Vasilije III Petrović-Njegoš

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Vasilije petrovic.jpg
Vasilije III Petrović-Njegoš
Born 1709
Died 10 March 1766
St Petersburg, Russian Empire
Occupation Prince bishop of Montenegro, writer, historian
Nationality Montenegrin
Notable works History of Montenegro

Vasilije Petrović-Njegoš (Njeguši, 1709 – St Petersburg, Russia, 10 March 1766) was a Prince bishop of Montenegro. Also, he wrote the history of Montenegro. He ruled together with Sava, his brother.


It is said that it was with Metropolitan Danilo I Petrović-Njegoš that the modern land of Montenegro began their political history and the House of Petrović-Njegoš turned into a dynasty. From the beginning, Montenegrin rulers of the House of Petrović-Njegoš took the lead in attempting to revive the medieval Serbian Empire in the Balkans. Danilo was eventually succeeded by his two nephews—first Bishop Sava II Petrović-Njegoš, and then Bishop Vasilije III Petrović-Njegoš.

Bishop Sava was an impotent and myopic personality who would have found it hard to make his way even over well-trodden paths. But there were no well-trodden paths in Montenegro at the time, nor could there be. Those were the times that called either for endurance or for great leaps. Sava found comfort in following Danilo's lead by continuing to maintain ties with Venice when such ties did not need to be maintained.


During that time Vasilije ruled together with Sava, his brother, as his coadjutor. Vasilije between 1750 and 1766 even tried to convince Austria's Maria Theresa that "since the time of Alexander the Great his country has been a separate republic ruled by a prince" but to no avail. Vasilije shunted Sava aside as soon as he realized that Sava followed his predecessor's (Danilo) ties with Venice all too zealously. Vasilije immediately made for Russia and began to set Montenegro back on its feet. With the help of Russian arms, he went to war with the Turks and then had to seek refuge back to Russia, where he died. His sacrifice founded a country, a state, perhaps only in name, but still an identity.


After Vasilije, Sava was to return, with the same policy as before—dalliances with Venice. But that didn't last long. Soon there came on the scene imposter Stephen the Small (better known as Šćepan Mali) who, pretending to be the Russian Tsar Peter III, managed to convince the people in power to believe in him. He immediately began to set Montenegro on its foundation, severed ties with Venice altogether, implemented the rule of law, began building roads until his life was cut short in 1774 by an assassin sent by the vizir of Skadar, Mustafa Bushati. Then came Sava again. After Sava the bishopric fell to his nephew, Arsenije Plamenac of Crmnica, from another clan. But Arsenije, too, was soon to die, in 1784. Once again a member of the original, founding clan—the House of Petrović-NjegošPetar I Petrović-Njegoš was installed. "A man of great spirit and strong character", according to his adversary, Napoleon's general Marmont.

Literary works[edit]

The writing and teaching of Montenegrin history was a chief interest for most of Vasilije's life, as well as his occupation as a spiritual leader. Istorija o Černoj Gori (History of Montenegro), published in Moscow in 1754, is his most quoted work. It is the first known attempt of modern-day Montenegrins to document their history in writing. It is not only historiographical, but also geographical, ethnological and ethical description of its country. Vasilije formulated an elaborate theory of Montenegrin history as a dynamic and deterministic process. On the basis of this theory he alluded that the next century would see a new nation, a new state. He called special attention to the future but left prediction out of the equation.


The full measure of Vasilije's contribution to Montenegrin history is the strongly pro-Russian orientation he helped to foster in his faithful during his lifetime and after. That in itself has shaped the future direction of Montenegro's foreign policy and the Eastern Orthodox bond that unites the Serb and the Russian, racially and religiously.



Jovan Skerlić, Istorija nove srpske književnosti /A History of Modern Serbian Literature (Belgrade, 1921) pages 46–47

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