Allies

Page 7 – Kingdom of Montenegro

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Montenegro flag

1914 Map

Map of Kingdom of Montenegro

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General facts

  • Population: 436,000 (1914)
  • Capital: Cetinje (1914 population 6000)

Government

  • Head of State: King Nikola I (28 August 1910 – 26 November 1918)
  • Head of Government:
    • Prime Minister Janko Vukotić (1913–1915)
    • Prime Minister Milo Matanović (1915–1916)
    • Prime Minister Andrija Radović (12 May 1916 – 17 January 1917)
    • Prime Minister Evgenije Popović (29 May 1917 – 17 February 1919)

On 1 December 1918 the Kingdom of Serbia was superseded by the proclamation of the new ‘Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes’ incorporating Serbia, Montenegro and most of the so-called ‘South Slav’ territories of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. The new kingdom swiftly became better known by its colloquial name, ‘Yugoslavia’ – ‘South Slavia’ in English.

The government-in-exile of Serbia, the Serbian opposition and the London-based Yugoslav Committee (a group of prominent Serb, Croatian and Slovenian leaders of the pan-Yugoslav movement) had outlined their shared intention to create this new kingdom in the Corfu Declaration of 20 July 1917. The official Montenegrin government-in-exile of King Nikola I, based in Paris after the Austrian conquest of Montenegro in January 1916, rejected the Corfu Declaration. But another exile group, the Montenegrin Committee for National Unification, also based in Paris, publicly endorsed the Corfu Declaration on 11 August 1917. For the rest of the war the two Montenegrin exile movements competed with one another to determine the fate of Montenegro in an Allied post-war settlement in which a new Yugoslav kingdom seemed certain to feature.

The pro-Yugoslav Montenegrin Committee, led by Andrija Radović, who had resigned as prime minister to take up its cause, ultimately triumphed. Pro-Yugoslav sentiment had grown in Montenegro during the two-year Austrian military occupation. The King’s credibility with his subjects had been badly damaged by the controversy surrounding his secretive departure in the final days of the Austrian invasion in 1916 (see below) and consequently his arguments against unification were ignored by many Montenegrins. On 26 November 1918 the Montenegrin National Assembly convened in Podgorica and unilaterally deposed King Nikola I before proclaiming the unification of Montenegro with Serbia, paving the way for Montenegro’s incorporation into the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia a few days later.

Participation in the War

  • Entered the war: 2 August 1914 (Montenegro declared war on Austria-Hungary)
  • Ceased hostilities: 25 January 1916 (Montenegrin Army surrendered to the Austrians)
  • Ended belligerent status: 4 June 1920 (Treaty of Trianon signed between the Allies and the newly formed Republic of Hungary)

The Treaty of Trianon was signed by the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the successor state to the Kingdom of Serbia which had annexed the Kingdom of Montenegro in November 1918.

In October 1915 the Central Powers launched their fourth invasion of Montenegro’s neighbour and ally, Serbia. The intervention of Bulgaria proved decisive, and faced with certain defeat on their home soil the Serbian government and High Command decided to retreat to the Albanian coast and keep fighting rather than capitulate. Montenegro’s army helped to cover this retreat by holding off Austrian forces from southern Bosnia-Herzegovina that threatened to cut off the Serb escape routes over the Albanian mountains to the coast. Retribution for this action was not long in coming.

The Austro-Hungarian Third Army invaded Montenegro on 5 January 1916. Despite fierce resistance from the Montenegrin Army, which won the Battle of Mojkovac (7–8 January 1916), the Montenegrins were outnumbered, outgunned and completely isolated from the outside world. The capture of the key position in Montenegro’s defences, Mount Lovćen, by the Austrians on 11 January after two days’ heavy fighting signalled the end of any hope that the tiny state would be able to continue to hold out against the Austrian invasion. On 13 January a Montenegrin delegation approached the Austrians calling for a truce and carrying a letter from Nikolas I to Emperor Franz Joseph I. The Austrians responded on 16 January by calling for an unconditional surrender. On 19 January King Nikolas I boarded a boat and left Montenegro in secret without giving instructions to his government ministers or his military commanders, effectively abandoning them.

After the fall of Mount Lovćen the Montenegrin Army could have withdrawn to Albania and fought on as the Serbian Army had done, but no order to do so was ever issued by the King. On 25 January 1916 the Montenegrin commander-in-chief, General Janko Vukotić, ordered the remnants of his army to lay down their arms and disperse, and surrendered to the Austro-Hungarians. The conquest of the Kingdom of Montenegro was complete. Montenegro was ruled by an Austrian military governor until October 1918.

No Montenegrin Army-in-exile was raised by King Nikolas I and his supporters after the establishment of a government-in-exile in France. Small numbers of Montenegrin soldiers who managed to reach Allied lines went on to serve with the Serbian Army-in-exile on the Salonika Front.

The mountains of Montenegro are well-suited for guerrilla warfare. The first attacks of this type came within weeks of the official Montenegrin surrender in early 1916, and they continued until the end of the war. Many guerrilla groups were formed by former Montenegrin Army officers and soldiers. Austrian reprisals against these guerrillas were harsh and bloody.

Military Force

Army

  • Peacetime strength 1914: 10,000 Field Army
  • Reserves 1914: 25,000 Field Army & 25,000 Reserve Army (Narodna Vojska)
  • Fully mobilised 1914: 35,000
  • Total mobilised during war: 60,000

Casualties

Military

  • Dead (all causes): 5000

This does not include those killed under Austrian military occupation.

Sources

  • Cyril Falls, Military Operations, Macedonia: From the Outbreak of War to the Spring of 1917, HMSO, London, 1933
  • Andrej Mitrović, Serbia’s Great War 1914–1918, Hurst & Co., London,  2007
  • Nigel Thomas and Dusan Babac, Armies in the Balkans 1914–18, Osprey, Oxford, 2001
  • Spencer C. Tucker (ed.), The Encyclopedia of World War I: Volume 3, ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara CA, 2005