The National Costume Of Montenegro
The cultural heritage of present day Montenegro has emerged from complex historical circumstances, and it is a result of anthropological, etnic and socio-cultural interrelatinships and symioses which have begun many centuries ago.


The cultural heritage of present day Montenegro has emerged from complex historical circumstances, and it is a result of anthropological, etnic and socio-cultural interrelatinships and symioses which have begun many centuries ago.

                                               Princess Milena

On the prehistoric Ilyrian background Greek and Roman antique civilizations left indelible traces, which later in history also suffered influences of many barbaric tribes that invaded these parts.  The strongest of the mentioned influences was the Slavic  one. Slavic peoples managed to stabilize their presence in this area by greatly adapting to the autochtonous culture. The establishment of the Slavic state called Doclea induced also the development of an original cultural haritage which quite early reached the level of self-identification and identity fot the comunityspreading in the greater area of present day Montenegro. The state changed its name to Zeta, in which cultural factors were further homogenized, in accordance with contemporary medieval relations and circumstances. The cultural self-awareness bekame so vital and aktive that for centuries that followed it enabled successfulresistance to incomparably greater powers whish strove to conquer and assimilate Montenegro. 

                                              Njegoš, Johan Bes

The old Slavic state existing for over a thousand years covered a smalll, but geografically very atractive area, including lands close to the coast, the surroundings of the lake of Skadar, rich valleys of the Zeta, the Morača, the Tara, the Piva and the Lim rivers, as well as the mountains Orjen, Lovćen, Rumija, Prokletije, komovi, Sinjajevina, Durmitor and Bjelasica. In its past the state was continuously enlarged and diminished, due too historical circumstances, but it never allowed for the loss of its identity or of the position of an independent subjet in internacional relations. It was also doomed to be situated at the borderline between the Orthodox/atholic Christian schism, including all dangers and aftermans ensuing from it. Later it wos surrounded for almost five centuries by the powerful Ottoman Empire, and it was faced wiwith constant efforts of this Empire to conquer Montenegro. Howewer, it was exactly its characteristic vital and adaptable cultural identity that proved to be the decisive strngth of the community to sustain itself and even get stronger amid the surges and doubledealings of the Ottoman power. 


Unfortunately, this centuries-long struggle for survival, as well as numerous earthquakes and other natural catastrophes, ontributed to deterioration or degradacion of a great number of cultural monuments. Today we only have faint traces and remains of antique and medievalmaterial cultural history in this area. 

                                              Princess Darinka

Over 470 years passed between the first fights against the Turks led by Stefan rnojević, the founder of the Crnojević dynasty, and the Balkan wars, when Turkish dominance in the Balkans was finally shattered, and when Montenegro, the heir of the state tradicion of Doklea and Zeta, fimally toppled the threats of the great oriental power. In this enturies-long struggle for survival, freedom and independence, Montenegro was defeated several times, but, like Phoenix, it managed to rise again from the ashes and become even stronger and steadier. Emerged from the feeling of necesity and despair, from from the remnants of what had one been a civilized land, the smal country of Montenegro was to become „the stone seat of freedom“, the symbol of humanity and bravery, and a significant ethical factor in the liberating wars which took place all ower the Balkans. The ult of Montenegro was created in the Christian world, and a mythic dimension was added  to its history. After the disapperance of the Crnojević dynasty, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, this unusual country was governed by bishops and the All-Montenegrin Assembly, until the middle of the nineteenth century, vhen it bicame a secular state. 


The previously mentioned generalizations represent a basis for understanding of the position and the role of the Montenegrin national costume in portance when we speak about the origin and development of the Montenegrin women΄s and men΄s festive costumes, as well as the woollen ones, but charakterising traditional Montenegrin garments is concerned. 

The Origin and the Development Of The National Costume Of Montenegro

Previous Evaluations and Dilemmas

The question of the origin and development of the national costume of Montenegro has not been thoroughly studied so far. It was mainly casual judgments or supposition that were presented, lacking adequate scientific elaboration. In fact, most researchers considered it a definite fact that it was Petar II Petrović Njegoš who designed the Montenegrin festive costume, while the Montenegrin woolen costume attracted almost no interest in scientific circles. The idea that Njegoš was the designer of the costume was supported by a convincing background whih can appear impressive. Numerous scholars who studied Njegoš and his work, frequently estatic about his genius, attributed him a whole sequene of contributions in most various spheres of Montenegrin life, even in the sphere of clothing. Besides this, associations of Njegoš’s portraits in the Montenegrin festive costume, especially the outstanding one by Johann Bess, imposed themselves as a “solution” to the question of the origin of the Montenegrin festive costume...

(Read the complet text of the  printed  issue of  Renome number 7.)

Author: Zorica Mrvaljević

Photos: Lazar Pejović

Translation: Prof. dr Janko Andrijašević




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