Petar II Petrović-Njegoš
Photograph taken by Anastas Jovanović, 1851
13 November 1813
Njeguši, Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro
|Died||31 October 1851
Cetinje, Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro
|Religion||Serbian Orthodox Christian|
|School||Classicism, Romanticism, Serbian epic poetry|
|Main interests||Drama, epic poetry, philosophical literature|
|Notable ideas||The Mountain Wreath (1847)|
Petar II Petrović-Njegoš (Serbian Cyrillic: Петар II Петровић Његош, pronounced [pêtar drûɡiː pětroʋit͡ɕ ɲêɡoʃ]; 13 November 1813 – 31 October 1851) was a Prince-Bishop of Montenegro, a Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan of Cetinje, a philosopher and poet, whose work is considered responsible for the modernization of Montenegro.
Njegoš was born in the village of Njeguši, near the town of Cetinje. Growing up with illiterate peasants, he left his home at age eleven to be educated in the Cetinje monastery (at that time, the only place of learning in Montenegro). After the death of his uncle, Petar I, Njegoš became Prince-Bishop of Montenegro at age seventeen. As a ruler and reformer, one of his achievements was to persuade the clan chiefs of Montenegro to introduce fair taxation and a code of laws based on human rights into their mountain communities. Njegoš was a proponent of uniting and liberating the Serbian people, willing to concede his princely rights in exchange for a union with Serbia. Although it did not occur during his lifetime, he laid the foundation for Yugoslavism and introduced modern political concepts to Montenegro. Njegoš was prince-bishop until his 1851 death from tuberculosis at age 37.
Venerated as a poet and philosopher, Njegoš is known for The Mountain Wreath, (considered a masterpiece of Serbian and South Slavic literature and the national epic of Montenegro, Serbia, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). He was buried in a small chapel on Mount Lovćen, which was destroyed by the Austro-Hungarians during the First World War. Njegoš' remains were moved to the Cetinje Monastery and then to the rebuilt chapel in 1925; the chapel was replaced by Ivan Meštrović's mausoleum in 1974, with the support of the Yugoslavian government.
Njegoš has remained influential in Montenegro and neighbouring countries. His works have influenced a variety of groups, including irredentists, Serbian nationalists and Communists. In 2011, Njegoš was called the "Montenegrin Shakespeare" by The Independent.
Petar II Petrović-Njegoš was born Radivoje "Rade" Tomov Petrović on 13 November 1813 in the village of Njeguši, near Cetinje (most scholars contend that he was born in 1813, but some cite his birth year as 1814). His father was Tomo Markov Petrović, of the Petrović clan of the Njeguši tribe. Members of the Petrović family had been hereditary Serbian Orthodox Metropolitans (Prince-Bishops) of Cetinje since 1696. Njegoš' mother was Ivana Petrović (née Proroković) from Veliki Zalazi, the daughter of Njeguši chief Lazo Proroković. Njegoš' birthplace was dominated by the Petrović ancestral home, the only two-storied stone house in the village and indicative of the clan's position in the Njeguši tribe. At the time of Njegoš's birth, Montenegro was not a separate state; it was part of the Ottoman Empire (with undefined borders), headhunting and cattle rustling were widespread and Montenegrin tribes and families continued long-standing blood feuds (krvna osvjeta). He spent his early years in Njeguši shepherding his father's flock, playing the gusle and attending family and church celebrations, where stories of battles and suffering were told. Njegoš' education was rudimentary; as a teenager he studied under his uncle, Petar I, for about a year and was educated by a monastery group who indoctrinated him in service to the Serbian Orthodox Church. He spent another year in the Savina monastery seminary, followed by three years in a school run by a Montenegrin monk (where he learned basic Italian). Njegoš also studied Russian and French, and read extensively. Before Petar I's death Njegoš was entrusted to Sima Milutinović, a Serbian traveller and poet who pioneered Montenegrin themes in his romantic poetry (written in an idiosyncratic style). An unconventional mentor, Milutinović taught Njegoš sports, shooting and sword-fighting.
Petar I, longtime Prince-Bishop of Montenegro (vladika), died on 19 October 1830. The last years of his life were unhappy, as he struggled to find a literate monk from the Petrović clan to succeed him. His two primary candidates were his nephews, Mitar and Đorde, but Mitar died and Borde informed his uncle by letter from St. Petersburg that he wanted to attend military school instead. Petar I then died without a formal successor, and the Petrović family acted quickly to keep the Metropolitanate. Their best-qualified candidate was Rade Tomov Petrović; however, he was not a monk and his education was relatively poor. The family had Rade ordained as an Archimandrite before theological objections could be raised. Their traditional rivals (the Radonjić clan), believing that Rade's youth and rushed ordination might spark opposition, campaigned against the Prince-Bishop and his family. The Petrović clan retaliated violently. First, Civil Governor of Montenegro Vuko Radonjić, who was exiled in 1818 and permitted to return, was accused of conspiring with Austria. Despite a lack of evidence, he was sentenced to death before his sentence was commuted by Njegoš to imprisonment followed by exile. Despite this relative clemency, Vuko's educated, well-travelled brother Đuzo was murdered by members of the Petrović clan on the day of his family's slava. Other members of the Radonjić clan were oppressed, by murder or being driven from their homes. Vuko Radonjić died in 1832, shortly after after he was exiled to Kotor. Sima Milutinović, Njegoš' mentor, also fled to Kotor after a rift with the young prince-bishop. However, he soon returned from exile on the understanding that their relationship would now be on Njegoš' terms. Despite the reduced threat from the Radonjić clan, challenges to Njegoš' authority continued.
Ruler of Montenegro
The beginning of Njegoš' reign was marked by a revival of Montenegro's relationship with the Russian Empire. He and his associates transformed Petar I's court into a senate composed of powerful Montenegrin tribal chiefs to limit disruption and factionalism. Ivan Ivanović Vukotić was the senate's first president of the senate, with his nephew Matija Vučićević as his deputy. The senate's decisions would be enforced by a unit known as the Gvardija, initially comprising 150 soldiers; its number later swelled to 450. The unit's duties included enforcing the senate's decisions and proclamations, mediating in civil disputes and acting as a police force. A separate paramilitary unit, the Perjanici, was also formed; it served as Njegoš' personal guard and as a police force.
In 1832, Vukotić and the young Njegoš launched an attack against Muslims in the town of Podgorica who were helping the Ottoman Porte (central government) subdue rebellions in Bosnia and Albania. The Montenegrins secured a promise of additional assistance from the rebelling Albanian Hoti clan. Njegoš' attempt to take Podgorica failed, as his forces were defeated in the battle for the town. The mountain warfare practiced by Njegoš' troops was incapable of dealing with Ottoman cavalry. For Njegoš, who would never again lead Montenegrins into battle, the defeat was a lasting regret. Ottoman vizier Mustafa Reshid Pasha seized on the Montenegrin provocation, attacking Montenegrin towns and villages and impaled and hanging many inhabitants. Political pressure from Russia discouraged the Montenegrins from seeking revenge.
In 1833, Njegoš travelled to St. Petersburg to be ordained Prince-Bishop of Montenegro. He received 18,000 rubles from Tsar Nicholas I, 10,000 rubles previously promised to Montenegro and 8,000 rubles to strengthen Montenegrin state institutions. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church also promised to support religious services in Montenegro. Njegoš returned from Russia with money, books, icons and a printing press from Venice. Literacy was uncommon in Montenegro at the time, and Njegoš used the press to publish his own poems and those of his mentor, Sima Milutinović, and Serbian linguist Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (whom he met in Vienna in 1834).
While Njegoš was in Vienna and Russia in 1833, Ivan Vukotić used his absence to seize power for himself. Njegoš quickly moved to push Vukotić aside, installing his brother Pero as Senate leader with his cousin Đorđe as Pero's deputy. Vukotić and his nephew were exiled to Russia, from where they continued tarnishing Njegoš' reputation. However, despite the expulsion of many adversaries Njegoš faced threats from tribesmen unhappy with his tax policy. Njegoš responded by declaring Petar I, his uncle and predecessor, a saint. The Orthodox population responded to Peter's sainthood with enthusiasm, while non-Serbs in areas bordering Montenegro accused Njegoš of channelling Russian funds to other members of the Petrović clan. In 1836 these allegations, with discontent over food shortages and taxes, prompted a rebellion in parts of Montenegro. The revolt was suppressed by two prominent members of the Petrović clan: Njegoš' cousins, Đorđe and Stanko Stijepov.
On Montenegro's northern border with Herzegovina, Serb tribesmen around the town of Grahovo (under the Muslim ruler of Herzegovina) refused to pay the haraç (an Ottoman tax on non-Muslims). The tribesmen claimed to be subjects of Njegoš, invoking Montenegrin support. Determined to crush the rebellion, Ali Pasha Rizvanbegović (vizier of Mostar) launched an assault on Grahovo in early August 1836. When the town fell to the Ottomans, the vizier ordered his forces to take hostages and destroy the town. The Montenegrins, under Njegoš' brother Joko and eight kinsmen, gathered several hundred men for a counterattack to rescue the captives. Successful in rescuing the local clan leader and his followers, the Montenegrins were overrun by the cavalry of Ottoman commander Smail-aga Čengić in a skirmish with the forces of Ali Pasha Rizvanbegović and Ali Pasha Resulbegović of Trebinje. The teenaged Joko and Stanko Stijepov's son, Stevo, were hacked to death (with 40 others) by the Ottomans. With the tribesmen of Grahovo forced to take an oath of loyalty to the Ottomans to return to their homes, the prince-bishop's hopes for quick revenge were dashed. News of the defeat at Grahovo spread abroad, and in 1837 Njegoš had to travel to St. Petersburg to defend his behaviour to the Russians. In Russia, he was criticized for in "unmonkish" behaviour (particularly his fondness for the company of women). Despite this, Russia increased the annual subsidy paid to Montenegro; beginning in 1837, they briefly provided wheat during a famine. Their relationship with the Russians made Montenegro's neighbours suspicious of the state and its goal of access to the Adriatic Sea; the Great Powers saw a Montenegro with access to the sea as risking Russian penetration into the Mediterranean. While in Russia, Njegoš was encouraged to strengthen his power in Montenegro (increasing his guard and punishing feuders and raiders more harshly). In 1838, Njegoš abandoned priestly robes for the costume of a mountain chief (which would later become the Montenegrin national dress).
In 1838, Montenegro (under Russian pressure) signed a peace treaty with the Ottomans; however, clashes and atrocities continued soon afterwards. In 1840 (four years after the Montenegrin humiliation at Grahovo), Njegoš ordered Montenegrin tribal leader Novica Cerović to ambush Smaïl Aga Čengić (the Ottoman commander responsible for killing his brother Joko). The assault occurred in the village of Mijetičak, north of Nikšić. In the clash, Smaïl Aga was shot; Njegoš later made Cerović a senator.
Clashes between the Ottomans and the Montenegrins followed Smaïl Aga's death, but ceased after an 1842 pact in Dubrovnik. In 1843 the Ottoman governor of Shkodër, vizier Osman Pasha Skopljak (son-in-law of Smaïl Aga), invaded Montenegro from Lake Skadar and seized the strategically important islands of Vranjina and Lesendro. The Ottomans offered Njegoš recognition as ruler of Montenegro in exchange for recognition of the sovereignty of the Sublime Porte. He refused, attempting to retake the islands by force; however, the Great Powers' indifference prevented him from significant action. In 1847, a drought prompted Montenegrin tribal chiefs in Crmnica to revolt against Njegoš' authority. The chiefs, enticed by the Ottoman Empire's offer of wheat, launched their rebellion without support from all members of the Petrović clan and were nearly defeated before Osman Pasha sent reinforcements. With Njegoš' brother leading the resistance, the Montenegrins pushed the rebels and the Ottomans back; one of the most-important rebellious tribal chiefs, Markiša Plamenac, was shot by his kinsmen after seeking refuge with the vizier. A second rebellion was also suppressed, with Njegoš having its instigators shot; he then sent an assassin to Shkodër in a failed attempt to have Osman Pasha killed. Njegoš survived several assassination attempts ordered by the Ottoman governor, including attempted poisonings and an attempt to destroy his headquarters. A stalemate led to the easing of tensions between the Montenegrins and the Ottomans, as the situation on Montenegro's southern border stabilized.
In 1847, Njegoš published The Mountain Wreath. The next year, he met with Serbian emissary Matija Ban to discuss plans for an uprising in Bosnia and Macedonia (then known as Old Serbia). Although enthusiastic about uniting the Serbian people, Njegoš was concerned about developments in neighbouring Bosnia and aware of how little he could influence events beyond Montenegro's borders. With a series of revolutions sweeping across Europe the following year, Njegoš's health worsened.
Later life and death
By the fall of 1849 Njegoš had an incessant cough, and it was discovered that he had tuberculosis. By early spring 1850, it had become clear that his condition was life-threatening. Hoping to avoid the uncertainty preceding his accession to office, Njegoš nominated Danilo (son of Stanko Stijepov) to succeed him as prince-bishop after his death. Critically ill, Njegoš travelled to the Italian town of Padova to rest. During the summer he returned to Montenegro, where he attempted to heal himself with natural medicines and mountain air, but was disturbed by reports of Omer Pasha's plan to invade Montenegro and returned to Cetinje. In October 1851 Njegoš' condition rapidly deteriorated, and he died on 31 October at age 37. The next year he was succeeded by Danilo I Petrović-Njegoš, who renounced the office of prince-bishop and became the first secular prince of Montenegro. This was a symbol of Njegoš's political success; his establishment of Montenegrin substitutes for the prince-bishop when he was abroad prepared for the secularization of the office.
Despite his political achievements, Njegoš is arguably best known for his literary output. His writings drew on folklore, lyric poetry and biblical stories. Njegoš began writing poetry at age 16; he wrote a number of plays and epic poems, including The Voice of Mountaineers (1833), The Cure for the Turkish Fury (1834), The Serbian Mirror (1835), The Ray of the Microcosm (1845), The False Tsar Stephen the Little (1851) and The Mountain Wreath. The latter was written in Cetinje in 1846, and first published in Vienna the following year. Njegoš was reportedly inspired to write the play when his mentor, Sima Milutinović, heard a folk song about a massacre of Muslims in Montenegro. Basing The Mountain Wreath on this legend, Njegoš created one of the most influential works in Serbian literature and a national myth about the massacre of Serbian converts to Islam. Written as an epic poem, the play is set at the end of the 17th century, a period of Montenegrin history when many Serbs converted to Islam. Njegoš wrote the epic when the liberation of Serbs from Turkish rule was glorified in Serbian popular sentiment. He dedicated it to Karađorđe (leader of the First Serbian Uprising), who "roused people, christened the land, and broke the barbarous fetters, summoned the Serbs back from the dead and breathed life into their souls," and set it against a backdrop of the Serbian struggle for liberation from Turkey. Its central character is Bishop Danilo, a Montenegrin leader facing the mass conversion of Serbs from Orthodoxy to Islam. To him these converts are a fifth column of the Ottoman Turks, whom he considers a permanent threat to the sovereignty of the Serbian people. Clan leaders meet to decide what to do about Slavic converts to Islam. After much deliberation, they agree that massacring the Muslim converts is the best way to oppose the Ottoman Turks. A meeting is arranged with a delegation of Muslim Slavs, who are given an ultimatum to "convert by water or by blood". When they refuse, the Montenegrin warriors massacre the Islamized Slavs.
The legendary massacre of Islamized Serbs on Christmas Eve 1702, as described in The Mountain Wreath, has become embedded in popular consciousness. Literary critic and linguist Vojislav Nikčević said that the epic's power and spirit make readers and scholars experience the events as history, rather than fiction. The extermination of "the treacherous converts" described in Njegoš' play provided a national catharsis. The massacre is cloaked in mythology, poetry and religion, despite murder contradicting the basic tenets of Christianity. Serb historian Slobodan Jovanović said that Njegoš reconciled himself to the massacre of Islamized Serbs as a political necessity, serving Montenegrin interests.
Njegoš is regarded as an ambitious, able ruler who was esteemed during and after his lifetime. In addition to laying the foundation for the modern Montenegrin state, he was one of the most-acclaimed South Slavic poets of his time. Njegoš' contributions to the development of Montenegrin infrastructure included establishing its first two elementary schools, its first periodical, two gunpowder factories in Rijeka Crnojevića and building roads and village wells. He sent sixteen Montenegrins to be educated in Serbia, seven of whom returned after completing school. In addition to establishing central authority and improving Montenegrin infrastructure, Njegoš contributed to the revival of Serbdom in Montenegro. During his reign, Montenegrins were persuaded to stop wearing the Turkish fez in favour of the traditional Montenegrin cap; the Obilić Medal of Valour (named after medieval Serbian knight Miloš Obilić) was instituted as the country's highest military decoration, to reinforce Montenegro's bond with Serbs in Serbia and abroad.
Since his death, Njegoš has remained a Serbian political and cultural father. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a variety of political factions (including Serbian nationalists, Yugoslavs and communists) drew inspiration from his works. Gavrilo Princip (assassin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria) is said to have been influenced by Njegoš's literary works, as is Radovan Karadžić (leader of the Republika Srpska during the Bosnian War). After the founding of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes during the early 20th century, Njegoš became its national poet. When the Communists came to power after the Second World War, the government declared Njegoš the national poet of Yugoslavia; in 1947, the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Mountain Wreath, the government promoted Njegoš as the Montenegrin (not Serbian) national poet. The change in Njegoš' ethnicity may have been related to the Yugoslav communist policy of Brotherhood and Unity and its promotion of the Montenegrin ethnic group (which was given national status, separate from Serbia, in 1943). Njegoš' works, particularly The Mountain Wreath, have been sources of collective identity for Serbs, Montenegrins and Yugoslavs. Serbian nationalists have used his works to incite and justify ethnic hatreds during the Yugoslav Wars, and they have been removed from school curricula in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the decades after Njegoš' death The Mountain Wreath became a Montenegrin national epic, reaffirming its connections to the Serbian and Christian worlds and celebrating the military skill of its warriors. For Serbs, the poem was significant because it evoked themes similar to the Kosovo epics and reminded them of their solidarity with Montenegro against the Ottoman Turks. Njegoš' influence parallels Shakespeare's in the English-speaking world; his language, although archaic, has supplied modern Serbian with a number of well-known quotations. The epic has become the basic educational text for Montenegrins and Serbs. In Montenegro it was (and still is) learnt by heart, and has been integrated into oral tradition. Njegoš' picture is often seen in taverns, offices, hospitals, on Yugoslav and Serbian currency and in people's homes in Montenegro and Serbia. He has been called the "Montenegrin Shakespeare" by The Independent.
Before his death in 1851 Njegoš asked to be buried on Mount Lovćen, in a church dedicated to St. Petar Cetinski which he designed and erected in 1845. After his death, Njegoš was interred at the monastery in Cetinje. In 1855 his remains were taken to Mount Lovćen, where they remained until 1916. That year the Austro-Hungarians, who defeated the Serbian and Montenegrin armies in 1915, decided to erect a monument to Franz Joseph on the summit of Mount Lovćen. The Austro-Hungarian occupiers demanded that Njegoš's remains be transferred from Mount Lovćen to Cetinje. His remains were removed under the supervision of Serbian Orthodox clergy to avoid any accusation of desecration by the Austro-Hungarians. By the end of the war, Njegoš' chapel was severely damaged. The Montenegrin authorities and the Yugoslav government negotiated for years over the question of where, when and at whose expense Njegoš would be buried. During the negotiations Montenegrin authorities favoured restoring the original chapel, while authorities in Belgrade began a competition for a mausoleum design. Some plans differed greatly from the original, Byzantine building. However, by 1925 plans for a mausoleum were discarded; it was less expensive to reuse the stone from the chapel than to bring new material to the site. During a three-day ceremony sponsored by King Alexander in September 1925, the chapel was rededicated and Njegoš's remains reburied. A Communist government came to power in Yugoslavia following the Second World War. In 1952, Montenegrin authorities decided to replace Njegoš' chapel with a mausoleum designed by Croatian architect Ivan Meštrović. The chapel was demolished, and in 1974 Njegoš' remains were moved to a new mausoleum atop Mount Lovćen. A statue dedicated to Njegoš once stood in Priština, Kosovo,[a] but it was demolished (with a statue of Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić) by Kosovo Albanians in the aftermath of the 1998–99 Kosovo War.
- The Serbian Mirror (1835)
- "The Ray of the Microcosm" (1845)
- The Mountain Wreath (1847)
- The False Tsar: Stephen the Little (1851)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Petar II Petrović-Njegoš.|
|a.||^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Kosovo's independence has been recognised by 107 out of 193 United Nations member states.|
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Petar I Petrović-Njegoš
|Prince-Bishop of Montenegro
Danilo Petrović Njegoš
Petar I Petrović-Njegoš
|Metropolitan of Cetinje