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Ethnicity Serbs and Montenegrins.[a]
Current region Montenegro
Place of origin Central Montenegro
Notable members Vuk Karadžić
Jovan Cvijić
Veselin Šljivančanin
Traditions krsna slava of Đurđevdan (St. George)

Drobnjaci (Serbian Cyrillic: Дробњаци, pronounced [dro̞bɲǎːt͡si]) is an Old Herzegovinian clan and region in northern Montenegro (municipalities from Nikšić to Šavnik, Žabljak and Pljevlja). Its unofficial centre is in Boan/Šavnik. The Drobnjaci families are predominantly Serb Orthodox, with a majority declaring as Serbs, the rest as Montenegrins. The Orthodox families have Saint George (Đurđevdan) as their patron saint (Serbian custom "slava") and the majority of Drobnjak churches are devoted to Saint George as well. Families of distant Drobnjak origin exist in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Lika.


Origin and early history[edit]

The surname Drobnjak ("Bran Drobnjak") is first recorded in 1354, and as a clan (pl. Drobnjaci) in 1390. Drobnjak had a semi-autonomy and preserved its old tribal organization, which was predicated on democratic and universal suffrage, until its annexation to Montenegro. At the head of the tribe was a hereditary knez, and the head of the army commander, who was elected to the tribal Parliament, and confirmed by the Vizier in Travnik. The Parliament was chaired by the knez, who had right to choose all chiefs, who were all carrying weapons. Decisions had to be unanimous.

16th century[edit]

In the late 16th century, Serbian monks Damjan and Pavle of Mileševa sent a letter to the Pope, explaining "what is Serbia"; Drobnjaci are recognized as one of the old Serb katuns.[1]

The burning of Saint Sava's remains after the Banat Uprising provoked the Serbs in other regions to revolt against the Ottomans.[2] In 1596, an uprising broke out in Bjelopavlići, then spread to Drobnjaci, Nikšić, Piva and Gacko (see Serb Uprising of 1596–97). It was supressed due to lack of foreign support.[3]

17th and 18th centuries[edit]

On the religious holiday of Đurđevdan (Saint George), 23 April 1604, the Drobnjaci defeated the Ottomans, and all Drobnjak families symbolically became pobratim (blood brothers) and adopted Đurđevdan as their slava and most important feast day. The Vulovići, Đurđići, Kosorići, Tomići and Cerovići settled in the Drobnjak county in the 17th century, originally from Banjani. In 1694, Serb Uskoks, driven out by the Turks from Albania, settled in Drobnjak county.[4]

In 1789, Ivan Radonjić, the governor of Montenegro, wrote for the second time to the Empress of Russia: "Now, all of us Serbs from Montenegro, Herzegovina, Banjani, Drobnjaci, Kuči, Piperi, Bjelopavlići, Zeta, Klimenti, Vasojevići, Bratonožići, Peć, Kosovo, Prizren, Arbania, Macedonia belong to your Excellency and pray that you, as our kind mother, send over Prince Sofronije Jugović."[5]

19th century[edit]

After Karađorđe Petrović was chosen as leader of the uprising in the Smederevo Sanjak (1804), smaller uprisings also broke out in Drobnjaci (1805), Rovca and Morača.[6]

Under Prince Nicholas I of Montenegro and the Congress of Berlin recognition (1878), the Serb tribes of Piva, Banjani, Niksici, Saranci, Drobnjaci and a large number of the Rudinjani formed the Old Herzegovina region of the new Montenegrin state.[7]

Conflict with the Čengić lords[edit]

Smail-aga Čengić, an Ottoman feudal lord, fought frequently with the Drobnjaci clan, and in letters of Njegoš in 1839 it is known that Rustem-Aga, the son of Smail, had often raped local women of the Drobnjaci and Pivljani. The Drobnjaci had enough of the violations of their women, and approached Petar II Njegoš (who had lost eight family members in the Battle of Grahovo), organizing a plot against the Ottoman lords, planning to first kill Smail. The main conspirators were Novica Cerović and Đoko Malović. Podmalinsko Monastery was gathering place for members of Drobnjaci tribe who traditionally held meetings there, last time in 1840 to decide to kill Smail-aga Čengić.[8] They started by asking Smail to collect the taxes himself, and in September 1840 the Aga is putting up his tent at Mljetičak, in eastern Drobnjaci. In the night, the force attacks the camp and Smail and a number of Turks are killed. The circumstances are mentioned in a letter to the Russian consul in Dubrovnik: "The notorious criminal, Smail-aga Cengic, the musselim of Gacko, Pljevlja, Kolašin and Drobnjaci, attacked our frontier regions with several thousand men almost every year. This year too he pitched his tent three hours away from our border, and started collecting troops to invade our tribe of the Morača. Our men found out about his evil intention earlier, and gathered about 300–400 men, and they attacked his tent on the morning of 23 September, cut down the Aga himself and about 40 of his like-minded criminals... This prominent person was more important in these regions that any of the viziers."[9][10] The events are richly attested in Serb epic poetry.[11]

20th century[edit]

The Drobnjaci supported the White List at the Podgorica Assembly p. 285

In 1927, Drobnjaci had 40 settlements of 2,200 houses with 14,000–15,000 inhabitants. The capital was Šavnik.

On 1 April 1945, over thirty conspirators were executed in Šavnik, of whom a large number were of the Karadžići.[12]

Brotherhoods and families[edit]

The most notable brotherhoods (bratstva) of the clan are the Abazović, Cerović, Karadžić, Malović, Čupić, Kosorić, Jauković and Zarubica families. The brotherhoods of Vulovići, Đurđići, Kosorići, Tomići and Cerovići, were established when they settled in the Drobnjak from Banjani in the 17th century. The clan was originally formed by five related brotherhoods: Cerović, Đurđić, Kosorić, Tomić, Vulović and Žugić. The Drobnjaci are Serbian Orthodox in majority, the notably mixed Muslim/Serb family is Kalabić, the Muslim families are Selimović and Dzigal.

The Uskoci and Šaranci clans are also regarded as part of, or kin to, the Drobnjaci.

Notable people[edit]

People from Drobnjaci
By ancestry

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The tribe is part of the Serb ethnic group.[13][14][15][16] Today, the population living in the region declare as Serbs by majority, the rest as Montenegrins. By language, Serbian was declared in majority, the rest Montenegrin. By religion, Serbian Orthodox Christianity is predominant. Descendants of the tribe are present in all former Yugoslav republics.


  1. ^ The Serbs, p. 131
  2. ^ Dušan T. Bataković (1 January 1996). The Serbs of Bosnia & Herzegovina: History and Politics. Dialogue. p. 33. ISBN 978-2-911527-10-4. 
  3. ^ Ćorović, Vladimir (2001) [1997]. "Преокрет у држању Срба". Историја српског народа (in Serbian). Belgrade: Јанус. 
  4. ^ The history of Servia, and the Servian revolution, p. 422
  5. ^ Vujovic, op.cit., p. 175.
  6. ^ Dimitrije Bogdanović, "Knjiga o Kosovu", Tursko Doba, V, 1. Srpski ustanci i položaj Srba na Kosovu do prvog oslobodilačkog rata 1876.
  7. ^ The national question in Yugoslavia: origins, history, politics, by Ivo Banac[page needed]
  8. ^ Istorijski zapisi. Istorijski institut SR Crne Gore c. 1952. p. 76. Retrieved 30 July 2013. Одржа- вани су сасганци, а последњи је састанак одржан у манастиру Подмалинско, гдје Дробњаци ријеше да 
  9. ^ The poetics of Slavdom: the mythopoeic foundations of Yugoslavia, p. 469
  10. ^ "Yugoslavia and its Historians, Understanding the war of 1990s" by Wendy Bracewell
  11. ^ The Growth of Literature, Chapter IX
  12. ^ Milovan Djilas, "Wartime", 1977, p. 156
  13. ^ Vasilije Đerić (1900). O srpskom imenu po zapadnijem krajevima našega naroda. Štampano u državnoj štampariji. pp. 21–22. 
  14. ^ Dimitrije-Dimo Vujovic, Prilozi izucavanju crnogorskog nacionalnog pitanja /The Research of the Montenegrin Nationality/ (Niksic: Univerzitetska rijec, 1987), p.172.
  15. ^ "The South Slav journal, Vol 28, Issue 1–2" (2008), Dositey Obradovich Circle, p. 15
  16. ^ Stanoje Stanojević 2000, Narodna enciklopedija: srpsko-hrvatsko-slovenačka, p. 564:

    Drobnjaci su cisto srpsko píeme, bez ikakve tude primjese i ocuvali su neobicno cistocu jezika i cistocu narodnih obicaja. Gorstaci su, visoki, lijepo razvijeni, potpuno zdravi i bistri Ijudi.