Ethnonational identity, security and the implosion of Yugoslavia: The case of Montenegro and the relationship with Serbia

Sharyl N. Cross, Pauline Komnenich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


While traditional ethnic/religious rivals had been incorporated to form the modern multiethnic communist nation-state of Yugoslavia under the forceful presence of Marshall Broz Tito, the collapse of the communist bloc and ensuing revolutionary/democratization wave engulfing East-Central Europe created tremendous uncertainty and the perception of a power vacuum throughout the former communist bloc. Conflicts would erupt based on distinctions along traditional cultural/ethnic lines. The struggle for control and territory among Yugoslavia's political elite ultimately resulted in a series of secessionist conflicts in Croatia (1991-1992), Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995) and most recently Kosovo (1999). Montenegro (Crna Gora) attracted far less attention than the actual military/paramilitary conflict zones of the region as the Yugoslav nation disintegrated into the series of secessionist wars. Montenegro remained tied to Serbia as a part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but tensions did mount between Montenegro and Serbia as the nation imploded. While Montenegrins have been collectively referred to as "Serbs" along with the inhabitants of Serbia, they in fact possess a distinct historical and cultural experience. The Montenegrins are a collection of people who participate in a common identity system reflected in definable features or symbols. Montenegrins share a collective memory and traditions that have persisted through the generations. Their collective identity and boundary maintaining processes derive from a unique historical experience that shares much with their Serb neighbors but should be distinguished as uniquely Montenegrin. The Montenegrins, though Eastern Orthodox and Slavic like Serbs, maintained an independent state for over 500 years during the period of Turkish domination. This analysis elucidates foundations for the separatist impulses displayed in Montenegrin political overtures and appeals for independence from Serbia as the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s gained momentum. The article suggests some linkages between perceptions of identity and Montenegro's national and security objectives in the critical transition underway in former Yugoslavia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalNationalities Papers
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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