first few centuries of Serbian history, we are able to discern the rise and progress of the Grand-Zupans, who resided, when we first hear of them, at Desnica in Serbia proper, and whose authority over the other zupans was symbolized by the title of Elder, starjesina.
It would be impossible, within the limits of this work, to deal in any detail with the process of transition by which the Grand-Zupans, as also, for the most part, the zupans, ceased to be elected, and tended to become the hereditary rulers of a dynastic state. The Grand-Zupan developed into the King; and though he still continued, in accordance with the principles of the House Community, to apportion his lands among his sons, and sometimes among his kinsmen or friends, granting to each a separate appanage, he no longer allowed them to retain the same independence of the central power which they had before possessed. They were reduced, in a measure, to the position of governors of the provinces of an united kingdom; and the King bequeathed his power to his eldest son. At the same time the nobles, who, like the Optimates at Rome, were originally elected for the purpose of performing certain definite functions, endeavored to hand down their official titles to their posterity; and thus the aristocracy of office-holders became an aristocracy of their descendants. Similarly the wordvoivode, which denoted originally a general, became a hereditary title. The principal change, however, in the position of the nobles, was due to the introduction of a new system of land-tenure. For the communistic arrangements of the House Community there was substituted in their case a special form of property, called bastina. The possession of land in fee simple became one of their attributes; and the introduction of absolute ownership, whilst it became one of the disruptive forces that tended to dissolve, or, at any rate, to weaken the tie by which the House Communities were bound together, imparted to the Serbian nobility a slightly feudal aspect foreign alike to their origin and to their nature. Their power increased rapidly, and displayed itself in the sbor, or national assembly, which was not organized then on as popular a basis as it had been in early times, and as it afterwards became in Montenegro, and in which nobles, whether they belonged to the higher or to the lower grades, voivodes, and leading warriors and dignitaries of the Church, met together to transact important affairs of state, including, in later times, the decision of questions relating to peace and war, and the election of bishops and even of the Serbian patriarch. Their growing power was a perpetual source of difficulty to the central authority. The new system diminished, in some degree, the power of the people, but the old order of things possessed too much vitality to be easily destroyed, and the persistency of the House Communities, free as they were from the evils that accompanied the feudal system, formed an effectual safeguard against any such wave of social discontent as that which passed over Western Europe in the course of the fourteenth century, and gave rise to insurrections both in the cities and among the peasants.
It is clear, therefore, that the Zupas and the yet greater aggregate of Zupas co-extensive with the whole of the Serbian people, were organized on the analogy of the House Community, the principles of which permeated the whole framework of society, though modified as time went on and as new conditions came into being. The effect of these principles upon the history of the Serbs was partly beneficial and partly baneful. On the one hand they introduced into the political life of the nation the combined elements of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy which are to be found coexisting, in a rudimentary form, in the House Community; on the other hand they multiplied and intensified the internal feuds and dissensions to which the Slavs have always been more or less prone. A close parallel might be drawn between the struggles in Serbia for the position of GrandZupan and the long-continued strife which followed the division of Jaroslav’s dominions among his five sons. The resemblance is instructive, for in both cases similar forces were at work and similar effects were produced.
It will now be possible to sketch briefly the various stages through which Serbian history passed during the four centuries and a half that preceded the battle of Kossovo, and in so doing to indicate the importance of the part performed by the Zeta throughout the period.
After the death, in 927, of the Bulgarian Czar Simeon, whose armies had spread desolation and death throughout the Serbian lands, at the time when he was endeavoring to wrest from the Byzantine Emperor the supremacy over the whole peninsula, the district of Duklja, of which Montenegro is the existing representative, rose gradually to a position of such preponderance that one of its Grand-Zupans, Michael, assumed the title of King of the Serbs, and induced Pope Gregory the Seventh to recognize him as such. Even during the period of Bulgarian supremacy the district had maintained a semi-independent attitude towards its conquerors; towards the close of the tenth century its ruler, Ivan Vladimir, who is described as possessing a “just, peaceable, and virtuous” disposition rarely to be met with in those days, had married the daughter of the Czar Samuel, and received as an appanage the northern part of Albania and, again, it was Michael’s father, Stephen Voislav, lord of Zeta and Travunja, who in 1040 annihilated a Greek army in the rocky defiles of Old Serbia, thus securing for the Serbs political and ecclesiastical immunity from Byzantine interference. But the strength of the kingdom which Michael bequeathed to his successors was undermined by dissensions which ripened, in many cases, into civil wars, and it was not until the year 1159 that a more powerful dynasty was founded by Stephen Nemanja, a prince connected by ties of blood with the kings who had reigned in Duklja, and himself born within that region. He made himself Grand-Zupan of Rassa, the district round the modern Novibazar, enforced his rule over all the Serbian lands, and left behind him a compact dominion of which his son Stephen was crowned King (1222).
It is unnecessary to relate how, during the century and a half that followed, the Serbian kingdom became consolidated; how under Milutin Uros II it entered upon a career of conquest, and how it extended its boundaries in different directions, at the expense of Greeks and Magyars, Shkipetars and Bulgarians, the power of the latter being crushed by the great battle of Velbuzd (1330). It will be sufficient to say that, in the middle of the fourteenth century, under the rule of Stephen Dusan, it formed the most considerable as well as the most powerful state in the Balkan peninsula. Sir Henry Maine has pointed out that, during the Middle Ages, owing to the twofold notion of sovereignty which then prevailed, “the Chieftain who would no longer call himself King of the tribe must claim to be Emperor of the world”.
Accordingly we find that, in his new capital of Skoplje on the Wardar, Dusan assumed an imperial crown to which, considering the extent of his domination, he was at least as fully entitled as the Emperors of Romania, Trebizond, and Nicaea ever were. The palmy days of Serbian greatness were, however, of short duration; and the death of the great Czar in 1355, as he was marching against Constantinople, was followed by the dismemberment of his Empire, a signal instance of the way in which “vaulting ambition overleaps itself”. If, instead of spreading his conquests far and wide, he had contented himself with the endeavour to establish a compact Slavonic power, based upon community of race, it is probable that the Kingdom thus created would have been sufficiently strong to defy not only the armies of Buda and of Byzantium, but the still more formidable forces of the approaching Osmanli.
As it was, the ruin of his Empire was caused by the incompatibility of its component elements, no less than by the disputes that arose in his family and by the insubordination of his voivodes. Bosnia acquired its independence, and attained to the culminating point of its greatness in the year 1388, when it possessed not only Zachlumje, but the greater part of Dalmatia, and was practically the head of a South Slavonian confederacy; Thrace and Macedonia, Aetolia and Thessaly, fell under the short-lived dominion of numerous petty princes, and Serbia itself dwindled again into a kingdom under Uros V, the last ruler of the Nemanjid dynasty.
(In one sense he was not the last ruler of the Nemanji dynasty. Dusan’s brother, Simeon Palaeologus Uros, who died in 1371, was lord of the greater part of Thessaly, Epirus, andAetolia. Epirus then passed into the hands of Thomas Preljubovic, whilst Thessaly fell to the lot of John Uros, Symeon’s son, who ended his days in 1410 in a monastery into which he had retired after the Turkish invasion. He too has been called the last of the Nemanjids).
HISTORY OF THE ZETA under the House of Balsa—Advance of Venice along the Eastern shore of the Adriatic—Growth of the Ottoman power in the Balkan peninsula—Greatness of the Zeta at the time of Balsa II—Battle of Saura—Decline of the power of the Balsas—Difficulties at home and abroad—Close of the period—Account of the various races over which the Balsas ruled.
Amid the virtual anarchy that prevailed during the period of disintegration which followed the death of Dusan, a noble named Balsa succeeded, with the help of his three sons, in making himself master of the town and fortress of Skodra (Scutari) and in obtaining possession of the greater part of the Zeta. The time-honoured city of Gentius, which in the eleventh century had been the residence of Michael, son of Voislav, whom Western chroniclers called “King of the Slavs”, became again the seat of an independent power. How important a part the district played in the previous history of the Serbs has already been pointed out. The Zeta was the land from which the Nemanjid dynasty had sprung, and the value which it possessed in their estimation may be inferred from the fact that the Kings and Czars of that great family were in the habit of entrusting its rule, whenever it was possible to do so, to their eldest sons, in accordance with that system of government which was based upon an extension of the House Community, and was at the same time partly feudal and partly satrapal. It is described by Constantine Porphyrogenitus as extending from the neighborhood of Durazzo to that of Cattaro, so as to include Alessio, Dulcigno, and Antibari, whilst, in its mountainous part, it bordered upon Old Serbia; and it is said by him to have contained, in addition to Dioclea, the populous towns of Gradetae, that is to say either Gradac in Montenegro, or more probably Starigrad or Budua; of Novigrad, now called Prevlaka, on the southern side of the Bocche, and of Lonto, a place the position which is uncertain. To these the monk of Dioclea adds the name of Lusca, the famous Ljeskopolje, of Podlugie, the district round Zabliak; of Gorska, in the highlands of the Crnagora; of Kupelnik, now Koplic, to the east of the Skodrine lake; and of Oblici, Prapatna, and Crmnica, all three situated in that part of Montenegro which is still known by the last of these names. The meaning of the word Zeta, or Zenta, which served originally to denote the region watered by the Zeta, the Zewka, and the Bystriza, three affluents of the Moraca, was, in fact, gradually extended so as to comprise the whole of the district once known by the name of Dioclea, or Duklja. The latter appellation of the district was derived from its chief city, which occupied a site near that of the modern Podgorica, and was famous as the birthplace of the Emperor Diocletian; famous too for its monkish chronicler, the Bede or Nestor of the Southern Slavs.
Such, then, was the land which had been the cradle of Serbian greatness, and which was destined to become the refuge of Serbian independence. The question now arises, What was the origin of the family into whose possession it passed? Attempts have been made by French writers of the last two centuries1 to connect the House of Balsa with the House of Baux, of which a branch is said to have settled in Albania at the time when the younger son of Charles II of Naples, Philip of Tarentum, who had married the daughter of the despot of Epirus, became Duke of Durazzo (1315). And this theory derives some support from the fact that it seems to have been held by the Balsas themselves, as is shown by the identity of their arms with those of the illustrious Provençal House. This claim, however, may well be set aside; for we know that it was the fashion among the princes who ruled in Albania, owing doubtless to the influence exercised by the Angevins, to trace their origin back to a Western source. Charles Thopia, for example, claimed descent from Charles the Great, the Spans of Drivasto from the Emperor Theodosius, and the Ducagins of Alessio from Griffon de Hautefeuille; and the absurdity of these pretensions is hardly less great than that of the fond conceit which peopled Albania with the descendants of those who had migrated from Alba Longa after its destruction by Tullus Hostilius. If we take into consideration that Balsa was one of Dusan’s generals, that he was appointed lord of the isle of Meleda, in conjunction with Triphon Bua, by the Serbian King Uros, and that his name is still to be found in various forms among the peasants who inhabit the neighborhood of the Skodrine lake, it will appear unreasonable to call in question Orbini’s statement1 that Balsa was “an indigenous noble of Albania”, that is to say, an Albanian Serb.
Princes of the House of Balsa may be said to have ruled over the Zeta from the close of Dusan’s reign until the year 1422, during a period which coincided with the most momentous crisis in the history of the Southern Slavs; and they themselves did not escape wholly unharmed from the dangers to which so many of their fellow-countrymen succumbed. In order to form a conception of the peculiar character of the difficulties under which the Balsas laboured, it will be necessary to glance for a moment at the two great movements by which their position was mainly affected, namely (1) the extension of the Venetian dominion along the eastern shore of the Adriatic, and (2) the rapid growth of the Ottoman power in the Balkan peninsula.
(1) The wars between Hungary and Venice for the possession of Dalmatia extended, with intervals of various length, over a period of more than three hundred years, and justified the reputation that country had earned as the debatable land between the East and the West. The two powers, indeed, which contended for the prize from the campaign that came to an end with the crowning of Koloman Konyves as King of Dalmatia (A.D. 1102) until the middle of the fifteenth century, occupied a somewhat paradoxical position in regard to each other; for while the more Eastern of the two was closely related to the Empire of the West, the more Western was connected by all the ties of historical association with the Empire of the East. Between them, and between them only, lay the main issue; for the temporary footing gained by the Genoese on Dalmatian soil, and the occupation of the greater portion of the country by the Bosnian King, Tvartko, were merely episodes in the great struggle. Many were the fluctuations to which their fortunes were subject, but the result could scarcely be doubtful. Dalmatia, extending as it does in the shape of a long and narrow wedge between the Adriatic on the one side and the range of the Illyrian Alps on the other, can only be held securely by a great naval power, or by a power which commands an uninterrupted line of communications through Bosnia and the Herzegovina. The first of these qualifications belonged to the Queen of the Adriatic. Neither the first nor the second belonged to Hungary; for it had no fleet that could be compared with that of its rival, and, though its army was far superior, its hold upon Bosnia was seldom more than nominal. The consequence was that the Magyars were compelled little by little to relinquish the land over which they had ruled; and the issue of the struggle may be said to have been embodied in the treaty of 1433, by which Venice was formally recognized as the mistress of the whole of Dalmatia, with the exception of Ragusa and its territory, Veglia, and a few inland districts. Ragusa continued to flourish as an independent commonwealth until the time of Napoleon; Veglia passed in 1452 under the protection, and in 1480 into the possession of Venice, and the inland districts remained, for the most part, in the hands of Hungary.
Venice, therefore, was advancing rapidly along the Dalmatian coast. At the same time it began to acquire new possessions in the islands of the Ionian Gulf, and on the coast of Greece and of Southern and Middle Albania. Into the details of this movement it is needless at present to enter. It will suffice to point out that any attempt to bridge over the interval that separated the Northern from the Southern acquisitions of the Republic, and to make them more continuous, would necessarily bring her into contact with those to whom belonged the maritime towns of the Zeta.
(2) The other great movement by which the position of the Balsas was mainly affected—the movement by which the land over which they ruled was affected for centuries after they had ceased to exist—was the progress made by the Ottoman Turks in their career of European conquest.
The Emperor Cantacuzene had raised a spirit which he could not lay, when, with the unscrupulousness that characterizes his whole policy, he had invoked the aid of Orchan against the Serbs. It was not to be expected that the fierce conquerors of Asia Minor would pause before the perils, such as they were, that confronted them on the Northern side of the Dardanelles. Nor were the issues of the struggle likely to be doubtful. On the one side was ranged a power possessing an admirable military organization, inspired with the daring of fanaticism, and obedient to the dictates of one supreme will. On the other side stood a number of small states, differing mostly from each other in race, enfeebled by mutual jealousy and by internal strife—the wrecks of a great Empire, with no Belisarius, no Czar Dusan, to lead them against the enemy. It would be outside the province of this work to describe how Bulgaria was overwhelmed by the advancing wave of Ottoman conquest; how the capture of Nis (A.D. 1386) turned the kingdom of Serbia into a tributary state; and how, on the fatal field of Kossovo, Bosnians, led by the Voivode Vlatko Hranic, Serbs under their King Lazar, Albanians, Croats and Vallacks, sustained by the aid of some auxiliaries from Hungary and Poland, united in one vigorous, though ineffectual, effort against the invader. Four years before that great battle the Turks had forced their way into Albania and had inaugurated, as will be seen, a struggle of well-nigh five centuries with the inhabitants of the Zeta.
It will now be possible to examine the leading features in the history of the Balsas, with special reference to the two movements which have been described. Upon the death of the first Balsa, in 1362, his land was divided among his three sons, Strasimir, George I, and Balsa II, who carried on with marked success the work of conquest begun by their father. The relation in which they stood to the Serbian kingdom was of a peculiar character. Vlkasin, a noble of the Mrnjavcevic family, who had assassinated the last ruler of the Nemanjid dynasty, and usurped his title, was powerless to resist the encroachments made on his dominions by those who owed a nominal allegiance to his sway, and was only able to obtain a cessation of hostilities by bestowing the hand of his daughter Milica upon the eldest of the three brothers as a guarantee of peace. A result of the alliance was that, in 1371, Vlkasin, accompanied by his son, Marko Kraljevic, visited George I at Skodra, for the purpose of undertaking an expedition against Nicholas Altomanovic, the nephew and successor of Voislav Voinovic as lord of Zachlumje. The projected campaign, however, did not take place, in consequence of the death of Vlkasin, who was killed in that same year at the great battle fought against the Turks on the banks of the Marica, and was succeeded by Prince (knez) Lazar, of the Grebljanovic family, the last and not least famous of Serbia’s independent rulers previous to the Turkish conquest. Strasimir now repudiated Milica; but Lazar found it impossible to recover the provinces of which his predecessor had been deprived, and was compelled to allow them to remain in the hands partly of the Balsas and partly of Nicholas Altomanovic, who was already in possession of Trebinje with its surrounding district, of Konawlje and of Dracevica, the country near Castelnuovo. Thus the Balsas pursued their career unhampered by dependence upon a central power, and in their relations with Venice and with the Turks they relied for their support upon their own unaided strength.
It was the custom among many of the princes, whether great or small, who ruled on the Eastern shore of the Adriatic, to be enrolled among the patricians of Venice, as that honour brought with it several other privileges; and the Venetians themselves endeavored thereby to secure the assistance of those who were in any way capable of furthering the development of their commercial enterprise. Accordingly, in July, 1362, the rights of citizenship were conferred upon “the illustrious brothers Strasimir, George, and Balsa, mighty barons in maritime Slavonia”. Some events, however, connected with the city of Cattaro, tended to impair the solidity of the alliance. That city underwent many changes during the last three decades of the fourteenth century, but in 1369 it was still in the hands of Uros V, in the dominions of whose father, Dusan, it had been included, though, like all the Dalmatian cities, it possessed certain political institutions and liberties of its own, and remained in a condition of semi-independence, under whatever ruler it happened for the time being to be placed.
A war having broken out between Cattaro and Ragusa, the Balsas took the side of the latter, collected a flotilla of small vessels at Dulcigno, Antibari, and Budua—a city which had been taken by them from their kinsman, Nicholas Zaccharia,—and proceeded to besiege Cattaro by sea and land. The Venetians, anxious lest injury should be done to their interests in those parts by the depredations of the belligerents, and being of opinion that the capture of the place would transfer its commerce, which had hitherto been carried on chiefly by themselves, to their rivals the Ragusans, resolved to interpose their good offices, though they declined to accede to the proposal made by Uros and supported by the Cattarines that the city should pass into the hands of Venice. The Pope, too, Urban V, had written to the inhabitants of Venice, Zara, Ragusa, Durazzo, and Apulia, requesting them to aid the citizens of Cattaro “situated as they were among the heretics and schismatics of Albania and Rascia”; and he even sent to the three brothers an epistle which induced them to abjure “schism” and make public profession of the Catholic faith in the presence of the bishops of Suazo and Drivasto. The motives and the purport of this act will be discussed in another section. At any rate, peace was concluded shortly after between the contending parties, owing mainly to the mediation of Venice. The war, however, had aroused the suspicions of the great Republic, and it was with bad grace that it granted permission to George Balsa to “navigate for honest purposes upon the high seas, provided only that he did no wrong or injury with the said ships to any subject or loyal friend of Venice, or to any other merchant or person whosoever he be”.
The attitude assumed by the Balsas during this struggle formed the basis of their traditional policy with regard to Ragusa and Cattaro. With the former city they entertained throughout relations of a friendly character, and concluded several commercial treaties, in which they conferred special privileges upon the Ragusan merchants. Doubtless they considered the friendship of the “piccola Venezia” to be scarcely less advantageous than an alliance with her greater rival, and without the drawbacks consequent upon the growing tendency of the latter Republic to territorial aggrandizement. The feeling of attraction to a kindred people may also have contributed towards rendering the tie more binding; for the Italian Ragusa was gradually assuming a Slavonic aspect, owing to the influx of Croats and especially of Serbs from the country districts, and was becoming transformed into Dubrovnik. Nor was the alliance impaired until the year 1419, when a rupture took place, followed however by a speedy reconciliation.
The Cattarines, on the other hand, suffered much from depredations committed upon their territory by the subjects of the Balsas, especially by those who dwelt in the region of the Black Mountain, and in the Zupa, or district between Cattaro and Budua. Shortly after the events that have been narrated, Cattaro passed into the hands of Louis the Great of Hungary, who in 1358 had made himself master of the greater part of Dalmatia. He retained the city in his possession until the year 1378, when it was taken by the Venetian Admiral Vet tore Pisani; but the peace of Turin, which terminated the war of Chioggia, restored it to him in 1381; and upon his death, which took place in the following year, his widow, Elizabeth, and his daughter, Maria, who had been crowned “King” of Hungary, allowed the formidable Tvartko, “King of Bosnia and Rascia”, over whose dominions indeed the sovereign of Hungary was supposed to exercise a sort of suzerainty, to acquire Cattaro as well as many other cities of Dalmatia. Amid all these changes the predatory incursions continued to be made, and the Cattarines found themselves compelled, after a time, to pay an annual tribute of a thousand ducats to the ruler of the Zeta, in order to secure their “lands and vines” against molestation; nor did they cease to have reason for complaint even after they had become subject to the Venetian Signorie.
Not content with extending its dominion in a northerly direction, the House of Balsa turned its attention towards the South. Without enumerating all the chieftains who exercised their sway over different portions of Albania, and to whom the dismemberment of the Serbian Empire consequent upon the death of Dusan furnished an opportunity of rising into prominence, it will be sufficient to mention the most important among the ruling families, in order to convey some conception of the forces with which the Balsas were brought in contact. Joannina, together with the greater part of Epirus, had been entrusted by Simeon Palaeologus Uros to the care of his son-in-law, Thomas Preljubovic, who died in 1385 and was succeeded by his widow, the pious Maria Angelina, whose second husband was the celebrated Esau de Buondelmonti, brother of the Duchess of Leucadia. In the far South came the Buas, or Spatas, despots of Achelous and Angelokastron, who in 1374 obtained possession of Arta and Rogus, which had previously belonged to the House of Ljoscha. It was their constant endeavour, as Albanians properly so called, to emancipate themselves as far as possible from the Serbian influence represented by the despot and despoena of Joannina. The growth of a national Albanian spirit, however, is best exemplified in the increasing power of the Houses of Musacchi and, above all, of Thopia. The possessions of the former were never very strictly defined, though they certainly included Berat, also called Alba Graeca, or Arnaut Belgrad. The House of Thopia ruled primarily in the district between the Mat and the Skumbi, and rose to greatness under Charles Thopia, who had defeated at the village of Achelous, near Arta, the forces of Nicephorus II, the lineal successor of the old despots of Epirus, and who from 1358—the date of the battle—to 1388 ruled over the nearest approximation to a united Albania that has ever been brought about. During the last twenty years of his reign he was lord of the important city of Durazzo—the Epidamnus of the Greeks, the Dyrrachium of the Romans—which he delivered from Angevin rule and made the capital of his new kingdom.
Of the minor chieftains it will be sufficient, for the present, to name the Albanian Ropas, or Gropas, of Ochrida, the Spans of Drivasto, the Ducagins of Alessio, and, occupying a somewhat more powerful position, the Serb, Alexander Gioric, who ruled for a short time over Kanina, Vallona, and a few other places. At the time, however, when the sons of Balsa I attained to prominence in the Zeta, the power of all the chieftains of Albania, whether they belonged to the Shkipetar or to the Slavonic race, was overshadowed by that of Charles Thopia.
When the Balsas embarked on a career of conquest, they determined at the same time not to neglect the assistance they might derive from contracting alliances with powerful families. We have seen how Strasimir married, and afterwards repudiated, the daughter of the usurper Vlkasin. More significant still were the marriages of his sister Voissava with Charles Thopia, and of Balsa II with Comita Musacchi. It was in alliance with his father-in-law, Andreas Musachi, who had apparently made over to him his claims to the possessions held by Alexander Gioric, that Balsa II attacked and defeated the son of that “gospodin” and became master of Vallona, Kanina, Parga, Chimara, and Sasno. Croja had been captured as early as 1371, at the expense of the Sofi family. Three years later Nicolas Altomanic, whose territory had been invaded by the combined forces of Bosnian Tvartko and Serbian Lazar, and who had been taken prisoner and blinded, succeeded in making his escape, and took refuge with the Balsas, to whom he ceded Trebinje, Konawlje, and Dracevica. Assisted by a body of Albanian auxiliaries under Charles Thopia, George I entered the dominions of the Bosnian king, after a fruitless attempt at mediation had been made by the Ragasans, and advanced as far as Nevesinje, but was compelled by the numerical superiority of his opponents to retire and relinquish the newly-acquired territory, which passed into the hands of Tvartko, who appears to have followed up his success by invading the Zeta, though he soon withdrew his troops. George I returned to Skodra, where he died in 1379, six years after his eldest brother; so that Balsa II remained sole ruler of the Zeta.
Again, it was in alliance with Andreas Musacchi, if we may trust the account handed down by his descendant, John Musacchi, that Balsa II, in or about the year 1380, besieged and took Kastoria, a city which was at that time in the possession of the celebrated Marko, the King’s son, Marko, lord of Prilep and son of Vlkasin. To what extent the exploits of that hero are founded upon a basis of truth it is impossible to determine; to trace the thread of his history through the labyrinth of songs and legends in which it has become involved would be indeed a hopeless task. Many a Serbian pjesma preserves the memory of the great deeds, many a spot bears witness to the strength of one who in reality was among the first to side with the invading Osmanli, and who in all probability fought against his countrymen at the battle of Kossovo. Bat the songs of the people have idealized his name, and assigned to him qualities of an almost superhuman character; and his figure stands forth beside that of his friend Constantine as a Serbian Hercules beside a Serbian Theseus.
According to the popular version of the events connected with the siege of Kastoria, Marko’s wife, Helena, the daughter of Radoslav Chlapen of Berrhoea deserted her husband and offered to betray the city to Balsa, on condition that he should repudiate the daughter of Musachi and take her to wife; and the story goes on to relate how Marko endeavored in vain to recover Kastoria with Turkish aid, and how Balsa was so dissatisfied with Helena’s conduct that he found himself compelled before long to imprison her and afterwards to send her away. It is certain that on the Sunday before Christmas, 1379, there appeared before the despot, Thomas of Joannina, two deputies from the inhabitants of Kastoria, offering to place in his hands the citadel called Servia; but, in accordance with his usual practice, he caused them to be arrested for the purpose of extorting money from them. It is certain also that Kastoria fell into the hands of Balsa. But beyond these two facts nothing is really known of the events of the siege.
Without entering into details with respect to the cities they conquered and the princes on whose side and against whom they alternately fought, details which are, for the most part, full of uncertainty, it will be sufficient to insist upon the fact that the power of the Balsas must have extended, at one time or another, from the Narenta to the Acroceraunian mountains. It was exercised over an area wider than that which Charles Thopia brought under his rule; but, like the Empire of Dusan, it possessed little or no stability, inasmuch as it was not based upon unity of race, and was not fitted to harmonize the elements of discord which existed in Albania.
Meanwhile an enemy more formidable than Tvartko or Thopia or Marko Kraljevic was drawing near. As elsewhere, so too in the Western portion of the Balkan peninsula, the advance of the Ottoman Turks was facilitated by the internal dissensions that prevailed among the various peoples and races with which they came in contact. In 1385 there broke out between Balsa II and his old ally, Charles Thopia, a war in which the former was so far successful that he was enabled to obtain possession of Durazzo. In a document dated April, 1385, in which he confirms the privileges granted by his predecessors to the Ragusans, he styles himself “Duke” of that city. Thopia, following the precedent established by Cantacuzene, invoked the aid of the Turks, before whose arrival, however, Balsa appears to have withdrawn from Durazzo, as would seem to be indicated by the fact that when, in August of that same year, he sent ambassadors to Venice to describe the ravages committed by the invaders, and to solicit a loan of four galleys—a request with which the Signorie readily complied—he no longer described himself as Duke of Durazzo, but merely as lord of the Zeta, of Kanina, and of Avlona. Not long afterwards the first great encounter between Balsa’s army and the Ottomans took place in the plain of Saura, not far from Berat. His forces were speedily overpowered by the superior numbers, as well as by the superior generalship of his opponents, who were under the command of the celebrated Chaireddin, who is said to have originated and carried out the idea of a corps of janissaries recruited from Christian children. He himself was killed, and by his side fell Ivanis, son of Vukasin and brother of Marko Kraljevic.
George II Strasimir, the son of Strasimir, had for some time been detained in prison owing to his uncle’s jealousy, but was now released and received the allegiance of the greater part of the Zeta. Yet he possessed only a small portion of the territory that had been inherited or acquired by Balsa II, whose widow, Comita Musachi, retained in her own hands Vallona, Kanina, Chimara, Parga, and Sasno, and subsequently made most of those places over to Venice. It was the constant aim of George II’s policy to strengthen the alliance with the Venetian Republic, which he regarded as the only power capable of furnishing him with material assistance in the work of resisting the Turkish advance. In 1388, for example, he conferred special privileges upon the Venetian merchants residing at Dulcigno; in the following year he received the requisite permission to arm two brigantines; in March, 1392, the rights of citizenship were conferred upon him and his descendants, and after his death the Signorie spoke in terms of warmest commendation of the feelings of affection and goodwill entertained by him towards the Republic.
It was indeed a perilous inheritance that fell to the lot of the successor of Balsa the Conqueror. Even within the limits of the Zeta properly so called, the authority of George II was far from being unchallenged; and it was the necessity for quelling a rebellion commenced by one of his subjects, presumably a member of the Zaccharia family, which compelled him to be absent from the battle of Kossovo, in which he was expected by his Slavonic confederates to take part. In order to consolidate the bonds that united him with his Serbian and Bulgarian kinsmen, he had married Helena, the daughter of Lazar Grebljanovic and widow of Sisman. The event of Kossovo, however, dispelled any hopes that might have been conceived of establishing a united South-Slavonian power sufficiently strong to resist the Ottoman invasion. How Serbia was reduced to the position of a subject state, how Stephen Lazarevic gave his sister Olivera in marriage to Bajazet, how at Nicopolis he fought on the side of the Turks against the latter-day crusaders of whose career Froissart has given so graphic a description, and how at Angora he saved the credit of the Turkish arms, it is unnecessary to relate in any detail. Nor was the Zeta unaffected by the Serbian defeat, inasmuch as it now became possible for the Ottomans to extend their range of conquest; and in October, 1392, news was brought to Venice that George II. Strasimir had been taken prisoner by the forces of Bajazet, and had undertaken to surrender into their hands Skodra and Dulcigno. His detention by the Turks does not appear to have lasted much more than a year and a half; and during that time those parts of the Zeta, including Budua, which had not been overrun by the invader, were in the possession of a certain Radic Crnoj, the ancestor of the Crnojevic rulers of the Crnagora. At first he received some support from the Venetians, who conferred upon him the rights of citizenship as well as other privileges, not, as has been supposed, because they wished to punish George Strasimir for his treatment of a Venetian citizen, Philippo Varelli—such considerations would not enter into their minds now that he was a prisoner in the hands of the Turks—but simply because they saw in Radic Crnoj a powerful bulwark against the Ottoman, and one whose interest it was necessary to secure on behalf of their merchants. It was also their endeavour to obtain possession of Alessio, the “right eye of Durazzo”. The dominant family in that city was that of the Ducagins, but the place formed part of the dominions of the Balsas, and was supposed by the Venetians to be at that time under the suzerainty of Radic Crnoj; but though they requested him to make Alessio over to them in return for certain rights, it was from Progon and Tanus, the sons of Lech Ducagin, that they succeeded, in 1393, in obtaining the required boon. The acquisition of Alessio was merely a link in a long chain of policy. Two years previously the Venetians had occupied Durazzo with a strong garrison, and in 1392, after George Thopia’s death, had taken formal possession of that ancient and famous city. Of Corfu the Signorie had practically been mistress since 1386, though it was only in 1401 that her claim was fully recognized by King Ladislas.
In the course of the year 1394 George Strasimir was released from captivity, and succeeded, probably with Venetian help, in recovering Skodra. The place, however, was more easy to conquer than to hold, owing to the proximity of the Turks. It is not surprising, therefore, that he should have made repeated offers of Skodra and Drivasto to the Venetian Signorie, and that on the 14th of April, 1396, he should have concluded a treaty by which he surrendered those two cities in exchange for numerous privileges, including a yearly pension of a thousand ducats for himself and his descendants. He reserved for himself Dulcigno and Antibari, together with the adjacent districts as well as the mountainous portion of the Zeta. Meanwhile, however, he experienced considerable difficulty in interfering with the vested interest which Radic Crnoj had acquired in the lands over which he had temporarily borne rule. As late as the 20th of April, 1396, we find a Venetian document in which the commissioners of the Republic are instructed to see that the roads are kept free for commercial intercourse, and above all to come to an agreement “with a certain Radice Cernovichi, a citizen of our city, who is, we believe, very powerful, and who is always making incursions with his tribesmen into the surrounding country”. Five days afterwards, however, Radic Crnoj was defeated and killed by George II Strasimir, who thereupon surrendered Budua with the adjoining territory to Sandalj Cosaca, Voivode of Zachlumje, or Chelm, and son of the celebrated Vlatko Hranic, in return, it would seem, for services received from him during the struggle against the rebellious subject.
It was with much reluctance that the Venetians undertook to occupy places so difficult to defend as Skodra and Drivasto. The power of Venice was essentially maritime and commercial; her colonies, unlike those of the Hellenes and English, were merely “factories” established along the coast for the purpose of protecting and promoting the development of her trade, and her merchant statesmen seldom ventured to annex inland towns unless they could do so with absolute security to themselves. The geographical position of Skodra, which commanded the valleys of the Boiana and of the Drin, and was accessible by small vessels, must have induced the Venetians to depart from their usual practice. The ill-humour, however, with which they entered upon their new possession finds vent in the complaints of their commissioners, who declare Skodra to be “in wretched order, and without any decent dwelling-place”, owing doubtless to its capture by the Turks, whilst of Drivasto they maintain in a report, dated October, 1397, that no benefit is to be derived from its acquisition. “On the contrary”, they say, “we incur much expense, especially with regard to the governor of the place, who receives two hundred ducats a year, and is of no use”. In after years the possession of those two places was not regarded as a matter for regret.
From Skodra George II Strasimir transferred the capital of the Zeta to Dulcigno (Ulcin), where he died in 1404, and was succeeded by his second son, Balsa III Strasimir, who was still a boy and under the influence of his mother, Helena, the daughter of Lazar Grebljanovic. A change in the Balsa policy now supervened. The victory of Timour at Angora (July 20th, 1402) had reduced to captivity a Sultan of the House of Othman, and shattered the flower of his forces; and the death of Bajazet, which occurred eight months after the great battle, was followed by a period of strife between his sons, resulting, after many vicissitudes, in the establishment of Mahomet I’s authority upon a secure basis. At the time, however, a deadly blow appeared to have been dealt to the Turkish power. The Greek Empire seemed about to renew its strength, and Serbia resumed her independence. It is not surprising, therefore, that Helena and Balsa should have entered upon a policy hostile to Venice, on the supposition that they no longer required the assistance of that Republic against the Ottomans, and that the time had come for recovering the territory which had been yielded up to the Signorie by George II Strasimir. Taking advantage of a revolt of the inhabitants of Skodra and Drivasto against their Italian masters, Balsa succeeded in obtaining possession of those two places as well as of other portions of the Zeta which had passed under the same rule. The Venetians at once dispatched eight galleys and some troops, and sent two envoys to Sandalj Hranic to solicit his aid. A victory gained by Checco of Treviso led to the surrender of Skodra, and Dulcigno, Antibari, and Budua passed into the hands of Marino Caravello. A reward of a thousand, afterwards increased to two thousand, ducats was offered by the Venetians to anyone who should place Balsa’s person in their power. Sandalj consented to render assistance on condition that he should be allowed to occupy Budua—of which he had been for a short time in possession—and Antibari; whereupon the Signorie replied that if he could “reduce the whole of the Lower Zeta into obedience to their sway before the spring of 1408, and likewise drive out Balsa Strasimir, together with his partizans, and keep him from the Upper Zeta, so that he should be unable to effect anything in those parts”, they would hand over to him—not indeed Antibari—but Budua, and bestow various privileges upon him. In February, 1408, we find the following directions given to the Venetian commissioners. They are to visit Budua, Antibari, Dulcigno, and Skodra, and watch the course of events. If they perceive that Sandalj is unable to perform his promise, they are to remain passive spectators of the struggle; if, on the other hand, he appears likely to be successful, they are to cooperate actively in the work of destroying the power of Balsa. Should they think fit, they are empowered to induce other chieftains, such as George and Alexis Juras, lords of Kanina, to aid in accomplishing the task; or, again, they may come to terms with Balsa, provided that they do not allow Skodra, or Drivasto, or Dulcigno, or Antibari to slip from their hands. The Venetians, however, not long after those most characteristic instructions had been issued, determined to adopt the fourth course therein described, with the difference that they found it necessary to sacrifice Antibari; and in June, 1408, owing in great measure to the influence of Balsa’s wife, Mara, the daughter of Niketa, lord of Croja, a treaty of peace was concluded between the Venetian Signorie and the ruler of the Zeta, whose claim to Budua and to the greater portion of the inland region was fully recognized, whilst Antibari was ceded to him on condition that he should visit Venice for the purpose of cementing the alliance. As he was hindered by his subjects from placing himself thus within the power of his former enemies, Helena performed the journey in his stead, and we learn that in August, 1409, she was residing for a time at Venice.1 The cession of Antibari was not carried out.
Balsa III appears to have been of a turbulent disposition, which longed for a wider field of activity than the comparatively narrow bounds within which that prince was confined by the treaty of 1409. Even in the following year it is said in a Venetian document that “Balsa and his mother have not abided by the terms of peace, but have done and are doing much injury to our territory”. A formal breach took place, and this time fortune declared itself decisively on the side of Balsa, notwithstanding the fact that the Venetians endeavored to secure the assistance of the Turks, to whom they appealed on the ground that George II Strasimir, and presumably Balsa III—though of this there is no evidence—had levied a tax of one ducat upon every hearth for the purpose of paying tribute for certain lands which had been overrun by the Ottomans. The mediation of Sandalj Hranic was at length procured, and a second treaty concluded on the 26th of November, 1412. Antibari still remained in the power of Venice, but Budua, together with Dulcigno, was restored to Balsa, and it was agreed that he should receive a pension of a thousand ducats a year.
The next few years passed uneventfully over the Zeta, until, in 1419, Balsa resumed the offensive against the Republic, recovered Drivasto, allied himself with the Hungarians and with his uncle, Stephen Lazarevic of Serbia, and was able to regain possession of Skodra in spite of the opposition offered to him by the combined forces of the Venetians and the Turks. The star of Venice, however, was in the ascendant, and in July, 1420, the very year in which a large number of Dalmatian cities became subjects of the Signorie, Pietro Loredano, who four years previously had gained a brilliant victory over the Ottomans off Gallipoli, received the submission of Budua. Though twice unsuccessful in his endeavour to recapture Skodra, he appears to have so far impaired the power of his adversary that, on the approach of a large Turkish force in 1421, the last ruler of the House of Balsa was compelled to seek refuge in Serbia. The manner of his death is uncertain, though the account which makes him return to Skodra after the withdrawal of the Turks, and end his days in the city which had been the nucleus round which had clustered the dominions of his family, seems the most probable. One after another the cities of the coast, together with Skodra and Drivasto, were captured by the Venetian forces. In the meantime, however, Stephen Lazarevic sent an army into the Zeta, to which he laid claim in consequence of his nephew’s death, and found himself in 1423, after a short struggle, in possession of Skodra. Two years later the war was renewed, and the intrigues of a Venetian traitor, Antonio Giustiniani, whose aim was to secure the Zeta as a principality for himself, and who obtained the assistance of Mara, Balsa’s widow, as well as of the commander of the Turkish forces in Albania, inflicted considerable injury upon the Republic. In 1426, for instance, the Turks were allowed to capture Durazzo, though the citadel still held out, and they were at length compelled to withdraw. In that same year peace was concluded, and when Stephen died in 1427, his nephew and heir, George Brankovic, retired from the Zeta, where he had exercised his authority in accordance with the traditions bequeathed by the Nemanj id family, but where his rule had become unpopular and a certain Stephen Crnojevic had already acquired a strong hold upon the affections of the people.
Before entering upon a discussion respecting the origin of the Crnojevic, it will be well to pursue a train of thought suggested by the death of Balsa III, and offer some general reflections on the condition of the Zeta at the time of the Balsas, with special reference to the various races by which it was peopled. The rule of the Balsas was essentially a rule of Serbs over Serbs; but it extended at one time, as has been seen, not only over the Crnagora and those parts of the Zeta (in the old sense of the word) which are still inhabited by Slavs, but over the greater portion of that Albanian land which is the abode of quite a different race.
The Shkipetars, or Arnauts, are divided at present into two main branches, the Gueghs and the Tosks, of whom the former dwell to the North, the latter to the South, of the valley of the Skumbi, which Strabo assigns as the boundary between Aetolia and Epirus. The direct descendants of the ancient Illyrians and consequently the oldest race in the Balkan peninsula, they were driven back by successive intrusions of alien peoples and races into the mountain fastnesses of the land which is usually called Albania, and became, both in name and in reality, Shkipetars, or Highlanders. Whilst Slavonic tribes tilled the ground in the valleys and plains of the interior, especially within the boundaries of the land now occupied by the Gueghs, and the Greek element predominated in the cities of the coast ground in the valleys and plains of the interior, especially within the boundaries of the land now occupied by the Gueghs, and the Greek element predominated in the cities of the coast and the lowlands of the South, the Shkipetars dwelt upon their heights, leading a pastoral life varied by incessant feuds. Little by little, however, they became dissatisfied with the narrow bounds within which they were confined. Albanian nomads began to wander, like the Vlachs, over different parts of the peninsula, seeking pasture for their flocks and herds, and occasionally settling down and forming a village. As early as the first half of the thirteenth century we hear of Albanian nomads in the Serbian lands, at least as far north as the Skodrine lake. In the following century the expansive movement of the population resulted in the migration of a large number of Albanians into Thessaly, Southern Epirus, and the basin of the Achelous, and in 1380 Manuel Contacuzene, despot of Misithra, induced numerous Albanian families to colonize the waste places of Greece, and infuse a fresh element into the Hellenic race, which had long before received an admixture of Slavonic blood. In Albania itself the Shkipetars descended gradually into the lowlands, and attained to a position of predominance, Shkipetar chieftains taking, in most cases, the place of Bulgarian boljars or Serbian starjesinas. Such were the beginnings of the national movement which enabled Charles Thopia to grasp the reins of power, which raised into prominence the Musacchi and other Albanian princes, and which explains, to a great extent, the policy pursued by the House of Balsa. It was in order to conciliate their Albanian subjects, who had adhered, for the most part, to the Western Church since the middle of the thirteenth century, that they entertained amicable relations with the Pope and went so far as to recognize his ecclesiastical supremacy; and, again, it was by dividing in order to govern, by playing off one chieftain against another, by turning to their own advantage the instinctive antagonism of the two races as well as the internal dissensions which prevailed among the Shkipetars, that they became—at least in the days of Balsa II— the most powerful ruling family in Albania.
At no period, probably, in their history, have the Serbs and Shkipetars been brought into closer contact with one another than during the rule of the Balsas. It is natural, therefore, to regard that period of transition and expansion as furnishing, in a great measure, an explanation of the reason why certain common elements have permeated the manners and customs of both races. It would be difficult to point to any particular characteristic derived by the Serbs of Montenegro from the Albanians, unless it be a few unimportant usages in war. Other points of resemblance are explicable by reference to the circumstances in which they have both been placed. On the other hand, the Albanians derived from the Serbs not only a variety of laws and customs, but also the expressions by which those laws and customs were denoted. That this should have been so implies, on the part of the Shkipetars, an inferior degree of civilization, though not necessarily of national consciousness. It is evident, however, that they possessed few of the qualities requisite for rule; they had little or no political sense. As Fallmerayer observes, “Wherever Albanians have attained to power they have monopolized the possession and the enjoyment of everything. They have never attempted to render life and property secure amongst their subjects”. In the South, the victories of Charles Tocco in the first two decades of the fifteenth century pressed back the Shkipetars in a northerly direction, and restored to the Greek element in Aetolia, Acarnania, Arta, and Joannina, the position which it had once occupied. In the North, the short-lived kingdom founded by Charles Thopia incurred the fate which has been described; and though, under their national hero, Skanderbeg, who indeed was not an Albanian but a Serb, the Albanians made a firm stand for their freedom and their faith, most of them became, in the course of time, the most devoted subjects of their Ottoman conqueror and not the least fanatical adherents to the creed of Islam.
In addition to the Serbs and Shkipetars and incidentally the Greeks and Italians, over whom the most powerful of the Balsas exercised dominion, it is necessary to make brief mention of two races which also contributed their quota to the population of the Zeta. It is a strange fact that while the Vlachs, or Roumans, have increased and multiplied in Roumania, the Banat of Temesvar, Transylvania, the Bukowine and Bessarabia, their numbers have greatly diminished in the lands to the South of the Danube, in various parts of which they formed settlements, as for example in Thessaly and in the neighborhood of Ochrida. Whether the Roumans came originally from the North or from the South of the Danube, whether, in fact, they are to be regarded as the descendants of the Romanized Dacians or of the Romanized Thracians, is a question of more interest than importance. It will suffice to say that they were very numerous in the Serbian lands, and consequently in the Zeta, where they fed their flocks and herds on the lofty pasture-grounds of the Illyrian Alps, or engaged in trade on a small scale. In Albania, too, they formed scattered settlements; and when, at a much later period, they founded the four great, though short-lived, commercial towns of Moschopolis in central Albania, of Krusovo near Prilep, of Arbanasi near Trnovo, and of Bej Arnaut between Rustchuk and Varna, the names of at least two of these places indicate the fact that the Vlachs were sometimes confounded with the Shkipetars, or Arnauts, among whom they had long resided, and with whom they doubtless intermarried to a certain extent. Whatever Rouman elements once existed in the population of what is now Montenegro, have by this time been completely absorbed by the Serbian element.
With the Cigani, or Gypsies, of Montenegro, it has fared differently. According to one view, that remarkable race entered Europe in large numbers in the thirteenth century, passing along the northern coast of the Black Sea and settling down first in Bessarabia and then in Wallachia, whence they spread in different directions, many passing into Albania and afterwards into Greece together with the Shkipetars who migrated to that country. According to another view, which derives its main support from philological considerations, they first appeared in Greece—though it is difficult to imagine how they came there—and afterwards made their way into Wallachia. In any case they were to be found in the Illyrian Alps and in the island of Corfu towards the close of the fourteenth century. According to popular tradition, a certain Kurto, who migrated from the district of Kolasin at a time when that district was already under Turkish rule, was the ancestor of the Montenegrin Ciganji. It is impossible, of course, to fix the date of their arrival with any degree of precision, but it is probable that they first settled within the borders of the Crnagora at the time of the Balsas. They have preserved their nationality distinct; for though they speak the same language, adhere to the same faith, clothe themselves in the same fashion, and have in general the same manners and customs as the rest of the Montenegrins, they scarcely ever intermarry with them, and still form a hereditary caste of tinkers and blacksmiths.
I have lingered thus long over the period of the Balsas because it contains the germ of most of the movements by which the destinies of Montenegro have been mainly affected, and also because it represents the period of transition from the Serbian Empire to the principality of the Crnagora, thus exhibiting in a striking manner the continuity of their history. The rise of Stephen Crnojevid marks the commencement of a new epoch.
RISE OF THE HOUSE of Crnojevic—Stephen Crnojevic and his son Ivan—Their connection with the movements associated with the names of Hunyadi and Skanderbeg—Advance of the Turks—Fall of Zabliak and foundation of the monastery of Cettinje—Close of the dynasty—Characteristics of the period—The history of the Zeta becomes transformed into the history of Montenegro.
The withdrawal of George Brankovic into Serbia enabled Stephen Crnojevic to assert a wholly independent authority over the Crnagora. Who Stephen Crnojevic was is a question which has given rise to considerable controversy. Attempts have been made to connect his family, like that of the Balsas, with a Western House, and to trace his descent from the French de Maramonts, who settle in Apulia at the time of the Angevin Kings of Naples. Some writers have declared that Stephen migrated to Apulia immediately after the death of Balsa III, who, it is alleged, had renewed the war with Venice at his instigation, and had entrusted him temporarily with the reins of power; and it is added that he afterwards returned to the Zeta in a Ragusan vessel. There can, however, be no reasonable doubt that Stephen Crnojevic was, as Flavius Comnenus calls him, a “native Dalmatian”, in the sense that he was a Serb. It is equally certain that he was the son of the Radic Crnoj, whose insurrection and death at the time of George II Strasimir have already been described. It is probable, too, that his family was connected by ties of marriage with that of the Balsas. Stephen had two brothers, George and Gojcin, older than himself. They appear to have ruled for a short time conjointly with him, and after their death he concentrated in his own hands the territory which had been their appanage.
The extent of Stephen’s territory was almost as great as that of Balsa III, inasmuch as it comprised, in addition to the mountainous country to the north and east of Cettinje, the plains of the Zeta, in the narrower sense of the word, and the islands in the Skodrine lake. Antibari had emerged from the war between Venice and the Serbs as an independent commonwealth, closely connected with Ragusa, and it was only in 1441 that it submitted itself wholly to the rule of Venice. The power of George Brankovic appears to have extended, for a few years after his withdrawal, over that portion of the Zeta which lay immediately to the South of the Bocche di Cattaro; for we find that in 1435 the Signorie surrendered Budua into his hands for the purpose of securing his alliance. At that time, therefore, he must have been able to command the line of communications from Serbia to that city. Seven years later, however, in consequence of the disasters which befell George Brankovic, Budua was received again into the Venetian dominions at the request of its own citizens. It is hardly necessary to add that Skodra, Drivasto, and Dulcigno were already in the possession of the Republic.
The building of the fortress of Zabliak by Stephen Crnojevic, not far from the spot where the Moraca falls into the Skodrine lake, was designed primarily as a defense against the incursions of the Turks, into whose hands the greater part of Albania had fallen in 1430. Alibeg, the son of the celebrated Evrenus, resided at Croja. In 1438 Serbia was reduced to the condition of servitude from which it had emerged after the death of Bajazet, and George Brankovic was compelled to take refuge in Hungary. The effect of these events was to arouse to united action the Christian powers most deeply concerned to check the Ottoman advance; and the accession of Ladislaus, King of Poland, to the throne of Hungary, was followed by the outbreak of a struggle which seemed for a while to threaten with destruction the Turkish domination in Europe.
The name with which that great struggle is inseparably connected is that of John Hunyadi, a Magyarized Rouman, celebrated in Western chronicles as the White Knight of Wallachia and in Serbian chansons de geste as Sibinanin Janko-John of Hermannstadt. Of the various incidents that signalized the campaigns of 1442 and 1443, in the second of which the Hungarian general crossed the Balkans with the aid of Serbian, Wallachian, and German auxiliaries, and returned to Buda laden with spoil, it is unnecessary to speak. The treaty of Szegedin (July 12th, 1444), by which the war was terminated, restored to Serbia her independence under George Brankovic, whilst Wallachia remained in the power of Hungary and Bulgaria in that of the Turks. The treaty, however, was broken at the instigation of Cardinal Julian, and the disastrous battle of Varna (Nov. 10th, 1444), followed four years later by a second great defeat on the field of Kossovo, brought Serbia again under tribute, with the exception of Belgrade, which in 1456 offered a strenuous and successful resistance under Hunyadi, who repulsed Mahomet the Conqueror from its walls; and the city remained in the possession of Hungary until the year 1521, when it was captured by Solyman the Magnificent. Serbia, however, passed from the tributary stage into that of complete subjection to the Turkish yoke before the year 1459 had come to a close; so that the exploits of Hunyadi served only to retard, without being able to stem the advancing tide of Mohammedan conquest.
In the meantime, however, a more protracted and no less heroic struggle was taking place in the Western parts of the Balkan peninsula. About the year 1434 Arianita Commenus, lord of Apollonia, placed himself at the head of a great movement directed mainly by the Shkipetars against the Turks and was able to inflict a bloody defeat on Alibeg. The movement was temporarily suppressed chiefly through the exertions of Turachan, the subsequently famous Beyler Bey of Thessaly, but reasserted itself in all the fullness of its strength at the time when Hunyadi’s second campaign dealt an apparently fatal blow to the Ottoman power. It was then that there arose in the person of George Castriot, the Judas Maccabaeus of the Albanians, a leader worthy of the cause for which they were contending. Chroniclers and poets have surrounded his name with a halo of romance. Historic criticism has eliminated the romantic elements, without detracting from the glory of the achievements.
The family of George Castriot was, in reality, of Slavonic origin, though connected by marriage with the Albanian House of Thopia. In 1368 his great-grandfather Branilo had assisted Alexander Gioric against Balsa II, and his father, Ivan Castriot, who was the all-powerful lord of Croja until the time when that city fell into the hands of the Turks, had been, in conjunction with Venice, the antagonist of Balsa III. George Castriot, the youngest of four brothers, appears to have entered for a time the Turkish service, although he is known to have spent his youth in Albania and not, as has generally been supposed, at the court of Murad and in other parts of the peninsula. In 1444, having made himself master of Croja, he constituted himself the defender of his native land, and, with the assistance of his father-in-law, Arianita Comnenus, the hero of the previous rising, placed himself at the head of the Albanian movement, which he sought to connect with Hungary, Rome, Venice, and the Serbian inhabitants of the Zeta. In the list of chieftains who were present at the congress convoked by Skanderbeg at Alessio in the summer of 1444, occurs the name of Stephen Crnojevic, who appears to have occupied at that time a position of considerable importance. His authority over the Zeta—with the exception of such portions of the coast as still belonged to Venice—was no longer disputed or disputable. For a time the depredations committed by his subjects upon the territory of Cattaro had been a source of discord with the Republic, but the occurrence of a serious and untimely conflict had been averted by the mediation of the community of Cattaro itself which perceived the advantages to be derived from a cessation of hostilities at a time when the necessity for concerted action against the common foe was most keenly felt. Nor did Stephen apprehend any danger from the side of Bosnia; for that kingdom, far from being aggressive, as in the days of Tvarto the Great, was in a state of rapid decay; and Stephen Hranic, or Cosaca, the son of Sandalj, had taken the opportunity of transferring his allegiance to Frederick III—not indeed in his capacity of Austrian archduke and author of the motto “Austriae est Imperare orbi Universo”, but as the Holy Roman Emperor—and had been created by him Duke (Herzog, Herzega) of St. Sava, so that the name of Chelm became, for this reason, transformed into that of the Herzegovina. Nor again, was the antipathy between Shkipetar and Serb, between Catholic and Orthodox, sufficiently strong to stand in the way of an alliance directed against the forces of the Crescent. Skanderbeg himself, as has been seen—Skanderbeg, the national hero of the Albanians, was of Serbian origin; and he only strengthened his position by giving his sister Maria in marriage to Stephen Cronojevic.
The congress of Alessio was followed in the same year by the battle of the Dibra, in which the Turks were repulsed with great loss; and from that time a continuous struggle was waged for nearly twenty-three years between the Albanians and the Sultan. Towards the beginning of the war the combined forces of the Shkipetars and Montenegrins appear to have numbered about 12,000 men. In 1449 George Castriot and Arianita Comnenus received material support from Venice, and were formally recognized as condottieri of the Republic. Similar honors were paid in 1451 to Stephen Crnojevic as lord of the Zeta; and two years later extensive privileges were conferred upon him, including the right of obtaining from Cattaro provisions of the value of 600 ducats a year, together with a tithe of the goods imported into that city or exported from it by land, in return for which he undertook to make the authority of the Signorie respected in the Zupa, or mountainous district which extends from Cattaro to Buda, along the southern shore of the Bocche. So far the efforts of Skanderbeg had been attended with almost unvarying success. But the capture of Sfetigrad, in the Upper Dibra, in July, 1449, prepared the way for a series of reverses. A guerilla warfare continued to be carried on, and in 1450 and 1451 a few victories were gained; but the result was, on the whole, unfavorable. The death, in 1461, of Charles Musacchi Thopia, who was closely connected with Skanderbeg, and whose daughter Yela was married to George Crnojevic, Stephen’s younger son, deprived the cause of one of its ablest champions; and although the Sultan was compelled, in that same year, to recognize Skanderbeg as lord of Albania and Epirus, the catastrophe was not long delayed. The heroic resistance which had not only cooperated with Hunyadi in the work of retarding the Ottoman advance into Eastern Europe, but also, in all probability, prevented Mohammed II from accomplishing his project of invading Italy by crossing the Adriatic from Durazzo, was brought to a termination by the death of George Castriot at Alessio on the 17th of January, 1468. The whole of Albania, with the exception of the towns still held by the Venetians, fell into the hands of the Turks. Even Croja passed into their possession.
Stephen Crnojevic died a few months before his great ally, and was buried in the monastery of the Ascension which he had built on the island of Kom, in the Skodrine lake. He was succeeded by his son Ivan, who had already attained to renown in many a battle against the Turks, fighting valorously on the side of Skanderbeg, with whom his name is indelibly associated in the songs that are sung to the sound of the guzla in commemoration of his great deeds. Around him, as around so many heroes of a nation’s early history, has clustered a cycle of legends. To the descendants of his enemies the name of Ivanbeg is still a source of terror, and among his countrymen the belief is not yet wholly extinct, and is still kept alive in many apjesma, that he is not really dead, but sleeps in a rocky cave near Obod, whence he will someday arise, like Marko Kraljevic and Dusan the Great, to drive the Turks from Europe.
Ivan Crnojevic had fallen on evil days. In every direction the Ottoman arms were attended with success. The capture of Constantinople in 1453, though an event of primary importance in the history of civilization, exercised far less influence over the destinies of the Balkan peninsula than the battles of Kossovo and of Varna. Nevertheless it stands out as the most conspicuous landmark in the history of the time. The subjugation of Trebizond, of Greece, and of the Crimea, helped to signalize the eventful reign of Mahomet II; and the occupation of Otranto by Ahmed Kedük, the conqueror of the Crimea, seemed to bring the scheme for an invasion of Italy within the sphere of what might be practically achieved. Serbia, as has been seen, was completely reduced to the position of a Turkish province, though Belgrade remained in the power of Matthias Corvinus. Four years later, in 1463, the kingdom of Bosnia incurred the same fate. Bosnia’s last king was put to death in the Sultan’s presence by the Mufti, who exclaimed, “It is good to slay such infidels”; and his widow was forced to seek refuge at Spalato, where she remained for some years, though the close of her life was spent in Hungary. A more strenuous resistance was offered by the Duke of St. Sava, whose daughter was the wife of Ivan Crnojevic, and by his two sons, Ladislaus and Vlatko, who were at length compelled to abandon the Herzegovina, together with the district of Konawlje, to the Ottoman forces. A strip of territory in the possession of the Turks now parted the land of Ivan Crnojevid from the Republic of Ragusa. In Albania still further progress was effected, and the attack was directed against those portions of the country which still remained in the hands of Venice. In 1474 an attempt to capture Skodra was made by Soliman, the Beyler Bey of Roumelia, but failed in consequence of the able defense offered by Antonio Loredano, seconded by the efforts of Ivan Crnojevic, who took up his position upon the hill of San Marco, which commanded the city. Thus he whom two years previously the doge Nicolas Trono had called the mortal enemy of Venice, owing apparently to certain depredations committed on the territory of Cattaro, was now fighting on the side of the Republic against the common enemy. Nor did Ivan fail to render assistance to the Venetians when, in 1478, Mahomet himself advanced against Skodra with an army which is estimated, by early and uncritical writers at 350,000 men, and commenced the memorable siege which ended with the capture of the city. At the conclusion of the war, Butrinto, Durazzo, Antibari, and Dulcigno, were the only important places which remained in the possession of the Republic on the eastern coast of the Adriatic south of Budua; and her losses were so great that she found herself unable to take any thought for the ally to whom she was indebted for invaluable assistance. The Turks still pressed forward and overran the territory of Ivan Crnojevic. Zabliak had fallen into their hands in 1477; and though, in 1481, they lost it for a while, in consequence of a sudden attack directed against them by Ivan and certain of his allies, who kept alive in their hearts a hope that bordered on despair, the arrival of large reinforcements animated the Turks with fresh energy; and the fortress which had shared with Skodra and Dulcigno the privilege of being, at one time or another, the capital of the Zeta, passed into their possession, and remained for more than three centuries and a half the cynosure of the Montenegrin Highlanders. The lower and more exposed portions of the Zeta were abandoned to the mercy of the invader, after a vigorous resistance against fearful odds; and all who had at heart the preservation of their national independence took refuge in the mountainous region of the Crnagora, which had always formed an integral part of the dominions alike of the Balsas and of the Crnojevic, and which now became for centuries the chosen home of liberty. After a short absence in Italy, where he endeavored, but in vain, to arouse an active interest on behalf of his people, Ivan returned to the Crnagora, which had remained during the interval, according to the traditional account, under the care of his younger brother George Crnojevic, who is sometimes called Arnaut, or Arvanit, doubtless on account of his marriage with the daughters of the Albanian Charles Musacchi Thopia. Ivan proceeded to establish a polity adapted to the peculiar circumstances amid which those over whom he bore rule were situated. The first thing needful was to assign a centre, at once political and religious, to the new state. This he effected by making Cettinje the village-capital of his dominions. Thither he transferred the residence of the Metropolitan of the Zeta, the venerable Visarion, whose dwelling-place had been until then at Vranina, in the island of that name. There, too, he built, in 1484 and 1485, as is attested by the original charter which still exists, a monastery, on the model of that of the Maria Dolorosa at Ancona, a specimen of architecture with which many of the Serbs who inhabited the Zeta may have been familiar, owing to their frequent intercourse with that city. About the same time a truly characteristic law was passed by the assembled people, to the effect that any man who should abandon the field of battle, except at his commander’s bidding, or show sign of fear, should be clothed in the garb of women and driven by women from the country as a coward and a traitor. Thus did they steel their hearts against the promptings of despair; for though it lay in their power to purchase an ignominious security by the surrender of their freedom and the denial of their creed, they preferred to maintain intact the independence which was their birthright, on the barren heights of their mountain fastnesses,
The sort of social compact by which the brave inhabitants of the Crnagora agreed to forego such material advantages as might be secured by submission, and to live and die fighting for their faith and freedom, brings to mind the time—towards the beginning of the eighth century—when Muza and Tarik, Emirs of Cordova, subjugated the greater part of the Iberian peninsula, and when a small band of patriots sought refuge in the inaccessible Asturian mountains, and prepared the way for the total expulsion of the Moors from Spain. In both cases it was a Mohammedan power of which the victorious career was checked; in both we find the same heroic resistance, the same indomitable will; and Ivan Crnojevic finds a parallel in the immortal Pelayo.
The closeness of the ties which still subsisted between the Crnagora and Venice is indicated by the fact that Ivan’s son George, who succeeded him in 1490, had married a Venetian lady, the daughter of Antonio Erizzo—an event upon which is founded one of the most celebrated of the Montenegrin pjesme, which speaks of a marriage between Ivan’s eldest son, named Maxim, and a daughter of the doge Mocenigo. This, of course, is purely imaginary; and Maxim is none other than the renegade Stephen, or Stanisa, the younger brother of George. Still the connection between the fact and the fiction may easily be traced; and the poem itself represents the manner in which the Montenegrins regarded the alliance with effeminate and ungrateful Venice as the source of many woes. It was at Venice, too, that George Crnojevic caused a printing-press to be set up, and afterwards to be transferred to Obod, a fortress which his father had built on the river of that name, subsequently known as the Crnojevicka Rjeka. The most interesting point in connection with that printing-press is that it was almost the first from which Slavonic books, printed in Cyrillic letters were issued. Indeed, with the exception of the books printed at Cracow in 1491 by Sveipolt Fiol, there is no reason to believe that any work appeared in that character before the liturgical books which were printed at Obod in 1493 and in the following years, though a few Czech books had been printed in the Gothic type at Pilsen as early as 1468. The object which George Crnojevic had in view was to spread among his people the literature of the Orthodox Church, in order to counteract, in some measure, the proselytizing efforts of the Turks, efforts which, seconded as they were by the sword, induced many inhabitants of the outlying districts to profess the creed of the Prophet. Nor were the Turks unaided by traitors within the Montenegrin fold. Stephen, or Stanisa, the “Maxim” of the above, mentioned pjesma, yielding to an inordinate desire for power, had visited Constantinople, embraced Mohammedanism, received the name of Skanderbeg, and been entrusted by Bajazet II with an army, with which he promised to reduce Montenegro to a condition of subjection, on condition that he should be appointed its sandjak bey. The two brothers, according to the tradition, met on the Ljeskopolje, and the battle which ensued resulted in the total defeat of Stanisa, who fled to Skodra, where the inhabitants refused to receive him, so that he was compelled to seek refuge in the obscure Albanian village of Busatlj, and became the ancestor of the great hereditary pashas of Skodra, the Busatljas. The tradition is not, however, borne out in its entirety by the documentary evidence which we possess; and it is certain that Stanisa not only retained for a long time the title bestowed upon him by the Sultan, but actually exercised a certain dominion over the outskirts of the Black Mountain as late as the year 1524.
Respecting the last rulers of the House of Crnojevic the details that have been handed down are few in number and very confused. George, the son of Ivan, was induced by his Venetian wife to exchange his precarious sovereignty over the Crnagora for the delights of Venice, and died in all probability either in that city or at Milan in 1514,3 though, according to some, he wandered first to France, then to Rome, and finally to Constantinople, where he became a Mohammedan and rose into high favour with the Sultan of the day. The traditional account states that he was succeeded by Stephen, the son of George Arvanit, younger brother of Ivan Crnojevic, in 1497, a year which was also marked by the cessation of the Venetian protectorate over Montenegro; and it is added that Stephen was followed in 1515 by a certain Ivan, who resigned after a few months in favour of his son George, the last ruler of the House of Crnojevic, who in his turn migrated in 1516, as his namesake had done, to Venice. In the absence, however, of any documentary evidence, it is impossible to attach historical value to these traditions, which are themselves intrinsically improbable. At any rate, there is reason to believe that, in or about the year 1515, the aged Vladika Vavil, who resided at Cettinje, had concentrated in his hands the civil and the ecclesiastical powers of the small state, though by what means this change was effected it is impossible to say. Perhaps it is best to accept the tradition which tells how the last Crnojevic, whoever he may have been, convoked an assembly of the people before leaving the land over which his family had ruled, and solemnly transferred the authority which he possessed to the venerable metropolitan of the Zeta. It is certain that the change was brought about with the full concurrence of the people; for no other explanation would be consistent with what we know of the nature of the Montenegrin character. At this point, then, commences the period of the prince-bishops, which has lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century. Before entering upon its history, it will be well to glance back briefly at the period by which it was preceded.
If the age of the Balsas was, on the whole, one of expansion, the age of the Crnojevic formed, in a certain sense, an epoch of concentration in the history of the principality. No attempt was made by them to enforce or extend their rule over Albanians. Their aim was not to grasp at that which they did not possess, but to save that which they had from falling into the hands of their enemies. As time went on, their position became more and more precarious; and it was only by retrenching themselves behind an inaccessible bulwark erected by nature against all assailants, that they were able to preserve unimpaired the independence of their people. With them the history of the Zeta becomes narrowed down into the history of the Crnagora, and new circumstances, which will exercise a determining influence upon the national character, come into being. Deprived of any share in the fertile plains that extend to the south of their mountain fastnesses, debarred from the possession of a sea-coast, and consequently hindered from holding any direct or continuous intercourse with the outer world, it will be the lot of the Montenegrins, for well-nigh four centuries, to wage an incessant warfare against the Turks, and to supplement the scanty sustenance afforded by the cultivated patches of ground which their indefatigable toil has created in the midst of rocks, by making forays into the surrounding country in order to obtain the necessaries of life. Heroism will become the national virtue. Every man will be a patriot; every patriot will deem it his duty to be foremost in the strife, and the love of liberty will call forth deeds of valour even from women and from children.
The Crnagora, of which Ivan Crnojevic was prince, and of which the greater part became subject to the rule of the Vladikas, may be said to have included the four nahie, or provinces, of Katunska, though less extensive than it is at present, of Rjecka, of Crmnica, and of Ljesanska. The most important of these was undoubtedly the first, in which was situated Cettinje, and which formed the stronghold of Montenegrin independence. The four provinces of the Brda, or mountainous region which lies to the north-east of a line drawn from Niksic to Spuz were not added until the eighteenth century; that the Crnagora was virtually co-extensive with the limestone district which extends from the neighborhood of Antibari to the Herzegovinian frontier, and which is characterized by dolomitic peaks and labyrinths of huge rocks, with numerous caves and fissures, that form, in many cases, the sole outlet for the smaller streams, though some of the rivers have carved out open valleys for themselves in the direction of the Skodrine lake. No country could be better adapted for a long-continued guerilla warfare.
The Serbian name of Crnagora, by which that country is known, occurs, as has been seen, in a Venetian document of the year 1435. The probability is, therefore, that it was in use at a considerably earlier period; and there is no need to appeal, in confirmation of this view, to the doubtful tradition which assigns to Stephen Crnojevic the appellation of Crnagorac, the Montenegrin. The founder of the line of Crnojevic, whether Radic Crnoj or some chieftain to us unknown, may have derived his name, like Kara Othman, from the black colour of his hair, reputed a sign of manly beauty, or from that of his armour, as was the case with our Black Prince; or possibly from the awe with which he inspired his enemies. Nor is it necessary to trace any connection between the name of the country and that of its rulers. There can scarcely be any doubt that the word Crnagora, which has been rendered Montenegro by the Venetians, Maurovouni by the Greeks, Mal Esua by the Shkipetars and Kara-Dagh by the Turks, was intended originally to denote a physical fact. It contains, in all probability, an allusion to the dark and sombre aspect imparted to the limestone rocks by the heavy rains of winter and of spring as well as by their overgrowth of lichens, an aspect equally striking to those who leave behind them the Italian scenery and vegetation of the Bocche di Cattaro, and to those who pass from the sandstone region of the Brda, with its spreading forests and lofty pasture-grounds, interspersed with dolomitic peaks, into the bleak land of Ivan Crnojevic.
MONTENEGRO UNDER THE GOVERNMENT of elective Vladikas—Protracted struggles with the Turks—Period of Turkish greatness—Relations with Venice and other European powers— Bolizza’s account of the country—The Sicilian Vespers of Montenegro—The office of Vladika becomes hereditary in the family of Danilo Petrovid Njegus.
It is unnecessary to linger long over the period that extends from the resignation of the last Crnojevic to the year 1711, a year in which the office of Vladika ceases to be elective and becomes hereditary, and in which Russia begins to exercise an important influence over the destinies of Montenegro. The order of succession of the prince-bishops has been preserved, though the dates are in several cases uncertain. The essential nature of their authority will be discussed in another section, in connection with the general ecclesiastical history of Montenegro. It will be sufficient, for the present, to say that they were assisted, in the exercise of their civil powers, by certain “civil governors” (upra-vitelji), whose office was not hereditary, as it became in the eighteenth century, but who appear to have been appointed by the Vladika himself, and to have been in every case natives of the Katunska nahia. No chronicler has rescued from oblivion the memory of the valorous deeds performed during that long period; no glamour of an illustrious name illuminates those two centuries of war, and many an unnamed Leonidas may have perished in some Slavonic Thermopylae in battle against the barbarian foe. Even the pjesme are few and far between. In the intellectual revival which made Ragusa a centre of Italian, of Greek, and, above all, of Slavonic culture, Montenegro had no part. Men who are engaged in a struggle not only for their freedom and their faith, but for their very lives, have no time for culture; and intellectual progress cannot be achieved apart from a certain basis of material well-being. Even the printing-press established by George Crnojevic at Obod would seem to have fallen before long into the hands of the Ottomans. The books which some of the Vladikas caused to be introduced into the country were all of a liturgical character; and there is no reason to believe that the Montenegrins derived any appreciable benefit from the Serbian press which existed at Skodra in the sixteenth century.
The period of the elective Vladikas of the Crnagora synchronizes with the epoch during which the House of Othman attained to the zenith of its power. The largest part of the population over which it ruled within the limits of its European dominions, belonged to the Slavonic race; and, with the exception of the Shkipetars of Albania, most of whom were converted to Mohammedanism principally during the seventeenth century, the most powerful mainstay of its power on this side of the Bosphorus consisted of the Bosnians, whose adherence to the tenets of the Koran had, in all probability, been a more or less direct result of the persecutions that had long been directed against the Bogomilians by Catholic and Orthodox alike. The corps of Janissaries was recruited, at first, almost exclusively from Slavs; and, if we may trust the testimony of Jovius, who wrote in the fourth decade of the sixteenth century, nearly all the members of that Praetorian Guard spoke Slavonic. Some of the most remarkable among the Viziers and Pashas of that epoch were Serbs, who carried on their diplomatic relations with the republic of Ragusa in their own language; and Slavonic was, in some cases, the medium of communication between Turkish and Venetian officials. The first treaty between the Turks and a Christian power had been the treaty concluded with the Ragusans in 1365; and though there was no talk as yet of admitting them into the European concert, their alliance was sought by such monarchs as Francis I of France. Yet, in spite of their military achievements, and in spite of the number of Slavonic renegades from whom they derived support, neither force of arms nor persuasion enabled the Turks to extend their domination over the Crnagora, the inhabitants of which disdained to become either Rayahs or renegades. Still the more exposed portions of the territory now included under that name contained numerous converts to Mohammedanism, who not only paid the haratch to their conquerors, but were ready at all times to lend a helping hand to the advancing enemy, and their presence in the valley of the Crnojevicka Rjecka and elsewhere is said to have given in reality more trouble to the loyal Montenegrins than the combined forces of the beyler beys of Roumelia and of Bosnia.
In the midst of its long struggle, Montenegro did not altogether escape the attention of Western Europe. The capture of Antibari and Dulcigno by the Turks, in the year in which the battle of Lepanto was fought, a capture which was formally recognized in the treaty of 1573, had, it is true, diverted the attention of Venice from those parts. Dulcigno became a notorious nest of pirates, and Antibari sank rapidly into decay. Cattaro, however, still remained in the hands of the Republic; numerous refugees from the district of Antibari sought refuge within its territory; and often did the Montenegrins render valuable assistance to the city, especially in 1538 and in 1657, when it was besieged and all but captured by the Turks. Again, the Montenegrins were brought into contact with the Venetian proveditore of Cattaro, inasmuch as it was they who carried on the postal communication between the shores of the Bocche and those of the Bosphorus. The necessity for the prompt delivery of dispatches addressed by the merchants of Venice to their agents at Constantinople, compelled them to seek the most rapid mode of conveyance. Accordingly the following plan was devised. As soon as a vessel reached Cattaro with dispatches from Venice, they were entrusted to the care of Montenegrin messengers, who received the protection, purchased by Venetian gold, of the various local chieftains through whose territory they passed, and who rode by way of Zlatica, through the Kuci and Clementi tribes, across the district of Plava, so called from a small mountain lake with wooded banks, which still bears that name, and past Pec (Ipek) and Novoselo, until at length they came to Pristina. Thence they journejed through Philippopolis and Adrianople, and arrived at Constantinople eighteen days after leaving Cattaro. A messenger received, for every journey he performed, fifteen talari in summer and twenty in winter. These details are made known to us by the testimony of Marino Bolizza, Venetian nobile of Cattaro, who was sent to Montenegro in 1612 for the special purpose of organizing the postal service on a more secure basis, by entering into negotiations with the various tribes, and by substituting definitively the new route for the old route which passed from Cattaro to Pristina by way of the Herzegovina, and which entailed a delay of four days in each direction, besides involving additional expenditure. It appears, however, that the passage through the territory of the Kuci and Clementi was attended with so much difficulty, that it was found necessary to revert ultimately to the old route; and the dispatches were subsequently conveyed by Montenegrins across the mountains of the Herzegovina.
The “relation” presented by Bolizza to the Signorie deals separately with Montenegro, Antibari, Dulcigno, Skodra, Podgorica, and Plava, and contains many facts of interest and importance. It describes, for instance, how the inhabitants of the Crnagora were in the habit of feeding their herds from May until October upon the heights between Cattaro and Cettinje. It speaks of the magnificent forests of ash, beech, and fir on the slopes and in the neighborhood of Mount Lovcen. It indicates that the climate must have been warmer and more equable in the sixteenth century than it is at present. The vine appears to have been grown at a greater height than it is now. The statistics which Bolizza gives are so precise as to invite scepticism. Montenegro—in the sense in which he uses the term—is said by him to have contained 93 villages, 3,524 houses, and 8,027 men capable of bearing arms. Of these only 600 were armed with the handjar. Above all, the narrative of Bolizza exhibit in a clear light the relative position of the Turks and Montenegrins. Giovanni Battista Giustiniano, who travelled in Dalmatia in 1533, without, however, setting foot within the confines of the Crnagora, could speak of the Black Mountain as peopled with subjects of the Ottoman. Bolizza, who was better acquainted with the facts of the case, makes it plain that, although the Turks laid claim to tribute, they were wholly unable to enforce its payment on the part of those at least who dwelt in the Katunska nahia; but that, as has already been pointed out, there existed, side by side with the free Montenegro of which Cettinje formed the centre, what may be called an “unredeemed Montenegro”, consisting of the outlying districts peopled mostly by Mohammedanized Slavs with an intermixture, here and there, of Albanians.
The possibility of deriving assistance from the brave inhabitants of the Crnagora was not entirely left out of sight by those whose aim it was to drive the Turks out of Europe. It is hardly necessary to do more than allude to the schemes entertained by Charles Emanuel I, Duke of Savoy, whose ambitious temperament, not content with aspiring at one time to the throne of France and at another to the Imperial crown of Charles the Great, prompted him to come forward as the successor of Andronicus the Elder, from whom he was descended through the Montferrat branch of the Palaeologi. This design, however, did not stand alone, but formed part of a vast project the conception of which had been originated
and matured, in all probability, in the fertile brain of one of Philip III’s ministers. It was arranged, first, that the Pope should effect the conquest of Egypt with the aid of Tuscan and Venetian troops, and should thereupon hand that country over to Spain, in order that the road to India might be secured in its possession; secondly, that Venice should receive as a compensation certain islands in the Grecian Archipelago; and, thirdly, that the Duke of Savoy should make himself master of Cyprus, which had been bequeathed to him by Queen Carlotta, as well as of Albania, Macedonia, and the adjoining countries, with a view to the ultimate attainment of his ends. Accordingly, in 1608, he entered into relations with the nobles of Bosnia and Macedonia, and, more particularly, with the Serbian Patriarch, who promised “to convoke the lords temporal and spiritual of Serbia, and to crown the duke King, in accordance with the ancient traditions handed down by the Patriarch Saint Sava and by Saint Simeon Nemanja”. No express mention is made of Montenegro in the documents that bear upon these transactions, although it was clearly meant to be comprised within the dominions of Charles Emanuel, and although one of the agents employed in connection with the negotiations would seem to have been a descendant of the last ruler of the House of Crnojevic. The project, however, remained unfulfilled; and the treaty which the Duke concluded at Brussels, in 1610, with Henry IV of France, diverted his attention from the Balkan peninsula to the Milanese, by placing within his reach a prize more easy to grasp, more valuable to possess.
A second project, no less chimerical than the first, and more closely related to Montenegro, was formed about the same time by Charles II Gonzaga, Duke of Nevers, Mayenne and Rethel, who also claimed to be the descendant of Andronicus the Elder, and who endeavored to secure the assistance of France for a scheme similar in character to that which Charles Emanuel had attempted to carry out with the aid of Spain. In 1612 his agents had already penetrated into the Morea, and were engaged in the work of raising an insurrection among the inhabitants of Maina. Two years later a representative gathering of priests and warriors from several of the provinces that lay under the Turkish yoke, met within the confines of the Kuci tribe, not far from the borders of the free Crnagora, under the auspices of the Serbian Patriarch.
The occasion of the gathering was the imposition of a heavy tax by the Porte upon the clergy of the Orthodox Church: the real object was to organize a concerted movement on a large scale, and with the help of Western resources, against the oppressors. It was resolved that arms and ammunition should be introduced simultaneously into Montenegro and into the mountains of the Cimeriots, nearly opposite to the island of Corfu. From those inaccessible strongholds, “neither of which had ever paid tribute to the Grand Signior”, it would be possible to distribute the necessaries of war among the Ducagins, the Piperi, the Clementi, the Bjelopavici, the Kuci, and other tribes, amounting altogether to 30,000 men, to whom might be added 12,000 more from Serbia, the Herzegovina, Bosnia, and Macedonia. Vallona, Croja, Zabliak, and Castelnuovo were to be seized first, and to form the basis of all subsequent operations. It was expected that a general rising would then take place; that a large Slavonic and Albanian force would be able to march against Adrianople, increasing its numbers as it advanced; that the Bulgarians, and perhaps even the Moldavians and Wallachians, would render active assistance, and that finally Constantinople itself would be restored to Christendom. A copy of the resolution embodying these bold designs was sent to the Duke of Nevers, who continued for the next few years to devote his energies to the furtherance of his scheme. Acting upon the advice of Father Joseph, the subsequently famous confessor of Richelieu, he established an order of Christian Militia, equipped five vessels, endeavored at one time to connect the movement with Spain, Germany, Poland, and Italy, and made further efforts, especially is 1618, to rouse the men of Maina into action. One of his agents, M. de Châteaurenaud, after visiting the Morea, journeyed to Vienna, where they met the Archbishop of Trnovo and endeavored, through him, to enter into direct relations with the general body of the Bulgarian clergy.
Lastly, on All Saints’ Day, 1619, Father Joseph, in his capacity of Papal commissioner proclaimed a new Crusade from the pulpit of the Cathedral of Nevers, and received the oaths of all who were desirous of taking part in it. But the days when Crusades were possible had long gone by : the zeal of Peter the Hermit would have been of no avail; and when Charles became Duke of Mantua, all thoughts of carrying out the enterprise were speedily abandoned. The most significant fact in this strange episode, with its fair beginning and its impotent conclusion, is undoubtedly the gathering in the Kuci territory, exhibiting as it does in a clear light the position held by Montenegro towards the beginning of the seventeenth century, the unity which prevailed between the Serbs and the Northern Shkipetars, the desire for concerted action against the common enemy which was felt by the Christians of the Balkan peninsula, whether Catholic or Orthodox, and to whatever race they belonged, and, more remarkable still, the hopes that were aroused at a time when the Ottoman power was virtually at its height. Thus it was that substance was imparted, in the estimation of many, to what was nothing in itself but the shadow of a dream.
Of more real importance than the schemes of the Duke of Savoy and of the Duke of Nevers was the decision at which the Diet of Pressburg arrived in 1659, years before the great battle of St. Gotthard, at which the Imperial general Montecuculi defeated the whole Turkish army under Ahmed Kiuprili. It was resolved to impress upon the Venetian Signorie the desirability of inducing “the people who dwelt near Cattaro and were called Montenegrins” to engage in active hostilities against the Beyler Bey of Bosnia, in order thereby to divert his attention from Wallachia and render his forces unavailable for distant enterprise. This resolution, which was probably suggested by the Venetians themselves, indicates the growing importance of Montenegro at a time when the brightness of the Crescent was beginning to wane. The defeat of Kara Mustapha by Sobieski before the walls of Vienna was followed by the long and eventful campaign which restored Hungary to Europe; and the second battle of Mohacz, fought on the 12th of August, 1687, undid the work which had been done by the victory gained on that same field by Solyman I nearly a century and a half before. Large portions of Serbia and Bosnia now fell into the hands of the Austrians; George Brankovic, who claimed descent from the princely family of that name, styled himself “despot of Illyria, Serbia, Syrmia, Moesia, and Bosnia”, and attempted to arouse a national movement among the Southern Slavs, passed the remaining years of his life in captivity at Eger, where he busied himself with writing his country’s history, towards the making of which he was unable to contribute; and it seemed, for a time, as if the House of Habsburg was destined not only to expel the House of Othman from Europe, but also to take its place. In the meantime the progress of the Venetian arms was attended with like success. The Morea was conquered by Morosini, and the Dalmatian frontier was advanced. In 1687 the Venetian general Cornaro, acting in this respect in accordance with the advice tendered twenty-eight years previously to the Republic by the Diet of Pressburg, allied himself with the Montenegrins, who shortly afterwards gained a brilliant victory over the Turks, in the neighborhood of Castelnuovo, and under the leadership of Vuceta Bogdanovic. Though the Republic bestowed gold medals and pensions upon individual Montenegrins who had distinguished themselves in the battle, and granted plots of land to the families of the fallen, she abandoned the Crnagora when the aid of its mountain-warriors was no longer required, and withdrew the forces that had been sent under the command of Grbicic for the purpose of cooperating with them against the Ottomans. The consequence was that the Pasha of Skodra, Suleiman, assisted by the Montenegrin renegades, succeeded, after a battle which is said to have lasted no less than eight days, in advancing with part of his army as far as Cettinje. The monastery was blow up by a monk on the approach of the enemy; and the Turks found themselves compelled before long to retire from the country, whereupon its inhabitants descended from the heights on which they had sought a temporary refuge, and rebuilt their burnt-down villages.
In spite of the assistance which it had rendered to the Venetians, and also, though in a less direct manner, to the Emperor Leopold I, at the time (1690) when he issued his manifesto to the Southern Slavs, exciting them to action against the Ottomans and promising support, and when he induced the Serbian patriarch to migrate with a large number of Serbs into his dominions, Montenegro was unnamed in the treaty of Carlowitz. Yet, however desirable some such mention would have been, its absence was not fraught with consequences injurious to the welfare of the principality, inasmuch as the year 1697 had witnessed the election to the office of Vladika of Danilo Petrovic Njegus, under whom Montenegro emerged from the obscurity in which it had remained for nearly two centuries, and resumed a position that accorded better with its intrinsic importance. A native of the village of Njegus, that lies between Cattaro and Cettinje, and into which his family had migrated from the Herzegovina—though whether the family gave its name to the village, or the village to the family, is uncertain—Danilo was chosen at the early age of twenty to perform the functions of spiritual and secular ruler of the people, and set himself to the task of accomplishing the regeneration of his country. In order to effect this result it was clearly necessary to destroy the power of the numerous Slavonic renegades who dwelt in what has been called the “unredeemed Montenegro” and to whose assistance the pasha of Skodra was indebted for such successes as he had been able to gain against the free inhabitants of the Montenegrin highlands. An event which occurred in 1702 strengthened Danilo’s resolution. A Christian community of Serbs, who lived in the neighborhood of Podgorica and were subject to Turkish rule, had invited him to descend into their midst for the purpose of consecrating a church, and a safe-conduct had been granted to him by Demir Pasha. As soon, however, as he arrived, he was thrown into prison, and afterwards led forth to execution, bearing the stake on which he was condemned to be impaled; and it was only at the last moment, when bribed by an exorbitant ransom which was paid, in a great measure, by the metropolitan of the Herzegovina, that Demir allowed Danilo to be released. Then followed the “Sicilian Vespers” of Montenegro, an act of stern retaliation. On Christmas Eve, 1702, the Montenegrins rose like one man and put to the sword all Mohammedans, whether Turks or Slavs or Albanians, who dwelt within the borders of their land; but the children of the renegades were spared, together with the women and all who consented to forswear the Koran and be baptized. A hymn of triumph, breathing the spirit of a Gideon or a Joab, recounts the terrors of that night. “The hallowed eve draws onwards. The brothers Martinovic kindle their consecrated torches. They pray fervently to the new-born God. Each drains a cup of wine; and, seizing the sacred torches, they rush forth into the darkness. Wherever there was a Turk, there came the five avengers. They that would not be baptized were hewn down every one. They that embraced the Cross were taken as brothers before the Vladika. Gathered in Cettinje, the people hailed with songs of joy the reddening dawn of the Christmas morning; all Crnagora was now free”.
It has been said that “for those human beings with whom the Turk forced himself into contact, and who refused to betray their faith, there were no alternatives but two : if not savages they must be slaves, if not slaves they must come near to being savages”. It is while estimating events like that which has been described, that there is most need of historical objectivity: we are too apt to judge the actions performed by men in other ages and countries by reference to principles current among ourselves; nor are we sufficiently careful to take into due consideration the particular circumstances of the case. No one would attempt to excuse the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, unless he were making it his aim to defend a paradox; but the massacre of Christmas Eve, 1702, was an act of self-defense arising out of the inexorable exigencies of the situation, and the only apology for which is to be found in the necessity upon which it was based. A new life was infused into the people of the Crnagora, which became from that time, to a far greater extent than it had been before, the refuge of Serbian independence. The Crmnica ceased to pay the wonted haratch to the Pasha of Skodra. More important still was the accession of the Brda, which, although it was not formally incorporated with Montenegro until the close of the eighteenth century, was virtually united, for weal or woe, with the Crnagora, in the narrower sense of the term, a few years after the event of 1702.
The need for the establishment of the central power upon a basis sufficiently strong to meet the difficulties and dangers consequent upon the increase of territory, and the unsatisfactory character of the arrangements that had existed until then, induced Danilo to modify the constitution, with the full consent of the people, by making the office of Vladika hereditary in his own family. It was agreed that the Vladika should henceforth nominate his successor in his will, and that the nomination should be regarded as valid if it received the sanction of the assembled Montenegrins. Thus the rights of the people were preserved intact, whilst the evils resulting from the existence of an elective monarchy were carefully avoided. In this one respect the constitution established by Danilo resembles that of Poland in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It should be observed, however, that what came first in the one case came last in the other. The Polish monarchy, which was nominally elective but really hereditary under the Jagellons, became elective both in name and in reality after the extinction of that dynasty. In Montenegro the change that was brought about was in a diametrically opposite direction, inasmuch as the office of Vladika, which had before been elective both in name and in reality, became really hereditary, though nominally elective. In this manner the feebleness and anarchy which would inevitably have followed upon the retention of the old system, and of which unmistakable signs had long since begun to appear, were effectively staved off by the introduction of a new order of things.
THE OFFICE OF VLADIKA—CHARACTERISTIC features of Montenegro’s ecclesiastical history viewed in connection with that of the Eastern Church.
The constitutional change by which the office of Vladika was made virtually hereditary in the family of Danilo Petrovic Njegus, affords a favourable opportunity for examining the origin and nature of that remarkable institution; and such an enquiry necessarily involves some account of the Montenegrin Church as a whole, and in its relation to the remainder of the Eastern Church.
The word Vladika meant originally a powerful person, or ruler, and appears to have been connected with the headship of the House Communities. Traces of that signification may be found in its use, at the time of the Nemanjids, as the equivalent of the Byzantine worddespotes, and in several Slavonic languages, as for example in Czech, it has preserved unimpaired its original signification. Among the Serbs, however, it was gradually specialized, and came to denote a bishop. The title of Vladika, which belonged to the rulers of Montenegro from the commencement of the sixteenth century until the year 1851, though used in the Serbian sense of the word, may be said to unite in itself the notion of secular power with that of episcopal rank in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The position of the Vladikas of the Crnagora has been compared, from a constitutional point of view, to that of the Popes of Rome, with their combination of spiritual with temporal power; and the resemblance is certainly remarkable in the case of those who ruled from the time of Vavil to that of Sava Ocinic, the predecessor of Danilo. The following difference should, however, be noted. The power of the Popes was primarily spiritual, and it was only incidentally that they became temporal sovereigns. The Vladikas, on the other hand, were bishops because they were princes, not princes because they were bishops. This was so especially during the last century and a half of their rule. The episcopal dignity was with them little more than an inseparable accident. And although the existence of a civil governor would seem, at first sight, to militate against this view, it should be remembered that he was in reality a mere agent to whom the Vladika delegated the non-ecclesiastical portion of his power, and from whom he was always at liberty to require its resignation—as was actually the case in 1832, when Peter II abolished altogether the subordinate office.
Another remarkable feature in the rule of the Vladikas is the hereditary character which it may be said to have acquired under Danilo, and to have retained until the middle of the nineteenth century. That hereditary character furnishes a proof of the subordination of the spiritual to the temporal element in the office. As it was, the system gave rise to considerable practical difficulties. By the rules of the Orthodox Church, although the lower clergy are allowed, and in some countries, such as Russia, compelled to marry, celibacy is incumbent upon the upper ranks of the hierarchy. Consequently the Vladika was necessarily succeeded by his nephew or by some other near relation. And some there were whom the prohibition to marry actually deterred from entering upon the functions which would in the ordinary course of events have devolved upon them. The artificial character of the system is too obvious to require comment; and it is not surprising that the enlightened prince, Danilo, the namesake of him who inaugurated the line of hereditary Vladikas, should have introduced, or rather restored, a more natural condition of things, such as had obtained at the time when the Crnojevic were rulers of the Crnagora.
A parallel to the hereditary functions of the Montenegrin bishops has been found in the Nestorians, or Chaldeans, among whom the succession of Patriarchs has been confined to one family since the time of Simeon I, who lived in the latter half of the fifteenth century. There, however, the parallel ends; and the points of difference are more conspicuous than the one point of agreement.
The existence of an institution at all resembling that of the hereditary prince- bishops of Montenegro, would scarcely have been possible outside the pale of the Eastern Church. That Church presents to an attentive observer three practical aspects of the highest importance. In the first place, its history is marked throughout by a close union between Church and State, and it is almost invariably the civil power which has succeeded, in practice, though not necessarily in theory, in securing its own ascendency. The most characteristic scene in the career of the Western Church is that of an Emperor shivering in the snow at the gates of the castle of Canossa, an event for which it would be impossible to find a parallel in the records of the Eastern Church. The Patriarchs of Constantinople, for instance, though they refused to recognize the supremacy of the Pope, were in the habit of performing the bidding of the Byzantine Emperors; and their subserviency to the established rulers of the day continued long after the Imperial City had passed into the hands of its Mohammedan conquerors. Again, it may be said that the close union between the civil and the ecclesiastical power has been one of the principal causes of the second great characteristic of the Eastern Church, namely, its capacity for adapting itself to the special requirements of the various countries that have adhered to its doctrines, and of becoming the national Church of the nations that have arisen in Europe out of, or in connection with, the Byzantine Empire. To mention only the divisions of the Eastern Church in Europe, the Churches of Greece, Russia, Roumania, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria, are independent alike of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and of one another, and are truly national Churches. In Russia, for example, this became manifest to all men in 1589, when the Metropolitan of Moscow was raised by the Czar to the position of Russian Patriarch, and at the time of Peter the Great, when the office of Patriarch was abolished lest it should become too powerful, and a Holy Synod, or commission of bishops with an Imperial representative, was substituted for it. Even the existence of numerous sects, such as that of the Old Believers, constitutes one of those exceptions that prove a rule : for they separate themselves from the national Church not because it is connected with the State, but because they dissent from certain of its doctrines, and they continue to revere it as the embodiment of the national spirit. The third characteristic of the Eastern Church is its essentially Graeco-Slavonic nature; and even of the Roumanians who are members of the Orthodox Church, it may be said that they possess much in common both with the Greeks and with the Slavs, though they belong to a different race. Nor should it be forgotten that the process by which the Orthodox Church became to a great extent, Slavonic, as far as numerical preponderance is concerned, imparted to it a more practical character than it had previously possessed, rescued it in part from the maze of theological metaphysics within which it had been confined by the dialectical subtlety of the Greek mind, and increased its “Catholicity” without rendering it less “Orthodox”.
The question now arises: In what relation did the Vladikas of Montenegro, in their episcopal capacity, stand to the remainder of the Eastern Church? The answer, in obtaining which it is necessary to bear in mind the above-mentioned characteristic features, is that they occupied a position of virtual independence, which traces its origin back to a comparatively early period in Serbian history, and which became more and more accentuated as time went on. The conversion of the Serbs had been effected indirectly by the missionary work of Cyril and Methodius; and the consequence was that they were naturally indisposed to accept in their entirety the principles and practices of the Western Church, or to recognize the supremacy of the Pope. Stephen Nemanja had been baptized a Catholic; but, by founding the monastery of Chilandar on Mount Athos, as well as by other acts of his reign, he strengthened the bonds that united him to the Eastern form of Christianity. His youngest son St. Sava, the first archbishop of the Orthodox Church in Serbia, was consecrated in 1221 by the Byzantine Patriarch Germanos, established his residence at Zica (Uschitza)—the Serbian Kiew—and divided the land into twelve episcopal sees which were filled by Serbs. At the same time the political emancipation of Serbia from the Byzantine Empire led to the formation by Dusan, in 1346, of a separate Patriarchate at Pec (Ipek), in no way subject to the Patriarch of Constantinople. Thus the Eastern Church, in accordance with the capacity it has always exhibited for becoming decentralized without losing thereby its essential unity, developed, in the Serbian branch of the Slavonic race, into a national Serbian institution. When the principality of the Zeta rose into prominence after the death of Dusan, it remained in close connection with the national form of religion ; and although the three sons of Balsa I acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of Urban V, and entertained amicable relations with Gregory XI, the steps they took in that matter were designed above all for the purpose of conciliating their Albanian subjects,—partly, too, in order to facilitate their intercourse with the Venetians, and partly in accordance with the example set by Milutin Uros, by Dusan, and by other Serbian rulers, who had purchased the Papal recognition of their authority by the semblance of submission to his supremacy. Nor were they, perhaps, altogether uninfluenced by the repeated attempts of the Palaeologi to renew relations with the Western Church. In any case there is no reason to believe that the Slavonic subjects of the Balsas abandoned in any sense the Church of their fathers, their nation, and their race.
Enough has already been said to show how earnest was the desire of the princes who belonged to the House of Crnojevic, to make their dominions the home of Orthodoxy. When Stephen built the monastery in the isle of Kom, when Ivan gave to the bishop of Cettinje the title of Metropolitan of the Zeta—a title which was, as has been seen, of ancient date,—and when George established the printing-press at Obod, it was their endeavour to promote the interests of the Eastern Church in Montenegro. They followed the period of the elective Metropolitans, who concentrated in their hands the civil and ecclesiastical power, and who were consecrated in most cases doubtless by the Patriarch of Pec (Ipek). The relation of the Montenegrin Church to the Serbian Patriarch continued to be of an intimate character after the office of Vladika had become hereditary in the family of Danilo. When in 1690 the Patriarch Arsenije Crnojevic, himself a native of the Crnagora, migrated into Hungary, at the invitation of the Emperor Leopold, with a large number of Serbian families from Upper Rascia, it was natural that the Vladikas should be sent for consecration to the newly-settled lands. Thus, in 1700, Danilo was consecrated by Arsenije at Secuj in Hungary. The Patriarchate of Pec, however, lasted until the year 1766, when, owing mainly to the intrigues of the Patriarch of Constantinople with the Sultan, it terminated, after an existence of more than four centuries, with Vassilije Ivanovic Brkic, who was expelled by the Turks and sought refuge in the free Crnagora. From that time it became necessary for the bishops, when they succeeded, to seek consecration far away from their mountain home. Peter I was consecrated bishop at Carlowitz by the Metropolitan Putnik, Peter II at St. Petersburg; and, since the year 1857, when Prince Danilo secularized the supreme power and assigned to the “Metropolitan of Crnagora, Brda, Skodraand Primorje”, a purely ecclesiastical position, it has become customary for the latter to be consecrated in Russia by the Holy Synod.
Thus the ecclesiastical history of Montenegro presents several points of the deepest interest. It is remarkable for the hereditary character which for a century and half belonged to its Vladikas, together with the combination of civil, military and ecclesiastical power in the hands of one man, a combination at first sight suggestive of a theocracy. The close union of Church and State has been shown to be in harmony with the general principles of the Eastern Church. One of the canons of a council which Innocent III caused to be held at Dioclea in 1199, at a time when that region still adhered unhesitatingly to the Western Church, commences with the words, “Forasmuch as the powers established by God are two in number”. In the independent principality which arose out of the ancient Duklja, those two powers, far from being regarded as fundamentally opposed to one another, were, for a considerable period at least, inseparably combined. Again, the immunity of the Montenegrin national Church from foreign control, together with the closeness of the connection in which it has stood, or is standing, with the Serbian and Russian divisions of the Orthodox Church, illustrates, to a great extent, the nature of Montenegro’s place in the aggregate of nations, as a political unit which has acquired and developed to the full its national independence, and yet is bound by indissoluble ties to the other members, however distant, however scattered, of the Slavonic race.
GROWTH OF THE POWER of Russia—Peter the Great enters into relations with Danilo—Vicissitudes of warfare with the Turks—Sava Petrovid Njegus—Vassilije—Projects of the Empress Catherine—Appearance of Stephen the Little in Montenegro, claiming to be Peter the Third—Death of Sava.
Of all the events which affected the destinies of Montenegro at the time of Danilo, none was fraught with consequences of greater moment to the principality than the commencement of its relations with Russia. It would be impossible, within the present limits, to give an account of the manner in which that great Empire began to influence the history of the Balkan peninsula. Such an account would naturally go back to the middle of the ninth century, when Askold and Dir sailed across the Black Sea and ravaged the neighborhood of Constantinople; it would relate the successive invasions of Oleg, Ivor, and Swatoslaw in the tenth century, and of the great Jaroslaw in the eleventh; and it would tell how, even at that early period, the Varangian rulers of Russia deemed Bulgaria on the Danube a prize of greater worth than Bulgaria on the Volga, and regarded Peristhlaba, rather than Kiew, as the central point of their Empire. But the power of their successors was impaired by civil strife; and for centuries the development of the Russian people was arrested, except in a few large towns, and its energy crushed by the Mongol conquest, whilst the pressure exercised by Poland in the West produced results that were scarcely less pernicious. It was not until the close of the fifteenth century that Ivan the Terrible, Czar of Muscovy, was able to emancipate his dominions from the yoke of the Golden Horde, and, by the annexation of various principalities, to prepare the way for an outburst of national energy which had long been suppressed, though ample proof of its existence had been afforded four, five, and even six hundred years before. Most significant of Ivan’s ambitious designs was his marriage with Sophia, a supposed descendant of the Palaeologi, and his consequent assumption of their claims. Of the wars which the Russians carried on with the Tartars of the Crimea and with the Turks before the time of Peter the Great it is needless to speak. Suffice it to say that the power of Russia continued to increase and to extend itself in all directions. With the accession of Peter in 1689 commences a new era in the relations of that Empire with the Balkan peninsula. As early as the year 1645 Russia appears to have been regarded by the Venetian Signorie as the natural protector of the Christians under Turkish rule but it was Peter the Great who first made it one of the main principles of his policy to come forward as the champion of the Rayahs against their oppressors, and to take upon himself a function which Venice was too feeble to fulfill.
In estimating the motives which induced the Czar to pursue these aims, it is necessary, doubtless, to take into account his personal ambition. Yet even an autocrat is utterly unable to frame a great and enduring policy unless it represents forces that are at work among his people, and unless it follows the stream of national tendency, of which it is his chief merit to have discerned the direction. In the Russia of Peter the Great three forces of paramount importance were at work. First there was the natural and ever-increasing tendency of the people to expansion, which sought a field for its proper development; secondly, the religious, crusading zeal, which desired to rescue the Orthodox Christians of the Balkan peninsula from the Moslem yoke; and, thirdly, a subtle sympathy—discernible even then, though it was only at a much later period that it rose into marked prominence—which was felt by the Slavonic or Slavonized part of the population inhabiting the Russian Empire for those who, like themselves, were Slavs, but who, unlike themselves, were still in bondage.
Peter the Great saw this, and saw it distinctly. When in February, 1711, in consequence of the events which followed the battle of Pultowa and the escape of Charles XII into Turkish territory, a war broke out between Russia and the Turks, the Czar strove to impart to the struggle a religious character; and the standards beneath which marched the legions of “Holy Russia” bore on the one side the device “In the name of God and for the cause of Christianity”, and on the other the representation of a cross with the inscription “In hoc signo vinces”.
At the same time endeavours were made to connect the movement with the Greek, the Rouman, and the Slavonic nationalities which inhabited the Balkan peninsula and belonged to the Orthodox Church. Acting in accordance with the advice of a Ragusan merchant named Sava Vladisavljevic, a Herzegovinan by birth, who had entered the Russian army, had translated into Russian the work of Orbini on the Slavs and was subsequently rewarded with the title of Count of Ragusa, Peter dispatched two envoys—one of whom, Michael Miloradovic, was a native of the Herzegovina, while the other, Ivan Lucacevid was born at Podgorica—with a manifesto addressed to the Vladika Danilo and couched in language similar to that which was used in the proclamations that were sent to the Albanians, Macedonians, and Bosnians who were subject to the Porte. In another proclamation, issued by Miloradovic in the Czar’s name to the starjesinas of the different House Communities in Montenegro, the independence of the principality was distinctly recognized. This took place one hundred and sixty-eight years before the Congress of Berlin. No wonder that the Slavs of the peninsula, whether bond or free, began to look upon the Czar as the true champion of their liberty and of their faith, and that the Ragusan poets, Gradic and Rujic, celebrated in song the glory of his achievements.
The Montenegrins now invaded simultaneously the Herzegovina and Albania, with the assistance of the Clementi and a few other Shkipetar tribes, and continued to carry on an active warfare in the enemy’s dominions for several months after the Czar had been surrounded on the banks of the Pruth, and compelled to sign the ignominious treaty of the 21st of July, 1711. In the spring of the following year the Sultan Achmet III despatched an army amounting, according to the lowest computation, to 60,000 men for the purpose of reducing the Crnagora into subjection. The two armies met in the neighborhood of Podgorica. The voivodes Mitjunovic and Gjuraskovic, heroes of many a pjesma, led the wings, and the prince-bishop in person was in command of the center. In the battle which ensued the Turks were driven back with terrible losses, and allowed no less than eighty-six standards to fall into the hands of their opponents. Gjuraskovic himself was among the slain, Danilo and Mitjunovic among the wounded; but the total losses of the Montenegrins were comparatively insignificant. Two years later, however, after incurring many reverses, the Turks, under the leadership of the Grand Vizier Damad Ali, the Ali Coumourgi of Byron, invaded Montenegro to the number—it is said—of 120,000 men, treacherously seized and put to death 37 glavari, or captains, whom they had induced to enter the Turkish camp for the purpose of discussing terms of peace, and advanced into the heart of the Katunska nahia. Cettinje was occupied, for the second time, by an Ottoman force; its monastery was again destroyed, a large number of villages were burnt to the ground, and women and children were carried off into slavery. Montenegro seemed at length to be overwhelmed by the wave of calamity. But Damad Ali was soon compelled by want of provisions to withdraw from the inhospitable land; his vast and unwieldy army suffered much from the guerilla warfare of the mountaineers; and, war having broken out between the Venetians and the Turks partly in consequence of the aid which the former were said to have furnished to the Montenegrins, the Grand Vizier advanced into Greece (1715), where he besieged and captured Corinth and wrested the Morea from the Signorie.
Danilo now performed the journey to St. Petersburg for the purpose of obtaining pecuniary aid from Peter the Great in order to enable the Montenegrins to rebuild their homes. The Czar bestowed upon him 10,000 roubles, together with 160 gold medals for distribution among the bravest warriors, and promised to contribute a yearly sum of 500 roubles towards the maintenance of the Church and Monastery of Cettinje, which were rebuilt about nine years afterwards (1724) by the Vladika.
The last twenty years of Danilo’s life were marked by repeated victories gained over the Turks. He assisted the Venetians in 1717, when Alvise Mocenigo laid siege to Antibari; and, in the following year, he appeared before Dulcigno with a force of 5000 Montenegrins for the purpose of cooperating with Schulenburg in the campaign against that city, a campaign which came to an end on the arrival of the news that the peace of Passarowitz had been signed and the interests of Venice had been sacrificed to those of her allies. Nor should it be forgotten that, by keeping the attention of the Ottoman generals engaged, Danilo had prevented them from opposing their full strength to the forces of Prince Eugene. Although he extended the boundaries of Montenegro in different directions, his influence was felt far beyond its limits, and his ecclesiastical authority over the Orthodox population of the Bocche and of the neighboring districts was recognized even by the Venetian Signorie, notwithstanding the fact that Catholic prelates, such as the energetic Vincent Zmajevic, who was archbishop first of Antibari and afterwards of Zara, complained loudly of his proselytizing disposition. In Montenegro he is still revered as one of the greatest and best of the Vladikas.
His nephew Sava Petrovic Njegus, who succeeded him in 1735, was a man of a very different type. Endowed with a gentle, unambitious temperament, he was ill adapted to be a ruler over Montenegrins, especially in the stirring times in which his lot was cast; and throughout the eventful period of forty-seven years during the greater part of which he exercised the functions of prince-bishop, he allowed his personality to remain in the background. In 1742 he visited the Empress Elizabeth at Moscow, and returned by way of Berlin, where he received a cross of gold from Frederick the Great. But the dissensions which prevailed among the inhabitants of the various plemena, or subdivisions of the Montenegrinnahie, in consequence of the feebleness exhibited by the central administration, induced Sava to retire before long into the monastery of Stanjevic, and to entrust the reins of power to the hands of his cousin Vassilije, who was consecrated in 1750 by the Patriarch of Pec, though for several years before that date he was practically in possession of full power. Vigorous measures were now taken for the preservation of order, and among the changes that took place was the appointment of a new civil governor, Stanislas Radonic Njegus, in whose family that office remained an heirloom until it was finally abolished in the nineteenth century by Peter II.
These reforms, by consolidating the power of Montenegro, enabled it to offer adequate resistance to the various attacks directed against it by the Turks whilst Vassilije was ruler, and to prevent a repetition of the calamities of 1714. The principal object of the pashas of Skodra and of Bosnia was to recover the allegiance of the Piperi and Kuci tribes, which formed part of the Brda and had united their fortunes, for all practical purposes, with those of the Crnagora; but in the attempts which they made the Turkish generals signally failed, and a protracted battle fought near Niksic (Onogost) in 1754 culminated in the complete victory of the Montenegrins, whose success was rendered all the more difficult owing to the fact that the Venetians, fearing lest they should be involved in a fresh war with the Turks, had prohibited the importation of all ammunition from their territory into the Crnagora. The Sultan now endeavored to adopt a conciliatory attitude, without, however, abating in any degree his arrogant pretensions; but his overtures were rejected, and defeats of a still more serious character were inflicted on the Turkish troops in the campaign of 1756. Ten years later Vassilije died at St. Petersburg, on the occasion of his third journey to that city. In the course of those journeys he had made known the claims of his people to the sympathy of Christian and Slavonic Russia by causing a brief account of their national exploits to be printed at Moscow in 1754; munificent gifts and other marks of good-will had been bestowed upon him first by Elizabeth and afterwards by Catherine; and not the least important of the results he achieved was to enable a number of young Montenegrins to receive at St. Petersburg a military education in conformity with the improvements recently effected in the art of war.
At the death of Vassilije the power necessarily reverted to the feeble hands of the Vladika Sava. Although he received an accession of strength from the presence in Montenegro of the last Patriarch of Pec, who had been expelled from his see by the Turks in consequence of Fanariot intrigues, he was unable to impose a check upon the forces of disorder which tended more and more to dissociate the various plemena from one another, and to make them independent of the central authority,—a tendency fraught with the greatest danger to the liberty of the principality, considering the paramount importance of national unity in the struggle against the Turks. As it was, the Crnagora was distracted by the feuds which prevailed between the leading families, and the customs of the vendetta lingered on with ominous persistency.
Such was the condition of things when, towards the beginning of the year 1766, there arose one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of Montenegro. A monk named Stephen, supposed to have been of Croatian origin, appeared in the village of Crncani near Budua, and caused a vague rumour to be circulated that he was Peter III, the murdered husband of Catherine II. The mystery which surrounds the person of the Czars has always been favourable to pretenders of the Perkin Warbeck type; in Russia itself at least seven persons put forward the same claim as the monk Stephen; and the simple-minded Serbian mountaineers were not likely to investigate such pretensions with critical impartiality. The influence of Russia among the inhabitants of the Balkan peninsula had increased rapidly since the days of Peter the Great. The peace which that Czar concluded with the Turks in 1720 allowed a Russian ambassador to reside at Constantinople, so that he was enabled to enter into direct relations with the Christian subjects of the Porte. The Oriental Project of Marshal Münnich found favour both with Anne and with Elizabeth, who prepared the way for the more earnest endeavours of Catherine II to make that project a reality. Nor was the good fortune of Russia unaffected by the rapid decline of Venice and of Poland, and by the necessity to which Austria was reduced, at the peace of Belgrade, to relinquish the districts in Bosnia, Wallachia, and Serbia, including even Belgrade, which had been assigned to her by the treaty of Passarowitz. Soon after the accession of Catherine in 1762, intrigues were commenced on a far more extensive scale than had previously been the case. The appearance, therefore, of a Russian envoy in Montenegro, for the purpose of making that country a basis of operations among the neighboring subjects of the Turk, considering the importance of its position, the independence which it had succeeded in preserving and the relations it had entertained with Russia, might at any time be expected. And was it a matter for surprise if the imagination of the Montenegrins exalted an adventurer into an agent, and an agent into the ruler of the land to which they owed so much? Was he not come in person to be the liberator of the unredeemed Serbs? The wish, in their case, was father to the thought, and they merely assumed the reality of that which they most desired to see.
Though denounced as an impostor by the Vladika Sava, the influence of Stephen Mali—Stephen the Little, as he was called—extended itself more and more. From the Primorje he transferred his abode to Cettinje and subsequently to Njegus; and he was able, before long, to persuade the chieftains to forego their petty feuds and to unite in one vigorous effort against the combined armies of the Beyler Beys of Roumelia and of Bosnia, who attacked Montenegro in 1768 with an army of greater magnitude than had ever been brought against it at any previous time. The former advanced from Niksic, the latter from Podgorica, while the pasha of Skodra endeavoured to invade the Crmnica nahia. Meanwhile Venetian troops guarded the frontier from Spica to Grahovo in order to prevent any ammunition from reaching the hands of the Montenegrins. The situation was highly critical; no cartridge could be obtained for less than a ducat, and the supply might cease at any moment. It has been said, however, that the best way of sending ammunition to the Montenegrins is to send it to their enemies : and in October they succeeded in capturing a convoy laden with powder and shot for the use of the Turkish forces. The unexpected succour renewed their courage, and on the twenty-eighth of that month was fought a battle which occupies in the history of the Crnagora a part similar to that which is filled in the history of England by the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The two main bodies of the Ottoman army, under the command of the two Beyler Beys, had united in the neighborhood of Cevo, and were defeated with great loss by a force many times inferior to their own. The resemblance which has been noted is heightened by the events which followed. On the first of November there broke out one of those mountain storms for the frequency and intensity of which Montenegro is conspicuous. The stores of gunpowder belonging to the Turks who were advancing against the Crmnica, were struck by lightning. Terrified by the explosion they turned to flight; and, on the same day, a similar catastrophe compelled the Venetians to withdraw to the cities of the coast. “Adflavit Deus et dissipati sunt”.
In the course of the following year, active hostilities, which were continued almost uninterruptedly until the conclusion of the treaty of Kainardji in 1774, were commenced between the Russians and the Turks. Catherine, acting in pursuance of the policy handed down by Peter the Great, developed by Münnich, expounded by Orloff and apotheosized by Voltaire, issued a manifesto to the Christian inhabitants of the Balkan peninsula, and dispatched Prince George Vladimirovic Dolgoruki with an Imperial Ukase to Montenegro. Landing in the neighborhood of Spica, he made his way with a numerous retinue and a large quantity of ammunition to Cettinje, where he read the proclamation before the assembled people. It referred to the interference of Russia in the affairs of Poland, for the purpose of securing for the Orthodox their proper share of the privileges which had hitherto been monopolized by the Catholic inhabitants of that kingdom; it set forth in brief terms the causes of the war, and invited the Montenegrins, as a free, Slavonic and Orthodox people, to unite in the war against the Turks. At the same time Dolgoruki took the opportune of declaring that Stephen Mali was a mere impostor. Yet, although he detained the false Czar in honorable captivity for nearly two months, until the time of his own departure for Russia, he perceived at length the weakness of Sava and the powerful hold which had been gained upon the imagination of the Montenegrins by Stephen; whereupon he not only allowed the latter to be released, but went so far as to commend him to the obedience of the people, and bestow upon him the uniform of a Russian staff officer. No important results were achieved by Dolgoruki’s mission, though the Montenegrins helped to divert the attention of the Turkish generals in Albania and the Herzegovina, thus rendering indirect assistance to the Russian fleet which startled not only the Porte but all Europe by penetrating through the straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean.
For six years—from 1768 to 1774—the monk Stephen maintained his position in the Crnagora, and gave countenance to the popular belief in his Imperial title by the measures of which he was the author. The administration of justice was reformed; life and property were rendered more secure; and it was while superintending the construction of a new road that Stephen lost his sight in the springing of a mine. He then retired into the monastery of Brcela, where he was assassinated by a Greek servant, at the instigation, it is said, of Kara Mahmoud, pasha of Skodra.
Considerable doubts have prevailed as to the nature of the support received by the false Peter from foreign powers. A strong impression existed at the time, especially among the Turks, to the effect that he was acting as the instrument of the Signorie’s ambitious policy; but, though that notion derives some support from the frequent relations entertained with him by the Venetian officers, as well as by the terms of praise in which they spoke of him, it is intrinsically improbable, and is practically dispelled by their conduct in regard to Montenegro in 1768, by their attempt to capture the monastery of Stanjevic in 1774, and by the ignorance displayed in the Venetian reports respecting Stephen’s real character. Nor, again, was he an agent of the Greek captain Papasoglou, who was sent by Gregory Orloff, Catherine’s ambitious lover, to establish relations with Maina in 1766; in which case the events of which he was the hero might be compared with the disturbances fomented almost simultaneously in Georgia by a Greek monk in the pay of Russia. That Dolgoruki himself regarded Stephen as a mere adventurer and not in any way as an agent, is made clear by his memoirs, which were written several years afterwards, at a time when he could no longer have any motive for concealing the truth. And, however involved the mazes of Russian diplomacy may be, it is inconceivable that one who claimed to be Peter II should have received official support, except under the pressure of extreme necessity, during the lifetime of Catherine. It seems best, therefore, to look upon him as one of those men who, by using their knowledge of human nature as a means of furthering their designs, contrive to push themselves into prominence, without any of the advantages to be derived from external aid, or from intellectual capacity in the higher sense of the term.
During the eight years that followed the death of the false Czar the government of the Crnagora remained in the hands of the aged Vladika Sava. The only event of importance that occurred during those years was the conclusion, in 1779, of an alliance between the Montenegrins and Maria Theresa. The independence of the principality was formally recognized, and one of the articles in the treaty stipulated that, if the Turks were compelled to evacuate Serbia, the whole of the Zeta as far as the Bojana, as well as the Herzegovina, should be united with the Crnagora and the Brda. Thus the period which elapsed between the accession of Danilo and the death of Sava in 1782 resulted in the acquisition of new allies, more trustworthy and more powerful than Venice, and gave to Montenegro a considerable increase of territory, whilst it suggested the possibility that its inhabitants might at length obtain the portion which was their due and for which they had so long contended.