Montenegro – a census like no other?

Eagerly awaited results from Montenegro’s April 2011 Census indicate that citizens are not prepared to fit neatly into the ‘boxes’ that nationalist social engineering has prepared for them.

By Spyros A. Sofos

After a close referendum result on independence back in 2006, Montenegro held its first post-statehood Census this spring and its statistical service started releasing the data generated earlier this week.

The 2011 Montenegro Census data were anticipated with both eagerness and trepidation, as they had the potential of destabilising or consolidating the process of state building. Just prior to the Census, the government and political parties had engaged in campaigns charged with nationalist rhetoric using posters, leaflets and promotional videos to promote their particular preferred outcomes. The outcome seems to have protracted a sense of societal insecurity amongst the Montenegrin population which seems quite split on issues of identity.

Since Monstat released the first results of the April 2011 census on Monday, various political parties and ethnic leaderships have been trying to deploy their own narratives as to their meaning.

The Croat National Council urged their potential constituency to give an unambiguous message through the Census: that they are Croats, their religion is Roman Catholicism and their language Croatian.The muftija of (Serbia’s) Sandzak, Muamer Zukorlić, and the Bosmian Reis ul Ulema, Mustafa Cerić, called on Montenegrin Muslims to declare Islam as their religion and their language as Bosnian. More importantly, they called on them to identity as Bosniaks (confirming and continuing a long process of rendering ‘Bosniak’ the default identity of Muslim Serbo-Croat speakers).

But the most intensely fought battle was the one to demarcate Montenegrins and Serbs, as the symbolic boundaries between the two are not clear. The battle lines encompassed language and ethnic labels, as the majority of Montenegrins and Serbs share Eastern Orthodoxy as their religion. The results of the Census were not welcome for any of the opponents. The number of those who declared they were Serbs declined slightly and those who described themselves as Montenegrin rose marginally, with all other ethnic groups remaining more or less stable.

On the other hand, the government’s linguistic reforms paid minimal dividends as the government’s preferred option, Montenegrin, is the language that only 36.97% of the population claim to speak. Serbian is the preferred language designation for 42.88% of the population, whilst Bosnian (as urged by the Muslim religious leaderships of Bosnia and the Sandzak) was cited by only 5.33%.

The Census indicates that citizens are not prepared to fit neatly into the ‘boxes’ that nationalist social engineering has prepared for them. They reveal several eloquent ambiguities such as Muslims who do not see themselves as Bosnians, Montenegrins who consider themselves Serbian speakers, and Croats who do not necessarily speak Croatian. They, of course, indicate that some have started reconciling themselves with the rather hasty secession of Montenegro from its cohabitation with Serbia and, more importantly that the process of national engineering is ongoing.

Spyros A. Sofos is a Senior Research Fellow in International Politics at the Helen Bamber Centre for the Study of Rights, Conflict and Mass Violence of Kingston University, London. Editor of the ‘Journal of Contemporary European Studies’ and of ‘Southeastern Europe: Charting an Emerging European region’, his publications include ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’ (with Brian Jenkins – 1997), ‘Tormented by History: Nationalism in Greece and Turkey’ (with Umut Özkırımlı -2007) and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks’ (with Roza Tsagarousianou, 2010). He has been director of Kingston’s MSc in International Conflict Programme and is currently teaching Conflict Management and Resolution.

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0 Response

  1. Srbin

    Since Montenegro is its own country since 2006 the Nationality of people there in Serbian should be Crnogorac, but Ethnicity is to what people you belong to which is obviously SERB ethnicity. I don’t Think these people know the difference between the Two!!!!

  2. I think that Srbin is making quite a confusion, using the word “ethnicity” in a very loose and unclear way. Or, better to say, in a quite politicized way (given also the pseudonym chosen by him). I am not here to advocate Montenegrin identity, or to denigrate Serbian one, nor to deny the extreme level of closeness among the two. However it has to be made clear that citizenship may not conflict with national identity. Arguments like the one expressed by Srbin does not have any anthropological nor ethnographical evidence, but represents the nth attempt to create a fake identity for political purposes. If those malicious identity attempts will be put aside from the political agendas, I am sure that the discussion on the differences and the common points between Serbs and Montenegrins will be of the utmost interest.

  3. Michael Pravica

    This is all part and parcel of a massive “divide and conquer” effort by Western nations such as Germany to weaken and destroy Serbia. Despite the desperate efforts of some “Montengrin” “intellectuals” supported by Western “Intellectuals” to laughably forge a “new” language, “Montenegrin,” from Serbo-Croatian the effort has largely failed. Sorry to be so blunt. Viva Yugoslavia!

  4. Srbin

    Florindi i didn’t site any evidence because am not writing a story or Novel on here am simply putting my opinion on here about the article. You are correct about my point not having an impact on the lives of the people living there, but please look at any website about Montenegro and it will say that Its a Serb Land regardless that these people are Montenegrin Nationality. Anyway I am happy that Montenegro is its own country, but these people are Serbs, just look at history.Montenegrin was a regional name before independence, so is Dalmatian in croatia or (kosovar/kosovac) in Serbia doesn’t mean that now all of a sudden your ethnic bacground changes when you become a new country, you still remain what you are but in diff country you know thats all am tring to point out on here.
    Best wishes to you man but you need a history lesson about the region in order for you to understand!!!!!

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  6. David Joseph

    Montenegrins are all intermarried with one another, across all religious, ethnic and social lines, just like other groups in neighboring countries. A simple DNA test will reveal this truth. Also, as regards the language spoken by Croats, Montenegrins, Bosnians and Serbs, let’s get real. It’s essentially the same language, and everyone understands one another perfectly well. Honestly, if they just called the language Yugoslavian – it wouldn’t be far from the truth. It’s south Slavic, it has dialects. It’s a no-brainer and a non-issue in a corner of Europe where there are no jobs and where organized crime is everywhere in evidence, not least at the governmental level.

    Anyone digging their heels in over their religious affiliation or thinking they’re ‘special’ because they’re a Catholic, an Orthodox, or a Muslim is out of touch with reality. Young Montenegrins are interested in joining the modern world and being a part of Europe. They want to get on with their lives. Nobody is special by virtue of their religious affiliation, and life is short. Montenegro is a beautiful part of the Mediterranean world, and in the end, every Montenegrin deserves a shot at economic opportunity in a climate of mutual respect and sold, social cohesion.

    Give DNA tests to all Montenegrins, Serbs, Bosniaks, Croats and Slovenians and let their eyes be opened to the fact that they’re all interconnected. They are related. Their national myths are just that – MYTHS.

  7. It is amazing how Srbin’s words are soak of a historic construction, uphold by politicians and manneristic intellectuals along the years to build up a nationalism the inner objective of which was to guarantee political consensus to the former regime in FRY.
    I won’t say that his position is not supported by many in Serbia (and also in Montenegro). I am questioning the authenticity of what Srbin keeps calling “history”: a society which is not able to produce a serious auto-critic analysis of its past is condemned to be kept slave by demagogic politicians.

    Finally, talking about history, please check what happened in Montenegro between the 14th century till 1918… We’re talking about a sovereign state, participant to Versailles negotiations, the royal family of which was kindred with half Europe (Italian Savoia, Habsbourg, Romanov).

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  9. Srbin

    I understand what your saying Florindi, i totally get it, but which people live in Montenegro? and when did they get the name Montenegrin? and finally the history of montenegro goes back way before 14 century more like 9th century when the land changed names from Zeta to Duklja to now Montenegro. I wanna know from you since your expert, from 14th till 21st century what did the people regard themselves as in Montenegro? and what Language did they speak and still speak till this day?

  10. Mike P.

    Just about every Montenegren ruler in history proclaimed that Montenegrens are of the purest Serbian blood. What is happeneing now is a white wash of historical fact. OK so Montenegro is now a soverign country.What of it? If a Chinese man is born in Montenegro and has Montenegren citizenship is he really a Montenegren?Of course not! That is because Montenegro is a place and not a race. Living in it are Serbs,Albanians,Croats and Bosniaksamong others. If a Monteneren Serb wants to deny his Serb roots then so be it, but he is still in fact by blood a Serb and from that he can not run or hide. I am a first generation American of Serb origin. While I am proud to be an American and I refer to myself as an American I am also by blood a Serb and I can never be anything else but that. Nobody should confuse citizenship with ethnicity. Anyone who tries to create a new ethnicity out of Nationality is indeed confused.

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