Montenegro under the Vladikas from the Petrovic dynasty (1697-1851)

St. Petar Petar I Petrovic (St. Peter of Cetinje), 1782-1830

Vladika Petar I Petrovic assumed the leadership of Montenegro at a very young age and during most difficult times. Petar I was a wise Bishop and a great military commander who led Montengrins to many crucial victories. He ruled almost half a century, from 1782 to 1830. When he died, he was by popular sentiment proclaimed the Saint of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, St.Peter of Cetinje (Sveti Petar Cetinjski). Vladika Petar I Petrovic won several important battles against the Ottomans, including the battles at Martinici and Krusi in 1796. According to the standards of time, these were major battles. At the crucial Martinici battle in the valley of Zeta, the Turkish army of 18,000 led by Mahmut-Pasa Busatlija was defeated with heavy casualties by a force of 3000 Montenegrins (Momir M. Markovic, Crnogorski rat, Podgorica, 1993, p.122). The rugged terrain and the Montenegrin perfected guerilla style of warfare helped the Montenegrin army hold losses to a minimum. Another battle at Krusi ended in a similar defeat of the Turkish army. With these victories in hand, Petar I Petrovic liberated and consolidated control over "Brda", the northern highlands that had been the focus of constant warfare with the Ottomans. And these victories strengthened both the bond with the population of the Kotor Bay, and the Montenegrin quest for control of the southern Adriatic coast. But these were only the beginnings of the major military victories that Petar I Petrovic secured.

In 1806, as the French Emperor Napoleon advanced toward the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, aided by several Russian battalions and a fleet of the General Senjavin, went to war against the invading French forces. Undefeated in Europe, Napoleon's army was forced to withdraw under advance from the Montenegrin army led by Vladika Petar I. The Montenegrin army defeated the French at Cavtat and at Herceg-Novi. But in 1807, the peace treaty between Russia and France granted the control of the Kotor Bay to France. The peace lasted less than seven years. In 1813, the Montenegrin army, with ammunition support from Russia and Britain, liberated the Kotor Bay from the French. An assembly held in Dobrota resolved to unite the Bay of Kotor with the Montenegrin mainland. But at the congress of Vienna, with Russian consent, the control of the Bay was granted to Austria. In 1820, in the north of Montenegro, the highlanders from Moraca led by Serdar Mrkoje Mijuskovic won a major battle against the Turkish force from Bosnia.

During his long rule, Petar strengthened the state by uniting the often quarrelling tribes, consolidating his control over Montenegrin lands, and introducing the first laws in Montenegro (Zakonik Petra I). He had unquestioned moral authority strengthened by his military successes. His rule prepared Montenegro for the subsequent introduction of modern institutions of the state: taxes, schools and larger commercial enterprises.

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