Sekula Drljević (7 September 1884 – 10 November 1945) was a Montenegrin politician and lawyer. Born in the town of Kolašin, he earned a doctorate degree in law and became the Minister of Justice and Finance in the Kingdom of Montenegro before the outbreak of World War I. During the interwar period, he led the "Greens" (zelenaši), a Montenegrin separatist movement. A proponent of the theory that Montenegrins were an ethnic group distinct from Serbs, he also founded and became the leader of the Montenegrin Federalist Party. In 1927, he was elected representative of the Kotor District as a member of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS).
Following the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, Drljević began cooperating with the Italian authorities occupying Montenegro. In July, he became leader of the Axis puppet state known as the Kingdom of Montenegro. That September, Italian authorities sent him to an internment camp in Italy after the oubreak of an anti-fascist revolt. Drljević escaped the camp several months later and made his way into the German-held half of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). In the summer of 1944, he created the Montenegrin State Council in Zagreb. Drljević moved back to Montenegro in 1945 and agreed to the formation of the Montenegrin National Army with Chetnik commander Pavle Đurišić. Đurišić and other Chetnik leader were later ambushed and murdered on behalf of Drljević and the NDH. Đurišić's men later joined Drljević's Montenegrin National Army and withdrew with him towards the Austrian border. In mid-1945, Drljević crossed over into Austria with his wife and ended up in a camp for displaced persons in Judenburg. It was here that the two were discovered by Yugoslav agents and killed in November 1945.
Sekula Drljević was born on 7 September 1884 in the village of Ravno, near the town of Kolašin. Having finished law school in Zagreb and earned a doctorate degree, he became the Minister of Justice and Finance in the Kingdom of Montenegro. During World War I, he was captured by Austro-Hungarian forces and interned at the Boldagason internment camp in Hungary, where he grew strongly opposed to the leader of Montenegro, King Nicholas I. He was released after the war and moved to Zemun and worked as a lawyer there. He also became the leader of the "Greens" (zelenaši), a Montenegrin separatist movement which sided with the Yugoslav Federalist Party. During this time, he cooperated frequently with Croatian politicians such as Stjepan Radić, Vlatko Maček, and Ante Pavelić, with whom he became good friends. In the mid-1920s, Drljević founded the Montenegrin Federalist Party. Having formulated the theory that Montenegrins were an ethnic group distinct from Serbs, he quickly became the party's sole leader and foremost theoretician. In 1927, he was elected representative of the Kotor District as a member of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS). Afterwards, he helped solve a political rift between Radić and Serb politician Svetozar Pribićević, resulting in the formation of an HSS-Democratic Party coalition. The following year, Drljević unsuccessfully attempted to dissuade Radić from attending the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes prior to his assassination by Serb politician Puniša Račić.
World War II
On 6 April 1941, Axis forces invaded Yugoslavia. Montenegro was invaded by the forces of Germany and Italy, with the Germans attacking from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Italians from Albania. The Germans later withdrew, leaving the Italians to occupy the area. In the western portion of Yugoslavia, the extreme Croat nationalist and fascist Ante Pavelić, who had been in exile in Benito Mussolini's Italy, was appointed Poglavnik (leader) of an Ustaše-led Croatian state – the Independent State of Croatia (often called the NDH, from the Croatian: Nezavisna Država Hrvatska). The NDH combined almost all of modern-day Croatia, all of modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina and parts of modern-day Serbia into an "Italian-German quasi-protectorate". NDH authorities, led by the Ustaše militia, subsequently implemented genocidal policies against the Serb, Jewish and Romani population living within the borders of the new state.
The creation of an Axis puppet-state known as the Kingdom of Montenegro was proclaimed on 12 July 1941. The state was to be headed by an Italian regent and led by Drljević and his supporters. The state's creation led to the outbreak of a Communist-led anti-Italian uprising in Montenegro by 13 July. Having assumed power the previous day, Drljević established the Provisional Administrative Committee of Montenegro, a collaborationist entity which was a territorial component of the Italian Empire. He also organized his followers to fight against Montenegrin Chetniks and the Yugoslav Partisans. In September, Drljević was dismissed from office by the Italians. Believing that his life was endangered by the revolt, they sent him to an internment camp in Italy. Several months later, Drljević escaped and smuggled himself into the German-controlled area of the NDH. With the surrender of Italy in September 1943, he moved back to Zemun. Here, he became the administrator of the German-run Sajmište concentration camp. In the summer of 1944 Drljević relocated to Zagreb, where he created a Montenegrin State Council in the NDH with the assistance of the Germans and Croats. He also published a pamphlet in Zagreb titled Who are the Serbs? (Croatian: Tko su Srbi?). In it, he blamed supposedly "agressive" Serb policies for all past and modern problems in the Balkans, presented ethnic Serbs as a "degenerate race" and pointed out their similarities with Jews.
Retreat and death
In the spring of 1945, Drljević visited parts of Montenegro held by the Chetniks of Pavle Đurišić. It was here that Đurišić made a safe-conduct agreement with Drljević and with elements of the Armed Forces of the NDH. Although the details of the agreement are unknown, it appears to have been agreed that Đurišić and his men were to move into the NDH and cross the Sava River into Slavonia where they would be aligned with Drljević as the Montenegrin National Army, with Đurišić retaining operational command. Suspicious of Drljević's intentions, Đurišić tried to outsmart him and his forces by sending only his sick and wounded across the Sava, keeping his fit troops south of the river. Following his defeat at the Battle of Lijevče Field, north of Banja Luka, and the defection of one of his sub-units to Drljević, Đurišić was forced to negotiate directly with the leaders of the NDH forces about the further movement of his units towards Slovenia. This appears to have been a trap, as he was attacked and captured by them on his way to meeting them and was killed alongside other Chetnik leaders, Serbian Orthodox priests and others. Both the NDH forces and Drljević had reasons for ensnaring Đurišić, with the former being motivated by the atrocities committed against the Muslim population of the Sandžak and southeastern Bosnia by Đurišić and his troops and the latter being opposed to Đurišić's support of a union of Serbia and Montenegro which ran counter to his separatism. Left without a leader, the majority of Đurišić's men were integrated into Drljević's Montenegrin National Army and withdrew with him towards the Austrian border. On 20 April, Drljević and his followers visited the prison at Stara Gradiška and handpicked 150 Serb officers and intellectuals from a group of 5,000 detainees that had been captured by the Ustaše following the Battle of Lijevče Field. Those who had been singled out were killed soon afterwards, possibly at the Jasenovac concentration camp or elsewhere.
In the second half of May, the troops of the Montenegrin National Army surrendered to the British and were quickly turned back into Yugoslavia and into the hands of the Communists. Drljević managed to evade capture, and he and his wife sought refuge at a camp for displaced persons in the Austrian town of Judenburg. On 10 November 1945, three Yugoslav agents discovered them there and murdered them by slitting their throats.
In 1944, Drljević rearranged the lyrics of the Montenegrin patriotic song Oj, svijetla majska zoro to celebrate the creation of the Montenegrin puppet regime that had been established in July 1941. In 1946, he was declared a war criminal at the Nuremberg Trials. When Oj, svijetla majska zoro was chosen as the national anthem of Montenegro in 2006 with Drljević's additions intact, many Serbs and pro-unionists in the country protested the selection due to its alleged fascist connotations.
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