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In ancient times, the area of Montenegro was inhabited principally by the Illyrian tribes. In 168 BC, the Roman Empire conquered the Illyrian kingdom, annexing it to the province of Illyricum. As Roman power declined in the fifth century AD, the area began to suffer from outside invasions, with the Slavs eventually settling in the region in the sixth century AD.
The Slavic state of Duklja was founded in the early seventh century under the formal sovereignty of the Byzantine Empire. The Doclean state then spent centuries struggling against the empire for independence, finally winning a great victory over the Byzantine army near the town of Bar in 1042, which was followed by Duklja's further success. The Doclean state’s sovereignty was short-lived, however, and the area fell under the power of the Serbian Empire in 1186. The Serbian state renamed the area Zeta and ruled until the end of the 14th century, when the Ottoman Empire annexed the Balkans.
In the 16th century, Montenegro developed a form of unique autonomy within the Ottoman Empire with Montenegrin clans remaining free from many of the empire’s restrictions. Nevertheless the Montenegrins chafed against Ottoman rule and, in the 17th century, raised numerous rebellions, culminating in Ottoman defeat in 1796.
Although the Ottomans continued to claim Montenegro as part of their empire, in the 19th century the area became a theocracy led by the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitans, which eventually become known as the Principality of Montenegro. The principality’s territory was enlarged several times in the Montenegro-Turkish Wars and was recognized by Europe as independent of the Ottoman Empire in 1878.
The continuing struggle of the small Montenegrin territory against the powerful Ottoman Empire won the sympathies and support of greater Europe, which helped Montenegro to proclaim itself a kingdom in 1910. The kingdom entered World War I almost immediately after its establishment, fighting on the side of Serbia and the Allied Powers, and suffering a full scale defeat to Austria-Hungary in early 1916. In 1918, the Allies liberated Montenegro, which subsequently abandoned its new monarchy and merged with Serbia.
In 1929, the Kingdom of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1941, Benito Mussolini occupied Montenegro and annexed it to the Kingdom of Italy. During World War II, Montenegro fought with Yugoslav troops against the fascists. From 1945 to 1992, Montenegro was a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as one of six republics (Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro) under the communist rule of Josip Broz Tito.
Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1992, Montenegro remained part of Serbia in a disputed 1992 vote. In 1996, after the Bosnian genocide led by the Serbian government under Slobodan Milošević, Montenegro severed ties with the Serbian regime; it later voted to declare its full independence from Serbia in 2006. Today Montenegro is a member of the European Union.