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MONTENEGRIN P.E.N. CENTER

Please see updated information about present activities of Montenegrin P.E.N. (April 1999).

The Montenegrin P.E.N. (Poetry, Essays, and Novels) Center was formed by a group of Montenegrin writers and prominent cultural figures in March 1990. In the bylaws of our organization, we defined its policies, purpose and objectives in accordance with the well-known Charter and the established practices of the International P.E.N. In October 1991, the Montenegrin P.E.N. was granted membership in the International P.E.N., and ever since has been an active participant in all joint programs of this respected international organization (see "The Challenge of Montenegrin Literature" presented at the 61st Congress of the International P.E.N. in Prague in 1994). Today, the Montenegrin P.E.N. Center numbers 53 distinguished members.

Since its foundation, the tragic consequences of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia have dominated the activities of the Montenegrin P.E.N. In a consistent and well-documented manner, we have criticized the aggressive policies of Great-Serbian chauvinism and hegemony, particularly "ethnic cleansing" and the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, policies supported by Montenegro's governing authorities. In the independent local media and in the foreign press, we have published numerous timely statements, declarations and resolutions, our reaction to aggressive and ruthless acts by the Serbian and Montenegrin regimes. Our condemnation of the attack on the town of Dubrovnik and its surroundings, our support for the citizens of the besieged city of Sarajevo, and our protest to the Union of Russian Writers on the occasion of their awarding Radovan Karadzic (an accused war criminal) the Mihail Sholohov literary prize have been well received and have been reprinted in the international press. Frequently we have been critical of the present Montenegrin leadership for discrediting Montenegro and for their support of the Serbian authorities. This regime has even brought into question the very existence of Montenegrin statehood and the national identity of Montenegrins. Our Center's declaration regarding the "Montenegrin Language", and the "Memorandum about a Threat to the Montenegrin Culture, People and State", have been especially well received.

Our activities have from the outset put us in a very difficult situation and made us vulnerable to government censorship. Six members of our P.E.N. had to flee the country in order to avoid arrest. Most of our members have lost their jobs or been removed from responsible positions. Yet, despite their problems, all members of the Montenegrin P.E.N. have continued to fight for the principles of the Charter of the International P.E.N. and for the ideas of freedom and democracy in Montenegro. Our efforts have been modestly, yet meaningfully, supported by certain private donors who prefer to stay anonymous for obvious reasons. We have also received some financial assistance from our compatriots in Canada and the United States.

Thanks to our donors and sympathizers, we have been able to carry out our activities in Montenegro and abroad. In spite of our financial and other difficulties, we have been able to publish an impressive number of titles during the relatively short time since our P.E.N.'s inception: 26 books, six of which have been translated into English. We have also founded a quarterly literary magazine, Doclea, five issues of which have already been published. Good cooperation has been established with all organizations that support the concept of an independent and modern state of Montenegro. We have especially good collaboration with the Montenegrin Cultural Association, the Association of Independent Journalists of Montenegro, the Montenegrin independent weekly Monitor and the independent radio station Antenna M.

Until now, we have not had the financial means to rent our own space for our meetings and work. Most of our work has been done on a voluntary basis, and the president, secretary, and several other members have often contributed their own funds in order to cover the expenses of the Center's activities.

Dr. Jakov Mrvaljevic, president

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www.montenegro.org Last updated on 6 May 1997